Saturday, December 24, 2011

Can You Tell When You Fall Asleep?

...or can you tell when you wake up? To me, consciousness has always been an intriguing matter. How can it be that sleep is such an effective time-out? What happens to my conscious mind, or unconscious mind, for that matter? I believe my interest has served me well. Let me share a tiny bit of how.

Can you tell when you fall asleep? The way I define "falling asleep" is the moment when I move from conscious to unconscious. How would you define it?

Here's what I do to find out when sleep hits in. While falling asleep I often listen to conference talks or some inspirational recorded training. The next morning I believe I'm able to tell eXactly when I "lost consciousness" simply by listening to the recording again or by reading through its text. Unequivocally, I easily remember the last thing I consciously heard. To me it's just a fun exercise.

Can You Tell When You Wake Up?
Talking with other people, I find that waking up differs greatly from person to person. Here's how "waking up" works in general...

In reality we may "wake up" many times during the night, i.e. our consciousness kind of "comes and goes" due to REM sleep stages. Watch this clip to see a simplified illustration of how REM sleep works.

Problem Solving During REM Sleep
Scientific studies seem to indicate that we're highly creative during REM sleep. This is my experience exactly. I frequently retire at night with an unresolved problem or challenging task waking up with a solution in the morning.

At first this happened "accidentally". The past twenty years it's become a conscious effort. How? Well, before going to sleep I define the problem or task I want to solve. I may even write it down. Then, while falling asleep, I try to explore and deeply think it through. During REM sleep (for me usually somewhere between 4 and 5 or 5 and 6 in the morning) my mind will come up with creative suggestions.

Self Programming
There are many ways in which we can put our amazing brain to work for us. It is believed that our unconscious mind contains 80 million times more information than our conscious mind, suggesting that the unconscious represents a much greater reservoir to solutions.

One way to tap into the powers of the unconscious is through "self programming". This Christmas season I will do another self programing project. What's that? It's something I picked up in 1992. Quite simply, it's where you make a simple recording of active words stating who and what you want to be as if you've already made the changes expressed. Such a recording can effectively be used as a tool while listening both consciously and unconsciously.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Are BI Alumni Trends As Expected?

What trends can we spot as the BI Alumni group continues to grow? Are these trends in line with what you'd expect?

This week the Norwegian Business School's Alumni group at LinkedIn will grow beyond 7,000 alumnus. Last week we had another 63 alumnus join. The most we've ever had is 143 registrations in one week, i.e. Oct 2008. The growth rate has been slow but steady.

An average of appx 2,000 alumnus per year joining the BI Alumni group

As the number of alumnus is growing it's interesting to view some of the statistics and possible trends. Of the 7,000 former students (with a few exceptions) 648 are in Information Technology and Services. 637 are in Marketing and Advertising. These two industries are each 9% of the total group. Other dominant industries are, as shown below, respectively Financial Services (7%), Management Consulting (7%), Oil & Energy (5%) and Human Resources (4%).

Industry distribution of Norwegian Business School alumnus.

65% of all current and former students, including registered staff are living in Oslo. The second most popular location for BI alumnus is Stavanger, but still way behind with less than 5%.

Always of interest is the type of role group members have in business. As of now, it appears the majority are in senior positions, closely followed by a managerial role.

Current seniority / roles of BI Alumni students.

Unfortunately, since BI Alumni by far is the largest Norwegian student alumni group at LinkedIn, there is no other group to compare with. As other Alumni groups grow in size and number, future students should be able to see whether or not the Norwegian Business School can help them boost their careers the way they aspire to. It should be an interesting process to witness as it unfolds.

How to Discover Your Values

How do we discover values and deeply held belief systems? Why is it important to discover values? Because what we truly believe affects everything we do. Our behavior patterns change when we change our beliefs by discovering values.

Do you ever find that the same kind of conflict with another person keeps reoccuring? Does the same argument tend to surface on a regular basis?

Have you ever thought about why such is the case?

There's probably more than one reason why a conflict remains unsolved.

Let me share one principle based way you can solve a conflict once and for all, and then move on in the relationship. The secret lies in discussing the core issues; the underlying subjective values.

Moving Away From the Core - Fighting Meaningless Details
When two people are quarreling, they tend to fight about everything but the core problem. (Typically, arguments end up arguing about how we argue.) Here's an example:

"You're always late", she says. "And you're always so impatient. You have no empathy for other people", he responds. "Well, why can't you get organized so we can be on time and keep our commitment", she continues...

The first rule we break is not listening. Instead we agressively list every possible argument to support our own views. As a result the conversation branches outwards away from the core. We end up fighting over meaningless details and frustration increases. The relationship decays.

Moving Toward the Core - Discovering Important Details
Instead of fighting your ground, adopt wiser behavior. Listen and restate. Ask questions to better understand, and especially ask WHY? He might ask her: "I really want to understand, why is it so important for you to be on time?" She might ask him: "I really want to understand, why is time sometimes less important than other things?"

Once we're really listening we can objectively try to find the subjective need that's driving the way the other person thinks, acts and speaks. As a result the conversation goes deeper toward the core of the matter. We end up exploring important details, discover deeply held beliefs and gain a greater appreciation for the uniqueness we each bring with us. The relationship grows.

Behavior Improves When Values Are Defined
The essence of what we're looking for are values. Why? Because values govern our thinking, our actions and our words. Once the values are on the table (and it helps to write them down), we begin to truly understand one another. We become empowered to change and influence each others' views - for real. Continuing our example:

  • He may understand that she values friendships by showing respect for their time and keeping promises.
  • She may understand that he values their relationship by putting each other first, regardless of when they're behind schedule.

By sharing these needs, by recognizing the value they have and their validity, he and she, over time, will grow to appreciate the importance of both aspects. When values are shared conflict evaporates.

Three Ways to Discover Values
Thus, knowing how to discover values is critical. We need to discover our own values and the values of other people to truly "know ourselves" and others. How do we discover values? How do we uncover deeply held belief systems?

Discovering values takes time and dedication. In my experience, mapping out values is best done as part of every-day life:

(1) Scarcity
The first of three ways to discover values is any situation in which you find that there's scarcity. It could be limited resources like money or food. It could be when you're in a hurry and out of time.

When feelings get tense, and feelings are a direct reflection of values and unmet needs, there's an opportunity to discover what people are really about.

(2) Reactions
The second way in which you may discover values is when a person is challenged by something that is bigger or different from what they believe or might expect.

(3) Risk
The third way in which you may discover values is when asked to take risk. Sometimes this might be a helpful scenario to purposefully induce a value oriented conversation: "Would you risk your life for..?" If the answer is yes, ask why and begin your journey to a fruitful discussion.

Mapping out and discovering values is the best way to build a relationship and prevent future conflict.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Telemark Like You've Never Seen It

Have you ever been to Telemark? Would you like to visit Telemark in the blink of an eye? And not just any kind of visit... Why not visit Telemark online from the sky?

Now you can view and experience Telemark like you've never seen it before. With the click of a button you can see and experience Telemark 360 degrees. Zoom in, move up or down and spin around. Making View from Hamar provides an astonishing online experience.
Now, ask yourself? Would you distribute pictures like this via email? Of course not. You only forward the web link. It's online for a reason. Somehow we all understand that. But what about that email attachment..? Are you sure it's smart to send it? If you carefully think it through you may discover the new and better paradigm. It's this:
"Share, refer and link information - never distribute"
In fact, next time you're about to send an attachment, STOP! Instead of sending it, upload it to the cloud and only distribute the link to it, possibly combined with a question or two. It'll surprise you what happens with your interactive effectiveness - over time. Trust me ;-)

Learn more about this topic at "Telemark best på web" November 25th at Skagerak Arena.

Project documentation and project slides.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Why Create Content From Scratch?

How often have you produced text, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, org charts and even drawings and illustrations completely from scratch... and then thought: Someone must have made something similar that I can reuse and value add..!?

The online resources available today are truly amazing. I find that most people are completely ignorant about the possibilities. As a result they lose out BIG time, most of all, in time and quality, simply for "lack of smartness". The side effects of not utilizing the web..? A whole array of them, which I won't egen go into this time. Bottom line; someone's always standing a little taller. Use it!

I'll just share one quick example: Google Templates

Scenario: You have an upcoming project for which you'll apply SCRUM. Within seconds you log into Google docs, press the create button and find the "Templates" menu option. In the search field input "scrum". Select your desired template and start value adding your own adjmustments. In less than 5 minutes you're set to go.

My advice: Never produce another document on your hard drive (I haven't the past four years), and never produce anything without asking yourself if maybe someone already has done 98% of the job for you.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

LinkedIn Stats Norwegian Business School

The Norwegian School of Business (Norwegian: Handelshøyskolen BI) is gradually growing its LinkedIn Alumni group. Now counting more than 6,000 members, you can see the statistics of how this group has developed.

Today LinkedIn released new group functionality displaying group statistics. Via a fairly simple user interface group owners (and managers) like myself can now share stats on group development and current status.

Here are stats for some of my groups:

One more reason to spend a little time every day building and maintaining groups at LinkedIn ;-)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Being and Becoming vs Getting and Gathering

Here's the thing... In the middle of all our efforts to produce results, what really matters isn't really the result.

You're thinking: "What's he saying? Vidar's work is all about deliverables, execution, numbers, hard data and results! What's this rubbish?!"

I believe we should always remember: When we focus on reaching goals, executing strategy, making our budget and stirring organizational effectiveness we B-E-C-O-M-E. The result is being and becoming, not only getting or gathering. Upon entering life we're naked, and naked it is when we leave. Thus, the result that ultimately matters most is what life has made of us, not so much what we made of life.

I enjoy daily struggles because of what we can accomplish, but even more so because of what I believe it helps us become. If at any moment I forget that deeper purpose, sooner of later I find frustration and "become less". But when I remember that in the middle of all the pain the real value is the very process, then that thought itself inspires me and quite possibly "improves my becoming".

The Humble Servant
It reminds me of a story I once heard, and maybe you can help me find the source to it..?

There once was a king who had a faithful and humble servant. One day the king announced his leaving on a long journey and ordered the servant to move a huge rock. More than a year went by, but the servant unable to move the big stone even a single inch, grew increasingly disappointed with himself. When the king returned the servant lamented his failure to perform his duty. The king set him in front of a mirror and there the servant saw and witnessed a transformation he hardly was able to recognize. "I never wanted the rock removed", said the king. "I only desired your individual growth and strength".

Monday, October 31, 2011

Oslo Stake Family and Marriage Day

This upcoming Saturday Lillian and I are speaking at "The Oslo Stake Family and Marriage Day". (Norwegian: "Stavens familie- og ekteskapsdag").

I have speaking assignments and do presentations all the time. But this, this is alltogether different.

First and foremost, I have the privilege of being together with my own sweetheart. Lillian and I have been asked to speak on the topic of "How to deal with digital media as a family". I think it's a challenging subject indeed, but we have a lot to share, since all our five kids (ages 6 through 14) are somehow affected by it. Come, listen in, as well as share your own insights! Sign up here

As you will see from the program, there are many other interesting topics / speakers.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Front Yard Project

During August and September we gave it our all and finished the front yard project. The recipee? A lot of patience and a heap of help from family and friends, especially my dad. Thnx so much!

Digging space for stairway

Removing 4.5 tonns og big stones

Removing 30 cm for ground work

Lucy and Ellinor eager spectators

Dad and his watchful eye

Leveling the field

Breaking up of the old entrance

Putting down the first tiles

Beginning stages of new stairway

Stairs almost finished

2 % of the work was putting stones in place

Almost done!

Night view of new entrance

Night view of new stairs

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Making a Contribution Always Has a Price

The power of storytelling is truly an effective way to communicate. It keeps the attention of the audience like no other way I know of. Storytelling is also ignored as a critically needed skill. Therefore it is sadly neglected.

Yesterday, at the annual Entrepreneur Of The Year event in this region, we were listening to Einar Lunde as he related some personal experiences with wonderful enthusiasm. Everyone in Norway knows Einar Lunde as the news correspondent and anchor of NRK for more than 40 years.

From Einar I picked up several valuable lessons. Here are three:
  1. If you want to make great contributions you must be prepared to sacrifice and pay the price, regardless of what people around you may think, say or do.
  2. When one door of opportunity closes on you there often is another one that opens up.
  3. Some success may take time to achieve. Stay at it!
Einar Lunde with Lillian and Vidar Top on each side.

Now that I've experienced Einar Lunde first-hand, as well as personally as an outstanding individual, I'm adding him to my list of great people!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Characteristics of Entrepreneurial Leadership

What are the characteristics of entrepreneurial leadership? Over the years a lot of research has gone into answering this question appropriately. Here's an indication of what may be significant.

Today Ernst & Young hosted another seminar on strategy. I spoke to a body of competent CEOs and CFOs, all keen on the subject. Why share?

Well, for one, it is evident that if companies are to have any success at all they need someone to lead them. Secondly, entrepreneurial leadership surfaces to be key in every respect. Specifically it means:
  • entrepreneurship comes in "two or more" (learning from each experience)
  • entrepeneurs see opportunities where others see problems (accepting calculated risk combined with tolerance of failure)
  • entrepreneurs often grow into seasoned leaders as a result of favorable conditions for growth
  • entrepreneurship succeeds when an ecosystem of funding and expert people support the idea
  • unsuccessful companies can learn from successful entrepreneurs
The Entrepreneur Of The Year program is a well established tradition which highlights and honors these traits. Tomorrow the regional event takes place at Ibsenhuset where prominent guests will be in attendance.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Google Will Outrun Apple

A little more than half a year ago I predicted that Google will outrun Apple long term. How does the playing field look today? Is there any indication that may tell us how they stack up against each other? Should I change my mind?

Along with many others I pay tribute to the amazing contributions that Steve Jobs and the people around him have made. There is little doubt that an innovative culture, which Apple represents today, can and will develop great products and services. However, let's take a step back and look at what history teaches us in this respect.

Companies come and companies go. What is the deciding factor that makes them great (i.e. valuable) long term? I've spent nine years looking into the subject of real long term success and truly believe that the first of three differentiators is this:
Company momentum!
What does "company momentum mean? The short version; its ability to effectively grow public support and establish financial collaboration.

Ecosystem-based Innovation
Apple is running fast, but with a limited number of people. On the other hand, with its current strategy and brand, Google openly includes any individual and company that would like to surf on their information platform. Google is not merely running fast. Google is flying!

Unless Apple evolves into "smarter openness" the company will eventually fall behind. You can have great ideas, but long term it's smarter to include more people to innovate value. Apple can fail only a few times, on its own. Google can fail many times, toghether with its ecosystem. Just consider the number of failures so far. It's staggering to witness how they quickly recover and just keep going.

If, however, a global financial crisis were to reduce the spending power of investors, then and only then, could Apple "win the race". But remember, we're not talking about who's currently leading the race or who has the most money. We're on the topic of long term success, and Google is definitely headed in the right direction. And, unless it updates its philosophy, Apple is not.

Example of 3rd party "Google innovation"

Friday, September 30, 2011

Focus With Inner Conviction

If there's one key point that's worth making, what would it be? In my opinion, it must be to highlight the principle and privilege of "focus".

What does it mean to focus? If we were to extract the essence, I believe focus must be to:
Discover WHO you want to become, WHY you want it and WHAT it will take.
And then, more importantly than anything else, once you've felt that conviction and illumination inside, decide to actually get it done by saying no to everything that will distract or dilute your mission and purpose.

Focus With Power
In my experience, there's one danger lurking, however! While coaching I witness a lot of people who believe they've found their mission only to discover at some point in time that unfortunately they chose unwisely. They selected a focus in life that failed them long term. How can we be sure our focus is placed wisely? I may have valuable advice that works indeed:
"LISTEN to and OBEY your conscience".
How do we listen to our conscience? Take time to read inspired literature and reflect.

How do we obey our conscience? Make planning a lifestyle.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Copycat Suicides are Worth a Study!

Did you know that most of our behavior is on auto-pilot? What we do, what we say and even what we think is stuck in well established patterns. Did you ever wonder why change is so difficult? (If you haven't, then you didn't really try to change something about yourself.)

How we act depends on a large number of factors. Let's take a quick look at two of them.

(1) Habits
Our decision making is based on a complex structure of conscious, but mostly unconscious, patterns of behavior? One reason it's hard to make changes is simply due to habits. We tend to repeat what we've done successfully in the past. Unfortunately, what used to be successful behavior quickly turns into bad habits, or what we may call self defeating behaviors.

(2) Copycat
However, the one thing I'd like to highlight this time is our tendency to copy the behavior of others, especially the people we identify with. Have you ever witnessed close friends adopting the same kind of laughter? Or have you seen the example of a charismatic leader replicate to an organization? That's what I'm talking about. Are we affected by the same? Absolutely! ...and more than you know.

Based on research that indicates the most fatal examples, I'd like to share one: Copycat suicides! Statistics seem to imply that if journalists are not careful, the headlines in the news can have a powerful impact on its readers. If readers identify themselves with someone who has committed suicide and made it to the front page they will be inclined to follow suit. Copycat suicide is a fairly well documented phenomenon.

The same goes for many other regular news posts. In Norway the media is currently struggling with the ongoing temptation of making a serial story out of the heinous act of terror at Utøya (use Google translate to read in English). There's a fine line between reporting news and falling victim to someone's desire to exploit the press for needed attention. We ought to ask ourselves; is this behavior we would like to dwell on with the risk of duplication?

So what can we learn from this? A great number of things. Habits and self defeating behaviors are a subject of their own. When it comes to copying the behavior of others, here are three suggestions:
  1. Be aware who you identify yourself with.
  2. Decide on behavior you would like to adopt, and what not to adopt.
  3. Be careful and on the alert! How? Identify your values and put your focus where it belongs.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Global Elite Sales Collaboration

More than three thousand sales professionals around the globe are about to embark on an exciting journey. Through online collaboration they will redefine the sales profession.

Elite Sales Professionals will collaborate to:
"Redefine the sales profession as being the single most important type of competence of the 21st century."
To do this a carefully considered beginning path to establishing the "3E Code of Excellence" (a working title for this global project initiative) has been suggested:

2011 is About Passion
Passion comes as a result of gaining insight!

A small group of handpicked professionals will figure out how to map out and categorize a list of the best sales literature available today. They will take the lead in this and also suggest how to identify sales gurus around the globe, together with thousands of others. The result will be an ongoing process to build a knowledge base for people who want to spend their precious time to achieve real quality and excellence in their sales profession.

2012 is About Connection
Connection comes as a result of sharing insight!

Once the first group has established the foundation of a growing knowledge base, a second group will begin explore how to facilitate interaction beyond the online forum. A series of free online webinars will be organized on specific sales related topics. Well known gurus will be invited to host them in the language they themselves prefer. (We suppose English will mostly be the preferred language platform.

2013 is About Intuition
Intuition comes as a result of practicing insight!

The third group will be challenged to start asking "so what" at the end of each online session. Specifically, they will explore possibilities touching how to move from sharing to applied action.

To participate you first need to become part and qualify for this small community for Elite Sales Professionals at LinkedIn.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Use We Language

I spend much of my time (and focus) listening to other people. Listening has taken on rich meaning as I have studied empirical data relating to questioning techniques, conversations, dialog patterns in meetings as well as specific scenarios such as negotiations.

There are some very simple characteristics that tells a lot about a person - his or her attitude, self image, passion, empathy and many other traits so important to how we function together. Today let me share just a small piece of advice:
When you compliment someone say "you" and be specific. When you share success say "we" and highlight others.

Overcoming The Ego
Even though it's common sense and "respectful diplomatic behavior" which even a child understands, so many of us make this frequently repeated mistake. Rather childishly we tend to reduce praise of others and too easily take credit for more than we actually contributed.

When we sincerely and consistently praise others, our friends will grow in numbers and feel inclined to return the favor. If we withhold praise and constantly promote ourselves, we end up poor indeed!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

An Even Higher Bird's Eye View

A few days ago I shared a simple question that allows for self evaluation of results. Today I'd like to comment on an even richer aspect than merely "results", namely that of relationships.

What is it that matters most?

...and how do we know what matters most on a daily basis? Even though the question is generic, it will return a unique response from any individual who seeks to answer it. We all have different lives and backgrounds feeding us with values and insight. However, the one thing that remains the same for all is the importance of "our relationships" with other people.

Rather Who Than Where!
No one ever said on their deathbed "I wish I'd spent more time at the office", i.e. to the degree the office does not build the desired relationships, there are other places we also should spend our time. Still, WHERE is by far less relevant than WHO.

The "WHO question" I suggest provides better direction than any other question is, in my experience: "Who have I served today?" alternatively "What have I done for someone else?"

Being selfless and open to "doing good to anyone" is really the stuff that makes for an exciting life. Am I trying to be good? Sure. Am I missing opportunities? All the time. That's why I keep asking myself this question. I find that it reinforces purpose and always offers immediate impressions. Most of all, this question reminds me that all people have equal value and also that, in fact, some relationships are more important than others.

My wife, Lillian Marie Top, is a great example to me. She always serves the people around her. That's why I decided to dedicate "The 3 Energies" to her.

See Vidar Top's list of great people!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Alert Like a Cat

Our cat is always on the alert. The tiniest sound or movement triggers its attention. As a spectator to this show we sometimes laugh at him (BTW, his name is Leo). Leo's so sensitive to opportunities to catching game, he's simply hyperactive.

Asleep, but still on the alert..!
Did you ever witness a cat with a bird or rat in its mouth? I mean, wauw! Is it not amazing to see what effective hunters they are? Well then, what makes a great hunter? One argument might be "the one's who keep trying", and I might add "...are willing to fail frequently".

I like our cat. I like the initiative. We may call Leo naive or unrealistic, but there's something about his positive nature that makes him more successful, simply because he keeps believing there's something he can catch, even though his rate of failure is higher than any reasonable person would be willing to endure.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

LinkedIn Signal

LinkedIn Signal has been launched and has taken quite a few steps to making updates a whole lot more useful.

LinkedIn Signal is a stroke of genius, in my opinion. By staying focused on user value, LinkedIn now allows you to filter updates from LinkedIn and Twitter e.g. based on where people are located geographically and / or what organization they work for. I can widen my search to include 1st, 2nd or even 3rd degree contacts. It also allows me to filter based on role, time, industry, groups, topics... With LinkedIn Signal this platform has become a lot more "social" - and useful!

LinkedIn Signal increases the value of time invested in LinkedIn. Suddenly it matters so much more to have a big network of people and contacts.

A few examples to illustrate how this may be used to filter updates:
  • Norwegian CEO's in a particular industry
  • Tech guru's in Google and Microsoft
  • Topic specific search the past ten minutes among leaders in a select region
  • ... wauw!
In this respect LinkedIn has a unique offering, for now.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Telemark Online

Key players in Telemark are taking active steps to improve and increase online visibility.

"Telemark best på web" has its kick-off Friday the 26th of August at Skagerak Arena, 11:30 am - 15:30 pm.

A core group of 26 key representatives is the beginning of online expertise in Telemark. We are aiming to start welcoming altruistically minded experts on a running basis and collaborate for some of the following purposes:
  • lift each other to increase online visibility
  • share knowledge to create a learning environment
  • help each other to generate more business
  • improve in-house communication to reach goals and objectives
Smoking out some of the best web 2.0 resources in Telemark is an ongoing process, which began early this year. If you have an inherent interest for social media and innovative web tools, you may want to participate. Send email to for more information or fill in an online application.

A few words about each focused objective:

(1) Increasing Online Visibility
Why? Every organization needs to communicate its purpose and offering.
What? We lift each other via the appropriate online channels.
How? By following and positively reinforcing each other in everything we do online.

(2) Creating a Learning Environment
Why? Every organization needs to constantly learn and flexibly apply itself to the market place.
What? We share updated knowledge and insight about online tools and platforms.
How? By gathering once a month in an organized expert and user council.

(3) Generating More Business
Why? Every organization needs to support its users and close new contracts.
What? We help each other keep abreast of online innovation and find new ways to reach customers.
How? By organizing and getting the most important and pressing work done together.

(4) Reaching Goals and Objectives
Why? Every organization has business critical goals and objectives.
What? We improve internal and external communication and focus on what matters most to your organization, right now.
How? The agenda remains flexible to running needs and participants decide what is being addressed.

Our online document for best practices will be a work in progress. It is open for public viewing and editing as a Google Document. Feel free to chip in! (For more information see Telemark Growing Online Presence.)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Why Press the Like Button?

Why press the like button? What is it that makes the like button such a popular and useful web phenomenon? Think about it... Last time you clicked the like button, what was your motivation for doing so - really?!

To be heard, noticed and appreciated is a deep human need. Does the like button fulfill that need? Maybe it does, both ways?

For sure, the like button is good for something! Consider the following suggestions.

When readers and viewers click the like button it is a way for us to get instant feedback about who's been reading what we shared and to know what they thought about it. In more than one way, the like button is a wonderfully simple way to pay someone a valuable compliment. And why is it a valuable compliment? Well, for one, you're saying you like what they are most occupied with right now. With the click of a button you communicate that, in one way or another, you share the same view and that you have something in common. (Note! Retweeting twitter updates has something of the same effect.)

Find Your Voice & Inspire the Voice of Others
Stephen Covey in his book The 8th Habit explores what he claims is our quest to "find our voice and inspire others to find theirs". Clicking the like button might be the "embodiment" of habit 8 in that we by clicking a button encourage others to continue sharing and indirectly tell all other readers what we like. A trace of hundreds of likes will surely tell the world quite a bit about who you are as a person. Over time, the sum of all the like buttons you press, become part of the fabric of your personal online brand.

The Original Idea Behind the Like Button
Of course, one of the virtual web 2.0 principles behind the like button is "user generated content stage two". The interactive web has allowed anyone to share anything anywhere. Once this grew to a reality it is only natural that the next step is "user liked" rating and visibility. The more likes the higher the visibility, based on the assumption that liked content is better more relevant (and possibly more important) content.

Another brilliant concept that empowers the like button is by how we like and share across different websites. In this way web traffic on one site can literally have a ripple effect to a related facebook group and visualize who among your friends and contacts like the same website.

Like Button Sharing
A wonderful way to follow "the likes" of your friends could for instance be by visiting This type of functionality shows how likes are reflected almost as if you are the originator of "the liked content" itself.

For this and other reason some people press the like button often for selfish reasons, simply by how it makes them more visible online. That's why some networkers not only post and share relevant content with their connections, but also follow what their friends are sharing, letting them know what they think by "liking them" or anything else someone else has shared. Also, instead of participating by having to comment with well thought out sentences, clicking the like button is a quick way to do just that.

I Like You
However, in my view, the most wonderful thing that inspired me to author this quick article is the double meaning of the like button. I believe the real driver among friends, is the combined message of "I like what you shared", and the possibly far more important signaling than that:

We're really saying: "I like YOU"
"I read your updates and have an interest in your life and what you say" - a small but meaningful way to express on a daily basis; "I like and appreciate you as a person. Thank you for sharing".

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The iPad - Toy or Tool?

Is there anything the iPad (tablet) can do that either the Macbook (laptop) or iPhone (smartphone) cannot? The answer is probably "no"! So what is it that makes the iPad so great if both the laptop and cell phone already can do the job?

There are quite a few things the iPad does much better than my Macbook or iPhone. In my view, if you give it a chance a tablet like e.g. the iPad quickly becomes indispensable. Instead of listing a bunch of brilliant iPad applications, which so many have done before me, let me share two main areas that stand out:

Vidar Top playing the piano with the iPad displaying sheet music.

Reading and Viewing
Whatever we used to do in front of the screen, most of it is so much better with the iPad.
  • Reading the news almost feels like holding a virtual newspaper, sharing via twitter or commenting articles as you go. Yesterday CNN launched live viewing via their iPad application.
  • Reading books becomes much more interactive, e.g. looking up footnotes in a split second, marking text as well as adding notes that immediately are indexed for searching and future reference.
  • Any PDF document is easily converted to book handling format.
  • Viewing photos (or movies) becomes natural in every casual setting. (The phone is simply too small to really enjoy multimedia, the laptop too clumsy or formal.)
  • ...and browsing the web in general feels so much more interactive and right.

Replacing Paper
Maybe, for the first time in the digital knowledge worker age, getting rid of paper --completely-- is for real. I can print documents from my iPad, but why should I..?!
  • Brain mapping is intuitive and easy. It's one of many creative "paper based activities" I thought would never change.
  • Drawing is just like the real thing, only quicker and more advanced with every needed tool, quite literally, at your fingertips.
  • All notes are synchronized in the cloud with any other device.
  • Clutter generating activities like sticky notes and task lists are gone from my desk and pockets completely.
  • short, almost every application that ever used to require printing no longer demands it from a user perspective.

Tool Enhancer
Consequently, I find that the iPad appears to be superior in every respect as a tool in support of teaching, presenting, taking notes and almost everything else. If you're unwilling to give any type of tablet a fair chance you're missing out on a great tool that lifts all existing tools.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Hot, Cold or Lukewarm?

Literature on personality types is extensive and has long traditions. Any generalization has a large number of flaws, but nonetheless, personality characterizations can sometimes be useful to highlight certain traits to learn more about ourselves.

Some years ago I made a more or less formal statement about myself that might have been included in my mission statement:
I'd rather be an open enthusiast labeled by others as an idiot occasionally swimming in deep water than a closed pessimist considered by peers as politically correct and always remain anchored in a safe harbor.

To me, these few words summarizes the needed awareness of "risk taking" as part of personal and interdependent growth. It can make you wonder at times: How can we enthusiastically embrace other people? How can we work with other people in such a way that we communicate trust in them, but at the same time reduce risk and the number of mistakes we make together?

To Be Hot - Not Cold
During the past twenty years I've encountered three types of people; individuals we might categorize as hot, cold or lukewarm.

Now, nobody likes to be "explained as a predictive model" or "branded" (in the real meaning of the word). However, as long as we keep our eyes fixed on what we ourselves can change and improve, it is my experience that books such as "The Color Code", "Personality Plus", "Men Are From Mars Women Are From Venus" and many other similar books do provide insights to specify what can be improved. A small part of wisdom must be to witness the mistakes of others and try to correct them in ourselves.
We can influence others, but we can only change ourselves. However, when we change ourselves, our influence on others increases. (The 3 Energies Behind Sales Success)

In my desire to make a difference I find that it's impossible to be skeptical in the outset and THEN make wonderful discoveries and contributions filled with opportunity afterwards. Believing in others and their thoughts and ideas is an essential beginning. It's taking risk that people have value.

Without being willing to risk making mistakes by believing in others, there is no mutual growth. (Preferably we make mistakes in "the small and private" and succeed in "the big and public", if we can.) Willed innovation together with other people has to start with enthusiasm - an almost naive belief in something beyond what seems to be currently possible.

Sure, we need all types of people, but I confess: I so much more enjoy working with optimistic people that dare to believe in something, fully aware of initiative as the deciding factor of greatness. Are you self aware? Have you chosen to be positive and optimistic in the outset?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Telemark Growing Online Presence

Is it possible to lift an entire region to exceptional online presence and visibility? With ever increasing pace leaders in charge of communities are beginning to realize that the interactive web is a critical tool to both market and raise awareness.

IKT Grenland is heading up a collaborative online project to lift Telemark's online presence. In cooperation with the following key players every business and organization in the entire county will be invited to participate as they deem appropriate:

Vekst i Grenland
Telemark Fylke
Skien Næringsforening
NHO Telemark
Innovasjon Norge
Grenland Fotball

The main driver of the project is (1) to identify and bring together all dedicated web 2.0 expertise in Telemark, and backed by these resources (2) provide running updates, teaching and training, help and support to every participant.

Project startup was held on Friday the 27th of May with 32 key people present. The official kick-off will be at Skagerak Arena on Friday the 26th of Aug. An updated slide set "Telemark best på web" provides details for newcomers.

p.s. And even though there are a lot of people involved, we're still only in the beginning stages of what this will turn into.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Use Your Initiative and Resourcefulness

Early mornings our family reads together. It's one of the most valuable traditions we share. Let me tell a story about what happened this morning - something that put a smile to my face.

When we read together as a family in the morning, each one of us has the same book, but on the front page of each copy is the name of whose book it is. To our kids it has become important to actually own the book they are reading from. They will always make sure that whatever copy they're reading from is in fact their own.

Today Ellinor (age 5) could not find her book. For some reason it was gone. Clearly, this was something that upset her. Quite frankly, we didn't think of it as such a big problem. After all, this has happened many times before: "Can you please just use this book for now? We'll find your book by tomorrow, OK..?" (The "clean" book I gave her had no name in the front.) Before we knew it she was off to the kitchen, got a pencil, sat down at the table and wrote her own name on the front page. Now everything was fine!

Well, what do you make of that?! We want our children to use their "initiative and resourcefulness". I believe it is an important pattern or habit anyone can adopt. There's nothing like being around people that take the initiative coupled with applying personal talents and abilities to enrich the people they are with. Today, Ellinor taught me this lesson again, and for that and many other reasons she's on my list of great people.

I thought I'd share this story with you because I just read an inspiring article on storytelling authored by Mark Satterfield.

See Vidar Top's list of GREAT PEOPLE!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

3,000 Sales Professionals Worldwide

Are you looking to connect with a network of sales professionals with exceptional people skills? Your search may be at an end...

One person at a time, great networks are built. I truly believe in this principle. In that respect I often reflect on Dag Hammarskjold's rather well-known quote:

It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses.

Why is this such a profound statement? Well, there are many layers to it, I find. But maybe one precious pearl could be the irony hidden in it; excellence in large groups of people is built precisely one person at a time, not through some hype that attracts the masses "in one go". The strength of a team, a company or a network is found in how it is built on a solid foundation.

The past few years I've been collaborating with a group of quality sales people worldwide to build an international network of Elite Sales Professionals. This network will gradually aspire to lift the sales profession to a new level. We have no ambition of accomplishing such a huge vision within just a short time frame, but rather connect one person at a time and during the process make two important discoveries:
  1. Getting to know each other and grow mutual quality
  2. Mapping out the vision of the "3E Code of Excellence"
I you feel this resonates with your own mission and purpose, then feel free to apply for membership in the group, now counting more than three thousand sales professionals worldwide. There are a number of requirements we look for, however we recognize that the most important quality in a person is a passionate dream to acquire exceptional people skills.

One such friend and associate is Anil van Maretraite. I'm excited about the opportunity I have to prepare for future greatness with him and many others. Follow "Anilyzer" at Twitter.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Entrepreneurs Bjørn Kjos and Hans Ole Bergby

Recently I've had one-on-one conversations with a couple of people I really admire. Let me share some brief insights about them, and then I'm guessing you may feel the same way..?!

While preparing for the breakfast seminar we are hosting at Ernst & Young on Thursday the 16th of June in Porsgrunn, I met with among others Bjørn Kjos and Hans Ole Bergby. You may know who they are. Bjørn Kjos is the CEO and front figure of Norwegian, the second largest airline of Scandinavia. Hans Ole Bergby is head of Bergbys Familierestaurant and the man behind, or rather inventor of, the well-known Bergbys sennep ("sennep" means mustard in Norwegian).

Bjørn Kjos
I find that Bjørn Kjos is a person that stands out in the crowd, and not because he's become somewhat of a celebrity. When I met him, there was a big smile on his face, and that's how he's known in the market place, too.

Of course, there are many good reasons why his airline is so successful as a company, as we will uncover in greater detail at the seminar next week. But for one, the CEO is a people's person. Anyone can relate to him. He cares. He's down to earth. I believe his type of "leadership charisma" is greatly needed - possibly more than ever - in today's business environment.

I made three quick video recordings of our conversation and will be sharing them at the breakfast seminar. You will get a first-hand feel for what Bjørn Kjos is like, as well as experience some of his insights when it comes to strategy and execution.

Hans Ole Bergby
Hans Ole Bergby stands out in the crowd, and not because he's boastful and outgoing per se. On the contrary, among his colleagues and associates Hans Ole is known as a hard worker, but also as a careful and almost shy individual.

The last time I met him, as we were asking him pointed questions about strategy and tough business issues, he spent several minutes in silence thinking them through. Hans Ole Bergby may not strike you as a charismatic leader at first sight, but once you get to know him, his business acumen gradually surfaces. You'll find there's ample reason why his mustard is in great demand all over Norway.

Hans Ole will be in attendance at the seminar this upcoming Thursday, so if you'd like to meet him in person just sign up by calling our switchboard (tel +47 35564200).

Great People
In closing, let me say this: I know some of their colleagues. It is said that great leaders surround themselves with great people. As such, Bjørn Kjos and Hans Ole Bergby are no exception. That's why they're both on my "official list of great people".

See Vidar Top's list of GREAT PEOPLE!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

100 Weetos

Funny misunderstanding this morning..!

This morning I was listening to Mitt Romney's announcing his run for the presidency. (Great speech, BTW!) While he spoke about --the 800 vetos-- it took to not raise taxes as Governor of Massachusetts, my son immediately responded: "Heh! a hundred Weetos..!" coupled with a big smile on his face.

You should know, on a Saturday morning we often treat ourselves as a family with Weetos for breakfast. Philip is eight and has just recently begun learning English in school. How interesting that his attentive mind was able to extract that little bit of information "in his way" ;-)

Another example of how our subconscious mind works, opening our eyes to whatever it is we're passionate about. The energy of passion is the most wonderful thing I know, which is why I spent nine years doing research in this area of human influence.

And in case your wondering; yes, I'm a big time supporter of the GOP!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Norwegian Business School

Handelshøyskolen BI has updated its official English name to Norwegian Business School. What will its main competitor do to counteract? And not only the name, but what about former students? What role does a fast growing Alumni group have in the future of academic institutions?

A couple of months ago the academic institution from which I received my degrees changed its name to Norwegian Business School. The name change is an interesting one, as there are two academic schools competing for the lead in Norwegian economic education.

Of course, the name itself may indicate to future students which one they may want to prefer. For this reason, I'm now telling peers that I suspect a similar name change from what today is known as "The Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration". Too lenghty? Sure, the name is too long. I bet their marketing department has been screaming for a shorter version for quite some time now. We'll see what happens.

Tomorrow is a three year anniversary for me. In June 2008 I organized the Alumni group of the Norwegian Business School at LinkedIn which now has more than 5,000 alumni members. It is the biggest of its kind in Norway, and we will continue to grow it.

I believe a large group of alumnus will be increasingly important to the long term success of any academic institution. In more than one way, taking good care of each former student represents an investment in the growth of future students, just like a little child putting money into a piggy bank.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Talk's Cheap

In fact, talk's invisible! I so often do training with sales people that truly believe what they are saying is the most important. Let me be as clear as I possibly can: What you say is not the most important. It's not.

Words are not what people "hear". What you say matters less. It's what you behave that matters most. If your behavior is congruent with what you say, then, and only then do words begin to have power.

As humans we are channels of energy. We both send out and pick up signals all the time. We are, as it were, living antennas. Our five senses might serve as an example of antennas. In this respect, the sixth sense is not merely fictitious. It's for real!

When we first meet someone, our immediate impression of this person is the sum of three sample questions we are asking about other people (i.e. each other) all the time:

WHAT are you about?
WHO are you?
HOW do you do what you do?

These include everything about us, from how we smell to the energy we emulate. Even body language is but a very small fraction of the complete picture...

Our subconscious mind runs much faster than we can imagine. Before we even make conscious decisions about someone, our subconscious mind has picked up literally hundreds of signals that in sum automatically passes judgement on others, and thus influences how we consciously will act seconds later (cf groundbreaking research by Benjamin Libet). That's one of many reasons why Benjamin Libet has made it to my list of great people (see below).

In a very real sense, words are like "The Emperors New Clothes". What we do leaves us completely naked and exposed to the world around us. What we truly believe comes out much more forcefully than anything we might say. Words are invisible. In the famous words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: "I can't hear what you are saying, because your actions speak too loud".

See Vidar Top's list of GREAT PEOPLE!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Have a Great Weekend!

To most people in the western culture "the weekend" starts on a Friday. Question is, when? After work? Think about it..! From early Friday morning it's customary or common practice to end conversations with the usual expression: "Have a great weekend!" Why do we do that? What are we in reality saying or doing?

For those of us who work regular hours (and a lot of us don't, of course) "have a great weekend!" is in reality a kind of celebration. The message isn't so much "I sure hope the weekend turns out well" as it is "I just wanted to remind you, we're almost there again - isn't it great?!"

Just like "merry Christmas!", "have a great weekend!" is a quick way to look forward to "the stuff people really want". From getting some extra sleep and a mental break to spending time with family and friends, whatever it is, "have a great weekend!" is a way to trigger happy thoughts. And like Peter Pan, happy thoughts make us fly. Depending on what you're looking forward to, "have a great weekend" releases endorphins.

For me, Fridays are inspiring because of it. Sure. But then again, I love Mondays just as much. Why? I love what I do. I love life. Think happy thoughts!

p.s. Did you know that Facebook and Twitter updates tend to be fewer and negative as the week begins, and are increasingly positive and large in number as the end of the week draws near? Are you like that?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Can I Have a Hug, Please?

Communication between the lines is where it's at. Always look for what people really are saying, not just what words they are using.

Among hundreds of people at my book launch last week, our three youngest children made their way through the crowd to the table where I was signing books and asked: "Can I please have a hug, daddy."

To me the world was standing still for a moment. You should know, we hug each other several times every day. However, this was different. This was them asking: "Are we still the most important people in your life, dad?" Taking a time-out right there and then became a wonderful opportunity for me to communicate just that; my family means most, has my greatest love and devotion - they are my first and highest priority.

Ironically, at that moment, they may have felt they needed me, but in reality it was probably I who needed them more. It was a touching moment that will stay with me as a prized memory.

Monday, April 25, 2011

You Cannot Not Influence

Influencing our surroundings is not a choice. We are influencing others whether we would like to or not. However, you can choose WHAT, WHO and HOW to influence. This Thursday I will host a keynote session with hundreds of people at Ibsenhuset. Get your tickets at and a signed copy, The 3 Energies Behind Sales Success (Norwegian: "De 3 Energiene som driver effektiv kommunikasjon").