The Future of Work

Today I spent some time exploring The Future of Work. Some questions I’m thinking about are:

  • What is the future of the performance appraisal?
  • What is ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) and what does it mean for HR?
  • What are companies doing to create great cultures?

The Future of Work


Ceaseless reading and study


Summary of The Irresistible Offer

I just re-read The Irresistible Offer by Mark Joyner, this time taking notes. It’s one of the most practical books on marketing I’ve come across. Highly recommended.

The basic (simple) idea: quid pro quo – Make an Offer – You give me X, I’ll give you Y

The Big Four Questions people have when they’re considering purchasing something:
1. What are you trying to sell me? (Logic)
2. How much? (Logic)
3. Why should I believe you? (Logic)
4. What’s in it for me? (WIIFM) (Emotion)

Marketing axiom: People make their decisions based on emotion and justify them with logic.

The Definition of the Irresistible Offer
The Irresistible Offer is an identity-building offer central to a product, service or company where the believable return on investment is communicated so clearly and efficiently that it’s immediately apparent you’d have to be a fool to pass it up.
People remember you. People can’t move quickly enough to give you their money.

What it’s NOT:
Not a special offer, not a statement of fact, not bragging rights, not a benefit, not a USP (Unique Selling Proposition).

Benefits only address one of the big four questions (what’s in it for me). Leading wit a benefit will capture interest, but will temper it w/ skepticism. “What’s the catch.”

Example of a USP that is not the irresistible offer:
“Anacin: The Pain Reliever Doctors Prescribe Most.” – It makes you wonder what IS the best possible aspirin. The irresistible offer is useful not only when you’re in the store, it would motivate you to drive out to the store and buy your brand.

It’s not enough to just be unique.

What it IS:
1. A High ROI Offer
2. A Touchstone
3. Believability

Cheesy mnemonic device: HTB High ROI / Touchstone / Believability – How to Be Rich

1. ROI – If the ROI is clear, no sales trickery is needed. “A lie will travel half-way around the world before the truth even has a chance to put its pants on.” – Churchhill. Don’t just satisfy customers. Utterly delight them.

2. Touchstone – You have 3 seconds. Address as many of the Big Four Questions as possible:
– What we’re selling
– The cost
– What’s in it for you
– Why should you trust us
No matter what, your touchstone must say: Here’s a great offer. Here’s a deal for you so great that you’d be a fool to pass it up.

Stylistic elements of a great touchstone:
– Clarity: Be crisp
– Simplicity
– Brevity – Keep it really short. A single crisp eyeful
– Immediacy – cut to the chase. They either want it or they don’t. The offer in the touchstone is usually separate from your Core High ROI offer.

Examples of great Touchstones:
Dominos – Pizza hot and fresh to your door in 30 mins or less or it’s free.
– Worked even though the pizza was bad (at first).
– No high ROI offer in the touchstone, though the high ROI offer (better pizza, good price) was still necessary for long-term business.

Columbia House Records – 10 CDs for 1 Cent
– Having a high ROI offer allows a company to use a certain degree of gimmickry and still stand up to scrutiny.

Federal Express – When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.

Other examples:
The Army – Be All You Can Be
WINS Radio – You Give Us 22 Minutes. We’ll Give You The World
FOX News – We report. You Decide.
Rackspace – Fanatical Support
Circuit City – We’ll Honor the Lowest Price You Can Find for 60 Days After Your Purchase (stronger than their “Just What I Needed” slogan)
Caterpillar – 48 Hour parts service anywhere in the world–Or Caterpillar pays
Nordstrom’s – If you’re not satisfied for any reason we’ll take it back without a receipt, no questions asked.
REMAX – The 100 Percent Solution (target to agents, they keep all their commission)
Merle Normal Cosmetics – “Before and After”
Mrs. Fields Cookies – Free Samples

3. Believability – can’t be too good to be true.
– Proof
– Social proof: Testimonials – use a name, photo, email address, web address, whatever to prove it’s real.
– Technical proof: scientific validation. Believable evidence.
– Factual proof: Research that shows the product is a good investment
– Credibility
– Endorsements: Authorities, celebrities
– High profile customers
– Qualifications certifications, degrees, credits etc.
– Awards and recognition
– Logic – appeal to their logical thinking. How can you afford to make such a great offer?

What the customer should see in chronological order:
Touchstone, Believability, High ROI Offer


The Great Formula: Create the Irresistible Offer, present it to a thirsty crowd, sell them a second glass.
– Be bold, aggressive. Experiment like crazy. Jettison what’s not working.

Loss leaders – be upfront about them. Have a second offer ready immediately. “Video professor” Free CD. I can give this away because I know you’ll be so happy you’ll come back w/ all your computer learning needs.

Up sell, cross sell, continuity (products consumers buy repeatedly)

Second glass opportunities – education, consulting & service, package deals, insurance & warranties, logical additions, referrals.

Keep the door open – thank you, birthday cards. Service due reminders, newsletters, special events,

Offer intensifiers – Urgency (contrived and genuine), added (genuine) value, risk reversal (guarantee your product, payment plans, loss leaders, warranties, pay only for results, free support, try before you buy), scarcity, pricing tricks (law of 7 and 9’s), price increase for perceived value, contrast (compare your product to a higher priced or the “actual value”, priming), discounts, rebates and coupons, uniqueness (real and perceived), brand value & propositioning (who is at the top of mind when looking for a product? recency-coke still advertises), recommendations (most powerful intensifier).

The Offer Continuum – The art and magic of marketing
How Obvious is the need? – Obscure <—-> Totally obvious
How Genuine is the need? – Doesn’t need it at all <—–> It’s life or death
How Common is a solution for the problem? – Can get it anywhere <—–> We’re the only one
Hoe Emotional is your offer? – Coma inducing <—–> Strong men weep
How Timely is your offer? – Don’t need it anytime soon <—–> Need it NOW
How does it stack up against competition? – They’re great, we suck <—–> We’re clearly the best
How do you compare on price? – Tiffany prices <—–> Bargain rack

Word of Mouth / Viral Marketing – Language is a virus – William S. Burroughs. “Copulation rate.” Meh.
Monetarily incentivizing people to spread the word about your service can backfire, people don’t like to feel bribed. Think about other incentives; the best is genuine enthusiasm.
People talk about things that are noteworthy

Touchstones should be words. Images are hard to spread verbally. Brands. Brands take a lot of time, you have little control over the association (ugly guy wearing Gucci), message is ambiguous, some businesses don’t take to branding well.

Persistent marketing is good marketing. If you see an ad over and over it’s most likely good: must be working.
Points of Contact – every time you have the eyeballs of customers, present them with an offer.
Freebie marketing tips – Never give away something you couldn’t sell. Target, tie-in, collect info.

Relentless Focused Action. Three words that he thinks represent one of the most important keys to success.

GTD Productivity Software Technology

Personal Brain 5 Review

PersonalBrain 5 is out. A new year is out and I haven’t posted anything yet. Now seems like a great time for a new, long, rambling review of PersonalBrain followed up by a bit of philosophizing.

First up: What’s new?

The coolest changes in PersonalBrain (okay maybe not the coolest) are the changes I submitted myself. A few months ago I created some open source icons and sent in some suggestions as to how PersonalBrain could look more natural in OS X. TheBrain (the company that makes PersonalBrain) changed PersonalBrain to use icons very similar to the ones I created. Also gone is the giant, unnecessary “PERSONALBRAIN 5 PRO EDITION” button that previously was at the top right corner. I also created a new background for PersonalBrain, but it wasn’t included. If you’re interested in downloading the background, you can get it here.

The full list of new features in PersonalBrain 5 is located here [pdf]. I won’t go through the entire list, but I will mention a few highlights. The biggest new feature is the outline view  – which offers another way of visualizing your data. This feature is probably the most useful for newer users. When I first started using PB it took some time to adjust to the mindset of having parents at the top, siblings to the left, “other relationships” (I’m not sure what the official terminology is) off to the right etc. The new outline view makes it very apparent what the relationships are between each node.

PersonalBrain Outline View
PersonalBrain Outline View

Another great new feature is the ability to save “expanded views.” It replaces my previous method of taking a ‘snapshot’ of my Brain which was simply to take a screen capture. The new presentation view is useful as well. I have never given a public presentation usingPersonalBrain , but given the opportunity, I’d love to try this new mode out.  Tagging was introduced in PersonalBrain 5 and while I haven’t used it much, I think it has some good potential. Also new are some nice Mac only features like iCal and Spotlight integration which are definitely welcome.

On the whole, PersonalBrain 5 is a solid release. Most of the changes are evolutionary rather than revolutionary, but there are enough of them to make it a significant improvement.

My Wishlist

I’m happy with PersonalBrain as it is, but since I have a soapbox, here are a few things I’d love to see in the future.

iPhone app. This is surely the hardest, and possibly the least likely item on my wishlist. If, however, there was an iPhone app for PersonalBrain that could sync with the desktop version it would be amazing.

Better keyboard navigation. Currently you can navigate PB almost entirely by keyboard, but doing so involves using lots of “F” keys (F7 creates a parent thought for example). Keyboard shortcuts would be much better if they the common conventions of using the command key on OS X or the control key for Windows. Even better would be to allow user-customizable keyboard shortcuts.

Sync. Lately I’ve had a big need to use PersonalBrain on two different machines. Dropbox has made this fairly simple. I put my whole PersonalBrain file in Dropbox and it syncs automatically to any computer that I’ve installed Dropbox on. There is one potential pitfall though–if I forget to close PB on one computer then open it on another it causes some, non-fatal, errors. I leave screen sharing (VNC) enabled on my home computer so if I leave PersonalBrain open I can login and close it on the home machine, but sometimes if I’ve closed the laptop at home I can’t do that and it’s problematic… but I digress.PersonalBrain makers: an “official” way of syncing PersonalBrain between machines has been long-hinted at, how’s that coming along?

Even more native look improvements. As mentioned before, PB has come a long way on OS X, however there are still some major areas for improvement, most having to do with the bottom half of the screen. PB could take a great leap forward by cleaning up the interface down there, even without adding any new functionality.

Areas for Improvement
Areas for Improvement

Some philosophizing about PersonalBrain

The PersonalBrain website lists 12 “top PersonalBrain Uses.” Unfortunately, I think that they still miss the real benefit of PersonalBrain which is that you can have an infinite amount of information connected in extremely flexible ways all stored in one place. No other piece of software does this. Consider the following diagram. It’s a little complex and cluttered, but it illustrates well the uniqueness of PersonalBrain (click to enlarge):

PersonalBrain Capabilities
PersonalBrain Capabilities

If you’re a curious person, if you want to know something about everything, if you’re a generalist, an aspiring polymath, a reader, a researcher, you can’t beat PersonalBrain for organizing all the stuff you come across. Nothing comes close.

Let me preface the following thoughts by saying that I am strongly biased towards the way I use PersonalBrain. Some of these thoughts are controversial for those who use PB in other ways, which is fine, some controversy is welcome.

I think that the list on gets most of the top uses for PersonalBrain wrong. Most of the items on the list are things that could be done in PersonalBrain but could better done with other software. Before I dive into specifics, let me reiterate, PersonalBrain is quite possibly my favorite piece of software and I use it every day. My criticism is meant to be constructive.

The uses listed on

1. Visual bookmark manager. I think this is better done by something like and the extension and/or native browser bookmarks. I have bookmarks in PersonalBrain, quite a few actually, but I prefer to keep the majority of my bookmarks in the browser where they can be tightly integrated and easily accessed as I’m browsing.

2. File and everything in your life manager. In OS X I use the Finder and I use Windows Explorer in Windows. These programs are built with the specific purpose of managing files and they do it well. I have hundreds of file attachments in my PB but I still can’t imagine trying to use it as a general purpose file manager. As far as the “everything in your life manager” part goes, I’m just going to ignore because it’s not specific enough to be meaningful.

3. Capturing expertise and special interests. This is the best item in the list. It ends with this gem: “PersonalBrain becomes your ultimate reference.” Indeed. I think that (or something very similar) should be right on the front page of the site. Make this one number one in the list, make it bold, elaborate on it for a few more sentences and make the font size 3 points bigger.

4. Competitive Intelligence and Product Development. I like this one too. I think it could be a great addition to any PersonalBrain though I wouldn’t create a separate brain just for this.

5. Research and Analysis. Another good one, though why the heavy business focus? Because that’s where the money is? Fair enough, but it minimizes a whole world of other research.

6. Event planning. I think this would be done better in iCal or Outlook or Entourage or even in a mind map or an outline. PersonalBrain just doesn’t seem like a natural tool for this.

7. Brainstorming and mind mapping. I much, much prefer Freemind or MindManager for this. If it’s a finite brainstorming session or a mindmap related to some specific, ephemeral project then I’d prefer to capture it in mindmapping software where I can use it, then be done with it (again, perhaps attaching it to a PB node when I’m done.) I think suggesting PersonalBrain for general mind mapping is confusing because it lumps it in with specialized mind mapping software that all have specific features thatPersonalBrain can’t (and shouldn’t try to) compete with. Another way of stating this is that PersonalBrain is a great mind mapper, but not a great Mind Mapper.

8,9,10,11,12. I’m not going to cover each one specifically because the general problem with each them is the same: you could find specialized software that would better suit your needs. It isn’t that you can’t do any of these things in PersonalBrain, it’s that PB is not the “best tool for the job” and presenting it as such only serves to take away from the real uses of PersonalBrain.

A Personal Note

My PersonalBrain has over 5000 thoughts. 5179 as of this moment to be specific. I have grown to “trust the system.” If you’ve read GTD you’ll understand the significance of that statement. If I was sent to a deserted island and could only take one piece of software, it’d be PersonalBrain. I have enough reading material in the attachments to keep me busy for the next 10 years. There are enough areas to left to explore to last me a lifetime, which is what I plan on doing–spending a little time every day for the rest of my life adding to both of my brains, myPersonalBrain and the one on top of my shoulders.

I have much more I could say about my uses for PersonalBrain, and at some point I’ll create another video showing how I use it, but for now, thanks for reading, feel free to comment and disagree (or agree) as much as you’d like.

Software Technology

Free webdav sync for Omnifocus

It took me forever to find a decent and free (I know… ) webdav hosting service to sync Omnifocus between my mac at home, at work and my iPhone. I really didn’t want to pay for .mac since I’ve had it before and used almost none of it. Finally I found one that seems to be doing the trick and offers much more than enough space for the job (2gb) –myDisk. Took about two and a half minutes to set up. Nice.

Software Technology

Ubiquity: The Next Big Thing

This is the most impressive browser extension I have seen yet: Ubiquity.

It’s a mixture of Quicksilver and Yubnub combined with functionality similar to Greasemonkey integrated tightly with Firefox as an extension for doing stuff and creating mashups. I think this could quickly become the main reason to use Firefox over any other browser. Maybe not for every user, but certainly for technical users and effeciency nuts (like me :))

Lifehacks Software Technology Web Services

All the Functionality of MobileMe for Free

How to get (almost) all the functionality of MobileMe (previously known as .mac) without paying for MobileMe

Email – Use Gmail with IMAP turned on and you can sync mail between your iPhone and Macs. If you’ve got your own domain you can use Google Apps to use a personalized email address. I use Gmail without ever opening the browser based gmail but it’s nice to know that it’s available. IMAP keeps your computers in sync with each other and with your phone and works great.

Contact and calendar syncingPlaxo will sync your contacts and calendar surprisingly well across your Macs, Gmail and Yahoo. In order to sync with your iPhone you’ll have to plug the phone in and Sync over USB. You lose the push sync for iPhone that MobileMe offers so if that’s the killer feature for you, you might be stuck paying.

Remote File Storage – There’s a service called DropBox that gives you 2gb free and syncs really well between computers. It’s in beta but they’re giving out beta invitations and I imagine it will be generally available soon. There’s which also gives you 2gb for free and has a web interface. Finally–Windows Live Foldershare it isn’t online storage, but it will sync folders between computers with no limit on the number of files, they’ve just got to be smaller than 2gb each.

OmniFocus to iPhone SyncOmniFocus syncs over WebDav. It’s almost impossible (but not quite) to find free WebDav hosting. I found some offered by Tomben called OFWD. You can set it up in just a few minutes and it works fine. is an oft-suggested solution but in my experience, it doesn’t work.

BackToMyMac – BackToMyMac is just VNC. One way to get around this is to turn on screen sharing in your Mac’s system preferences under sharing then use the built in Screen (copy it from /System/Library/CoreServices to /Applications). You can set up a friendly name for your computer with DynDNS and then configure your router give your computer a static internal IP address and forward port 5900 to your computer and you’re done. There’s a great article explaining some of this on Macworld. If all that sounds like a pain LogMeIn works really well and it’s free and easy to set up.

GalleryFlickr is free for 200 pictures. You can upload to it for free from iPhoto with Connected Flow’s FlickrExport. FFXporter is also free. It’s not as pretty or easy as what you get with MobileMe, but it works for basic needs. The gallery is another area where MobileMe still beats free solutions.

It’s not perfect, especially if you want a push contacts/calendar sync and a gallery, but you can get most of the way there with free stuff. The reason I started looking is because MobileMe just wasn’t doing it for me. The last straw was when ALL my phone numbers randomly disappeared from contacts on my phone after syncing with MobileMe. I was able to recover them, but I decided MobileMe wasn’t worth it.

If I’m missing anything, or there’s a better way to do something than what I’ve listed, I’d love to know.

Knowledge Lifehacks Productivity Software Technology

PersonalBrain vs. Mindmapping Part II

After writing yesterday about the differences between PersonalBrain and Mindmappers, I started thinking more about what the core difference between them are.

  • Is it a temporal difference? Mindmaps tend to expire whereas information in PersonalBrain tends to be valid over a longer period of time.
  • Is it a difference in the amount of data you can to see at once? Mindmaps allow you to see possibly hundreds of nodes at once where realistically in PersonalBrain you can only deal with maybe 10 or 20 on the screen at a time.
  • Is it a difference in the way you can connect the information? PersonalBrain is more organic and mindmaps are structured.

While these are all valid points, they don’t get at the heart of it which seems to be:

In PersonalBrain each node is first class data, whereas in a Mindmap, nodes have hierarchal importance. This means that in PersonalBrain any element in the “plex” can have infinitely detailed information associated with it. You can extend any node with unlimited sub-nodes that provide additional detail without consciously structuring the data to allow for specialization.

For example, I’ve created a Mindmap of my notes for the book Linked and one of the nodes in the map is “Power Laws”. The more I research power laws and get into the details, the more nodes I’ll need to add. Eventually, one of two things will happen – either the mindmap will become cluttered and unwieldy or I’ll have to start a new mindmap. If I do the latter, I’ll then have to remember it exists and open separately if I go back to my book notes. Neither is desirable.

In PersonalBrain if I have a power laws node I’ll never run out of space under it and everything associated with that node can be associated with any other node in the system.

On the other hand, it’s sometimes beneficial to have the concept of a leaf node and the structure a mindmap offers. In PersonalBrain it’s difficult to emphasize the importance of a node since there really isn’t the concept of the “center node” that a mindmap has.

So, the conclusion remains the same–different tools for different purposes.

Lifehacks Productivity Software Technology

PersonalBrain vs. Mindmapping

When I started using PersonalBrain sometimes I was unclear about when to use PersonalBrain or when to use a more traditional mindmapping tool like Freemind or MindJet. Now I think I can break it down pretty simply to this:

PersonalBrain is for research, learning and long-term planning. Mindmapping is for brainstorming.

The two tools overlap and can be used for either purpose, but I find that generalizing helps make the decision of which software to use quick and more intuitive.

An example where I prefer Mindmapping: If I’m starting a project such as building a website I use Freemind to quickly lay out the potential navigation, what content will go where and even the contact information for the involved parties. The information I need is limited in context and fairly isolated. It’s useful in the time that I’m building the website but it’s likely that I won’t need to revisit it in the future. It also helps to be able to see it all at a glance–Mindmaps are great for this.

Examples of where I prefer PersonalBrain: Pretty much everything else :). If I’m reading a book and taking notes, I use Personal Brain. If I’m taking notes on an article or planning out my future I use PersonalBrain. Philosophical or political information goes into PersonalBrain. All of this is information I’m likely to want to go back to and that is likely to connect to other bits of information and help with me be more creative, recognize patterns, and recall what I’ve learned.

That’s how I differentiate between what goes where. If you’ve got another way of doing it, I’m curious to learn about it!

GTD Knowledge Lifehacks Productivity Software Technology

Personal Brain 4 Review

I recently discovered Personal Brain and I’m taken with it. It took me a couple hours of experimentation and more importantly, playing with Jerry Michalski’s brain to get used to it and to realize how powerful it is. For those of you who ‘get’ and use GTD, I’ll say that this gave me the same feeling I got when I started really using GTD-it’s a trusted system for all the information I want to make sure I remember. It’s more than that though–it’s a way to find patterns in knowledge and thing I’m learning, a way to create patterns, to store about anything… it’s fun, addictive (after a little over a week I have well over 1000 thoughts).

I made a video review of it (my first video review) here:

In the video I call Personal Brain “new”–really it’s only new for me, it’s been around for about 10 years.

Personal Brain is Java which means it’s available on Mac, Linux and Windows. It also means it’s not as Mac-like as most of my other favorite software, but it’s really not bad.

Personal Brain comes in 3 versions – free, core and pro. The core and pro versions are expensive. Fortunately the free version is very adequate. There’s also an enterprise version (BrainEKP) which is networked and web-based.

UPDATED: Video should work now – moved to YouTube