Archive for the ‘strategy’ Category

What is The Future of Business Development?

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

radar as BDRadar

I have spent much time over the last few months digging deep into the business processes that support business development management. I was surprised to learn just how prime this space is for innovation as so many of the “accepted practices” utilized by people focused on business development for their organizations are arcane, inefficient, and lacking the advantage of effective supporting technology. There seems to be limited discussion and effort focused on “next practices” in this area, which is itself a tremendous opportunity. Glaringly, one commonality I have observed is the struggle by the business development community to force CRM tools to work in support of their efforts. Universally, I have heard of much pain around this effort. Another commonality is a belief in the power of social media and open networking, but limited knowledge or experience in how to do this effectively.

This all compels me to  propose the development of “business development radar” (BDRadar) as a tool that truly supports business development management (or BDM), and that integrates a priority set of functionality in support of open networking/marketing/business development goals. A tool that is accessible via the web, and is perfectly designed for easy use on mobile devices, that is cost effective for the soloist, independent, or smaller organization that realize the value of collaborative networking,  and that seeks an alternative to the limitations of a closed enterprise tool. Essentially, a tool that can surface business intelligence, visual network maps, and patterns whenever and wherever we need it, and that is seamlessly integrated into the networking and business development workflow. From one unified interface, a tool that provides:

- Open, collaborative network mapping
- Custom profile building with selective sharing
- Intuitive filtering and sorting
- Concise management of next actions with automated minding
- Unified contact management integrated with tools already in use
- Support of open networking/social CRM/CRM 2.0

No, LinkedIn does not do this.

The key differentiator from closed network CRM tools is that BDRadar would be designed at its core to support the open networker, and enables the creation of massive, mapped, searchable collaborative networks. It would support co-marketing and collaborative networking opportunities in support of business goals outside of the organizational firewall. I strongly believe that this is the future of business development, and to my knowledge the tool to support this does not yet exist. Driving the need for this BDRadar are critical key obsessions, and competitive necessities for business development professionals and marketers:

- Effectively determining context of opportunity
- Freshness of information
- Speed to intelligence

I have explored an endless array of tools to support and automate the addressing of these obsessions. What is required is an open tool that not only manages information, but that can recognize the patterns that identify opportunity, and supports the sometimes collaborative liberation of that opportunity into real business with individuals and teams outside of your organization. I’ve cobbled together a series of mostly freemium tools that I maintain. Tools that automate contact management, opportunity profiling, social media search, and network mapping. These work, but the inefficiency of moving between different interfaces, difficulty in easily sharing information, and the lack of integration compels us to create a better solution, to design something that REALLY works, and that we can easily share with others.

Stay tuned.

Design Strategy Diagrammed

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

diagram of design strategy by ralf beuker

An appropriate follow to my previous post. The diagram above does an excellent job visualizing not only the elements that comprise design strategy, but also gives some detail on how this strategy could be applied to ideas as actionable steps. You can learn more about this diagram from , and also download a larger file that makes the detail easy to read.

The Power of Team

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

Ferrari F1 Pit Crew

I’m one to flog motorsports analogies to help make a point. The image above is one I’ve used often in presentations to help businesses understand how a team comes together in support of their goals, and that success is determined by the ability of this team to work together and not by the talent inherit in any one individual. This is as true for designing buildings as it is for designing websites. The team is much, much bigger than the sum of it’s parts. When talking about this, I’ll often say something to the effect of:

“If our client is the driver, the car is their business, and the track is the competitive marketplace, we want to create, lead and support the best team to help our client win.”

I know, it’s a bit excessive. But it works. There’s something about a Formula 1 pit crew, as pictured above, that makes this clear and that everybody gets. First, races are often won or lost based on how well the pit crew can execute the pit strategy, and the pressure to perform is intense as they typically have between 4-8 seconds to change tires, refuel, and make important adjustments. Each member of the crew is very highly accomplished not just at their specific task, but in their ability to seamlessly integrate into the larger event of a pit stop. Each crew member must intuitively understand where they fit into this precision drill, and understand their physical relationship to the other crew members, the vehicle, and the crew leader. It’s exciting to watch a team in action, and with Formula 1 racing the best spectating is often just watching the different teams execute their pit strategies.

And so it is in business, design, architecture, marketing, advertising, and anything else that depends on people working together for success. Henry Ford was right, putting effort to team building and understanding, to learning how to work well together, is success itself.

Update: A friend sent on the image below to further beat the pit crew analogy to death. It’s a great image, and adds some clarity to the six second chaos we spectators witness when the racing cars enter the pits.


Denial Is a Bitch

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Abort. Abort. Abort.

I read a great post by , himself building on a post by , that neatly ties together many things that I’ve been thinking and writing about. Together they talk about how the crisis we are experiencing is a catalyst for a fundamental restructuring in a number of industries. More specifically, and to my own perspective going back more than a year, this crisis is forcing tremendous change by shaking out irrelevant business models and challenging the depth of relevance in others. We are quickly learning what matters, and what does not. The obvious markers of this struggle are the American automobile industry, airlines, and the newspaper publishing business, these being shaken to their very core and with the very distinct possibility that they could go away altogether as we know them.  They probably will, and as much as that hurts it might be necessary. At some level, though, all businesses are being challenged, and there are countless other companies, as well as entire industries, that are coursing the abyss. It’s scary, and for those that stand to lose their jobs it is indeed sad, but this is happening because events have changed the realities that these businesses operate in faster than they have been able to manage, anticipate, or address. In many cases, this is the result of avoidance on the part of leadership in the hopes that things would improve, that they would be relevant again. It ain’t gonna happen. Denial’s a bitch.

This is not all bad, though. Yes, companies without connections to customers, without a compelling message and value to their audience, and with antique business models are realizing that their days are actually coming to an end. This is the cost of stasis, of the inability to change, or to innovate. But to Bruce Nussbaum’s point, we all face a call to transform business, industry, and our very activities. Fortunately for all of us there are many companies who are, and have been, doing just that. They’ve been transforming and changing how business is being done. They’ve been changing what matters. As Jeff Jarvis states, out of the economic downturn will come a focus on companies that can build “networks atop platforms”. Presently, many people are the victims of circumstance, and that is definitely an awful place to be, but there are countless others who are hard at work in spite of events, and very determined to be successful. This gets me pretty excited as I know that the result is going to be some astounding innovation and opportunity. That’s motivating. The challenges of this crisis have changed the things that get our attention, focused organizations on reinvention, and created an alignment that has thrust new business models and ways to think about business out into the open to serve as positive indicators for the future, and the very real reality that we’re going to make it through this and be all the stronger for doing so. Stronger companies, stronger business models, and stronger industries.

You can substitute relevant for stronger.

A Perspective On How We Got Here, And Where We Might Be Going

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

View SlideShare or your own. (tags: )

, an internet analyst at Morgan Stanley, gave her annual view of the world and the technology industry at the in San Francisco last week. Flipping through the slides I found them enlightening, and the indicators she highlights paint a somewhat ominous reality for the coming year. She points out the connection between technology and advertising spending and GDP growth, and growth is obviously trending down. No surprises there, though.

You can view the slides from Mary’s presentation above or download them .


10 Years of The Cluetrain

Thursday, October 30th, 2008
If you have not had the opportunity to read , I suggest you take the time to do so. You can read the entire book online for free. Cluetrain is coming up on ten years old, which is amazing in its own way, but what is important here is how absolutely relevant the manifesto and its strong messages around markets being conversations still are. Messages like:
“People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products.”
The Cluetrain Manifesto, Thesis 11
Seriously, read it. I’ve even embedded the book as slides here for your convenience:
View SlideShare or your own. (tags: )

“Walk In Stupid Every Day.”

Monday, July 21st, 2008

Dan Wieden, founder of , said that line about being stupid when asked about his job by Polly Labarre of . I believe that the full quote was “My job is to walk in stupid every day.” His point is that there is no way he could know everything, that he is aware of the obstacle of expertise, and that he will not always have the best ideas. So, coming into work “stupid” keeps his mind open to ideas from anywhere, and open to valuing them when they happened. Clearly, that strategy has worked well for Dan.

I read that Dan Wieden quote at Mavericks at Work a few days ago and have been thinking about it over the weekend. I believe it is a very powerful attitude about how we could approach our work and maintain important perspective. I think there is tremendous value in, every day, going to work ready to learn, anxious for surprises, and anticipating the new. In coming to work looking for change, for improvement, and to challenge convention. We need to go to work knowing that ideas can come from anywhere, and should, and that those ideas should be acknowledged, encouraged, and supported… arriving every day with the intent of building this, of making it happen, of not standing in the way. Every day we need to know that somebody, somewhere is better than us… and that is totally cool because we want to learn from them. We need to come in every day hopeful, hungry, and focused on being in a different place than we were yesterday, on being in a different place this afternoon than this morning. We need to spend more time listening than talking, more time trying to understand and see from alternative points of view and work to avoid reaction and to lessen our reliance on instinct and instead give ourselves the time to own our decisions, and be thoughtful about it. We should spend as much energy on building our team as we do building our careers, and realize that our team is better when it is made up of people who just might be, and probably need to be, smarter than us. Instead of adopting the persona of an expert, we should try that of a student. Being a student was fun, everything was about newness and possibilities. Being an expert is limiting.

We all see the well-worn grain of company “culture” begin to show in ourselves and the others we work with. We see the behaviors that are counter to doing things better, to doing them the right way, and we allow this to happen. We see people who have stopped learning, people who no longer have wonder and curiosity and no longer have passion and drive. This is a form of giving up, or retiring from what is important. This is not an option. Dan Wieden nailed it.

In a similar vein, I found an excellent, direct and honest speech by Dan Wieden on the W+K London blog , which I have followed for a long time. Both the speech and the blog are totally worth reading.

The Changed Landscape of Influence

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

Matt Dickman recently conducted a really interesting over at his blog Techno//Marketer to get a sense of what people felt the most influential medium might be. The results are presented in the graph above. I believe it is a safe bet that his readers skew massively to the internet, but I believe they are still representative of the paradigmatic changes that have occurred in the greater media landscape. The broader theme here, that the ways in which people interact with information is changing, is something I am actively exploring myself. What is absolutely not surprising from Matt’s survey is the incredibly low performance of newspapers and radio. The of newspapers has been trending down for years, and many historically prominent rags are facing irrelevancy to their audiences. Audience preferences and expectations with regards to how they engage information is changing, this interaction is very fluid, and while some struggle to adapt to this reality others have been slow to respond and are suffering the consequences of a dwindling subscription base and shrinking advertising revenues. That spells doom for those newspapers. The same is happening in radio, and the is tracking similarly to that of newspapers. At the heart of this is the reality that we are increasingly moving away from having things pushed at us, and increasing moving toward technologies and mediums that allow us to engage media and information in ways that are dynamic and customizable to our preferences. Also, there is an informational frequency issue and newspapers, especailly, have struggled to compete with the 24/7 nature of the informational engagement model of the web. Those that have moved to a comprehensive web strategy have struggled to find an appropriate revenue model, especially one that can scale. We are watching media evolution and the survival of the fittest, of the most innovative.

Going back perhaps a decade, many newspaper publishers failed to appropriately survey the landscape for strategic risk to their organizations. As a result, they missed important opportunities to substantively investigate and innovate their business models. The web has moved incredibly quickly and efficiently in becoming pervasive in our society, in our culture, and many publishers now face the incredible challenge of trying to change a business model when it is absolutely too late.

Business Model Thinking

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

There are several components of varying complexity that make up any business. It is the quality of these components, and their unique combination (hopefully), that provide businesses with a competitive advantage in the marketplace. From the investment side, understanding the quality of an enterprise is very much tied to understanding the business model of that enterprise, and how it contrasts to its competitors – what advantages that business model creates for the business in the marketplace, and how those advantages will scale over time. Additionally, there is tremendous value in understanding at a deep level that the framework of a given business model gives an edge as companies survey the competitive landscape for strategic risk, and the opportunities inherent to that risk. It is common for businesses to take a very haphazard approach to analyzing, understanding, and building the foundation of their own business model, it is also common for businesses to miss the opportunity of conducting the same analysis of their competitors. This oversight with regards to understanding their own context in the marketplace is most likely due to myth of complexity as it relates to “putting the pieces together” and taking a hard look at the constituent components of the business in question.

I was excited to find the slideshow above, and the , by . Alex has put forth a model for analyzing, understanding, designing, and contrasting business models that is easy, straightforward, and, I believe, incredibly valuable. He provides detail for what actually makes up a business model . There is a lot of writing in business pubs right now about business model reinvention and business model innovation due to the nature of the economy and the competitive environment of different industries. This is all good, but often what is missing are the practical matters of creating an effective baseline from which to engage in exercises and experiments into innovation and reinvention. I believe that Alex succinctly provides us the tools for creating this baseline in a way that is quickly revealing of problems and opportunities, and tied to creating understanding.

Take a moment to review the slideshow and then read Alex’s at his blog Business Model Design and Innovation.

The Changing Landscape of Technology

Sunday, June 8th, 2008

Georgia Institute of Technology Change in Technology Competitiveness 1993-2007

Click on the image above to enlarge the graph to make it more readable. It paints a picture that is probably not that surprising, but definitely attention grabbing. The United States faces a very different reality in the world today than it did toward the end of the 1990’s. Today we face a diverse spectrum of new players who are incredibly competitive, players who are in some cases much more disciplined, ambitious, and intensely focused on innovation. The elephant in the room is China which, again, is no surprise. China has been nothing but resurgent over the last decade and nothing tells that story as well as the graph above. China’s rise over the other 33 nations in the survey demonstrates a much changed world economic landscape in technology. Note also the ascendancy of Mexico, South Korea, India, Singapore, and Taiwan. We all owe of the NYT’s a small bit of deference on this matter.

The graph is the conducted bi-annually by the Georgia Institute of Technology that measures the technology standing of 33 countries based upon four key technology focused factors:

  1. National orientation toward technological competitiveness
  2. Socioeconomic infrastructure
  3. Technological infrastructure
  4. Productive capacity

From the intro to the Georgia Tech report on the study findings:

“…China may soon rival the United States as the principal driver of the world’s economy – a position the U.S. has held since the end of World War II. If that happens, it will mark the first time in nearly a century that two nations have competed for leadership as equals”

The Productivity Industrial Complex

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

Time, money, and productivity…

A friend shared with me. We’ve discussed the workplace of the future and productivity issues previously, especially as these relate to the tension between controlling your time, how you use it, and the pressures exerted by a production focused mindset in so many businesses. The Alternative Productivity Manifesto is an excellent response to the present realities of the 40 hour work week, a productivity system visited upon us in the 1940’s and not revisited since. This despite the doubling in worker productivity over the last sixty years. We’re twice as productive, yet real wages are going down as compared to a historical average. We’re twice as productive, but there is ubiquitous pressure to put in more time, not less, and to sacrifice more to productivity. When did productivity become equated with quantity of time? Why does the worker not also benefit from their own efficiency and productivity? This disconnection is partly driven by our own ignorance of and inability to exert influence over the value systems within corporations, and partly by the enormous industry that has grown to help organizations squeeze every ounce of productivity out of their workforce. Productivity is big business, and big businesses invest big money with consultants that help them optimize and maximize the people that make up these companies. Not only that, but there is an enormous productivity industry focused on individuals promising enlightenment through productivity. This, of course, is achieved through the reading of endlessly published productivity books, blogs and through the purchase of innovative new productivity products. We struggle with ourselves.

In response has put forth The Alternative Productivity Manifesto to provide some perspective, and perhaps challenge the status quo. Here are just a few tenets from the manifesto that resonated with me:

  • If your productivity increases, but your pay stays the same, then you’re effectively taking a pay cut (same goes if you begin working longer hours for the same pay).
  • Productivity should be designed around our lives, not the other way around.
  • The via productivity are failing us.
  • Hyperfocusing on productivity often gets in the way of the messy, circuitous, and discursive routes of personal development.
  • Massive value creation often happens during times when no work is ostensibly being accomplished and productivity levels are ostensibly nil.

UX Intensive Week in Minneapolis

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Recently I had the opportunity to enjoy another put on by the team at in San Francisco. It rocked and was absolutely full of great information, stories, and people all focused on the developing practice of effectively managing experience design teams. I’d say the rapidly developing practice. We are under a lot of pressure to perform and to deliver value, and often success is largely determined by the effectiveness of how creative teams are led. MX is a window into the practices that have led to success.

At the conference I was asked to extend a pretty generous offer to the readers of schneiderism for the upcoming UX Intensive that Adaptive Path is hosting in Minneapolis, Minnesota from June 16-19. If you work in interaction/experience design in any capacity, really, I highly encourage you to check this workshop out. You can choose specific sessions or pony up for the full week. Adaptive Path knows what they are doing, and they are intensely focused on providing value to the people that attend their events. I speak from experience on that one.

Here’s the offer. If you and use the promotional code UXIM, you will receive a 15% discount on top of the early bird registration 10% discount. That is compelling. Here is a choice quote from the UX registration page:

“Three things I loved about UX Intensive: 1. presenters who totally know their craft and aren’t shy about saying it’s at least as much art as science, but that you can develop the art by first learning the science; 2. a room filled with smart, motivated participants who are expert in many things, some included in the conference topics and some not, working very hard with great joy, to everyone’s benefit; 3. the whole is totally greater than the sum of the parts.”

Laurie Kalmanson, Request Marketing

MX Conference: Graphic Recording

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

MX Graphic Recording: Opening Presentation

Many of us have used some variation of capturing meeting/brainstorming content with a large pad or whiteboard. At the this week a team from Adaptive Path worked diligently behind the scenes capturing the content from the various presentations through and reflected it back to us via boards like above (thank you for doing that!). You can see all of them . I am pleased to say that these boards map mostly well to my notes, but I prefer the boards created by the Adaptive Path team. They seem more complete and my notes are sometimes too linear. The above board is essentially an overview of all the main points discussed in an effort to address four key challenges facing us as we embrace the emerging discipline of managing experience through creative leadership:

  1. How do we lead in a changing environment?
  2. How do we sell experience design to our organizations?
  3. How do we balance our new jobs with our old responsibilities?
  4. How do we keep what doing what we have to and still do what we must do?

Over the course of the conference there were some excellent and successful attempts to provide answers and directions to these challenges. I still think that the best line came from Cordell Ratzlaff of Oracle when he said “Sometimes you have to kick some ass.” There was the well known story of Steve Jobs making an example of an executive at Apple who clearly leaked sensitive product information, and whose ass Steve figuratively kicked.

Conference content aside, the results of the graphic recording really have me thinking, and also rethinking how I capture information during meetings and work sessions. There is a visual mapping of information here that is incredibly efficient and useful, and ultimately creates a more complete picture than the note taking technique I have employed essentially since school. This begs the question… really, how often do we investigate our practices in business? How often do we really look for better ways to do things? Ideally, this is all of the time but I suspect we are all guilty at some level of getting stuck in the protocol of habit. I think sometimes you have to smash the system, sometimes you need to throw some stuff out. Sometimes you need to kick some ass.

I encourage you to check out the graphic recordings for each of the presenters. There are valuable ideas and practices there.

Reflecting on What I’ve Heard

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

San Francisco skyline

That is essentially the view that I’m looking at right now. The MX Conference that I am attending here in San Francisco just wrapped and I am now sitting at the top of the Mark Hopkins Hotel Intercontinental enjoying an incredible glass of wine and an incredibly full brain. Truly amazing conference, and my compliments to Adaptive Path for putting it all together. This is my second year attending MX. I’m back again for a reason. I really enjoyed the conference last year, which was the first MX put on by Adaptive Path, and found the spectrum of speakers and the topics discussed immensely compelling. I met a lot of great people that I still maintain contact with, several of whom have become valuable resources for me, and a few of whom even read schneiderism. This year’s MX pretty much kicked serious ass, and was a dramatic add to last year’s event. The speakers were all excellent and the subject matter presented was of a nature to keep me actively engaging it for a very, very long time. That’s value.

MX 2008 – Idea Sticking and Ass Kicking

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

MX Conference Header

The first day of the MX Conference was spot on and full of great presentations by smart, dedicated people. I ended the day tired, inspired, and full of ideas. I was also excited by how well much of what was presented mapped to ideas presented here on schneiderism. There is synergy, and most probably because these ideas and issues are real, face us every day, and have significant impact on our organizations, our clients, and our industries. There is synergy around supporting innovation, creating the cultures of innovation, and of the obstacles we face in our work presented by legacy notions of practice and by a reliance on outmoded tools of measurement. There is synergy around the foundations of strategic thinking, and the importance of execution to the success of strategy. It was invaluable to me to hear the experiences of those who presented, of what is working and not working.

Additionally, it was interesting to see themes develop over the course of the day from the various speakers, despite their diversely different ideas and presentations. An overarching theme was the importance of simplicity in everything we do, that complexity is an obstacle to success. I think that every speaker had a perspective on simplicity and its value to their work. The first speaker was Chip Heath, and he focused us on what it takes for ideas to be successful.

Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die – Chip Heath

Chip started with the point that in order for ideas to be successful they must persist and cross boundaries, they must navigate complications. He introduced SUCCESS – Simple/Unexpected/Concrete/Credible/Emotional/Stories as a way of testing ideas for success and set us on the path of ruthlessly prioritizing our message. He had a great quote, that “if you say ten things you say nothing.” Highlights on SUCCESS:

SIMPLE – Focus on the high concept pitch for your idea and the one or two most important things to convey. Hold the rest.

UNEXPECTED – To get attention find a pattern and then break it.

CONCRETE - Avoid abstractions, say what you mean and eliminate jargon.

CREDIBLE – You have to believe in ideas for them to be successful.

EMOTIONAL – Feature sets is not the answer. You need to connect with people, you need to focus on what you can do for people and not on what you can sell them. Find the WIIFY (What’s in it for me), convey the WIFFY, and you will connect with people’s emotion.

STORIES – Make your idea portable. The best ideas are stories, and as such can be carried everywhere. Stories are flight simulators for the brain, and can be effectively used to overcome setbacks and challenges.

Chip also talked about the curse of knowledge, something discussed here as the handicap of expertise, and he used this to contrast the differences between innovators and experts. Innovators focus on simplicity, experts on complexity and nuance. Innovators focus on concrete realities, experts on abstraction. Innovators tell stories, experts make flow charts.

The second speaker of the day was Rachel Hinman of Adaptive Path. She has been focused on the mobile platform and how the emergence of this platform has dramatically changed the ways in which we interact with information.

The Emerging Mobile Mindset – Rachel Hinman

First, Rachel is a fellow Iowan and it always pleases me to encounter Iowans in cool places doing cool things. Instant credibility for Rachel in my book having grown up in Iowa myself. With her presentation Rachel sought to impart to us what we need to understand about mobile, and that mobile is an indicator of future expectations around computing and information access. She talked about the PC legacy in technology, and how the metaphors of how we work with information in a PC context are broken by a mobile context. 2007 was a watershed year for the mobile platform with the introduction of Apple’s iPhone and the mobile platform Android from Google. This watershed forces a rethinking of how we engage information via the mobile platform, and that it is not really about being “mobile,” but more about mobility, about transferability of information in a way that is effective. She had three killer points when considering mobile and to eliminate the friction between the current mobile experience and the promise of mobile technology:

1. Design for partial attention and interruption

2. Don’t give people URL’s, give them information and make it easy

3. In most cases mobile platforms are cobbled together, so improve the cobble

As in anything, identify the real needs and provide people with a tool that helps them better manage their identity. Make it simple, take the large page structures we are familiar with in a PC context and break them down into pebbles for mobile technology.

Creating The next iPod – Cordell Ratzlaff

Bad title for a great presentation. Cordell is the Director of User-centered Design at Cisco but he is widely recognized for leading the team at Apple that created OS X. We’ve been hearing some version of “create the next iPod” from our clients for years now, whether they’re in financial services or waste management. This is indicative of a shift in focus for businesses to design, but they are fixated on the end product, not on the culture that forms is. This focus on the end product is what often leads to failure as design typically reflects culture. Ratzlaff put out three conditions necessary for the change to a design culture:

1. A critical business need – Design is the application of creative expertise to solve problems, most often the problems of people with money. Design needs to be connected to a business problem, otherwise it is fine art.

2. A committed leader – Change takes time, and people will resist. A leader needs to champion this change and defend it. A leader needs to be focused on overcoming corporate inertia. A leader needs to be the most committed to the vision and set the example for the culture.

3. A compelling vision – Setting a clear end goal helps in getting people to move towards it. You cannot expect different results from doing things the same way, so separate from the status quo with a compelling vision as a launch statement. Convey this vision by building a “prototype,” something that people can see, that they can touch and interact with, and that they can use to share the vision and focus people int he same direction.

There was a great quote by Satoru Iwata, the CEO of Nintendo and who championed the Wii despite a tidal wave of doubt and which has obviously brought Nintendo tremendous market success:

“If you are simply listening to the requests of your customers you can meet their needs, but you will never satisfy them.”

Satoru Iwata, CEO of Nintendo

A significant piece of Cordell Ratzlaff’s presentation was around successfully driving cultural change. The critical elements:

- Top management must show visible and consistent support for change

- Over communicate and reiterate the change, the value of this change

- Reward steps in the right direction and stand firm. Make an example of somebody. My favorite quote from the conference so far:

“Sometimes you need to kick a little ass.”

Cordell Ratzlaff

- Be a rebel, it’s hard to change in the face of conformity so follow the pirate’s code:

“Those that fall behind get left behind.”

Pirate’s Code

- Set and enforce high standards

- Show, don’t tell and use the power of prototyping.

Essentially, if you want to create a great product or a great experience, create a great culture. Focus on fewer things and on doing them really, really well. Focus means getting good at saying NO.

The Ascendancy of Customer Experience – Secil Watson

Secil leads the 100+ strong Internet Strategy group at Wells Fargo Bank. Her group is responsible for the customer experiences of 11 million Wells Fargo customers and is resolutely focused on creating positive customer experiences for these people. Her presentation, and what she has accomplished at Wells Fargo, was simply amazing. And inspiring. When she started at Wells Fargo her first challenge was figuring out how to manage sideways and up to ensure that the customer experience (CX) was appropriately influencing strategy. She created a guide to CX management, and presented a four step process:

1. Establish credibility – CX needs to be an equal partner at the table, but that place must be earned through success.

2. Establish CX as a competancy – Everyone must know the CX mission/methodology/language.

3. Prove the value of CX – All CX initiatives must be linked to business partner value, to business value.

4. Champion CX – Good CX is everyone’s goal, it influences strategy.

She summarized by highlighting the importance of creating simple and engaging customer experiences at every touchpoint, that this will drive usage but only by “doing it right by the customer.”

The Manager as Tailor – Margaret Gould Stewart

Margaret leads the Consumer UX team at Google, and is an excellent presenter. She dug deep into what makes an effective manager in creative disciplines, and used the metaphor of a custom tailor to make these points about being an effective manager:

- Custom fit to needs and to the specifications of the client

- Assume that one size does not fit all

- Provide multiple fittings to get it right

- Work tirelessly to make others look great

Self-awareness is the first step to being a great manager, and this self-awareness is born out effective needs analysis, a smart leadership plan, a shared vocabulary with your team, and open communication with a multitude of ways to do so. Building self-awareness is absolutely critical, and is essential for:

- You as a manager and a leader

- The individuals on your team

- The team as a whole

There is tremendous benefit in working through needs analysis and self-awareness together, as a team, and there are great tools (a couple provided to us at the conference) to facilitate this understanding. She presented the “Super Friends Model of Leadership,” which simply states we cannot all be good at everything, so find out what each person is great at and magnify that. Find out what each person sucks at, and make that work with the team. Don’t just tolerate difference, explicitly value it.

Design is The Future of Business – Nathan Shedroff

Nathan is the program chair in the newly created MBA program in Design Strategy at the California College of the Arts (think Dan Pink, 2004, “The MFA is the new MBA…”). Innovation is critical to organizations, but typically companies only look at legacy path’s to growth that are not sustainable like operational efficiencies, asset sell-offs, M+A, rebranding and IPO’s. These are incredibly limited int he value created. Innovation creates better solutions, creates better processes, and creates better organizations and in so doing creates better value in things that are sustainable and meaningful. Nathan gave us a hard look at why organizations cannot innovate effectively:

- They don’t have the context for innovation.

- They rely on market research instead of market insight.

- Marketing is not PR & advertising, marketing is the inhale and PR/advertising is the exhale.

- They don’t have the culture.

- They don’t have the creativity

- They don’t have the courage.

- They don’t understand sustainability (IP/Finance/Environmental/HR).

- They don’t understand meaning.

Design is the process of meaningful innovation, and design-led strategy is probably the best approach.

Interactions & Relationships – Richard Anderson

Richard presented an incredibly sharp spectrum of approaches and ideas as they relate to how successful managers and executives have addressed critical interactions and relationships. Below are quotes from executives who were part of a course taught by Richard. He moved quickly and I was not able to capture who said what:

- Learn how to work the system. Think like an executive.

- There is no ultimate design. There is only the best solution given the resources available.

- Don’t be treated like a service.

- Be opportunistic. Take every opportunity you can.

- Be the glue that binds. Work collaboratively. Bring people together.

- Get others to originate ideas themselves, and ideally your ideas.

MX Conference Update

Monday, April 21st, 2008

MX Conference Header

I’m currently in San Francisco for the that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. This week will be exciting and busy with two days at the conference and then two days of meetings and site visits as part of my Innovation Tour 2008. More on that later.

Today’s lineup at the conference is incredibly interesting and diverse, and is being kicked off with a keynote by . I am planning on posting a recap of today’s speakers and the ensuing discussions this evening.

Solving Your Customer’s Problems

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

The Scots charge

I had an interesting conversation with a co-worker this afternoon that was essentially an analysis of what we can do to effect change for our organization in the marketplace. It was a quick strategic assessment of what was realistic, and what was not, with the focus on what we felt we could achieve if we mobilized the organization behind it. It was a great discussion, definitely focused on our client audience, and reminded of an article I had read recently at about exactly this topic.

Often, organizations undertake major strategic initiatives with goals of market penetration, diversification, growth, and perhaps all at the same time. All too often, these are challenged to move beyond an internal analysis. Also, there can develop groupthink when leadership teams begin to get down to strategic direction, and that groupthink often loses touch with the reality of what is actually strategically possible. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as initiatives are connected to operational realities, and it is typically born out of the passion and energy that thinking about possibilities, innovation, and the future can instill in people. These thinking processes can be energizing for a company, and deliver tremendous value to both directional strategy and team building.

While there is a strong element of truth to the point made in the article by the CEO of A.T. Kearney, Paul Laudicina, that strategy is more about the journey than the destination, I believe that can set a difficult and dangerous organizational precedent. If strategy is not directly linked to a strategic objective, to a destination, we run the risk of expending time, resources, and valuable thought on exercises that are not linked to value creation, that are not directly related to organizational goals. Perhaps this is an argument for incremental strategy, I’m not sure and I am not entirely convinced of that myself, but I am incredibly weary of creating strategic plans that sound good in the conference room but are unbelievably difficult to execute. This sets up failure without purpose and is not good. I am cool with failure, when there is a purpose. That’s called learning.

Where I believe that Paul Laudicina nailed it was in relation to A.T. Kearney’s customers. He put his company through a valuable strategic risk assessment exercise, something discussed here before, but not for the risks posed to his company. His team assessed the risks to their clients, and then organized their efforts around how best to position to help them. That is the sort of audience/customer focused vision that is incredibly difficult to sustain when you operate in a competitive environment, but if you can will bring great opportunity to your team. It begs the old adage that your customers problems are your problems, or you won’t have any customers.

In Marketing, Innovation is Strategic

Saturday, April 12th, 2008

Throw the brick!

There is a struggle underway inside the marketing teams of many high profile and recognizable brands. It is essentially a two-sided struggle. On the one hand are the traditionalists, usually those that cut their teeth on marketing methodologies in the 1970’s, 80’s, and in some cases the 1990’s. On the other are the change agents, those that are not married to methodology and understand the power and impermanent nature of the new channels available for interaction. In the center, between these two sides, is the idea of innovation.

I just read an excellent post by that very clearly puts all of this together, and strongly counters the assertions of the traditionalists. At the core of his post, Idris reacts to a line in a recent article in AdAge (sorry, subscriber only…) from the esteemed Al Ries who states:

“Innovation should be seen as a tactic, not a business strategy.”

Al Ries

Al makes some interesting points in his article. He points out that a strategic focus on innovation will potentially undermine the brand position of a company, and confuse customers. Al, representative of the traditionalists in this schism, argues for brand focus in place of innovation, and on the traditional efforts around brand strategy believing that success comes from a narrow focus on an attribute or market segment. The traditionalists will point to endless case studies of this being so. They want to protect what is working. They want to protect their well worn methodologies.

But it is not working. Markets are changing. Customers are changing. The way we make decisions is changing. Consumers move quickly, and the value propositions that drive this movement can change overnight. This is not because we are fickle, it is in fact because we have become smarter. We are armed with information that has raised our expectations and are increasingly dissatisfied with product or service status-quo that does not perform. We also talk to each other, and network around interests and affiliations sharing our perspectives on all manner of things. This is a really big deal. If a product or service does not speak to us, if it is not meaningful, and if it does not do what we expect it to do… we move on. And these days there are a myriad of choices in each category that are differentiated by innovation, by thinking differently about how we use a product or what we need it to do, that brand loyalty is increasingly directly linked to the effectiveness with which something meets or exceeds expectations. Increasingly, though, we also talk about the fact we are moving on, why we are moving on, and what we are moving on to. This is good, but it is putting incredible pressure on companies that have historically dominated their categories or markets. Think about the changes in the automotive business over the last twenty years. Where has the center of innovation been? Not in Detroit. Think about the cleaning products category. Companies like Method have shaken the stalwart brands to their core, and Method came out of nowhere. Think about airlines and the last flight you took. I am guessing you hated the whole experience. How long will we take that until we demand access to the airlines that get us, those that are innovating in that category? We already are.

The net result here is that we have a growing passion for innovation. We, the consumers, seek out innovative products and services that meet our needs and provide us value. This is not about attributes, it is about effectiveness and the value created by this effectiveness. This is as true for B2B companies as it is for B2C, and we should all pause a moment and think hard about the marketing stratagems that we have in place. Are they relevant? Do our customers really care?

Five Principles of Effective Change

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

Tomorrow Ain’t Promised Today

I am fascinated by change in organizations, by what drives it, what leads it, and what makes it happen. There are a number of businesses that are in a struggle right now, and this struggle is driven by their inability to previously anticipate market conditions and the realities within which they operate. Some are quickly and effectively reinventing themselves. This is exciting, and as business culture, irrespective of industry, can be prone to many legacy notions of practice, process and value creation, we know that through effective leadership and strategy legacy thinking can be overcome. Most of us would acknowledge that we can literally see change in business on a daily, if not hourly basis. How we work, and the markets within which we operate, are subject to exponentially increasing change as it relates to communications, globalism, competition, continuous improvement, consumer/client need, collaboration, user experience, teaming, talent… I could keep going, but imagine that you get the picture. I have posted about this a number of times, but I want to elaborate on some of the broader principles that I am beginning to consistently identify:

1. Nothing motivates change like the “near-death experience”

There was a great post back in October at that touched on this issue without really revealing any conclusive answer, but that got me really thinking. Why is this? Does it take a brush with disaster to shake people out of stasis? Is change fear based? My current observations are that this is often the case, though it does not need to be. However, people tend to be lazy and comfortable, and change is hard, dedicated work. Change is often also very entrepreneurial, entails risk, and not everyone is programmed to approach business in this way. But when the survival of the company is at stake, people suddenly perk up and pay attention. They become focused. This is an opportunity. Effective leadership seizes on this opportunity.

2. Leading change is clearly identifying what needs to happen, and then executing

We have all sat through too many meetings where somebody in leadership makes a compelling case for change, and then you never hear about it again. Change is war. Change requires thorough and well-thought-through strategy and the tactics to achieve that strategy. This is a fundamental rethinking of a business, of process, and of market relevance, and a fundamental reformulation of how a business navigates these successfully. This is then followed by action, by execution. There needs to not only be next steps, but next steps to the next steps, and the right people need to be in ownership of the direction and management of the business course in support of this direction. Otherwise, you just sat through another hour you will not get back.

3. Effective change leadership requires a strong connection to operational reality

Given a situation where an organization needs to undergo some fundamental reassessments of business model, practice, and market relevance, it is imperative that those leading such assessments be grounded in the contextual reality of the organization. You cannot set the bar impossibly high out of optimism. You need to set incremental targets that are reality based and mostly achievable with hard work and focus. I am a firm believer in the benefits of failing forward as a way to test concepts and ideas, but if the goal is an unattainable target you will do a better job demoralizing your team while also undermining the larger goal of moving the organization forward. Respect the need for action, but take the time to plan effectively. Base your assessments of problems, current conditions, and even future possibilities on hard data, when possible, and avoid the mistake of presenting baseless assumptions as actionable strategy. Manage goal setting very, very carefully and tie those goals directly to the expertise and resource required. Also, consider an exit strategy for goals insofar as your team understands that if Plan A is not successful, that Plan B very quickly goes into action. I think that the I Ching nails this with the idea of “wind over wind,” which presents the approach of “…gently overcoming any impasses that are in your way by being consistent and having well defined goals to focus on. This way changes and will have long-term and far-reaching effects.”

4. Passion can be an effective motivator of change, but you have to authentically show it

While it cannot be the sole catalyst for success, passion can certainly get you far in creating energy and impetus behind a strategy. However, it needs to be bolstered by awareness, connection to reality, and a deep knowledge base. Without passion, though, you face a much more challenging process. Let’s face it, change should be exciting for an organization, and it is an opportunity to bring everyone together for a unified purpose. This begins with passion for the power of an idea, for the importance of an effort coming from the top. Consistently. The more directly this passion is communicated, the more resolute your support for these efforts will be. Leaders need to tap this, the people that support them feed off of it. This is about as close to politics as leadership in business might come, but we’re talking charisma and energy here. Change that is mandated by a detached, disconnected, and aloof leader is doomed to failure. Change that is lead by an effective leader who is passionate, invested, and connected is a rallying point. We love leaders who work as hard, or harder, than we do.

5. With the right team, anything is possible, and effective change leadership demands the right team

There are few businesses where one or two people can achieve a successful transformation. We need the support of people who are better at some things than we are. Not necessarily a lot of people, depending on the organization, but certainly people who deepen the capabilities and potential of a change effort. In most business books about this topic some significant amount of content will be dedicated to effective teaming around and in support of a strategy. This is because they’re right. Teams need to be built for speed, steeped in commitment, with members chosen for both what they bring to the effort and a devotion to work with others to achieve success. Not everyone is cut out for this, and one person that is not operating from this place can sink the efforts of an entire team. Replace them. Test for acumen and energy. Profile for passion and thought leadership. Surround yourself with people who are not afraid to challenge convention and work to do things better than they have done before. This should be leadership team best practice. For truly successful companies, it most certainly is.

I would say that these five principles are very much a work in progress, but it seemed appropriate and compelling to begin to commit my thoughts to review by a broader audience. What I know is that there is no one magic process for effectively leading and managing change within an organization. Change is based on customization of approach, and that is borne out of a deep and thorough understanding of what challenges a company faces, and an intense investigation into how it might successfully overcome those challenges. The most important piece, though, is a cohesive commitment to action.

Social Gestures Beget Social Objects

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

This interview with by , which I came across because I follow Hugh on , is reinforcing of a conversation I had last evening about how companies might begin thinking about social media, and how social media might be helpful in building strong connections with their audiences. Specifically, we were discussing a company that produces outstanding content that people pay for, that when they find they generally love. Content that stands qualitatively above comparable content from most all of their competitors, but content that is ultimately difficult to find unless you are specifically looking for it. This company has no active digital strategy, that I can tell, and has not begun considering the benefits of meeting their audiences on their own turf. Imagine if they did? The really cool thing here, for this company in particular, is that there is virtually no risk and minimal cost for beginning to experiment with this. But there is a tremendous amount to gain, and to be gained in a way that is authentic and meaningful for those who seek such a connection and value the content that they create. That’s cool. And exciting. And potentially a wasted opportunity.