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Motivation By Pizza Is Craptastic Management

Angry Pizza

I’m here to motivate you.

What moves you to do your best work? To be your best self?

Does it come from an internal drive built on pride and desire for improvement?

Or does it come from appreciation, encouragement, and kudos from people around you? Maybe it’s the promise of a reward. A couple recent studies seem to indicate that pizza and a kind word from the boss provide the motivation we need to be fully engaged and awesome.

If we’re to take this research seriously, then it appears we have come to put a greater weight on outside, extrinsic motivation

Sorry, but that’s screwed up.

But it’s understandable. We’ve been trained into this mindset since childhood. From parents, teachers, and other adults, we heard such things as:
“You’re such a smart girl”
“I’m proud of you.”
“That was great work.”
“Here’s your gold star.”

From these seemingly innocent statements, we gradually learned that our goodness and value came from someone or somewhere else. So unless you were a little hell raising rebel who gave society the middle finger, you likely spent a good bit of time to seek out and earn praise from people we saw as authority figures. (Full confession: I was a born pleaser so I fell hard into the latter category.)

We’re grown up now, but has anything changed? Do we still not chase extrinsic rewards in the form of job approval, public accolades, and awards? Do we still not chase those digital white rabbits of clicks, followers, and likes?

When were we ever taught to take charge of recognizing our own value and claiming it with both hands?

The problem is that when we wait for those extrinsic rewards before we feel we can claim our value, we may find ourselves hanging out there for a long time with little to show for it.

And that’s what’s wrong with the modern workplace. All to often, we expect (demand?) to find our happiness there or else it’s a shitty organization. I’m not saying you don’t work in a shitty organization but in the process of playing the waiting game, we put our happiness and sense of value in the hands of others. And some of these folks may not deserve such an honor.

We are now at an inflection point in the modern history of work. If we want to be happy and fulfilled and fully embrace the soul of our work, we have to go get it ourselves. Waiting patiently while hoping for a pat on the head or the promise of pizza from the boss can no longer cut it.

Understandably, we’re all human so we do desire some degree of extrinsic motivation and appreciation. We want to know that others see and hear us. But it becomes unhealthy when that desire becomes all-consuming and tunes out what our inner voice says.

If we want to be happy in our work, it starts inside each of us. We need to start learning how to say:
“I’m proud of the effort I put into this project.”
“I know that my work has value”
“I love who I am.”

And if we want more fulfilling workplaces, it has to start by helping each of our employees recognize their own value first…then openly appreciating that value second.

Your play:
Stop waiting for someone else to provide your motivation and define your value. What will you do in the next seven days to claim your best self?

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The Myth of Fit

Bob Sutton is one of my heroes. This excerpt gives some indication why:

Does your interview decision-making process end something like this?

I like this candidate. She fits our organization. She’s like us.

If so, it’s time to take a good look at the organization you’re building. In this day and age, do you truly believe the best way to succeed is going to be hiring like-minded people with like-minded outlooks and like-minded skillsets? If so, tell me how the view at the bottom looks. Because here’s the brutal truth: it’s not the like-minded individuals that grow and transform business in this maelstrom. It’s the counter-thinkers, the revolutionaries, the courageous souls who throw all the usual bullshit out the window in order to make room for ideas that transform.

Bob Sutton – Weird Ideas That Work: How to Build a Creative Company (p 11)

How many organizations use their “corporate culture” like a cudgel, bludgeoning and cramming every employee into a narrowly defined sense of what fits the executives’ idea of success? Its always couched in a way that makes it seem like its the best course of health for the business…but is it? For every Zappos that might get it right, there are countless other organizations that flail about with yet another way to control their employees.

Is the notion of corporate culture that’s paraded about today beneficial? Or does it lead to a form of necrosis that threatens the future welfare of the enterprise? Unlike organic cultures, corporate cultures rarely evolve. Instead, they become entrenched, just one more thing that gets added to the mentality of this is the way things have always been done.

What if there’s a different way of understanding culture? Of creating a better workplace that is not only successfully groomed for the future, but humanizes the organization?

As you get ready to enter 2010, take a good, hard look at whether your “corporate” culture is growing and transforming your business. Or if it’s creating Stepford-like employees who think and act alike, now is the time to make changes to your people practices.

It’s okay to embrace values to define your organization, but not at the expense of insisting each and every employee conforms to a top-down, highly limited idea of corporate culture. Stop seeking out and creating clones. Let your employees bring their whole selves to work even if parts of those selves conflict with your notion of “fit.”

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I Am Your Manager Now Listen To Me

In an organization, nothing starts a mad fit of eyerolling and quizzical looks among employees quite like management decrees. It’s not unlike the images we have of royal decrees being issues in olden times. From atop his tower, the king stands before his subjects and issues proclamations that often have little positive bearing on their lives (e.g., your taxes will be increased because I want to fight a war in a land you’ve never heard of – or – this is your new queen, now bow down and worship her). But hey…he’s the king and do any damn thing he likes because he’s the king (including repressing the local peasants who disagree with his claim to allmighty power).

Management decrees (oh alright, if it makes you feel better we’ll call them “decisions”) often come from the same thinking: “This is a good decision from my vantage point and employees will just need to accept it.” These decisions don’t need to be weighed against whether they make sense to the employee, whether they mesh with their day-to-day experience, whether they make their working lives easier. The employee is supposed to follow the orders because the individual proclaiming them is their king boss.

For a more modern day example, CNN reports the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs are seriously contemplating the idea of creating a tobacco-free military. At a surface level, it sounds honorable and makes sense since so many VA hospitals cope with the fallout of tobacco-related illnesses. But dig a little deeper and it shows the same misguided thinking that is the hallmark of one-way managerial decision-making: As your boss, I know what’s best and while I may pretend to care about what you think, I really don’t care enough to listen. If the Pentagon did listen, these are the things they might actually hear:

“When you’re tired and you’ve been going days on end with minimum sleep, and you are not getting the proper meals on time, that hit of tobacco can make a difference,” said Gen. Russel Honore, who was in charge of the Army’s training programs before he retired.

Other soldiers questioned whether this was a good time to stamp out smoking, given the Army’s concern with a high suicide rate. “For some, unfortunately, they feel that smoking is their stress relief. Well if you take it away, what is the replacement?” said Sgt. 1st Class Gary Johnson.

(Note: Let me say that I’m not advocating smoking or tobacco use. I enjoy an occasional cigar with friends, but also fully know the health risks. I’ve had my share of relatives who’ve dealt with the connected illnesses such as cancer and emphysema. But if you haven’t noticed, this blogpost isn’t about tobacco…it’s really about the hubris of managerial decision-making.)

There is something to be learned from getting out from behind the desk, the clinical wording of studies and the blind paternalism that passes for managerial decision-making. Demanding and decreeing change will likely get you nowhere at best; it might just cost you respect and influence among your employees. Bring your people into the decision-making process and learn how decisions will interplay with their daily working reality. Your decisions will be more relevant and your chances of having filth flung at you during company meetings will be lessened.

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Don’t Hype Your Employee Branding…Make It Real

Earlier this week, Michael Arrington at TechCrunch managed to get his mitts on some rather juicy inside information from Google. Turns out that the tech darling isn’t the career paradise that it’s been made out to be. For all the gushing that us outsiders did over their innovative benefits and employment practices, perhaps it was all just hyperbole. From the post:

One message stands out though in most of the posts – employees thought they were entering the promised land when they joined Google, and most of them were disappointed. Some of them wondered if it meant they were somehow lacking. One person sums it all up nicely:

“Those of us who failed to thrive at Google are faced with some pretty serious questions about ourselves. Just seeing that other people ran into the same issues is a huge relief. Google is supposed to be some kind of Nirvana, so if you can’t be happy there how will you ever be happy? It’s supposed to be the ultimate font of technical resources, so if you can’t be productive there how will you ever be productive?”

There are some cautionary lessons to be extracted from this if you’re not only on the hook for your organization’s employer branding but employee engagement.

The reality doesn’t match the expectation. This is a failure of the brand to deliver the expected experience. Consumers rail against companies that deliver poor brand experiences, particularly when the brand has been hyped to the nth degree (e.g., Chevrolet, Sprint, Microsoft Vista). So, why does employer branding get a relatively free pass?

Individuals wanted to work for Google because it was supposed to be different than the norm, had innovative benefits, promoted a fun workplace, etc., etc. Turns out that maybe these were a clever facade masking a workplace and company that were just humdrum. If you want to sell the sizzle, that steak better not come out limp and soggy.

Professional failing is personal failure. It pisses me off when I hear stuff like this. Why? Because there’s a hellacious management problem here that no one is apparently trying to resolve. If a manager is going to wear the big hat and call him- or herself a leader, they better start with making sure that their people are getting what they need to be – and feel – successful. If an employee is struggling with their work, you better believe that’s likely going to get internalized as a “personal” problem. It’s a one-way ticket to not only poor engagement but a morale freefall.

When the going gets tough, uniqueness gets crushed. Yeah, I know…it’s tough out there for business. I get it. Now get over it. Everybody’s impacted so don’t think for a second that you’re special (hell, even Microsoft is laying folks off). So rather than curl up in a ball do something that none of your competition is likely thinking about right now: become even more unique and remarkable. Trust me, your competitor is hoping you’ll lay low like them. Instead, do something that will make their management wet themselves. Actually engage in employer branding. Build a workplace model where the people you have are doing their best not because they’re scared to death they’ll lose their job tomorrow if they don’t, but because they genuinely care about their work and their organization. Go out and look for the talent that’s looking for a place to make a difference (there’s plenty of good folks out there now).

Don’t waste this perfectly good opportunity. Be a leader, show some guts, and build something special when no one else appears to be doing it.

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Five Steps To Make Employees Your Best Brand Ambassadors

The modern concept of branding and word-of-mouth-marketing focuses primarily on getting customers to become raving fans and talk positively about a company to their friends and colleagues. In the past few years, this focus has come to also include the value of getting employees to be raving fans of their own company, to speak openly and honestly about their company’s virtues, and to share their pride for their own and the company’s work. The thinking goes that if a company employs happy and satisfied employees, then that adds to an overall positive reflection of the company brand.

Yeah, but what does this have to do with non-profits…or maybe more importantly, how does this help you achieve your organizational mission? I’d like to argue that your own staff is the critical, yet underdeveloped, edge you need to meeting your fundraising, advocacy, and other goals. You have powerful resources that extend far outside of your own marketing department. Here are five steps in figuring out how to use them.

1. Know your internal broadcasters.
Your staff can be roughly divided into two groups: consumers and broadcasters. Consumers take in content through various channels like newspapers, blogs, and websites. Broadcasters do all of this and also create the content. They’re your bloggers, Twitterers, Facebookers, Plurkers, etc. They’re the ones who are connecting with others far outside your particular marketing focus. They’re the ones you want to build your employee brand ambassador program around.

2. Reward your broadcasters.
Broadcasters live for information. They want to know all the cool and worthy initiatives that are going on in your organization and be able to share that information with others. Don’t be shy about opening access and sharing this valuable information. And ask for their input and insight into how to penetrate your organization’s messages deeper into your target communities and wider into new areas.

3. Allow for creativity.
The social media space and branding world evolve at a rapid pace, which means that your dedicated and passionate broadcasters tend to live at the cutting edge. Don’t make the mistake of binding them or restricting their platforms. Innovative social media broadcasters are always finding new ways to use current tools. And for every one of today’s Twitters and Facebooks, there are several undeveloped tools waiting to be created and used.

4. Show them how to recruit other staff.
Broadcasters shouldn’t be an exclusive clique within your organization. Help them create more broadcasters and new brand ambassadors. Ask them to do “lunch and learns” about social media. Create knowledge sharing orientations to help them discuss their brand ambassador work when asked by others in your organization. The objective isn’t necessarily to get 100% of your staff involved in social media and branding…instead, show that every individual has an opportunity to contribute.

5. Keep an eye on the relationship.
I can imagine one objection or question that may be sitting at the tip of your tongue: how do we make sure that our broadcasters don’t put the organization or our formal branding work in jeopardy? The simple answer is that you can’t and the brutal truth is that you no longer have total control over the message. Sorry…those days are long gone, which is why #5 is so important.

It may seem obvious, but in order for your staff to speak openly, authentically, and enthusiastically about your organization, they need to be in a positive relationship with your organization. That means being focused on your staff’s level of engagement with their work and tapping into the pride your staff has working for your organization and it’s mission.

If your organization has had great results from cultivating organization-wide brand ambassadors, what’s your story? Share the wealth in the comments below.

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Being Transparent Or Inviting Your Customers Into The Kitchen

There’s some spirited debate brewing around the idea of transparency and its benefits to customer service. Is it best to let the customer be ‘blissfully unaware’ of the company’s processes (essentially how it works)? Or is it better to allow them into the kitchen to see how everything is cooked? I argue strongly for the latter. When you share how your organization works on a big picture level, you welcome customers into a deeper relationship. This openness fosters trust and trust creates a solid foundation for long-lasting partnership. Okay, so those are pretty lofty ideals. What are the more down-to-earth benefits of being transparent?

The Argument
The argument for letting customers be ‘blissfully unaware’ isn’t a bad one. Some customers simply don’t care to know how a company is going to solve a problem or execute on a request. They just want to know that they are being taken care of by the organization. The argument only becomes misguided when you assume that all customers don’t care to know about how things are getting done. Instead, let’s err on the side of giving each customer an invitation to step out of the dining room and into the kitchen. We’re not demanding, we’re allowing them to decide for themselves just how much or how little they care to see and understand. Here’s my hunch: that number of customers who do want to know will be far more than you expect.

The other, older argument has been that if you offer a transparent process to the client you’ll be taking the mystique away from the business. If that has been your unique selling point and competitive advantage, then it’s time to overhaul your service philosophy. The age of instant and voluminous information has disrupted and demolished that model. Like it or not, customers want to know what you are doing to help them solve their problems and add value to their experience. And if we want to continue to think of our relations with customers as partnerships and do it in good faith, then openness is no longer an option, but a necessity.

Benefits to Your Customers
Among the benefits of being transparent with your company’s processes and ways of getting things done is that it creates more knowledgeable customers. In the June issue of the Harvard Business Review, Simon Bell and Andreas Eisingerich report on their research connecting client education to client satisfaction and overall client success in the financial services sector. They recommend creating a more “porous organizational boundary” and give client-facing employees the time and autonomy to explain how the firm does business, gain insight into clients’ own knowledge base, and then help clients acquire firm-specific expertise.

Bell and Eisingerich also note that more knowledgeable clients are more prepared for meetings and other interactions. With a more detailed and nuanced understanding of the firm’s workings, the client is more capable of connecting his or her needs to how it can get done. Again, it cultivates a partnership between client and service provider…one where the relationship is more important than the process itself. If your company works with non-profits, I can’t overemphasize the importance of developing a trusting relationship with the client.

Benefits to Your Internal Staff
Those a couple of the benefits connecting organization to customer. However, these cannot happen until the company’s own internal operations are clarified and ready to be made fully transparent. How many executives quake in their bruno magli wingtips at the thought of having their processes opened to the light of day and client scrutiny? All the reason to do it. If you’re scared silly about exposing how you do business, ask where that fear comes from. Do you have good process or is it a disconnected shambles that manages to hide its ugliness through a mask of ‘just get it done’? Unless you have great process that’s the industry standard, opening your operations to the outside is just the impetus to clarify, streamline, and document it.

Sounds great, but how will employees take to having clients in the kitchen? It’s likely to make them nervous if they’re not accustomed to this way of doing business. However, consider the more recent trend in restaurants of bringing the kitchen out into the dining area (or maybe not so recent…Benihana has been doing it for a while). When I was sketching this idea out in my head last week, I happened to eat at a local Carrabba’s Italian Grill. There the majority of the cooking and grilling is done in an area that’s easily viewable by restaurant patrons. Want to watch them grill your Chicken Marsala? You’re welcome to do it…or not. They leave that choice to you. But by bringing the kitchen to the customer, each chef is now accountable to each other and to their patrons. Can’t get away with dropping a steak on the floor and then putting it back on the grill. Again, here’s my hunch: the number of employees who want to have better processes and more accountability are more than you think.

Check, Please…
It’s time to shed the notion that the organization’s processes, systems, and overall operations can be kept in a black box. Transparency isn’t just a buzzword to impress clients, investors, and employees. It’s something that when committed to doing and doing well, will raise your business to another level. With so many other companies out there who choose to maintain their ways of doing business under the cloak of “proprietary knowledge,” being open might just be your unique competitive advantage. In the end, even if others in your industry follow suit and open their own kitchens to the outside, it’s just a better way of doing business

From Bailey WorkPlay, first published July 31, 2007

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This Is The Perfect Opportunity To Recreate Business

In the Fall 2008 edition of the OD Practitioner [membership required], Peter Block writes a provocative article entitled Nothing is Next where he explores emerging trends in organizations. Block is one of the chief influences (along with Meg Wheatley and Bob Sutton) in my own work and he doesn’t disappoint here. One of the trends he highlights is Fearful Employees.

In a world of increasing consolidation and lessened customer choice, employees have been commoditized. Workers are treated as costs, not assets. The faster we can automate processes, outsource functions and send questions to a website, the happier we are. It is cost effective, but has created widespread insecurity so that people are as afraid of their bosses now as they were forty years ago when I began this work.

I had thought that when team building, larger group methods, decades of employee involvement and the results gained by the quality movement had become mainstream and part of the common knowledge, we would care more for our employees. I would have expected we might have reduced the social distance between levels. We would act as partners in our relationship with the boss. We would feel the place we work is where we belong. I don’t see it, maybe I am missing it, but the alienation and caution people feel about the workplace seems too painfully common.

He surfaces a disappointment that I think is shared by many who care about improving workplace dynamics and employee engagement. And it’s exacerbated now with the economy the way it is. Companies are in full survival mode with their focus squarely on managing through the short-term. Nothing wrong with that in principle; it would be irresponsible to not act on current business conditions. However, when does action merely become reaction? Was all this talk about employee empowerment and engagement just a bunch of crap, conditional on sunny economic conditions? Time to go back to the comfortable business basics of last century?

The real question that organizations of all types need to ask right now is…what is the opportunity in front of you right now to (re)create a business that changes the relationships with employees and customers?

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The Subtle Art Of “Endiscouragement”

This idea and plan for Endiscouragement is not mine, but I wish it was. It comes from David Donathan at University Business (via LibraryBytes). David’s article is called Stifling Initiative and it proposes ten never-fail ways to kill innovation without actually saying “no.” With tongue firmly planted in cheek, he describes the reason why this is a practiced skill for managers:

Unfortunately, there are always those who just don’t get it. You know-those who think organizations need to adapt to remain competitive, that change is good and results in greater efficiencies, that failure to adapt to “modernalities” is evil and counterproductive. Since they usually mean well and truly believe they are trying to improve our situation, we don’t want to cull them from the herd (besides, who wants the hassle of trying to break in the newbie?). It usually suffices to discourage these people to the point that they fall in line and stop agitating. How do we get them to stop? How do we encourage the status quo without driving them to leave? I call this unique program “Endiscouragement: The Fine Art of Encouraging No Change Without Being Perceived as a Naysayer.” It has ten simple rules, which, if judiciously applied, will gradually lead the agents of change to conform to the culture of no that we are so carefully trying to preserve.

My personal favorite is #6: “Have you talked to … about it?”

While similar to rules 2 and 3, this rule is more nefarious in that you have appointed the agent of change the instrument of her own endiscouragement. The agent of change will wander from one overworked, disinterested employee to another as each key person refers her to someone else who needs to be “in the loop before I can help you.” Eventually the agent of change will be locked into a self-instigated merry-go-round of eternal meetings. Best of all, she will be so busy trying to deal with all the meetings for her proposal that you will be able to call her to task for not being attentive to her job.

The sad thing is that most of these rules are practiced in organizations not out of maliciousness or Machiavellian cunning, but out of a simple (and usually unconscious) belief that this is how the corporate world operates. Which leads me to a couple of related questions:

What does your organization do to encourage dynamic innovation at all levels? What does your organization do to stifle innovation? If you want to truly engage your employees, your answers will lead you to some interesting conclusions.

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At Connection Cafe: Bring Your Staff Into Your Community

Here’s my latest blogpost over at the Connection Cafe

Yesterday, Lacey wrote about how to engage folks who are interested in volunteering for organizations. It’s a great segue into another area that I find lacking in most nonprofit websites: staff and organizational employees. What do they both have in common? Your volunteers and paid staff are part of a diverse community within your organization. However, it’s this diversity in community that is often neglected.

Frequently, staff can get left aside in the community. Why? Is it because they are paid members of the community? Are their roles separate from the community that includes folks like donors, volunteers, Board members? If you’re thinking ‘yes’ to either of these questions, I would argue that these ideas can’t work in today’s world where employee engagement is a true key to strong organizational health. It’s time to bring your staff more fully into your organization’s community.

Here are some ideas that can help you better integrate your own staff into your organization’s community:

Head on over to the cafe to Cafe to read the rest of the blogpost…

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At Connection Cafe: Five Steps To Make Employees Your Best Brand Ambassadors

The modern concept of branding and word-of-mouth-marketing focuses primarily on getting customers to become raving fans and talk positively about a company to their friends and colleagues. In the past few years, this focus has come to also include the value of getting employees to be raving fans of their own company, to speak openly and honestly about their company’s virtues, and to share their pride for their own and the company’s work. The thinking goes that if a company employs happy and satisfied employees, then that adds to an overall positive reflection of the company brand.

Yeah, but what does this have to do with non-profits…or maybe more importantly, how does this help you achieve your organizational mission? I’d like to argue that your own staff is the critical, yet underdeveloped, edge you need to meeting your fundraising, advocacy, and other goals. You have powerful resources that extend far outside of your own marketing department. Here are five steps in figuring out how to use them.

1. Know your internal broadcasters.
Your staff can be roughly divided into two groups: consumers and broadcasters. Consumers take in content through various channels like newspapers, blogs, and websites. Broadcasters do all of this and also create the content. They’re your bloggers, Twitterers, Facebookers, Plurkers, etc. They’re the ones who are connecting with others far outside your particular marketing focus. They’re the ones you want to build your employee brand ambassador program around.

2. Reward your broadcasters.
Broadcasters live for information. They want to know all the cool and worthy initiatives that are going on in your organization and be able to share that information with others. Don’t be shy about opening access and sharing this valuable information. And ask for their input and insight into how to penetrate your organization’s messages deeper into your target communities and wider into new areas.

3. Allow for creativity.
The social media space and branding world evolve at a rapid pace, which means that your dedicated and passionate broadcasters tend to live at the cutting edge. Don’t make the mistake of binding them or restricting their platforms. Innovative social media broadcasters are always finding new ways to use current tools. And for every one of today’s Twitters and Facebooks, there are several undeveloped tools waiting to be created and used.

4. Show them how to recruit other staff.
Broadcasters shouldn’t be an exclusive clique within your organization. Help them create more broadcasters and new brand ambassadors. Ask them to do “lunch and learns” about social media. Create knowledge sharing orientations to help them discuss their brand ambassador work when asked by others in your organization. The objective isn’t necessarily to get 100% of your staff involved in social media and branding…instead, show that every individual has an opportunity to contribute.

5. Keep an eye on the relationship.
I can imagine one objection or question that may be sitting at the tip of your tongue: how do we make sure that our broadcasters don’t put the organization or our formal branding work in jeopardy? The simple answer is that you can’t and the brutal truth is that you no longer have total control over the message. Sorry…those days are long gone, which is why #5 is so important.

It may seem obvious, but in order for your staff to speak openly, authentically, and enthusiastically about your organization, they need to be in a positive relationship with your organization. That means being focused on your staff’s level of engagement with their work and tapping into the pride your staff has working for your organization and it’s mission.

If your organization has had great results from cultivating organization-wide brand ambassadors, what’s your story? Share the wealth in the comments below.

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