March 3, 2009

Vega: innovation and brand communities

Had a really cool time again today. PDF (1 MB) of slides here - one day I'll get going with using Slideshow...

Companies/Books mentioned (from what I can remember):
All Marketers are Liars - Sith Seth Godin
10 faces of Innovation - Tom Kelly
The Cluetrain Manifesto
Bob Garfield - transcript - also updated version here

And apropos the conversation in the lecture around the Dept of Home Affairs as a brand, it could help a lot in re-imagining how that transform that organisational failure.

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September 9, 2008

IMASA Academy - IMPI programme slides

Coaching investment management professionals at IMASA today takes me back my meanderings in this industry more than a few years ago..spent a while doing various things at Syfrets - asset management, private banking reengineering, risk management, and of course the multiple CFA attempt (Rhett I blame you for my lack of focus! :)

Anyway here's the presentation [pdf, 2MB - right-click and save as..].

Also, talking about the macro, systems view of the world, I found this book - Investment Biker: Around the World with Jim Rogers quite fascinating.

The most succinct quote to capture the essence of how to see differently, to be creative, is through collecting different thinking frameworks, is this one:

"What you need is a latticework of mental models in your head. And you hang your actual experience ... on this latticework of powerful models. And with that system, things gradually get to fit together in a way that enhances cognition...." - Charlie Munger (Warren Buffet's partner)

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May 31, 2008

Understanding innovation in the organisation

I wrote this for a client recently, and was promoted to post it here after reading Dave's post about innovation.

Infectious Innovation

A brief discussion about creating a culture of innovation inside organizations.

Any talk about innovation has to first create an understanding of what the term means and how it fits into the organisational context.

Innovation is concerned about tomorrow's revenue. However, organisations are generally designed around today's revenue, and with that, the associated pressures and initiatives to reduce variance and increase efficiency.

So that is why it is extremely difficult for new ideas and creative thinking to take root and find a nurturing environment; the day-to-day operational focus creates a thinking style that is reactive and judgmental. If one had to think of a metaphor to describe this, the Emergency Room environment is a useful one.

So it's clear that for new ideas to emerge and flourish, an appropriate environment needs to be present, much like a Greenhouse.

A Greenhouse is preferably a physical space that stimulates participants into a headspace of fresh thinking, but more importantly, it's also a headspace where certain behaviours are encouraged, whilst others (typical in the operational/ER space) that are detrimental to the creative process are discouraged.

Innovation & Creativity

At this point a distinction between innovation and creativity needs to be made. Our take is that creativity is the raw material for the innovation process, the posing of questions, probing new lines of thinking, the generation of ideas, the discovery of new connections.

 It is a behaviour and thinking style that is needed to support the innovation process.

Innovation can be thought of as "ideas in action". For the ideas to have any relevance, they need to add value to the organisation with a range of options, from reinventing processes to creating new industries. Innovation needs the right mix of supporting structural elements and senior leadership worldviews. Hence the lens that innovation is about tomorrow's revenue.

It's also about action, and prototyping and experimenting, invention, with roughly formed concepts is a key part of the process - the mindset of getting something 100% right before engaging the customer or board derails the innovation process in many organisations.

Continuous improvement I would argue is less about innovation and more about applied learning, as the mindset is all about getting better answers to the same old questions. True innovation is coming up with new questions.

Creating A Culture Of Innovation

The interplay between the innovation and creativity can best be illustrated by viewing the organisation through a systems thinking lens. There are four cascading levels in which to see the organisation system:

 Worldview or Weltanschauung 

This is the how the system architects see the world, what mental models they have employed in creating and unfolding their vision. Think of the different worldviews that Henry Ford and Steve Jobs had, the framework of ideas and beliefs through which they interpreted the world around them.

The above mental models inform the development of a vision of what the system architects want to achieve. Ford's vision centered on mass production, Job's was about building an "insanely great" design-led organisation.

Both the worldview and vision in turn inform the design of the organisation's systemic structure, and that includes the cultural, procedural, policy, and infrastructural elements.

- Behaviour:
Patterns of behaviour, in turn, are influenced by the structural elements, the interplay between the cultural hiring filters, prevailing expectations of desired behaviour, and reward systems (intrinsic and extrinsic).

The figure adjacent illustrates how these systemic levels relate to each other. Of course with any system, the interplay is not linear and the depiction below is a highly simplified version to help frame why innovation and creative thinking initiatives sometimes fail.

Organisational Change

To train and coach teams in creative thinking, grounded in challenges and problems they face in the organisation, without a parallel shift in the worldviews and structural design of the organisation may result in teams not realising the full potential of these new thinking behaviours.

Since behaviours are bounded by the limits of the structural design 'container', and that in turn is limited by the organisation's leadership worldview, the new creative actions by individuals run out of steam, killed by these well-used phrases: "We tried that last year", "Management won't buy that."

An example helps to illustrate this interplay.

Top leadership buys into the idea (ie. their worldview shifts) that for innovation to really change the game for their business, customers need to be actively recruited and integrated into the research and insight process from the beginning, and at all points of contact. (Traditional market research by contrast is generally used to answer preconceived questions that the firm has, and are mostly answered in artificial environments like the focus group.)

Teams are then coached in creative thinking, with a resultant shift in behaviour. However, the part in the middle, structural design, doesn't change as quickly. For example, structural elements may relate to a very restrictive warranty policy, where any adaptation of a product by a customer voids the warranty. Coupled with this is a performance management system that says sales reps may not spend more than 30 minutes on each client visit.

These two elements conspire against the new intentions and worldviews of senior leadership: a customer is not willing to show the rep clever and useful adaptations they have made to the product, and the rep is under time pressure not to stray from the sales-focused visit. The adaptation may be just the thing that more customers are calling for, but the organisation is too inwardly focused on it's own R&D and marketing idea pipeline as the source of innovation.

Infecting Innovation

One way out of this dilemma is to create teams that prototype the interplay between vision, structure and behaviour, without implementing wholesale realignment. With the prevailing worldview in place, certain multidisciplinary teams are formed and coached in creative behaviours, and these teams are applied to specific challenges, eg. specific customers, service issues, or product development challenges.

Over time, more and more of these teams are introduced into the organisation, and slowly 'infect' the rest of the organisation with their approach and results. While this is happening, structural impediments are identified and a new design is prototyped.

PS This thinking has been influenced by a host of articles and players in this space, not at hand at the moment...will post references soon.

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April 23, 2008

Metropolitan Insider Club

Here's the copy of my presentation I gave at Metropolitan Life, on "Outsourcing Marketing and Innovation to your Customer".

This is the blurb I used to position it:

Outsourcing Marketing & Innovation

Innovation is a hairy, woolly thing. Difficult to define or plan for. Invisible. Google counts at least 91 million results for the word. It has become the new stock phrase in corporate reporting, the holy grail for new earnings growth. Spraying cash at R&D (a traditional proxy for innovation) as compared to advertising is increasing; US stats from Ad Age[1] support this. 50 years ago: Advertising:R&D ratio was $3:1; in 2006: $1.34 is spent on advertising for every $1 spent on R&D.

But has this proven effective? Traditional approaches to innovation strategy revolve around a steady flow of goodies from the tech centre, with marketing packaging these new ideas into flashy campaigns - a one-way pipeline. Little thought to the end user experience is sought - focus groups and market research rarely yield fresh new insight or uncover new connections.

So what are the secrets of Apple and co. in getting groundbreaking products and services out there, and in doing so leave in their wake completely reinvented industries (with very little ad spend)? Welcome to the world of design thinking and the new marketing. How can organisations co-opt their customers into helping with the innovation and marketing?

Join me on a jam session through these topics: understanding what innovation really is, framing this against the status quo; why designing one's organisation from the outside-in can help to create insight conduit; how to harness the internet in transforming user-led marketing; and why redirecting funding for traditional marketing into redesigning customer experiences is the new 'R&D function'.

[1] 1 May 2006 Ad Age

PDF of slides here [1.3 MB pdf]

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January 22, 2008

Apple: Better and better and models first post in ages.

This is cute: The 60 second elevator pitch version of Steve Job's 90 minute keynote speech at MacWorld last week, where he announced another game changing shift in digital business models: iTunes Movie Rentals. Not too mention the Macbook Air.

I wonder what Netflix is going to do now?

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September 19, 2007

More pics

Continuing my love-affair with music photography here are some new pics I took at the Pink concert last week. More available on my photoblog

Here's Pink in Cape Town, on her last gig of a 2 year tour. A concert almost every 4 days for two years - wow.

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August 29, 2007

Think Indaba

I had some fun again today helping with the UCT Graduate School of Business' Think Indaba. It was a day within their 10 day Executive Leadership Programme to give the delegates some creative stimulus to engage their worlds differently.

Thanks to Shaun Bond (Vida e Caffe), Stefan Rabe (Axiz), Tanner Methvin (Spier) and Adrian Ristow (Coca Cola SABCO) for sharing with us their stories on customer experience, employee ownership, green business, and operating in multiple contexts. These created a great foundation to for the delegates to see their organisations in new ways.

What was really fantastic was the process of drawing up rich pictures of what we could expect in the next 5 years - 2012 SA turns 18 ie. "comes of age".

Essentially this was a process of getting the delegate goups to articulate visually what they think are the key factors facing organisations operating in Africa.

Luckily for them we got four artists/illustrators from Vega to act as graphic recorders, and collectively we got some awesome rich pictures. The sense of optimism that pervaded everyone about Africa was very inspiring - remember that the delegates at the indaba were from quite a few countries in the region, not just purely SA.

To the Vega guys - Jade, Philip, Katleho and Dennis, and to my co-facilitators (Elspeth Donavan, Christophe Gillet, James Gardner & Robert Poynton) thanks for sharing your deep experience and talents with me.

As promised, here are my creative thinking tools/rich picture slides of the event [800kb pdf].

Some references of the stuff I covered:

Allan D., Kingdon M., Murrin K., Rudkin D., How to Start a Creative Revolution at Work, Capstone, London, 2000
Kelly T., & Littman J., The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, HarperCollins Business, London, 2001
Sutton R.I., Weird Ideas that Work, Penguin, London, 2002

PS Christophe & Robert: This was the cellphone remote control I was using (Windows version).

Below some of the rich pictures - more to follow.

29082007012 29082007002 29082007014 29082007006 29082007008 29082007003 29082007007 29082007004 29082007005 29082007010

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August 26, 2007

Re-thinking Crime Prevention with UAVs

Ok, I've been wanting to write this for a while now, but Table Mountain is under siege from mindless thugs yet again.

Of course I have strong views on this, such as reframing any crime that impacts tourism and other GDP-growth activities as treason. Mess with our GDP, you're messing with our country's national security as a emerging economy.

But to get practical again. The powers-that-be say they don't have enough resources to police the vast area.

So let's use technology to create a force multiplier. I'm talking about using UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) to help cover loads of ground, see thermally, and guide police on the ground to the hotspots. Pretty soon those thugs will have nowhere to hide. Of course that means they'll move onto somewhere else, but we can deal with that another time.

Using UAVs are way cheaper than using helicopters, much quieter, and a lot more effective.

Just a thought...

Interview with an SAAF officer about the role of their Seeker UAVs with SAPS in crime prevention.

Denel's Bateleur

Kentron Seeker II

Kentron UAV Systems has established the Umfuni concept ... When deployed in the joint operations/crime prevention role, Seeker II can be established as a permanent system, providing coverage of a large area or interlinked by means of mobile reception units (MRU), to provide national area coverage. Seeker can also be transferred to selected hotspots in high crime areas or to anticipated trouble areas.

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August 22, 2007

Notes on the Knowledge Management conference

Ok, just done with another speaking gig, this time courtesy of The Business Zone. My talk is here [pdf 800 kb].

Some interesting riffs coming through, and it was encouraging to hear from various speakers the importance of a systemic view of organisational knowledge.

Of course I continued with my mantra that context of knowledge is far more important than the knowledge itself (duh), but a lot of this initiatives miss out on acquiring key knowledge FROM the customers' context.

(As opposed to knowledge ABOUT the customer, which to me is just CRM.)

And maybe we should examine the language around knowledge management itself McLuhan style; how about creating "Wisdom Creation" roles, if that's the ultimate aim of gathering data. Or even "Chief Storyteller".

Because knowledge on it's own is of no value (assuming that it's being captured in the first place).

Some links and references as promised to the delegates:

KM and Web 2.0 - taxonomies vs folksonomies
"For organisations, harnessing the capabilities of Web 2.0 could involve replacing the traditional taxonomy with a user-defined folksonomy. “A taxonomy is where people analyse and prioritise ways for classifying information,” says Dawson. “A folksonomy is built by everyone, there is no architect and no designer. It’s created by the people who actually do the work."

Etienne Wenger - Communities of Practice

Blogging = Open-source knowledge management

Concept Mapping tools - CMAP

Some interesting views on Facebook and the Enterprise:
- Facebook and the Enterprise: Part 1
- Facebook and the Enterprise: Part 5: Knowledge Management

One of the key points was the difficulty in capturing what's in peoples heads on to paper, as a lot of the nuances are lost, as we struggle to articulate concepts. So one route is to interview people, but then as the data becomes less structured, it becomes more difficult to find again.

Well, what happens if we could search video?

Check this out: The future of video search

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February 26, 2007

Traditional thinking vs Design Thinking

This is an exceptional article that I came across a while back that really helped me understand the differences in thinking styles that we encounter across organisations.

The principle of Design Thinking articulates why I started Ideafarm - to help teams create innovation possibilities in their environment and to think beyond a constraints-driven world.

Full article in the extended entry, or available as a small pdf download.

Some excerpts:
Flow of work life

Traditional firms organize the flow of work life around permanent jobs and ongoing tasks ....
In design consultancies, the work flow differs radically. The world consists primarily of projects with defined terms. Designers are accustomed to being assigned to a given project with a specific deadline ... Designers get used to mixing and matching with other designers on ad-hoc teams created with a specific purpose in mind. They see their lives as an accumulation of projects...

Work style

...Because of this collaboration with clients, the work style also tends to be iterative -- the opposite of waiting until something is "right." This involves prototyping, honing, and refining through multiple iterations with the client.

Architect Frank Gehry is famous for this iterative style. The first design that goes public typically elicits a firestorm of protests for its inadequacies on a number of dimensions, making clients, users, and observers extremely nervous because they generally work in traditional organizations in which nothing sees the light of day until it is "right."


The dominant attitude of traditional firms is to see constraints as the enemy and budgets as the drivers of decisions.

The budget -- arch enemy of the traditional firm manager -- simply makes it impossible to do any better.

By contrast, design shops' dominant mind-set is: "There's nothing that can't be done." If something can't be done yet, it is only because the thinking hasn't yet been creative and inspired enough. For Buckminster Fuller, the problem of buildings getting proportionally heavier, weaker, and more expensive as they got larger in scale did not qualify as intractable. It remained intractable only until he created the design of the geodesic dome, which gets proportionally lighter, stronger, and less expensive as it grows larger in scale.

For designers, constraints never constitute the enemy. On the contrary, they serve to increase the challenge and excitement level of the task at hand. In fact, given the source of status in these organizations, constraints actually increase the level of a problem's "wickedness," making its potential solution that much more rewarding. Hence designers would rarely say: "That simply can't be done" or "We don't have the budget for that." Rather, they'd proclaim: "Bring it on!"

Continue reading "Traditional thinking vs Design Thinking"

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January 18, 2007

The time machine listbox.

More listbox laughs. I've talked about interesting listboxes before, but this latest one combines really poor geography and history in a single list. In fact, some of the listings here pre-date DOS, the Internet, and probably DARPA itself. Definitely Fedex. Hell, maybe even the postal service for some of them. See what I mean:

My mate is trying to fill in a web form. Wait, where's South Africa in the country list? Huh? This is what's listed instead: wheres_sa.jpg
(To some our geographically-challenged North American friends, South Africa is south of France :)

Here's more information on 'where' Transkei is, and what happened to SWA.

But it gets better. Where's Zimbabwe?

Digging around the list comes up with these hints:
And ladies and gentlemen, step into my time machine: nyas.jpg.

Wtf is Nyasaland you ask. Good question.

Oh, by the way, the site sells iPod covers, great product. But really odd reg. forms.

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December 22, 2006

My revived passion

I've written previously about my passion for live music, and I've taken steps to combine that with another of my passions: photography. Thanks to the folks at Photo Hire, they have become my dealers to my new addiction, a Canon 20D with a great gig lens. That is until I get my own DSLR, probably a Nikon D80.

Now I'm starting to get some great shots, like Karma last night at the Independent Armchair Theatre.

For more pics (still have to upload last night's gig), visit my Flickr page. Off to snap Dorp tonight later.

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December 6, 2006

Life in the Cape...

On days like this, it's bliss to live in Cape Town. Actually, it's great all the time, but yesterday's weather was phenominal. I've never seen Hout Bay and the surrounding ocean look like this (at 7.30pm!).

Having just come off the water for a mellow Tuesday series surf-ski race, I couldn't resist snapping the pic. I used my Nokia N80 - I'm helluf impressed by it's image quality (3mp camera). Cameraphone tip I found somewhere - set your white balance to cloudy all the time, results in much warmer colours. And I scored a feature in IOL's front page/gallery. Paddler in the foreground is Billy Harker.

I've written about surfskiing and innovation before here...

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November 21, 2006

Google as a frien-emy* of the ad world


I just saw a piece in the NYT about Google and other online players (eBay, Yahoo) starting to take bytes bites out of the traditional ad agency space. I spoke of this in a lecture I gave a couple of months ago.

It's typical bits versus atoms game being played out, and the incumbants are too invested in the status quo to adapt quickly.

“The fox is in the henhouse and it’s going to gobble a good part of this business up before anybody realizes they’re history,” said Gene DeWitt, president of DeWitt Media Solutions.

Innovation is all about disrupting the status quo, and Machiavelli's quote about this is spot on all those centuries ago. And there are so many industries ripe for disruption still. The traditional advertising industry is just one.

The idea behind this new marketing shift is a move away from creating great communication campaigns (in which the agency makes most of its cash by media buying commissions rather than the creative input), but rather to focus on creating awesome experiences anywhere that a customer touches the brand. This extends beyond the product, and Apple exemplifies this design thinking approach.

"Good product design starts from the outside, and works its way inside." - David Carey

Brands that start to co-opt and engage their customers into a co-creation process will end up with i) better products ii) volunteer salesforces and iii) a reduced need to spend on advertising. If you're a brand owner, use that as a platform or conduit to gain insight, to create a space for you to enage customers in a cluetrain-style conversation. A classic example of how this can aid product development (without using expensive focus-group diluted insight) is to see how on Southwest Airlines blog, the CEO posed a simple question and received a ton of responses and followups.

Back to Google:

Google’s name in the ad community frequently brings up visions of doomsday. At an ad design and production conference last month, ad executives mused about how advertising would be different in 2010. Paul Lavoie, chief creative officer of Taxi, an ad and design agency, predicted that Google would be the largest advertising agency by then. The audience laughed, but Mr. Lavoie, reached later, said he was serious.

“Let’s look at the facts: They have the best data to understand consumer habits, they can track your search, they know how much time you spend on certain sites,” Mr. Lavoie said. “They’re doing much more powerful work than some of the work being done by some of the more traditional agencies.”

It doesn't hurt to develop scenarios that can help stress-test your business model against a shifting competitive landscape. One scenario (scarenario?) that's paints a very interesting bits vs atoms picture is Googlezon EPIC 2015

Full article after the jump.

*Google is the “frien-emy,” both the friend and the enemy, said Martin Sorrell, chief executive of the WPP Group...

Machiavelli quote
It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them. - The Prince

Continue reading "Google as a frien-emy* of the ad world"

Posted by Simon de Haast at 12:40 PM | Comments (0)
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September 12, 2006

R&D versus Ad spend

Joseph Jaffe's recent post on R&D spend caught my eye earlier:

Here are the facts:

50 years ago: Advertising:R&D ratio was 3:1
By 1970, this had dropped to below $2
By 1995 it was down to $1.52
Today, $1.34 is spent on advertising for every $1 spent on R&D

The stats come from a cover story of Ad Age (May 1st edition).

His comments speak to not only the "new marketing" but also new worldviews of design thinking. I spoke about this at a conference recently, and one slide particularly stood out for me in this context:

Customer Experience as a gift:
"A good gift makes a connection … It means a fresh way of looking at something so the person that receives it thinks of you when they use it. They say: 'How clever, you thought about some part of my life and how to make it work. You didn't just go through the motions on this gift.' " (I think this is a version I found on David Pogue's NYT column, can't remember exactly.)

Joseph again:

In an age where R&D and advertising are quickly becoming synonymous with oil and water, I believe "new marketing" can play a major role in terms of not only bridging this gap, but indeed forging stronger bonds and interrelated dyamics or synergy points between the two disciplines.

(Joseph Jaffe is another local boytjie making good abroad - read his book.)

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