These days I get a lot more requests for coffee. My policy in the past was always to say yes to meeting new people. In fact, I wrote a whole blog post about why having coffee with 50 people could change your life. I pride myself on connecting with a random assortment of interesting people across all sorts of industries. I guess you could say that I’m a pretty friendly guy.
Recently I’ve started to notice correlations between whether a coffee meeting is useful and some common factors (that are obvious before we sit down). So I’m starting to filter my inbound coffee requests a little bit more than I used to. I still love meeting new people, but these days a coffee catch-up has to be short, sharp and effective.
Having coffee with fifty people is a great way to get input for a new project, startup or career move. I first wrote about the fifty coffees idea in Inc Magazine and it was based on an insight from Silicon Valley investor Mark Suster. Personally, I’m a bit shy so meeting fifty new strangers was a great project for me.
Last year, I wanted to immerse myself in London’s design and innovation scene so I had coffee with fifty people working in the industry. I learned a lot from their advice and even more from the questions that they asked me. I asked them about the future of innovation, design thinking and how different companies are adapting to social media. It was also a good excuse to check out some new cafes for my coffee blog the Coffee Hunter.
Each time I make a significant change in my life I have coffee with fifty people to get their views on what I’m up to. If you’re raising investment for a startup, changing careers or moving to a new city then you owe it to yourself to have coffee with fifty people before you make the jump.
Setting the goal of having coffee with fifty people forces you to be clear about what it is that you’re up to. Making the goal public (one person at a time) also makes it much stronger. Having fifty coffees is good because then you have to commit to the specific move that you want to make and tell other people about. You’ll also get input from smart and interesting people to help you make a better decision.
As an entrepreneur, investor or advisor these days you need a professional looking blog to maintain your credibility. You need a place to showcase your thinking and participate in longer conversations than you can on Twitter or LinkedIn. Participating on a social networking site is like being a guest at someone else’s party. It’s nice, but you’re not the boss. You need a place to host your own party. You need a blog. But it’s tough to keep a blog going when you’re not in the mood to write.
A blog allows you to share your thinking and the lessons you’ve learned. Becoming a “thought leader” isn’t something that you can just put on a todo list and will magically happen. You need to do the hard work of thinking and then putting that thinking into words that others can benefit from. Over the years, I’ve been inspired by several writers that I admire and I’ve tried to learn from how they write.
Large meetings seem productive, but if you really want to get things done, you need to have a one-on-one conversation.
In our strategy consulting we are finding that workshops and brainstorming sessions can only get you so far. I’ve been noticing that to get to the heart of something, you need to have a one-on-one conversation with the key players. A frank and fearless conversation with the CEO can be the best way to quickly understand what’s really going on with a project.
I’m calling these fireside chats “strategic conversations” and we’re using them more and more as a formal part of our digital brand consultancy. It seems like a small thing, but early on in a project it can make a real difference to sit down and have a truly honest conversation. Talking one-on-one can make all the difference.
As social media and digital communication accelerate, the impact is being felt beyond mass-consumer advertising and bursting into all part of the business world. From large B2B companies to your local cafe.
In a social media and digital space there is nowhere for bad service to hide. I’ve long argued for the business value of design and creativity, but what does this mean in the new digital context? The answer starts with the increasing volume of your customer’s voice.