Creating Healthy Online Engagement With Audiences With David Meerman and Dealing With Failure With Fred Colantonio

Even in the age of instant connection and communication, many companies find it difficult to communicate organically. Connecting with online audiences is an indispensable skill that every company needs to have in its toolkit in order to keep their audiences engaged with them. David Meerman Scott, an acclaimed business strategist and the author of Fanocracy: Turning Fans Into Customers and Customers Into Fans, sits down with Dr. Diane Hamilton and discusses how companies can create and maintain healthy online engagement with their customers.

Failure is a subject that we, as a society, have become averse to because it’s such a difficult thing to feel and talk about. But though we find it difficult to accept, it is also the root and origin of innovations and incoming success. Fred Colantonio, a trained professional criminologist who investigates behavioral patterns within groups of people, gets to the nitty-gritty of how you should be dealing with failure, and how processing it in a healthy way is the best way for you to turn it into something more.

TTL 645 | Creating Online Engagement


I’m glad you joined us because we have David Meerman Scott and Fred Colantonio here. David is an internationally acclaimed business strategist, speaker and bestselling author. He’s got a book out. Fred is a criminologist TEDx speaker and he has a book out. This is going to be fascinating.

Listen to the podcast here

Creating Healthy Online Engagement With Audiences With David Meerman

I am here with David Meerman Scott, who’s an internationally acclaimed business strategist, entrepreneur, advisor to emerging companies and public speaker. He’s the author of ten previous books including The New Rules of Marketing and PR and Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead. His latest book though is called Fanocracy, which is interesting to me. Welcome, David.

Thanks. It’s awesome to be here. I appreciate you having me on.

I’m looking forward to the book you co-authored with your daughter, Reiko, which is fun for me since I wrote a book with my daughter years ago and it will be out. A lot of people are going to want to know more about that. Before we get into the book, I want to get a little background on you. Can you tell my audience a little bit more about you?

When I first got out of school, I was on a bond trading desk. I was terrible at it and I hated it, but I loved the information that the bond traders were using. I spent a bit more than a decade as a sales and marketing guy for information companies such as Dow Jones. Another company I worked for was Thomson Reuters. In 2002, they fired me. That gave me an opportunity to figure out what I was going to do next. I saw that the world of marketing was totally changing because of the web. Everybody was talking about marketing like advertising on the web, banner ads and things like that. I saw something completely different. What I saw was marketing was about creating content. I wrote a couple of books. I started my blog and my ideas resonated with a lot of people. The book you mentioned, The New Rules of Marketing and PR has sold about 400,000 copies in English. It’s in 29 languages. I see a change that the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of superficial online communications at a time when we’re hungry for human connection. That’s why I wrote the book, Fanocracy.

When you talk about superficial online communications, what do you mean by that?

What I see is that so many companies have taken the ideas of how to reach people online and basically abused the channel. For example, you buy something online and all of a sudden, they’re sending you two or three emails a day or you connect with somebody on a social network and they’re immediately trying to sell you something. The social networks themselves are so polarized, both politically and from the perspective of their algorithms thinking they know what you like and what you buy. They surface only a subset of the information that you want to see. Also, the rise of AI and robots, you can be communicating with somebody through a social network and not even realize that you’re communicating with a robot.

All of those things are adding up to people feeling that much of the online world can be a dark and not so great place. For that reason, I’ve been focusing so much talking to people who feel that way about the online world and what they do say is, “I love the things I love to do, whether that’s live music or bird watching or snowboarding or the Boston Red Sox,” the things that they’re a fan of. Because there’s a true human connection with other people who are part of your tribe who share the same thing. That lit a spark for me and said, “There’s something cool here.” I’ve spent the last few years investigating that.

You touched on some interesting things that are my hot buttons as well. My daughter worked at FetchBack. They do a lot of retargeting. If you’re looking at something Nordstrom’s and later it shows up on your feed that didn’t you want to buy this thing. There are a lot of things that come back that are helpful and not so bad. I’m on other people’s shows like you are. You get into their emails and suddenly they’re sending you all these different things. Is it necessarily what I want or is it a bunch of communication to say I have this big database of people that I communicate with to sound like you’ve got this list? I’ve been one of those people who hesitates to do that. I know they say send them something of value. Don’t ask them for things and something that they care about? What do you think about these marketing plans? People like you and me, people who want to connect with people but you don’t want to spam them, what suggestions do you have for them?

I think about this all the time myself. I’m talking to other people who are thinking about these same things. You’re absolutely right that whenever you communicate with somebody, it should be helpful. The more helpful you are, the more goodwill you earn so that at some point if you do have something, a new book or whatever it might be, you have an opportunity to reach out to those people and tell them about your new offering. What I think many people do is it’s all “sell, sell, sell” and that’s not going to work. Either people are going to opt-out of your communications or they’re not going to pay attention to you anymore.

I also think that there are a lot of people who use the ClickFunnels approach to online marketing where the most important thing they’re trying to do is get your email address. We’ve all seen this. Everyone has seen this multiple times where an organization will offer a white paper, but they’ll immediately say, “I’m not going to give you this white paper until you first give me something of value.” That thing of value is your contact information or your email address. That’s not giving something away. That’s a coercion-style approach to marketing. You might want this white paper, but I’m not going to give it to you until you give me an email address.

When we were researching this idea of how to grow fans, what we recognized is that we humans are hardwired to appreciate a gift that’s given to us with no expectation of anything in return. We don’t appreciate coercion. In all ways, the more you give away, completely free with no registration required or with no obligation, the more value you build with your existing and potential customers. This sounds like a little bit of woo-woo and airy-fairy but I’m a big believer that the more you give to the universe, the more you get back. I think that works from a marketing perspective, the more value you give, the more you get back.

The more you give away with no expectation, the more value you build with your customers. Click To Tweet

I think that there’s a lot to that and your intention behind things is important. It comes across loud and clear when you have good intentions. That’s what creates fans. That’s what you’re writing about is creating fans for you and your products. You deal with studying the neuroscience of fandom. That’s such a fascinating look because I have many top names of psychologists on the show like Albert Bandura. I love the psychology and sociology components of what we deal with in marketing and sales. Talk a little bit about neuroscience and fandom because a lot of people would find that part interesting.

I’m fortunate that my coauthor is my daughter, Reiko, she’s 26. We started this project when she was 21. Not only is she a different generation and a different gender, but she’s a neuroscientist. She graduated from Columbia with a degree in neuroscience and is in her final year of medical school. She loves figuring out how the brain works in various ways. When we were researching this idea of fandom, we wanted to know what was going on in our brains when we become fans of something. We identified some things that were pretty interesting. First of all, we spoke with thousands of people about what they’re a fan of and we probed why are you a fan. If I were to boil down five years of research into one sentence, it would be people love to be a fan of something because they’re with likeminded people. It’s a human connection.

It’s a connection to people who are part of the same tribe where you know the same language. I’ve been to 75 Grateful Dead concerts, which is strange. I’m a fan of the Grateful Dead because I know their lingo and I can walk up to any other Grateful Dead fan at a show and have an instant connection. My daughter, Reiko, is into Harry Potter. Not only has she seen all the movies multiple times, read the books multiple times, but she also has written a 90,000-word alternative ending to the Harry Potter series with Draco Malfoy as the spy for the Order of the Phoenix. She put that on a fanfiction site. That’s a fandom.

We look at the idea of human connection around fandom specifically proximity. You may be familiar with Edward T. Hall, who did some cool work around proximity in the 1950s. He identified that there were four levels of proximity, of humans connected to one another. The furthest being so-called public space about twenty feet or further. You have social space from about four feet to twelve feet and personal space inside of four feet. It turns out the closer you get to someone, the more powerful the human connection. That’s hard-wired into us because our ancient brains need to know. It’s built into our DNA that, is this person nearby us a friend or is there a possible danger? Do I have to kick in my fight or flight mode? When someone is further than twenty feet away, we may know they’re there but we don’t pay that much attention.

For example, if you walk into a room, you can’t help the fact that you begin tracking all of those people in the room because your ancient brain needs to know, “Do I need to be worried about some of these people? Are they going to want to kill me?” Inside of four feet, cocktail party distance is a powerful human connection. If you know those people, you’re at a Grateful Dead concert together, for example, or it’s at a cocktail party where your friends or family members are. That’s a positive human connection.

TTL 645 | Creating Online Engagement
Creating Online Engagement: The pendulum has swung too far in the direction of superficial online communications in a time when we’re hungry for human connection.


It can be a negative feeling when you don’t know the people. For example, in a crowded elevator when you’re within the personal space of other people who you don’t know or a crowded subway car. For us as business people, the more we can get our potential customers together into our social and personal space or into the social and personal space of other customers, the likeminded people thing, that becomes incredibly powerful. As a prescription for fandom, based on neuroscience, how you can get people physically closer to one another is a very powerful concept.

You bring up so many interesting things and I was thinking of who your fans were, who wrote your reviews on your book. I’m a fan of Brooks & Dunn. I noticed you wrote a nice little blurb. A fan of Tony Robbins wrote your foreword. You want to be close to people who share similar likes and dislikes. I had interviewed Crusoe, the celebrity Dachshund, which came to mind as you were saying this because people are so obsessed as Dachshund lovers. He’s become a New York Times bestselling author from all this. We look for people who celebrate the same things that we do, whether it’s our love of dachshunds, country music or Tony Robbins. It’s important for companies to learn to be good at growing fans. Sometimes they have hidden messages on social media of what they’re trying to do. What do you think are some of the mistakes? Are there some things that they’re doing that they shouldn’t be doing to grow fans or if there’s something they need to do differently?

Specifically online, we identified some things that people are not doing well and some that they are doing well. I’d like to preface that with one more interesting aspect of neuroscience. Something you’re obviously familiar with. The concept of mirror neurons. Our brain will often fire when we see somebody do something as if we’re doing it our self. If I were to take a bite of a lemon, it’s tart. It makes my eyes scrunch up. My mouth gets scrunched up. My saliva starts to secrete. It’s a powerful thing to bite into a lemon. If you had seen me bite into that lemon, your mirror neurons would kick in. Maybe even listening to me talk about biting into a lemon. You may be tasting a little bit of lemon as well. That’s the power of mirror neurons.

That explains why when you go into a sad movie, you feel sad or a thriller movie, your heart starts to beat cause the mirror neurons are kicking in. Here’s what this means for us as we’re trying to develop fans in an online world. The more photographs and images you use of people, of you, of your employees, of your customers, of your partners, of your friends that are shot and cropped as if they’re in the personal space of those people. Going back to what we talked about, the closer you get to someone, the more powerful the shared emotion. That works in a virtual way too using photographs and videos. What most people do on social networks, they don’t effectively use photographs and videos.

For example, many companies’ websites use stock photos. They’re using photographs pulled out of a catalog to create their marketing. When they’re using social networks, they often don’t use real photos of people. We’ve found that simply using more photographs and more video on a website or on a social networking feed, crop as if you’re in the personal space, cocktail party distance is powerful. This also explains the selfie phenomenon. We believe that the humble selfie is incredibly powerful, yet it’s dismissed by lots of business people as being frivolous and for kids.

The humble selfie is a tool of fandom. Click To Tweet

When in fact a selfie is taken four feet away because that’s how long your arm is or less. You’re looking at the camera. You’re often smiling. There’s something cool going on behind you frequently. Many times, there are other people in that photo and that shows through these mirror neurons that those people are aligned with you. Because you’re looking at the camera, you feel as though you were aligned with them as well. That can be powerful. A humble selfie is a tool of fandom.

When you were talking about at the beginning of the lemon thing, it comes to mind. If you people yawn, you yawn, it’s an empathetic response. If you don’t, it’s almost like sociopathy of sorts because you don’t feel for what the other person is feeling. I love that explanation. When people are making these social media displays or whatever they’re posting, that explains a lot of why Instagram and some of these are so successful. You brought up some good ways that people could utilize it a little bit better. I’m not a big fan of the stock photography thing either. You bring it up for the corporation level. What about the employee level? You touched on that in your book.

It’s incredibly powerful to have employees be active in social networks for a variety of reasons. The first thing that we noticed, which was so strong. The concept is boiled down to a couple of words, courtesy of Reiko, my coauthor and it’s this, passion is infectious. I love the Grateful Dead. Reiko loves Harry Potter. When you’re passionate about the things you love, even if the person you’re speaking with doesn’t share that same passion, that passion is infectious and people feel drawn to you. This is one reason why it’s so important for business people, employees as well, not the executives, not the owners of the company, but all of us should be sharing on the social networks those things that we’re passionate about.

Many people are business people when they get online. They have a LinkedIn profile, which is just business. They may have a Facebook, but that’s for personal. They never let those two things cross. What we learned is that the more you share about your personal life, the more you share with us what are the things that you love, the more we are drawn to that passion. We spoke with a number of CEOs, who told us that one of the most important components and for some of them, the most important components of the ways that they hire people, promote people and drive their business is are those employees passionate?

We had one CEO we’ve spoke with who told us that in the interview process she asked a bunch of questions, but she gets down to what she believes to be the most important question she asks. If you were in a room of 2,000 people, could you confidently say, “You are the best dad.” What that question does is it gets people talking about the things they love, the things they’re passionate about, the things they’re good at and the answer itself doesn’t matter as much as how does that person articulate the things that they love. The people who answer that question and they light up. They get excited. They can’t wait to talk about this thing that they’re good at, this thing that they love. Those are the people she hires because they’re the ones who are more likely to be passionate about that company. They’re the ones that are most likely to develop relationships with customers based on the fact that they can develop a true human connection with them because they’re so passionate about some things in their lives.

TTL 645 | Creating Online Engagement
Creating Online Engagement: Humans are hardwired to appreciate a gift given without any expectations of anything in return.


That ties into a lot of my work with curiosity. I’m feeling compelled to buy tie-dyed gifts. You’re making me think about tie-dye a lot with all the Grateful Dead things.

Not everyone’s into the Grateful Dead, but they can accept the fact that I’m passionate about it. I’m a little bit too old to get into Harry Potter, but my daughter and her friends, one of the first things that when they start talking about Harry Potter, “What house are you in?” That’s important stuff for the Millennials. These things are powerful. We found that fandom isn’t something to be locked away and only brought out occasionally. Fandom is something that can and should be celebrated. The people you share fandoms with are among the best friends in life you have. Some of them, like my live music friends, I’ve had for many years. I’d been going to live shows with a group of people for many years. That’s powerful stuff.

It’s fun to find the groups with whom, depending on the people, you have something in common. I know I’ve got rock climbing friends. I’ve got gym friends. I’ve got different people who you share things in common. When you’re sharing things like in a social media aspect, whatever it is you’re sharing, it’s going to appeal to certain people. I’m thinking about how you were saying Facebook and LinkedIn, how we keep it separate. We don’t share a lot of things. I know there are a lot of haters out there. There are a lot of people that look and judge what you post. A lot of people limit what they post sometimes because they don’t want to look narcissistic or self-promoting. What do you tell people in that respect?

There are always going to be haters. First of all, it’s inevitable. We kicked off with this as part of the cold, cruel aspect of social networks. What we found is that people who are willing to share a little bit about their personal life generally have more engagement. I want to give you two quick examples. We spoke with a very well-known novelist. She’s known for novels in Europe. She’s got a popular Instagram. She’s focused on taking photographs throughout Europe of scenes, buildings and people from afar.

She learned this idea from us of things like selfies and close crop photos. She said, “I have never done a selfie before in my whole life. I’m going to do one.” She took a selfie of herself, pushed it out. She was so excited. She got back to me, “David, I can’t believe it. I’ve been doing Instagram for four years. This one selfie had the most engagement of any photograph I’ve ever put out on my Instagram.” It’s because people want to see a little bit about you and about who you are.

When you're passionate about the things you love, that passion is infectious and people feel drawn to you. Click To Tweet

The second example I want to share is a dentist, his name is Dr. Jon Marashi. He’s a dentist in Southern California. Originally, when he started speaking with us, he was doing images that every other dentist is doing, before and after teeth shots. You had the dirty crooked teeth and then they turn into the clean straight teeth. He’s a wonderful dentist and all the dentists do those same shots. I said, “What do you love to do, Dr. Marashi?” He goes, “I love to skateboard.” I said, “Do you have a family?” He said, “I’ve got two beautiful children.” I said, “If you’re willing to share a little bit about your family life, maybe some bit of skateboarding, combine that on your Instagram and not just have the pretty teeth versus the dirty teeth before and after shots. You may find, number one, that you like to post those things and number two, that it might help your business.” He did it.

On his Instagram, he started to post photos of him skateboarding. He posted some photos of his young family. Maybe family photos aren’t for everyone, but it was fine for Dr. Marashi and still does some of the dental shots. He has 13,000 followers on Instagram. He told me that 30% of his new patients come directly from his Instagram and other social networks. The reason is that if everyone is doing the same old thing and you’re looking for a dentist in Southern California, you go to the search engines and check out the different dentists. You see that one of them is this cool person who skateboards and has a wonderful family, that’s the one you’re drawn to.

He said, “It’s like magic, David. People get a little sense of who I am before they even walk to the office.” When they do walk into the office, he has skateboards hanging from the walls of his office. They say, “Yes, this is the guy. He’s into skateboarding.” Many of us believe the myth that you have to stick to your business and all work all the time. I believe that’s a myth. I don’t think it’s accurate. From speaking with hundreds of people who have successfully deployed this idea of showcasing their passions, that’s a powerful way of growing fans of your business, whether that’s you personally or the people who work for you.

What you’re writing about is so helpful to people at the corporate and individual level. I’m excited for this book to launch and it will be launched. It’ll be out there and everybody could find it. If they want to find you and they want to find your book, what’s the best way for them to reach you?

We’ve got a fun website at There is no registration required. We’ve got a bunch of information there, some videos and downloads. On social networks, I’m @DMScott.

TTL 645 | Creating Online Engagement
Creating Online Engagement: You can’t find new things if you’re always looking at things the exact same way.


It’s so nice of you to join me on the show, David. This was helpful. There are so many great stories in your book. I hope everybody takes some time to check out. He does write about Grateful Dead and a lot of others. Thank you so much, David.

Thank you, Diane. I love the idea that fandom is not for entertainers anymore. It’s for all businesses. Thanks for having me on.

You’re welcome.

Dealing With Failure With Fred Colantonio

I am here with Fred Colantonio who investigates behavioral patterns of a person within a group of people. After five years of practice, he quit Belgian Public Administration to start a consultancy agency. He has written seven books and four of them are bestsellers. Three of them are published both in Europe and Quebec. He’s delivered close to 1,000 keynote speeches in thirteen countries over three continents. It’s exciting to have you here, Fred, welcome.

Thank you, Diane. Thank you for having me.

People who can deal with failure in a positive way tend to view it as a badge of experience. Click To Tweet

I saw one of your TEDx Talks and I was very excited to have you on the show because I saw that you talk about a lot of things that interest me, including perception, fear and how fear can limit behavior. That is something that I like to work with organizations. You talk about perspectives and wrong assumptions and all that stuff is important to talk about. Before we get into any of that, can you give a little background on you? How many languages do you speak? I’ve seen your videos. Tell me a little bit more about you for people who maybe have not seen your work.

I will say three things. The first one is by the time we met and the time we are speaking now, baby book number eight is born and it talks about innovation. It could be translated in English at something like innovate anytime or almost anytime. It’s directly linked to the perception people have about either failure as you saw in the TED Talk or their ability to innovate. The second thing I want to share is that I speak only two languages and a half. I speak mainly French, which is my mother tongue. I try to do my best in English too. I speak a little bit of Italian because as you can imagine with the name I have. My parents and grandparents are Italian. The third thing I want to say is that my background is that I’m a criminologist. These are the studies I pursued here in Belgium and for several years, I worked with companies and brands to help them better understand people’s behavior and mindset. In many years, I’ve dropped the criminal part of behaviors. As I usually say, “I dropped the bad part of human beings to focus on the good part.”

You definitely are focusing on some of the things that are important to be successful and good. I liked that you studied criminology and sociology. That’s all fascinating as well. It’s all about the motives of why people do either good or bad.

What drives us and are there any patterns? Is there a way to understand and to get people to understand what motivates us and what leads us to have certain types of response to situations, to stress and to fear? The first three major books I wrote, the first one did good in Belgium, in France and Quebec. Those three books were about regular leadership based on a criminological study. I’ve studied the behavior and the mindset of great entrepreneurs. I said, “How can we get inspired by that? How can we take actions and how can we seek purpose through that?” I understood through these three books, conferences and business coaching that I did, that most people were stuck in a step before, which was at some point in their lives, they encountered failure. They have the motivation to do stuff, but the setback that they encountered makes them less powerful than it could be. I decided to focus specifically on the topic of failure. They have a few differences between probably the mindset in America and the mindset in Europe about failure and how we can deal with it.

How does the mindset there differ from here in the United States?

TTL 645 | Creating Online Engagement
Creating Online Engagement: People have to get rid of the myth of the genius who can bring an idea to life just by being hit with some divine inspiration.


From what I see and with all the people that I’ve met in the US, the basic common ground for all of us, and this is basic psychology, it’s worth mentioning it. As human beings, when we take a punch in the face, it’s hard for all of us. This is something that we tend to forget here in Europe because we see all the positive mindset that you guys in America have and carry. We have to carry on. We have to get ahead and we have to move on. Here in Europe, we tend to be more stuck with negative thoughts. To get back on track after we have to deal with failure is hard but on the opposite, people tend to think here in Europe that it’s easier for you to deal with failure, which is not the case because we are all humans. Do you confirm that?

I can hopefully confirm, but I’m curious about why that’s their perception.

I was born at the end of the 1970s. The generation I grew up with, we grew up with the Rocky Balboa mindset. The messages we are receiving from the US is that, “You have to fight hard and you have to work hard to get what you want. If you do, ultimately you will win or you will get there.” There’s this American spirit that says, “You have a failure. You fall, get up again. It’s not a problem. If you fall seven times, get up eight times and you will be all right.” The term is wrong. We envy you for that in a sense. What people don’t understand here in Europe is that basic psychology reminds us that when we have to face down everyone feels ashamed. The pain you can experience from failure is the same whether you are American, whether you are in Europe, you are human. The pain you feel, the stress and the despair you can encounter are all the same. Maybe in the US, you can get back on track more easily. Here in Europe, for example, if you take entrepreneurship, if you go bankrupt, you are on the blacklist in banks for years, which is not the case in your country.

Apparently not because a lot of people have failed and they could come back. There are ways of funding things other than banks now. I don’t know how much they use of that in the United States, Angel investors and different things to start over again. We’re seeing a lot of, “Fake it until you make it,” mentality in business to get people attracted to investing. If you failed in the past, it’s not so much of a bad thing if you have an idea that wows people.

In the entrepreneurial mindset, this is something that is remarkable. At some point, people who can deal with failure in a positive way tend to see failure as a badge of experience and not as a bad mark. This is something we have to work here in Europe.

If you want to live your life at some point, you have to try and experiment with things. Click To Tweet

I know that I’ve gotten to a lot of meetings where they talk about using failure as learning rather than something that’s a defeat that we should be so embarrassed by. It’s more of what can you get out of what you didn’t achieve this time and what could you have done differently and as a learning experience. That’s something that I’m seeing more in the Millennial and younger generations than we saw back with the Boomers. You can do things in a different way. It’s okay and that’s part of innovation. I talk about to be in innovation, you have to get away from status-quo thinking. You have to start thinking a little bit more about what we used to say outside the box and different expressions like that. You’re writing about innovation, which is what I’m working with too. I’m talking about building curiosity. If you build curiosity, it leads to innovation. I’ve had a lot of experts on my show who are motivation experts or whatever type of experts. When I asked them what comes first, they always say curiosity comes first. How important do you think curiosity is in innovation?

I would say something that is related to failure and that also relates to innovation. For the geeks who are reading, the safe mode only works for computers. If you want to live your life at some point, you have to try and experiment with things. It’s easier to say it and to do that, especially when you deal with failure or setbacks or when you are faced with things that don’t work the way you would want them to work. The first step for me that can trigger innovation is what I call transgression. It’s to start thinking or seeing things in another way than regular habits. You used to have about things, people and the process, whatever field you are looking at. When you accept that you have to transgress and see things differently, dealing with possible failure is a big part of that.

On the same path, curiosity is mandatory because you can hardly find new things if you always look at things in the same way. If you don’t take an object and turn it upside down to try to understand how it is built or how it’s working or try to figure out a new way to use it. If you don’t have curiosity in you, how do you expect to have a sparkling idea about innovation? Most people that I encounter are stuck with the myth of, “I have to wait for a good idea. I have to look at the window and be ready to jump on the idea.” What I learned about the mindset and behavior of great innovators is that most of the time, they are problem solvers. It’s a person like you and me that at some point in his or her life faced a problem or something that bugged her. He or she said, “If I have to do this my way, if I have to do this with the knowledge I have or with the lack of knowledge I have, how would I deal with it?” Most of the time this curiosity, which starts here can lead to great innovations. I’m not necessarily talking about famous ones, but I’m talking about innovation can transform a person’s life.

You brought up mindset. Carol Dweck’s work is so important in that area. I know you touched on that in your TEDx Talk about having an open mindset or the closed-mindset type of thing and where it will lead you. In innovation, it’s so important. Mindset comes into play when we talk about the perception of what we’re capable of doing, what other people are capable of doing. I find perception fascinating in the workplace because it ties into IQ, your EQ, your curiosity quotient, cultural quotient and all these different aspects of what it takes to work together in the working world. How does our perception of what we’re capable of or what other people are capable of impact our ability to innovate? You’re talking about innovating almost anytime. I’m curious if you deal with any of that in that book of yours.

I deal with it. In the book about failure, I talk mostly about individual impacts or perception. On the book about innovation, I talk about the team that we have to gather if we want to innovate. This is something that I learned for several years that I’ve been working with companies that innovate small ones, medium size and big ones. From the researches I’ve made on the topic, across Europe, North Africa and across Quebec, I had the privilege to witness when innovation goes on in a team. The perception is mostly based on teamwork where failure is most of the time based on individual perception. For failure, you have the dark side of failure and the bright side of it. It’s a personal work that you have to do on yourself to switch from one side to another. In innovation, people have to get rid of the myth of the genus who will bring an idea to life by being hit by the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t work like that anymore because whatever we have a deal with, the world we’re living in is too complex, too specialize and fast.

We need to work in teams. To innovate, the perception we have is about ourselves in a team. I worked on a quadrant of four types of personality we need to innovate. The first one is the creative mind. We have people around us whose major ability is to produce ideas. We have to have them in a team to innovate. If it’s not your strength, it doesn’t matter because there are three other types you can use. The second one is the adventurer. We need to have in a team somebody whose ability, major talent is to support an idea within all of them and to say, “This one we will try. This one we will focus on.” Most of the time, the real entrepreneur is the one who will try and will make the other ones focused on a specific idea. He or she already sees what it can become if it goes through all the processes of testing, learning, failing and doing it again and eventually succeed.

The third one we need to gather is the geeky profile. He’s the person who will know how to do the job technically. It’s not necessarily the type of person who has the original idea, but the tech one is the person who will know how to make it work and this is mandatory. This person has to have his mindset, energy, perception and focus on the goal. The last one is we have to have Mr. Skeptical in the room. It’s funny to say that because when I say that at conferences, most of the time people are surprised. I have to confess a little relieved when I say that Mr. Skeptical has a part to do in innovation. If you have the first three profiles, we are all a bunch of happy, crazy people who want to change the world. We need to have a realistic person who says, “How will we get there? How much will it cost?” All the questions that are meant not to stop the process, but to make it real. We have to make a distinction between Mr. Skeptical is Mr. Cynical. This one is the one who cut innovation. We don’t need the naysayers in an innovation process, but we need Mr. Skeptical. This is how I name it in English.

Which one are you usually in a team?

Most of the time, people think I’m the creative one. In companies, most of the time they pay me because they say, “You can open up our minds and you can help us generate new ideas.” They are misled. It’s not the type that I am because most of the time I work with companies, I don’t know a thing about their core business. I’m not a lawyer. I’m not an engineer. What I am, but I don’t say that to them is that I am the adventurer. I have them spot a good idea and have the courage to try and test it.

We’re all part of these things at some point. You’re not all or nothing in some respects. These types and I’m thinking which am I. A lot of people see me as more creative probably too, where I can see me being strong as the last three in some respects. I’m a do it personality. I’m trying to figure out how you listed this. In my mind, I was thinking as you’re talking about teams. I had Amy Edmondson on my show who’s famous here from her work at Harvard and her TED Talks about how they got the Chilean miners out from under that disaster. She talks about teaming versus teams. Teaming is more people who don’t know each other all thrown together quickly to solve somethings that maybe they don’t have the background. Do you have any amazing stories about some team situation that was super successful in terms of being innovative? It doesn’t have to be a disaster like the Chilean miners or anything like that.

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You are right, these are behavioral preferences. These are not all or nothing. It’s not for life. I use that all the time in companies. I say, “Guys and girls, you can be another type depending on the project. Maybe on a project, I will be Mr. Skeptical.” I would say, “I hear what you said but on this particular task, is it okay if you hire me but I play Mr. Skeptical because I see that you are already in the ‘let’s go for it mood?’ Can I be a little more careful for you? Is it okay?” What is important is not to switch within the same project or in the same task from a preference. If you are Mr. Skeptical on a project, you stick with this role. Otherwise, things can get a messed up. There are tons and tons of innovation stories and successful one. We can talk about the regular ones like Apple, Amazon and about stuff like that. I like to talk about a small company in Quebec. They build buildings for manufacturing factories.

It’s probably a teaming job more than teamwork because they were faced with two major problems. The first one is the lack of workers. In Quebec, the jobs are already full and there are more jobs to provide the people to do the job. They were faced with this problem. The other one is with the bad weather in winter, they had trouble to keep people in their job. What they did is that they decide to team up with other companies that were their customers. They tried to team up to say, “When we cannot employ our people because of the bad weather, is there maybe some job they can do on the inside? To paint stuff or to build walls, but not outside.” They build a network of partners and they are all clients of one another. The only thing that remains is the people. They have a job contract, which remains all year long. They can switch employers according to time in the year.

It’s the use of workers in a different way when it’s too cold outside that you can utilize people in their skills and everybody benefits?

They are using perception to do that. We have the perception that this guy has the values that matched with our companies or our brand’s value. We would like to know what can this guy do for us? We are in the painting industry. Can this guy help us with painting? Does he have the skills to paint? They make the workers work together like that and this is fun.

I like anything that’s like an efficient way of looking at what to do with people. That’s a great example. A lot of people would say, “It can’t be done.” They don’t think outside the box. That’s definitely thinking of a new way of doing things. I’m interested in your book because innovation is a hot topic. Everybody’s worried about how they’re going to be innovative, what they’re going to do with AI taking over, all the things that deal with innovation. I could see that this was a perfect time for you to write a book about that. A lot of people would be interested in knowing more about your work. Can you share a link or somehow, they can contact you if they want to find out more about what you do?

They can use my website, which is both in French and in English, which is In there, there are links of TEDx videos. If you type Fred Colantonio on LinkedIn, you will find me and I use it every day and all the time. This is how we got in touch. The books are not translated into English so far. As part of my innovation for 2020, one of them will be released as an eBook first but in English to see that if the message I carry can find some echo and people will find it interesting.

I could see your creative, adventurer, gather and skeptical thing taking off. A lot of people like to have assessments and things that determine what they are, their types and all that. It was so nice to have you on the show, Fred. This was fun. Thank you so much.

It was my pleasure. Thank you for having me.

I’d like to thank both David and Fred for being my guests. We get so many great guests. If you’ve missed any past shows, please go to Thank you for joining us. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About David Meerman

TTL 645 | Creating Online EngagementDavid Meerman Scott is an internationally acclaimed business strategist, entrepreneur, advisor to emerging companies, and a public speaker.

He is the author of ten previous books, including The New Rules of Marketing and PR (now in its 6th edition and in 29 languages) and Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead. His latest book is Fanocracy.

About Fred Colantonio

TTL 645 | Creating Online EngagementTrained as a professional criminologist, Fred Colantonio investigates behavioral patterns of a person within a group of people.

After 5 years of practice, he quit Belgian public administration to start a consultancy agency with the will to integrate psychology and human understanding at the heart of companies and their success.


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