The Poison of Deception – And a simple technique to eradicate it

Posted by: in Communication, Communication Strategy, Corporate and Strategy, Culture, gary grates, Organizational Communications, Social Media Insights & Trends, Thought Leadership, twist, W2O Group on April 27, 2015

I recently had the chance to spend time with a former CEO of several companies. Our discussion was fairly long and comprehensive touching on multiple topics and issues facing modern organizations.

When I asked him what he thought the most dangerous threat an organization he led dealt with, he never hesitated.

“Deception,” he flatly stated.deception

“Not strong competition, the increased use of analytics and data or shifting consumer demands?” I quickly offered.

“Not even close,” he shot back.

Deception, as he defined it, is a subtle yet incredibly powerful disease inside organizations particularly at the senior level. Deception causes companies to most often see or believe things about itself that aren’t real.

Symptoms are numerous. Thinking your products or services are ‘best in class’ when they’re not. Misreading trends and ignoring behavior regarding purchase of your products. Discounting the competition as slow, inept or irrelevant only to find they are gaining or even passing you. Believing your employees ‘get it’ and are engaged or that leadership is aligned and integrated when the truth paints a different picture. Not comprehending your brand relevance is slipping or your pricing model is causing customers to try other options.

And the worst form of deception – “when the company fails to learn every day something new about itself from its stakeholders,” he stressed.

“In all my years as CEO, deception was the root cause of many bad decisions or misjudgments. However, it’s only recently that I’ve come to this conclusion after wrongly citing all the typical business challenges as reasons for success or failure. In fact one might argue that the marketplace and societal changes we are experiencing and the growing need for data and information to operate our companies are causing more acute deception in organizations today.”


“We manipulate the data or the research stimuli to game the system, he said. We measure only what our bias tells us, using the ‘data’ to justify that thinking,” he said. To avoid such corporate foibles you must design the data model to find things you don’t know and to be critical in terms of insights gleaned from the data. Analytics are akin to a new set of eyes if employed properly and the accompanying insights a prescription for success.”

So is there any guidance for today’s organizations and leaders to mitigate deception?

Our CEO who now sits on several boards and advises peers in similar roles offered the following technique as a viable means to keeping things real in the Board Room and the Executive Strategy Meetings.

Every leadership meeting where decisions are being made should include what he referred to as the “Clear Mind Rule.”

The “Clear Mind Rule” is no more than three points regarding any argument, rationale or request for funding, resources or approval regarding a plan, program, initiative or policy:

The three points are as follows:

  1. Facts surrounding the topic
    • Current state (product/service sales, share, profit, pipeline or challenge – retention, engagement, quality, cost, productivity, policy)
    • Competition or problem to solve (sales, share, profit, pipeline or labor strike, closure, etc.)
  2. Forecast or projected activity, behavior
    • Audience sentiment (customer, employee)
    • Competitive threats and moves
    • Customer uncertainties (M&A, new leadership, changing internal dynamics)
  3. Future
    • What’s around the corner?

The Ask: the decision needed to succeed

Applying the “Clear Mind Rule” to all key decision planning discussions places much needed rigor and discipline into organizational thinking, which in turn, eliminates the potential for deception. The process actually forces leaders and managers to see new and different information and opens up more critical thinking land inquiry amongst the larger team. It keeps communications honest and relevant encouraging disagreement and probing for deeper meanings.”

Given everything that companies, brands and leaders face in directing organizations to achieve success, the last thing anyone would want to exacerbate such a reality is a self-inflicted wound.

“Deception, if not discovered and addressed, is poison to business excellence and success!,” he emphatically stated. It can be removed but you first need to identify its root cause and apply the right measures.

Maybe it’s time to determine if your company is afflicted and if so, do you have the antidote?



Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.

What Do W2O Group and Major League Baseball Have in Common?

Posted by: in Analytics, Communication, Corporate and Strategy, MDigitalLife, Media & Engagement, Social Media Insights & Trends, Thought Leadership on April 27, 2015

“You have to get your on-base percentage (OBP) up, or else you better be making every single play defensively.” – New York Yankees Announcer.

When I heard this quote during a Yankees game, I couldn’t help but realize Major League Baseball (MLB) and W2O Group firms approach their “sports” similarly.

We both leverage analytics to identify, assess and “recruit” people to enhance our offensive capabilities.

While the MLB recruits top athletes to build winning teams, WCG, tWist and Brewlife use analytics to “recruit” active and trusted industry thought leaders who share a topic of interest with our clients. We analyze online conversations and trends that are relevant to our clients’ businesses to understand who is contributing to dialogue and influencing the most people on the subject. As a result, this informs our decisions and strategies with the intent of building relationships to form a winning “team.” Answers to key questions help us build the best team, including:

How active are these thought leaders on social channels? What is their reach and relevance? What types of content do they create and share? How many people share their content, or value them as thought leaders?

Our goal is to find and subsequently build relationships with people who are respected in a particular field and may be interested in engaging with and sharing content we develop with our clients. Their support positively impacts overall company performance and, over time, its corporate reputation. We refer to this process as influencer engagement, and use it to hit homeruns for our clients.

For a recent influencer engagement program, our Analytics and MDigitalLife teams compiled and leveraged data to build a team of online thought leaders (including physicians) among specific areas of health: epilepsy and mental health. Over a three-month timeframe, our Media & Engagement team built relationships with them via Twitter by engaging with their content and sharing program-specific content on behalf of the client. The influencers eventually engaged, which opened relationship opportunities for the client. Results of this program exceeded key performance indicators, such as number of identified influencers who engaged, and content reached thousands of relevant followers, including physicians. The most rewarding moment, however, happened when the chairman of the Department of Neurology at a major medical center retweeted our content; that was like having the Derek Jeter of our sport hit a homerun!


Just like baseball teams look for a return on investment from their players, we (as well as our clients) strive to provide a return on engagement from identified thought leaders. In other words, the more players or thought leaders that the MLB or W2O Group firms respectively can “get on base,” the more OBP or engagement will increase.

At the end of the day, analytics are the foundation of strategies and decisions across multiple organizations, beyond MLB and W2O Group firms. Incorporating insights that data reveal can be the difference between successfully building a winning team and failing to accomplish this goal. Build your offense with the goal of reaching home plate to help shape your reputation before you’re forced to defend why you’re a thought leader.

As organizations become increasingly analytics-driven, how will you use analytics to hit homeruns?

Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.

This is Engagement!

Posted by: in Communication, Communication Strategy, Corporate and Strategy, Culture, gary grates, Organizational Communications, Social Media Insights & Trends, Thought Leadership, twist, W2O Group on April 24, 2015

An interesting thing happened to me recently while attending a birthday celebration for a neighbor. I discovered what employee engagement looks and sounds like!

In my last post – The Obfuscation of Employee Engagement – I detailed how organizations and communicators tend to create unneeded complexity in building successful engagement with employees as a competitive advantage. The premise is that both outside and inside forces conspire – often unconsciously – in chasing symptoms of poor engagement without thinking through the cause resulting in wasted effort and little results.

So, what does Engagement actually look like and how did I find it at a birthday party of all places?

Talking with a group of people it was obvious that one person – early 40s, manager in R&D for a global technology company – was extremely passionate and forthcoming about his company’s current business situation, challenges, vulnerabilities, and opportunities discussing in great detail how he and his colleagues were working through issues. There was no hint of cynicism, no lack of understanding and a level of confidence that spoke well of him and his company. When asked questions or challenged to probe deeper into his perspective he did so with ease agroupnd with no hint of being arrogant or going overboard in his defense or promotion of the company. In fact, he was believable and interesting for that very reason.

Others in the group spoke about their work situations but with less authority and certainly less passion. A few said they didn’t really comprehend their business’ current reality other than to describe political issues in their respective group or function. Hearing this, I took the chance to see if he might share some of the reasons for such a strong advocacy mind-set. An answer that all in the group were equally interested in knowing.

And so, here is what he shared (and what we experienced):

  1. He loves his work! (“I don’t let the typical BS get in front of what I want to do.”)
  2. He seeks out information and opinions throughout his network and with leadership at all levels
  3. He pays attention to competitors (through the business and on his own time)
  4. His company shares information openly (he attends town halls, reads the daily news on the portal, reads the promotions page, and reads the regular leadership messages from his CEO)
  5. He always asks questions
  6. He never lets a poor answer or incomplete information go unchallenged
  7. His manager takes and makes time to inform, listen and involve his team in macro issues beyond R&D
  8. He pushes his colleagues to get involved and not just be spectators (complainers)
  9. He is active on social and belongs to a number of blogs and communities in areas of interest to his work, but does not share much on his company nor is he asked to by the company

Listening to him peel off these points, the others chimed in offering their reasons or rebuttals.

Most described the work environment as confusing, contradictory and lacking trust. They cited “laziness” as a cause for not getting involved, going to the portal, or even making time to attend company meetings such as town halls. As our discussion started to end, there was a palpable sigh among this group (except our engaged friend!) on how different and better his outlook and work experience was.

From an organizational and communications standpoint, some key lessons emerged forming the foundation for how to build a sustainable engagement culture:

  1. Managers who care (involve, listen and respond)
  2. Leaders who make the time to connect, listen, and act
  3. Information that is relevant, clear, consistent, and accessible
  4. Social is an opportunity to broaden and extend positive employee sentiment
  5. Behaviors that are reinforced

Describing the above as “causes” of sustainable engagement, all of our efforts in communications, HR, and management need to be based on addressing them in a holistic and comprehensive manner.

One other distinct lesson: hire the right people!

A funny thing happened to me at birthday party…I discovered employee engagement!




Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.

Going. Ahead. With Gage: An Interview with Annalise Coady

Posted by: in Communication, Communication Strategy, Content, Culture, executive insights, Insights, Thought Leadership, W2O Group on April 23, 2015

WAnnalise Coadyelcome to another Going. Ahead. With Gage interview! I had the privilege of interviewing Annalise Coady, President of Twist Mktg. She was recently moved into this position having spent nearly two years overseeing W2O Group operations in EMEA.

I hope you all gain some valuable insights and enjoy the read!

What are you doing to ensure that W2O Group is at the cutting edge?

Being focused on our clients business challenges, encouraging inquisitive thinking and partnering internally and externally is how I ensure we remain cutting edge.

This means developing approaches and solutions that are focused on our clients, their business and challenges, and what they need to do to be successful now and in the future. We need to be their partner in navigating the ever-changing business environment we’re immersed in today thanks to rapid digital convergence.

To me, the starting point for sales – be it for established clients or new prospects – is always to be consultative. We have great products and services, but we find the greatest traction from being problem-solving first, solutions-oriented second. I always encourage the team to take this approach when tackling a brief.

We have to challenge the status quo, ask questions, and test current theories and orthodoxies to determine the right counsel. To do this you have to establish and fundamentally encourage an inquisitive environment. We’re not hierarchical, everyone needs to be able to question and challenge assumptions to remain relevant, and we encourage this discussion to take client engagement to the next level.

No one person has all the answers, so we actively encourage partnering within the W2O family and beyond to ensure we’re bringing the best thinking, solutions to solve our client’s business problems – some that they know about, and others that we don’t even know about yet!

Thinking of your most successful current employees, what characteristics do they share? 

I think our successful current employees share the following characteristics. They:

  • Enjoy and strive for success for their clients, team, company, as well as themselves. They take pride in all that they do and strive to be experts in their areas of focus.
  • Are in inquiry mode, always asking questions and challenging the status quo, but in a respectful and constructive manner that makes the sum of the parts considerably greater than the whole.
  • Tend to be self-starters who are great team players, with an edge of competitiveness that drives them and the team further.
  • Are highly collaborative, supportive and respectful of one another, colleagues, clients and partners – and time! Doing new things in new ways can be hugely time intensive, and we need to deliver to closely-scrutinized budgets as well as innovate.

How do you empower your employees to do their best possible work?

Empowerment comes through ownership, so I actively encourage employees to take control of their career, seek opportunities that meet their career aspirations, guide them to ask for ongoing feedback and clarification on their performance. It’s all about freedom within a framework, accountability with a safety net. We offer our team support by providing:

  • Access to great work. That means working with the best brands and clients in the business, the brave ones who want to push ahead, challenging the team to give them more opportunities to expand their experience. Our recent employee survey showed this was a key reason people loved working at W2O Group.
  • On-going support. I’m not a micro-manager. I like to let people find their own way to move forward and solve challenges. That said, the safety net and nurturing environment also provides access to the best coaching, training, mentoring and resources. This is key for people to be able to do their best work.
  • Clarity and benchmarks. To do your best work I think you need to know why you’re doing it, what’s your role, clear goals and ultimately how it leads to your ongoing career progression. So I’m a fan of focal reviews, goal setting, and clear context on roles and responsibilities to provide employees with structure than lets them grow.

How do you encourage creative/innovative thinking within your organization?

I think we have the most success creatively and thinking innovatively when we bring an integrated team together from across the business and around the world, to focus on a challenge or question that either a client has, or we’re seeing, or sensing in the market.

Silos kill creativity! My role is to ensure we continue to create the forums for diverse groups of people to meet and bring their experience, expertise and creativity to focus on solving problems. This doesn’t mean everyone doing everything. It requires understanding how your contribution fits into bigger picture.

What is the most difficult leadership decision you’ve had to make in the recent past?

Recommending that we should not pursue a piece of new business that would have been a great brand to have on our roster. Given the resources/ budgets available we would have put ourselves, and partners, under undue pressure to deliver within the expected KPIs. It would have quickly degenerated into a no-win situation for us, and our partners, not to mention our prospective new client. All we have is our people and our reputation, both of which would have suffered.

What did you learn from that experience?

Remain focused on what makes good business sense. And one of the definitions of good business strategy is about what you choose not to do every bit as much as what you choose to pursue. Hope is not a strategy!




Cross-post on Twist Mktg Blog.

By: Gage Grammer

Content and Community Specialist at W2O Group. Background in Strategic Communications (PR and Advertising) and Writing. I have a rockin' French Bulldog named Phantom!

Find me on: Twitter
Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.

Exciting Times to be in the Med Device Biz

Posted by: in Healthcare Technology, Medical Devices on April 22, 2015

These are exciting times to be involved with the medical device and diagnostic industry. It had hit a bit of a rough patch with a bloated “me-too” market, some bad press and an investment void for early technology… but things are looking up, according to buzz on the Street.

There’s a shift occurring, and this entrepreneurial, burgeoning-teenager of a market is maturing before our very eyes. Proof points include consolidation at the top with major M&As happening as manufacturers strategically align and restructure within the confines of our new healthcare landscape and regulatory environments.

As start-ups and emerging companies continue to fuel the industry with smart and intuitive innovation, the FDA’s recent rollout of its Expedited Access Pathway (EAP) is an encouraging development that will help get life-saving innovation to patients in need, faster. And in an industry where a novel idea can still catch the eye and pocketbook of an investor, IPOs are at a healthy volume and bankers anticipate another banner year for venture-backed device and diagnostic companies, with maybe fewer but more robust investments.

I recently listened in on an industry webinar from Medtech Strategist. This, as well as other recent medical device industry reports have left me on the edge of my seat for what’s to come. But possibly even more exciting is the realization that W2O Group is in the trenches and involved from the ground up with many of the industry’s most history-making medtech.

I’ve been geeking out on medical technology since my entrée into the field with hips and knees, back when metal on metal sounded like a good idea… I’ve always been drawn to a cool, new medical device that disrupts the status quo and challenges you to think about health in a new way. And as with all big ideas that challenge the standard, sometimes you win (big) and sometimes you lose (big), but the learnings are invaluable for the field, as we’ve seen recently with renal denervation and previously in spine and orthopedics.

I’m surrounded by fellow medtech junkies here at W2O Group. And from a communications perspective, we are partly and sometimes wholly responsible for getting the word out to physicians, patients and investors about life changing, inspiring new interventional therapy options – which keeps me coming back for more everyday.

We work with some of the most promising new innovations in the market, like drug-coated stents and balloons to open clogged arteries, intuitive pacing devices for heart rhythm disorders, TAVR for valve disease and seemingly-futuristic technologies like miniature cardiac devices and ingestible sensors that truly amaze.

There is so much more on the horizon for this field in areas like diabetes, neurology, robotics, and digital health and I’m planning to have a front row seat.

Front row seat

By: Kim Muscara

Healthcare pr & marketing professional - passionate about Medtech - Italian-American Jersey Girl, relocated to San Francisco - aspiring wino & food critic

Find me on: Twitter
Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.