Archive for June, 2010

Weird Is In

June 17th, 2010

images10I have to admit when I was growing up and when we raised our children I thought weird was out.  Weird was isolated, ostracized, dismissed, and definitely not cool. Turns out I was wrong. Weird is in.  Weird is unique, refreshing, remarkable, and definitely cool.  It just took me a while to figure it out.  The evidence is all around us.  Two personal reminders of how weird can be an advantage are a recent trip to Austin, Texas and reading Delivering Happiness by Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh.

I was asked to give a talk on business model innovation to a group of association leaders in Austin, Texas.  It was my first trip to Austin but the city’s reputation for embracing weird preceded my visit.  I love the city mantra Keep Austin Weird.  How many cities would have the guts to rally around such a weird positioning?  I think it is brilliant.  It is differentiated and sends a clear message to both residents and visitors that Austin is an edgy and interesting place where creativity is central and you just might learn something new.  It makes me want to live and invest there. The night I arrived the positioning was realized immediately as I joined an eclectic crowd forming on the Congress Street Bridge to watch North America’s largest urban bat colony emerge from under the bridge. You don’t experience that every day.  It was delightfully weird and the gathered crowd was a great manifestation of Austin’s community aspiration for a collaborative fission of coordinated individualism. Read more

Focus on Customer Experience

June 9th, 2010

images9In my latest Mass High Tech column I assert that making customer experience central, not technology, is the key to any innovation process.

The imperative of our time is to unleash the power of innovation to solve our big social challenges, including health care, education and energy. I think a lot about how to simplify the innovation narrative, make it more inclusive and become more experimental. Unleashing the power of innovation is about making customer experience central, focusing on outputs and looking up from our silos.

For starters we need a shared definition for innovation. Our rhetoric is all over the place and innovation has become a buzzword. Everything is an innovation and everyone is an innovator. When that happens, nothing and no one is. We conflate invention with innovation. They are not the same. A simple definition: Innovation is a better way to deliver value. It is not innovation until value is delivered one customer at a time. Often we don’t have to invent anything new to deliver value or solve a problem. We have to get better at reconfiguring and combining existing capabilities to deliver value. It is not technology that gets in the way of innovation, it is stubborn humans and organizations that resist change.

I am amazed at the number of innovation discussions where the voice of the end user is missing. Customer experience must be at the heart of any innovation and design process. Solutions are not about institutions, they are about patients, students, citizens and customers.

Continue reading Focus on the Customer Experience, Not the Technology in Mass High Tech

Mercury Falling

June 3rd, 2010

images-12I’m not much of a car guy but when Ford announced it was dumping its Mercury line I got a little nostalgic.  I wasn’t born when “Rebel Without a Cause” was released in 1955 but remember seeing the movie as a kid and being in awe of James Dean.  Who can’t relate to the lonely rebellious outsider, with his slicked back hair and leather jacket, trying to fit in? No one remembers the name of the character Dean played (Jim Stark).  After a tragic death James Dean became the character in our minds for eternity. Don’t get me started on Natalie Wood. The thing everyone remembers and the real icon from the classic movie is the cool Mercury James Dean drove.  It was a 1949 six-passenger coupe, fitted with a V-8 and an attitude to match Dean’s character.  The Merc was coolness personified.

Don’t you wonder how the Merc became so cool coming from Ford where Henry’s motto was, any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.  The Model T was the iconic product of a new industrial era. Henry Ford gave us the assembly line and mass production.  He didn’t give us cool.  For that you have to look to his only son Edsel, who had a better idea.   I know we associate the name Edsel with failure but that is because of a disastrous Ford model that was introduced in 1958 well after Edsel had died in 1943.  Edsel Ford was not a failure. Read more