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Need to build and motivate great teams? Book Robert David Duncan for keynotes, seminars, coaching and training

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Do you want better performing teams?  Do you want to perform better? Contact Robert David (Rob) Duncan, who can help you and your teams be more effective – in terms of cohesion, collaboration, competitiveness and social skills. Rob is also a Certified Management Consultant who can roll up his sleeves and get actively involved in improving your organization’s performance. A longtime college educator, Rob can work with your organization and continue to add value long after the keynote address.

Featured talks and seminars: 1. Team Intelligence; 2. Competitive Intelligence; 3. Collaborative Intelligence; 4. Social Intelligence.

1. Team Intelligence: Lessons from a Voyage around Cape Horn

South of Cape Horn

South of Cape Horn – a foreboding calm…

What were the secrets to building a great team on a gruelling 3-month sailing voyage around the dreaded Cape Horn? Join Rob for a first-hand account of a life-changing tall ship voyage through stormy seas and interpersonal strains that ultimately led to a rounding of the “Sailor’s Mount Everest.” Told through stories and pictures, with the keen insights of a skilled management consultant, Lessons from a Voyage around Cape Horn will leave your team inspired, engaged, and ready for their next challenge!

2. Competitive Intelligence: Fast, Cheap & Ethical Techniques to get the Edge

What can you do in the next 15 minutes to give your firm an unbeatable lead over the competition? Join competitive intelligence expert Rob Duncan for an entertaining, fast-paced and informative look at a war chest of tools that can be employed cheaply, quickly and ethically to gain a sustainable edge. Drawing on his book “Competitive Intelligence: Fast, Cheap & Ethical”, selected as a Best Business Book of 2008, Rob will leave your group raring to go on these simple and effective tactics.

Rob Duncan is building intelligent teams

3. Collaborative Intelligence: Enhancing Innovation through Social Media

What do you do when your customer is suddenly the head of your design team? “Harness it to your advantage,” says social networking expert Rob Duncan. Rob’s recent doctoral research confirmed that online social networking is breaking down traditional boundaries between companies, competitors and customers. Intelligent collaboration is the way of the future, and Rob Duncan can explain in straightforward terms why LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook and other collaborative technologies are going to drive business in the future, and why you need to be there.

4. Social Intelligence: Building Socially Smart Teams for Winning Performances

What do improvisation, active listening, the reading of micro-expressions, networking and acting technique have in common? They all relate to the growing field of social intelligence. Defined as ‘a person’s competence to comprehend his or her environment optimally and react appropriately for socially successful conduct,’ social intelligence is needed more than ever in business. Join Rob Duncan, New York trained actor and co-author of the book “Improv to Improve Your Business: Using the principles of improvisation to foster communication, creativity & innovation” on an engaging journey through some simple, easy to use and powerful techniques to build social intelligence in your teams.

Contact us for more information at greatcapes@gmail.com or via the Contact tab on this page.

Our new book – Improv to Improve your Business: Using the principles of improvisation to foster communication, creativity & innovation

Doctoral research, Ideas you can use, Speaking 4 Comments »

Now available on AMAZON!

I was thrilled to be involved in this collaborative writing project, in which co-authors Brent Brooks, Rick Crain, Leah Henderson, Jim Hogan, Vanessa Lowry, Deborah Thomas, Scott Williford, Mark Wyssbrod and I all contributed chapters. Working from the “ten commandments of improv,” each of us wove a chapter story about how the techniques of improvisation have helped each of us in our business careers, and how they can help you. The ten commandments of improv that are woven throughout the book are:

Book: Improv to Improve your Business

Book: Improv to Improve your Business

Trust.

Agree on stage.

Listen.

Don’t be funny.

Avoid questions.

Be average.

Stay in the moment.

Mistakes are good.

Make others look good.

Have fun!

It was terrific to work with such funny and talented co-authors, and I know that you will find this book as much fun to read as it was to write! Watch for Improv to Improve your Business: Using the principles of improvisation to foster communication, creativity & innovation on Amazon early in 2011. Advance media enquiries and booking speaking events on this topic can be arranged by emailing me at greatcapes@gmail.com, or following the contact tab on this page.

Are we in the middle of a visibility mania?

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Too obsessed with being seen?

Too obsessed with being seen?


The other day, I was parsing through my usual daily inflow of free webinar offers, machine-gun Tweets and other digital bombardments, and I found myself wondering whether we have drifted too far away from a fundamental focus on providing something of value to a customer, one customer at a time? Are we in fact in a visibility mania?

The dominant discussions out there seem to be about being located, ranking high in searches, and using social media for outbound ‘reach and flood’ marketing. But where do you take people once they have found you; what is the unique value you provide that makes them want to go for their wallets? There seems to be very little chatter out there about getting better at what we do, providing more service, having a true dialogue with customers, and learning from them how to provide more value.

Here are a few ideas on how we can return the focus to the customer:

  • Have a ‘Designated Listener’ on your team. The DL is there to pick up on what customers are saying, thinking and needing. This doesn’t have to be only using social media. Get out there, listen in person, use MeetUp to schedule a fun gathering for some dialogue, invest some time in a solid back-and-forth with a single customer on Facebook or in person.
  • Take your marketing local and in-person. Have some events where people can actually meet you and other customers live. I am picking up on some real fatigue out there with purely electronic relationships and social media. Let’s not forget the power of a handshake and a face-to-face chat. Bring in a speaker to stimulate some dialogue and let the discussion take off.
  • Make use of surveys and focus groups. Yeah, I know, major yawn. But these old standbys are still great ways to find out what is on customers’ minds, what is bugging them, how they like to be marketed to, and how they would in fact go about searching online for a business like yours. What keywords would they use – why guess?
  • Feature customer blogs on your site, both the complimentary ones and the grumpy ones. Invite a customer to be a guest blogger, or to be part of the design and customer service team by creating an online community that they can join. Hire a team of customers to meet with the company for a week, and tap into their insights and suggestions.
  • Competitive Intelligence by Rob Duncan

    None of these ideas are new and revolutionary, and many were in my second book, “Competitive Intelligence: Fast, Cheap & Ethical,” but they are still valid, and could help us return to doing more listening and less talking.

    I am interested in your thoughts! Please feel free to weigh in here, or by email. To explore having me meet with and speak to your team, please feel free to be in touch anytime via the contact tab on my website.

    Why good leaders have to leave the teams they build

    Ideas you can use, Speaking 1 Comment »

    Leaders come in two broad flavors: 1) self confident ones, and 2) insecure ones. The self confident ones build teams, empower those teams, develop leadership within the team and then move on to their next challenge. The insecure ones micro-manage, insert themselves needlessly into processes, and cling to their authority role under the guise of being ‘indispensable.’

    The best leaders have one overarching goal: to make themselves dispensable. They achieve this through a number of tactics:

    • Hire good people – better, smarter, faster than themselves wherever possible.
    • Performance manage the weaker performers, while putting the bulk of their energies into the higher achievers.
    • Create a culture of experimentation and innovation, where trial and error are celebrated.
    • Promote the achievements of everybody on the team, while taking minimal credit for themselves.
    • Support the team from the background, letting others take center stage.
    • Consciously develop team leadership by pushing responsibility downward, and developing everyone’s leadership ability, not just that of their clones.

    It may seem counter-intuitive to try to make yourself dispensable, but that is exactly what the best leaders and team builders do. In my first book, Haul Away! Teambuilding Lessons from a Voyage around Cape Horn, I interviewed the captain of the Europa, a 400 ton tall ship, who had started his career in a one-person rowboat, and who explained his philosophy of becoming a leader:

    Captain and crew of the tall ship Europa

    Captain and crew of the tall ship Europa

    I personally never ‘sought command.’ I started my career in a small boat, where you are the skipper by default. Over time, the boats got bigger, I got older, and my experience grew.

    The lesson here is that leaders need to build and empower teams, and then move onto that ‘bigger boat,’ so they can do it all over again. The smart organizations are the ones who recognize the need for good team builders to keep moving and growing, leaving a legacy of successful teams and newly-developed leaders in their wake.

    Haul Away! Teambuilding Lessons from a Voyage around Cape Horn

    Haul Away! Teambuilding Lessons from a Voyage around Cape Horn

    To learn more, or to explore having me speak to your group or team about leadership, please contact Rob Duncan at greatcapes@gmail.com or via the Contact tab on this page.

    A mid-career doctorate… defense completed, it’s safari time!

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    Earlier this month, I went into the final of 3 defenses of my doctoral research on the role of online social networks in interfirm collaborative innovation. After 3 years of hard work, it all finally came down to one presentation…

    Into the pressure cooker…

    After 3 years of toil, it all came down to 90 minutes. I was given 60 minutes to present a summary of my thesis paper, focussing on results, conclusions and recommendations. This presentation was to the entire faculty of the business school, as well as some other doctoral students who were due to present during this round also. The final 30 minutes was a chance for the audience to ask questions and challenge me to defend various aspects of my research and the choices I had made in terms of methodology and so forth.

    Getting closer...

    Bloodied but unbowed…

    One of my mentors who has been through the process explained to me that the defense reviewers have to try to poke holes in your work – that’s their role. With that knowledge in mind, I went into the encounter ready for some heavy sport. I felt reasonably confident, but also nervous enough to be on my toes. After presenting for an hour, then fielding their questions for 30 minutes, all the students including me were asked to leave the room. As I gorged on cakes outside, I was sweating bullets while trying to make casual conversation. After an eternity (really about 20 minutes) we were invited back in for the verdict – I had passed, but had several suggested changes to make to my thesis before submitting it for external review.

    Treehouse in Kruger Park

    Still a few hurdles, but getting closer…

    I will continue working on the thesis while I travel around South Africa. This is probably the most significant milestone to have passed on the way to the doctorate, and for right now, it’s Safari Time!!

    Gathering competitive intelligence at trade shows

    Doctoral research, Ideas you can use, Speaking 1 Comment »
     Here’s a fast, cheap & ethical competitive intelligence tip for you:
     

    Trade shows are awash in valuable CI

    Trade shows are awash in valuable CI

    Trade show intelligence gathering

    Trade shows are an excellent source of competitive intelligence (CI), both human and written. Attending a trade show with a calculated view to obtaining CI can be a very cost-effective exercise. The key to trade show intelligence is first to determine what our intelligence objectives are. Once we have decided what specific pieces of intelligence we desire, we can formulate a plan of attack, identifying likely sources of CI as well as who will be responsible for obtaining each piece of intelligence.

    Much of the work of planning a trade show CI mission can now be done in advance using the Internet. Most trade shows have websites which can be mined for useful information such as who will be speaking as well as a map layout of where each competitor’s presence will be located. We can often find photographs of specific human targets we may wish to approach for human intelligence efforts.

    The intelligence-gathering team

    In approaching a tradeshow for intelligence-gathering purposes, team organization is very important. There are several different roles to fulfill:

    • Team leader: responsible for planning, organization, setting intelligence goals, determining specific targets, assigning specific intelligence objectives to field operatives, communicating final results
    • Field operatives: responsible for obtaining specific pieces of intelligence, through physical collection, observation and human intelligence
    • Analysts: Responsible for obtaining pre-trade show intelligence gathering, collating and analyzing intelligence gathered from field operatives

    The reality for many of us is that we are a “CI department of one,” and will have to perform all of these functions alone. The alternative may be to hire students from a school that teaches market research and CI, who are often thankful for paid entrance to a useful trade show. In any event, careful consideration of each of these functions is necessary in order to carry out a successful trade show intelligence-gathering mission.

    Planning the mission

    The role of the team leader is first to plan the exercise, which involves determining what intelligence is desired and which trade show it makes sense to target for the intelligence. Once a trade show has been selected, online research and/or printed marketing material is helpful in terms of refining and selecting our targets for the intelligence we require. Often such specifics as lists of exhibitors, floor layouts, speaker biographies and the like are available. This is useful because it helps avoid unnecessary wandering around during the trade show itself.

    The next task is to assign specific pieces of intelligence to the person responsible for gathering it. Each piece of required intelligence needs to be defined in terms of how it will be obtained. In the case of human intelligence, we need to determine who will be targeted and what approach will be used. The conversational hourglass approach to elicitation covered in the next chapter will be useful here. For other intelligence, other approaches will make sense. Perhaps we want to get a look at the features of our competitor’s soon-to-be-released product, and there may be printed material or demonstrations available.

    One of the exploitable vulnerabilities companies face at trade shows is that it is usually the enthusiasts who are selected to staff the booths. These can be people who are too junior to know what should be kept secret, or sales people who are eager to promote the products to anyone who might be interested, or product development experts, who can be lured into detailed discussions of the features that they are proud of.

    Executing the mission

    At the trade show itself, particularly multi-day events, we should begin by doing a sweep of the facility, gathering everything that is available in terms of printed materials and giveaways, from all the relevant target companies. This “snag and bag” operation can often yield plenty of the intelligence that we wanted. Taking the gathered material away and analyzing it can help us to refine our approach and targets for the next wave of intelligence-gathering. At an out-of-town trade show, a hotel room can serve as a command post where gathered material can be sifted through, and plans can be adjusted based on what can be extracted from the material.

    In general, the less face-to-face interaction we rely on to obtain our intelligence, the better. Anything we can gather by indirect means like printed material, observation or overhearing is a bonus, since it makes it far less likely that our intentions and activities will be unmasked. This multi-wave approach to gathering intelligence allows us to use the riskier tactics, like human intelligence sparingly, thus minimizing the chances of being seen to be snooping.

    A three-wave approach to a trade show intelligence-gathering mission can be summarized as follows:

    Wave one

    • Plan the overall mission
    • Determine the required pieces of intelligence, and the targets or sources for the intelligence
    • Make a first pass of the trade show, gathering everything that is being given away at the target booths
    • Analyze the gathered material and see if some of the required intelligence is there
    • Refine your requirements

    Wave two

    • Conduct human and observational intelligence
    • Analyze this intelligence to isolate any remaining gaps

    Wave three

    • Conduct final intelligence to gathering any remaining intelligence required

     

    Rob Duncan's book on CI selected=

    Through careful objective-setting, planning and execution, trade shows can be an extremely cost-effective way to gain strategic competitive intelligence. More on this topic is available in my book “Competitive Intelligence: Fast, Cheap & Ethical”  which can be obtained through the Media and Books tab on this page.

    The core business of a good manager

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    Rob Duncan in South Africa
    10,000 miles away, my team is doing a great job!

    The other day, someone asked me what the core business of a good manager should be. It was an excellent question, and one that I feel a great amount of passion for. I took a few moments and tried to distill my thoughts into a brief set of principles. So here goes – my list of the things a good manager must do well:

    1. Work with the senior executive and the team to set the team objectives.

    2. Organize the right people to tackle those objectives.

    3. Listen, teach and coach. Don’t micro-manage.

    4. Remove barriers to success for the team wherever possible.

    5. Absorb a lot of the noise and stress from above and outside so the team is freed up to achieve its goals.

    6. Report on successes and challenges, objectives and outcomes.

    I am interested in your lists and thoughts as well. Please get in touch and let me know what you think. Feel free to comment here or be in touch with me privately via the Contact tab on this page. I am also available to speak to your teams and groups on this topic – one that I am very passionate about!

    Is it time to start curtailing our personal social network habits?

    Doctoral research, Ideas you can use, Speaking 1 Comment »

    When was the last time you looked a flesh and blood human being in the eyes and said “I hear you?” If it has been more than a day, that is too long.

    As part of the research for my doctorate, I asked people whether they were growing tired of online social networks, and were planning to reduce their levels of activity or number of networks in the future. In a sample of over 400 people I was intrigued to see that fully one-quarter agreed that they were feeling this way.

    Taking a break

    It’s ironic, because a few weeks later, I find that I am one of those people! This may sound strange coming from someone who chose to do a doctorate focused specifically on online social networks – and someone who spends a lot of time speaking to audiences on the topic. Let me explain.

    I recently started some acting training to add to and refresh my speaking and acting skills. The schedule has been fairly demanding, and has involved learning and rehearsing scenes from some of the great plays of all time, including Shakespeare, Ibsen and others.

    Not only do these plays deal with timeless themes of great human and social importance, they are also not that easy to memorize. Over the last week and a half, I set to learning my lines in the evenings.

    The first night, I had the TV on (24/7 Law and Order being one of the cooler perks of NYC), and started to read. During commercials, I would leap up, round into the other room and check Facebook, Twitter, Buzz, emails etc. The next morning, It wasn’t that easy to recite “Two households both alike in dignity…In fair Verona where we lay our scene…” from memory. Something had to give.

    All my Sons by Arthur Miller

    The second night, I left the TV off, and things improved quite a bit. I was able to really focus and get deeper into the lines, characters and themes of the plays. Still, I couldn’t shake the social networking habit.

    The third night, I left everything off, and an amazing thing happened. This incredible sense of quiet, absorption and peace came over me. I was deep in great stories about heroes, villains, quests, tragic flaws and all the other fabulous chemicals of drama. The next morning, I also had nearly nailed the prologue from Romeo and Juliet. 

    Stella Adler acting class

    This was all happening against the backdrop of spending intense face-to-face time working with my wonderfully talented classmates, trying to achieve something together that was stretching, shared and artistically large. 

    Needless to say, I eventually broke (speaking of tragic flaws) and checked my social networks. As always, there was fun and meaningful news on Facebook, and useful dialog on LinkedIn, but really, what was all this stuff on Twitter and Buzz? Sure, some fun news from classmates and friends, but mostly stuff about software I know nothing about, etc. etc. Why was I letting that stuff get in the way of spending quality time with Falstaff, Prince Hal, Torvald and the others?

    Falstaff and Prince Hal

    So as of today, I have decided to let my Twitter account go dormant for a bit, and will be turning off Buzz. In my online social network world, there are now only two big dogs for the time being - Facebook and LinkedIn. I want to free up some personal disk space for real human interactions. I wonder if many of us should have a similar conversation with ourselves?

    I want to hear what you think! Please feel free to weigh in here with your comments. To explore having me speak to your team or group on social networking, drama in the workplace and other related themes, please get in touch with me at rob@robduncan.com or via the contact tab on this page. Oh, and if you crave the sweet sounds of silence, please follow me on Twitter and Buzz….

    Do you know your customers anymore?

    Doctoral research, Ideas you can use, Speaking 1 Comment »
    Terminal City Club Vancouver

    Terminal City Club Vancouver

    I was part of a really enjoyable lunch and learn today in beautiful Vancouver, Canada hosted by SMEI at the Terminal City Club. I was asked to kick off the discussion by saying a few words on the theme of “Your customers have moved. Do you know where they live?”

    I decided to start things off by broadening the discussion into the larger question of whether we even know our customers at all anymore, given the sea change in consumer behaviours that has occurred since the widespread adoption of social media like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

    For example, do you know which online networks they like to hang out on? Do you know how they like to be communicated with? Do you understand what new levels of interaction they expect to have with your organization? Do you know when you are bugging them and driving them away?

     Part of the challenge is learning to listen again. Listening is possibly the most important sales skill out there, but how do we “listen” effectively with all the new media that is out there?

    It all starts with some key, foundational principles. So here follows a bit of a manifesto for success in the new virtual neighbourhoods where our customers live.

    • You need to genuinely enjoy meeting and helping people. If that’s just not you, find someone else to look after your digital communications post. It takes all kinds to make a business succeed, and if you are not happy networking offline, online tools won’t change that reality.   Hire an intern or new grad from a local college or university. These social media natives are very well-equipped to be your eyes, ears and voice on social media. Many will appreciate the chance to make some bucks on the side while still a student. 
    • You need to be in it to help others. Blasting out endless Tweets about how great you are is not working, and is actually driving people away. In a recent study I conducted, one-quarter of the respondents indicated they are getting tired of social media and are considering scaling down their participation. The mood out there is in flux, and if you are not helping, you are annoying. You need to think in terms of “giving” not “getting.”
    • You need to build communities. This is an old idea that still has legs. Start a LinkedIn Group for your customers. Let them help each other, and let them give you input on your products and services. My research is showing that people want to be able to rely on their online communities for assistance in solving problems and coming up with innovative ideas.
    • You need to learn about the new cultures. This means listening before talking. Ask a lot of questions. Use tools like LinkedIn Q+A, LinkedIn Groups, and online customer surveys. Identify and befriend the “alphas” out there and learn the rules and protocols of engagement. Have a casual focus group over pizza and beer (be sure to invite me…) Watch how your competitors are handling the same environments and situations.
    • It’s not just about the tools! Sure there are lots of great tools out there, many of them home-grown success stories. But at their best, tools are simply extenders and enablers of existing behaviours. If you are doing the wrong things to begin with, cool tools just magnify your mistakes, and the consequences of them. Make sure your fundamental behaviours are sound before throwing caution to the wind and potentially alienating your customer base.
    • Become a trusted advisor. Freely offer your expertise and advice. Be a regular contributor to LinkedIn Q+A, and invest a half hour every morning helping people without expectations of a favour in return. Blog your own ideas, don’t just coat somebody else’s thoughts in your own wrapper and blast it out – editorialize at least! Make sure you would be on your customer’s “Top ten most helpful people” list.” Thought leadership is brand leadership.

    How’s that for a set of starting principles? I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on this, and your additions to the list. Please feel free to weigh in here with your opinions!

    PS. Some cool “Canadian” tools to check out:

    StepRep (www.steprep.com) from Vendasta Technologies – helps you monitor and manage your online reputations

    MashedIn (www.mashedin.com) also from Vendasta Technologies – builds trust by showing people how they are connected to you

    HootSuite (www.hootsuite.com) -  manages, monitors and analyzes multiple social media presences

    Flowtown (www.flowtown.com) – builds social media profiles from a simple email address

    To explore having me speak to your group or team on this or other related topics, please feel free to be in touch with me at greatcapes@gmail.com or via the Contact tab on this page.

    The “do-not-do” list for good leaders

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    I had a very enjoyable breakfast chat this morning with my good friend Alejandro, and the subject of a “do-not-do” list came up. Unlike a to-do list, the do-not-do list is a reminder to ourselves of the things that we either don’t want to be doing or shouldn’t be doing.

    Do-not-do list

    Do-not-do list

    This got me thinking about leaders, and the many things they should not be doing. I wonder if all leaders shouldn’t keep their do-not-do lists handy at all times. What would be on such a list? Here are a few ideas, and I hope you will weigh in with your own comments and additions:

    A do-not-do list for good leaders

    • Do not do anything that one of your staff could do. Hoarding the work and failing to effectively delegate is a critical flaw, especially for new managers. It may be true that you can do the best job on several tasks, but that isn’t why they pay you the big bucks. Your job as a leader is to apportion the work fairly among your staff, to develop and stretch the talents of your team, to have your eye on the big picture, and to lobby for your team’s success. The first question to cross your mind when a new task comes in should be “Who else could do this?” If you have more than 3 items on your personal to-do list, you probably aren’t delegating enough – time to reassess and reassign.
    • Do not be a perfectionist. Delegation is one of the scariest things a manager does, as it often flies in the face of what got the leader promoted in the first place. Leaders often progress upwards because they are very hard on themselves, and are sticklers for producing good work. It can be gut-wrenching at times for perfectionists to release a task to someone else, knowing what they will get back is only 80-90% of the quality they could do themselves. Get over it! It is much easier to help refine the work of a dozen team members who have made a good effort at a dozen tasks than it is to hoard the work and add it to your growing to-do list.
    • Do not micro-manage. Nobody likes being micro-managed. Leadership is about engendering and modelling trust and accountability. Be clear on what the task being assigned is, how it fits into a bigger context (why it is important), what resources are available to help get it done, and when it is required. Then GO AWAY! You can check in if you sense that something is going off the rails, but otherwise, just back off. We hire highly-qualified and motivated people who are good at what they do – let them do it, without interfering or being overly controlling. When you micro-manage someone, you are telegraphing the message that you don’t trust them to get things done, which is very unmotivating, and is also a poor use of your time.
    Rob Duncan at the Helm

    You can't steer the boat and micro-manage it too

    What do you think? Feel free to comment on this post and share your own “do-not-do” items.

    To learn more, or to explore having me speak to your group or team about leadership and related topics, please contact Rob Duncan at greatcapes@gmail.com or via the Contact tab on this page.

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