Weblog Entries for June 2006
June 28, 2006
Transport for London shuns its fans
Flemming Funch talks about Transport for London's cackhanded treatment of one of their enthusiastic fans. This guy made his own versions of the iconic tube map and TfL made him stop.
A while ago I mentioned a site that was showing an assortment of variations of the London tube map, using anagrams, and a bunch of other funny things. The original site was taken down, and is still down, because Transport of London's lawyers contacted the owner of the site, and forced him to take it down because the Tube logo and the map is their "intellectual property". Which is rather ridiculous for a public institution like that to spend money on lawyers to threaten people who love the tube, and who spend their time getting creative with its symbols.It seems silly to apply "intellectual property" rights to piss off the one-percenters, those fans who are more excited about your product/service than most of your employees are.
Now, as a number of other people who thought it was stupid, I put up a mirror of that site. And, now, 3 months later, the lawyers for Transport of London have contacted me and asked that I take down that site.
World Record Holders - Myself and my friend Neil are the official world record holders for traveling to all London Underground stations in the shortest time : 18 hours, 35 minutes and 43 seconds.Earl offers some great alternative ideas for Transport for London. Basically, instead of stamping on this sort of good-natured riffing, why not embrace it? He says celebrate Geoff and create some simple ways to encourage others to join in the creative fun. Instead, TfL ring the lawyers. Earl sums it up:
It was on the seventh attempt at trying, back on the 5th May 2005 that we set this new record time. We since did it twice more for charity, including a mass-participant event, with over 60 people taking part for the official relief charity in the wake of the 7th July terrorist attacks on London.
Right now we could be talking about what a clever bunch the London Underground people are, how they have figured out a way not only to refresh their brand but to engage with a new generation of tube users. Whoa, imagine what they could do with YouTube?
Instead of which, we are updating our lexicons with a new definition of dork.
There is so much talk in management circles about flexible, flattened, agile businesses rapidly adapting to the new opportunities offered by new technologies, Innovation and disruption being espoused and championed till their legs fall off. But when it comes down to it, this is how most of them behave.
June 24, 2006
So on an ordinary Saturday morning, I find myself chatting to Tony Goodson over Skype. He's on the other side of the planet in Melbourne. The call is free. We compare notes on youtube, of which Tony has become a huge fan. We spend a few minutes on what exactly it as about Two Chinese Boys' videos (like this) that is so brilliant.
We agree it's some improv thing... there something so joyful about watching other human beings just having fun. Something about this video makes me feel... just more optimistic about the possibilities for our planet.
A few minutes later, I find myself reading Canadian Dave Pollard's shocking description of two other boys of non-western origiin. These boys are in Africa, aged 10 and 12 scraping a desperate living trying to extract tiny amounts of copper from rock.
The mine is owned, through a convoluted series of numbered companies, by a huge Western mining conglomerate traded on the NYSE, whose executives earn salaries and bonuses in the millions of dollars per year. The copper the boys' slave labour produces may well end up in the jewelery you are wearing, or in the computer equipment that allows you to read this.So over a cup of tea I'm connected by the net, with voice, pictures and words to utterly contrasting experiences of the world from five continents. One leaves me feeling helpless with laughter. Another leaves me feeling... just helpless.
What does this extraordinary mixture of comedy and tragedy mean to me? Whatever I write will be trite, but here goes. As fellow residents of this planet let's hope we get better at celebrating the best, and healing the worst, of what we've managed to organise for ourselves so far in the great experiment of life.
The rise of social media
Ben McConnell highlights the contrasting online fortunes of YouTube and the New York Times.
The Times underwent a minor redesign, added videos to its front page and created a list of "most blogged" stories. Traffic declined.As Ben points out, letting your readers co-create is the way ahead.
YouTube added channels that made it possible for anyone to program the site's content, a sort of favorites list of videos. Traffic surged three-fold.
First Direct Podcasts
They are probably the only bank I know where customers would be willing to "listen in" to what it has to say. But the great thing about the new service is that the podcasts are not polished or crafted by some brand or PR agency and then delivered by a professional "talking head". No, they are given by First Direct staff ... directly..Sounds like First Direct are ahead of the game, again.
June 23, 2006
One Word Equity
James posts about Maurice Saatchi's thoughts on the future of advertising. Saatchi's article is tucked away behind the FT paywall. James critiques it very well. Essentially Saatchi says advertising is dead (on the same day his agency is running... er a two-page ad about itself in the broadsheets here.) Saatchi seeems to think it will be replaced by the notion of brands owning single words. He says Google "owns" search and America "owns" freedom. You get the idea.
At the M&C Saatchi site, we're told
M&C Saatchi launches One Word Equity for clients. The global ownership of one word is the most priceless asset a company can have in the digital age.This links to onewordequity.com. The longest message on the opening page of this is a direction to "disable popup blockers" - which for me speaks volumes about the kind of thinking behind it.
James and I were talking about this and came to the conclusion that Lord S probably isn't online much. He launches this new idea with an article that is locked behind a paywall, and a website that takes ages to load and whose idea of interactivity is a few slightly tiresome graphics.
I'm all for simplicity but the idea that brands now have to fight to "own" a word is taking things a bit far. In fact, Saatchi seems to want to replace advertising with something that is even more crude and interruptive. It's a bit like Kevin Roberts' Lovemarks which said branding was dead and then proposed to replace it with... even more of the same.
In the Saatchi world, it seems brands are doomed to a future of heavy-handed oversimplification, which feels like the opposite of what I see happening in the real world, where in a mass of conversations the meaning of brands is in constant flux based on the attitudes and opinions of millions of stakeholders.
Saatchi praises "the word"; for myself, I'll stick to conversation.
UPDATE Grant McCracken doesn't agree with Saatchi, either.
The premises are sound. The conclusion is insane. Lord Saatchi peers into the future and loses his nerve almost immediately. Hold, Lord Saatchi, might the new consumer offer new life to advertising? After all, this is a creature who can monitor several media, detect tiny messages, accomplish acrobatic acts of analysis thereupon. The evidence collected by the likes of MIT's Henry Jenkins points to the emergence of a consumer with extraordinary powers of assimilation and understanding
June 19, 2006
Branding without humour
Jackie Huba contrasts how two brands responded to some creativity by customers. Lots of people have discovered the fun to be had by dropping Mentos sweets into diet coke - apparently it gets quite explosive. Here's Jackie's report:
Mentos: "We are tickled pink by it," says Pete Healy, vice president of marketing for the company's U.S. division. The company spends less than $20 million on U.S. advertising annually and estimates the value of online buzz to be "over $10 million."That line about not fitting the brand personality is a classic bit of old-style brand thinking. It strikes me as rather lame not to be able to summon up a playful response to the inventiveness of your customers. And does its marketing department truly believe it gets to control what is, or isn't, the Coke personality?
Coke: "We would hope people want to drink [Diet Coke] more than try experiments with it," says Coke spokeswoman Susan McDermott. She adds that the "craziness with Mentos ... doesn't fit with the brand personality" of Diet Coke.
For more brand-lunacy, look no further than the World Cup.
Hundreds of Dutch fans had to watch their team's 2-1 win over the Ivory Coast in their underwear in Stuttgart on Friday after stewards at entry points to the stadium rumbled an ambush marketing ploy.That, as we English are fond of saying, "is pants". Brands that show so little appetite for playfulness can expect to be mocked.
The Netherlands supporters all turned up in garish orange lederhosen displaying the name of Dutch brewery Bavaria and were ordered to remove them by stewards before being allowed to enter the Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion.
They then went into the match and watched it in their underwear.
Anheuser Busch's Budweiser is the official beer for the tournament and world soccer's governing body fiercely protects its sponsors from brands which are not FIFA partners.
For added irony, apparently Budweiser doesn't really qualify as a beer at all in some Germans' eyes - which is pretty bizarre for the "official beer" (!) of the tournament:
...what most upsets the fans is that Budweiser advertised as the King of Beers in the US fails to meet the ancient German standards for purity, which stipulate that beer can be brewed only from malt, hops and water. Budweiser uses rice in its production process and therefore does not qualify as a beer in the German sense.
People who work with me realise that a good way to get me to stop listening to any explanation is to draw me a diagram. Don't get me wrong, sometimes a diagram is a great way to explain stuff... but most of the diagrams I see to explain things in business drive me nuts.
Is this because I am not a "visual thinker"? Nope, that's not it. In fact, I think I am a very visual thinker and I see more stuff in these diagrams than the authors intend. So their efforts to explain end up overwhelming me with superfluous data. For instance, people draw me pyramids with different coloured layers to indicate some kind of hierarchy. The bottom slice has much more surface area than the top... but usually, that is not actually relevant. They only mean that it's at the bottom... but their picture is saying more than that. Then they colour those slices in... again firing off a whole set more nerons, usually without conveying anything useful.
The second thing I loathe are diagrams used to say little more than "there are five aspects to this, and they're all related". Which is illustrated by some kind of pentagram with loads of arrows joining the nodes in every possible combination. It's a mess and it adds nothing to the core idea.
Kathy Sierra's latest, typically thought-provoking post gets to this too:
Differences in an image are interpreted as meaningful information. If two things represent the same idea, make them the visually similar. Conversely, if two things represent different ideas, make them different!Sometimes, the stimulation presented by visual ideas can work, like great writing, to evoke complex and varied reactions by the observer/reader. I don't want to rule that out. I think the point is that there is some kind of distinction between intentionally creating complex and creative responses, and doing stuff that just gets in the way of making a simple point.
June 18, 2006
Hollow pleas to participate
In her unconference blog, Kaliya reports this experience:
I am here at day 2 of VloggerCon.. They opened the day sharing from the stage they ‘really wanted the audience to talk more and to participate‘. I hearing this spontaneously yelled out - "change the format". This comment was just ignored.I notice this a lot at conferences and presentations. Speakers say they want conversation and then start presenting; moderators say they want the audience to take part and then ask the panel most of the questions themselves. The thing is, if you appoint speakers or expert panellists, hand them microphones so they are automatically louder than the audience, and place them on a stage so they are physically above the audience, you're not likely to encourage participation. If you're organising a conference you need to makes some choices about trading control for engagement. If you really want audience participation, you have to take the risk of abandoning some of the conventional structures. If you don't want to take that risk, fine. But saying you want participation from the audience ends up sounding completely hollow.
June 17, 2006
I liked the point Shawn at Anecdote makes here about the power of small interventions, and this example:
This company practices hot-desking and they noticed there were very few conversations among people while they were at their desks. Staff morale was also low. On a typical day people would grab a seat automatically allocated to them resulting in many people siting next to strangers. The intervention involved providing each employee with a name plate (most interventions I’ve seen come with the exclamation, ‘no kidding!’) they could slide into their cubicle. The simple idea was that if people knew who they were sitting next to they might introduce themselves. After implementing the intervention it was noticed that adjacent colleagues started using the online staff directory to see what part of the organisation their neighbours were from and discovered things in common. Over time new connections were made and people started to self organise arranging for groups to sit together.I'm often struck, when facilitating, at the impact apparently small interventions have, for good or ill. In branding, a lot of focus goes on finding the "big idea" - an approach that may leave us missing the smaller ideas that may actually be more important.
June 15, 2006
Scoble is on top form and probably feeling demob happy.
Why have Google and Apple done so well in the last three years? Cause the grassroots loves them. That's the powerroot of the industry. Ideas here don't come from the big influencers and move down. No, they start on the street and move up. Anyone miss how Google got big? Not by throwing a press conference.
The demise of Yes Car Credit... and an opportunity for financial marketers
I am pleased to report (belatedly) the demise of Yes Car Credit, a company that specialised in selling cars with finance in the "subprime" market. I blogged a BBC expose of this company early last year and it seems that the dismal, unpleasant reality of its service completely overwhelmed the illusion of its hefty advertising budget. (For example, just see the reviews it got on dooyoo.) At the end of 2005, Yes Car Credit was closed.
Needless to say, the market for other dodgy and exploitative lenders remains wide open, and no doubt Yes will be swiftly replaced by others.
But I see an opportunity here for respectable financial institutions. They'll probably grasp it if they understand the value of building community and they'll miss it if they stay too obsessed with instant returns. It's an opportunity to win by doing something worthwhile that uses - and promotes - their core expertise.
It would help if they allowed themselves to become disillusioned with mainstream sponsorship as a means of promotion. Years ago, a client of mine sponsored a televised snooker tournament. They were (coincidentally) a subprime lender themselves, and thought it was rather clever to get this sponsorship, hitherto the province of the cigarette companies. Thus the "Mercantile Credit Classic" was born. Oh dear. As my boss at the time drily observed, the effect was probably only that a few punters went into the newsagents and asked for a packet of Mercantile Credit.
So many brands seem to sponsor stuff which really has no connection with their business at all, in a lame attempt to curry favour with customers or satisfy the directors' vain desire to hobnob with celebrities. Ok, in fairness I daresay they can pull out stats about awareness building, audience share, demographics blah blah blah... but that seems to be part of the old style, buy-your-way-to-fame, approach to marketing.
Take the Nationwide Building Society for example. In many ways, I admire the Nationwide for its effort to stand up for the principle of mutuality instead of just selling out to the stock market. But their sponsorship of soccer here in the UK leaves me baffled. Sure, soccer is popular, but if any sport is a byword for financial profigacy it has to be soccer. Is Nationwide sponsoring financial awareness classes for football managers? I don't think so. No, they're just trying to look good, and I suppose vaguely patriotic, by sidling up to all those footie fans. But what does sponsoring soccer tell us about Nationwide? How does this activity align with their purpose as an organisation? I haven't bothered to look, but I daresay there'll be some tortuous copy somewhere about values of excellence, teamwork, blah blah blah (with a side-ordoer of blah and a blah chaser). I fear most of these sponsorship boil down to lipstick on the pig, an effort to associate with something more glamorous in the hope some of it rubs off. And as a lazy alternative to generating word-of-mouth by doing something actually worth talking about.
Now why not take all that money away from abstract sponsorship. And combine it with the actual talents of your staff, and start offering a real community service by helping people who otherwise fall victim to loan sharks? You could at least offer them intelligent, compassionate advice. You could support them in forming some kinds of self-help groups or learning communities. I would think you could innovate some lending products that might suit them better and not rip them off or encourage them to overstretch.
You don't need this to be hugely profitable though you might surprise yourself. And instead of lamely trying to look a little (and I mean a very little) like something glamorous, you'll be providing us with an example of what you are actually supposed to be good at. Good heavens, instead of trying look a bit like people who look a bit like heroes, you could actually be heroic, in a small way, and do some good in the world.
Tories embrace blogging
Antony Mayfield reports that the Tory party are setting up an area for bloggers at their next conference. He observes:
New Labour swept to power partly as a result of that party’s first coming to terms with and then mastering the arts of media management. But that was in the industrial age of media, when information and messages were “controlled” and went largely one way.
Online communities have come of age while Tony’s been at Number Ten. Unless social media is taken seriously by all party communicators, they could begin to look like generals still fighting the last war.
No such thing as an internal memo
When talking about marketing these days, I often show people the home page of internalmemos.com and suggest that these days, it's not safe to think of any memo as internal.
I imagine Graham Copley at HSBC has realised that, seeing his latest published in the FT, describing the output of some of their very highly paid analsysts as "pedominantly worthless flashnotes" adding that many "analysts and team leaders do not deserve to be paid this year".
As my friend Declan, who spotted this, concludes: interesting times indeed.
Illusions about the future
Dave Pollard reviews a book by Daniel Gilbert called Stumbling on Happiness. According to Dave the book suggests we are, as a species, not terribly competent at imagining the future for three reasons.
1. Illusions of realism: our imagination is so powerfu, we're not sufficieintly sceptical of its products.
We conjure up perfect stereotypes of behaviours and events. We omit details of the future in our future imaginings that will powerfully affect how we will feel. We fail to imagine what won't happen. We make compound errors both of 'filling in' and 'leaving out' in our imagined vision of our future selves and future lives. As a result, what we plan and strive for is unreal, a complete fiction. And when we get there, we are bound to be disappointed.2. Illusions of presentism: we tend to project the present into the future, discounting potential for change and discontinuity
3. Illusions of rationalisation:
We possess what Gilbert calls a "psychological immune system" which "cooks the facts" (shades of Lakoff) and provides us with comforting illusions about ourselves and our situation. We see ourselves more positively than objectively, and while we do most things subconsciously, we positively rationalize 'conscious' reasons for what we do, and don't do, in order to make ourselves feel better, and more 'in control'. We regret inactions more than actions. And illogically we view situations that we perceive as inevitable more positively than very similar situations over which we have some choice.This makes sense to me. In my training in gestalt therapy, there was a lot of focus on separating our experience from our fantasies based on experience, which often get us into trouble. I found this analysis rather cheering. It feels like a relief in some ways to feel less in control of the future and therefore a little less responsible for it. I could understand others feeling less comfortable though.
Does this mean we should stop planning? Obviously not. But it's a good pushback against getting carried away with it and a nudge toward living more in the present.
Based on Dave's analysis, I'm not too convinced by Gilbert's proposed strategy for planning the future:
...finding 'surrogates' -- people who are now in a situation similar to the one you think you might be in in the future, and asking yourself if you would be happy if you'd done what they did and were doing what they're doing. Less imagination, and more research.That might add a useful perspective but I fear it would be subject to the same kinds of self-delusion Gilbert highlights elsewhere.
June 14, 2006
Grant McCracken finds fault with an article in the WSJ. This took a critical look at brainstorming, and Grant reckons its pretty flawed.
Hmm, I have mixed feelings and I'm wary of generalising on either side of the argument.
Grant attacks the author for suggesting there is a such a thing as a bad idea. He says "You have to make all ideas welcome to discover the good ones" Well, I absolutely see the merit in that. When someone keeps saying things like "this too is wrong", "nonsense" "error" "this too is really daft" "so many stupidities", I think it tends to deter conversation and exploring risky territory. Ironically, those are all words Grant uses to describe the WSJ article. There's lots of energy in Grant's argument and I like a good rant. I also think it highlights the paradox of advocating relentless positivity... in the end, it creates its own kind of harsh, no-go area. Some would say that the labelling of things as "good" can be just as tricky as labelling them as "bad".
Some brainstorms have been satisfying to me, others haven't. Sometimes they generate a pile of post it notes that no-one wants to do anything with, sometimes they generate new ways of thinking. I think sometimes people go away on their own, and have some bright actionable idea partly inspired by the group. Sometimes they come up with something out of pique because they found the group frustrating. Sometimes, not much obvious happens at all. As a fan of complexity, I'd also suggest that it's not always easy to know if they "work" or not.
I think sometimes the fast-pace implicit in the "storming" part of the title is a refreshing change for participants, sometimes it leads to overstimulation and a shortage of reflection. I think between Grant and the WSJ we can see both the up and downsides.
Personally, I like methods that allow us people a flexibility to work at different paces and using different ways of interacting. I tend not to use the word "brainstorming" as for me it's too suggestive of a relentless fast-pace. With more time for reflection, people sometimes generate ideas that are somewhere in the fascinating gaps between one point of view and another. And I like rules-of-thumb more than absolute instructions for how we might all choose to play together.
June 13, 2006
I got this information in an email and I thought I'd spread the word...
The Fun Fed is recruiting and we’re looking for a GAMES RESEARCHER!!
We run fun, games and play sessions for adults with a focus on collaborative fun. We require a person to take charge of our games database and fill it with world-class, super-fun games and play ideas.
Your research will be both paper- and web-based alongside live, interactive research. We need someone truly lively who can tune into the very particular energy of our organisation and bring something of their own.
£21-24k depending on experience, pro rata.
Flexible working hours - Initial 2 month contract with the possibility of an extension.
Starting date: ASAP. Based in Angel, London.
For an application pack, contact Hannah Merriman on 020 7841 8934 at the Fun Federation.
June 12, 2006
Sorry, there are appear to be problems with entering comments here at the moment, and possibly trackbacks too. Thanks to those readers who alerted me; I'm looking into it.
UPDATE: I think I've resolved this. I've been using the default names for comment and trackback scripts and Hosting Matters were choking on these due to the large amount of spam. I've renamed them. Fingers crossed this continues to work...
June 11, 2006
The "I love data" guy
Which is great. There are plenty of folks who say metrics are important, and many of them sound like bad parents, moralising not enthusing. With Bill, it's the other way round. He's the sort of metrics guy you would actually enjoy having on your team. His company keeps a fun blog too. I liked this post by his colleague Heather Hopkins about the world cup search queries revealing the prevailing obessions of England football fans.
Peter Crouch's rise in UK internet searches is almost entirely due to the England striker's robotic goal celebration, as seen after his goal against Hungary on 30th May. The top search terms for Peter Crouch are dominated by searches relating to his dance moves, with 'peter crouch dance', 'peter crouch robot', 'crouch robot' and 'peter crouch robot dance among the top search terms for the striker.As well as being amusing, it does show that there's a lot of market research insight available for next-to-nothing by simply following internet behaviour.
Beckham's next hairstyle has also piqued interest online. Amid growing speculation into the look that David Beckham will sport in the 2006 World Cup, searches for David Beckham focused on the player's hair style, with 'david beckham hairstyles' and 'david beckham hair' among the most popular search terms for the England captain.
I've not blogged the second day of the IMC conference, partly because so much has been done over at Fast Company. What struck me most strongly was the contrast between two panels. The first was on theme of user-generated content, featuring Craig Newmark, John Hiller and Chris Tolles. The second was on The Changing Face of Advertsing, with an array of agency hands.
What really struck me was not the content but the energy. The panel of people with real experience of building social networks were thoughtful, amusing, mostly humble and well... nice. I felt uplifed. On the ad panel, well several of them seemed a bit unhappy and I felt a bit depressed. I didn't get much sense that they were really enthusiastic about their work.
The first panel referred to changing the direction of their business in response to member feedback and behaviour; in fact to letting the members determine what their businesses were doing. Some of the ad panellists seemed more interested in asserting that nothing much was changing really.
I like the notion that Web 2.0 is about allowing us to organise around what we are passionate about, and creating stuff together, changing each other in the process. I may be an idealist, but the contrast between the two panels rather fits in with my prejudice.
The Geography of Thought
I've been enjoying The Geography of Thought by Richard E Nesbitt. Nesbitt explores differences in the thinking between Eastern and Western cultures, arguing cogently that the very way we filter and experience the world is powerfully affected by the culture we are brought up in. So that differences are experienced as rather more than just differences of opinion. I'm especially interested in his observations about how differences in language refect and reinforce different ways of experiencing the world.
For instance, in Western cultures, children learn nouns more quickly than verbs; it's the other way round out East. This reflects a western world of separated objects and an Eastern world view of greater fludity and relationship. In Japan, there are lots of different words for what we English descibe as "I". This reflects that in the East, there is less empasis on the self as unique, unchanging operator and more sense of everything as related.
I'm simplifying and generalising of course, and Nesbitt has a well-phrased caveat about being careful to be nuanced in presenting these differences. There's lots of heterogeneity in all cultures.
Brain science and change
Shawn at Anecdote points to this article by David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz: The Neuroscience of Leadership. It attempts to relate findings in brain research to the challenge of organisational change. I found it thought-provoking - here are some reflections on it.
The authors suggest change is pain. Processing new stuff uses up our limited supplies of working memory and we get tired quickly. Plus, there's a tendency for the brain to activate its fear circuitry when it picks up difference in the environment.
Try to change another person's behavior, even with the best possible justification, and he or she will experience discomfort. The brain sends out powerful messages that something is wrong, and the capacity for higher thought is decreased. Change itself thus amplifies stress and discomfort; and managers (who may not, from their position in the hierarchy, perceive the same events in the same way that subordinates perceive them) tend to underestimate the challenges inherent in implementation.Well, this makes sense, especially if forgive them the rhetorical exagerration of the headline "change is pain". I would add that I'd be wary of assuming that organisational change is just a process where one person commands and the other obeys. I see it as a more two way process in which the pain, if there is some, might be more distributed. There's some fear circutry at work for the boss too.
Rock and Schwartz argue that behaviourism doesn't work, challenging carrot-and-stick approaches, and I easily agree with that.
They next suggest humanism is overrated, and I notice my anxiety levels rise a little. I find this section a bit confused. It starts off talking about the view that empathy is the key to change but then asserts that this might not always get you the change you want. For me, not always getting what you want is life. I resist the idea that organisational change is about getting obedience. Those of us, including me, who think empathy is important would suggest that this kind of instrumentalism undermines empathy. I agree with the authors when they argue that people can spot this kind of manipulation; but I don't think this invalidates an empathy-based approach.
I quite liked the bit where the authors critique the socratic questioning approach to coaching; I increasingly find myself irritated by this style of working as it easily becomes patronising, reflecting an idea that in a relationship only person has to change and the other, expert, simply has to point the way.
I got more engaged when the authors presented brain-based evidence to support the notion that change is more likely to happen when we have our own insights. This fits with the commonsense idea that people are fonder of ideas when they think they've had them themselves. Here's how they argue it:
For insights to be useful, they need to be generated from within, not given to individuals as conclusions. This is true for several reasons. First, people will experience the adrenaline-like rush of insight only if they go through the process of making connections themselves. The moment of insight is well known to be a positive and energizing experience. This rush of energy may be central to facilitating change: It helps fight against the internal (and external) forces trying to keep change from occurring, including the fear response of the amygdala.I also liked their argument that changes are more likely to happen if we don't rely on a "one day wonder" workshop and instead go for smaller but repeated interventions that reinforce new patterns.
Second, neural networks are influenced moment to moment by genes, experiences, and varying patterns of attention. Although all people have some broad functions in common, in truth everyone has a unique brain architecture. Human brains are so complex and individual that there is little point in trying to work out how another person ought to reorganize his or her thinking. It is far more effective and efficient to help others come to their own insights. Accomplishing this feat requires self-observation. Adam Smith, in his 1759 masterpiece The Theory of Moral Sentiments, referred to this as being the spectators of our own behaviour.
UPDATE Ed Batista likes the article but has a similar issue with the take on humanism. He says
I'd be less critical if Rock and Schwartz had said, "Humanism is difficult to execute, can't be faked, and sometimes devolves into thinly veiled and patronizing efforts at persuasion," or, more concisely, "Pseudo-humanism is overrated."
June 9, 2006
You can download it here.
I've podcast with Nev and Shel before and it was nice to be able to do this in person.
June 8, 2006
I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the CEO. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel I owe anybody an explanation."If you were a stockholder or employee of this company, would you feel comfortable with the attitude embodied here?
Actually, I cheated, and substituted the word CEO for "president". And the speaker? George Bush.
Food for thought. (Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)
The great complexification
Marketing has tended to fixate on simplification. We hear a lot about the importance of the elevator pitch, the sharp tagline, the short sharp positioning statement or headline.
Marketing oversimplifies... which generally demeans consumers. He gives as examples the mainly crass straplines used to promote US cities.
Now, enter the blogosphere and a world where the customers are talking to each other.
This is a world where George Bush makes an important speech and his speechwriters distil it down to 2500 words, to articulate a simple idea. Within hours, there are 2500 separate blog posts relating to it, one interpretation for every word.
What goes on in the blogosphere is the great complexification... the blogosphere makes things complex again which runs against every instinct of marketersIn the ensuing discussion, several folks are keen to distinguish between marketing communications and all the other stuff marketing people do, which is a fair point.
There's a point somewhere here about the paradox of complexity vs simplicity but I'll save it for another day.
Software as service
A friend pointed me to an interesting article in Business Week artilce: A VC's view of Web 2.0, an interview with Ray Lane, ex Oracle chief. Here's the opener
Recently, Lane has talked more forcefully about his belief that the traditional method of selling big corporate software applications as multimillion-dollar packages that take years to implement is broken. He contends that, thanks to the new wave of Web 2.0 companies, innovation is now on a six-month- instead of a three-year cycle -- virtually requiring that software be offered as a service instead.
I liked his idea of moving from the three Is : intercept, isolate and inhibit...
towards the three As : attract, assist, affiliate.
Oh, and someone has just likened this to a move from a phallic model of penetration to something more feminine. Put that in your pipe and smoke it (or is that too masculine an image?)
PS John H is now talking about using relationship economics rather than transaction economics, properly reflecting the lifetime value of customer relationships. I agree, needless to say.
PPS He also says most companies are an awkward effort to do three things which might better be done separately - 1 infrastructure management (lots of routine processes) 2. product/service innovation 3. managing customer relationships
So now the Corante conference is talking about co-creation. I'm gonna give myself a break from blogging this, especially as Paul Gladen is capturing some of it over at Fast Company.
I just chipped in my two cents. Here they are: we sometimes talk about co-creation in marketing as if it is something that some folks are doing and some are not. That's fine, but I think the truth is that as human beings we are co-creating the whole time, but maybe not noticing. As I was saying this, I pointed out that the people listening to me were in-the-moment co-creating experiences with me... that might be boredom, curiosity, laughter etc. So what if organisations took the time to simply attend to what is being co-created in all their relationships.. so perhaps we can avoid just using co-creation as another stick to beat ourselves with.
Burger King creating conversation
I'm at Corante's Marketing Innovation Conference here in New York.
There was a short and interesting opening keynote from Russ Klein of Burger King. Now BK is not a brand I feel any personal enthusiasm for being more aligned with the Fast Food Nation mindset. But if I set aside my lack of enthusiasm for the end product (and that's a big set-aside) it struck me that these guys really seem to understand how to do marketing 2.0.
Russ's talk was about Social Currency, and BK's strategy has been to create opportunities for conversations among their customers. No, these are not conversations about nutrition, but around things like the subservient chicken: this appears to be what their core users want to talk about. Here are a few of the sound bites I picked up...
We can't wage war in the marketplace any moreHe showed examples of how BK has been pretty crafty at generating word-of-mouth. For example, when a SpongeBob mascot disappeared from the roof of one of their restaurants, they managed to turn iti into a bid of a media circus. Similar tactics turned their walking "Burger King" king into a talking point on all the late-night talk shows. What especially interested me was that they actually decided to stop feeding that particular frenzy, not wanting to overstay their welcome.
Cultivating the 'did you see that' factor
Branding is not about some fine positioning statement that's suitable for framing
Get used to being occasionally disappointed... fail fast
This sort of marketing is not an event, it's a culture
Check your brand's ego at the door... get past the Madison Avenue speak... don't wear out your welcome
BK also gives a lot of attention to the folks they call their superfans. So they get the whole one percenters idea.
Love 'em or hate them, apparently BK has substantially outmanouevred McDonalds, creating a lot more word-of-mouthwhile spending about a quarter as much on advertising.
June 5, 2006
The site, set up by the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency, suggests lame activities for teachers eager to inculcate copyright totalitarianism in their young charges. It's unintentionally hilarious.It is indeed a bizarre effort, which I am sure the average kid would regard with bewilderment if not contempt. Apparently, they are expected to vote for creating a copyright signal to be projected into the air to summon the Captain to... er... get everyone to stop copying things. As Hugh would say, beyond lame.
June 4, 2006
Against cheese movement...
Jon Husband found an engaging post by Kevin Carson taking aim at the thesis of the book, Who Moved my Cheese? If you enjoyed the Fetish of Change essay I pointed to the other day, you'll probably like this, which reads likes a late-night, high caffeine version of the same ideas. Snippet:
See, "change" is good. It doesn't matter that it's the kind of change that's shoved down our throats by people totally unaccountable to us. The book, in fact, was created as a management tool for dealing with "change resisters." And naturally, it's a big favorite of HR departments everywhere. Those managers who applied the lessons of the book in their thankless job of imposing "change" found, to their delight, that it "worked wonders."Kevin's interested in empathy, and the difference between the fake kind and the real thing. I think empathy is what gets left out of many narratives about how change happens. The desired future state somehow trumps the present, and stops us from being present to each other.
Lordi moves in mysterious ways...
The Eurovision Song Contest is a bizarre spectacle.
This year was no exception.
The story of how this year's winners - Finnish heavy metal band Lordi - won, as told by Tomi Ahonen, is worth listening to. (Unlike the Contest itself, IMHO)
Open Source Research
Biomedical science is indivisible. The physical and psychological barriers that divide scientific communities are ultimately artificial and counterproductive. We see online collaboration as a natural way to bridge these gaps and pool information that is currently too fragmented for anyone to use. An open, collaborative research community will find new ways to do science, answering questions that current institutions find difficult or impossible....
We are beginning our journey focused on the two tropical diseases malaria and schistosomiasis... The typical profit-driven pharmaceutical economic model fails with these diseases because there is simply no money to be made. However, the very fact that there’s no profit incentive to research these diseases makes them perfect candidates for open source style research; there’s no profit incentive to keep secrets either.
Digesting Reboot, and foveal and peripheral.
Warning: somewhat rambling post ahead. I'm thinking aloud here even more than usual.
Rob Paterson has an interesting review of Reboot.
Whilst some speakers still spoke about how to make a better commerce website, many such as Doc Searls, Euan Semple, J P Rangaswami and Lee Bryant were clear. Community and personal reputation will increasingly be amplified by social software and will creates "Places" in which commerce will take place, just as markets themselves were once social spaces. Participation is not a feature of this emerging paradigm but its centrality. Community will be the container into which things will happen directly between people. Social relationships and hence trust will be the critical factors.Searching blogs covering Reboot is very satisfying. I feel like I am participating in some collective meaning-making, digesting the ideas that were put forward there.
Here's an example. I missed Jyri Engeström's talk this year. I heard several people enthusing about it afterwards. I thought I got some of it from Kars Alfrink's notes Then I found this one liner in Anne Vankesteren's blog
Jyri Engeström: Mobile 2.0 is not about multimedia. Its about enabling social peripheral vision across space and across time.Suddenly, the penny dropped for me, and what an interesting metaphor.
Peripheral vision, for me, is in the edge space between the conscious and the unconscious, between the explicit and the implicit. We're not consciously processing what goes on, but it's a vital part of our awareness. It's easy in life to focus on the obvious, with our foveal vison. Rob talks about those wanting to make a better commerce site; that's the foveal vision of the internet. Pausing and taking in more, we see the social relationships that Rob enthuses about. We see the pings that Technorati tracks rather than the static pages Google looks for (as Doc Searls explained it).
I like to play Improv games, and chose a particularly silly one for the session James and I ran: slow motion samurai. I found it a complete hoot. Metaphorically, the foveal view of such a game might be that it is plain silly, or perhaps that it's a good warmup. The peripheral vision might take in that (IMHO) in these silly games, some rather wonderful and complex things are happening. Not least that people seem to engage with enthusiasm without much carrot or stick. That life may not be about winning or losing, but taking part.
In our second session, we played a game called soundball. People stand in a circle and one player starts the process by throwing an imaginary ball to another player, at the same time making an inarticulate sound. The receiver has to repeat the sound as he receives the ball, then throw it to another player, making an inarticulate sound of his own. And the process iterates from there. It's a good game for learning about listening, making clear offers and seeing what it takes to get a group sharing ideas at a very fundamental level.
Where it gets more fun is when a second ball is introduced. Suddenly the game is more complex. In the one-ball version, we can just follow the ball to stay in touch. When there's more than one ball going round, that won't work. Guess what? We have to shift - and now I mean literally, not metaphorically - from foveal vision to peripheral vision. For me, this shifts my whole experience and alertness onto another level.
PS. Slow motion samurai is a very noisy game. Weirdly, James started calling it Silent Samurai and that appears to be how it is known by several of those who played it with us. I love that.
June 3, 2006
Reflections on Reboot
I'm back home from Reboot8 feeling very energised by the whole experience and reflecting on why I got so much from it.
Generally, I don't enjoy conferences. I find I get uncomfortable if I have to sit for too long in an audience listening to a series of presentations. This also applies to panels and Q & A sessions as well... essentially any format where one person at a time gets a microphone. Unless that person is me... and even then I have my reservations. There were points at Reboot where I experienced severe presentation fatigue - but fortunately Reboot offers a great informal social space for informal conversations. I skipped many sessions in favour of chatting with old friends in the cafe area or terrace. A few minutes of good conversation and my fatigue vanished. Towards the end of the first afternoon, when I was feeling conferenced out, I skipped the evening events and gathered with a few friends for an excellent dinner which once again restored my energy.
It seems that other people have longer attention spans and they got more from the formal sessions than I did. And the great thing is, some of them write blog posts with the highlights, and I can read these at my leisure later. They digest the powerpoints for me and feed me back the highlights, with some reflections of their own. It's funny that I found Bruno Giussani's engaging reflections via a blogger who wasn't even there at the conference, Mark Lloyd.
This way, I feel I get the best of both... key ideas from the presentations and all the satisfaction of looser and more informal conversations. I am left wondering how many of those sitting in on lots of formal presentations were getting what they wanted... but I certainly got my needs met.
Visiting New York
I'll be attending Corante's Innovative Marketing Conference on 8 and 9 June in New York, and I'll be staying in the city for most of the weekend of 10 and 11 June. Any bloggers wanting to meet up, let me know.
June 2, 2006
So I'm here at Reboot8 having too much fun to spend much time blogging. But here are a few soundbites from Doc Searls who is speaking at the moment. Not sure if they'll make sense out of context, but it's good stuff, trust me.
The real killer app is relationshipsThat's it, think of this as a provisional post, I might add more later.
On the live web, the demand side is supplying itself
Industrial publishers create finished works
The best of blogging is rolling snowballs
Podcasting is part of the great unbundling
Power isn't redistributed,it's re-originated
In the live web, the value chain is replaced by the value constellation
There's no marketing in the attention economy, just sales
We think the internet economy is about your choice of silo. It isn't.
The best blogging is provisional it's not finished or final