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Archive for the Innovation Category

The Once & Future King

The Once & Future King

I was struck by something today.  An article from Wired came across my screen – Software Is Still King. Hardware Is Just Along for the Ride” .  I realized that we are bombarded with news that “Phil Intheblank  is the king” or “Sowan So Rules the World”.

We are constantly in search of a leader.  Do you really think that pledging allegiance to a “great one” will give you focus, clarity and direction along with a healthy dose of self-importance?  Perhaps you should looking much closer to home.

Think about all the times you hear about new royalty.  The new King. The Queen.

     “Software Is Still King. Hardware Is Just Along for the Ride” 
    “Myspace: The Once and Future King of Social Media?”
    “Content Is King – But Context Is Queen And Technology Is The Royal Household!”
    “Blogs are the King of Social Media Marketing”
    “Content marketing is king”
    “Facebook is king for social conversions”
    “Here’s the Secret to Facebook Staying King of Social Media ”
    “Why Email Marketing is King”
    “Android Remains President, but Apple is King”

Social media, blogging, content marketing, Facebook, MySpace, Apple, Android, technology or email marketing are not kings, queens or princesses.  [pause] [pause] We are.

Why are we so special?  Well, most other beings adapt slowly.  It’s a generation by generation evolution.  Sure we do that.  But, we do more.  As humans, our capability for symbolic thought, combined with our ability to cooperate in groups makes us uniquely suited to quickly adapt to a changing environment.  This is a big thing.  A very big thing.  That quick adaptation enables us the luxury of timely responsiveness.  We can be the change we want to see.  We are the seeds of our own reclamation, our redemption, our success.  Listen to this fellow humans, that glass is half-full – – and we have the ability to fill it up!  The power of the individual to make timely changes that affect our lifetime  is astounding.  The power of people working together to do this is mind-blowing.

The FearLess Revolution, founded by Alex and Ana Bogusky, explores new, more meaningful relationships between people, brands and culture.  They’re all about wanting more – “more from ourselves and more from the people who make our stuff.”  It’s crazy, radical stuff like supporting the ‘MADE in America’ movement.

Intertwined with all of the things we claim to be “kings” of the business world is the potential to be human.  Enmeshed in humans is the potential to be queens, kings and masters of the universe.  Humans are the ‘once and future king’.

Solve Problems by Changing the Rules

Solve Problems by Changing the Rules

Having trouble finding a solution?  Maybe you’re trying to solve the wrong problem!  Take a step back and think…re-think…re-think again.  I know it’s not popular to stand back for a minute and think about things before you act.  Reacting is pretty popular.  Thinking before you act… not so much.

If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.
 A Harvard Business Review article about problem solving began with this great quote from Einstein.  Unfortunately, the article goes on with a detailed list of 16 questions to be answered to define the need, context and  critical success factors for your problem definition.  That’s just over the top for me.  Probably over the top for most.

Now, I’m a big fan of looking before you leap.  And, I do fully support Einstein’s position.  But, the rest of the advice is so involved, most humans won’t bother with it.  So, we proceed to the super-human, Captain Kirk.

One of the smartest approaches to problem solving is from a book by Loud Sugar entitled “7 Simple Steps to Transform Your Small Business Marketing from a 98 Pound Weakling to a Bull in a China Shop”.  The book is free and you can download it from their site.

Build Small Business

You can beat the problem, not with new “solutions” to fit the problem, but by changing the problem to fit you.
 The first of the 7 steps is “Change the Rules”where the authors describe the Kobayashi Maru test challenge faced by Star Trek’s James Kirk.  It was a no-win  scenario that Kirk won.  Obviously, he changed the rules.  He planned in advance and turned the tables.

Gut Decisions Drive Innovation

Gut Decisions Drive Innovation


I worked in the camera business when all cameras used film. And then the change began. A handful of digital camera prototypes were showcased under glass at trade shows to demonstrate the ‘new era’ of photography. Although tech lovers were intrigued, market research clearly demonstrated that the general market didn’t think much about this new concept and wouldn’t consider buying a digital camera. And so, our corporate headquarters decided it would be too risky to bring a digital camera to market … and that we’d sit this one out. Most of our competitors did as well.

Fortunately there were a couple of passionate visionaries at the company who trusted their gut. They courageously put the wheels in motion and, soon we were one of the first manufacturers to offer a digital camera for sale. That vision eventually resulted in a billion dollar global business that has maintained its innovative edge for the past 15 years. If we had played it safe and let the numbers guide our every action we would never have gained our position as a market thought leader.

And as I look back, I realize that Mr. Jobs didn’t focus on research or big data. The focus was imagining a customer experience that was bigger and better than the experience they imagined for themselves.

A recent McKinsey study outlines four criteria for good gut decisions – familiarity, feedback, emotional memory and personal interest. McKinsey goes on to explain that most decisions are, in fact, swayed by emotion. It influences the options we analyze, our framing of situations and the rationalization of final decisions.

In this way, gut decisions infiltrate even the most metric-driven, process-rationalized decision making. Now, I’m not bashing metrics… I love numbers. I revel in the slicing, dicing and reading between the lines of meaningful market data and anecdotal information. But,often a solid, well-founded gut decision is the start of something big.

Marketers should live and breathe their products, their markets and their customers. Vision and passion, combined with deep market knowledge and the courage of your gut, is the stuff that feeds those big, juicy, innovative ideas.

How Apple Transformed the Market by Listening to Oprah

How Apple Transformed the Market by Listening to Oprah


They didn’t invent the MP-3 … but they defined the category.

They didn’t invent the laptop … but established (and sustained) a gold standard.

They didn’t invent the cell phone … but they redefined the market.

They didn’t invent the tablet computer … but they resurrected the category.

How did they do it?

They did just what Oprah always tells us to do. Dream a bigger dream for ourselves. And that’s just what Apple has always done. They dream a bigger dream for consumers than they would (or could) ever dream for themselves. It’s a lesson that all companies should learn.

Dig deep. Understand your market, competitors, consumers and resellers. Entrench yourself in what is… and aspire yourself with what could be. Think big and dream big for your company and your customers. Make it happen. Think small … get small. Think big … get big.

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