Sunday, December 31, 2006

Wishes for 2007

I wish you and your loved ones a happy, creative, funny, exciting, beautiful 2007 full of joy, laughter, warm moments with friends, great business, love, passion, commitment, co-creation and basically everything you wish for yourself that is also in harmony with the universe.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

New Fonero on the block

I just configured my FONERA and will be trying out FON in the coming couple of months. Configuration was super smooth and their marketing is really cool. Hope the service turns out to be as valuable as the whole concept is sexy.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Selfish business?

Not too productive these days because of an annoying flu, I've been using some of my time to look for interesting sources of inspiration and I think someone like Richard Dawkins is such a source. A long time ago he took part to a TV program aimed at correcting the misinterpretation of the thesis behind his book Selfish Gene. In that TV broadcast Dr Dawkins discusses evolution theory, game theory and the value of cooperative strategies, showing how fundamentally flawed "survival of the fittest" is and how incorrect a statement "nice guys finish last" can be. It seems like an interesting follow-up to yesterday's quote of the day and good food for thought at a time of the year when many of us are thinking about their strategy for the coming year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Quote of the day

"It is our earth, not yours or mine or his. 
We are meant to live on it, helping each other,
not destroying each other.     "
- J. Krishnamurti

Today's quote is by one of my favorite authors and I think it is relevant to superb business quests. From those I had the opportunity to watch closely, I conclude that the forces of creation and meaningful cooperation are far more intense than those of destruction and useless competition.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Telcos: is being an incumbent the shortest path to trouble?

The launch of Jajah in 2006 is probably one of those extremely interesting events in an industry. These days, they seem to be pursuing an objective of acquiring more share of market and consumer attention with their offer for free calls for Christmas. Since I now have some data to crunch on how Jajah's changed my pattern of consumption, I thought it interesting to do the analysis. My conclusions may not be statistically significant, but I guess they will give you more reasons to consider Jajah very seriously.

Jajah_budgetI downloaded data from Jajah (they have this neat service of delivering your traffic in Excel sheets) and also accessed my purchases of Skype Out credits.

Let's start with my Jajah consumption data for February through November 2006:

  • my monthly budget is in the region of 8 €

  • I am placing about 14 calls a month using Jajah

  • the average cost per call was in the region of 0.6 €

During the same period, I continued using Skype a lot for computer to computer calls or for conferences with several people all on Skype and I still bought some credit on Skype although (much )less than before: until now my purchases of Skype Out credits for 2006 are 55 € and I still have about 7 € on my account valid till June 2007, while in 2005 I purchased Skype Out credits worth 85 € and in 2004 credits worth 75 €. So I guess there's been a transfer of part of  my Skype VoIP budget to Jajah, while my overall VoIP budget went up 62% in 2006, with the share of VoIP in my consumption of telco services being over 250% bigger in 2006 than in 2005.

TransferNow making a rough analysis of my yearly budget in connectivity services (telco + ISP, not GSM because I don't have access to my consumption data right now, but I know I dramatically reduced my roaming traffic thanks to Jajah and Skype), I notice the following interesting points:

  • while my consumption of connectivity services and the time I spend online has increased, my yearly budget is now half what it was in 2004

  • the share of my budget that goes to my ISP increased because my ISP is now also offering VoIP telephony and a fixed budget for domestic calls after 18:00

  • the share of my budget that goes to Skype grew much less in 2006 (+12%) than it did in 2005 (+60%)

  • I spent 50% more on Jajah than I did on Skype, which is not that bad for a service that got notice of and tried only in February

So I guess that this confirms many of the trends professionals of the telco business are seeing on the market andit should be good news for Jajah and Skype. It does confirm Jajah's claim of being a killer of roaming and I think this space is interesting to watch because the nature of impacts that the telco industry is going through with the wave of adoption of disruptive web tools is likely to be valid in other industries as well. By nature of impacts I mean that the sources of value are changing from "the privilege of access" to "the imperative of customer experience". Access is no longer the issue; customer experience is more than ever, which makes product and service design all the more essential.
That makes people even more important because they represent competencies that ultimately define the performance of a business. And I think that's quite a quest in business.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Are you person of the year?

Time_poy2006Now, that's quite an acknowledgment, coming from traditional media: the web  has shifted the balance of influence it seems, with people taking more power in  their own hands. Mass media is being transformed,   perhaps becoming the media of the masses as claimed over a year ago by Joel de Rosnay. It's quite clear that things are changing and no longer will consumption of information be as it used to be in the early days of mass media. In the recent conference Le Web 3, I was impressed when a top French journalist (Jean-Pierre Elkabach) failed to take control of the interview of one of the French presidential candidate as the organizers gave the floor for questions to the bloggers first. That would have been impossible only a few years back.
This space is getting extremely interesting and as a blogger and tech enthusiast I can only rejoice at the fact that the web is finally recognized as a power to be reckoned with. Also particularly pleased that the reality of the Information Age is made so clear.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Any lessons to be taken or has blogging taken a hit?

"Today, you need transparency and decency to run a business."
Shimon Peres, 12-DEC-2006

A conference also needs transparency and decency. Having some ground rules looks like a good idea. It would probably help achieve a higher level of quality than that reached at Le Web 3. While very unhappy with the wave of Loic-bashing that took place (I don't know the man, but I feel there is a distinction to be made between a person and what that person does), my choice is to examine what happened and try to derive a couple of useful conclusions:

  1. about organizing a conference I tend to agree with most of the ground rules proposed by Tom Morris and also believe ground rules themselves should be questioned on a regular basis;

  2. about the wisdom of crowds, I think this week shows us that crowds can be as furiously crazy as they can be "wise". Collective intelligence does not happen automatically simply because one connects individuals and grants them unprecedented freedom of expression: it takes respect and awareness, both of which ought to start within each one of us. How can I make an intelligent and useful contribution when I don't respect myself and others? How can that contribution be thoughtful when I am not aware that what is speaking is an unbridled ego?

  3. about crisis management, silence is not an option as nicely shown here;

  4. about feedback, it ought to be adequately focused, specific, balanced and solution oriented.
    • Adequately focused means that it does have a clear objective (e.g. "identify strength and weaknesses of a conference" or "improve the way a conference brings value to participants") and not be all over the place sometimes becoming mob lynching  (do I need to provide examples here?);

    • Specific means that feedback is at its best when it focuses on identifiable events, times and effects (e.g. "Sarkozy's speech was a mistake because it did not bring anything useful to the conference and wasted most people's time") rather than being unfocused and general (e.g. "Le Web 3 sucks" - something I read somewhere but do not believe);

    • Balanced means that it contain both points that were particularly good (e.g. "managing to bring together 1000 people from 37 countries was a major achievement") and points that can be improved (e.g. "the subjects discussed could have been better framed and the panels could have been better managed to help derive useful conclusions about issues");

    • Solution oriented means that the ultimate objective of feedback is to improve something or help someone, not to exclude and destroy something or someone, which means that the content of feedback ought to help us generate possible solutions almost immediately (e.g. "when it became obvious the schedule could not be kept I felt unhappy with the presenters claiming we would still be able to go through the schedule by simply eliminating coffee breaks" - drives immediately possible solutions like "amend schedule" and "communicate decently");

Choosing sides and fighting from the trenches is probably not the point and I find it rather impressing that this seems to be the game in many cases. In my experience, when that happens it means that we have probably lost track of the objective, the means are becoming an end, a system becomes a caricature of itself (and ends up collapsing) and decency, clarity and transparency are lost. Can that be avoided or has blogging taken a major hit?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Exciting workshops ahead

Hopefully something creative and positive will come out of the whole Le Web 3 issue. I cannot believe how this matter seems to have become topic #1 on Technorati these days... Anyway, I am now heading off to lovely Luxembourg where I have a few interesting workshops to run and I am particularly happy since I will be using a couple of very effective tools like for example De Bono's hats method.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Web conference hacked: what's next?

The amount of criticism about the way Le Web 3 conference was high-jacked by politicians is stunning. A distinction needs to be made between issues and individuals. I have certainly made quite a few mistakes in this life and will not cast a stone at any one individual; Loic Le Meur has been criticized as a person and in terms of his competence for running a conference like this one. I am not sure that's the point. Actually, I do think we need to distinguish between individuals (with their limitations and personal challenges) and issues.
Perhaps what happened is an opportunity for the community of bloggers to play the game of democracy, "the right to make mistakes and the obligation to correct them" as Shimon Peres said. After all, don't we all carry part of the responsibility for letting such an event in the hands of one, when our true aspiration is one of a peer-to-peer distributed world in which individuals can freely participate? In the economy when markets work it is because no single participant can skew the process. So, acknowledging the following facts:

  1. there must be a reason why 1000 people from 37 countries gathered in Paris these two days

  2. humans need to meet in person aside from having a presence on the web

  3. the community of people involved in collaborative, distributed, social processes is interested in
    • finding out new applications and services,

    • understanding how existing applications affect real life

    • finding their role in the world

    • ...

  4. "the world is pregnant  with a new age" and this community stands to play a role to transform old ways

  5. as the influence of the community of free agents / free participants grows, established players will try to seize the dynamics of the process to their own benefit (see how Elkabach from Europe 1 jumped on the scene to take control of the interview of one of the French politicians on stage - luckily the facilitator that was translation stopped him and took questions from the audience)

perhaps the community of bloggers ought to put together a dynamic self-organizing global forum:

  • built around the essential principles of the Internet (peer-to-peer, distributed, never relying on any one node, inclusive, self-organizing, with minimal central infrastructure used to help route packets, free as in free enterprise, sometimes free as in free beer, open...)

  • organized in streams (and perhaps politics should have a stream of its own with rules for politicians to be there on equal terms with participants), with topics emerging dynamically instead of being built as an agenda of items structured as "Is XYZ dead?" (where XYZ is some familiar topic of the traditional world: media, politics, television, bananas...)

  • focused on objectives (one of which could be a "better world" initiative if the objective emerges from the community of bloggers) to be updated on a regular basis

  • bridging the gap between technologies and applications in this space

  • providing opportunities for people to meet and co-create

  • ...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Le Web 3 hacked by French politicians

French politicians invited themselves at Le Web 3, a conference that has nothing to do with politics and certainly needs no lecturing from the French Minister of the Interior about values and rules that we are supposed to be in need of. The web community has been working for the past 30 years building rules, protocols and acceptable practices making the web a space of freedom that needs no patronizing by French politicians!
What's more, I don't think attendants actually paid to get this content and think it is a shame some very interesting bits about the future of television (a most interesting topic... much more than French politics) received such limited focus, that the schedule has been so badly managed and that we basically lost energy and momentum because some bunch of French politicians wanted to do themselves some public relations and build an image of modernity. If they are modern they ought to go for conversations, not top-down broadcasts of official truths and by the way accept questions for the audience, Mr Sarkozy. The audience is also busy and made room in the schedule of the event for your speech; what respect do you show by leaving without taking any questions? How about some more participation of "the masses" in the political process? You might loose some control but everyone will win so much more democracy...
Crucially, we saw the appalling difference between the wisdom and height of views of Shimon Peres and the lowly PR calculations of politicians in-duty and full of ambitions limited by the borders of their nation states. Politics is in bad needs of a major upgrade IMHO.

Shimon Peres offers vision to bloggers at Le Web 3

Shimon Peres paid us a visit today at Le Web 3.
It was great to listen as the Nobel Prize winner developed his vision
of the future of mankind, declaring that "the world is not a mess. It
is pregnant: a new age is coming, marking the end of the stone age".
The experience of having Mr Peres here was just great and I will simply
give you a few of his most striking declarations here, some of which
are pretty radical:

"... we are moving from traditional memory to intellectual
imagination. The world is created through what people discover and
imagine today, not through the memory of past events. Bloggers and the
Internet community has freed the world from the obligation to remember.
Everything that needs to be known is available, recorded online, so now
we can turn the energy of our minds to the future, to imagination and

"I think young people will stop reading newspapers and watching
television. They will use the Internet to access information when and
where they want."

"States, countries, borders and governments don't mean that much
anymore. They made sense when wealth was derived from the land [...]
Past history is written in red ink, in blood [...] Borders do not stop
knowledge from flowing, armies cannot conquer knowledge and governments
cannot control economies [...]Today to be successful a young person
does not need to kill and conquer."

"Wealth is not defined by accumulation of capital, but by penetration.
It's not what a company owns that makes its value, but rather the
potential it holds to imagine, create and bring to life future

"The strength of a country cannot be counted in number of square miles it controls, but rather in number of patents it files."

"Modern economy cannot be run without transparency and decency, since a
company's value is its potential to create wealth, the talents of its

"Economy cannot be measured by bookkeepers. It needs people with sharp eyes who can identify potential."

"I met China's politburo recently. I was stunned by their current
philosophy, which is harmony: harmony between humans, harmony between
man and nature, harmony nation to nation [...] It felt like the time I
spent in a Kibboutz when I was young!"

"Democracy is the right to be different, the right to make mistakes and the obligation to correct them."

"I am an optimist. Optimists and pessimists die the same way, but they live very differently."

"Religions are opium for the people. You can sell opium, but you can't
live on it. Even the Ayatollahs need more than enriched uranium to feed
their children."

Extremely inspiring thoughts that actually brought some fresh air in a
conference that contains more than a fair share of gadgets, egos, masks
and sometimes complete bull-shit (although the content is often very
good). When asked what bloggers could do to help solve the problems of
the Middle-East, Shimon Peres paused and said "that's an interesting
question... Well, you should go there take initiatives, start
companies, build schools, open shops and create wealth... Do it on your
own, not under the flag of any government. People will welcome you with
open arms!"

Quite an invitation!

Rotten Orange

Le Web 3 is a conference about the future of the web, yet its connectivity provided by event sponsor Orange was something that clearly belongs to our (remote) past... Useless and unstable WiFi network, theoretical bandwidth infinitely larger than effective bandwidth when luck struck and we were able to connect... Useless. Which points out the importance of quality control or else a brand gets the opposite effect than the one expected.

Hans Rosling welcomes us to the Real Planet Earth

Perhaps the most amazing presentation given by a university professor I have ever attended and probably also the least dull considering the amount of data Hans Rosling of Karolinska Institutet presented. Having a presentation about the fact based realities of the world we live,which are more often than not in stark contrast with generally accepted "truths", in an event like Le Web 3 was definitely a good idea.

If you are interested in some notes from Hans Rosling's presentation, you can get them at this link, again made with Freedmind. Below are two videos:

  • the first shows a sequence of  Rosling's presentation in which he mocks the generally accepted idea that the world is divided into two sorts of countries (industrialized and under-developed, the first being characterized by small families and big life expectancy and the latter by small families and short life expectancy). The amazing presentation fo his data is done with a software tool developed by a new business called GapMinder (Rosling's family business of sorts);

  • the second is an interview of Rosling and I think it gives you an idea about the style and his exacting demand for a fact based world view. Actually he believes that instead of having international bodies like the UN publish tons of boring data that are only available for a fee, data should be made available freely and presented in a way making it easy for people to analyze it and draw conclusions. Rosling says data should be as free as sidewalks (which means we would need worldwide governance and a global tax system because in Sweden as elsewhere I guess it's taxpayers' money that pays for free sidewalks...)

Le Web 3 - Notes from N. Zenström's interview

Loic Le Meur's interview of Niklas Zenström was a very interesting way to start the conference. The perspectives of this serial entrepreneur are worth listening to. If you are interested in notes, they can be found here in a format generated by Freemind, the cool open-source mind mapping tool I am using. I found Zenström's short comments about his plans for TV ("it's supposed to be stealth" as he said) particularly interesting... What happens when the best aspects of the Internet are combined with the stuff people like about TV? I bet his next venture will be explosive... again.

From Brussels to Le Web 3

I decided to provide an account of my trip to get to Le Web 3 conference in Paris. It's a way for me to have a first try at publishing videos and also a way to show how Jamendo content can be used very easily in Creative Commons By-SA-NC licensed material.


Download 20061211_BQIA_GettingToLeWeb3.wmv

Video sent by alexpapa

Monday, December 11, 2006

Le Web 3

Now at Le Web 3 with some pretty interesting presentations this morning: - an interview of Skype's Zenström with nice insights into how the combination of the best attributes of the Internet and TV can actually transform the business of television - a quick presentation by Google's Lorraine Twohill, who spoke way too fast and gave some great content - a smashing presentation by Hans Rosling, a professor at Karolinska Institutet, who offered a refreshing reality check arguing that our world view is heavily biased and ought to be more fact based. He actually has statistical data showing that Swedish students perform far worse than chimpanzees when it comes to understanding the world, while professors are barely on par with chimpanzees. His presentation contained some excellent stuff I'll post later today in the form of a mindmap + pictures (bandwidth / network performance is appalling at the conference)

Enjoy your day as much as I enjoy mine!

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Is a business quest in the wine business pure folly?

A few months ago I wrote a post about the business quest of a couple of friends in Germany in the  incredibly challenging industry of wine. I was lucky to be a witness and sometimes a bit of a facilitator of the process they followed to set-up their business. More than a year after we had our first informal chat about their "wine project", Markus and Claudia already have some nice accomplishments under their belt.
I think the program they launched to offer bonds (whose capital and interests are paid in the form of a share of future wine production) was one of the most fun and original ways to get (limited) finance for investing in a filtering machine (picture posted here). Since my company is the proud owner of a few of those shares, I had the privilege of receiving a nice message telling me what the money had been used for and what use a filtering machine was in their production process.
Last September their second harvest and grape pressing took place and I can tell from their messages they enjoyed every bit of the tough work they did to achieve that.
To them, this business was not a choice considered in front of a BCG strategic matrix after an MBA class, nor was it something they decided to do to become millionaires. They decided to go into wine simply because they love the product, they love their region and they love to share with other people the good products that come out of the land of the beautiful Mosel region. So I guess their recipe for launching this project is the following:

project launch = (love)³

In fact, Markus and Claudia are applying something Steve Jobs suggested to the graduates of Stanford as you will see by watching the video in the previous post: do something you love, live your life, not someone else's life.
Over the past year, they both did an awful lot of work to train and become certified wine producers, to get adequate land, make decisions about density of plants, organise harvesting and production... And there are two areas in which they placed particular focus:

  1. the design of a product that would meet their heartfelt aspiration for allying a fine tradition dating back several generations in their family and meaningful innovation

  2. marketing and communication for their business and for their products.

I did some work with them to help clarify the concept and the key messages. My input was really minimal and the execution is their accomplishment (IMHO execution is worth 80% of the endeavor). To do that in an efficient way, I used a great tool that makes it possible to create concept maps and it's quite powerful. I am attaching an example of a concept map we drafted for the Jostock-Buelhoff winery's communication. Concept maps and mind maps (Freemind is my tool) are actually the two tings that keep my work relatively clean and help me communicate a lot of information to customers in as few pages as possible.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Quest for meaning (II)

Here's one of the most intense and humane speeches I have ever heard. Steve Jobs sharing three great stories from his life and the insights they gave him:

  1. you cannot connect the dots looking forward: only when you look back at past significant events in your life can you see the meaning

  2. when you loose something important, you have not lost much if you still love (what you do): sometimes Life hits you with a brick in the face and that's when you ought not to loose faith because there must be a meaning that you will only grasp afterwards

  3. death is life's best change agent and it's our common destination, something that can make us realize how much stronger what we share is from what sets us apart. "Live every day as though it were your last: if you do that some day you will be right". Jobs' message is: don't waste your life living somebody else's life. I particularly liked his point about how living according to dogma's is living by someone else's (outdated) beliefs


Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Wanna work together?

This is the latest video campaign from Creative Commons and I think it does a great job at explaining what Creative Commons is all about and the good reasons why CC is a fantastic enabler for anyone interested in freedom, fair use, knowledge sharing, content reuse and unbridled creativity. It takes only 3 minutes. Enjoy.

Man's quests in the information age

Will machines dominate mankind? How will business quests look like in an era of artificial rationality? Yes, I think it is about rationality and not intelligence: machines don't understand nor manipulate concepts, they don't invent, they don't paint and they don't weave relationships... not yet at least. Welcome to the dawn of the information age.

As the latest edition of a man-machine chess game shows, it's increasingly difficult for man to beat machines in the field of pure rationality. Chess master Kramnik lost against Deep Fritz a mighty machine that is capable of calculating 8 to 10 million chessboard combinations per second. Artificial rationality is here to stay and will become more and more present in our lives (if we don't blow the planet before that). The rise of artificial rationality and some day of artificial intelligence, will radically transform our universe. It will either multiply our capabilities or subject us to a terrible form of totalitarianism. Assuming AI multiplies our capabilities, what are the implications in terms of business quests? Machines are already vital in many professions like for instance traders. What is the role of man is such contexts? Could we imagine a world of almost totally automated markets? Perhaps machines will take care of activities that are either repetitive or can be assessed in probabilistic terms and people will specialize in activities requiring intuition, creativity and artistic talent? What if all those activities (writer, artist, singer, painter, sculptor, dancer, actor...) often considered as decadent in conservative societies of the industrial era were to become our main focus in the coming decades? What if the current rise of the social dimension of the web and the adoption of technological enablers for human relationships were only the first steps in the direction? What if a creative class was to rise?

Many science fiction writers imagined future worlds characterized by ubiquitous computing and a permanent contest between humans and machines, sometimes leading to wars (Hyperion, Endymion, Foundation, Robots, Matrix, Legends of Dune) and the rise of post-machine worlds (Dune). Sometimes science fiction describes political systems (The Moon is a Harsh Mistress), environmental degradation (The Precipice, Earth) and fictional business quests (Moonrise). I think science fiction is a good source of inspiration aside from being a great way to take some rest.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Launch of France 24

Example of a very interesting campaign done by one of my customers. I wonder what France 24 will look like and what share of audience it will have.

Adopt this banner

Monday, December 4, 2006

Extracting value from content

Looking at the incredible availability of very decent content today, many people claim that we live in an era of abundance, which changes established rules in industries whose business model is based on allowing or denying access to content. I agree with them: access to content is no longer a good way to "extract" value out of the market. Defending an outdated model may be a way to extort money from some people, but I don't think it is a durable way of making money in a way that keeps all participants (customers, intermediaries...) happy.

That being said, while researching Cirque du Soleil (here's a review of a fairly interesting book they are selling), a question came to my mind: in an era of abundance how do they manage to derive value from the content they own? After all, there are quite a few beautiful shows combining great choreography and beautiful music... So what's the big difference? I believe the difference lies in the way Cirque du Soleil creates first and foremost an experience for their customers. Their business is not so much about granting or denying access to content, but rather about creating a unique experience for the audience and extending that experience in the form of clothes, costumes, books, CD and DVD. Looking at the business from the angle of user experience is probably something that content industries ought to do instead of trying desperately to cling to old ways or to force software tools designed to enforce artificial scarcity (DRM for example).

When that shift happens in the thinking of a content dependent company interesting questions arise:

  • what are the contexts in which we want a customer to become exposed to our content?

  • putting ourselves in the shoes of the customer, what are the different steps we will need to follow to experience the content?

  • what do we want the customer to think, feel, say and do before, during and after their exposure to the experience?

  • what are the obstacles and negative aspects of the experience for the customer?

  • how can we extend the experience beyond the contexts we control in a way that preserves its quality and reinforces the positive emotions generated while the customer was in a more controlled context of experience?

  • how does the experience we offer differentiate from existing propositions on the market?

  • what is the potential for profit for each form of customer experience?

  • ...

In fact some of the best tools and techniques I have ever come across for generating meaningful questions pertaining to the target user's experience were developed by a company called Ideo and they are making those methods available in the form of the Ideo Method Cards, which I find just great.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Quote of the day

"In an era of hyper-competition and nonstop innovation, the most
powerful ideas in business are the ones that set forth an agenda for
reform and renewal—the ones that turn a company into a cause." _ Polly Labarre, co-author of Mavericks at Work

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Is old-style advertising even an option?

There's an interesting quote of the founder of GeekSquad  here that more or less defines advertising as a tax paid by companies whose products are unremarkable. This is perhaps the shortest assessment of the true nature of a practice that needs to be reshaped in a major way.
With the web becoming a truly interactive space and consumers taking more initiative (and control) how can a product owner even beging to think that investing in advertising is a more profitable proposition that investing in design and in customer experience?
In this blog, the author discusses this "death" sentence pronounced against old-style advertising and highlights something my friends and BuzzParadise believe and keep repeating to their customers and to audiences they train: if the product ain't good, there is no point trying to push whether one does so using old-style advertising and promotion or with a marketing approach that does not rely on advertising but instead builds on successful customer experience and word-of-mouth.
A product that delivers good customer experience is the minimal bsaeline below which the cost of the tax is extremely high and no return will ever come out of it. So really investing in proper product design really seems to be a no-brainer!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Mission statement up for grabs

In the glorious tradition of such fine human activities as the Bull-Shit Bingo, here is a mission statement which is up for grabs if anyone would dare use it in real life (I have actually seen a few mission statements that looked considerably worse, so perhaps this one would be an improvement now that I think of it):

"The customer can count on us to authoritatively revolutionize innovative methods of empowerment to allow us to conveniently build competitive content." - source: Dilbert Mission Generator

Promoting digital media

Jamendo's CEO sent me a link on a class dealing with Promotion 2.0 (content in French) featuring Emmanuel Vivier for Culture-Buzz, the evangelist of what I call marketing x.0, i.e. new marketing like buzz, viral, word-of-mouth.... Culture-Buzz is part of a group of companies that I am most pleased to be serving these days. The class took place at CELSA, a highly respected school of marketing and communication in France, and it provided a good comparison between the old ways of promoting music and content and the methods that are taking shape under the impulse of innovators like Emmanuel.
While the class material (accessible here and also embedded at the end of this post for convenience) contains a lot of interesting points and recommendations, there are a few aspects that are particularly worth considering:

  1. the role of the customer, who used to be a passive recipient of marketing communications organized as a top-down process in the hands of people Joel de Rosnay calls Infocapitalists in his book (the English version is well under way) and who becomes an active player in the process of promotion of digital content;

  2. the sequence of marketing activities that used to place promotion as a last step right after physical distribution had occurred and before the buy decision was made by the consumer, whereas today promotion starts much earlier and is often preceded by a campaign of buzz marketing in which chosen "influencers" get a preview of the product and comment it (see the campaign on Bob Sutton's soon to be published book "No Asshole");

  3. the nature of communication that used to be tightly controlled and carefully created at the top or at the center of a network where the means of broadcasting used to lie, and is now rapidly evolving towards a dynamic process of conversations produced by the consumers themselves with only very limited control by the owners of the product. In fact the trend is so powerful as to have led some scholars and thought leaders to claim that brands belong less and less to corporations and more and more to their consumers (although sadly for many of us that does not concern the profits of brands we use... which may actually be an interesting idea to explore). For example, in a post about the Art of Branding Guy Kawasaki argues that consumers actually influence a lot the communication of a brand and he gives pointer about how to "flow with the go" as he says;

  4. the fact that transactions over the Internet grow very rapidly and the time consumers take before making a buy decision (at least for small-ticket items) is getting shorter (so we are in fact coming closer to impulse buys);

  5. a shift in the balance of power between record companies, artists and the public. Here the author of the class argues that record companies will have to change the way they see and play their role and consider themselves "co-creators of a musical experience" rather than authorities "who know what the public needs and will push it on the market";

  6. being a co-creator of a consumer experience is also something that implies some form of humility, something stressed by Polly Labarre in and interview she gave about Mavericks at work the book she co-authored with William Taylor.

"If you want to create an enduring, emotional bond with customers,
create a sense of shared ownership and participation among customers
themselves. The more you invite people in to shape your company’s
personality and products and the more you enable them to share their
ideas with one another, the greater their stake in what your company
does. Shared ownership is much deeper than simply listening to the
customer." - Polly Labarre in an interview by Guy Kawasaki

In fact, this excellent content confirms a lot of the analysis of the trends that I had the pleasure to facilitate for Jamendo. It was early 2006 and we summarized this radical change in the way music would be marketed in a diagram that I am posting here (click on the image for full-size view). I think it shows how sound and accurate a vision Jamendo has, something that is further confirmed by recent events in distribution of online music that is not protected by DRM systems (e.g. Thomson Link in France or La Médiathèque in Belgium).

In his slide-show Alban Martin also stresses the importance of psychology,
something that I see as a confirmation that value creation in the
economy is becoming more people-centric or at least that one needs to
take full account of the human factor in generating value. And in fact
that is also something acknowledged by a branch modern financial theory
that tries to embed human psychology into market models and expert
tools designed to support the work of traders and fund managers.

On facilitation

Guy Kawasaki posted some excellent points on moderating a panel. It's good read for anyone who is in a role of facilitation with any size of audience. I think a lot of what Guy says is useful to consider even though I believe we all have our own very personal style when moderating. I particularly enjoyed the way he focuses on the experience of the audience in his post. It is also great to keep in mind that the size of an event itself is not that relevant especially if the content is to be made available online for a larger audience, whether that is part of the process of an initiative of one of the participants (something that is less and less unlikely).
Given that I often run workshops for customers, I would add the following points to the post:

  • before starting the facilitation work, make sure you are in a stable and positive state of mind that will allow you to concentrate and manage everything that can happen in a process that cannot be without surprises;

  • be prepared to improvise because sometimes you are asking a question and the reply is not exactly within scope of the question but can be interesting for the process that you are facilitating. The facilitator should be able to seize opportunities even though that may change the pre-planned structure of the event. Of course, keeping a balance between the objectives of the event and the necessity for flexibility is not always easy;

  • create an environment of trust by making participants feel that although some questions may be difficult to deal with, there is no risk of impact on their image or on their reputation. I think that is a critical aspect of facilitating or moderating. That's ecause when one cannot provide the incentive of a more or less public appearance with a celebrity, then all participants must know the facilitator will keep the process under control and make a clear distinction between what they contribute to the process and who they are or how good they are.

Anyway, that's my two dimes on facilitation, inspired by Guy Kawasaki's blog. Usually we achieve a hell of a lot of good work during workshops with my customers.

Monday, November 27, 2006

"Le Web 3" conference

I registered to participate to Le Web 3, a conference that will gather top notch speakers and the most active bloggers of Europe. The interest of corporate players is also quite obvious. I plan to report on the conference, events and presentations I attend. Dates are 11 and 12 December and I will be pleased to find a couple of my current (and future?) customers there.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Monitoring Word of Mouth

Mass adoption of infotech and always-on connectivity to the Net brought about major changes in the methods and tools used by marketers. As traditional tools become ill adapted to capture the reality of consumer behavior, new research methods are surfacing, some of which will almost certainly be considered as unwanted intrusions in private life by the public.

In their wildest dreams marketers of consumer brands would want to know exactly...

  1. what goes on in our minds when we become exposed to a brand's communications,

  2. how we decide to buy or not to buy,

  3. what characterizes our experience with the brand and the products under that brand

  4. what we actually say about their brands...

Fortunately, for the time being all they can monitor is what is going on outside of our heads, what we do and what we express verbally and non-verbally (to a certain extent).

If word of mouth and buzz monitoring are of interest to you, click on the link at the end of this post to access an interesting article published in the New York Times a couple of days ago. A PDF version of the article is available here: Download 20061124_NewYorkTimes_MonitoringWoM.pdf

While I do not agree with everything the article claims (e.g. I don't think it is that easy for marketers to extract meaning out of the blogs and online forums they may be visiting and I don't think they have time to visit a significant sample of those sites in every country), I believe its general direction to be correct. It's very interesting food for thought.

read more | digg story

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Capitalism 3.0 - A New Way To Think About What We Own

That's a very interesting way of looking at the economy. I like the fact that it includes in the analysis items usually considered as given and non payable. The way we used to think about the global economy when natural resources seemed over-abundant is no longer valid. Now it seems absolutely fundamental to make sure countries, companies and individuals pay for their impact on the commons. It's actually a fascinating discussion that is central to the continued presence of our species on the planet, so in a way we owe it to future generations. So in my humble opinion it is the type of larger thinking that should be part of any present and future Business Quest... particularly when the quest has major dependencies on the quality of the natural environment.

Capitalism 3.0 is about ways we can restructure our laws and rules of ownership to cover who should pay for polluting and other harmful things -- costs that our current system ignores and even encourages. The change is based on our realizing that we all own certain things in common.

read more | digg story

Monday, November 20, 2006

Reality check on start-up funding

As part of my work I often meet entrepreneurs at fairs and events dealing with entrepreneurship or related subjects. A fraction of the people I meet seem more focused on getting massive funding from VCs than on developing their business. While it is their right to do so, I feel one of the best piece of advice one can give them is to take a reality check.

The New York Times published an interesting article discussing start-ups like Meebo or JotSpot that used relatively modest amounts of money to show their offering could be a major success.
Download 200611009_NewYorkTimes_WebSuccessOnTheCheap.pdf

The trends discussed in the NYT article confirm statistics from Canada showing that the average amount of initial investment in successful start-ups is 75 000 CAD, which is more or less the average amount often quoted in the US and Europe, i.e. 50 000 €.

So it does seem that:

  1. investors will agree to join forces with entrepreneurs only after the market relevance of their idea has been proven

  2. there are far more investment opportunities than there is available capital to fund them

  3. entrepreneurs are on the weak side of the negotiation as long as their ability to capture a sizeable market is not established

  4. the pattern of risk aversion of institutional investors is such that the proof of concept will not be funded by other people than the entrepreneurs themselves and their relational network

  5. the scarcity of financial and human resources that is so typical of start-ups makes it essential to focus all efforts on showing that an offering is desirable on the market by more than just early adopters, which means that entrepreneurs must also have a clear way of capturing a larger market (and in fact they cannot pursue several paths to achieve that goal as beautifully discussed in Crossing the Chasm - and I am taking the opportunity of this post to thank Philippe Back for convincing me to read that book)

Friday, November 17, 2006

On attention and my next frontier

It's been a while since I last wrote a post on this blog. That's because I was away on training and I make it a priority to devote adequate attention to trainings I attend. Actually I think devoting adequate attention and being conscious of what is happening is a good way of doing things in general... Not always easy, but most of the time extremely beneficial especially if one is prepared to take the feedback any experience represents. I think that's a good path to achieving more of the human potential we all have.

Anyhow, I am extremely pleased and proud because a fantastic trip came to an equally pleasant close with my certification as master practitioner in neurolinguistic programming. Over the past two years I spent over 60 days of work learning and experimenting with the approach and that's only part of my investment in training every year. Every single second has been extremely beneficial because I learned a lot about myself and about my limitations of today that are my opportunities for tomorrow. Crucially, I understood that tools are worthless if used without an involvement of our souls as much as of our minds and I think that's exactly true for most disciplines. For all the skills I learned, for a profound change in key attitudes, for helping me evolve my vision, for showing me my limitations, for being tough on issues and kind to myself and for teaching with heart and mind, I thank wholeheartedly the beautiful team of Institut Ressources as well as all of my classmates who dared to share a path that is not always comfortable.

To a certain extent robotized management is one of the issues we have in the business world, where there's been a lot of work done to automate processes, more or less rigidly define methodologies and structure organisational pyramids that are characterized as "flat" these days (at least in corporate communications)... There is one facet of business that is probably the next frontier: people. What would the net present value of an investment in truly happy employees be? I think innovative companies like Google or companie that heavily depend on people like Ideo must have some sort of positive assessment of the investment's return...

Those of us who make a commitment to work on putting people at the heart of business may have to reinvent methods and processes. That's probably one of the biggest challenges of the decades to come and my intention is to contribute to that. Actually, the end of this cycle of training is also giving me an opportunity to reshape my personal R&D, and that is very exciting.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Skype for baby-sitting

Now, you can call us crazy if you want, but the point is that I am doing baby-sitting over Skype! A friend of mine had to go out for a quarter of an hour and his son is in deep sleep under my remote watch... How crazy can applications of technology actually get?

I can't wait for hologramic telecommunications to become mainstream, as stated in this awkward Cisco "ad" on YouTube: if you want audience "on the cheap" you should loosen-up you Cisco chaps and feed us something original / funny, unless you actually believe in aphorism (often attributed to William Randolph Hearst) that it is better to be receiving negative media coverage than none at all!

On change and difference...

"The person who takes the banal and ordinary and illuminates it in a
new way
can terrify. We do not want our ideas changed. We feel
threatened by such demands. "I already know the important things!" we
say. Then
Changer comes and throws our old ideas away."
Chapterhouse: Dune (1985) - The Zensufi master

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

To patent or not to patent?

There's a very good discussion going on about the relevance of patents on Guy Kawasaki's blog. This is a very important issue for any business that more or less relies on patenting to errect entry barriers and beat the competition.

I don't think there is a universal answer: each business is unique and I stronglya dvise my customers to have a real debate about the energy and money they want to spend in patenting something. It's quite an investment both in terms of going through national and international procedures, often involving translations in exotic languages, but also in terms of actually defending the patent once you have it. So there's a kind of balance to strike between the necessity of protecting intellectual property and the business contraints that may make protection itself irrelevant.

In Europe, for a long time and perhaps that is still the case, patenting was a sort of magic key to gaining support of governmental agencies in charge of innovation and stimulation of entrepreneurship. Universities are also extremely active in patenting their work and they are increasingly setting up organizations to commercially exploit their IP. So that creates an environment that is very much in favour of patenting and that may not be the best idea in the world.

My point is that patenting is neither something companies must do to survive, nor an unnecessary weight that can just be dropped without thought about consequences. It is neither "good" nor "bad" in itself. It all boils down to strategy and objectives: patenting is the means, not the end.

Day of workshops

Just got back from Luxembourg, where I spent most of the day running workshops with entrepreneurs. It's always a very energising and at the same time challenging experience for me.

I guess one of the things I really enjoy about workshops is the the fact that they cannot be scripted or predicted. It takes a hell of a lot of concentration while interacting with an entrepreneur who faces a challeng in business, mainly because the details sometimes become overwhelming.

Part of the job is to continually set and relentlessly pursue micro-objectives. The ability to ask questions in a way that does not bias the answers is also key. Then, of course, to get down to the substance of the issue, one has to listen to the answers and to the zillions of nuances they contain in terms of choice of words, structure of sentences, sequence of concepts, implicit cause-effect links and unspoken ideas...

Feeding customers with ready-made answers as some consultants do is really the easy part, especially in a world of open access to excellent content. Helping customers find the answers or at least the paths to those answers that suit them is quite another level of challenge and service. That's what I like doing and it is quite a fascinating type of work. It's my passion and I am thrilled my passion is also my job.

Monday, November 6, 2006

Big labels are f*cked, and DRM is dead

Got this article from the CEO of Jamendo who never thought DRM was a viable way to proceed in this industry. Actually, he walks the talk to the point of building the business model of his company in a way that does not require any DRM and that focuses entirely on the participants in the ecosystem of the music industry.

My humble opinion is that creating artificial scarcity has seldom been successful in economic history at least in the long run. The media & entertainment industry had better reinvent its model instead of trying to persuade everyone that piracy is the reason why people buy less CDs and to coerce people into paying the outrageous margins of an obsolete value chain that comprises many unnecessary intermediaries. The point of the matter is that we consumers demand:

  1. usability in the form of easy access to content through open technologies making it possible to transmit and reuse content in a fair way (managed within the framework defined by Creative Commons)

  2. convenience in the form of not having to toy around complicated rights management stuff whenever we want to simply listen to music. That means that we want to maintain at least the same degree of flexibility with digital content as we have with off-line stuff (e.g. if I can lend my collection of CDs to a friend, I don't see why that is so cumbersome to achieve with DRM protected material)

  3. seamless usage of content across our various devices because nobody understands why for example some protected CDs will not play in a car audio player...

for a reasonable price that compensates the artist and those adding value to the industry.

And as a matter of fact, the distinction between producers and consumers of musical content is fading away; this is the age of the prosumer in music too... Alvin Toffler was right in his analyses in the Third Wave and in Powershift.

== Go read the article in The Register

Few people know the music industry better than Peter Jenner. Pink Floyd's first manager. Jenner has also looked after T.Rex, The Clash, Ian Dury, Disposable Heroes and Billy Bragg - who he manages today. He's also secretary general of the International Music Managers Forum. And he doesn't pull his punches.

read more | digg story

Sunday, November 5, 2006

USA Today to use the Digg model to gather news?

Now, that's an interesting piece of news because it does provide more evidence that mass amateurism is picking up speed. Individuals are now getting more and more involved in processes that used to be the exclusive province of pros approved by institutions or other formal entites. Yet another interesting indication for companies like Jamendo (which essentially does something similar with music, bypassing all unecessary intermediairies and lowering transactional barriers for direct deals between artists and consumers of music) and BuzzParadise (experts of buzz marketing and word-of-mouth, acting as a platform between brands and their consumers, who generate a lot of the communication of the brand itself).

According to internal documents provided to Wired News and interviews with key executives, Gannett, the publisher of USA Today as well as 90 other American daily newspapers, will begin crowdsourcing many of its newsgathering functions.

read more | digg story

Friday, November 3, 2006

Adding sound to the web

It seems that one of the big trends today is in adding sound to web sites. A couple of weeks back I tried Sonific's widget for adding music to blogs (on the right-hand side bar of this blog); I actually like Sonific's model a lot and I think the company has a great asset in Gerd Leonhard. Today I came across a service called Razz. What I really like about Razz is that it provides for reuse of digital
content, which I think is a key feature of web 2.0 services: it is read
and write. In a matter of minutes I was able to upload a sound file (a song I got from a band on Jamendo) and to mix it with recordings that were available on Razz... Now, I don't claim any artistic quality for this, but it is an example of some interesting initiatives out there..

Make your own Razz!

My questions:

  1. how is Razz going to make money? I can see a couple of ways, but since I have no idea of their business strategy and business model it's a tough call;

  2. is this a venture that will actually generate over 100 million US dollars within 5 years? It seems Guy Kawasaki thinks so... which is interesting

Deep transformation of advertising

It's just amazing to see how sites like YouTube, Revver and DailyMotion are being used to disseminate commercial or political communications. This is a very deep transformation of marketing resulting from:

  1. the massive penetration of broadband connectivity

  2. a strong adoption of technologies making multimedia possible on the web

  3. improved user education on software tools made to facilitate production, dissemination and reuse of digital content

  4. a culture of personal independence in which the audience will allocate attention only on its own terms

  5. the public's awareness of traditional marketing tactics and methods, leading to great mistrust of traditional media at least when it comes to commercial communications (I believe mistrust is also starting to affect the news and political communications)

On making projections

Excellent post on Guy Kawasaki's blog, giving a dozen very good tips about business planning for start-ups as a contribution to avoiding yet another bubble. Several of those points apply both for companies that are suitable for VC funding and for companies that are not. Interestingly the author considers a company to be a "VC deal" if it can reach big sales in a matter of 5 years and to Kawasaki that means breaking the 100 million dollar limit within 5 years. I don't know whether this limit has any special meaning for a VC but I can imagine it dramatically simplifies the way they analyse and navigate the world of venturing. Interesting read for a couple of my customers.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Interactive is the name of the game

Failing to take into account the imperative for interactivity in marketing initiatives is a big mistake today. At a time when people are taking things into their own hands, deciding what content they will "consume", when they will do so and how they will eventually reuse said content, no consumer brand can afford to build rigid marketing plans that involve only top-down communication. The "coke and mentos" phenomenon is a good testimony to the fact that things are changing fast in this space.


To a certain extent, companies that do understand that "interactive is the name of the game" stand to win big time. An example? Google would be one excellent example: everything they do is open and interactive from communication to APIs, to testing of their tools by the community... which of course makes it possible for them to carefully choose what is neither interactive nor public. A few years ago, when the Internet was still recovering from the wounds inflicted by the 2000-2001 debacle, many people were willing to bet that Yahoo! was right to try to transform itself into a more traditional media company... The tide has turned for good I think.


The power of enthusiasm

Seth Godin has a post about the impact of enthusiasm. He claims that enthusiasm makes a great impact and improves an experience in business. While I agree with him that it is far more pleasant to be dealing with people who are passionate about what they do, I believe it is fundamental to choose the context and the audience in which it is OK to be enthusiastic.

Who has not seen an enthusiastic business person becoming a nuisance simply because the audience is not ready to follow or the context is not appropriate? In fact, more than a choice of context, enthusiasm is something you share with your business partners, so if you want to play by this tune the key is to be able to adjust yourself to the mood and style of your counterpart(s) and to help them make the transition from the state in which they are to a state in which they can actually take your enthusiasm...

Of course, a prerequisite for being credible as an enthusiastic business person is to actually be passionate about what you do, to be committed to your projects... Which brings us to the importance of actually doing something one likes rather than something that has the only virtue of being acceptable to a social group (especially if the social group is overly conservative - if Picasso had listened to conservative types quite a few works of art would not be around for us to enjoy them).

Doing something with passion in business is another way of saying that you are actually pursuing a business quest.

Business Ready Web

A few years back visionnaries told us about the way the web would influence business in all of its dimensions from customer facing functions to the farthest reaches of its back-end operations.

Limited penetration of the high-bandwidth connections, poor understanding of the Internet, lack of user education and lack of readiness of technologies enabling true interactivity contributed a lot to the demise of a large number of companies of the first wave of the web. In the process we all learned a lot; that was the first time R&D
was being carried out at such a scale in the open waters of the
Internet. Now the drive for having economically viable
applications is strong despite the tendency of a number of players to
support questionable positions like "features are more important than
the business model"...

Notice this: while a few years ago the first articles on "Journal du Net" in France would deal with some technical topic, today 3 articles out of 3 featured on its front page actually deal with marketing issues, from the web seen as a media platform to projects of well-known brands like Perrier to include new forms of marketing in their plans... which is excellent news for a couple of my customers like for example BuzzParadise and Jamendo.

Simple communication - Why a New York Dollar is Worth only 76.2 Cents

Every year, UBS publishes a report on wages and prices worldwide, which gives a good idea of the disposable income people have in different cities of the world and studies a handful of interesting indicators. Their approach is very statitstical and I guess that makes it more difficult to exploit for many people. The NY Magazine does something similar, possibly less scientific but far more understandable for the average reader. I think it's an example of good communication and good pedagogy. Einstein used to say that things should be as simple as possible, but not simpler... this looks like an application of his position.

== Why a New York Dollar is Worth only 76.2 Cents

Based on a few scientifically imprecise calculations, a New York dollar would lag somewhere behind a Canadian buck. Here’s why...

read more | digg story

No asshole

Some business people (conservative types) tend to look at non-standard ways of doing as suspicious and sometimes well worth their disdain. My professional path being fairly non-standard, I occasionally face disdainful arrogance, which I use as means to work on my equanimity... Now I have a very official and quite academic way of characterizing this type of behaviour as being only a manifestation of what Stanford Professor Bob Sutton calls "the asshole rule".

Guy Kawasaki provides quite a few very interesting comments on the book and on the necessity to resist asshole behavior both as a victim and as a perpetrator of such behavior...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Traditional media suffer - new business quests emerging

Interesting article posted on Digg about the reduction in circulation of major newspapers in the US. Here's the link to the article itself.

Trends showing reduced circulation of traditional media abound. Every quarter they are being confirmed with fresh data. This is yet abother example. To me it speaks about the following:
1. dramatic increase in production and dissemination of content on the web as a result of improved penetration of tools enabling the production and reuse of digital content
2. growing access to information sources online
3. collaborative creation and communication of interesting content
4. the advent of virtual media networks challenging established players (blogs being just one example)
5. a need for citizens and business decision makers to change their way of consuming information because no source can be safely considered as completely trustworthy today

Some people will derive catastrophic conclusions from that, calling for repressive actions aimed at maintaining artificial scarcity (à la RIAA) to preserve the oligopoly of traditional mass media. That will not work. The new context call for new models. That's fascinating and likely to put a lot more people on the trail to their own very personal business quests in the media & communication space... which as you can imagine I enjoy quite a lot :-)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Soul of a business

The performance of a business is undoubtedly a matter of doing the right things in the right way: making sure that you do what needs to get done, that you don't waste time and energy on stuff that is not relevant and that you do things right. Simple, or is it? That's actually a very "robotic" way of looking at a business. To achieve high performance a business must have a soul, an inner strength stemming from several key components.

Everywhere I look, true performance is not only supported by good management, adequate processes and proper metrics. These are vital requirements to simply survive in today's competitive environment. Here are a few of the things I find in businesses that perform exceptionally well:

  1. people's commitment, the deep involvement of individuals in a business, because ultimately it is because people are with a company with the energy of their hearts (not only with the motivation of the pocket) that true progress is achieved. Progress is for a company in terms of business prosperity and it is for individuals in terms of professional and personal growth;

  2. total engagement in projects because there are no boring projects that can be left in a dark corner: either a project is required for a business and then it must be given proper care or it is not and then nobody should be wasting time with it;

  3. they leave the ego outside the company's walls. Serving the larger purpose of a team instead in a way that transcends and includes the goals of an individual is an absolute must. That is true in business as it is in successful teams in sports for example. Trouble happens when individuals sacrifice the interests of the business on the altar of their personal agendas, more often than not jeopardizing the former and failing in the latter;

  4. careful selection of partners and employees. That's actually a direct consequence of the above three points and it does not mean that a business should choose only "standard products", i.e. conventional profiles that comply with criteria that are theoretically interesting but practically either not applicable or mere components of a masquerade in which employers fake to look for only "perfect" candidates and candidates fake to be exactly that. Now, anybody who has embarked on a job search at any point in time in their lives will tell you that this is the recruitment game in most cases. Some companies try to address that with background checks and private investigations into people's lives, but that is not the point. Again, the way to pick someone to be part of a team is a matter of technique as it is a matter of heart and intuition. A good match will happen not only at the level of capabilities, but first and foremost at the level of values: to what extent does the person share the values of a business? How consistent are they with their stated values? These are questions no private investigation will be able to answer in a meaningful way;

  5. the drive to strike deals when required. Deals between people provide the foundation to create a business; deals between companies provide the foundation to create a value system. This point is closely related to the point about leaving all egos outside the company's walls. One of my customers became a group of companies in the media & marketing business through the sheer power of their deal-making capability, their respect for the community created by the deal and their skill in protecting their deal and in making it thrive by adjusting it to changes in their environment. Their companies became stronger and started growing at amazing speeds as a result of their agreement; today like yesterday they impress me with their genuine desire to make the deal as valuable as it can possibly be and I think that's a great capability.

Aside from "technical" capability (expertise, processes, management discipline, scorecards...), these are only a few of the things a business needs to thrive. I believe them to be extremely important because they are essential ingredients of the soul of a business. A business that has a soul is virtually unbeatable and the essence of it is in the hearts and minds of its people.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Support Creative Commons

As you know there are a couple of issues that I care about in a very intense way. Two of them are free enterprise and autonomy of individuals. I consider a few US based organizations to be essential instruments serving those values: the ACLU, the IEEE, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge and Creative Commons. I support a couple of those every year.

Now is the time to support Creative Commons because thanks to the framework of IP rights the organization is supporting, copyright is more flexible, fairer and better able to support knowledge exchange all of which are essential to progress, also a value that is important to me.

The CC framework is one of the key enablers of open business and I have used it many many times to place content co-developed with customers in a legal context that allows everyone to use it while at the same time respecting the unalienable rights of the creators.

Please support Creative Commons and contribute to their fundraising campaign.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Skype, one step ahead of Jajah

A few months ago I wrote a couple of articles
on this blog about Jajah. Now I still like and enjoy as much as then.
However, there is something that I missed in my analysis back then: the
distribution model.

Usrobotics_skypecertifiedOver the past few months we've seen massive marketing communications by very established brands like US Robotics,  Creative Labs or Polycom about telecoms devices that are "Skype Certified". How huge an indication of success is this? I wonder what the distribution deal between the equipment makers and Skype looks like... What does a manufacturer get in exchange for packaging products in a way that provides massive exposure to a carrier? Beside the "honor" of having products certified I mean... If you are a Business Development pro working for Skype, how do you play on your undeniable assets to convince usually conservative industrialists that a certification for your online service is actually a key benefit for the end customer?

Polycom_skypecertifiedSkype, a brand nobody knew just a couple of years ago is now certifying devices produced by household names for a service that is no longer a geek's tool, having conquered even the most conservative groups on the market. A few weeks ago, I was having coffee at a nice café in the historical center of Brussels and I overheard two ladies in their fifties sitting at the table next to mine who were discussing how great it was to use Skype. That in itself did not impress me that much. The fact that they were using Skype enabled Siemens phones did... Skype managed to crack the riddle of large scale distribution and to perform what Geoffrey Moore calls "crossing the chasm".

Although I still like very much Jajah's service and found it interesting that they are making it possible for people to call straight from a cell phone, the fact is that they are at least one step behind Skype when it comes to distribution and brand awareness. In terms of distribution, using a  Nokia phone to place a call through Jajah does not have the same power as getting a device because it allows you to use Skype. On the other hand, if you do not require any investments in infrastructure, nor any software installation to use a VoIP service, then why bother buying equipment just to use another VoIP service? I guess that's one of the angles Jajah will have to use. Of course, to drive the message out there you need to invest a lot of money in marketing (not only clever buzz marketing as Jajah does, but also more traditional forms of PR and press coverage)... And in my humble opinion that does not beat the power of marcom one gets from a set of major certification-distribution deals with household brands (at least not at an economically acceptable cost), simply because the cost of getting people to pay attention is too big today. In other words, it is easier to drive a message to a consumer when that consumer is more or less actively looking for a device (a headphone, a phone, a sound card...) that it is to beg for their attention when they are busy with something else...

This game is tough. Perhaps these two will be merged some day?