Welcome to whatever is on my mind!

Some people use the term "nonsense" but I prefer to use the phrase "uncommonly sensed" because it's more reflective of creative types.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

When Rebranding Doesn't Work

I recently came across a company where the IT Helpdesk had been internally rebranded and the name changed several times over the past 6 or 8 years.  The department first decided to eliminate the term “helpdesk” from their name because the internal customers had started referring to them as the “no-helpdesk.”  They later again changed the department name to “Internal Services for Information Technology” because they wanted to emphasize the service aspect of their role in the organization.  It wasn’t long before employees began referring to the department as “i-Shit” by adding an H into the acronym.  Does anyone else see the real issue here?
The problem was never with the department name.  The real issues were the processes and actions that created the negative connotations.  These were never fully addressed in the rebranding efforts.  Sure there was customer services training and service metrics were implemented.  But the department employees reverted back to their old behavior and found ways to push their service numbers because they were quantity driven and not quality ratings.  The attitude and culture of the department stayed the same, so they maintained the same level of customer service (or lack of it) they always had in the past.
So, long story short: we can change our terms and educate our employees or customers, but if we don’t change the processes then we’re wasting time and money in order to rebrand something that will sooner or later carry the connotation of the old brand again.  Because it’s the same thing.  And people are smart enough to figure that out.
Good rebranding does’t try to convince people that something isn’t what it really is.  Or that it is what it isn’t.  People can see through semantic games.  Certain cable and phone companies may want to save this post and re-read it from time to time.  I’m not mentioning any names because they will probably change them in their next rebranding effort, anyway.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Story Behind the Stories

For those of you who don't know, I just released a collection of three short stories called "Leftover Shorts."

Leftover Shorts was named that way because it really is a collection of leftovers: these are three stories I wrote because I liked the concepts behind them.  None of these stories fits neatly into the two collections I’m currently working on, so they’re “Leftovers.”  That doesn’t mean that I love these children any less but, like all strange relatives, they may need a little explaining.  So here’s how I came about the idea for these three oddballs...
The Marshmallow War
Too often I see experienced workers and their body of institutional knowledge being ignored within organizations.  So I had to make fun of it.  I set the story in a Marshmallow company where the inexperienced new manager thinks that if a little of something is good (fluffiness) then a lot must be even better.  This story is about how the mature workers resolve their situation through some not so mature (yet creative) means.  When I re-read this story I feel like it has a slight Kurt Vonnegut feel to it, so I may have been reading some of his work when I was writing it.  Let me know if you agree with the influence or if I’m imagining it.
Peripheral Witches
I was definitely in a Tim Burton mood when I put this together.  The premise is that we see all kinds of evil in something that we don’t fully examine - in other words, when we don’t look at it head on.  The woman in the story sees witches in her peripheral vision.  The images vanish whenever she looks directly at them and she begins to think that she’s going crazy.  It doesn’t occur to her until the end that maybe she’s projecting her own bitterness onto these things.  The story is set during Prom time (which it currently is right now!) because Proms have a very fairy tale nature about them.  I thought it would be fun to weave this theme together with the fairy tale of the witches that the main character is creating in her mind.
Parson’s Song
There is an old folk tune called “MacPherson’s Lament.”  The legend states that the criminal MacPerson composed his own lament (song of mourning) on the gallows right before he was to be hanged.  I’ve updated the setting from old Scotland and put it in the more recent South.  The main character, Billy Parson, is fodder for small town gossip and superstition based local beliefs surrounding when he was born. Billy, himself doesn't know how to interpret or whether to believe the superstition, but it still impacts the choices he makes in life.
So that’s the story behind the stories.  Now please go purchase them for the low, low price of 99 cents.  If you like them, recommend them to a friend.  If you dislike them, recommend them to an enemy.  Either way I’d appreciate a referral.  Thank you!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

You are Statistically Significant

A few days ago I was asked about statistical significance and what it really means.  This is a concept that often causes confusion for people, so I thought I’d write something for the average person that doesn’t go into too much statistical jargon using words like “rejection region” or “alpha.”  Rejection region, by the way, sounds more like the back corner of a discount store where they put the damaged goods on clearance.  But it’s a real statistical term and I wouldn't make fun of it because it has a lot of powerful friends who could gang up on me.  
So here’s the concept of statistical significance in plain English:  It means that there is a consistent difference that is not likely to be caused by accident. It doesn’t mean that the difference is automatically huge or that every observation in one group is different from every observation in the second group.  The groups could overlap in content and still be significantly different based on the averages.  Statistically significant differences are not necessarily meaningful, either.  Think about a five cent difference in cost.  This could be statistically significant but still not sway a person to buy the item that is five cents cheaper.  So, to sum it up, statistical significance just means that the two groups are consistently different. In other words, the difference (however large or small) is real and probably not due to chance.
Bearing this in mind, I want you all to know that every one of you is statistically significant to me.  I check how many people read my blog each week and I know that you are different from other people because you took the time to read this.  Knowing that you’ve been here also makes me smile.  So this is for you: