Thursday, November 30, 2006

Heard on the floor - futurethink's workshop was excellent

Two separate people at the Fortune Innovation Forum told me they loved the futurethink breakout session "Food for Thought Workshop." If you're curious, as I am, about what you might have missed, here is a recent webcast from futurethink CEO Lisa Bodell.

You're welcome.

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Storytelling in business--and I don't mean fudging your numbers

I went to the "Innovative Story Solutions" session yesterday afternoon at the Fortune Innovation Forum, put on by The Moth, a storytelling group from New York.

So what the hell do stories have to do with innovation and business? Well, a lot of corporate life is about selling your ideas--to colleagues, bosses, customers and partners. And a compelling, concise story will work better than a Powerpoint any day.

Here are the main aspects of storytelling discussed at the workshop:

  • Set up what's at stake
  • Be selective - eliminate extraneous information
  • Show, don't tell - concrete details are far better than summary
  • Use a storytelling arc - a beginning, middle and end - and withhold some information to build suspense.
The workshop was highly interactive. Groups of six had to select a story and nominate a storyteller, prepare for twenty minutes (twenty minutes!). The storyteller then stood in front of the room and told the story. Great job by the participants, and the brave storytellers as well.

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My metalmorphosis sculpture

I took the Metalmorphosis workshop today at the Fortune Innovation Forum. There are far more artistic sculptures here. But this one is all mine. Thanks for the workshop, Sophie!

By the way, Sophie's artwork is all over the Innovation Forum. It creates a very integrated, organic feel to the entire show.


Fortune Innovation Forum day 2--Sustainability and Profitability

Panelists were:
Chad Holliday, CEO of DuPont
William McDonough, architect specializing in sustainable design

On a 1-10 scale - the current state of sustainability in today's business (1-completely constructive, 10-completely sustainable):
McDonough - 4, Holliday - 3

Holliday said that it's criticial that business and government agree on the "rules of the road"--legislation--so American business's creativity can respond.

Most pressing issues: Holliday: use of water, greenhouse effect.

DuPont has been working on biological research for 15 years, and now have learned how to use corn and other renewable materials to generate polymers, rather than using petrochemicals.

The rise of oil prices has been a catalyst for manufacturers' adoption of these new materials. The marketing message is value to the consumer--the manufacturer uses the "green" to help market the product, though it can't command a significant price premium.

Cellulosic ethanol is a strategic product, and they are working on a biofuels joint venture with BP.

McDonough worked on the new Ford Rouge plant. World's largest green roof (10.5 acres)--vegetation and a dozen species of birds live there. The roof absorbs greenhouse gas, keeps temperature more stable, reduces the wind load on the building. Business case was as follows: Ford would have to pay $48MM to come into compliance with the Clean Water Act using traditional building methods. The sustainable technologies approach cost $13MM for roof, permeable parking lot, etc.

He also worked with Herman Miller to design a cradle-to-cradle chair. No petrochemicals, easily disassembled and remanufactured. A key value proposition is that Herman Miller will easily retain the customer, since they will come to collect the chair when you're done with it.

(picture: Ford's Rouge Plant)

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Here's something innovative--CEOs who speak candidly of their failures and difficulties

Interesting observations from this afternoon's CEO discussions at the Fortune Innovation Forum. Brian France of NASCAR and Brad Anderson of Best Buy spent time speaking of their company's weaknesses and failures.

France said that NASCAR is weakest in how they are covered by the media. ("We are not the home team, and no one writes about us on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.") But rather than complain about this or feel victimized, he used it as a rationale for investing in and improving NASCAR's own new-media initiatives.

And here's a good quotation from Brad Anderson. "I am 57 years old. I don't have a clue of what most Best Buy shoppers are like. But our people at the stores do. If I can listen to the right people, this organization has a future. If not, I should be out of here."

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Good communication is intensively visual

I'm a word person. I love what words can communicate. But in his session at the Fortune Innovation Forum today, Tom Wujec convinced me that expressing complex ideas visually is essential to communicating in today's business environment.

Edward Tufte, in his books, did a great job in describing how to strong graphics can present very complex information very succinctly and effectively. Tom's presentation built on those ideas by tying key types of communications to certain phases of the product development cycle.

His most impressive example was a map that was created and used by Fairchild Semiconductor to communicate their turnaround strategy. It enabled them to communicate and instill the same message across fifteen countries and ten languages.

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Metalmorphosis with Sophie Marsham

An innovation conference cannot be like all the rest. One feature of the Fortune Innovation Forum this year is an ongoing set of exercises where artist Sophie Marsham works with attendees to create flower sculptures out of scrap.


Bob Nardelli interview

Here at the Fortune Innovation Forum, David Kirkpatrick of Fortune Magazine is interviewing Bob Nardelli of Home Depot.

In the recent past they've focused on innovating in technology--self-checkout has reduced queue times 30% in Home Depot stores--and design--improving store layout, signage and lighting to allow people to find products faster.

Now, their biggest focus is innovating in merchandise - today they announced OrangeWorks, a partnership to accelerate designing new proprietary products for Home Depot stores.

Why isn't being a better retailer enough? Because they want to be an attraction to the community. Distinctive merchandise will both draw in more shoppers and have them leave with more stuff.

They're focused on growing markets such as outdoor living--more upscale grills, patio furniture, etc.--safety & security, and aging in place.

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Gary Hamel's keynote

[October 2007 - see an updated post on "The Future of Management" here.]

Gary's topic is: What is the future of management? Have we reached the end of the road in management innovation?

Most sustainable, longest-lasting innovation
Management Innovation
Industry Architecture Innovation
Business Model Innovation
Product Innovation
Operational Innovation
Least sustainable, shortest-lasting innovation

Radical management innovations of the past:

  • General Motors: Divisionalization - Sloan's idea
  • Toyota: Investing in problem-solving skills of every employee
  • Procter & Gamble: Brand management (management of intangible assets)
  • Visa: building a network of banks to compete and collaborate
  • Linux/Apache open source software - ability to create complex products with a distributed workforce
Management innovation is radical when the reaction to the change is contrary--how can they do that? (e.g., Microsoft's reaction to the open-source movement)

What's next?

Areas to explore:
  • Dealing with accelerating change
  • Dealing with intensifying competition (falling barriers to entry, low-cost competitors, increasing power of customers)
  • Driving innovation throughout the company on a continuous basis
  • Creating value despite the dispersion of knowledge across companies (outsourcers, partners, etc.)
Gary's hierarchy of human capabilities:
  1. Passion
  2. Creativity
  3. Initiative
  4. Intellect
  5. Diligence
  6. Obedience
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The conference begins...

Good morning from the Fortune Innovation Forum. Pictured to the left is the Innovator's Studio, one of the exhibits here at the conference. I'm sitting here on the right side of the Jazz At Lincoln Center auditorium, three rows back, near the only power strip I could find.

In front of me is Tom Wujec of Autodesk. He's speaking later today, and will be visual blogging the conference. What is visual blogging? Stay tuned and I'll get you the URL.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

In NYC for Fortune Innovation Forum

The excitement is building. I'm really looking forward to this conference, and the organizers have done a lot to make it interesting and different (as an innovation conference should be). For one thing, they made it short. A day and a half doesn't seem enough time, but then again I've been to many, many conferences that were too long by a day or more. Bravo for brevity!

If you are going to the conference and are a reader of this blog, I'd love to meet you! Please email me at or post a comment.

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Ugly may be the new beautiful--at least as far as musical instruments are concerned

Today's New York Times has a very interesting article on how designers of acoustic stringed instruments (guitars, violins, etc.) are using high-tech modeling and new materials to create great-sounding, unconventional-looking instruments.

Perhaps someday wooden instruments will go the way of the wooden tennis racket. (Bye-bye, Jack Kramer.)

Watch the accompanying video to see the article's author, Andrew Revkin, playing the guitar upside down and left-handed, a la Jimi Hendrix. (News flash: I just heard an NPR story on left-handed guitar playing--nice coincidence--and Hendrix in fact does not play fully upside down... he plays a right handed guitar flipped over but with the strings reversed, so the high E string is at the bottom of the guitar and the low E at the top--so he can use conventional chord fingerings, True "upside down" players, according to the story, include Dick Dale and Albert King. I also remember seeing Karl Wallinger of World Party and he is an upside-down player.)

(Picture: the Identity Series from Babicz Guitars--note the strange string terminals arrayed on the bottom edge of the guitar)

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Passion beats resources every time

I had the opportunity to talk with a young man last week about his business idea. He reviewed his concept with me, and then sent his draft business plan. And, to be frank, it's got a long way to go before it can attract funding, channels, customers.

When this young man goes into business, he'll be competing with a raft of companies who will have far more money, employees, connections and brand equity than he'll have.

But I wouldn't bet against him. Why? Because he has passion and commitment. He cares deeply about his business and his product.

The case studies of passion, persistence and resourcefulness defeating superior resources are legion--Toyota vs. General Motors, Microsoft Windows vs. IBM OS2, Vodafone vs. BT.

The fact is, passion wins every time. No matter how much investment you have, if you are competing against a foe with superior commitment and passion, you will lose.

I know what you're thinking: Microsoft has steamrollered dozens, if not hundreds, of companies using their superior resources. I'd have you think of something else: Microsoft is as passionate as they come.

Its head cheerleader, a certain Mr. Gates, says that Microsoft's mission is to "create great software." Such an awkward slogan is nothing if not authentic.

Do you think Bill Gates lacks passion?

(Picture: David vs. Goliath from

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Monday, November 27, 2006

The passing of a seminal innovator

Almost unnoticed in the post-Thanksgiving news was the death of Donald Wilson.

Who? you're asking. I did as well. But Mr. Wilson pioneered a tool that virtually everyone who has internet access uses every day--the online searchable database. As an executive for Arthur D. Little in the 1960's, Wilson helped the Mead Corporation create a product that eventually became Lexis-Nexis--an invaluable reference for lawyers, judges and legal scholars worldwide.

Mr. Wilson wrote the initial business plan for the project, and thought highly enough of it that he left A.D. Little to become president of the new venture, named Mead Data Central.

The early versions of this product would seem quaint to us today--text only, using private networks connected by slow phone lines--but successor products like Edgar and Wikipedia, never mind online archives of newspapers and magazines, help hundreds of millions of people find what they're looking for.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Fortune 500 Corporate Blog Review: Xerox (#142)--additional blog

After my post on Xerox's "Big I, little t" blog yesterday, Becky Dziedzic of Xerox's PR department alerted me to another blog focused on the printing business. So, here's how I see this one:

Name: "In the Balance"

History: regular posts since March 2006.

Frequency of posts: Up to twelve per month. Very bursty--several months have one post and a couple have none. Becky says that they have just started the guest blogger program and are actively recruiting more bloggers from within Xerox. That's good and needed.

Nature of posts: All about printing. Like "Big I, little t," no sales pitches. Just a discussion of industry trends and issues (of course, discussion of the printing industry obviously connects to Xerox, the leader--hence, the beauty of an industry-focused blog for them). The posts frequently refer to industry seminars and Xerox forums, a nice way of enhancing the value from those more traditional ways of communicating with customers.

Design/functionality: Text. Pictures, graphs, etc., would be welcome (PlayOn does a nice job with multimedia on their site). Offers RSS and Atom feeds. As with Big I, little t, an excellent blogroll and numerous links to related industry publications. Links to Xerox business partners are also listed. They allow comments (moderated) and trackbacks. The adminstrator is not identified.

Links etc.: The blog is ranked #1,047,844 by Technorati and is unclaimed. (Becky, I would get all your blogs registered, claimed and monitored regularly on Technorati. It would be a great way to grow their influence.) Three different blogs have linked to In the Balance (example).

Another good blog. Kudos to Becky and to Xerox. Now let's get some more posters!

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

For Thanksgiving, a salute to the late Alfred Cuddy, the man who made turkey the meat we can eat anytime

Hi, all,

I will take a short break from posting for the US Thanksgiving holiday, but I will leave you with a couple of tributes to Alfred McInroy Cuddy, the man who popularized turkey throughout North America.

This from the Wall Street Journal, and this from the Toronto Globe & Mail.

Happy Thanksgiving!

(Picture from

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Fortune 500 Corporate Blog Review: Xerox (#142)

Hooray, Xerox has blogs! Two to be exact. One is a blog hosted by PARC, called PlayOn. It's focused on a particular research niche, virtual worlds, and as such is not truly a corporate blog. But it is worth a look if you are interested in the subject matter.

The other one fits our corporate blogging definition to a tee.

Name: "Big I, little t" - a blog focused on the corporate IT world.

History: regular posts since May 2006.

Frequency of posts: Not enough! Only seven posts in six months, and it's a shame, since those few posts are very good.

Nature of posts: They typically deal with general issues in IT. Jim Firestone, the president of Xerox North America, is the lead poster, and guest posts are solicited (seems like they should be able to get more than one post a month with that open a posting). The posts are pretty long, like trade publication articles though with slightly less formality. There are a handful of links in the posts themselves. Admirably, they steer clear of sales pitches and focus on general industry issues. Bravo!

Design/functionality: Text, text and more text. Except for the blog logo, not a graphic to be found. Offers RSS and Atom feeds. An excellent blogroll and numerous links to related industry publications. They allow comments (moderated) and trackbacks. The adminstrator is not identified.

Links etc.: The blog is unknown by Technorati. There are a handful of references to "Big I,little t" in other blogs (example), but none in the past sixty days. The company itself is discussed in dozens of posts a day.

So, Mr. Firestone, not a bad effort. But it's time to start posting regularly. If that happens, "Big I, little t" could become a very useful blog indeed, for Xerox and for readers.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Fortune Innovation Forum preview

The Fortune Innovation Forum is next Wednesday and Thursday (November 29 & 30) at the Time Warner Center in New York. I'll be there, along with a bunch of even more innovative people (if that can be believed). Stay tuned for live posts from the conference.

I've got the following sessions marked to attend:

On Wednesday morning, Gary Hamel's keynote, "Continuous Management Innovation" is a must-see. Hamel's a great speaker, and the topic is fascinating, as this astute blogger would have you know.

Later that morning, I'll be sure to check out Tom Wujec's presentation, "Using Images To Think" at 10:40am. In the afternoon, I'll be at Lee Thau (from The Moth)'s "Innovative Story Solutions" at 3:15. I'll send my evil twin to "Bringing The Next Net To The Mass Market" (which is at the same time) featuring, among others, Kevin Rose of

Thursday I want to see "Funding Innovation" featuring a discussion of how to get from idea to profit quickly at 9:05am. My evil twin will leave early to see "Speed Thrills," at 10am, about lowering cycle times, with folks from Intuit, Medtronic and OnStar presenting.

There's lots more than just these sessions, but these are on my must-see list.

If you're planning to attend, don't forget to keep up to date with the Forum's companion blog, the Business Innovation Insider, which is posting interviews with conference attendees on the days leading up to the event.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Great Business Books - Hall of Fame nomination

Everyone knows "Catch-22"--though many of those may not have read the book; much less known, however, is the late Joseph Heller's second book, "Something Happened," unquestionably the funniest and scariest book ever written about the business world.

Here's a typical excerpt:

In my department there are six people who are afraid of me, and one small secretary who is afraid of all of us. I have one other person working for me who is not afraid of anyone, not even me, and I would fire him quickly, but I'm afraid of him.

It's full of this cringe-inducing (because it's so familiar) humor, like "The Office," except Heller wrote this over thirty years ago!

Given its age, it does have some anachronisms, including bosses sleeping with secretaries (which still happens, come to think of it) and three-martini lunches. But the observations of human nature in the workplace, with all its pettiness and insecurity, could have been written yesterday.

If you work in a company or ever plan to work in a company, read this book.

(Picture from

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The first sale is the biggest

Think about this: you are a startup, and have spent months or years and scads of capital building your business-to-business product or service offering. Now it's time to sell it.

How much is that first sale worth?

Now look at it from the other side. Imagine you are the prospective customer. You are bringing this purchase in front of your executive committee for approval.

They ask:
"Who else is using it?"
"What is the track record of the company?"
"How do we know it's going to work?"

Does this give you an impression why the first sale typically requires significant discounting, intensive support... and delicate, high-performance selling?

The salesperson sits in front of the customer and convinces him/her/them to buy this unproven product. Most of the tools he relies on to sell--references, success stories, company reputation, honors and awards--are unavailable. Yet, at the end of the day, what closes the deal? Not the discounts, not the incredible capabilities of the system. It is the reputation, trustworthiness and power of the salesperson.

At the end of the day, that first customer buys the salesperson, not the product.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Fortune 500 Corporate Blog Review: First Data Corp (#224)

No blogs here. First Data, the leading supplier of transaction processing solutions to merchants, is quiet on the blog front. They have an attractive web site, but don't communicate beyond the typical press kit and investor relations tabs common to publicly traded companies.

Given the large number of the Fortune 500 that (we're finding) don't blog, I wanted to pass along to them some ideas for blogs that could keep them clear of the disclosure issues that were so well discussed in the recent Jonathan Schwarz blog post and response from SEC Chairman Christopher Cox.

Ideas for low-risk, high-value corporate blogging:

  1. What's going on in the industry?
  2. Meet our people!
  3. Company name in our communities
  4. Company name around the world
Each of these topics is rich enough to support daily posts and can give outsiders a valuable view of the company on the inside, as well as teach. All of which can help with one's public relations--which is the point of corporate blogging, isn't it?

Come on, folks, give it a try. It can't be worse than utter silence, can it?

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Foolishness revisited

In a post last month, I talked about Dr. James G. March's ideas on the value of foolishness in business. In the Harvard Business Review interview (link - $$) that served as the basis for that post, Dr. March cited one bit of foolishness that can have good consequences for business: that of borrowing ideas from another domain.

Today's Wall Street Journal illustrated just this concept in its front-page article on how one British hospital is borrowing processes from Ferrari's Formula 1 pit crew to improve its operating room to intensive care transfers, and thereby reduce fatalities.

The teams compared their processes, which, as March would point out, have far more differences than similarities. That's the foolish part. Yet within those differences, several similarities stuck out, one more than any other: small mistakes could accrue into serious problems (for the F1 team, that meant a slow pit stop; for the surgeons, a much worse result).

Defining a shared goal of identifying and rooting out the tiny mistakes allowed the doctors to determine which of the F1 team's processes to copy and how they should copy them.

Resulting in lower error rates (40% lower), and, over the long run, likely a lower fatality rate. All from some foolish thinking.

(Picture: cover of "Ferrari Formula 1: Under The Skin of the Championship-Winning F1-2000" via

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Apparel industry's constant reinvention inspires

If you feel as if you're stuck in a going-nowhere industry, stop feeling sorry for yourself and consider this: the US apparel industry, long considered dead, continues to reinvent and renew itself.

Back in September, James Flanigan of The New York Times wrote about NYDJ, a company that created innovative blue jeans that look great on women over 35. And today's Wall Street Journal profiles Barry Forman, who sold his garment company when the business began moving to Asia, only to re-emerge with a company that fixes problems with Asian-made garments shipped to the US.

NYDJ uses innovative product design and speed to compete with cheaper overseas rivals. Says President George Rudes in the Times article, “[Specialty and department] stores want up-to-the-minute fashion and quick changes, so you have to make the products here.”

Forman's company, Santa Fe Finishing, thrives by exploiting white space created by the move toward Asian production; namely, that it's impractical to send back flawed goods to Asia. It's best to repair them, in many cases. Forman says, "When I was a manufacturer, I drove a mile to the factory when there was a problem.... What the hell do you do when your goods are from 9,000 miles away?"

So, if you think there's no more room for innovation in your industry, look in the mirror!

(Picture: NYDJ Tummy Tuck jeans from Dorothy's Lubbock Boutique)

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Google AdWords report week 5

Here is the report for the latest week of the Google ad experiment. I increased the budget last week, so we'll see what effect if any there was on the clickthroughs, CPC, etc.

# impressions via Google search: 526; #website hits: 11; clickthrough percentage: 2.09%; cost per click 54.9 cents.

# impressions via Google's ad network (i.e., other sites where Google posts ads): 3,522; #website hits 8; clickthrough percentage: 0.23%; cost per click 44.6 cents.

# response forms: 1.

Pretty similar results (within the range of variation I'd been seeing) despite the increase in budget. Slightly higher cost per click. So we'll have to see if increasing the budget was worthwhile. Here's how the two top keywords did:

Keyword Impressions Clicks Total cost
MVNO 359

See you next week.

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Wireless cable is not an oxymoron

See this post from the New York Times Dealbook blog. Comcast may buy Sprint, but more than as a way to add a fourth service. The companies have a long history together. Comcast was part of the original Sprint PCS investment group in the mid-90's, and now is part of the cable consortium working with Sprint on an MVNO-like wireless offering.

According to Jason Bazinet of Citigroup, as quoted in Dealbook, “Wireless will likely emerge as a critical platform for voice, data, and video. In short, wireless untethers cable’s entire business.”

4G, WiMax, W-CDMA, it can give one a headache. But imagine the convenience and performance of your home WiFi network extended across town, across the state, the nation or the world. Now that could prove useful.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

If you care about information technology, read this

I wanted to point out a terrific article in this month's Harvard Business Review, by Professor Andrew McAfee of Harvard Business School, on how businesses can manage and utilize IT better.

In it, Professor McAfee segments the IT space into three components: Function IT (e.g., spreadsheets), which improve individual tasks; Network IT (e.g., Lotus Notes, wikis), which provide general-purpose collaboration tools that users can adapt to their needs; and Enterprise IT (e.g., CRM, ERP), software products that define/enforce cross-functional or inter-company business processes.

Why the segmentation? Because the benefits and challenges of implementing each type vary dramatically. For example, the greatest challenge in adopting Enterprise IT solutions is managing the changes required in how large groups of people work, while with Network IT the challenge is to encourage users and demonstrate how they can make use of the technology.

Graciously, HBR is offering the full article online FREE this month only!

And, in a case of putting his money where his mouth is, eating his own dog food, or whatever cliche you'd like to use. Professor McAfee has an excellent blog in which he comments and expounds on his ideas regarding IT. Add it to your reading list.


Friday comix - the complementor relationship

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

"Lost" as metaphor for the dysfunctional company

Have you ever watched "Lost" and felt you were a fly on the wall watching the executives at your company interact?

We just got finished with watching Season 1 on DVD. (I know, I know, we are two years behind, but we have small kids, are busy, etc.... Anyway, we're trying to catch up, thanks to Netflix.) And I noticed the following: watching the "Lost" survivors is like watching a dysfunctional management team at work. Don't believe me? Consider this:

Dr. Jack is the CEO. Everyone comes to him when a decision needs to be made. Sawyer is the rival with his own agenda. Locke is like the IT guy--nobody knows what he actually does, plus he creeps everyone out--but all know they can't live without him. Kate is the schemer who's always looking to suck up to the CEO (but keeps relations with the rival, just in case). Sun is the quietly-effective leader who really should be running the place if people wised up and took notice.

They're not without talent, but they can't get their act together. For example, they

  1. Have different agendas
  2. Sustain unproductive rivalries (Jack-Sawyer)
  3. Make assumptions about others and act on those assumptions
  4. Don't communicate
  5. Can't overcome cultural barriers (Jin is isolated almost the entire first season)
  6. Can't organize or coordinate their actions
  7. Don't cooperate
  8. Are afraid of scary things in the woods (have you ever viewed your competitors that way?)
It makes for great TV, but it's hell if you have to work in it every day. Sound familiar?

(Picture from JOJ TV)

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Kanter's Innovation Pyramid

In this month's Harvard Business Review, longtime Harvard professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter discusses how companies continue to make the same mistakes in their innovation strategies and how these "classic traps" can be avoided.

One idea Dr. Kanter discusses is an "innovation pyramid" that describes how successful companies manage their innovation portfolio. Writes Kanter:

Companies can develop an innovation strategy that works at the three levels of...the innovation pyramid: a few big bets at the top that represent clear directions for the future and receive the lion's share of investment; a portfolio of promising midrange ideas pursued by designated teams that develop and test them; and a broad base of early stage ideas or incremental innovations permitting continuous improvement.

Initiatives can migrate from one level in the pyramid to the adjacent one--perhaps a midrange idea grows in importance so that it becomes a big idea, perhaps an early-stage idea shows enough promise to be promoted one level.

Many companies get stuck just at the top of the pyramid, or at the bottom. To successfully innovate you must have initiatives at all three levels.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Management Innovation is the best way to achieve competitve advantage

I wanted to point out an important post from the consistently excellent Business Innovation Insider, in which Dominic interviews Gary Hamel, the renowned management researcher, on innovation. Hamel makes a provocative statement in the interview: "If one looks back over the last 100 years of industrial competition, it is management innovation, more than any other sort, that has produced big and enduring shifts in industry leadership."

By management innovation he means new ways of organizing, measuring and structuring businesses--for example, the Toyota Production System.

I have to say that Hamel's statements really struck me. We get lazy in thinking of innovation merely in terms of new products--when, in fact, new ways of working can yield more long-term success.

In other words, the Toyota Production System has made and will make far more profits for Toyota than the Prius ever will.

Think about that.

(Pictures courtesy of South West MAS and

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Fortune 500 Corporate Blog Review: Anheuser-Busch (#146)

No blogs for Anheuser-Busch. Corporate blogging, at least at this large-company level, remains the province of tech companies and certain few others. (Those responsible for Boeing's blog, which I criticized in an earlier post, are due an apology. At least they have one and view it as worthy of time and investment.)

Anheuser-Busch would be fertile territory for blogging. I could easily write something every day about the beer industry. Regulatory pressures, impact of consolidation, product innovation. And, of course, lots of potential liability, never mind lots of enemies.

Ah, well. A-B does have the "Here's To Beer" site, which will have to suffice in place of a real corporate blog for the moment. Things could be worse.

(Picture: Anheuser-Busch limited-edition beers, courtesy of the A-B web site.)

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Google AdWords report week 4

Here is the report for the latest week:

Here are the statistics for the fourth week of the Google ad experiment.

# impressions via Google search: 675; #website hits: 12; clickthrough percentage: 1.78%; cost per click 40.7 cents.

# impressions via Google's ad network (i.e., other sites where Google posts ads): 2,851; #website hits 7; clickthrough percentage: 0.25%; cost per click 51.3 cents.

# response forms: 3 (first three!).

Big improvement in search impressions (20% higher), in search hits (more than double), and of course, in registered leads. Cost per click was down. Here's how the two top keywords did:

Keyword Impressions Clicks Total cost
MVNO 546 11 $4.72
MVNE 68 1 $0.16

Starting today, I will increase the budget 1/3 (from $30 to $40 per month), and monitor the results.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Bookselling: it's a distribution game now

Seen books in any strange places lately? As the New York Times discusses in today's paper, nontraditional outlets for books are proving to be publishing's best hedge against declines in book sales in superstores and mass merchandisers.

More than just a way to capitalize on the "long tail" phenomenon, pairing the right book with the right outlet can mean significant sales volumes. "Specialty outlets," for one publisher at least, now sell more books than independent booksellers. Says the Times:

With the proper placement, a book displayed at a national chain like Urban Outfitters can easily sell more there than at any other retailer, including blockbuster stores like Barnes & Noble. A recent article in Publishers Weekly noted that one surprise fall hit, “Wall and Piece,” written by the graffiti artist Banksy and published by the Century imprint of Random House in Britain, saw its biggest sales at Urban Outfitters and independent bookstores.

You can now find books in butcher shops, furniture stores, clothing stores and delis. And, oh yeah, at Starbucks. The merchant gets some extra revenue and the ambience enhancement that a properly-selected book provides. The publisher gets a showcase with limited or no competition.

Would you like a historical novel with your chai latte?

(Photo courtesy of Peace News)

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Airships 101 with Doug McFadden

OK, class, today we're going to talk about blimps, also known as airships, with Doug McFadden, a longtime blimp pilot (and my brother-in-law). First, a definition from Wikipedia:

A non-rigid airship, or blimp, differs from a rigid airship (e.g. a Zeppelin) in that it does not have a rigid structure that holds the airbag in shape. Rather, blimps rely on a higher pressure of the gas (usually helium) inside the envelope.

You've seen them in the sky--the Goodyear blimp is an icon, and others such as the Fuji, Sanyo and Saturn blimps cruise throughout the country as gigantic floating billboards. Typically, in the US, these blimps are provided on an outsourced basis by one of several blimp operations companies (e.g., the Lightship Group). Yet despite their familiarity, blimps remain a rarity--according to Doug, there are fewer than 100 blimp pilots worldwide.

The use of blimps is expanding beyond promotion and public relations, however. Doug remarks that blimps are in growing use for military and law-enforcement surveillance and geologic exploration. International use is also increasing, with blimps in service in Japan, Indonesia and Brazil, among other places.

One limitation to the blimp's usefulness as a promotional tool is the time and expense involved in rebranding the blimp. This time means that long blimp contracts (three months minimum) are the rule. Technology is changing this, as new blimps are being built with video screens embedded in their sides, allowing for easy and fast changeover from one sponsor to another.

Curiosity whetted? Check out this exhaustive fan website, the best single resource for airship information on the web.

(picture: the Bell Mobility blimp, courtesy of 99.3 The Drive radio in Canada)

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