Monday, April 30, 2012

Data Visualization

What is Data Visualization? How can it be explained through a visual diagram? Can data visualization be... visualized?

Data visualization is the study of the visual representation of data, meaning "information that has been abstracted in some schematic form, including attributes or variables for the units of information.  The "main goal of data visualization is to communicate information clearly and effectively through graphical means. It doesn't mean that data visualization needs to look boring to be functional or extremely sophisticated to look beautiful. To convey ideas effectively, both aesthetic form and functionality need to go hand in hand, providing insights into a rather sparse and complex data set by communicating its key-aspects in a more intuitive way. Yet designers often fail to achieve a balance between form and function, creating gorgeous data visualizations which fail to serve their main purpose — to communicate information.

Personally, I feel that Data Visualization is a way of story telling. Taking complex data and putting it into something visual or as John Maeda would say "simple". In essence, data visualization is a new pluri-disciplinary domain, where different expertise blends and overlap. It mixes different perspectives and that is what is supposed to be represented.

Monday, April 23, 2012

"People do business with people they like"

In recent times, companies  have recognized a shift occurring in the way they engage with their customers. This shift places customers in the driver's seat and new marketing approaches, tools and skills are required for companies to stay competitive. The four challenges I feel that could be universal game changers are Data Explosion, Social Media, Proliferation of Channels, and Shifting Consumer Demographics.

Welcome to the start of the social era where digital Darwinism has caused the evolution of consumer behavior when society and technology evolve faster than their ability to adapt. The millennial generation represents one-quarter of the American population. 70% of millennials feel that once they find a company or product they like, they write about their positive experience online with companies and products online. On the flipside, 39% will share negative experiences. Because of this, customers are in the driver's seat and new approaches, tools and skills are required for companies to stay competitive. Due to this change, nothing today is too big to fail or too small to succeed. This has become a major game changer in all aspects of business. Some will fail, some will thrive, however all businesses will have to evolve to this new environment or risk termination.  Organizations such as Tower Records, Borders Books and Music, Ann Arbor News and Blockbuster Video to name a few, that once appeared invincible to any market conditions have all fallen to the social era and are now terminally ill or deceased. The days where great organizations, products and services organically connected with their markets are numbered. Social media changes the way organizations operate internally and externally. In this highly competitive attention economy, where attention is a precious commodity, organizations must firmly connect with connected consumers and deliver exceptional experiences. Organizations need to transform into a social enterprise.

In his book, The Living Company, Arie De Geus did a study on the Fortune 500 companies and found out that the average life expectancy of a multinational corporation is about 40 to 50 years. About a third of the organizations listed in the 1970 Fortune 500 had disappeared by 1983. He also found out that long- lived organizations, which were 200 years old or more, survived for a couple of reasons. One of the main reasons was because these organizations were sensitive to their environments. He states, “Societal considerations were rarely given prominence in the deliberations of company boards. Yet they managed to react in a timely fashion to the conditions of society around them.” In fact, a report by David Mearman Scott showed that the stock price of Fortune 500 companies that engage with their customers was up 67% but those that didn’t was up only 42%.

In today's social era, organizations need to find better ways to listen and connect with their customers. As the old saying goes, "People do business with people they like."

Most organizations are afraid of change and they are not comfortable with the idea of going social. In fact, by understanding how businesses should be managed, they can better comprehend the benefits of going social. A customer has specific needs and wants and looks to businesses to fulfill them. Those needs are either satisfied or they’re not and products and services represent varying levels of value to customers in addressing those needs before, during and after the sale. Organizations need to become more customer-centric in order to provide better products and services, as it is difficult to see the customer or empathize with them if organizations are too focused on a spreadsheet
Organizations need to become more transparent in dealing with the public.  They also need to have an active team of “listeners” that can respond immediately to comments from the public. This is where social media comes into play. Social Media allows for real time responses and it also allows organizations to develop real time strategies based on customers’ feedback. Technologies have changed how organizations are operating. Customers have more information on organizations, and organizations have more information on customers. With this much transparency, organizational success will be increasingly dictated by those that can use social media and technology in the smartest way possible to better understand what is happening with customers and competition.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Social TV

Social media and mobile technology have greatly affected traditional TV consumption. Here are some of the trends from a consumer and marketing perspective.

Social Connectivity

With the degree of separation getting smaller, people today are even more interconnected than ever before. Social media has a big part to play and this trend of coming into groups has affected and will continue to affect the way TV is consumed. Traditionally, TV is consumed by 4 members seating in front of the television. However, presently this does not happen anymore. You will find that while watching TV, you could be tuning in as well to your tablet, laptop or mobile device. Marketers need to pick up on this trend to keep their consumers engage. It is quite common now to find that reality TV shows such as X Factor or American Idol run a live twitter feed to find out what the audience is saying and this plays a big part in the ratings of TV shows and helps TV producers to plan strategically. Nielsen has discovered that social chatter has a direct correlation to TV viewing. They found that at social chatter are usually very active at the start of a series and at the season finale. This ties in directly with the large TV ratings and viewership for each TV show. Large viewership in TV shows can encourage advertisers to spend more during certain time slots.

TV and the Internet

Technologies have enabled us to pause, rewind and record live television. As a result, consumers are now able to skip all the TV commercials that advertisers spend millions on. For example if a commercial is scheduled to air at prime time 8pm and if your consumers just forward through the commercials because it was recorded, the advertisement would not have reached the desired targeted audience and the entire advertising budget would have gone to waste. A trend I have noticed is that as people are spending more time on the internet and their mobile devices, companies are doing 2 things. Firstly they are creating apps for their consumers to use while watching a TV program. This could be in the form of back stage cameras or commenting on the live show with other people of similar interest. Secondly, TV commercials are being used to direct viewers to the internet where they will be able to view more information and relevant cool content. Taking this trend into mind, the messaging of TV commercials are starting to evolve. The TV commercial is a platform to direct consumers to the internet, and from the internet, direct the consumers to the shops or make an online purchase. Previously, the TV commercials were used to direct viewers directly to the stores.  Keeping this in mind, we will start to see spending on TV commercials decrease and more budget allocated towards internet and video internet marketing. Companies like Ford and Proctor and Gamble have realized this and have started to take their marketing budget to the internet . My prediction is that in 10 years time, the total amount of money spent on Super Bowl commercials will be only $5million.

Brand Resilience/Responsiveness

In this weeks article "Managing Brand Health In The Digital Age" by Chris Stutzman, it was apparent to me that managing the 4V's (volume, velocity, visibility and volatility) is very important. Due to the speed a which conversations take place on the web, brands need to be more equipped at steadfast in responding to queries or comments that may improve or damage your brands reputation. Lets take a look at the following examples.

It is obvious that social media has changed the way we interact with one another and get about our daily lives. An unhappy customer can now write a nasty review online talking about their bad experience with a company. Other customers that feel the same way will probably do the same thing. Now you will have a community of unhappy customers sharing their negative experience online and this may potentially ruin the reputation of your company and chase away potential customers reading these reviews. The exact opposite can also happen where positive reviews can attract new customers to the business. This new formula of one plus one equals to many has the potential to enhance or destroy a company’s reputation. A company can no longer get away with consistently offering shoddy products and services or ignoring customers concerns and needs. Organizations need to capitalize on this new trend and understand how they need to change the way they operate. They need to incorporate social media into their organization to help them stay connected to their customers and it takes a leader and culture of engagement to navigate this market in transition. A great example of an organization that does this, is Dell

Back in 2005, a reputable media thought leader Jeff Jarvis, published a blog post that expressed his hatred for a company that he felt had failed him. His post titled Dell hell: Seller beware” reached his big group of followers and now the reputation of Dell was left hanging. He concluded the post by saying, “You know what: If Dell were really smart, they’d hire me to come to teach them about blogs, about how customers now have a voice; about how their customers are a community- a community often in revolt; about how they could find out what their customers really think; about how they could fix their customers’ problems before they become revolts; about how they could become a better company with the help of their customers. If they’d only listen.” What did Dell do? They listened. But they did more than that; they adapted. Dell established a “Social Media University” and is currently training more than a thousand employees to be the  face and voice of Dell in Social Environments. In doing so, Dell led the way for other businesses to follow, learn and adapt. Dell’s new adaptive business plan wasn’t simply about social media; it was about improving customer experience through better products or services. As Dell’s CMO, Erin Nelson says, “To be successful in a highly competitive marketplace, companies need to truly and transparently understand the full range of customer’s experiences”. A few years later, Jeff Jarvis was blogging about Dell again. This time he was singing praises. Companies need to understand  that we now live in a recommendation based economy where consumers can bypass traditional resources, looking to their peers to support them in making decisions about everything under the sun.

In today's' social era, organizations need to find better ways to listen and connect with their customers. As the old saying goes, “People do business with people they like”. Social media provides an answer to this. Most organizations are afraid of change and they are not comfortable with the idea of going social. In fact, by understanding how businesses should be managed, they can better understand the benefits of going social. It is that simple; let us go back to basics.  Brian Solisstates in his book, The End of Business as Usualbusinesses exist because of customers. Customers have specific needs and wants and look to businesses to fulfill them. Those needs are either satisfied or they’re not and products and services represent varying levels of value to customers in addressing those needs before, during and after the sale. What he is basically trying to say is that organizations need to become more customer-centric in order to provide better products and services as it is difficult to see the customer or empathize with them if organizations are too focused on a spreadsheet.  Take BP for example, here’s a company that didn’t get it.

On 20 April 2010, the explosion of Deepwater Horizon killed 11 men working on the platform and injured 17 others. Most importantly, 200 gallons of oil was released into the ocean making this oil spill the biggest in US history. During this period, the cries of anger echoing throughout the social media environment intensified. As the saying goes, news no longer breaks, it tweets. Angry citizens started spewing hate on Facebook, Twitter and blogs. An Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson, even tweeted on the issue saying, “Someone said BP must not be let off the hook. I agree.” Another Tweeter promised, “You can rest assured that I will walk before I would even buy a gallon of your gasoline.” Instead of being open and upfront about the oil spill in the Gulf, the company misread the social environment in which it operates and took a “less is more” approach. They didn’t reach out to ask for help when it became clear that BP didn’t know how to fix the situation – despite the fact that thousands of people would have jumped in with assistance. In fact Dwayne Spradlin, president and CEO of InnoCentive, launched an oil spill challenge to source solutions to help BP solve the problem. Thousands of solutions were submitted by experts online; oil spill recovery experts, chemists, and construction engineers. However BP turned a deaf ear. Thankfully the spill has been stopped. During that period, its stock price fell from $59.88 to $27.02.

There are a few lessons that we can learn from these examples. Firstly, companies need to become more transparent in dealing with the public. Companies also need to have an active team of “listeners” that can respond immediately to comments from the public. This is where social media comes into play. Social Media allows for real time responses and it also allows companies to develop real time strategies based on customers’ feedback. Technologies have changed how companies are operating. Customers have more information on companies, and companies have more information on customers. With this much transparency, a company success will be increasingly dictated by those that can use social media and technology in the smartest way possible to better understand what is happening with customers and competition.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

ECommerce - Social Buying

E Commerce has been around for quite a while now and as technology continues to evolve, terms such as M commerce and Social commerce start to emerge as mentioned in the articles for this week. Ever since EBay and Amazon emerged, internet shopping has become popular. Consumers are now a click away from things and purchasing items without going to a brick and mortar shop as been made much easier. Due to this trend of E Commerce, many other companies have also join this arena as they realize how profitable it can be, retails manufacturing etc...

3 companies come to mind when I think about Social Buying - Opensky, LikeBids and myTab

Opensky - Twitter for curated shopping . Opensky is a shopping site that is curated by the tastemakers that individual users “follow.” It provides a customizable online shopping experience. When users sign up, they can chose from a list of about 60 tastemakers to “follow,” including celebrities such as Molly Sims, Padma Lakshmi, Kristin Cavallari, Bobby Flay and Tom Colicchio. Each tastemaker chooses products to recommend to followers and writes a short explanation of why each item was chosen. He or she runs a special on about one item a week that gives followers a 20% to 60% discount on the item. Since launching in April 2011, OpenSky says that it has grown 50% month over month. The site has about 1 million users, and  The startup announced a $30 million round of funding back in October 2011 , bringing its total amount to $49 million. 

I like the idea of Opensky as it is a Groupon + Twitter  combined together. People trust recommendations from people they know or believe to have some sort of social capital and Opensky represents that. I believe that this new trend of recommendation based buying is going to increase in the next 5 years and more companies will start to integrate this trend into the way they do business. Amazon for instance should be releasing soon a function called "what friends are buying". This captures the essence of integrating social into E commerce.

LikeBids - Likebids distribute coupons through facebook. LikeBids users win coupons by Liking them and encouraging others to do so. When a threshold number of Likes are reached, a coupon is emailed to everyone who clicked.The advantage of distributing coupons this way is that even participants who aren’t particularly excited to spread the word about a discount end up doing so anyway. When they Like the coupon, it’s automatically posted on their wall and friends’ feeds.LikeBids has also built in a motivation for users who are excited to spread the word. Each coupon has a price attached to it for the person who motivates the most people to Like it by sharing a unique URL. Right now LikeBids’ offerings are pretty sparse, but the startup has set up a situation that encourages users to promote brands to their friends. If those users indeed appear, that’s an appealing proposition.

E commerce is still growing quickly since it first started. I believe that there is a huge potential for E commerce to be even greater than what it is right now, it's just a matter of finding the right idea for the right product.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Brand API's

After going through the articles regarding APIs, I feel that APIs are here to stay. WHY??? Because they bring positive outlooks towards organizations. API enables your brand to connect with customers, to involve them in their future and yours, and to deliver to them the freedoms they need to grow. It is a way for applications and systems to talk to each other and they enable this conversation by defining a simple and standard way for developers to directly access data and functionality and integrate it into their experiences.

 When a brand creates an API, this data and functionality which represents everything the brand has to offer digitally can start to reach new channels and new consumers. It enables  access, teamwork, collaboration and that is what is needed is this era where competition is everywhere. In this new era of the “Brand API,” marketers can extend their brand reach now while also preparing for future technologies and the new consumer touch points they will create.

API can help in various was; from promotions, to reaching new markets and most importantly create mobile apps. like any other asset, the API is defined and controlled by the brand. It can be used to provide business value in several ways, whether it’s internal or external to the public. Brands can jump into the fray at whatever level they are comfortable and where they can reap the most benefit. For example. software developers are out there working on the next killer app and if you enable them with your API, they can include your brand in it. This can allow your brand to be experienced in new and innovative ways, potentially in entirely new channels, without any additional investment on your part. In conclusion, Brand APIs are here to stay as they are helping more brands and developers connect and innovate every day

Monday, March 19, 2012

Review on "The Design of Business" by Roger Martin

I found the topic that Roger Martin introduced, "The Design of Business"  was very interesting. He talks about how to design systems that work to help organizations grow and take their businesses to the next level. After all, businesses that make it through each decade are the ones who are constantly evolving with the changing times and the customers needs. Roger Martin introduced a few concepts that I felt were relevant and  that I could easily relate to. Here are the ideas I picked up.

Reliability vs. Validity explains how organizations take a winning formula and get stuck in it. Most of the world incentives reward reliability, even when it becomes the wrong answer. Organizations are often hyper focused on reliability or algorithmic thinking. They resist validity and new ideas. That explains a lot about my experiences in trying to drive change in organizations stuck in algorithmic thinking.  Adapting practices from the design world is a trendy thing to do right now in consulting firms based largely on Proctor and Gamble's recent success. There are some things to learn from this field and indeed as the author suggests, some businesses are living in the past and are too risk-averse if they rely solely on analytic models of past behavior for forecasting future success. 

The Funnel - mystery, heuristics, algorithm describes the natural life-cycle of an offering from innovation to driving towards the lowest cost production of it. It describes how that actually happens. The funnel is like a mystery that can take an infinite variety of forms. To innovate and win, companies need design thinking. This form of thinking is rooted in how knowledge advances from one stage to another-from mystery (something we can’t explain) to heuristic (a rule of thumb that guides us toward solution) to algorithm (a predictable formula for producing an answer).

Throughout the book, Roger Martin provides relevant examples by showing how leading companies such as Procter & Gamble, Cirque du Soleil, RIM, and others use design thinking to push knowledge through the stages in ways that produce breakthrough innovations and competitive advantage.  This book has helped me see things from a new perspective and how design thinking is the right tool for companies to use to give them a competitive advantage from their competitors.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Review on "Game Frame" by Aaron Dignan

Gamification has indeed made our lives more interesting and engaging. Gamification was in action in the book itself. I liked how the author titled the chapters as levels as it made me feel there was some progress and I was actually getting to a higher level intrinsically. The 3 chapters basically described how to create a gaming process. Here are the main points I got out of it.

While the player is carrying out the gamified activity, he creates something that has long lasting values. When the player begins to realize these values, the extrinsic rewards will become less important to him. The whole reward system becomes secondary and serves to reinforce the value he creates, which will become the primary motivator. Subsequently, the long term value created by the player (together with the secondary extrinsic reward) will self-reinforce the gamified activity. This creates a positive feedback loop that ultimately turns the gamified activity into something intrinsically motivating for the player.

So even though gamification doesn’t work long term, it doesn’t have to. It just has to work long enough for the player to realize the value he creates. The crucial requirement for this strategy to work is that the gamified activity must create something that has long term value to the player. In other words, gamification won’t fix your business problem, if your products and services don’t bring enough value to the customers. In fact, blindly applying gamification may even lead to adverse consequences. You may still drive a huge increase in awareness, but everyone will be aware of how bad your brand is.

While the player is performing the activity, he leaves behind many digital footprints in the form of activity data. All of these data must be recoded and analyzed, because this strategy attempts to discover the intrinsic motivation of the player through data analysis and statistical inference. Then external rewards are used only as secondary motivators to reinforce the inferred intrinsic motivation of the player.

Again, gamification doesn’t need to work long term in this strategy. It just needs to work long enough for the gamification platform to collect enough data to accurately infer the player’s intrinsic motivation. This strategy is quite challenging, and there are some basic requirements for it to work. The gamification platform must provide the player a very wide range of activity, so he can choose what he likes to do with full autonomy, and eventually discover his intrinsic motivator. If none of the activities on your platform are intrinsically motivating to the player, then clearly this won’t work at all.

I believe that gamification can’t possibly be sustainable; and therefore it cannot be a long term business strategy. It is unfortunate, but this is the fact of life: Gamification won't solve your business problem; it only solves your (short-term) engagement problem. Gamification alone will not work in the long term, especially those that use extrinsic rewards.

However, there are also tried and true strategies that employ gamification in a sustainable fashion. The key realization is that gamification doesn’t have to work long term to create sustainable value. It just has to work long enough for some other processes to take over as the primary driver of value. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Review on "You Are Not A Gadget" by Jaron Lanier

This thought provoking book talks about web 2.0 and how it has affected us humans. Throughout the entire book I kept asking myself "Are we humans controlling technology, or is technology controlling us." I'm not a techie so I didn't really get some of the jargon he was trying to use. However these are the ideas I managed to get out from Part 1.

Easier life
Technology and AI has supposedly made life easier. I agree with that, however predictive texting/auto correct can sometimes be a pain in the butt especially with the iPhone. As a result china becomes vagina, disney becomes divorce and kick becomes lick. Imagine sending the wrong message to your boss. Because of auto correct,  I now have to spend more time texting which makes it even more time consuming. Easier life? I don't think so.

Controlled by Google and FB
The algorithms that surface content on FB and google are miracles of modern programming, however some feel that search and social networks only serve us content that we like and that we are not seeing content that we need. Hence we are trap in this bubble. Take for example when a frequent traveler and a normal person types in Egypt on Google, two different search results appear. One shows holiday destinations in Egypt and the other shows political unrest the country is facing.  The internet can go either way. It can encapsulate us in a little bubble of our narrow interest, or it can connect us to new people and new ways of thinking.  Basically the internet is becoming a self censoring entity based on illogical algorithms. We are living in an age of moronic censorship and cultural regulation. Political correctness is a disease, free and independent though is the only cure.

The internet has supposedly made our lives much easier and simple. However it has created "Trolls" which has led to cyber bullying and fake identities. I feel as if people now do not have to be accountable for their actions as they can create pseudonyms and hide behind a mask. This reality should be taken seriously as it demonstrates the ugly side of technology and how much damage it can cause.

Lock In 
After MIDI created a musical note, it became the standard for every single thing today due to the Lock In feature where everything that we invent after that has to revolve around the idea of MIDI. This lock in feature I feel stifles creativity and technological advancement as a better design or invention might take over MIDI's place. I feel lock in as Jaron would say, "removes design options based on what is easiest to program, what is politically feasible, what is fashionable, or what is created by chance". In my own words, I feel  that the idea of lock in is like  a membership of an exclusive club where only people that are part of this exclusive club can only participate. The rest of the less fortunate people who may be able to offer more will not be able to obtain membership since they are not in the same league as these people because they are not part of the "norm".

Deep Blue vs Kasparov
The computer may have beaten Kasparov but what people failed to recognize is that humans designed Deep Blue. Deep Blue could not have existed without the intelligence of the creators. There is all this talk going on about how machines are much better than humans, this may be true, however when the machines fail then what? We as humans should not be over reliant on technology. Machines are only as good as their operator hence mankind should be given more recognition than the machines we create. We are not slaves to technology. I believe that we control technology and at the end of the day when all else fails, humans can be relied on as we have natural instincts and have the element of surprise. Whatever it is, humans have to always be in control.

I will leave you with a video from the latest Hugh Jackman movie "Reel Steal". Its a futuristic show where robots now dominate the boxing ring. Atom a sparring bot whose voice control system has been damaged, has now been switched to manual mode where he has to impersonate what Hugh Jackman is doing. Atom is up against a high tech robot Zeus that is able to analyze and respond to his opponents fight pattern. Zeus is supposedly the ultimate creation and has not been defeated. With the human touch and the element of surprise, will Atom be able to defeat Zeus??? Enjoy the show =)


Monday, February 6, 2012

Review on "Cognitive Surplus" by Clay Shirky

I completely enjoyed the read on the 4 Chapters in Cognitive Surplus. My creative juices are flowing and the 300 word limit will not not hold me back ;op. These are the ideas I gathered.

1) Creating content based on interest
This is how Justin Bieber became famous and to be only artist to hit 1 billion views on his videos on youtube. In this era with all the technology and digital tools available, anyone can become a creator of content. The amount of content creation is about doubling every year and it is through this creation of content, we will start to see more creativity and innovation taking place in the next 10 years. Creators have multiple platforms such as facebook, twitter, youtube to share their ideas and this will lead to an evolution of media and consumers. With a huge amount of content being created, its important to look at Context. Since people are starting to understand how to use the internet better and with their behavior evolving, Context will take over Content as KING in the web 2.0 era, or should I say web 3.0. CONTEXT IS KING

2) The Power of Groups
The book gave very good examples of the power of groups in the 21st century. My prediction is that  people will start to  collaborate more in groups and that is why Google + will be a powerful marketing tool when they realize the full potential of the Google + platform. If marketers can see this trend early, they will see a pattern on how people with similar interest are starting to form groups from all over the world. The 6 degrees theory of separation is already down to 4. The internet is making it easier for people all over the world to come together despite their culture backgrounds and global distance. One thing they share in common is their interest and that will be a powerful bond that holds them together. I shall explain why I say this. In this era 1 + 1 is no longer 2. I feel in the digital era, 1 + 1 = MANY as is limitless. Your audience is now an audience of audiences with audiences.  Click on the hyperlink to read my post on that topic

3) Camera Phones
Camera phones has changed the way news is published. In fact anyone with a camera phone will be able to record any events that takes place and upload it within seconds onto the internet for the whole world to see. As a result companies and the news will no longer be able to cover up anything from the public, hence transparency will play an important role when doing business these days. Take for example this video at Citibank. This is the branch next to the OISS office at NYU. It was captured during the Occupy Wall Street protest. Andy Warhol once said in 1968, "In the future, everyone will be world famous for 15 mins". With the camera phone, youtube and the internet, everyone can become someone famous!!!

4) Milkshake Mistake
Rather than focus on the product, focus on the customer, from there you will be able to gather critical insights. I remember reading a book on Disruptive Innovation by Luke Williams, an adjunct professor at NYU Stern. He stated that by observing people interacting with computers in the Mac store, he realized that when people are looking at Macs in stores, they are drawn to them in a very physical way. They don't mind moving them around or touching them. This led to an insight " you're seldom intimidated by something that you can feel". If you're intimidated by an object, you tend not to want to touch it. This provided Apple with an opportunity to give people  a tangible sense of control over the technology by establishing an immediate physical connection between the user and the computer, hence the Iphone, Itouch and Ipad being so popular.

5) Culture as a coordinating tool
Culture is extremely important in a group, society or company. Just like the Invisible College and the group PatientsLikeMe, culture in the digital age helps spark innovation and make things more "SIMPLE" as John Maeda would say.  This culture of sharing and openness is relatively new and uncomfortable for some. However combining the knowledge of everyone can lead to better things. As Clay Shirkey says on page 138, " Combinability makes knowing something different from having something. An idea that comes to mind is Netflix. 

When the movie rental company Netflix decided that it needed a better software to more accurately predict the movies its customers would like, it decided to look beyond its own backyard to tap into the wisdom of a broader community. Netflix offered a $1 million reward to the company, group, or person that would be the first to create a solution that was at least 10% better that its in-house software, Cinnematch. A total of 41,000 teams from 186 countries worked on the solution for three years before two groups submitted successful solutions within 24 minutes of each others. A seven person team of computer engineers, statisticians and machine learning experts from the United States, Austria, Canada and Israel comprised the winning team which came to be known as BEllKor's Pragmatic Chaos. In fact when all of the top teams were having discussion with each other, BellKor's leader Chris Volinsky realized he needed to expand his 3 person team to include additional minds and disciplines. This was the secret to their success. The best part is that the team never gathered together in person until the awards ceremony. Now that is the power of culture and social media.

6) The Social Era - Shared Experience
Sharing a video or sharing a picture is common these days. In fact majority of content on fb, twitter etc is all shared. In fact this can help drive down advertising cost. Ford realized this hence they were smart enough not to spend 3 million dollars during the Superbowl over the weekend. Instead they spend less by allocating its budget into social media platforms. Companies need to realize that Brands are no longer created, in fact they are co-created. When consumers share a piece of content on their wall, they are not only creating brand awareness for the company through earned media, consumers are creating a brand for themselves as well and whatever they share tells you a bit about who they are and what they are interested in. Hence leading back to Context, it is important to create content that is relevant or in context with the consumers interest. We are exposed to 10,000 ads a day right now and in order for your message to resonate inside the consumers minds, companies need to be creating relevant content for their consumers to share. Companies always talk about ROI in $$$, however the ones that stand out are the ones who realize that RESONANCE is the new ROI.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Review on "Understanding Media" by Marshall McLuhan

First of all, Marshall McLuhan is a visionary, he was a legend during his time. The fact that he was able to predict what media and technology will be like today when he wrote this book back in 1964 just goes to show that he was light years ahead of everyone of this generation.  McLuhan predicted that at some point, man would develop the technology to have instantaneous communication with anyone in the world at any time or where he could access information on current events from anywhere on the planet. We call it the internet. RESPECT. However this book  is hard to grasp because any attempt to read this book without a detailed knowledge of anthropology, psychology, linguistics, philosophy, sociology, history, media and virtually every other aspect of the Arts and Humanities will lead the reader to confusion. 

Now this book was extremely dry and difficult to read. It is not for everyone. One must abe highly intelligent to comprehend the sheer scope and magnitude of McLuhan's fragmentation-based dialectic.  Thank goodness I was required to read the first part, and LUCKY me, the first part is all about the theory of media, and you know it, theory is never fun.  While I felt confused throughout the entire time reading this book, I shall try my very best to explain what I understood from Part 1 of the book. Here goes...

Marshall McLuhan's contributions to media theory are mostly dismissed in two phrases namely: 'global village' and 'medium is the message'. The first part details his theory of media. These are the ideas I manage to pick up:

1. Medium as at once the message (as it effects in spite of its content rather than because of it) and massage of senses. 

2. Media as extensions of man (that is, any tool that mediates human action or thought rather than just communication media). 

3. Hot media (which accentuate senses) and Cold media (which are synaesthetic). 
4. Hybrid energy released by combination of media. 

He explains in the theoretical part that media is the extension of man. That all things created by man have come from man's own experience. This is like a dream, in one sense, where one must determine at some point that they are creators of the dream, and therefore, all content of the dream must apply to the dreamer's existence, and no one elses. Likewise, all inventions and discoveries are aspects of human dimensions that have been created by man, and therefore must come from man's inner experiences. These inventions are ultimately what McLuhan calls extensions, as they extend our human capacity for that movement or experience. The foot can travel so fast, while the tire is the extension of the foot, and therefore can move at a much higher rate of speed than the foot.

In Understanding Media - it is "fragmentation" which is the force behind all human cultural evolution from early homosapiens to today's age and it is this same "fragmentation" which has been the force of any kind of future advances. McLuhan's popular phrase: "global village" in this context means this: fragmentation had alientaed most men from their many thousands of years life in small communities. What resulted from fragmentation over the centuries in McLuhan's time were inventions like: tv, radio, fax, telephone, which in turn brought people over vast distances - much closer together, indeed like a village, a global village where you could learn about events tens of thousands of miles away as if they'd just happened down the street. 

When McLuhan says: "the medium is the message" what he is actually saying is this: it is not important what we're listening to on the radio, or what we're watching on tv, or what the advertisement is telling us. The more important thing is what is going on in us when we're watching the tv, what is going on in us when we're listening to the radio. The same goes for any interaction with any given medium. It is how the use of a given medium contributes to further fragmentations. 

In conclusion I feel that what McLuhan is trying to say is that we become the media that we have been shaped by in our culture and time. The spoken word, the written word and the telegraph, McLuhan noted, has had the largest impact on our society. Not because of their usefulness, or whether they work or not, but because society has patterned themselves after the respective media. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Review on “The Laws of Simplicity" by John Maeda

I'm pretty fussy when it comes to purchasing books from Amazon. I have two conditions before purchasing any books. 1) It has to have a rating of more than 4 stars, 2) It cannot have a rating of 1. (Shows you the influential power of online word of mouth recommendation, 90% of consumers will buy based on recommendations from family and friends. This number does down to 70% for recommendations from strangers, which in my opinion is still high) However, since this was a required reading for my digital marketing class, " I drank the kool-aid".

Having read other books written by Brian Solis, Larry Webber, Luke Williams and Chuck Martin in the last semester, I was expecting something amazing from John Maeda in "The Laws of Simplicity", especially since he is a Professor at MIT. Despite the weak reviews online from Amazon, I read the book with an open mind. I was even excited when I received it in the mail as the book was brilliantly designed. But as the old saying goes, "DO NOT JUDGE A BOOK BY IT'S COVER". Sad to say, I was disappointed with the book.  The goal of the book is extremely worthwhile: to promote simplicity. It tries to do so in a small book, about 100 pages in small sized pages. However it is a major EPIC FAIL. Let me quickly take you through what I felt for each chapter.

Chapter 1 + 2: Reduce + Organize
Maeda takes you through the idea of SHE and how that by reducing and organizing the buttons on the Ipod will lead to success. While this chapter may be one of the better chapters, I personally feel it is another way of describing disruptive innovation. Innovation is creating products that make our life easier. Think of the the iPhone with its touch screen technology and its latest function Siri. Cars like Audi, Mercedes and BMW, start up with push of a button. What about the iRobot Roomba that cleans your floor for you or one of my favorites Delta Faucet Touch-2-O technology that washes your hands without turning the tap on. These examples are created from disruptive innovation and shares the same concept John Maeda is trying to describe in both chapters.

Chapter 3: Time
Ultimately, with advances in new technology, time is saved and our way of life becomes much more convenient. Job done quicker = Convenience

Chapter 4: Learn
I agree with him that we need to continue to learn and that repetition makes us better at what we do, but I feel he is stating the obvious. This is the same theory as "10000 hours" as found in the book Outliers: The Story of Success written by Malcolm Gladwell. That is how professional athletes, dancers, businessman get good and what they do, through constant repetition.

Chapter 5: Differences
Simplicity needs to co-exist with Complexity. This is the same as saying, Good versus Evil, Ying and Yang, Black and White, North and South...etc. You get the point.

Chapter 6: Context
What I would like to have seen in this chapter is Maeda talking about how Context has replaced Content as King in this digital age as users of the internet start to mature and evolve. However he talks about nothing being an important something and goes back again to the law of differences covered in chapter 5.

Chapter 7: Emotion
Contradicts chapters 1 and 2 as he says  "More is better than less". 

Chapter 8: Trust
Stating the obvious that consumers need to trust you if they were to use your product .

Chapter 9: Failure
This chapter itself was a complete failure.

Chapter 10: The One
My favorite chapter and I felt this one made the most sense. Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful. I should have taken Maeda's advice when he said to read the first 3 chapters and skip to chapter 10 to save time. He goes over 3 keys away, open and power. Out of the 3 keys I relate to "open"  the best as businesses need to be more open or "transparent" if they are to succeed and remain competitive. The most transparent businesses will be the market leaders that will lead the industry into the next generation.

In conclusion, not only did Maeda keep repeating that he was from MIT, I found that Maeda used too many acronyms which were not meaningful and I felt were tough to remember. For example SHE (Simplify, Hide, Embody), BRAIN (Basics, Repeat, Avoid, Inspire Never) and SLIP (Sort, Label, Integrate, Prioritize). I also felt that he made too many generalized statements, and he supported them with anecdotes, and circumstantial evidence to illustrate the points he wants to make. He did a good job in conveying the idea on simplicity, as the simplest ideas are usually the ones that are games changers. Think LittleMissMatched that sells socks in 3's or Zipcar where you pay by the hour or Xbox Kinect where you are the remote control. 

Personally the internet and the inventions in the digital age have made our life simpler. We are now able to do things quicker than 10 years ago. However the downside to that is that we become over reliant on such technologies that we start to forget the "need to know" skills. Take writing for example. Because I do most of my work now typing and using the iPad and iTouch to browse the internet, my hand writing is comparable to that of a 10yr old kid. Even some of my professors that I have encountered in class have very poor hand writing and I do not blame them. C level executives also face the same problems as we are too reliant on technology.

Overall, 9 people have given this book a 1 star on amazon and I will be the 10th person to join the 1 star club. John Maeda may be a super bright person, but his talent is definitely not in writing.