Month: January 2014

Super Bowl XLVIII Facts in Two Cool Infographics you ready for some football? We are! So we’ve compiled and illustrated some fun Super Bowl XLVIII facts we hope you’ll enjoy.

Whether or not you’re a sports fan, it’s hard to ignore the annual “Big Game.” Oh, what the heck, we aren’t advertising, so we can say it… the Super Bowl. The larger-than-life contest held every year to determine the champion of the National Football League.

How big a game is it? Try a few of these tidbits on for size:

  • Nine of the top 10 highest rated TV shows in Nielsen history are Super Bowl games. The only party crasher? The final episode of M*A*S*H. About 112 million viewers are expected to tune into the game.
  • This year’s game will be broadcast on Sirius XM satellite in nine languages: English, Chinese, French, German, Hungarian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.
  • A 30-second television ad spot this year costs $4 million.

But enough with the bullet points. Let’s look at some cool infographics filled with all kinds of stuff you might not know about this year’s game and the history of the Super Bowl.

The Dirty Dozen: 12 Fun Super Bowl XLVIII Facts

Here’s an infographic with some fun facts and information about this year’s Big Game.

Super Bowl XLVIII fact sheet

  • If you’re a Broncos fan, here’s some good news: Las Vegas oddsmakers have Denver favored by 2½ points.
  • Some bad news for Broncos fans: Underdogs have prevailed in five of the last six and nine of the last 12 Super Bowl games, according to Vegas Insider.
  • The NFC/NFL has a 25-22 record vs the AFC/AFL in the first 47 Super Bowls, so history gives a slight edge to Seattle in that statistic.
  • Eight of the last 12 Super Bowl games have been decided by six or fewer points. This one looks like it could go down to the wire, too.
  • Do you have a last-minute itch to go to the Big Game? As of Wednesday, January 29, 2014 you could buy a single ticket on StubHub in the upper corner of MetLife Stadium for $1,679. Or get a 30-person suite on Level 3 for $686,720. Parking passes are extra – currently priced from $157.50 per vehicle.
  • According to US News & World Report, Denver and Seattle rank among the cities with the highest debt levels—topping out at over $26,000 per person (not including mortgages) in 2010. So if you’re a fan in one of those cities and you’re going to the Super Bowl game, you probably won’t help your hometown in that statistic.
  • Denver is the host team and will wear orange jerseys. The host team is 20-27.
  • Denver is 0-3 wearing orange jerseys in the Super Bowl.
  • Peyton Manning did not play for any of those three Broncos teams.
  • Best prop bet for Super Bowl XLVIII: How many times will Manning say “Omaha!”? Bovada has set the number at 27½ times. Over or under? Just so you know, he belted out the Nebraska city’s name 44 times against the Colts and 31 times against the Patriots in the two playoff games. Omaha is definitely feeling the love.
  • Want to take a flyer on a bet with really long odds? How about this one: Seattle OR Denver will score exactly two points in the game. This wager pays 2500/1. In other words, if you risk $1,000 and win, you collect a cool $2.5 million.
  • Disclaimer: We aren’t condoning gambling. That may be illegal, depending upon where you live. And you’d almost certainly lose your money, anyway. So consider these simply more fun Super Bowl XLVIII facts to know and tell.

Another Infographic Showing More Super Bowl Historical Facts

We love infographics. Here’s another sweet one:

Super Bowl facts infographic

Let us know what you think in the comments section below. And don’t forget, you can make your own infographics with SmartDraw. (Is that an ad? Nah, it’s a fact.)

Enjoy the game!

Reorganizing the Organizational Chart: An Idea Whose Time Has Returned

Why the Pyramid-Shaped Org Chart Might Be Obsolete does your org chart tell you? What does it tell your employees? Your customers? Is it merely a picture of jobs within a chain of command?

This wasn’t the original intent of the organization chart. It had a strategic purpose and was a real-time tool for management decisions. Today’s organizations can benefit enormously from that history. Reorganizing the organizational chart in this way might be an idea whose time has returned.

A railroad man named Daniel McCallum is generally given credit for creating the modern organization chart in 1854. But McCallum’s chart was not the top-down, pyramid-shaped design to which we’ve become accustom. That was later developed by Alfred Chandler, a Harvard professor. Chandler advocated a top-down hierarchical approach that consolidated power and control in top management. It looks something like this:


The Big Data Problem Existed 160 Years Ago, Too

Interestingly enough, McCallum’s org charts were created to combat a new issue facing management: too much information. According to an article by Caitlin Rosenthal published in McKinsey Quarterly, the growing use of the telegraph ushered in a new era of “big data.”

For management, trying to capture this information, process it into decisions, and get it into the right hands in the field proved an immense task.

Turning Management’s Thinking Upside Down

McCallum knew that trying to move this new mountain of data up and down a chain of command was inefficient. So he devised a new strategy: delegation of power at the local levels. The organization chart he developed took on the structure of a tree, as shown here.

NY-Erie-Org-ChartA more detailed view at the local level is shown below. McCallum knew that the supervisors here were nearer the action, had the most up-to-date information, and were best suited to make timely decisions.

NY-Erie OrgChart detailBut McCallum’s goal was not simply to decentralize everyday tasks and empower line supervisors to make real-time operating decisions. He also set forth a plan whereby they collected relevant statistics on a timely basis, such as cost per ton-mile and load per car. These were then delivered to upper management for use in analyzing business strategy and finding opportunities to improve results.

Nordstrom Inverts the Organizational Pyramid

Many organizations have long understood the need to put decision-making power in the hands of their people on the front lines. Upscale retailer Nordstrom is well-recognized for this practice. In fact, during the orientation of their newly hired associates, Nordstrom management gives them just a few basic instructions. One is to instill their hierarchy of importance, with customers at the top. This is shown in the sales funnel chart below.

Nordstrom-hierarchy-of-importanceDirectly below customers is the floor sales staff. Why? Because they are the ones who deal with the company’s most important people—customers—every minute of every day.

As a result, Nordstrom management gives these people authority to make customers happy with their shopping experience. This includes their very famous return policy (which isn’t, in fact, an actual policy). New sales associates are told to follow one simple rule: use your best judgment. (They are also told that one of the reasons they were hired was that they met Nordstrom’s exacting demands in this area.) This approach has clearly served the company extremely well from a customer relations standpoint.

Reorganizing the Organizational Chart: Place the Focus on Your Customers’ Experience

The “big data” issue has come full circle in the 160 years since McCallum designed his first org chart. Maybe it’s time to rethink things and re-examine the applicability of a more decentralized structure. Time to reorganize the org chart.

Many enterprises already operate this way, or at least in a manner that isn’t a rigid as the “command and control” pyramid. Perhaps, then, it just makes sense to put our view of the organization into a more practical visual structure. Here’s a rethinking of the traditional organization chart that was presented at the beginning of this article.

New-Org-ChartAs you can see, the org chart been inverted to more closely emulate the pattern of McCallum’s trunk-and-roots structure. It also adopts the Nordstrom paradigm, placing the importance of customers (and prospects) at the top of the hierarchy. Recognizing where these people touch the front lines of the company’s organization could be important in hiring decisions. It will also determine how the organization strives to empower them in the proper handling of customer relationships.

This thinking also gives the organization chart a higher purpose. Rather than being just a visual display of titles and a reporting hierarchy, the new org chart has a more holistic, strategic approach. It forces the entire enterprise to focus on providing the best possible customer experience, and aligns very nicely with Lean principals.

I recommend you read the article by Caitlin Rosenthal (linked below), which inspired this article.

Big Data in the Age of the Telegraph by Caitlin Rosenthal. McKinsey Quarterly, March 2013.

Crime Scene Mystery Contest following murder mystery can be solved from the clues contained within it. Can you identify the murderer, the victim, and the murder weapon? Bonus: How many song titles and artists can you name from the lyrics found in the text? (The total number of songs is also referenced in the story.)

Win a Free Copy of SmartDraw

Just comment below and/or share this story for a chance to win a copy of SmartDraw CI Enterprise Edition (our flagship edition—use it to make your own infographics or dozens of other types of visuals and diagrams). We will select a winner once this page hits 100 comments and shares.

Crime Scene

It was one of those nights. One of those crazy old nights. A hot August night with the leaves hangin’ down and the grass on the ground smelling sweet.

She’d come out of the sun in a silk dress, running. Like a watercolor in the rain. But now? Well… now she’s buying a stairway to heaven.

At that moment it struck me, hard. Like a blow to the breadbasket from a drunk in a bar brawl on buck-a-beer night. My addled brain was thinking in old song lyrics and it had to stop. Yeah it had to stop—in the name of love.

I knelt down for a closer look. She lay stomach down on the macadam, her arms almost akimbo. The half of her face I could see let me know that she was young; maybe a couple dozen birthdays young. And that’s how she was going to remain… forever young. A life that went by like dusk to dawn—isn’t that the way?

The ticking ten-dollar timepiece strapped to my wrist told me it was twenty-five or six to four. I tugged at the collar on my coat, hoping to somehow cover the sickness that slithered across my face like a snake trying to free itself from a layer of dead skin. Years of detective work never made moments like this any easier. Any night was a bad night for a murder, but this one was worse… much worse than most.

Wishing to avoid an unpleasant scene, I looked away. I tried to concentrate on my work. Waves of flashing lights from squad cars reflected rhythmically on the purple pool of blood like a lighthouse screaming danger! across a craggy shore. But this warning would come too late for the victim lying dead at my feet.

An officer named Davies ambled toward me. He was a human meatloaf with the kind of face that begged for someone to shoot out the lights. Suddenly I felt like flying away like a bat out of hell. But I have a job to do and I do it well. So I stayed just a little bit longer and listened to what the man said.

“Here’s what we’ve got. A glove, stained with blood. Found it in that dumpster by the gym—left hand.” The words ran across his bumpy lips like a rickety roller coaster on an old wooden track. “We recovered a second glove, right hand, over there in the grass.”

“No weapon?” I asked, not because I didn’t know the answer, but because I needed a break from the amplifiers ringing in my head. I smoked the day’s last cigarette, remembering what she’d said.

“Not yet,” he muttered, “but the boys are still combing the area.” With a beefy thumb he motioned toward the dark, empty cafe. “Forensics was able to lift a fingerprint from the blood stains they found in the john at the choke-and-puke. Looks like he came in through the bathroom window.”

“You mean she.”


“Lennon and McCartney. Beatles. Or Joe Cocker. Uh, never mind.”

“Um… all right. Well, whoever it was… the bathroom window was broken. Looks like that’s how he… or she… uh… it looks like that’s how the perp got in.”

GunThe night air was as thick as the blood gurgling through Davies’s pork-chop-and-gravy-infused arteries. It almost swallowed the announcement on his radio that they’d found a weapon—a handgun, thrown haphazardly into some bushes behind the coffee house.

“A Saturday night special,” Davies proudly proclaimed.

“Got a barrel that’s blue and gold,” I guess I sort of sang, unknowingly.

“You okay, Ed?”

“As okay as I can be with a dead woman, no witnesses, and a weapon that obviously wasn’t used to kill this girl.” I reached up and rubbed at the kink that was pounding in my neck.

“How do you know it wasn’t the murder weapon?”

“She wasn’t shot… in fact, she wasn’t even…”

I stumbled on the words, unable to complete my thought. I again tried to hide my face… to hide the secret about her that I knew. Suddenly, I wanted to glide down over Mulholland. I wanted to leave this world for awhile.

“It’s… she’s… you knew her, didn’t you?”

It was his use of the past tense that pierced my soul—the sort of pain that cuts like a knife. Knew. Yeah, I knew her. But now she’s gone. I’d met her in a club. Down in old SoHo. I remembered her dark brown voice… a voice that was now just a faded memory. Nothing more than dust in the wind. Why did these songs keep popping into my head? What did they mean?

I could feel it, coming in the air tonight. Then it struck me, much like that final, fatal blow upon her head. They were clues. The clues I needed to help me solve this murder. I studied the crime scene drawing that the boys in forensics had prepared. It was a thing of beauty, but it lacked one detail. A piece they had overlooked. The sort of detail that the wayward murderer had hoped everyone would miss. Something he thought I’d forget.

But rock and roll never forgets.


Okay, it’s your turn. Can you solve the mystery? Or write your own ending?

Comment below or share this story using one of the social icons below for your chance to win a free copy of SmartDraw CI Enterprise.

Have fun… and good luck!

SEO is Dead, Long Live Content Marketing

If you work in marketing, you’ve probably seen some variation of this headline in the last year. Just recently I came across the following articles in my Twitter feed: “Is SEO Dead?” and “Why Content Marketing is a Definitive Method for Success in 2014”, almost back to back.

Old school SEO practices have been declared dead so many times, you’d think they were some sort of zombie horde we’ve been trying to put down with head shots in order to make sure they don’t get back up to bite us.

But let’s be clear, content marketing is also SEO and at least some good SEO practices can help content marketing. Content marketing is what Google always hoped people would do when they wanted to build organic search traffic and talked of SEO. Create interesting and relevant articles, videos, and images and your audience will come. It’s the marketing Field of Dreams.

While the phrase content marketing may seem fresh, the concept has been around since people have tried to sell something or attract an audience. And if you’re in the business of creating content, you’ll want to make sure search engines can find it. It’s not about trapping people where they don’t want to be, but guiding them to the right place. Think of SEO like making the road signs to your museum of relevant art works. If you want people to see the Mona Lisa, you have to make sure they know how to find it and guide them when they come searching. SEO should not be a dirty word or a zombie you’re trying to put out of its misery, but a partner to more and better traffic.

SEO vs Content Marketing

Alternatively, think of SEO as the foundation your house of content marketing has to be built on. Now that you’re writing and creating amazing content, you still want to make sure titles are relevant, navigation is user friendly, and people can easily find everything you’re sharing. You wouldn’t want to build a $1 million dollar house on a crappy foundation.

SEO is the foundation for content marketing

But let’s get back to the marketing buzzword of 2014: content marketing. There are new studies, surveys, and polls released every day that indicate, without a doubt, that content marketing is on the rise and if you’re not doing it, you should be or, at the very least, you should be thinking about it.

Based on an Aol & Nielsen study, 23% of social media messages today include links to content. That’s about 27,000,000 pieces of content shared each day around the Internet. No matter what your industry is, you don’t want to be left out of that conversation.

And it looks like most marketing professionals agree. According to a recent eMarketer survey, in 2013, 34.8% of marketing professionals considered content marketing their top focus. That’s almost double 2012’s number of 18.9%. Similarly, in a recent report, Marketing Profs stated that 93% of B2B marketing professionals use content marketing.

But of course, you don’t have to do something just because everyone else is doing it. Perhaps you’d be more convinced by the results they’re getting.

  • Because 61% of consumers say they feel better about a company that delivers custom content, they are also more likely to buy from that company. (Source: Custom Content Council)
  • Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing, but delivers 3 times as many leads. (Source: Demand Metric)
  • B2B companies with blogs generate 67% more leads per month on average than non-blogging firms. (Source: Social Media B2B)

Below, I (not a designer) used SmartDraw to create a handy infographic to prove to you not only that we practice what we preach, but that visuals really do speak louder than words. I bet some of you didn’t even bother reading all this and have just skipped straight to the big, colorful obelisk of graphical information in this article. I could be revealing next week’s winning lottery tickets in these paragraphs and you’d be missing it because it wouldn’t be in eye-catching chart form.

Content Marketing Infographic

How can SmartDraw help you? Statistics have shown over and over again that people like visuals better than words. Photos get more clicks, videos get more views. and so on. See for yourself in our Visual Communication infographic.

We at SmartDraw believe in visuals. We make it our business to make creating visuals easy, so you can add them to your own presentations, articles, and content marketing pieces.

In this coming year, we hope to continue to provide you interesting, relevant content to help you succeed in whatever you’re doing whether you’re a project manager, a fellow marketer, software engineer, or an entrepreneur. If you think of a topic you’d like us to cover, feel free to mention it in the comments or drop us a line.

Infographic: Why Visuals Communicate Better than Words at SmartDraw, we’ve been saying it (and practicing it) for years. To reach your audience more efficiently and effectively, visuals communicate better than words.

This isn’t just an opinion. Take a look at some facts:

  • Your brain processes visuals 60,000 x faster than text.
  • Photos on Facebook generate more “likes” and “shares” than text, video or links.
  • New and different information is easier to remember when it is presented visually, rather than in text format.
  • Ninety-three percent of communication is nonverbal.
  • Sixty percent of people are visual learners.
  • Publishers who use infographics realize an increase in traffic of 12% over those who don’t.
  • Pinterest generated more referral traffic for business than Twitter, Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn combined.

Maybe this infographic says it more efficiently and effectively than the above text. Do visuals communicate better than words? You decide.


15 Things You Absolutely Have to Know Before Buying a House US housing market is officially in full recovery. How do I know this? Well, just take a look at a few headlines:

2014 Housing Outlook: Home Prices Head Higher” – Kiplinger

I Wasn’t Going to Buy This House Until I Saw the Realtor’s Headshot on the Sign” – The Onion

Housing Recovery Seems Still on Track” – New York Times

Looks like it’s time to go house hunting. Even Forbes is touting the housing recovery. Check out its list of best cities for investing in housing in this infographic.

Top 20 US Housing Markets 2014

Here are a couple more headlines:

Higher Interest Rates Will Slow Housing Market Growth in 2014” – Washington Post

Hold on there… What was that?

The Housing Market is Still a Drag on the Economy—But Why?” Los Angeles Times

Hey, wait a minute. I thought I was buying a house. What happened to the housing recovery?

Not to worry. Here are 15 things you absolutely, positively have to know if you’re buying a house—whether it’s in 2014 or years from now, housing recovery or not.

  1. Don’t pay attention to the national news media.This doesn’t just go for buying a house; this is a generally good idea.
  2. Don’t pay attention to Realtor® ads. “Now is the time to buy” is their pitch. This isn’t financial advice, this is marketing. Understand their motivation. They have to sell houses to make a living. Don’t get me wrong—I would never buy or sell a house without a Realtor®. They are very good at this. Use them to sell your house (or to help you buy… after you read this post in its entirety). But do not use them for financial advice.
  3. Don’t pay attention to people who say “a home is an investment.” If you’re buying a house to live in, then it’s not an investment. It’s a home. Buy it because you love it and want to live there and, above all, can afford it. If it goes up in value and you end up with a ton of equity… Yahtzee!
  4. Consider the costs of owning versus renting. In some cities (like here in San Diego), you can rent a house for half or less what it would cost you to own it. Or, conversely, you can probably rent something larger or in a ritzier neighborhood than you can afford to buy.
  5. Consider ALL of the costs of owning versus renting. The landlord isn’t going to fix that leaky roof or broken vanity or mow the grass or trim the trees for you any longer. Make sure you factor in costs of maintenance, repairs and replacement (and some of the things you’ll have to replace are expensive – like roofs and furnaces and windows, oh my!).
  6. Consider the benefits of owning versus renting. There are some really good things about owning. No landlord to deal with. No more rental rate increases. Want to paint the walls or do a kitchen remodel and replace the dishwasher that sounds like a 747 taking off? Want to yell at the kids to get off your lawn? Go ahead… it’s your lawn.
  7. Does the price seem too good to be true? That bargain-basement price may look enticing, but tread carefully. Chances are it’s priced low for a reason… or for many reasons. Do your homework before buying. Only TV house flippers buy cheap broken-down houses sight unseen, compound problems with a boatload of bad decisions, and then make a whopping profit at the end of the show. See No. 11 below.
  8. You’ve heard the expression, “location, location, location?” Best real estate expression ever. Pay attention to it, because it’s true. Good neighborhoods tend to stay good or get better. Bad neighborhoods get worse. Don’t buy in a declining neighborhood, no matter how good the price looks.
  9. Never, ever, ever, buy the biggest or most expensive house in the neighborhood. Unless you’re a gazillionaire like Bill Gates. Then do whatever the hell you want.
  10. Don’t buy just for the “tax advantages.” There are also a lot of costs of owning that aren’t tax-deductible and that you won’t face if you rent.
  11. Let’s talk about house flipping! Those house-flipping shows can be entertaining, but they aren’t telling you all the facts. Trust me—there is absolutely no way people who are that stupid are making money on every deal. It’s really, really hard to make money flipping houses but it’s really, really easy to get burned.
  12. What to do if you don’t have a six-month cash reserve. Here’s what to do if you can’t afford to keep at least six months worth of house payments in a cash reserve: Ready? Here goes: Don’t buy a house!
  13. Famous last words: “If anything goes wrong, at least I have insurance.” Don’t assume all problems will be covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy. Insurance companies put a lot of exclusions in policies. Check these out and understand your coverage… and your risks.
  14. Let’s talk about that nice lady driving you around to look at houses. Did you know that “your” real estate agent may not be working for you? It’s wise to use a real estate agent, but make sure to sign a buyer’s agency agreement (giving you the option to cancel at any time). If you don’t, the Realtor® is most likely working as a subagent of the listing agent, meaning she is working for the seller. It’s not her fault. It’s how agency law works.
  15. Don’t get in over your head. Life is too short to work multiple jobs and get all stressed out over a house you can’t afford to own. If you aren’t sure whether you can afford it, put it off and rent. But don’t overspend on rent, either. In the immortal words of Bobby McFerrin… “Don’t worry, be happy.”

10 Ways to Kill Your Strategic Plan new year is a great time for re-thinking your organization’s strategy. But all strategic plans are not created equal.

Successful strategic planning involves awareness and avoidance of common, critical mistakes that doom many plans to failure.

Here are 10 reasons most strategic plans fail to produce results. Avoid these pitfalls and you’ll be on the road toward developing a successful strategic plan.

1. Lack of Commitment

Having a valid, executable strategic plan is in everyone’s best interest. But it is crucial to get buy-in from leadership throughout the organization. Without this shared vision and commitment, even the best strategy is unlikely to succeed.

2. Failure to Involve Key People

Who are the right people in the strategic planning process? The simple answer is anyone who is crucial to setting forth the company’s vision as well as those responsible for carrying it out. Having all of the key stakeholders involved in planning helps ensure team commitment.

A mind map allows everyone involved to visualize the strategic planning process

3. Thinking Too Small

Strategic planning is intended to focus on high-level thinking. What is the organization’s vision? Is the mission clearly defined? Strategic planning is the time to set audacious goals. Keep thinking big. Forget about the details for now. Make sure to give priority to those major, over-arching issues critical to the organization’s success.

4. Failing to be Honest

Assess your situation with complete honesty in your SWOT analysis.

It’s easy to see ourselves as we want to be seen, or how we envision ourselves down the road. But it is absolutely crucial to make a real, honest assessment of internal and external issues as they exist today. This may even involve bringing in one or more third parties. But without an accurate assessment of where you are, your strategic plan will be flawed.

5. Failure to Consider Reality

Changing forces, both inside and outside of an organization, require you to constantly assess what is happening around you. Management teams must be acutely aware of these forces. Assess how they affect the organization, its markets, its customers, and its future.

6. Unwillingness to Change

It is crucial to constantly assess and adapt to change. A good plan yesterday may no longer apply today. Successful leaders must be nimble and ready to adjust with change, rather than fight against it—or even worse, ignore it.

Convert your strategy map into a Gantt chart to set timelines and assign tasks (you can do this with one click in SmartDraw).

7. Failure to Set Goals

A good strategic plan sets forth a vision, but also provides a working framework within it. Make sure that goals and milestones are set, and develop a timeframe for achieving them.

8. Failing to Put the Plan into Action

If you don’t put your plan into action, then you are just wasting time. As Jack Welch said, “In real life, strategy is very straightforward. You pick a general direction and implement like hell.”

9. Lack of Accountability

It’s pretty simple. If no one is held accountable, nothing gets done. Putting the plan into action is only the beginning. To make sure things get done, assign areas of accountability to specific people. Share the plan among the entire team, so all members are openly held accountable.

Share your plan with the team so everyone can stay on task to see it through to fruition.

10. Failure to Monitor and Follow Through

Set regular intervals for formal review of the strategic plan and action items. Most strategic planning experts suggest this be done at least on a quarterly basis.

Start Developing Your Strategic Plan Now

If you don’t have a strategic plan, or if you have one that isn’t working for you, now is the time to get on track. To help guide you, download our free white paper.

Strategic Planning white paper-SmartDraw
Click to download the free white paper.