How to manage information overload

 

spectacles

There’s a plethora of advice out on the web for founders, not to mention magazine articles, newspaper articles, videos, and books. How do you deal with it all? There isn’t enough time in your day, let alone your lifetime, to read all the blog posts and articles offering advice to startups, including this one. Here are some ways you can manage information overload:

  • As your friends, colleagues and mentors who they follow on Twitter, whose blogs they subscribe to, and what sources they have found most helpful. Build up a list of trusted sources you can rely on to make the time you spend with them a worthwhile investment.
  • Brand names matter! The New York Times business section and The Wall Street Journal both feature stories about startups or technology virtually every day. Subscriptions to these newspapers are expensive. If you can’t afford them here’s a trick: do a Google search on the article you want to read that is mostly blocked behind a pay wall. Often you’ll get access to the full article. And , of course, see if any friends or colleagues subscribe. Forbes is a another great source of advice on startups. And every public library has subscriptions to these newspapers as well as business magazine like Forbes, Bloomberg Business Week, and Fortune.
  • Take note of authors; There are several authors, like Nick Bilton, who I can rely on to write a helpful article. Often authors provide a link to their bio from their byline. You may even find their email there or even at the end of articles they have written. If you have a media relations program start building a list of writers to contact.
  • Use a news aggregator: The news aggregator I’ve been using since it first launched is Flipboard, not only is it free but it’s available on PCs, tablets, and smartphones – at least of the Apple variety, which I is what I use. Flipboard enables you to customize what amounts to an online magazine, based on your interests or publications you want to follow. It’s also beautifully designed. Unfortunately since it’s ad supported it has to drive eyeballs so there are many more listicles featured than when they first launched. But if you only have time for one “publication” make that Flipboard.
  • Learn to scan and skim. Professional writers are taught to use the inverted pyramid for their articles. That means that the most important information will be at the beginning of the article and the level of importance decreases as your read the article, until you hit rock bottom. Journalists are also taught to use what is called the topic sentence. The topic sentence is usually the first sentence in a paragraph and it summarizes the main idea of the paragraph. If you don’t have time to read a full article you can skim by reading only the first paragraph and the topic sentences of succeeding paragraphs. You can also scan the article for keywords. But much more effective is to use article search: Command F on the Macintosh. Using article search I can quickly find every mention of keywords that are important to me, like mentor, as each occurrence is highlighted in yellow.
  • Use the Reading List feature of your browser. I often come across articles on the web that I don’t have time to read, but I can save them for later by adding them to the Reading List feature of my browser, which is Safari on my iPad and iPhone, where I do most of my reading. Alternatively, if you use Evernote, as I’ve been doing for years, you can save any article to a notebook on Evernote. I often copy a salient paragraph and add it to the note – that helps me remember why I saved it in the first place – not always obvious!
  • Make use of dead time. We all spend lots of time waiting in lines or sitting in waiting rooms. Make sure you have a backlog of articles in Evernote or your browser’s reading list and take advantage of dead time to scan and skim an article or two. Make productive use of dead time!
  • Limit notifications. Virtually every app I use wants to send me notifications. If I said yes to all of them I’d be doing nothing else. Limit your notifications to a very small number, then cut out a few. Getting interrupted is very distracting and can wreak havoc with your productivity.
  • Share the wealth. If you find an article that you think would be important for a friend or colleague send them a link. All browsers have sharing built in, as do most news apps. If you prove to be a trusted source of helpful links your colleagues may reciprocate in kind.

 

What’s good about email?

 

email insert.pngAfter bashing email yesterday in my post Email – the app we love to hate! I came across an article on Medium this morning by Aytekin TankHow email can actually enhance your productivity. I’ll post what I think is good about email, adding in any benefits I’ve missed from Mr. Tank’s article. But keep in mind he is the founder of JotForm, which according to its home page enables users to: Create online forms and publish them. Get an email for each response. Collect data. So Mr. Tank may just be slightly biased in favor of email. Nonetheless he begins his article with a quote from UI/UX guru Don Norman‘s quote,  “email is the office memo turned cancerous, extended to home and everyday life.”

So what’s to like about email?

  • It’s asynchronous. I much prefer either meeting face to face or communicating by email. I hate talking on the telephone to a disembodied voice. Real time communications apps like iMessage or Slack do have their uses but I find them to be overly terse and overly used.  Because email is asynchronous I can reply, if at all, on my schedule, not on the sender’s. I can give real thought to composing my response, commensurate with the importance of the message.
  • It’s a good way to keep track of projects. I’m a big user of Apple’s reminders app, but I still find it useful to save emails from colleagues and others that are still relevant to whatever project we are working on.
  • I can attach files – documents or images. This feature has been copied in most real time apps, but it’s still a benefit of email. And I can tell at a glance which emails I’ve sent or received have an attachment. Sometimes it’s the only way I can find a file that’s gone missing!
  • You can communicate one-to-one or one-to-many. Apple and others have made conference calling, either voice or video, much easier. But scheduling a conference call can be more trouble than it’s worth. Emailing everyone with a stake in my message is much more efficient, even if the request is to use a scheduling app to set up a meeting.
  • It improves my writing. I learned business writing by writing three to five press releases a week for over three years. I started using email in 1980 at Software Arts where although there were only about a dozen of us in 1980, email was heavily used by the founders, which, of course, meant that everyone used our in-house email system heavily.
  • It enables me to get feedback in writing. While I do prefer f2f meetings, taking notes is a chore and distracts from fully participating in the meeting. Getting written feedback on a proposal I’m working on is usually more helpful.
  • You can easily copy and paste. It is very easy to send a personalized version of basically the same email to several people. And I often copy a salient extract from a full article I’m sending to someone so they don’t need to read the entire article unless they wish to.
  • Mail forwarding is easy and helpful. And yes, like the cc function it too can be just as easily misused.

Here are to additional benefits from Mr. Tank’s article:

  • It builds trust. I’m not a CEO, but when I was an executive my teams new I expected quick responses to my emails, if only to acknowledge the “ask” and inform me when they could get it done. Likewise, I tried to respond to everyone in the company’s email with a couple of hours unless I was traveling.
  • You don’t forget important details. Mr. Tank points out this as a benefit of cleaning out your inbox daily. And I do agree with this, especially for busy executives with a lot coming at them continuously

In the section of his article, Writing email, Mr. Tank includes one of my global principles: show, don’t tell. He uses screen shots heavily, as well as tables. Adding graphics to an email is almost as easy as adding text and can be far more effective. He also recommends using @tags. That’s a trick this old dog has never learned, perhaps because I’m not a Twitter user, so I can’t comment either way of this tip. Otherwise we closely agree on the principle ways to craft and effective email message.

Mr. Tank ends his article with four tips on how to process your email. I’m not sure I’m in total agreement with these so I’ll leave it to readers who are interested to read that section of his article.

He closes his article with a quote from Slack cofounder Stewart Butterfield that email isn’t going away any time soon. “Maybe by 2080,” he said. “It’s got decades left at least.”

So you might was well get good at composing, sending, and managing it.


Email – the app we love to hate!

email

Despite the rapid growth of intra-company apps like Slack and business use of text messaging, email remains the primary communications tool in business, both within and between companies.

Everyone complains about email, but it seems that no one does anything about it. However, Adobe’s annual consumer email survey, reported in an article in Mental Floss  provides some hard evidence for what not to do with your email. But fefore we get into the don’ts, let’s list the do’s.

The “To” Field

Autofill has made it easier than ever to send previous recipients email, even if they would have no interest in it. Think long and hard about the following before you fill in the address field or let your email app do it for you:

  • Who really needs to know about your topic? Think about the way secretive organizations like Apple operate – they keep information on a strictly need-to-know basis. While you don’t want to develop a reputation as secretive, people already get way too much email. According to Adobe their survey of 1,000 white collar workers with smartphones found that they spend 3.1 hours a week checking email.
  • Why are you sending it to them? If it’s just to keep your colleagues “in the loop” you may be doing them a favor by not sending it all or moving them to the cc field.
  • What action do you expect? If you aren’t clear what you expect your recipient to do about your email how can they be? And if you send the email to more than one person it can be fuzzy about which person is expected to do what. If there’s not action expected, go back to point number two – why would they want to know about your topic?
  • If action is expected when do you expect it? Everyone is busy. If you don’t attach a deadline to your expected action, even if it’s just “get back to me by next Monday or I’ll assume it’s ok.” your to do will slip to the  bottom of their list, if not off it entirely. Redundancy helps avoid confusion. Rather than just saying “next Monday” use “next Monday, the 25th.” And notice the use of the default above? A default is the action that will take place unless the user intervenes. Defaults are very powerful in computer interaction design, as they reduce the decision making load on users. Defaults can provide the same benefit in emails.
  • Why are you sending it? Unless you are replying to an email, you need to make the reason for sending it clear from the get-go. See “The Subject line” below. If your reason is too complex to fit a subject reline you may need to rethink it. Again, though, redundancy can help, so it doesn’t hurt to restate the reason in the first line of the email less tersely than in the subject line.

The “cc” field

  • The over use of the cc field is probably the biggest problem with interoffice email. It’s so easy to add people “who just might need to know” or “just might feel slighted if I don’t include them.” Well if you develop a reputation for just emailing people who really need to know and don’t bother everyone else that will soon become a positive in your online reputation.
  • Be careful about cc’ing superiors. Think long and hard before you cc your recipient’s manager or other senior official. There are at least two bad outcomes: one, your recipient may feel like you are covering your ass by copying their boss and two, the senior person may think the same of you. Neither are good for your virtual reputation. Keep that “need to know” principle in mind. Experienced emailers who get involved in referral threads wisely say something like “moving you to cc” to me when I’ve done my job of introducing two acquaintances. Then I know I’ll soon be dropped from an email conversation I know longer need to take part in.

The “bcc” field

I never use this field. I don’t like the idea of hiding a recipient from the person I’ve directed the email to. I can imagine if you are in corporate HR or have some other internal political reason to use this – but I’m not. If you aren’t either, then don’t use it. And if you use it infrequently you may actually forget if you cc’d or bcc’d someone, which could get embarrassing in a team meeting.

The Subject field

  • Anyone who gets a lot of email – and who doesn’t? – learns to scan subject lines. After the importance of the sender – and most email packages enable you to set up a VIP list to highlight email from important people, use it – the subject line is next. Lack of clarity in subject lines is one of the biggest issues I deal with. My guess is that people just don’t give enough thought to the subject in their rush to write the actual email. But treat the subject line like a text message – it needs to stand alone and convey useful information.
  • Keep it short! Overly long subject lines may get truncated or wrap awkwardly depending on the recipients device and email app. And shorter subject lines are more likely to be read.
  • As a test bring up your own email and view just the subject lines. How many are helpful? How many are too long? Or even too short? By reviewing both the emails you receive and the ones you send you can keep tabs on how well you (and others) are making use of the Subject line.

The From field

This one seems like a no-brainer, right? But for those of us with multiple email accounts it isn’t. If your default account is your work account you don’t want to use it for personal email. And if for some reason your email defaults to your home email address, make sure you change the From field in business communications. Which brings up a pet peeve of mine: people who share email addresses with their spouse. I have no idea why they do this, or worse yet, why they use these email addresses for business, but you’d be surprised by the number of freelancers or entrepreneurs who do this. One word for this practice: Don’t!

The message

Ok, we are finally at the whole point of sending your email – seems like a lot of work to get here, but trust me it will pay off. Some simple rules for your message:

  • Be consistent in how you address recipients. If you know them, then a “Hi, Bob” is fine, though some people prefer you don’t bother with a salutation and just get to the point. For someone you don’t know you’ll want to give more consideration to the salutation and potentially be more formal, as in “Hello, Mr. Jones:”
  • Keep it short, simple, and to the point.
  • Keep separate topics or points in separate paragraphs. This makes it far easier for the recipient to read or scan.
  • Don’t mix personal with business in the same message.
  • End with an action item, even if all you want is an acknowledgement.

The major takeaway from the Adobe survey was that 25% of email recipients were enraged by getting emails  with phrases like “Not sure if you saw my last email”, “per my last email,” “per our conversation,” and “any update on this?”  It seems clear that people resent follow up emails. If someone hasn’t responded to your email there’s probably a good reason – they aren’t interested or are too busy. Sending them yet another email won’t help in either case.

The other tip from the survey is to eliminate tentative filler language like “no worries if not” from work emails. If you want to get ahead, it’s better to be assertive, clear, and direct in your emails, not passive aggressive and wishy-washy.

One final tip – replying to email

Don’t use a previous email to start a whole new topic with your recipient. Not only can this be confusing, your recipient may skip your email if they see it as a reply that they have already dealt with. If you have a new topic to email about, start a new email! They are cheap and it will keep your recipients email inbox more organized, along with your sent email box. The latter is important, if like me, you sometimes use the sent box to keep track of where you are in a project with another group.

To recap: email is dangerously easy to use, and thus to use sloppily. Keep in mind you intent in sending your email. Remember that how you handle email will make up an important part of your online reputation. Needlessly cc’ing your colleagues manager or worse yet, the manager of someone you are trying to sell to, can be self-defeating in the short run and harmful to your reputation in the long run.

We are stuck with email for the foreseeable future. So learn to use it sparingly and appropriately, just as you would with any other form of communication.

 

I’m not alone in disliking founders using the term “disruption”!

prime movers

From the homepage of Floodgate Fund.

The pervasive use of the term disruption by founders has really bothered me for quite some time. It seems like every startup has to be disrupting some industry. Uber and Airbnb with their disruption of the taxi business and the hotel industry respectively seem to be the models for every startup. But what does disruption have to do with solving a hair-on-fire problem for a customer? Disruption might be a byproduct of solving a problem for large set of customers who switch from using an established product to yours, but it’s a byproduct, not a goal.

I figured I’m just out of touch. as despite reading a ton of tech news every day thanks to The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times business section and Flipboard, I’ve yet to come across anyone who shared my discomfort with the constant emphasis on disruption.

Yes, Google totally disrupted the newspaper industry by destroying its display ad business, along with Craigslist, who destroyed their classified ads. But neither company set out to destroy the newspaper industry. I’ve read enough about Google to be confident that Larry and Sergey did not set out to disrupt the newspaper industry! They set out to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

So I was glad to see the article A prominent Silicon Valley investor says entrepreneurs need to stop copying Mark Zuckerberg so much and quit talking about ‘breaking things,’ ‘disruption,’ and ‘robots eating the jobs’ by Zoe Bernard on Business Insider.

I knew the name Mike Maples from his time as an executive at Microsoft. His son, Mike Maples, Jr.,  is a successful serial entrepreneur who started the venture capital firm Floodgate Fund.

There are a lot of quotes from Mr. Maples in this article, but there are two that make clear his position on the use of language by entrepreneurs:

“When an entrepreneur says, ‘I’m going to disrupt ‘X,’ I think: Why are you trying to disrupt anyone?” says Maples. “If your advisor told you to say that, then you’re getting bad advice. Advisors who talk that way are doing a bad job. The whole ecosystem from entrepreneurs to advisors to venture capitalists writ large need to do a better job at understanding the raison d’être of startups in the first place.”

For Maples, this raison d’être of startups is straightforward: “The best founders I know aren’t disrupting something, they’re creating things,” says Maples. “It comes from love and passion and innovation. True innovation doesn’t come from eating someone else’s business.”

So here’s a motto for you founders;

Move fast and make things!

And thanks Mike for helping me not feel quite so alone.

 

 

How to increase your teams accountability

Apple_1998_Logo

Just about all managers know that meetings need agendas. Most know that those meetings need to end with next steps/to-do’s. But how many know what DRI stands for and more importantly how the concept of the DRI can significantly increase the accountability and productivity of your teams?

I’m not sure when I first came across the Apple acronym DRI, which stands for Directly Responsible Individual – probably in one of the many books and articles I’ve read about Steve Jobs. Jobs and Apple have fascinated me ever since buying my Apple II in 1980, which ended up months later propelling me into the personal software development world.

Apple’s culture is unique in many ways. For one there is only one bottom line – the company’s. Unlike most large companies which have profit centers, subsidiaries, divisions and a plentitude of CEOs, Apple has just one CEO. Everyone is rowing in the same boat, in the same direction. That’s the top down view. But what about the bottoms up view? What happens day-to-day to keep Apple at not only the top of the tech world but at the top of the business world?

I venture to say that the DRI is a key contributor. TripAdvisor adopted the DRI concept from Apple and it’s very clearly explained in Matthew Mamet’s article on Medium, Directly Responsible Individuals.

Every action item from every meeting has an assigned DRI. Note the three key words: Directly. There’s no weaseling out of this one! You can not delegate it. You must do it! Responsible. The DRI is in charge and accountable. Individual. That’s a person’s name, not a team, not a group.

But DRI is not just for group meetings, it’s embedded in the Apple culture. When you want to know who to contact about a project you ask, Who’s the DRI?

Instead of emailing an entire team, emails go to the DRI and others are on the cc line. If you are the DRI and get an email then you take ownership of the reply.

It’s a maxim that the best culture of a company is to get everyone to act like an owner. At Apple everyone is. Even the staff at Apple stores get stock options, highly unusual in the world of retail. Only Starbucks also has stock options for its barristas. And the single bottom line illustrates better than any employee handbook that it’s one company, not an agglomeration of small companies, fighting each other to the death over resources instead of fighting competitors, and more importantly, focusing on their customers.

At TripAdvisor, and I imagine at Apple, whenever they are working on a new or challenging problem the first task is to establish the DRI. DRIs are a means to an end: accountability. And accountability itself is a means to another end: productivity. As Matthew Mamet points out that at TripAdvisor:

By seeking to create a culture of accountability with the group, we avoid dependencies on managers to tell the team what to do, and increase reliance on the team to self-organize and know how to proceed. 

I’m not sure how many companies like TripAdvisor have taken up the DRI model, but if you are a founder it’s something I strongly advise you to consider. One problem I often see with a group of founders is the “who’s on first?” problem – “I thought Joe was doing, that.” “Oh, I though Jean was.” “Whoops! I was supposed to!” Founders often start up joined at the hip, but the sooner they separate and start focusing on separate areas of the company the better. Even founders need to be DRIs!

The toughest problem early stage startups face

looking for a domain

Is it building a team? Finding the elusive product/market fit? Raising capital? Shipping the MVP? Nope, it’s finding a unique name for the venture!

One of my favorite parts of the MIT Venture Mentoring Service monthly meetings is when VMS President Sherwin Greenblatt reads the names of VMS ventures that have changed their names. Half the time from the reaction of the audience it seems that the change was for the worse! Having been through this venture naming process way too many times and posted about it previously, I still couldn’t resist reading the Forbes article Domain Name Do’s And Don’ts by Denis Pinsky. And it’s pretty obvious why you need a name for your venture asap: new ventures need a web  site and web domain names must be unique.

Their are multiple benefits to getting your domain right from the get-go:

  • Establish authority/credibility
  • Reinforce brand identity
  • Promote business

Make It Foolproof

Typos happen. In fact you may have noticed that the big successful companies like Amazon also buy domains that are common typos. But try to avoid problematic names in the first place. Here are four types of names to avoid:

  • Mixing numbers with words: (gØØd-dØmain.com)
  • Hyphens: (good-domain.com)
  • Homonyms: (suite-domain.com)
  • Abbreviations (2cool-domain.com)

Since searching the web is usually the number one way potential customers find you, versus you finding them, make it as easy as possible for Google to find you.

Be Memorable

A great way to create a unique domain name is to create a long, complex name like HowToCreateUniqueDomainNamesinJustTwentyMinutes.com The problem is that the risk of typos or misspellings rises in direct proportion to the length of your domain name. So you need to keep your domain name short by using only one or two words.

Bad Domains

Avoid names that are too long, too bland, and too hard to type.

Be Too Trendy

Buzzwords are great but many have no staying power, thus your domain name is going to looked dated very soon, and trust me, changing your domain name is a real pain.

Forget to read it aloud

One of the best ways to test your newly created domain name is to say it out loud – many times. And an even tougher test is to use it over a cellphone connection. If you get a lot of “what’s that you said?” you’ll know that your chosen name is just unworkable, good as it looked on paper.

Sound Like Someone Else

I had this problem myself. I came up with what I thought was a great name: Mainspring. We even had a very nice logo. The definition was evocative, not descriptive: something that plays a principal part in motivating or maintaining a movement, process, or activity: innovation is the mainspring of the new economy. But much to my dismay another startup, an ISP, had the name Mindspring.  They became pretty successful very quickly and we ended up having to correct many people who kept calling us Mindspring, not Mainspring. Don’t let this happen to you!

The first thing you need to do when you come up with a domain name that passes all the above tests is to go to ICANN Whois to check that some other venture hasn’t snagged your name first. I’ve come up with innumerable clever names only to find that someone more clever than I has already registered the name. But as Dennis Pinsky points out, all is not lost:

…if you notice that the name you’ve chosen is taken, but looks inactive, find out who actually owns the domain. There are several online sites that can help pinpoint who owns it and when it will expire. If the date is close, you may want to bide your time and see if becomes available. If the expiration date isn’t close, you can reach out to the owner of the name to see if they are willing to sell it.

And increasingly I’m see new ventures give up on getting the most desirable .com TLD (Top Level Domain) and use .net, .org or for an artificial intelligence venture, .ai. If you search a domain registrar like GoDaddy they will provide you with all available options. For example, for no particular reason I came up with the name Addvocate. I thought it was clever, but GoDaddy gave me the dreaded “Sorry, addvocate.com is taken. But they then listed all the TLDs I could use instead, like addvocate.me or addvocate.mobi.

Finally if you need more help there are many posts on the Web about how to create a unique domain name, including Dennis Pinsky’s own 8 Smart Tips For Choosing A Winning Domain Name

 

 

Humans are prediction machines!

self taught robots

Browsing at my local library the March issue of Scientific American caught my eye. I’ve had an interest in robots since I was a kid and read about about them in Isaac Asimov’s science fiction books.

Watching today’s robots from Boston Dynamics  on YouTube is truly amazing – science fiction come to life. But reading the article Soft-Taught Robots by Diana Kwon what really intrigued me was the section Prediction Machine. I’ve long thought that the major difference between the two ways to understand the world — science and religion – was that  science could actually predict the future, religion can not. And the essence of science is its reliability – predicted results could be replicated by other scientists. a process known as peer review.

The article’s elucidation of humans as prediction machines was what really illuminating for me: OUR BRAINS are constantly trying to predict the future—and updating their expectations to match reality. And the concept that the brain and nervous system are bilateral.

Our minds are prediction machines, using prior experience and knowledge to make sense of the deluge of information coming from our surroundings. Many neuroscientists and psychologists believe that nearly everything we do—perception, action and learning—relies on making and updating expectations.

Crucially, the downward signals from the higher levels of the brain continually interact with the “upward” signals from the senses, generating a prediction error: the difference between what we expect and what we experience.

A signal conveying this discrepancy returns to the higher levels, helping to refine internal models and generating fresh guesses, in an unending loop. “The prediction error signal drives the system toward estimates of what’s really out there,” says Rajesh P. N. Rao, a computational neuroscientist at the University of Washington.

This concept that nearly everything we do is governed by our extremely powerful drive to reduce or correct prediction error: the difference between our expectation – our internal mental model, and reality – what’s outside our mind and perceived by our senses.  This prediction signal loop is the also the core of  Norbert Weiner‘s cybernetics: the scientific study of control and communication in the animal and the machine. Surprisingly Weiner and cybernetics don’t merit a mention in the article.

But cyberneticity of the human nervous system is well illustrated in the Scientific American article:

brain image

So what does the concept of humans as prediction machines fighting information overload have to do with entrepreneurs? As I’ve written in the post The Attention Economy When it comes to pitching investors, customers, job candidates, advisors, job candidates or communicating with other stakeholders and influencers entrepreneurs need to keep in mind that attention has become one of the most limited, and therefore most valuable, commodities there is.

A deeper understanding of attention, that it is a consequence of humans as prediction machines leads to a realization that many problems come from the failure of consumers to close the gap between their expectation and reality, creating either pain or a   mental equivalent of the itch that must be scratched. Thus entrepreneurs must view their products not as simply pain pills or vitamins, but helping consumers close or eliminate the prediction gap. Perhaps the best example I know of the is invention of the electronic spreadsheet, which enables users to create and easily modify models that are predictive. If  my raw materials cost goes up by 7% how much do I need to increase my product’s price to maintain my profit of 15% and how will my market share, the percentage of the market I control, be effected? All businesses run on keeping track of projected versus actual, on the operating side that includes cost of raw materials and on the revenue side that includes total unit sales, returns, and pricing.

Once you have a product that either relieves pain or creates a habit, your job is only half done, you need to influence consumers to buy and use your product. By understanding consumers as prediction machines with fixed amount of attention you can you craft a marketing message that gets through the incessant blizzard of stimuli bombarding your prospects.  Otherwise known as cutting through the noise – where noise is defined as signals that do not help close the gap between expectation and reality and may actually interfere with it, like the sound of a jackhammer while you are trying to write a blog post. At its basest level virtually all advertising and marketing communications is saying, Hey, you have this problem – whether you realize it not – and by using our product you can eliminate it! Aspirational marketing actually creates the expectation – that just like the smiling, happy people in all of Apple’s ads – you too can attain that state of bliss, where that painful gap between expectation and reality is closed. Of course, you must continue to use the product or service to keep it closed!