Tag Archives for Innovation
We had each just consumed one giant carne asada burrito and a small basket of chips in the Mission District. We were sitting at Cancun Taquiera, a small, hyperactive taco restaurant across from Beauty Bar at Fulsom and 19th, or close to that.
Homeless people were walking in and asking for food from diners’ plates. My friend, J., was feeling a little overwhelmed. She’s used to a very clean, very non-homeless section of Orange County, right near the beach. We finished our meal. I felt satiated. She seemed to feel satiated, and a little tired, so we walked back up the small hill to the apartment and came to a stop at the corner near a convenience store.
“You want to get some drinks for the house,” she asked. Sure. We pop in. We get some drinks out of the cooler. She goes around the corner in the store and comes back with a Snickers bar.
“It’s after midnight, are you really going to eat that now,” I ask, laughing. “We just had burritos.” I’m staring wide-eyed.
“I really really want one. I gave mine away at the airport to the guy at the counter. He was really nice to me, he had a long day and he helped me with my bags,” she says. This is common behavior. J. is regularly giving things to people.
That made sense. And then I don’t think much more about it. This morning, there is still a Snickers bar sitting on the table. She hasn’t eaten it.
A case for Jobs-to-be-Done.
I won’t go into the whole timeline features or the questions and answers, but it comes out that J. didn’t hire the Snickers bar to eat the Snickers bar. She wasn’t even hungry for it. She was hungry for the Raisinettes that she bought in addition to the Snickers bar. She bought the Snickers bar because she lacked something. It wasn’t hunger. It wasn’t a desire for that creamy caramel nougat goodness.
There were deeper emotional reasons for wanting the candy bar. It offered security, comfort, a feeling of safety even. It gave her something nostalgic, and she had given hers away as an act of kindness and, in a way, wanted to reward herself for a good day.
But the main theme of our discussion was that J. had a “keep it for later” mentality. It was not so important that she ate it, but that she had it for later. It is likely that neither of us will eat the Snickers bar today, but it is going into the car anyway, to see what happens.
I shall report later on what job we hire the Snickers bar to do later on in San Francisco.
Would that school were so easy.
You go to school to learn something. You take that something and use it in the real world to get things done.
But what if the world changes so fast that the nineteenth century sysetm you are learning in does not prepare you for the 21st century world you go home to live in, use the web in, make your friends in?
You end up disrupting education by finding your own consumption. And that has consequences — some great, some maybe not so great.
Has Traditional Education Jumped the Shark?
What happens when the school you go to is online, free and part of an experiment? What if it’s a test, and not really part of the formal system? Do you lose out by learning in it?
What matters most — that you experienced the very same experience as your “cohort,” or that you learned the skills that you need to get a job?
We are starting to see this kind of question a lot when we look into how different people hire school to get the job of education done.
When education looks different, but creates the same result, what are the tensions that one experiences when trying to use the byproduct of that education to get hired? This question on Quora makes us wonder. The asker of the question offers context:
I’m currently taking part in a free programming course with Stanford University, and I’m watching the same lectures and doing the same work as real students, just not getting a degree out of it. Is it appropriate to include this on my CV/LinkedIn profile?
Here are my questions:
1. If the guy learns skills from this course, but does not get a degree, and he can perform the job that having the degree would indicate he could perform, then what use is the degree?
2. What is more important to an employer — the skill or the degree?
3. Do we rely on the degree because the people who hire us are often people who are not specialists in that field — I’m thinking of an HR manager here, who must have to use degrees to vet applicants.
Future thinking: we can take this thinking to its long-term conclusions. What if education evolves into something that is more about showing your work, or proving that you can solve problems in teh real world? Is it stilla bout the degree? Does the degree become something that proves that, or does the work itself prove that?
If it is the work itself, then what is more important? Is it your relationship in the school, or your relationship in the community?
I think that education institutions give people a bigger platform on which to stand, to build greater relationships with community. But as internet technology deconstructs those platforms, you have to consistently see these things differently. If social web technologies are their own platforms, and one can use those to connect to communities, then what happens to education?
As I have written before, in education there are often more questions than real market forces. If we could experiment more and more with education, we would find the answer to these questions come readily. If we could see real “market forces,” like teachers giving active and ready insight into how they use products, or if there was less overhead to deal with (bureaucracy and red tape), then developers and entrepreneurs could make the changes that would facilitate better learning.
Back to the original point: when students are given access, outside of the system, to newer ways to learn, those choices end up part of the market forces in the equation, and teachers, or anyone who does not participate, becomes further isolated.
My gut instinct says that many who are in education and who make their living from it, are wary of exploring this too much. Realistically speaking, they may feel their livelihood is at stake.
I think it’s not at stake, but it changes. Teachers — in K12 all the way through higher ed — have to change their roles the way reporters in journalism institutions do. It is more important to be facilitator to the hyper-informed community than it is to be the broad generalist who seeks to be the single conduit for information.
Teaching moves from lecturing, monitoring, coaching and mentoring, to curating, guiding, disrupting, and platform leveling. It’s more a task of community management than it is a teacher role.
Brian Stetler, the NYTimes journalist who made his name by covering the Arab Spring via Twitter, lost 90 pounds by tweeting about the food he ate.
This confirms two suspicions — losing weight is not about a special diet or a special technique. Weight and body image is an almost entirely social construct that depends on how we think others see us. The other thing it confirms for me is that people hire social media to get jobs done that are at first blush antithetical to our perception of social media as a mere broadcast channel for our thoughts and the media we consume.
Social media, as Whitney Johnson eludes to in her examination of how we hire social media, is only a tool because of “how” we use it. It is nothing on its own. You can find that article at our Jobs-to-be-Done Quora board.
One of the great joys in sifting through the social networks in search of meaningful discussion partners is the arrival at a great resource for a specific subject area. I found that in Cody Boardman, a sales specialist I discovered in a conversation group in Facebook. Putting out compelling content often brings compelling people into the fray, and this was the case with Cody, whom you can follow on Google+. Put him in your circles.
Cody and I exchanged a few messages, but this particular message stood out for me, before I have even had a chance to talk to him in great detail. I wanted to know how he viewed sales, because the Jobs to be Done theory suggests that sales is not a solution pushing system. It’s about finding opportunities within problems that consumers / customers experience.
Perfect for a sales person, and something that seems an inherent part of the sales function.
Cody proved me right. He is able to solve problems, and find opportunities. He’s not there just to complete an equation of Boss needs this + Well, i got this, do you want it = We’ll buy it. He tells me in this message that sales is really about finding out the Why behind a purchasing decision, and filling in the blanks with meaningful opportunities linked to the product being sold — AS THEY RELATE to the business that will be using it.
I’m a sales person by trade so let me break my response to your post down in two ways (again):
Professionally, I sell various analytic solutions to marketers now but have sold in other industries the last eleven years. In present context at Webtrends I help solve problem in SEM, site/social/mobile analytics, custom dashboards for executives etc… it’s in this space that I find people working on initiatives (all the above) with little more for a business case than their ‘gut’ and a handful of soft business requirements driving them. This goes for the ma/pa boutique all the way up to the global brands. It’s magical when someone can effectively answer the question ‘why’ as in why they are engaging in a project/initiative etc…
Personally, I listen to people from all walks and talks of life. Bodybuilders, Powerlifters, husbands and wives, men and women, Christians, Mormons, Buddhists etc… the ‘channels’ are most often in-person and via Facebook but I’ve spent a lot of time conversing in forums and a couple of blogs too. My experience, regardless of the context is that when a specific objective is set, one that is based off fact and not opinion initially, is most likely to achieve the goal/resolution etc… When it’s an organic discussion, that’s good for personal conversation but horrible for anything originating from a person with an agenda/point, one that was not well stated enough that people could ‘get it’.
If I had to establish a specialty, it’s in getting people who know they want to get from ‘Point A’ to ‘Point B’ but don’t know in many cases ‘why’ beyond “My boss said this is where we need to go” even when their boss is also (and secretly) unsure why too. I’ve worked in various capacities (some as an interviewer others as a problem solver) with the General Counsel, Chief Marketing Officers, Chief Compliance Officer’s, VPs of Audit etc… of some of the worlds biggest companies (Kraft, Cargill, Alcatel-Lucent, Yahoo, Apple, Kodak etc…).
A sales person is a person looking for specialty in what he does, but also he is someone looking for the meaningful touch points that consumers experience in their emotional experience in the world.
Cody is an excellent conversationalist, and if you have the chance to engage with him on these social networks, including the comments on this blog, you will find that he’s very good at teasing out ideas by offering feedback, stories and suggestions.
Imagine if you could conduct a global search for anyone commenting on anything in any comment field on any blog or web site with a content engine built into it. Imagine if you are not looking to have an argument about baseball or truffles, but you are actually looking to start a business, or figure out a line of code?
Can you do that by trawling through the billions of comments on the web? Maybe you will soon.
Type in your search query in a search box, and then suddenly you see all of the people who have commented on, say, “education.” You not only see who said what, or where they said it, but you also see the commenting context around it.
It’s coming. William Mougayar has created the beta test for this in engag.io. And it’s remarkably prescient design, as it focuses on what I believe will be the central task of web engagement in the next few years — finding experts you know you want to know, but whom you don’t know you know.
I interviewed him today to figure out what is going on with engag.io. In short, they are soon to move from beta to something more global, though specifics are scant. What I can say is that he’s the inspiration for my thoughts here. I include some writing about what we talked about, and at the end I tack on a Q&A I sent him.
Jason Calacanis has it right: Amazon Prime is a cult, but it’s a highly efficient cult that is revamping how consumers get the job of retail therapy done.
We need to look at two things here. If we re-visit the blog post from yesterday that said Best Buy is not experiencing impending bankruptcy, we might have to revise our thesis — that Best Buy has a long way to go before the end of retail as we know it knocks them into retail’s version of urban blight.
Calcanis tells us why online retail works so much better. In addition to giving people 250 hours of their life back each year, it also gives them ease of ordering, and a slew of products that stuffy-nosed irascible retail guinea pigs prevent us from seeking.
“Let’s call it four to six hours of retail experiences a week, or 20 to 25 hours a month per household. Including holiday shopping you’re looking at 250 hours a year you’re inside a retail location experiencing some combination of time-regret, stress, boredom and/or annoyance.
Cult members understand there is not only no joy in traditional shopping, but that it’s filled with annoyance and wasted time.
Cult members understand there can be joy, and time savings, associated with intelligent consumption.
Prime gives you the joy of consumption without the pain of acquisition.”
The Pain of Acquisition?
I like this phrase. yes, there is pain there.
The pain comes when consumers, who kind of know what they want are assaulted visually and sensorily by a marauding salesperson disguised as a customer service teenager, or grousing middle-aged resentment-filled employee, who is not careful enough, doesn’t care enough, isn’t well trained enough, or not aware enough and maybe even not experienced enough to look at retail shopping as a optential relationship-building experience.
Of course, how could retail shopping be such a thing?
It’s different than a grocery store. Most people go to grocery stores regularly, they get to know the cashiers and the clerks.
Not in things like electronic goods retail. It’s an in-and-out experience. Drop in, get what you need, sortie back at the house. As Larry Downes showed us yesterday, there is a mismanagement of the customer experience in retail. People are not trained well to help consumer’s discover that which they didn’t know they seek.
Of course, as we also said yesterday, consumers don’t necessarily come into retail with the best of moods. Well, whatever, not much we can do about people’s pouty faces.
But if a cult exists, then that cult must be helping people get a job done — for Calcanis this is the easing of the pain of acquisition.
The problem is there is also a pain of retail trade-offs. If we move to Prime and follow that cult, somebody suffers. It’s not the managerial talent. It’s the retail masses, the people we should be training to be better at customer choice and consumer innovation.
Retail outlets and fast-moving consumer companies should be employing a “jobs to be done” framework to train their staff to be jsut as good in person as semantic search, SEO algorithms, and cataloging of products is on the web.
If not, there’s an economic cataclysm about to happen, much worse than a single Best Buy chain going out of business.
Now, the only downside to Prime’s ascendancy is that it’s going to wipe out tens of thousands of retail jobs that are currently filled by the least employable of our workforce.
It’s not a jump to say that many of these retail jobs are filled by folks who have *already* taken a huge career nosedive from the middle class to the just-above poverty level of retail workers.
They’re going to get fracked twice in 20 years: first getting knocked from the white collar or blue collar middle class to the retail working-class jobs, and then to no jobs.
I guess you can’t get massive efficiency like Amazon is building without wiping out massive amounts of jobs.
And I think Amazon’s massive growth will actually crater the real estate business as malls and main streets are faced with unfillable retail spaces. What do we do with the malls, turn them into office and loft spaces? university space?
Playing out the scenario, does this new flood of new office and living space put downward pressure on traditional office space?
The Re-Wired Group helps companies and, by extension, these employees, out of the rut of consumer choice gone unadressed.
Take a look at some of the writing from the Re-Wired Group, which could guide you through this kind of thinking. Also, remember Clayton Christensen, the father of this movement. His work on consumer innovation is eye-opening, to say the least.
The clumsy salesperson is someone who has bothered all of us, I would bet. He’s bothered me before, when the customer service rep helping me with a billing problem with Time Warner Cable in New York unveiled himself as a stealth salesperson who tried to sell me on a data package, a cable tv package (even though I don’t own a TV), and, I don’t know, maybe even dentistry services. I stopped listening and ended the call.
The clumsy salesperson really pissed off this Forbes writer, who uses his friend’s interaction with a young sales pup trying to sell a TV services package into one of the reasons he thinks Best Buy is going out of business.
What happens when one bad experience, and a bunch of data that are really not about the shopping experience lead a blogger to forecast the downfall of a retail electronics giant?
What you get is a revelation that is certainly very true — the pivot from offline only selling to online selling, and all the engineered components of making that work well, is jarring and hard to manage.
But, are we seeing Best Buy go bankrupt? Or are we seeing not just a switch in Best Buy, but a pivot of the entire market?
It seems that most of the mainstream press is befuddled about him and exactly what business Yahoo! is trying to be. Is it a media company? Is it a bulletin boards company? Advertising? Mobile? Marketing? No, not search.
It is a company that has a rapidly scalable identity and a huge community of users that it can rapid test ideas on, as it builds off what it used to be and turns into the next big thing.
This makes Yahoo! just like a start-up, and Thompson just like a budding entrepreneur, except he has skillz. Let me boldly proclaim that Thompson’s role as CEO at Yahoo! will move the company in the direction of social, community-centric e-commerce solutions. Watch out, Jack Ma, Yahoo! is coming for you!
Yahoo! is going to become the first huge scale media content company that is actually an e-commerce company. Think of it as a giant tupperware party where content and e-commerce are mashed together to form a new type of selling content, or a live advertising model where product, seller, consumer, and community are all mashed up into one.
Wal-Mart, but with a huge media engine.
We talk a bit at the Re-Wired Group about how the airlines could pander to our sensibilities better. We talk about it, not because we think we are more amazing than you or anyone else. We talk about it because it seems that airlines try to sell us on features.
But Delta Airlines has done something a little bit different. They have a new video advertising their Delta Airlines app, and it panders not to our wish that we could always sit in first class. It answers a question we have had before: what happens when our bag leaves our possession and travels on our flight to the next destination?
Now we know.
I met up with Mercury Media CEO Ranee Chung and her partner Julien Hauss on Thursday to talk about the launch of their new app, OpenBar. It’s Hong Kong’s first mobile web app for bars.
You can watch the full interview here, first, or read through this blog post and watch the full interview at the end.
Here is a video of their app, courtesy of www.openbar.hk:
To cut through the clutter of a super dense thicket of bars and restaurants, OpenBar allows bar owners to broadcast happy hour specials and details about the current social environment to app users, hoping to draw them into the crowd.
Like Tokyo, Hong Kong is filled with thousands of hidden bars, restaurants and supper clubs that don’t get a lot of surface attention from flyers or magazine ads. They subsist through word-of-mouth and high levels of late night traffic, often because they are super close to other equally hidden bars.
OpenBar offers a combo of photo-sharing, advertising and couponing to lure the drunk and searching hordes to smaller and less obvious bars. It socializes the experience and makes it easy for people to attract their friends and find others in the spaces.
Chung and Hauss have devised the app to help bar owners attract an instantaneous crowd, and by the looks of it, they might be on to something. Here’s a quick video interview I did with them about the origin of the app.
We also talk about what makes Hong Kong unique in the web apps and social mobile web space.