Too greasy to be true

Online products and services depend on favorable reviews. It’s easy to gain an unfair advantage by asking staff, friends or associates to add their flattering comments.

This is despite the efforts of sites like Amazon to stamp out the practice by deleting the goods for sale or banning the vendor.

There are ways of identifying user feedback that isn’t genuine.

  1. It’s often one of the first reviews to appear, posted with the intention of seeding more responses. The prose is casual, but grammatically correct.
  2. It uses exaggeration such as brilliant, amazing, a dream! Exclamation marks are common.
  3. The review criticizes the product a little in order to look like the real deal, but only on matters that aren’t important.
  4. It covers all the marketing bases of price, functionality, delivery and appearance. No genuine reviews are that ordered or comprehensive.
  5. It often starts with “I was initially wary of this kind of product, but decided to give it a try”. And ends with “I’m so glad I did.”
  6. Other brands or competing products are heavily panned.
  7. The review is signed off with a common first name. Genuine reviewers are unafraid of suppling their real, full details.

Any site moderator soon learns to identify the phony reviews. They’re like a red flag. With a little practice, you can too.

Successful by choice

There’s usually more than one way to accomplish something. Ideally, you’ll want to have at least three methods open to you.

If fitness is your goal, for example, try not to rely on jogging alone. Also have a choice among swimming, weights, exercise machine and sport.

WHICH TODAY?

Varying your activities will “keep your body guessing” and make you fitter faster. It’s also great to be able to get up in the morning and ask “what one will I do today?”

If yoga is your thing, train regularly with more than one group. Self-employed? You’ll want at least three clients.

Not only does variety stop you getting bored, it also creates a buyer’s market. The providers of activities will have to compete against each other for your attention, which means you get the best possible deals. 

A range of alternatives isn’t usually possible at the start. Let it evolve. Begin with a single activity, than add to that as opportunities arise.

Achievement – it’s a matter of choice.

For now, hang loose

It’s great to be in control, but sometimes this can throttle your efforts.

Early-stage enterprises are ambiguous, uncertain animals that are never a perfect fit with the market. They need a lot of tweaking and changing.

Being imprecise over goals and methods can be an advantage.

During the Vietnam War, the insurgents and North Vietnamese used the Russian AK-47 semi-automatic rifle, which was very effective in battle because it was engineered slack. U.S. forces, by contrast, were saddled with the fine-tolerance M16 weapon that in its early form needed frequent cleaning and often jammed, resulting in unnecessary loss of life.

LOOSE AND EASY

Anyone who plays tennis knows the virtue of a floppy serve and a relaxed grip. This allows a whippy racquet motion, using the pivot points of the fingers, wrist, elbow, shoulder and back. The grip is tightened up before the racquet contacts the ball.

Ever listened to Bob Dylan’s early songs or read the prose poems on his album covers? Their meanings are often vague and impressionistic. They say almost whatever you want them to, which gives them wide applicability.

So too with business. Hang loose until the moment when you have to tighten up. Let market forces and other uncontrollable variables tell you what you need to know.

Be free, people.

No deadline, nothing done

If you want to get things done, place yourself under pressure or accept external pressure. You’ll work more effectively.

Build it into your schedule – without going so far as to cause panic. One person’s pressure is another’s ease, so choose the amount of push that enhances your efficiency.

Russian concert pianist Konstantin Shamray says: “Once you are busy, really busy, you get more organised and get more done. It is as if some hidden reserves open up within you.”

YOUR LEGACY

Without some urgency Parkinson’s Law applies. Restrict your working time, by say booking an early round of golf.

Another hack is to make a list that’s too long, knowing that all the items don’t have to be knocked off in 24 hours – although you will try.

The scope of projects that benefit from self-imposed deadlines will vary greatly, from “This is what I intend getting done before bedtime” to “Here’s what I want to make my legacy.”

Lifetime’s work or a well-filled hour. A firm schedule can benefit both.

Invent – or just get better?

Who isn’t hoping for the breakthrough that will transform their enterprise – the innovation that will set the world on its heels?

Hard to find, and more progress can be made by the less exciting method of continuous improvement.

Well, it’s not exactly continuous. More ‘fits and starts’. Still, if you’re always on the look-out for these minor opportunities for moving ahead, you will find them. And they do add up.

DIFFERENT SCALE

In a sense, innovation and continuous improvement are the same thing. It’s just a matter of scale. Breakthroughs look like a continuum when they’re viewed from a sufficient distance.

You’re more likely to advance with accumulating baby steps than if always looking for the transformative ‘smash hit’. Occasionally you’ll enjoy one of these, but it’s difficult to plan for.

Bust the charts or succeed by stealth? The answer is at your feet.

Can’t face another day

Write every day, we are told. It’s intended as good advice, whether we’re creating fiction, a blog, or other forms of non-fiction.

The idea is that a regular habit will maintain the flow of thought and get the job completed faster and better than a spasmodic effort.

Yet if we undertake other focused disciplines on a daily basis, we run the risk of overtraining. Anybody who has worked out hard knows the bad feeling of not being able to face another session at the gym because neither the body nor the mind is ready for it.

What’s so different about writing?

In defiance of commonsense, people are expected to be able to push beyond a funk, favor perspiration over inspiration, force themselves through the wall.

This makes little sense. The mind can become exhausted, no less than the body.

DAILY CHURN

By all means look at your writing every morning, assess it, think about where it’s come from and where it’s going. But don’t feel you must churn out another 500 or thousand words, just because today is another day.

Nothing is as good as coming back fresh from a period of rest.

Boris sets a rumpled example

What’s Boris Johnson’s main appeal? Anti-slickness.

The new British prime minister is notorious for his undignified stunts and sloppy personal appearance. But in an age of presentation coaches and instant feedback, this isn’t necessarily a liability.

Marketing guru Don Peppers in Life’s A Pitch calls it de-slicking your production. The idea is that a sharp and faultless presentation can intimidate people and work against you. Don recommends injecting a note of humanity, for example by giving some of your pitchtime to an unpolished junior who will likely make a few harmless slip-ups.

SCRATCHING IT

A handsome and imposing manager I met early in my career recommended rubbing your backside on the way out of the room to show you’re just a person.

Boris Johnson metaphorically scratches his ass in public. It’s both funny and deplorable. But slick it ain’t, and that should work in his favor.