Okay, for the record, I used to wear an earring...but that was a long time ago.
Fortunately, at our corporate headquarters office in Armonk where I worked for three years, I never got into an elevator with Lou Gerstner while wearing the earring. I have a funny feeling he might have looked at me askew. As in "Pick up the elevator phone to call security" askew.
Even though I was nicely dressed most of the time, and clearly wasn't a bicycle messenger who somehow misread the delivery slip and ended up in southern Westchester County instead of 590 Madison (IBM's office in mid-town Manhattan)....although I was a NYC bike messenger in another life, and survived to come to IBM where even more challenging (if not moving) obstacles have made 5th Avenue rush hour look like "Frogger" on cruise control.
Before I get to my ultimate point here, though, and just for the record, I had [and have] enormous respect for Mr. Gerstner...That man could walk into a room, speak for 10 minutes, and have everybody in the room marching in the same direction in no time at all. Read his book Who Says Elephants Can't Dance if you want to better understand his management style -- a must read for green MBA students.
No, irony of ironies, I now live and work in Austin, where without 80 tattoos and at least 10 earrings up and down either ear you're either a tourist or you missed an exit ramp further up Interstate-35 (Which makes me even more of an anomaly).
I no longer have a need for the earring. But I do have a need for portable storage...which is why I thought this story so interesting.
To net it out, Kingmax storage company recently released some wearable USB earrings. For the earring wearer who has everything, this new line of jewelry comes in sizes ranging from 256MB to 1GB.
Me, I'm waiting for the 40GB version...but am not certain if my ears can handle the weight from the additional storage.
Microsoft launched a new marketing campaign
today in which it poses the question "Are your people ready?" CEO Steve Ballmer has been on CNBC (and the Web) covering all the bases, explaining that "people make the difference" and posing the question: "Is your business people ready?"
Their team put together a really nice Web site for the announcement, with the requisite spiffy new intellectual capital, including a white paper, a Webcast, some case studies, links to their partner programs, and other materials that help support their message. It looks great.
My only problem with it is this: The message behind the message is implicitly rooted in the 20th Century. Why?
The underlying value proposition is proprietary in nature, at a moment in time when we increasingly find ourselves living in an open, interdependent IT ecosystem where the value is in the network, not the proprietary OS.
Where a flexible IT infrastructure is required to enable a business ecosystem that connects people and businesses more seamlessly and that demands scalability and security.
Where the network is open and interoperable, so that the people, processes, and the technology can work in harmony to solve difficult business problems and deliver real business insights at the moment they're needed.
Where the more participants there are, the exponentially higher the network's value becomes: For your customers, for your employees, for your partners, for you and your business.
Our people are ready...and they deliver innovation to our customers, not just newfangled marketing programs.[Read More]
Despite the terrible news that cyberpunk visionary writer Bruce Sterling (whose yearly state-of-the-(cyber)world recap has become an annual rite at SXSW Interactive) delivered upfront in his keynote talk last evening: That he would NOT, in fact, be hosting the annual post-conference party at his Austin residence....overall this years' SXSW conference was mostly enlightening, if sometimes frustrating.
Enlightening in that it was great to hear about all the news and tidings of the digital Web Two Point Oh! frontier, but frustrating sometimes in its own self-architected chaos. There seemed to be sessions with inappropriate or unqualified speakers, and not nearly enough fireworks. Heaven forbid I say it out loud, but they need to invite more "establishment" company speakers such as Microsoft, Sun, and...gasp...IBM...to round things out and not suffocate from their own self-imposed marginalization.
Speaking of fireworks, the MPAA is to be congratulated for its own PR flack, Koni Bernards, who sat in front of a mostly hostile audience in a panel entitled "The Future of Darknets," about free-trading of copyrighted and other intellectual property via private Net exchanges (think Bit Torrent and beyond) and held her own like a true public relations pro, bringing some of that "I am the man" sanity to an important discussion.
While many of the folks in attendance have been off creating their own new businesses on a shoestring budget, those with a little more maturity and roadwear under their feet are realizing that Web entrepreneurialism ain't all stock options and roses as their startups start to grow, and that growing pains can unbalance both their autonomy and free-ranginess. Just as they're trying to create new and innovative applications and business models that leverage the unique advantages and capabilities of the Web, it was pretty clear to me based on their comments that some of them could also stand to benefit from a dose of maturity and basic business practices. Hey, we all gotta grow up sometime.
Finally, thanks to Odeo, just one of those many innovative new companies I learned about while wandering the halls of the Austin Convention Center, I've provided a "Toddcast" (9:45) summary recap of some of the other key SXSW 2006 memes. And if and when I crawl out from under the email that's piled up in my in-basket, I'll highlight some of the other promising outfits that I witnessed.[Read More]
After two-and-a-half mind numbing (but re-enervating) days hanging with the G4 crowd here at SXSW Interactive in Austin, a few select noteworthy memes seem to be emerging.
First, it's all about do-it-yourself-everything. Who needs angel rounds, venture capital, big media, or lots of $500 desks when you can lease a server, charge your nominal expenses on your Amex Blue card, do your development in Romania, and hire your friends to freelance? Said another way, Sand Hill Road is increasingly becoming the road not taken.
Could You Please Use Your 37Signals?
On Saturday, Jim Coudal and Jason Fried from 37signals.com told us that "Less is Less" and that "The curious will inherit the earth." Developers of the extremely useful project management and collaboration app, Basecamp, Coudal and Fried started their company in blissful obscurity and have quickly grown to 250K+ subscribers. Their development philosophy? Less complexity, more simplicity. "We just need things that work...people are happy to pay for something useful."
Second, the need and potential for useful information findability and categorization is the new new thing (see Yahoo's purchase of flickr and del.icio.us), but seems to be trying to solve some very old problems (ever heard of the Dewey Decimal System?). However, no one seems to be agreeing on the best way forward.
Tagging, folksonomies, search, AI, attention trusting...all are attempts at providing clearer road signs on...shoot me now for deigning to call it this here...the Information Superhighway.
But as Polar Bear book ("Information Architecture for the World Wide Web") co-author Peter Morville told us in the "Ambient Findability" session this PM, "A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention" (original source: Economics Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon). I like Dilbert's (a.k.a. Scott Adams) description of the problem better: "Information is gushing toward your brain like a firehose aimed at a teacup."
Ladder 57 to the information-searching rescue!
Stickin' it to the Analog Organizational Man
Finally, in the best spirit of the Sprint TV commercial where the man sticks it to himself, the Geoffrey Moore/Clayton Christensen crossing-the-chasm disruption that we just thought was happening in 1998, seems to be the raison d'etre of the roll-your-own digerati set that emerged from the ashes of the dot com implosion and the interactive teeny boppers now coming of age.
Identity bloggers like Heather Armstrong (whose site led to the verb getting "Dooced" -- employees fired for their extracurricular blogging activities) are striving to build new businesses, if not celebrity, but in the process realizing their own personal potential for market persuasion (My re-paraphrase: "I really liked my Nikon D70 digital camera until I didn't....and then I had to decide whether or not to tell the world via my blog and chance watching the D70 sales drop on Amazon.Com.")
These kids grew up with and on the Internet...they're not in the least bit scared of it. They've got recombinant digital DNA twisting through their veins, and they have absolutely no interest in "traditional," non-digital (read: analog) business models. Broadcast networks, newspaper empires, traditional book publishing outfits: They're all just roadkill on the way to digital nirvana.
This is not your father's Internet...and that's just the way they like it.[Read More]
Doc Searls was one of several co-authors of the original blogging and "market as conversation" tome, The Cluetrain Manifesto,
and is blogging from O'Reilly's eTech
conference in San Diego this week.
Once again, I have a mole on the ground -- and this just as I myself get ready to launch headlong into a weekend of feeding my brain at SXSW Interactive
in Austin (I spoke on a panel at SXSW way back in 2000 -- just before the bubble burst but while there was still plenty o' dot com fun to be had...and was so impressed with Austin that I decided to up and move here!)
Anyhow, from the wilds of eTech 2006, Searls writes his own invigorating
post about what he calls the "intention economy," which I thought bore referring to here because of its implications.
While many have recently suggested that we're rapidly entering into an "attention economy," one where more and more purveyors -- media, blogs, podcasts, marketers, etc. -- are striving for less and less attention, Searls suggests its much more about "intention."
His premise is simple, but profound: We must begin to view economies, and markets, from the inside out. That is to say, from the single buyer toward the surrounding world of sellers. And we must start constructing technical solutions to the buyer's problem of getting what he or she wants from markets, rather than the seller's problem of getting buyers' attention.
As a marketer, if you follow what Google, Sina, and others have done with search marketing and advertising, you realize the power of this model which flips a more traditional approach on its head. The primary intent of the marketer in this intention-centric world increasingly becomes to intercept the buyer at the moment that he or she has the intent to survey the cyberlandscape for information about a product or service. This, rather than casting out a wide, non-intention-focused net that may or may not put the hook in the most target rich waters.
In other words, have your customer acquisition dollars work smarter, not harder.
It is the power of the Internet -- and the "return trip" that interactive engagement enables (as opposed to the unidirectional one-to-many approach of traditional marketing and advertising) -- that makes this approach possible.[Read More
Why do we make things that people can't use without their having a PhD?
According to a Reuters story,
a recent thesis from a student at the Technical University of Eindhoven in the Netherlands indicated that half of all malfunctioning products that consumers return to stores are in full working order.
The problem? They could never figure out how to operate the devices. By way of example, the study indicated that the average US consumer will struggle for 20 minutes to get a device working before giving up. (Me, I'll give it 10 minutes max.)
What's most interesting about this story was that a group of Philips electronics product managers were forced to watch from behind a mirror as their guinea pigs...err, customers...struggled to make their products work.
Working on the IBM Web site, our team has encountered similar challenges. You, our customers, have told us plenty about what you don't like about it -- what works, what doesn't, what frustrates you, etc. -- and we work to put that feedback back into consideration for future improvements of the site. (As I explain to internal constituents here all the time, there would be no need whatsoever for our Web site were it not for our customers. They look at me kind of funny, then go back to work...but they generally get the point.)
To my mind, the student's thesis points out a much greater marketplace gap: The need to focus more on the upfront design and usability of products and services (i.e., what problem are you trying to solve, and what kind of device/experience can best you best solve it.) This is where design and user testing -- done up front, before any
money has been invested in project scoping, marketing rollout, etc. -- can help stave off similar reactions to your own products and services.
Listen to the customer. Give them an opportunity to respond to your product or service idea. It may very well be, as you suspect, the better mousetrap.
It also might just be the mouse.[Read More
Well, once again, the Oscars have come and gone, and while "Crash" may have been the surprise of the evening for "Best Picture" category, to my mind it was the homage to Robert Altman that made the entire evening worthwhile. I've long been a big fan of Altman's films, and for anyone who knows the unique, improvisational style in which his movies are made, the Lily Tomlin/Meryl Streep head-nodding rap to his unique filmmaking style was priceless and spot on.
Though Altman has never been a big Hollywood player -- in fact, I always viewed his 1992 take on Hollywood, "The Player"," as a scathing indictment of the frivolity and shallowness of the motion picture industry -- his films have always seemed perched right out there on the edge, continually striving to learn more about our collective humanity and always revealing the quirks and fissures of the human condition.
Altman has long been a maverick and virtuoso in the film industry, always experimenting and breaking new ground, both technologically (particularly in his movie's sound tracks) and in his unique way of working with actors (many of whom would work for scale to have the opportunity to work with the director). Both his approach to his filmmaking and the films themselves have been extremely innovative.
So, forget for a moment who was wearing whose dress, and who got shafted out of what award. For a few delightful moments, the collective of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored one of its own for a lifetime of innovation -- to one whom it had not previously given an award, and to one for whom it was long overdue.
Here's to you, Mr. Altman...may your new heart give you 40 more years of filmmaking.[Read More
"There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things." Niccolo Machiavelli (1532)
The changes, they are a comin'.
If you haven't yet seen any of the coverage of our Business Consulting Services group's "Global CEO Study 2006,"
the results were announced earlier this week, and they provide some very revealing views into the current outlook from CEOs and other business leaders from around the globe.
Based on interviews with 765 CEOs, business executives, and public sector (government) leaders - from organizations and business of all sizes and industries from throughout the world - the 2006 study was notably different from that in 2004, when growth was the top priority, albeit with a focus on strengthening financial performance.
This time around, while growth is still on the agenda (is it never in business?), business leaders seem to be coming to the conclusion that organic growth is often incremental and often doesn't distinguish one org from another.
So what do they believe will be the best path to more immodest growth? I Innovate, Therefore I Am
In a word, innovation. And while they conceded that the responsibility for innovation begins at the top, they overwhelmingly suggested that the drive to innovate is a responsibility shared by the entire organization from partners, employees, even customers.
That said, they recognized that they, as leaders, must foster a culture of creativity that rewards both collaboration and individual contributors. As one respondent indicated, "I have to show the team where the green is, supply them with good clubs, and then give them the freedom to move down the fairway in whatever way they decide is best."(Blogger's Note: I'm liking the Callaway X-18s I got myself for Christmas, but it takes some getting used to the additional drop dead weight
.I keep pulling the ball left of where I used to hit with my Henry Griffiths! So just be sure that if you're going to continue with the golf analogies that you fit your employees with the best clubs for their swing.)Play Nice in the Sandbox
While there's no magical elixir here, they also indicated that they must increasingly hone in on business model innovation at the same time that they focus on innovation on products, services, markets, and operations (Read: Do things smarter, not harder).
Finally, they indicated that playing nicely in the sandbox with the other kids is not only nice, it's necessary.
Collaborative innovation in and beyond the company walls leads directly to top sources of innovation and new ideas, and most readily agreed that they aren't collaborating nearly enough. Some 76% of CEOs indicated that customer collaborations and partners were two of the top providers of innovative ideas.
So, reinvent your business processes, listen to your employees and customers, and create an environment that encourages and bolsters innovation.
Machiavelli should have had it so easy!
Feel out of the next generation Internet loop? Dazed and confused by all those new new thangs sprouting up across the Web Two Point Oh landscape?
I sympathize...I follow this stuff as closely as I can and as my schedule allows (refer to previous post about multitasking), and my head is still spinning like a Turbo Bobblehead. A person could spend all day just trying to keep up!
CNN's Money.Com/Business 2.0 team has done some VA (value-adding) in this area. While it's hype-ladenly billed -- (Sound the Trumpets)...."The Next Net 25"
...(Could someone find me Don Pardo?) -- it does a nice job of calling out some of the key emerging players in the "next net" landscape, crisply dividing the companies into the following categories: "Social Media," "Mashup and Filters," "The New Phone," "The Webtop," "Under the Hood."
Turbo says check it out, especially if you're just looking for the 50K flyover.Phone Me the Money
Meanwhile, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch asks us if we can keep a secret...SHHHHHH!....by sending us to the beta of Ether,
a super top-secret site going live tonight at midnight (No, I don't know which time zone...but I'm sure it's midnight somewhere!).
The pitch? Oh, you're gonna love this...Got some advice you want to give (call yourself a "service provider.")? Set up a toll-free number with Ether,
provide your personal info and a phone number to refer your toll calls to, set a rate and schedule when you're available, and go to town. Buyers go through the Ether space to find Sellers, and once they've agreed to the terms, the deal is done, they make the call, and the cash register starts to ring...or not.
Think phone consultation eBay and you're on your way into the Ether.[Read More
I don't need any help with watching more television. I watch way too much of it as it is.
But being a big proponent of time-shifting and creating a more intelligent interlock and filtering mechanism between digital cable and the Web, I couldn't help but mention "MeeVee" which I recently stumbled across.MeeVee positions itself
as a TV search company (think Google for cable), and just announced today a second round infusion of VC cash to keep its TV listings up to date.
Their 30 second elevator pitch goes something like this: They're the Amazon.Com TV Guide on the Internet. They intend to provide several mechanisms on their site by which to recommend and provide a "personalized TV guide." Marcus Welby Meet Grey's Anatomy
With respect to MeeVee and TV, I'm all about personalized recommendations for anything...when
Although Amazon's collaborative filtering mechanism works fairly well for my tastes, I take my TV watching a whole lot more seriously than I do ordering stuff off of the Internet. When I'm ordering something via the Web, I generally already knew what it was that I wanted to buy.
That's a very different animal from relying on the collective intelligence of the Internet audience, from whom I'm looking to tell me what TV shows I might like to watch that I'm not already watching.
I'll spend some time on MeeVee, and even if they don't make their Kitty Hawk escape from their earthbound Web 2.0 orbit, it's good to know there are people out there worrying about how to improve my TV watching habits.
Especially amidst the backdrop of 57 channels and nothin' on.[Read More