How sweet it is….

In late September Chicago played host to the All Candy Expo. Sugar treats have evolved quite substantially since my childhood thrills of Nerds and Big League Chew. Expected on shelves soon:

  • Mint-mojito Orbit gum
  • A new gum called “5” which has “invigorating sensations that you can feel as you chew”
  • Chocolate Pop Rocks
  • Melted Ice Cream, a spray candy

The Internet has been a boon to those trying to chase down rare or regional candy [google: classic candy]. But as Steve Almond documents in Candy Freak, the small quirky confectionery has all but disappeared from the American landscape.

Beware the LCD

One of the challenges that attracted me to YouTube was the chance to grow the company from 100 to 1,000 people (not an actual goal but rather how i casually articulate our phase in-between start-up and large ongoing concern). At Second Life I got to help with going from 0 – 30 and at Google did the 1,000 to 10,000 order of magnitude experience). But this is my first 100 to 1,000.

In some ways it’s familiar – you deal with many of the same recruiting, org structure and cultural issues – but I’ve become more cognizant of the LCD and his/her impact. The LCD is the “Lowest Common Denominator” — basically the person who for a given quality or characteristic, demonstrates the most outlying behavior. This behavior can be a clearly negative trait (the person who works the least), outright positive or more ambiguous (the person who works every holiday). Either way, the LCD can have a very strong influence on an organization.

For example, the person who works every holiday could be a really dedicated passionate employee who models great behavior, but they also start to create a gentle pressure to work on off-days. The executive who seems to always be responding to emails at 3am is accelerating communications in a way that might also amp up stress and the desire to be “always-on.”

There’s a point where the Lowest Common Denominator” can start to shift behaviors – their actions become a meme which gets spread and imitated. One LCD who thinks it’s okay to let deadlines slip – soon you’ve got anarchy. Ok, not exactly, but rather than anchor to the average person’s behavior, the organization does start shifting towards the most extreme.

So what to do?

1) Be sensitive to outlier behavior which can be toxic and nip it quickly
2) If you want to change group dynamics, drop some positive LCDs into the system and see what happens
3) If you model LCD behaviors, be cognizant of its general effect on your team

Broadcast Your Cause

We (YouTube) just launched a program aimed at helping non-profits use video to carry their messages around the world. First 300 to sign up get a free video camera from our partners Casio and Flip Video.

We’re providing enhanced branding, promotional opportunities and donation gadgets using Google Checkout (without any transaction costs).

Go team! And go non-profits!

You’ve been a very bad boy Harry Potter

I did a serious double-take on this combo “Potter glasses” and handcuffs toyset until realizing they were two separate items.

Now that would be one awesome “People who bought that item, also bought this item” combo on Amazon.

You’ve been a very bad boy Harry Potter…

If you’ve got a complaint…

Not to get all Seth Godin on you, but a Shell gas station here in Great Barrington moves me to comment.

Attached to the pumps is a big sign where the largest type reads “If you have a complaint…” followed by information on how to contact Shell Corp. Likely the result of a “service quality guarantee” program or just a way to give HQ more control over issues which when handled by the franchisees, have a high degree of variability in resolution.

Holding aside the notion that empowering the individual station owners to provide great service and resolve issues on the spot would be an excellent solution, the sign irked me.

What’s the incidence rate of angry patrons – 1 in 250 customers? That means 249 customers have a lasting memory of a sign which suggests complaints at Shell are so prevalent and challenging that corporate needs to take it into their own hands. All i can recall is 36 point font saying “COMPLAINT.” Why not have the sign say “We guarantee excellent service” then in smaller type give the way to communicate experiences where you believe less than excellent service has been delivered. The one person in 250 who wants to escalate their complaint will still have the details to do so, and maybe the other 249 will remember the “GREAT SERVICE” headline instead.