December 11, 2012
Sacha Chua, a “sketchnote artist and experimenter-at-large” from Toronto, developed this very cool infographic of my Best Practices Are Stupid book. And she was kind enough to allow us to share it under the Creative Commons Attribution License. So spread the love, and visit Sacha’s site to show your appreciation. (click on the picture to get the full size image). Thank you Sacha!
November 1, 2012
Back in 1995, I was driving Accenture’s (then Andersen Consulting) business process reengineering practice. I traveled the world helping companies downsize. Although downsizing wasn’t the objective of reengineering, it was often the outcome.
While working on one particular project, I knew that 10,000 people were going to lose their jobs as a result of our work. Somehow I was able to rationalize away the impact on the lives of so many people.
Three is More than 10,000
That is, until I was watching a television show about three executives from that very company who were laid-off a year earlier. One person cried the entire interview. Another was optimistic even though he had not yet found a suitable job. And the third person committed suicide.
The next day, while at the client site, I confirmed that the stories were true. I immediately dismissed myself and never returned to the project. After watching that TV show, I could no longer be a contributor to even one lost job.
Stalin once said, “One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.”
As I discovered personally, 10,000 lost jobs was a statistic; one lost job was unbearable.
Big Data and Human Desire
Lately, innovation and innovation marketing has been left in the hands of statisticians. It lacks the personal touch.
Big data is driving the decision-making process in many organizations. But numbers cannot address the subtleties of human desire. Statistics only capture what we see on the surface, and can rarely tap into deeper needs.
In order for an innovation to be successful, it does of course need to tap into the needs of the masses. But sometimes the best way to find those needs is to look at the individuals. Listen to your customers directly; not just through surveys, focus groups or data mining as these methodologies can have significant drawbacks.
Surveys and focus groups tend to lead consumers down a particular path due to the way questions are structured. Also, the questioning process taps into the conscious mind; buying behaviors and hidden needs are often only uncovered by tapping into the subconscious.
Data mining, analytics and big data typically capture information about existing customers. But it does little to identify needs of non-customers and ex-customers. Plus it can only capture information about current products and services.
Capture the Customer
Instead, observe your customers. Watch them in action. Watch their struggles. Look for unarticulated needs. What are their pains? And find ways of tapping into their personal interests so that you can share their individual stories and contributions.
One company that has done this particularly well is Kimberly-Clarke. They launched their Huggies MomInspired Grant Program. In a nutshell, mothers who have an idea for a new product can obtain funding and support to bring it to market.
Although the products address the specific needs of one mother, as it turns out, most parents have the same issue. And in many cases, these opportunities are not uncovered through surveys or data mining.
One added advantage of the Huggies program is not just in the identification of new products. The inventor becomes the spokesperson. They become an evangelist, telling their personal story. It is the personal story that humanizes the product making it more appealing to consumers.
Humanizing is the key here. Buyers can’t relate to statistics, generic features and functions. But they can connect with the stories of individuals whose lives are changed. People buy on emotion, not intellect. They want a human connection.
If you want to innovate effectively, stop dealing only with impersonal statistics, data and numbers. You do this by identifying the real impact your product or service has on the consumer through observation or stories.
My speeches are to hundreds or thousands of people. At the conclusion, clients often conduct satisfaction surveys. While I generally receive the highest ratings, the responses are too abstract for me to get any real value.
Yesterday I had received a letter from someone who attended a recent speech. He said that the techniques I shared enabled him to solve a problem that had plagued him for a decade. This one personal example provides more value for me than 2,000 “very happy” responses and “great energy” comments on a survey. In addition, this example had an impact on my motivation; I felt energized. It also helped me understand what is really resonating with the audience and I can continue to refine my offerings.
If you own a small business, receiving a high Yelp rating is great. But that is impersonal. Gather stories from customers, in their own words. Go beyond the evaluation of the food, dry cleaning, or whatever you offer. Learn about the deep impact that your service has had in the lives of others. Has your restaurant brought families together? Has your dry cleaner freed up time so that parents now have time to spend with their children?
You are not selling a product or service. You are selling an emotion.
October 4, 2012
TopCoder is one of the best-kept secrets in open innovation. I had the pleasure of spending time with them. They are a fun bunch that is passionate about what they do.
After a full-day deep dive in their Connecticut offices, I traveled to Orlando to spend two days at their “TopCoder Open,” a competition they run each year where they invite their top contributors and clients.
I have to say, it’s all quite impressive.
They focus on a specific set of problems: design, coding/testing, and algorithmic challenges.
Their approach to open innovation is distinctive; something I have not seen elsewhere:
- They “atomize” their challenges to make them so small that they can be solved in two weeks or less. In some cases, challenges are solved in 24 hours. Doing this increases the likelihood of success and reduces the impact of failures.
- Their challenges are not an event; they are an end-to-end process. Competitions start with strategies, wireframes, user experience design, and go through coding, testing, bug finding and more. They take a macro challenge and deconstruct it into many smaller challenges that are later integrated back together.
- They eat their own dog food. Their own platform was developed by their community. They have very few internal resources. Anything they need to create, they use the community. Imagine an technology company without any technology people and you have TopCoder.
- Their community is truly a community and not a bunch of individuals. Yes, they create competitions where contributors earn badges and reputation points. But unlike similar platforms, the members get to know each other. While at the TopCoder Open, it was clear that there is camaraderie amongst the community.
- It is all about the community. Nearly everything they do is through the community and for the community. They have 400,000 members in 220 countries. The project managers, called co-pilots, are members of the community. The crowd is even used to spec out the challenges; a challenge to define the challenge. The community does it all.
The results are astonishing. Most organizations have found that they can get a better result for 1/6th the cost with much shorter development timeframes.
Because they have a wide range of challenges (design, coding, testing, etc), this allows people to specialize on what they really like. Studies show that doing this increases effectiveness by 40%.
Open innovation in general is a great model because it allows the organization to pay for results, not hours. And because there are so many people working simultaneously on a problem, the likelihood of finding a solution is massively increased. TopCoder has a 90% solve rate.
Open innovation also allows organizations to try out new ideas in a safe and inexpensive way. TopCoder is a perfect platform for doing this. With 2 weeks and a few thousand dollars, they can run a challenge that can generate great insights quickly and cheaply.
There are many open innovation platforms. I have seen many of them. Each has a specific purpose. One solution does not solve all innovation challenges.
TopCoder specializes on a specific set of problems: design and development. And they solve those challenges exceptionally well.
September 15, 2012
The October issue of SUCCESS Magazine recently hit the news stands. The cover story – Innovate or Die - is 3 pages dedicated my perspectives on how to innovate more effectively. If you get the physical copy (with CD), you will also find a 23 minute audio interview with me and the publisher, Darren Hardy.
In the article I answer six critical questions:
- What would be your one piece of advice for a small-business owner or entrepreneur who wants to be more innovative?
- Why do you believe expertise is the enemy of innovation?
- Why should you work with people who are not like you?
- What should someone look for in partnerships?
- What is the #1 cause of innovation failure?
- Is innovation always about creating products and services that are better and faster?
Read the entire article on SUCCESS.com (only until October 11)
If you find the article of value, please “like” it (Facebook), “tweet it” and share it with your friends. I want to make the article the most popular article in this issue!
June 20, 2012
On July 19th, 2012, I will be keynoting at the inaugural Crowdopolis event being held July 19th in Los Angeles. You don’t want to miss this event! I can assure you it will be incredible. And at the bottom of this article there is a link which will give you a discount.
I asked Crowdopolis organizer and founder of Daily Crowdsource, David Bratvold, to write me a brief article on his perspective on crowdsourcing and in particular on how it can be used for content creation (I created a video about my perspective that I will be posting soon). Enjoy!
Curating Content with Crowdsourcing
by David Bratvold
Creating compelling and worthwhile content is an essential fact of life for companies looking to attract and engage consumers and incentivizing them to buy. But creating sufficient content to meet business objectives is an ongoing challenge. Besides hiring a large enough editorial staff to meet the content needs of your brand’s community, tapping into what your customers care most about related to your products and services can provide a treasure trove of meaningful content.
Crowdsourcing is a relatively new method of generating content for your brand’s product, and as it grows, organizations are now able to leverage this channel as means of connecting with their customers. Below are three ways crowdsourcing is impacting the future of content marketing.
Crowdsourcing speeds up the content creation process
You will never have enough time in the day to create the amount of content you want to create. Writer’s block, vacation, major deadlines, and other business emergencies can get in the way. With sites like CrowdSource.com, you can employ a scalable crowd of workers to create your content. No matter how many articles you write each week, more is better. With scalable labor, the only limitation to posting 5 articles per day is your budget. Keep in mind, however, that crowdsourcing projects do take a lot of moderation & feedback.
Crowdsourcing offers you diversity and creative choice
One of the main draws of using a site like Genius Rocket to crowdsource a commercial or viral video is the number of options to choose from along the way. Imagine what your video would look like if you or your internal team created it. The scripting, filming, acting, and even editing would, over time, begin to take on a uniform appearance. Once you turn this over to crowdsourcing, you begin picking from 30 different scripts, written from 30 different individuals from several different countries, cultures, & backgrounds. The diverse perspectives these individuals bring to the table are invaluable.
Now apply this benefit of diversity to the earlier benefit of drawing input from your customers and potential customers. Your target audience will begin to show you all the different ways they want to be approached – They’ll essentially be giving you your ideal marketing strategy.
Crowdsourcing inherently atomizes your content marketing process
By its nature crowdsourcing does not atomize the process. It’s only after you get unsatisfactory results will you start to break processes down so small that you will arrive at your desired goal. It’s tough to imagine that projects need to be broken down into steps that could take no more than seconds to accomplish. However, to effectively use crowdsourcing, every project must be atomized as small as possible.
Consider the task of moderating your forum. As an alternative to hiring a forum moderator, every single post could be fed through MTurk with a simple Yes or No question: “Is this post offensive?” Any Yes responses could be removed or reviewed. By atomizing this process, crowdsourcing can keep your forum (or any UGC Content) valuable and problem free.
As you sit and think about your content marketing strategy, engage your community and solicit their input. Each industry and community is different, offering quality analysis and creative ideas. Content marketers will be able to accomplish their objectives by using crowdsourcing as a means of better engaging and growing their social networks.
David Bratvold is the founder of Daily Crowdsource, an open-format website that aims to educate the public on the topic of crowdsourcing and a producer of Crowdopolis 2012, a major crowdsourcing conference teaching the future of crowdsourcing in advertising, technology, and content marketing scheduled this July 19. You can follow David on Twitter at @TDCrowdsource.
P.S. If you use this link to register, you will save $100 and pay only $378 (until June 25th when the price goes up)