Co–authors of The Dragonfly Effect, Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith live in Lafayette, California, with their three children. A social psychologist and marketer, Jennifer Aaker is the General Atlantic Professor of Marketing at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. Her research spans time, money and happiness. She focuses on questions such as: What actually makes people happy, as opposed to what they think make them happy? How do small acts create significant change, and how can those effects be fueled by social media? She is widely published in the leading scholarly journals in psychology and marketing, and her work has been featured in a variety of media including The Economist, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, BusinessWeek, Forbes, CBS MoneyWatch, NPR, Science, Inc, and Cosmopolitan.
Andy Smith is a Principal of Vonavona Ventures where he advises and bootstraps technical and social ventures. Over the past 20 years, he has served as an executive in the high tech industry leading teams at Dolby Labs, BIGWORDS, LiquidWit, Intel, Analysis Group, Polaroid, Integral Inc. and PriceWaterhouseCoopers. As a guest speaker at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, Smith speaks on social technology, engineering virality, and brand building, with a focus on applying technology to address real problems. He is a contributor to GOOD magazine, where he writes on businesses that embrace and integrate a social mission. He has also spoken at The Web 2.0 Expo (#w2e), The 140 Characters Conference (#140conf), World 50, Marketing Week, Intel, TechCore and Interbrand, and appeared on Bloomberg TV and NBC’s Press:Here. He is also on the boards of The Glue Network, 140 Proof, ProFounder, LIF Brands, and One Family One Meal.
Morris: Looking ahead, let’s say, to the next decade, what do you think will be the single most exciting business opportunity?
Smith: Social technologies allow even small organizations to reach more people than they ever have before. While these technologies and how we use them will constantly evolve, this is an incredible opportunity for anyone with a mission and an Internet connection to go out there and be heard.
Morris: Now please shift your attention to The Dragonfly Effect. When and why did you decide to collaborate on writing it?
Aaker: I was deeply skeptical of social media and its potential for impact; but Andy has been a fan for a long time. The opportunity to write this book together helped us assimilate these two perspectives, and also lay the groundwork for a model and set of stories that would hopefully inspire our kids. We are incredibly proud to have all three of them running little businesses (e.g., selling lemonade, cartoon books, DVDs) et cetera, that
a) have a single focused goal (in their case the model is nonprofit, so they pick their favorite charities for the net proceeds),
b) grab attention (through good branding),
c) tell a story and
d) enable other customers to spread their business.
In the last three years, they have collectively made over $5K donated to three discrete charities.
Morris: Which specific talents, skills, and experience did each of you bring to the collaboration?
Smith: I’m a former teenage entrepreneur that’s grown up in marketing. I understand high tech and saw the social media revolution begin. Often people talk about the Internet in a purely business sense, but Jennifer’s students showed us that social media can bring about real change when it is used strategically and well.
Aaker: I bring ideas and research. And a jargon-filled writing style, which – frankly – is often not pleasurable to read.
Morris: For those who have not already read this book, written with Carlye Adler, please explain “the dragonfly effect.”
Aaker: The dragonfly effect refers to the idea that small acts can create big change, when the core of the act is deeply meaningful and when the four wings are ‘beating’ in concert in sync.
Smith: There are four parts to the dragonfly effect: create a single, focused goal, grab attention, engage others, and take action. It is these four parts that must work together to create big change.
I have spent 13 years reading business books and presenting synopses of these books to folks ready and willing to learn. It took a while (I’m not all that sharp!), but I think I am beginning to learn some things myself. In fact, I think I am ready to state, for certain, that there are 2 ways to guarantee mediocrity (if not outright failure):
1) Have a poor work ethic
2) Don’t have regular (team/executive team) meetings.
#1: Have a poor work ethic.
The sources are too many, but let’s start with the 10,000 hour rule (popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers). I summarize it this way in my presentation:
…centerpiece to this book is the 10,000 hour rule… — with much intentional practice!
“Practicing: that is, purposefully and single-mindedly playing their instruments with the intent to get better” (Outliers).
Or, to put it another way, putting in 10,000 hours does not guarantee that you will reach the pinnacle of success; but, not putting in the time practically guarantees that you won’t reach that pinnacle.
In other words, to remind us all of the obvious, it takes work, hard work, to be successful.
#2: Don’t have regular (team, management, executive team) meetings.
This is the one that has most captivated me. I am looking for this everywhere I speak, in every book I read, and everywhere else I can.
The insight hit home after reading the Verne Harnish book Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, but it took a while to see it in action. Now I am looking for it, and finding it, everywhere I look.
The Rockefeller “habits” are Priorities, Data, and Rhythm: an effective rhythm of daily; weekly; monthly; quarterly; annual meetings to maintain alignment and drive accountability (“until your people are mocking you, you’ve not repeated your message enough”).
In the book, Harnish points to this:
Mastering the Daily and Weekly Executive Meeting
(Structure meetings to enhance executive team performance).
• meetings overview:
• daily & weekly – execution
• monthly – learning
• quarterly and annual – setting strategy}.
This is the discipline, the habit, that I am looking for, paying attention to, and have become convinced is a (maybe the) critical key to genuine success. Assuming that a company or organization has hired competent, passionate people (admittedly, this is a big assumption), then it is imperative that these people get together in regular meetings to tackle those key goals/priorities for the organization. I wrote about this as practiced at Mighty Fine Burgers (see this post), and here is a clue from Zappos, from this article:
For instance, Zappos.com, the shoes and clothing e-retailer now owned by Amazon.com Inc., No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, has agents meet about once a week for hour-long, one-on-one coaching sessions in which a supervisor and agent each take a call. The two then discuss what the agent did well and what could be improved the next time around.
Of course, you need to pay attention to what occurs in such meetings, but don’t miss what comes first: weekly meetings! The rhythm of weekly, regular meetings!
As I said, I am asking around about this a lot. I find absolute consistency – excellent teams, excellent organizations, spend intentional, regular times in meetings. They do not skip those meetings. It is part of their routine, their ritual, their “rhythm.”
Yes, yes , I know… a lot of people sit through a lot of bad meetings. And that is a problem. So, yes, learn to run your meetings well. If you are a leader, learning to run a good meeting may be the next important skill for you to master. And, always, don’t forget to have an agenda, with something important to discuss/work on/accomplish. The most successful organizations meet about the same thing over and over and over again. It takes that kind of “long haul” attention to get really good at anything.
But if you want a sure fire path to mediocrity (or outright failure) just try getting by with no meetings. That is a guaranteed path to failure.
You accomplish what you meet about! Yes, you do!
I envy those who have not as yet seen her.
She is Assistant Professor of Social Work at the University of Houston and a licensed Master social worker. Her research focuses on hame and its impact on individuals, families; organizations and communities; critical pedagogy; contextualized practice; deconstruction of media culture; women’s issues; and qualitative research with a special focus on grounded theory methodology.
Please click here to watch a video of her TED presentation.