April 2012

In her book Mindset, Carol Dweck tells the story of Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg (on the left in the video above).  She is a gifted violinist.  In her childhood she was considered a prodigy.  However, in her teen years she resisted instruction and nearly threw it all away.

Everything I was going through boiled down to fear.  Fear of trying and failing…if you go to an audition and don’t really try, if you’re not really prepared, if you didn’t work as hard as you could have and you don’t win, you have an excuse…Nothing is harder than saying, ‘I have it my all and it wasn’t good enough.’

At this point in her book, Dr. Dweck is refuting the idea that geniuses do not need to practice.  Our culture reinforces the view that the truly great do not need to work hard.  Their talents are so vast that everything they accomplish comes from talent they were born with.

This view is so paralyzing that it causes the person with a fixed mindset to give up trying because trying and failing would mean you might not actually be able to achieve what you want.  It also robbed Salerno-Sonnenberg of her motivation because actually practicing would rob her of excuses.  When faced with an ultimatum from her teacher at Julliard she decided to resume her training.

Below is a 2 minute clip of her talking about her approach to practicing years later.
(Note: YouTube has prevented this clip from being embedded so you have to watch it on their site.)

The bottom line is, you never know how good you can be if you don’t put out the effort.  It is true that you might fail to match expectations, let alone be a genius.  Remember where those expectations came from.  All a person can do is keep trying and learning.  This is the essence of the growth mindset.


There is a synergistic relationship between employer brand and culture. The latter should play a key role by informing the employer brand, while the former needs to promote and embed the cultural nuances that make an organisation (sic) and its employment experience distinctive and memorable.

Did you ever think the way your company brands itself would affect your work environment?  I used to think branding was exclusively for customer relationships.  Over time I have come to realize that branding also affects corporate culture and working relationships.  Or at least it should, according to this article.  So what does does the article say?  Lots of things but they say that doing the things listed below will “improve your chances of success.”

  1. Involve key stakeholders at the beginning of the research and development phase and ensure they are kept informed throughout the implementation.
  2. Establish an employer brand team or council to monitor the performance of the strategy across the business lines and geographic regions.
  3. Establish clear guidelines for leaders who are accountable for the implementation, measures and reporting on the strategy.
  4. Raise the profile of employer branding throughout the organisation (sic) by raising awareness of the benefits amongst the senior leadership team.
  5. Integrate the employer brand strategy with the normal business planning cycle.
  6. Ensure that the head of employer branding has a voice at the executive table.

I’ll be honest with you this sounds too formal and structured.  To impact corporate culture a brand must resonate through every aspect of an organization.  If you have to “establish guidelines” and “raise the profile of employer branding” it might be time to reconsider your brand.  Do you think the companies below have to establish guidelines or raise the profile of their brand?

Didn’t think so.

In this article, the author outlines how Trader Joe’s has developed its cult-like following.

1) Trader Joe’s knows its customers.

  • He is “overeducated and underpaid.”
  • If money were no object, he would choose a Mac over a PC.
  • He likes Tina Fey.
  • He has been to Europe, and probably was on some kind of academic fellowship.
  • He would have voted for Obama over McCain, and he probably has a few kids. &c.

2) They make decisions based on what they know.

  • The store layout
  • The products
  • The “uniforms”

You have to read the article to find out how about the rest

3) They come up with innovative ways to work around problems for ideal consumers. (HINT: The don’t like corporate America)

4) They create a tangible culture around their product. (Example)

5) Their customers are their best “evangelists” (That’s where the video above comes from)