This is an excerpt from the book “Absolute Value: What Really Influences Customers in the Age of (Nearly) Perfect Information,” (HarperBusiness, February 2014) by Itamar Simonson and Emanuel Rosen. The book is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books a Million and Apple. In this excerpt, the authors discuss the concept of “absolute value,” or “the experienced quality of a product.”

When we introduce the idea of absolute value to people, we get all kinds of questions, so let us briefly address the two most frequent ones (and we’ll expand on these and other questions later on).

The first question that often comes up: Is there even such a thing as absolute value? Our answer is that when we talk about absolute value, we don’t necessarily mean to say that people will find the absolute best option (assuming that an absolute best option exists), and some ambiguity about the absolute best is likely to remain, in part because our own preferences are often vague and unstable. (read more…)

When I wrote about earning trust with co-workers last year, Rich Tafel of The Public Squared, a true leader in the public policy field, called to suggest that a closely related and equally important subject is corporate trust.

I immediately went and sat on my front porch and thought about Rich’s observation. I agree completely. This is a critical issue, and there is a real need for companies to commit to the long-term process of restoring trust.

Can it be done? Not easily, that is for sure. And with the pressure from Wall Street to maximize earnings every 90 days, it will take special leadership of any publicly traded company to regain lost trust.

Here’s the background from my standpoint. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, many companies in the U.S. were striving to improve customer service, productivity, processes, employee satisfaction, and to help their people grow and succeed. Admirable objectives, for sure! (read more…)

In football, the success of your offense often depends on what happens when you’re in the red zone — those last 20 yards to the goal line and in for the touchdown. The same dynamic applies to speaking.

No matter how well you have prepared, what happens in the red zone — the 24 to 36 hours before you speak — will determine your success. Taking advantage of the intangible pressure that comes when your presentation is near and addressing on-site details should be the “play” that sets you up to score.

The following tips can ensure that you’re prepared and as focused as possible when it finally comes time to suit up for the big game:

  • Make time for on-site stage rehearsal. Although you rehearsed before arriving at the venue, rehearsing on stage is just as essential. The setup of the stage, the way your voice sounds on microphone and the technology that will be used should all be familiar before you step up to present to your audience.
  • (read more…)

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from more than 190,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our e-newsletter.

Last week, we asked: If your company went through a merger, would you volunteer to be on the merger-integration team?

  • Absolutely — it’s a critical project that enables me to drive important results: 93.63%
  • Heck no — those projects are high-risk nightmares and I want nothing to do with them: 6.37%

M&A seems exciting. A surprisingly high percentage of folks would volunteer to be on an M&A integration team. While the work is obviously critical to the organization, it’s perhaps some of the most challenging work out there. On top of that, it can be a career-breaker if it doesn’t go well. That said, you’ll gain valuable experience as well as lessen the odds that you’ll become a “synergy” in the merger itself (after all, that’s a big part of the value of a merger — reducing redundancies). (read more…)

So what do you do when you hit the wall?

Sometimes it is not simply fatigue but symptom of something deeper. You feel that you are lacking in creativity and, as a result, you are not challenging yourself or your team to achieve their best. You need help!

So find a partner — someone you can trust to give you good advice. Here’s how you can make it work. Every leader owes it to him or herself to keep challenged, focused, and energized. A good partner can help. (read more…)