How to think about communications + content + commerce and why thought leadership is important


Today the customer is in control.

Full stop.

No longer is the seller in control of the sales process, and hard sales are losing effectiveness daily.

Gone is the day when the seller could show up, make a presentation, offer some price reducing inducements, close the deal, and move on.

Next time you are in a retail store see how people are using their smartphones. Some are taking notes to generate ideas, some are snapping photos to develop a wish, and some are even purchasing the same product from an online competitor.

For those selling services or subject matter expertise, before buyers even buy your offering, they go to your website, view your Instagram account, check out your LinkedIn page, read your blog posts, and of course do research to see what others in the same space charge.

So what is a seller to do?

A seller must think thought leadership.

With so many goods and services available from providers around the planet, this abundance of choice can be a thought leader's differentiator.

Buyers want to be led.

They want to be informed, guided, and managed in a respected manner that makes them feel like they are part of a special cause bigger than themselves.

Enlightened organizations that embrace thought leadership from the start can develop lasting relationships with customers. Such a relationship which is shaped by forwarding thinking leadership will move a buyer to new thinking, a unique viewpoint, and a new paradigm.

Thought leadership is a choice and is not off in some inaccessible Ivory Tower.

We all have the power to be thought leaders.

Simply put, thought leadership demands that we are committed to respectably working with customers and clients by creating value in every step of the buyer's journey and thinking long-term.

But many of organizations continue to struggle with how to do that and connect in a meaningful manner.

As a first step, organizations must abandon aggressive sales behaviors that buyers are resisting and employing behaviors shaped by thought leadership management.

Working with boardrooms and C-Suite executives from multinational corporations, trade associations, and disruptive startups, I have seen first-hand leaders who do create compelling communications, focused content, and winning commerce are thriving and making a difference.

To harness the power of thought leadership to foster sales in this new environment, employ strategic thinking and thought leader tactics.

Use a strategy that thinks education, experience, entertainment, and easy.

Use tactics that reinforce, reward, recognize, refresh, and supported by research.

Let me know how you are getting on or have examples of organizations and individuals using thought leadership to generate revenue and make a difference.

— Marc A. Ross

Marc A. Ross is the founder of Caracal Global and specializes in thought leader communications and events for senior executives working at the intersection of globalization, disruption, and politics.

Your decision, it's probably wrong.


“Even smart people in clever organizations make bad decisions." -- Paul Nutt, a management professor at The Ohio State University

Half of your decisions are a success.

Half of your decisions are a failure.

Based on his research, Professor Nutt has determined you are just as likely to make a failed decision as a successful decision. 

A primary culprit of generating failed decisions is a half-hearted or limited search for alternatives during the decision-making process. Many executives end up selecting from a limited pool of options, decreasing their odds of making the best possible decision.

Steven Johnson, author of Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter the Most, has explored Nutt's research and found many executives fail in the decision-making process by failing to generate alternative outcomes and scenarios. 

Nutt collected real-world decisions where he analyzed 78 decisions made by senior managers at a range of public and private organizations: insurance companies, government departments, hospitals, advice for hire firms, etc.

According to Johnson, the most striking finding in Nutt’s research was this: Only 15 percent of the decisions he studied involved a stage where the decision makers actively sought out a new option beyond the initial choices on the table. In a later study, he found that only 29 percent of organizational decision makers contemplated more than one alternative.

This turns out to be a lousy strategy for decision making.

Executives often feel compelled to “grab the first feasible choice that comes along, cram it down everyone else’s throats, point to data that supports the choice, and then battle resistance when they try to implement it,” Nutt says.

It turns out there is a strong correlation between the number of alternatives deliberated and the ultimate success of the decision itself. 

Why do smart people from clever organizations rush to judgment and clinging stubbornly to one set of ideas? 

Blame mythology, emotion, ego, and lack of process.

The mythology of the successful businessperson demands they succeed regardless of the stakes, often by taking rapid and decisive action. The mythology of success placed on businesspeople creates an environment where failure is not an option thus forcing decisions to be executed rapidly and cover up mistakes.

The emotion of making a swift decision makes executives feel good. Decisions made generate the high of deciding. Unfortunately, these decisions are often made without clearly exploring all outcomes and scenarios. In reality, most decisions made do not need to be quick. Executives have more time to choose than they realize. Thinking about a decision could be the best decision an executive makes.

For many executives, especially entrepreneurs and thought leaders, they come from the rugged individual mindset. People from this mindset ask for little support, need little outside motivation, and have worked solo successfully for years by just doing and executing. Shaped by a self-supported ego, such executives usually propose a self-serving idea and then quickly move to get endorsements for the self-supporting idea.

Here are some tactics to create a process to shape your next big choice:

1. Don't be too decisive: Even Barack Obama had chosen to sleep on his decision before he authorized the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

2. Involve other perspectives: Retired Army general Stanley McChrystal reminds executives they have access to the answer, but the answer is often locked up in different parts of the company that executives can’t or won't interconnect.

3. Visualize the inverse of what a successful outcome looks like: Famously before one of the greatest endings in Michigan State - Michigan college football history, my seatmate asked, "What could go wrong?" Well, a lot. In 2015, Michigan led 23-21 and just needed to punt the ball away to win. However, the Wolverines mishandled the snap, and the Spartans ran it back for a touchdown as time expired to win 27-23. Hard to imagine any Michigan coach, player, or fan envisioning such an ending. If they did, Michigan not punting the ball might have been the best outcome to ensure victory.

4: Don't ask how, ask who: Don't learn how to do something, ask the best expert on the subject what they would do.

5. Consider three different outcomes: By making this decision, ask yourself what the possible, preferable, and probable outcomes are. Predicting one successful answer is tough - identifying three outcomes is easier.

Your decision, it's probably right.

-- Marc A. Ross

Marc A. Ross is the founder of Caracal Global and specializes in thought leader communications and events for senior executives working at the intersection of globalization, disruption, and politics. 

Memo: Election 2020 Presidential Candidate Tiers


Tier 1:

Donald Trump (R)

Joe Biden (D)
Kamala Harris (D)
Elizabeth Warren (D)

Tier 2:

Mitt Romney (R)
John Kasich (R)
Tom Cotton (R)
Nikki Haley (R)
Mike Pence (R)

John Hickenlooper (D)
Joe Kennedy III (D)
Amy Klobuchar (D)
Deval Patrick (D)
Bernie Sanders (D)
Michael Bloomberg (D)
Andrew Gillum (D)
Gavin Newsom (D)
Oprah Winfrey (D)
Chris Murphy (D)
Michelle Obama (D)
Tier 3:

Bob Corker (R)
Jeff Flake (R)
Susana Martinez (R)
Ben Sasse (R)
Mark Cuban (R)
Dwayne Johnson (R)

Beto O'Rourke (D)
Cory Booker (D)
Sherrod Brown (D)
Julian Castro (D)
Eric Garcetti (D)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D)
Eric Holder (D)
Tim Kaine (D)
John Kerry (D)
Mitch Landrieu (D)
Terry McAuliffe (D)
Michael Avenatti (D)
Howard Schultz (D)
Howard Dean (D)
Al Gore (D)
Tammy Duckworth (D)

Tier 4:

Ted Cruz (R)
Carly Fiorina (R)
Scott Walker (R)
Paul Ryan (R)

Jerry Brown (D)
Andrew Cuomo (D)
Bill de Blasio (D)
John Delaney (D)
Tulsi Gabbard (D)
Martin O'Malley (D)
Tim Ryan (D)
Adam Schiff (D)
Eric Swalwell (D)
Tom Steyer (D)
Mark Zuckerberg (D)
Sheryl Sandberg (D)
Al Franken (D)
Tom Perez (D)
Mark Dayton (D)
Keith Ellison (D)
Sean Patrick Maloney (D)
Russ Feingold (D)
Mark Warner (D)
Jim Webb (D)
Seth Moulton (D)
Jay Inslee (D)

—Marc A. Ross

Marc A. Ross is the founder of Caracal Global and specializes in thought leader communications and events for senior executives working at the intersection of globalization, disruption, and politics.

Memo: Election 2018 = Predictions + What to Watch For + Winner + Losers


Election 2018 - What to Watch For = The Dirty Dozen:

1. Thirty-six gubernatorial seats are up for grabs this year, and Republicans must defend 26 of them.

2. For Democrats to take the House, they need to flip 23 seats. 

3. If Democrats retake the House, it will mark the third time in 12 years that the chamber switched control.

4. If Democrats win big in key governors’ races, say Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin and Michigan, Trump's Election 2020 path to victory just got a whole lot more difficult.

5. Nancy Pelosi to return as Speaker.

6. A record number of women in Congress.

7. A flurry of investigations and subpoenas.

8. Iran sanctions remain.

9. China trade frictions continue - there is bipartisan agreement on Capitol Hill for the US to stand tough against China.

10. Ben Wittes' cannon will be back in service.

11. Mueller has been in a pre-election “blackout” - he'll be back with new indictments - look for Roger Stone to be in the barrel soon.

12. Infrastructure spending will pass on Capitol Hill.


House = Democrats win control with 231 seats to 204 seats - a 36 seat gain for Team Nancy

Senate = 50-50 split with VP Pence breaking ties next session

Top Races Winners - Governors:

CO: Polis (D)
CT: Lamont (D
FL: Gillum (D)
GA: Runoff
IA: Hubbell (D)
KS: Kelly (D)
ME: Mills (D)
MI: Whitmer (D)
MN: Walz (D)
NV: Sisolak (D)
NH: Sununu (R)
NM: Grisham (D)
OH: Cordray (D)
OR: Brown (D)
SD: Noem (R)
WI: Evers (D)

Top Races Winners - Senate:

TX: Cruz (R)
ND: Cramer (R)
AZ: Sinema (D)
FL: Nelson (D)
IN: Braun (R)
MO: McCaskill (D)
MT: Tester (D)
NV: Rosen (D)
WV: Manchin (D)
TN: Bredesen (D)

Election 2018 Winners:

Andrew Gillum
Kristi Noem
WSJ + NYT + WaPo
Whole Foods
Beto O'Rourke
Mitt Romney
Oprah Winfrey 

Election 2018 Losers:

Donald J. Trump
Team Trump
CNN + Fox News + MSNBC
NRA + Guns
Rural Towns
White Dudes
Ron DeSantis
Kris Kobach
Stephen Bannon

—Marc A. Ross

Marc A. Ross is the founder of Caracal Global and specializes in thought leader communications and events for senior executives working at the intersection of globalization, disruption, and politics.

Memo: A strong economy and a mandate

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Memo: Media Tendencies + Trends: US-China Commercial Relations

October 26, 2018

A strong economy and a mandate

Americans' view of the current economic conditions and the economy's trajectory have not been this upbeat since 2000.

Jeffrey Jones at Gallup reports: "Currently, 54% of Americans rate economic conditions as "excellent" or "good," and just 12% as "poor." Also, by 57% to 34%, more Americans say the economy is getting better than say it is getting worse."

The Gallup Economic Confidence Index now scores the American economy at a +33.

The last time the index was at this level was January 2004 and has not been higher since November 2000 (+39) which was at the end of the dot-com mega boom.

Gallup's October 1-10 poll finds similarly positive ratings of the American job market.

Sixty-eight percent of US adults report it is an excellent time to find a quality job, tying July's measure as the highest in Gallup's trend dating back to August 2001.

Ten years after the Great Recession rocked the US, Americans' confidence in the economy has returned to levels not surpassed since the dot-com boom, according to Gallup.

President Trump and his Republican allies on Capitol Hill hope the strong economy will help the party hold onto its power in the midterm elections as well as give it the necessary space to engage China in this current trade spat.

This robust American economy is giving more credence to those thinkers and policymakers who believe now is the time for America to more aggressively push back on China's bad practices in the business world and recast commercial rules that have governed the globe since the World War II.

J. Michael Cole, writing in The National Interest, opines: "The Indo-Pacific region is on the frontline of the greatest challenge to the international liberal order since the 1930s.

"For decades, the assumption which most influenced China policy had been that integration of China through the WTO, and a permissive attitude to its misbehavior domestically and abroad, would eventually lead to the creation of a China that was more “like us”—more palatable, somewhat liberal, if perhaps not entirely democratic. In other words, a responsible stakeholder that accepted international norms. Thanks largely to Xi Jinping, such notions have been buried, and it is very hard today to find anyone who can reasonably argue that China remains on the right track and that we, therefore, should continue to give it the space it wants."

As Trump enters the second half of his first presidential term, regardless of the midterm election outcome, he may feel he has the proper economic performance indicators to reset the international order that protects America for the next generation.

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., writing in the Wall Street Journal, suggests: "The administration needs a mandate to rip up the relationship with Beijing. Business leaders who expect the China trade dispute to end the way the Mexican and Canadian disputes did had better wake up. It won’t be over soon."

A strong economy, coupled with increased sales, and growing revenues can shelter many subpar policies. Expect the Trump administration to lay to the American voters how extensively it plans to reshape the massively essential and highly interconnected US-China economic relationship soon - possibly before November's G20 meeting in Argentina.

Jenkins, Jr goes on: "If the Trump boom has proved anything... it’s proved that American prosperity is still made at home. A better answer to China’s perverse ambitions would be to focus on renewing our own economic dynamism, building up our military and alliances, dealing with the fiscal challenge of our welfare state. These priorities are likely to guarantee American success in the coming century."

Articles to read:

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.: Let’s vote on a China cold war

J. Michael Cole: The true 'Pivot to Asia' is here