The Ministry of Common Sense Strives to Bring Empathy Back

The Ministry of Common Sense Strives to Bring Empathy Back




Global branding expert Martin Lindstrom is on a mission to restore common sense to modern business. In this book, he shares dozens of real-life examples of customer experiences gone wrong along with a process to bring common sense back.

The Ministry of Common Sense

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“Companies are so entangled in their own internally generated issues, and further beset by reams of invisible red tape inside employees’ heads, that they lose sight of their core purpose — and inevitably pay the price.”  — Martin Lindstrom, The Ministry of Common Sense

Common Sense Has Left The Building

Martin Lindstrom was having dinner with his publishing team.  He’d spent the day preparing a list of book ideas that, frankly, fell flat. That’s when one team member asked him what was closest to his passion.  And his answer was “common sense” — or the lack of common sense that he faced with companies that made buying and using their products a hellish customer experience.

In his latest book, The Ministry of Common Sense: How to Eliminate Bureaucratic Red Tape, Bad Excuses, and Corporate BS, Lindstrom shares dozens of these examples along with a process to overcome this corporate insanity.

Lindstrom Gets to What’s Underneath a Great Brand

For decades, Martin Lindstrom has been helping brands like Microsoft, Pepsi and Lego create memorable brands.  He’s written eight books that shared his research and insights about why we buy, how to harness data, the unique way our senses influence our buying decisions, and even the tricks advertisers use to influence our buying decisions

By any measure, he’s had a successful career. But after some self-reflection, he realized that, while his work was transformative and important, it felt like a hit-and-run.  He didn’t like the idea that he would show up, provide ideas and strategies, and leave it up to the company to implement. 

Over the last few years, he’s committed himself toward transforming businesses and cultures from the inside out. And it’s from this perspective that The Ministry of Common Sense gets its juice.

Who is the Audience for The Ministry of Common Sense?

One of the first questions I ask myself is “who is this book written for?”  The Ministry of Common Sense made that a bit of a challenge to answer.

The most obvious audience for this book is the C-level executive in a large global company.  The idea is that he reads this book, reflects on his organization, and wonders if his company was one of these “Corporate Darwin Awards” examples. Because you certainly don’t want to be “That Guy”. 

Small business owners would also benefit from reading this book.  Sure, your business isn’t as big as these examples, but it’s a cautionary tale for those entrepreneurs who are scaling their business.  If that’s you, you’ll find a virtual playbook for what NOT to do.

Finally, I think the other person this book was written for was — Martin Lindstrom. It took me about two rounds of reading and rereading to see that.

In the introduction, Marshall Goldsmith called the book “funny, entertaining and informative”.  This threw me for a loop because it seemed a bit different from Lindstrom’s previous books. Then I read what inspired the book in the acknowledgments (which are at the end in my review copy). That’s when I made the connection. 

I think this book was therapeutic for him.  It’s like he just couldn’t deal with the “crazy” anymore and simply had to tell it like it is. 

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The Ministry of Common Sense was like the unvarnished truth about the day in the life of a global branding expert. As a marketer myself, I didn’t know if I was supposed to envy him or feel sorry for him.    

Empathy is at the Core of  The Ministry of Common Sense

Let’s get to the nitty-gritty of this book.  As I said before, it’s a little different from your typical Martin Lindstrom book.  There isn’t a lot of research or data in this one.  The stories and “case studies” are basically a plethora of experiences from his life as a consultant over the years.

If the key question is “What happened to common sense?” Then the answer is “Putting rules, technology and legal compliance before empathy.”

You wouldn’t know it by the chapter names, but each chapter is a drill-down of how internal politics, technology, compliance, and policies that keep large companies “organized” ultimately get in the way of common sense.

I think that the model he presents, with empathy at the core, could have used some type of graphic so that the reader can understand how all of these elements connect and impact one another.  

How to Bring Common Sense Back

The tension in the book revolves around the question of “How am I supposed to fix this?!” This doesn’t get answered until the end.  The final chapter of the book provides some guidance as to how you might put common sense at the center of your business and how to go about changing some policies in the form of commonly asked questions and Lindstrom’s answers.

Here are a couple of recommendations I gleaned from the book that I think will be most helpful for small to mid-sized businesses:

  • Shop your own business. Think of a way to give yourself the exact same experience that your customers have. Define a task, call in, use the website, etc.  If you run a face-to-face business such as a restaurant or retail, get a secret shopper (it’s more affordable than you’d think). 

  • Get into your customer’s world.  This might include simply asking your customers, visit your customers. Explore what they are really thinking about when they use your product or service. 

  • Ask your employees and then LISTEN.  Vow to make small changes based on their feedback. 

Are We In a Common Sense Revolution?

The Ministry of Common Sense isn’t the first book I’ve reviewed on this topic.  Would You Do That to Your Mother (2018)  is another book that pokes the corporate bear in the hopes of inciting a common sense revolution. 

However, I think that it will take more than a book or two to do that.  Perhaps a global pandemic might do the trick.

Remarkably, Lindstrom has incorporated the COVID-19 disruption in this book. In fact, there are several non-common-sensical examples of how companies are trying to do the right thing with unintended consequences. 

But that’s beside the point. 

Disruptions tend to lay bare inconsistencies, gaps and all the different ways that we make life unnecessarily difficult for customers.  

And for this reason, I wonder if The Ministry of Common Sense might nudge more companies toward embracing empathy as a core value and simplifying our lives. If they aren’t sure where to start, they should ask Martin Lindstrom.  I’m sure he’d be happy to help.


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Selling Nude – A Revolutionary Approach to Online Branding

Selling Nude – A Revolutionary Approach to Online Branding




This book shows you the advantages and disadvantages of doing business directly with consumers. Ideal for B2C startups and product-based companies.

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Selling Naked

Did you notice how many products there were that used to require a personal visit that is now right at your door – sometimes monthly?

Let's see:

  • contact lenses
  • Jeans
  • razors and blades
  • socks
  • Beer
  • Wine

<! – -> Yes, almost anything you can imagine to require a visit to the store can be sent directly to the consumer.

If you were curious about the direct-to-consumer business model, or maybe thinking about getting into this type of business, get a copy of Nude Selling: A Revolutionary Approach to Introducing Your Online Brand of Jesse Horwitz (co-founder and CEO of Hubble)

Who is Jesse Horowitz?

Jesse Horowitz is a serial entrepreneur who founded Hubble, the contact lens company, with his friend Ben Cogan. While it was Ben who saw the opportunity and did the groundwork, Horowitz did the heavy lifting when it came to operations.

His background in working with Bridgewater Associates and his experience in private equity, venture capital and hedge funds have helped drive the business from 3,000 subscribers at launch to hundreds of thousands today.

Inside Selling Naked

First things first. <! – ->

Naked selling refers to the idea of ​​selling directly to the consumer. And while the book follows your standard format of "Successful CEO writes a book of what he learned," there are some real nuggets, even if you don't strive to be the next Hubble or Bombas.

The book is definitely written in a truthful style. You will appreciate it because you are interested in reading on.

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<! – -> At the end of each chapter there is a section called "The Naked Truth", which summarizes each chapter. If you don't have a lot of time or read the book for the first time, you can read through it and dive deep into those you care about.

What can a small business learn from selling nude products?

Based on the level of detail in this book on e-commerce operations, I would say that this is not for the street person.

This book is for people who are familiar with online marketing, online business terminology, and even some high-level business processes.

Here is a small excerpt that shows you what I mean:

"Selling secondary products means that instead of raising additional capital for the company, you redeem some of your own shares, gain liquidity, and take part of your own money off the table."

This was not surprising to me after reading the author's biography. His strength and experience lie in private equity and capital. And if you are interested in such a business model, you will appreciate this book.

But what if you play a little smaller or want to dip your toe in the water without all those VC tires? Do not worry. Selling Naked prevents you from making the mistakes that so many start-up e-commerce companies make.

You can find inspiration and motivation behind the scenes of some of your favorite brands. As you can imagine, the way there is often more interesting than expected.

You get advice on the point, like the idea that you can safely leave your efforts to be Don Draper on the set of Mad Men, since today's marketers are more analysts than creatives.

Read Chapter 6, "Using Third-Party Tools." Note the author's obligation to drive you to success. See how customizing tools (or even relationships and providers) isn't to your advantage.

Use third parties. This saves you a lot of time. More importantly, it helps you strike a balance. For example, it gives you the breathing space to test and work through your process.


Selling Naked is a great weekend reading. It addresses business owners who are ready to direct their product sales online and directly to consumers. The book contains many stories. And case studies serve as examples and inspiration. As a result, you get good advice. This advice comes from these experiences.

Just ask yourself if you are ready to sell naked.


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