(Book Note) Social Startup Success

Buy Now: Amazon ($18.36)| Kinokuniya (MY) (RM 137.21)

A book by philanthropy expert Kathleen Kelly Janus which bases her research on the best practices of America’s most successful nonprofits. And she derives her compelling sections on ideas testing and experimenting from the funding models of innovators in the tech sector.

She also offers counsel for small nonprofits that struggle to grow past their stage of initial seed funding. Throughout the book, she details the aspirations of the social entrepreneurs she covers,  recounting their passion and dedication to spearheading change. Her accounts of how nonprofit leaders transform lives in their neighborhoods and around the world will inspire readers interested in nonprofits and social service.

Reading Notes Points

  • Avoiding costly mistakes: test your ideas first!
  • Practice transparency and accountability. Share the lessons you learn from failure. This remind me of Ray Dalio’s principles.
  • Correlate your vision with the use of “theory of change” model with its program activities which you can track.
  • Develop a funding model that incorporates donations and earned income.
  • When collaborating, try to offer complementary services.
  • Empower your staff.
  • Craft compelling stories to reinforce institutional memory and connect with donors.
  • Beneficiaries can be great ambassadors, but be ethical in using their stories.

Human-Centered Design

Nonprofits don’t have access to angel investors unlike private businesses. Their stakeholders include governments, other organizations, nonprofits doing similar work, researchers, activists and beneficiaries.

Therefore, in order to grow, nonprofits must maximize funding using “human-centered design” which is a cost-effective, responsive cycle of research, brainstorming and prototyping.

New nonprofits should keep costs low when developing their prototypes. 

For example, Aspire Public Schools, a nonprofit delivering preschool education to low-income neighborhoods, made a prototype for its Preschool Bus Project using a carpet and some tape, and then furnished it with cheap IKEA furniture. So, they might healthily run their operation at lowest possible Capital Expense and Operation Expense.

Lessons Learned Actually Learned

Any innovation involves trial, error and, often, failure and trying again. No great leap in any industry has been done without significant amount of failing and not giving up. This is the main ingredient on which success is build.

Unsuccessful nonprofits hurt beneficiaries which make ability to learn from mistakes and failing crucial. Therefore, when nonprofit organization can’t admit their failure, their organization will suffer. Since this rob them of the opportunity to actually learn the from their mistakes. And if the culture does not change, the organization will suffer in the long run.

Silicon Valley offer a model for embracing failure in term of its innovators need tolerance for risk. The only way to know if your service is successful is to test it in the field. In addition, change of perspective on how success looks like might also need to change since success might come in stages, and failures have lessons to teach.

For example, GiveWell shares its failures on its website so other nonprofits might learn from its mistakes. Share missteps within your organization; discuss expectations versus real results and problems.

“Keep the focus squarely on solving the problem, as opposed to falling in love with a particular solution.”

Outputs Versus Outcomes

I used to think that outputs and outcomes are synonyms. I was wrong.

Here is an example to illustrate the difference,

Instead of focusing on “outputs,” such as how many people attended a training program, rely on “outcomes,” such as how many attendees go on to get better-paying jobs, or the like.

In order to measure our ‘output’ and ‘outcome’, we need a great deal of sound data, relevant metrics and qualitative analysis. All the fun good stuff. The “theory of change” model sets a goal and defines metrics to track progress over time on a dashboard. So, lets focus more on ‘outcomes’ rather than ‘outputs’. ‘Outputs’ usually just make us look busy with minimal impact.

Earned Income

Self-sustainability is very important. Therefore, the biggest barrier to scaling up is attracting funding. Which involves developing an earned-income strategy, where your organization sells products or services, can help. With subsequent growth, earnings can make up an average of 30% of the budget.

Funders can’t expect nonprofits to follow business models. The Sierra Club, for example, has found that charging membership fees is the funding method best suited to its needs. 

The strongest sectors for testing earned-income strategies are education, global development and youth development. Nonprofits in human rights, criminal justice and environmental protection have less access to earned income for ethical reasons.

Tell Compelling Stories 

As my studies on social media marketing goes, our ability to compellingly tell a story would define how well we do or lack of it. So, needless to say, we need to learn how to be a storyteller.

Inspiring stories abound in the nonprofit world. Your organization should always be the protagonist working against the problem it seeks to solve. The problem is the antagonist. Tell a story that incorporates universal themes, such as the journey of discovery or shared personal challenges.

Think about a ‘hook’.

Ask yourself what your audience wants to hear, what entrenched ideas you’d like to challenge and what you’d like the audience to learn. Connect to your community’s cultural narrative by scanning the media for stories that link to your organization’s mission.

Tell stories that speak to the head and the heart. Beneficiaries’ personal stories have power, but for ethical reasons, do not exploit them. To create “institutional memory,” have employees share stories at meetings.

Again, if you’re into nonprofit organization, this is the book for you.

Buy Now: Amazon ($18.36)| Kinokuniya (MY) (RM 137.21)

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(Book Review) Mobilized

The mobile formula = BODY + SPIRIT + MIND

I would rated this book at awesome 7/10 ★ .

Mobile Conquered the World

The mobile revolution is a momentous change that overlaps artificial intelligence, personalized marketing and “sticky” technology. You always keep your mobile device close by which can be seen by the fact that most people check their phones as soon as they wake up. Most of the time, I did.

The mobile revolution uses technology, but it centers on people. Great “mobile products” embrace “human-first principles.” They are designed to enhance people’s capacity for social and creative interaction.

As mobile technology develops further, your device will get smaller and neater. Soon, mobile tech will embed in everyday objects and, perhaps, in the near future even within your body. Although I would be sternly against it.

A Gold Rush

People now use mobile devices more than they use desk-based computers. Like a new gold rush, the mobile boom creates losers and winners. Innovative companies adopt a “mobile-first” strategy, though some fail to understand or implement it well.

Overall, the mobile industry contributes an average of 5% of gross domestic product in many countries.

The smartphone app is the linchpin of mobile success. Today, nearly 90% of people who access online services do so through “dedicated” apps, not web browsers. These apps secure customer loyalty, allow “push notifications” and enable tracking of marketing campaigns.

With a dedicated app, your firm can sell more without buying ads, though an app’s upfront costs daunt many companies. Developing a great app that works across multiple platforms including various brands of cellphones and tablets would takes a substantial investment.

But, it pays you back in greater customer interaction with your products and services. For example, shoppers now can design customized T-shirts on a smartphone app just part of the “smart apparel” trend. And at the end, it Call-To-Action would suggest user to pay to print the designed customized T-shirt.

The “Mobile Formula”: Body – Spirit – Mind

The author suggest that for success in the mobile revolution, firms need to follow the Mobile Formula, a trio of rules which govern the development and nature of mobile products:

1. The Body Rule (How its look)

User wants beauty and effectiveness in the design of mobile products. They want that “wow” factor.

Perceiving beauty whether you think it is objective or subjective will generates a “primal response: that wow reaction. In the mobile revolution, beauty also resides in efficiency. Designers use the “thumb test” to ensure that their devices and apps are easy to operate. Pandora and Instagram created simple interaction experiences. GreenOwl Mobile uses voice recognition technology so drivers can use its app hands-free. Simplified as much as possible, interfaces can become beautifully invisible.

Simplicity of usage also matters; a steep learning curve can hinders users’ fluid interaction with mobile products. Good apps and devices must pass what Flipboard founder Mike McCue calls “the mom test.” He asks his staffers to consider whether their mothers would struggle to use the product.

Our mobile products are new extensions of ourselves.

In “building for beauty,” designers create mobile products that extend the human body. Their designs add both “focusing” and “expanding” functions.

Five clear, concise “design elements” draw users’ pinpointed attention and build trust. These focusing functions are: “onboarding,” as with tutorials; “single task” functions, like “call-to-action” buttons; “navigation,” like side menus; “performance,” as in reliable functioning; and “gesture,” such as the standard swipe.

Establishing users’ trust opens the door to permission-based personalization, like push notifications and location tracking, which can broaden an app’s interactions with its customers but could also come at the expense of user personal privacy. Users reacted favorably when Airbnb simply changed its “like” symbol from a star to a heart; they gave it 30% more wish-list bookmarks. See, these little changes helps.

Expanding design elements would come in two types that is “Pull” and “Push“:

Pull” expansion elements pop up to ask for user permission; “Push” elements deliver notifications. For example, Instagram focuses users with simplicity and clear navigation, allowing them to create photos easily. With users’ permission, the app accesses their address books to enable sharing.

2. The Spirit Rule (Human Needs for Meaning)

The disruptive aspect of mobile devices is that users keep them close at hand all the time. This touches on the spirit rule of the Mobile Formula.

This rule dwells on meaning, individually and in communities. To mean something to people in order to touch their spirit with mobile devices use “internal” and “external filters.” These filters connect with what matters to the individual user (internal) and with what matters to their social identity (external).

Psychologist Roy Baumeister explains that having to exert willpower all the time makes people burn out. Highly personalized mobile products ease such stress and tone down “decision fatigue.” For example, Uber soothes the tension of getting a ride. Tinder eases the stress of finding a date. Such services make people feel looked-after and indulged.

“Every mobile designer has an impossible mission: They have to delight billions of people 110 times a day with something they can only touch or talk to.

3. The Mind Rule (Learning Ability)

Mobile companies must learn “fast” to survive and learn “slow” to refine, revitalize and “reinvent” their offerings and their corporate missions. The good companies pursue human-first goals, but all mobile firms must learn quickly.

Even mobile products learn and adapt, tailoring themselves continually to users’ needs. Mobile users demand a blistering pace of innovation with their ever-changing habits, interests and fads. Technology must do more than keep up; it must provide novel, improved experiences to users who upgrade every 18 to 24 months.

“Beautiful things create empathy. If a viewer finds a painting beautiful, it is beautiful. If a listener is touched by a symphony, it is a moving piece of music.”

Mobile companies can’t learn without the right mechanisms. They use both “scientific” and “artistic tools” to learn and implement lessons from users. On the scientific side, “funnels” open tech pathways and “goals” quantify the desired results. Scientific tools facilitate big data analysis and smart business approaches. Artistic tools provide users with fresh, creative pathways. They include “shortcuts” that shorten pathways by letting users skip steps, “hooks” that broaden funnel openings by playing to users’ curiosity and “layers” that make the entire funnel bigger by adding enticing new channels.

In summary

What we should expect from [our mobile products] is what we wish for ourselves: an attractive body, a meaningful life and becoming smarter about the things that count. This is the foundation behind successful mobile products.

Good examples of mind-centered learning include Nokia’s giving small teams the freedom to incubate ideas independently and Facebook’s having a random sample of users test its push notifications. People now regard web access almost as a “human right.”

In developing countries, secondhand mobile devices give people Internet access to health, education and work. People use their phones to find jobs, read, seek medical care and conduct trade.

Read more:

With their savvy, inquisitive, always-connected behavior, millennials drive the mobile revolution. Devices still matter, but apps matter more.

Getting on Facebook easily is the main draw for most mobile users. Facebook packages all the elements of the Mobile Formula: fast- and slow-learning; human-first; and mind, body and spirit. From that perspective, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg fathered the present-day mobile revolution.

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A World Gone Social (Book summary & Review)

I would rate this book around 6/10. A good for a quick read, but in overall , it’s not that interesting.

I would rate this book around 6/10. A good book for a quick read, but it’s not that interesting.


Here is some of my notes on the book.

Nowadays, executives and companies must adapt to social media to move ahead. Internet entrepreneurs and social media experts Mark Babbit and Ted Coiné provide both basic and sophisticated information about social media to meet the needs of traditional firms. 

Main Reading Points

  • Social media gives us numerous benefits including promotional and PR.
  • And for those who do or say bad or stupid things, social media will be a curse.
  • It also enable people worldwide to collaborate.
  • They suggest ‘OPEN’ approach – it refers to “Ordinary People, extraordinary network”.
  • ROI for social media participation is a long-term investment and tough to calculate
  • ask yourself 10 important questions about your goals, methods and execution when mapping a social media plan.
  • Their shortsighted attitude often is, “If I don’t know it, it can’t be that big a deal.” These leaders are accustomed to doing things their way and they aren’t about to change.
  • The Industrial Age suffered from onerous, inefficient command-and-control structures; unwieldy bureaucracies; excess management; silo thinking; a tendency for senior leaders to hoard power; dishonest marketing; insulting advertising; and disillusioned, cynical customers. The Industrial Age has morphed into a business approach that no longer competes or functions.
  • The Social Age of social media offers openness and transparency. It embraces collaboration. This makes sense: Social media networks are, first and foremost, social.
  • With almost no start-up cash and minimal monthly costs, business people can use social media to position their organizations to exploit the marketplace more effectively.
  • “Social media isn’t all roses, rainbows and Disney princesses singing in perfect tune with their animal friends.” If you mess up even a little bit, social media can bury you – and quickly. Example : Caryn Yean Comment on Adib’s Death which caused her to lose her job.
  • “It isn’t…hard for something…to earn tens of thousands, even millions, of impressions in no time. And, in almost all cases, faster than your organization can react.”
  • Despite the state of the contemporary corporate battlefield, many traditional executives won’t embrace the power of social media until they know they can show a positive ROI. For most businesses, social media use is not geared to earn short-term results; it’s a long-term investment. Its ROI often can be tough to nail down. Marketing is also a long-term investment – something every executive can and will easily justify.
  • “The top five social networking sites now boast user numbers in the billions; 46% of the US population reports having accounts on three or more social networks.”

The 10 Questions to ask yourself

When you consider a social media plan for your company, you need to ask 10 critical questions. Your answers will help you diagnose your firm’s social presence and determine what it must do to improve:

  1. What is your social media strategy? – Wrong question. Instead, focus on your business strategy. Then make sure your social media activities align with it.
  2. What is your ”policy regarding social media use at work?” – It should be full access, all the time.
  3. Should you offer social media training for your employees? – Your employees will value social media training far more than “a paid day off or a plaque.”
  4. “What collaboration technology” do you employ? – The more collaboration you support, the more work you will get done. People prefer Facebook for this purpose.
  5. On which social media platform should you engage with your customers? – The best rule is to “Meet customers where they are now.” Usually, this will be on “Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn” and “Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and Reddit.” The answer is the same for the next two questions:
  6. How do you “leverage social media to engage with…employees?”
  7. How do you “use social media to engage with outside organizations?”
  8. What is your CEO’s “social media presence”? – Your CEO should have an active, strong position. However, social media sites are “dangerous” for the CEO who doesn’t know how to handle being a public figure. The best rule for a leader – or anyone – seeking to establish a viable presence in the social media sphere: Go for “more social” and “less media.” Don’t make social media “just another broadcast arm of your PR or marketing department.” Connect sincerely with others online.
  9. How do you present your top executives on social media? – They should be active and visible on the same sites as everyone else: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google +, Pinterest, Instagram and Reddit.
  10. How do your thought leaders present themselves on social media? – Position them likewise to showcase their strengths.

Quotes from Maximize Your Potential

“People who love what they do are much better at it. They’re more successful, are constantly adding new skills and continue to drive themselves forward.”

“We expect to do more of what we love, automating the more laborious and monotonous parts of our work.”

“We are all works in progress. Each day presents an opportunity to learn more, do more, be more and grow more.”

“The most important skill in the age of flux is the ability to get new skills. To constantly be open to new areas of learning.”

“By changing your habits, you reprogram the behaviors that control most of your life and ultimately determine your success.”

“Focus means changing only one habit at a time…spend at least one month exclusively on one habit.”

“All human beings are entrepreneurs. When we were in the caves, we were all self-employed…finding our food, feeding ourselves.”

“Start any new project or endeavor by saying to yourself, ‘I may not get the hang of this right away. I’m going to make mistakes, and that’s okay’.”

I’m trying to turn you into you

Your ”Better You“
“I’m not trying to turn you into me; I’m trying to turn you into you” – Master Shifu

The above quotes are among the best quotes I’ve love from Kung Fu Panda trilogy.

But, how does it relates to us and our lives.

A Better You waits in the wings.

Your Better You works harder than the standard you.  Your Better You procrastinates less.  Step up and claim this admirable Better You.  Your Better You is your “believable possible.” Each successful person has his or her own believable possible.

Lets look at some role models with this respect

  • For Bruce Lee, becoming the world’s most deadly fighter was his believable possible.
  • For Muhammad Ali, becoming the world’s most successful boxer was his believable possible.

Your believable possible live in the Better You at your core. You tap into your Better You with every positive action. It will direct you to the satisfying career you should and could have. This and more will become possible when you put your Better You in charge.

So, lets work toward a better ‘us’.

Be Bold and Ready to Take Risks

ever become too comfortable in your job – If you feel that you’re in an easy rut, strive to find and take on new challenges. Remember this basic truth: “The status quo is your enemy.”

– Take the risk or lose the chance –

In order for us to build a satisfying, successful career and move ahead in life, we must create promising opportunities for ourselves.

This however would requires developing impressive expertise and cultivating meaningful relationships and a huge continuous effort from us. And we must be bold and ready to take risks. 

So, lets set out to accomplish these steps:

  1. Develop a career plan – Adapt it as needed. Have an A plan, a B plan and a Z plan.  I have a plan, do you? And if my plan A doesn’t work, I still have plan B to plan Z.
  2. Never become too comfortable in your job – If you feel that you’re in an easy rut, strive to find and take on new challenges. Remember this basic truth: “The status quo is our enemy and complacency is never bliss.”
  3. When it comes to your work, think big – Don’t see your job as just a job. Elevate your thinking. Make your job your mission.
  4. Work with full intention – Make a conscious degree of focus one of your defining personal characteristics. Operate so that your opportunities bump up against your interests and skills.
  5. You’re not perfect – Don’t try to be flawless. Messing up occasionally is human and acceptable. But learning from your mistakes is one of the most effective paths to growing professionally.
  6. Build new skills in “sprints” – To master new skills, engage in intense, distraction-free work-study sessions or sprints. Schedule regular breaks for temporary decompression.
  7. Seek challenges – It’s the “hard stuff,” not the “easy stuff” that challenges you and enables you to build new capabilities and skills.  
  8. Seek constructive feedback – Honest, perceptive insights fuel our growth.
  9. Build the right habits – You are more likely to excel when you make your positive behaviors automatic or habitual. Solidify one good, new habit every month. Classic conditioning is a great tool for changing your habits. It calls for being consistent in practicing new behaviors. 
  10. Maintain a journal – Maintaining a journal gives you an opportunity to reflect daily on your life and to learn from your actions and behaviors. I used my blog as my journal, easy to update, and easy to access. And I also have a hard cover journal which I loved. Your preference is yours, but the essence is, you need one, you need a journal.
  11. Seek help from people you trust – You don’t have to do everything alone.  There’s a saying, “if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.”
  12. Promote diversity – Diversity promotes cross-pollination of new ideas. It encourages original thinking and breeds creativity.
  13. Give your team members a chance to shine – As a leader, you don’t always have to shine, but you should make sure that the other members of your team shine. Build on their skills and ideas. Give team members credit for their accomplishments.
  14. Don’t let fear of failure paralyze you –  Always default to action.
  15. Make small bets, but make them – Be cautious when you begin new initiatives. Small bets make more sense than big one. The more bets you make, the better chance you have that one will hit. 
  16. You can’t avoid uncertainty – Uncertainty is a basic condition of life.  Regard uncertainty as a possibility, not a problem.
  17. Persist – To come out on top, persist regardless of obstacles.
  18. Be your own entrepreneur – Think of your career as a start-up and of yourself as the entrepreneur planning and managing this start-up.
  19. Become the “best-connected person” – When it comes to networking, strive to be the best-connected person, not the “most-connected person.” Possessing a fat address book with many names means nothing if the people listed aren’t real allies who will collaborate and help you when necessary.
  20. Learn to build new skills – The best possible skill is the ability to develop new skills.  
  21. Believe that you can  improve – If you don’t believe that you can move beyond your current abilities, you won’t. Avoid self-defeating, self-fulfilling doubts.
  22. Practice – You can’t master any skill without extensive practice. Leverage the “power of ritual” to manage your practice sessions. Practice at the same time each day so practicing becomes habitual.
  23. Rest – You can’t practice, learn or work if you don’t get enough rest. Sleep at least eight hours a night and nap for 20 to 30 minutes during the day.
  24. Do the jobs you delegate – Monsieur Pitard, the top chef of the Hotel Majestic in Paris,  cooked one dish a week himself instead of delegating it his staff. Do some of the work you assign to others to keep your skills fresh. 
  25. Always ask – You can learn a lot from other people and advance your career in the process. Don’t hesitate to ask questions to build your knowledge.   
  26. Build social contracts – Management expert Peter Block developed the concept of social contracting. That’s when you agree up front with your partners or collaborators on how you and they will work together. Get them to answer these questions: “What do you want?” “Where might you need help?” “When you had a really good working relationship in the past, what happened?” “When things go wrong – as they inevitably will – how shall we manage that?”

“Start any new project or endeavor by saying to yourself, ‘I may not get the hang of this right away. I’m going to make mistakes, and that’s okay’.”

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What Does Luck Have to Do with Career Success?

“Lucky people take advantage of chance occurrences that come their way.”

They don’t go through life “on cruise control,” according to Tina Seelig, executive director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program. In her view, lucky people make their own luck unless of course if the ‘luck’ are from lucky draws, lottery, or even good looks. Since that aren’t actually something that we can control. But here are 2 essential ingredients of luck which we can control, (1) our preparation, (2) our focused and concentrated efforts, (3) our willingness to give our all when an opportunity presents itself. 

And so can you if you keep an open mind, recognize the opportunities in new experiences and stay ready to jump at promising openings when they present themselves. No one knows what the future holds, but even amid uncertainty, you can prepare for your future and develop your career. Just as clearly reminded by God Al-Mighty in his holy book,

Surah Al-Baqarah (The Cow) [2:216]

Heed these tips:  

  • “Look beyond the job title, and focus on your mission” – Job titles can be cages which can be a prison for life, if we let it. Why confine yourself to a job and title that may be obsolete by next year? Instead, direct your attention to what you want to accomplish and put your energies into that. For example, you might tell yourself,  “I want to invent a new business model for online publishing,” and then focus on your ambition.  
  • “Explore new technologies with enthusiasm” – “If you are in school today the technologies you will use as an adult tomorrow have not been invented yet,” says Wired co-founder Kevin Kelly. Technology moves so fast that mastering the latest high-tech gizmo may not turn out to be a smart use of your time. Instead, become knowledgeable about technology on a macro level. Experiment with new technology to learn what works best for you right now. What counts most is remaining aware of all the amazing high-tech developments now underway.
  • “Make a habit of helping people whenever you can” – In a co-dependent world, where relationships count most, always be helpful. This is good for your career, and it’s the moral way to live. If you are generous with others, they will be generous with you.
  • “Be proactive about taking on additional responsibilities and pitching new projects” – According to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, employers want to hire those who can devise, mold and recreate their work every day. Become this type of employee by embracing and expressing your inspiration daily.
  • Always ask, “What’s next?” – Most people move to new jobs every few years. These inescapable changes require preparedness, an alert mind, an adaptive personality and a “what’s next?” attitude. 

“All human beings are entrepreneurs. When we were in the caves, we were all self-employed…finding our food, feeding ourselves.”

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