Fed Bank “Barnstorming” Communication

Bernanke is taking a different approach to communication as chair of the Federal Reserve.  According to a NY Times article today, Bernake is “Barnstorming”.  He is actively communicating with the public about the purpose and the strategies of the central bank.  He has appeared on 60 Minutes and hosted a town hall forum on Kansas, MO.

I welcome this new ‘open’ communication and think it is beneficial to the American people.  Transpancy is a must for regain trust and educating people on the process will also help.  True, he may be politically motivated since his term is up in January, but regardless of the motive, the benefit of open communication is still there.

An Answer for Everyone

Forbes covered news from the TED conference http://tinyurl.com/nu772x
on a project called QuestionBox supported by the Grameen Foundation and OpenMind.

QuestionBox is Google for developing nations. It is accessed by mobile phone and allows people in remote ares to ask questions “about weather, history, science, whatever they want.”

What a fabulous way to open up communication and increase knowledge across the globe.  We get so spoiled jumping on the Internet and getting our most random questions answered.  It is wonderful that this privilege is being extended to people all over the world who don’t yet have access to laptops and high-speed Internet connections.

Spinning Statistics & Patience Please

The Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that Obama’s approval ratings on key issues are slipping.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/19/AR2009071902176.html?wpisrc=newsletter

My response, is  two fold

1. The media gets to spin the statistics however they want
2. We need to be patient because it was our need for instant gratification that got us in to this mess.

“Barely more than half approve of the way he is handling unemployment . . ”  could have been written, more that half of America supports the way Obama is handling unemployment.  And the comment “On health care, the poll, conducted by telephone Wednesday through Saturday, found that a majority of Americans (54 percent) approve of the outlines of the legislation now heading toward floor action.” could have changed the headline to a positive support headline.  But these particular reporters decided on a negative spin — which probably will attract more attention.

Speak of attention.  We all need to work on expanding our attention spans and practicing patience.  It is America’s need for instant gratification — wanting the house we couldn’t quite afford, banks using leverage to make more money now while pushing the risk to later — that is part of the problem.  It can’t be fixed overnight.  And, as Obama is constantly communicating, we all need to be part of the solution. Part of that is having patience.  I know it is hard when you are out of a job or making a lot less money than before.  But, if we give up hope 6 months into the presidential term, it is only going to get worse.

Sotomayer: Two Sides of the Same (Good) Coin

During the confirmation hearings of Judge Sonia Sotomayer those opposed to her nomination are claiming that she will judge cases based on gender and ethnicity.  She keeps defending that she will rule by law. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/15/us/politics/15confirm.html?_r=1&th&emc=th

First, good for her for staying so consistent in her messages.  Second, the sides are arguing about either/or, when it is really both.  It is not either she rules by gender and ethnicity or she rules by law. She will rule by both because it impossible to separate. Every human comes as a package — a cultural and experiential bundle — that influences all of their decisions and their communication.

Sotomayer’s background will influence her decisions, just like every other judge is influenced by their own background.  At the same time, she will follow the law in her rulings, just like other capable judges.  That is not a bad thing.  It is actually just two sides to the same coin.

In the communication class I teach at San Francisco state we discuss the fact that a human cannot disconnect from their cultural background and life experiences as the interact with the world.  We also discuss that being mindful of what you bring into your interactions, greatly improves your ability to assimilate others’ points of view and expand your experiences.

One coin, two sides — I think Sotomayer will make good choices that will positively influence the world.  Of course, that statement is influenced by my own culture, gender, and background . . . .

Pitching VCs Reminder Tips

The WSJ published an article on perfecting the pitch to venture capitalists this morning.  It is all stuff we’ve heard before and I’ve been coaching for years, but it is a good reminder.  http://tinyurl.com/mkw84r

Since the WSJ seems to be the one paper that refuses to join the rest and offer their content for free, I will summarize the article for those who don’t have a subscription.  The article offers 4 areas of tips:

“Modesty Doesn’t Pay”
“Tell it to Mom”
“Don’t Play with the Numbers”
“Stay on the Radar”

Modesty doesn’t pay is a reminder that what you are selling to the VC is yourself and your team.  Sure the business idea has to be good, but the team has to be able to execute on the idea for the VC to invest.  Tell it to mom is about keeping your pitch simple enough that your mom can understand.  Of course, you need to be prepared to dive deep if the VCs ask questions, but the first communication of the concept and your business plan needs to be simple. Don’t play with the numbers is about establishing credibility by accurately depicting your market opportunity.  Stay on the radar is about following up and working to build a relationship with the VC, even if the answer is no to the investment.

My favorite quote from the article comes from Mr. Brotman of Greenhil SAVP in New York.  “A pitch is like going on a date,” he says.  A lot of entrepreneurs don’t introduce themselves.  They might give you a name and a business card; other times they’ll go straight to the pitch.  That’s like going on a date and saying, ‘Let’s get it on.'”

Of course, the best piece of advice is to practice the pitch before the VC meetings.  I have heard from many VCs that they can tell the coherency of the team based on the first presentation — and that coherency comes from practicing the presentation as a team.

Needle in a Haystack

An article in today’s NY Times reports that intelligence wire tapping of Americans did not aid in the thwarting of terrorist activity (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/11/us/11nsa.html?_r=1&th&emc=th).
Quotes from the article:

“Most intelligence officials interviewed “had difficulty citing specific instances” when the National Security Agency’s wiretapping program contributed to successes against terrorists, the report said.”

“. . . intelligence leads that came from the wiretapping operation were often “vague or without context,” the report said.”

But, of course.  What did we expect? I don’t have a full understanding of the speech recognition and data mining technology markets, but I know enough to believe that randomly wire tapping Americans in search of terrorist-related communication is like searching for a needle in a haystack.  Too much data and not efficient enough technology to handle the job of broad search-and-seek.

The-get-a-warrant-then-wire-tap is a better process because it applies human judgment at the front end and then uses technology to assist.  Not to mention it provides a level of rights and protection to citizens.

Now that we’ve spent tax dollars interviewing “about 200 government and private-sector personnel” to determine the program was not efficient, we can go back to respecting rights and following law.

“While former Bush administration officials continue to argue that their policies made the country safer,” said Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, “I believe this report shows that their obsession with secrecy and their refusal to accept oversight was actually harmful to U.S. national security, not to mention the privacy rights of law-abiding Americans.”