mind expanding examples of objects with meta layers

IoT, voice, predictive search, contextual search and so on. In “the future”, lots will happen very differently. Part of that lot, are very simple and mundane interactions and tasks. These two videos help not only expand ones view of how these simple things will be carried out in ways that might still seem magical, but also provide proof of how imminent this magic is.

Here’s interacting with a knob that isn’t there, but the interaction with that non-present knob is physically there. Get it?

Build further on ordering coffee instantaneously from the coffee maker with “pre-emtive orders” and/or voice. “Buy more coffee”. Beep.

I can definitely dig that future.

competitive advantage – how we work

I’ve experienced it, you’ve experienced it. Everyone has. To some extent, we know what’s not working for us, but often we don’t act on it. Some times, in many organisations (if I extrapolate on my own and colleagues’ experiences) it’s even hard to get acceptance when fixing the problem.

The problem of working effectively. With concentration. Focused.

I believe that industries in which you live by people, their minds, creativity and collaboration – how we work is going to be the primary competitive advantage. It’s organizational culture of course. Orgs can get really good people. Many of them can. Some are more attractive and have more traction (HR and employer branding being more and more important). But over all, they get good people.

Is it better to have 50% better people or an organization in which people can be 50% more effective and just work better?

I’ve touched on it before in another post. I keep coming back to it.

Digital strategy deconstructed: key considerations, part. 2

This is the second part of a few, deconstructing and highlighting some important aspects of the concept of digital strategy and what to consider when approaching it. You’ll find part 1 here.

Part 1 was much about the power of words and definitions, and the need to actively reflect on this with the group responsible for thinking “digital strategy”. It also highlighted the power of using a networked perspective for understanding the integration, organisation wide implications as well as stakeholder alignment.

In this second part I’d like to touch on how brand culture and purpose matters greatly, and how reframing this, and ones market, creates a vantage point that fuels the thinking. I use two fairly well known examples to do this.

Ford manufactures cars, but a while back they redefined themselves as a mobility brand (actually, the original mission was to make America mobile, so not that drastic change…). What does that do? Obviously that depends. But there’s a number of things that fit very nicely together in business strategy, but I’d like to include it in digital strategy as we define that as broadly as strategic thinking in a digital (networked) world.

The mobility brand Ford saw the number of 16 year olds who get their first car drop considerably. More numbers are showing the same changes in demand. But if you’re not in the business of selling cars, but rather mobility, there’s another side to that.

Ford partnered with Zipcar which offers a subscription based model for access to mobility, in the form of cars. This could have been done without Zipcar. It is now done in different shapes and forms by many car manufacturers (I recently saw that Audi pushes micro-sharing experience, collective access to Audi cars)

Zipcar bought by Avis, but what if Ford bought it? Making money from providing mobility services in Volvos, BMWs etc? Competitors become collaborators. The revenue model drastically different. Not switching, complementing. All facilitated by new, networked, technology. But, more importantly: new self perception on behalf of the brand. The organisation, and how everyone sees value creation.

Slideshare: Part 2 touches on slide 5-7

reframing the market and the business

Product development vs business development. A networked perspective can dramatically fuel the thinking in business development. Looking at the brand, its purpose and meaning in peoples lives, is an important part of digital strategy. It might make it inseparable from business strategy, that’s fine. That’s actually just right. And here’s also where it becomes something bigger than a digital thing. That’s important, because when it’s a business matter, and even a cultural matter, you (still) have a better shot at getting more people excited and onboard.

The vast majority still don’t feel ”digitally savvy” and hence exclude themselves from ”digital” projects. Many are literally scared of it. But cultural transformation, processes, thinking about markets and business – there’s where you might find those people.

I’ve jotted down some thinking on meaning markets before. In the case with Uber, on slide 6, they think of themselves in a number of ways appart from ”taxi company”. One is as a logistics platform. What makes sense when you’re a logistics platform? Partnership with destinations. An open API. Revenue sharing between company and private drivers carrying out the transportation. All of the things that any taxi company could have done, but didn’t. Because their culture, self-perception and view on value creation, doesn’t allow for it. That’s right, it doesn’t allow for it. That’s how strong impact culture has on ideas. It’s back to definitions in a sense.

  • Always include, and even describe, your digital project/initiative as a (organizational) cultural one. You benefit from appealing to people who dislikes and even fear digital.

  • Rethink your market. Do the product vs. meaning exercise. What is your product? What is the meaning of you, and that product/service, in peoples’ lives? Then think about what your market really is. I’ve heard Unilever is very much in ”home care”, aiming to ”free up family time”. So how about a global platform for subscription based home-cleaning, laundry service, laundry pickup etc?

  • See also a method called Jobs To Be Done. This is not equating an initiative around digital strategy with innovation, but it is highlighting the perfect occasion for truly taking a stab at preemptively exploring ”how the business might change”.

OK. So two posts in and still no focus on media channels, social platforms and communication. I don’t think the next one will be either.

Digital strategy deconstructed: key considerations, part. 1

In a previous post about a digital marketing lab in Singapore, I realized I should probably structure and share some of my thinking and learnings having discussed, presented, debated, consulted on, workshopped around and taught digital strategy.

So, the reason for this first of a few posts is for a number of reasons:

1) Deconstructing a couple of slides used in workshops and talks, in order to structure what I believe is often overlooked and missed. It’s good for myself to do it.
2) If we’ve had a workshop together or if you listened to a presentation I gave – Hello! Here are some things we touched on if you feel like a refresh or if there was a language/speed problem. You should have the full presentation already.
3) Basically, why not share it beyond rooms of people.

So here goes number 1.

The first, and most important, thing to reflect on when approaching digital strategy

the blogpost Can you invent something new if your words are old, Deborah Mills-Scofield highlights the power words have over us. She’s a consultant in innovation. But not only in innovation is that important. It goes for politics, pedagogy, and our dear subject digital strategy.

Part 1 touches on slide 2-4

Because – what do we think when we think digital? Words and definitions, knowingly or not, frames and maybe even dictates, how we think. And how we think, well, that very much guides what we do and don’t do. As Kevin Spacey put it, TV is simply episodically punctuated video streams. From that, what can you (and disruptors did) imagine?

Add to that, you’ll be in a room of people, perhaps from different parts of and organisation with different agendas, ambitions and painpoints. This further necessitates a discussion around, and a common view on, what it is we’re digging into.

– So, what would you say digital strategy is (yes, that’s how rudimentary my question is)? Take 3 minutes and try to articulate it concretely. Write it down if it helps.
Silence, looks, twisting in the chair. A few smiles. More looks.
– Would you care to go first?
– Hrm, well. It’s about how we communicate with the different target groups in different channels and social networks.
– OK, good. And what did you write down?
– Well, I don’t know. I wrote that it’s basically everywhere around us. It’s everything today.
– Wow, that’s quite all encompassing and massive. Personally I can nod to that. You?
– Actually, I would say that it’s our future business. Our business strategy.
– OK.

A typical conversation about the word digital and digital strategy. Often taken for granted as self explanatory and clear. Not so clear anymore.

Some people implicitly are talking about communication and channels, while others seem to understand it as something that’s basically everything. While some are very clear about the fact that it’s the future business strategy. Digital definitely affect communication and the communication landscape, but maybe that’s communication strategy that just happen to be hightly “digital” today? And surely we can agree that “digital” is effecting more or less every aspect of society today, and hence is everywhere. As a consequence it has to be taken into account when thinking about ones (future) business model, revenue models and business strategy. It’s all obviously correct, but until the whole room realises this, and recognizes the complexity (but also opportunity) in this observation, getting constructive and solution focused is useless.

The reality in which we strategise is networked. Networked is a very useful word as opposed to digital because it more clearly stresses the fundamental shift, change and impact (probably not the originator, but the guy I associate with stressing the benefit of using networked is Mark Comerford, @markmedia) in a way that we can feel and see as we mention it. If I’m in a store shopping and I’m all connected – is there brick and mortar vs e-commerce? Yes. Is there offline vs. online? No. From a networked perspective, that dichotomy is flawed and reframing this makes all the difference.

This is why the great variety in response to digital strategy is so natural. We see it from different angles. It’s like the proverbial elephant and the blind men. PR people see one thing, service design folks another and e-commerce managers yet another, and so on. The solution to this is to discuss ones business and reality from a networked perspective. This way, you’ll see the integrated and holistic nature of digital strategy.

These two activities are my suggestion for a start.

  • Mind the words you use (in general) in this case digital strategy specifically. Dig deeper into what we take for granted (I’ll touch on that again from another perspective). Understand the lens through which you see the concept, and understand what you don’t see.
  • Approach the project as strategic thinking in a networked world. That means departments, stakeholders, business units and even the business model itself, will reveal those clear connections and the need/power in approaching everything as an integrated totality. This can come across as massive and frustrating, but it’s also where the true power of a digital strategy lies.

More on that in the next post. Thoughts and comments are more than welcome.

online mobile in offline and why it’s wrong

Margot Langsdorf from PSFK on Vimeo.

A good reminder of a few things. There’s not offline and online. Connectivity is simply a new dimension and mobile is hence about mobility. Which means there’s confusion to be experienced when/if working on mobile strategy and digital strategy and social strategy. Maybe it’s best to just talk about strategic planning and thinking for being real world ready…

The holistic approach to digital strategy is simply about the real world

In the article Why Nordstrom’s Digital Strategy Works (and Yours Probably Doesn’t), from Harvard Business Review, the three authors (from MIT Sloan School of Management, MIT Sloan’s Center for Information Systems Research and University of Texas at Austin) stress the fact that although a great number of respondents (in their research) expect competitive advantage from SMACIT technologies (Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud, IoT) – it’s unlikely to happen. Those technologies are rather minimum requirements, and highly available to boot.

The trick lies in how you combine, deploy and use them. Yes, that’s when you add a strategy behind it all. But as is often the case with strategy – it’s mostly a word used (bantered) and rarely a concept well practiced. Reasons being lack of a true aim, a real problem to overcome, no sober discussion around strengths to focus on and weaknesses to accept, overly unrealistic expectation (feels good and looks good, but doesn’t help with crafting strategy that actually helps) etc. So it’s unlikely to happen not because it can’t happen, but because the concept of strategy is so poorly practiced.

The Nordstrom example they use highlights the difference between disparate initiatives in different parts of an organisation – masquerading as digital strategy – versus a coherent and holistic approach that realizes that a powerful digital strategy that actually accomplishes something has to take the full picture into account. Not mobile. Not social. But how everything fits together in the real world, and in real situations, with the business in the center.

This is not a matter of having the best apps, analytics, or social media tools. Instead, it’s a matter of tending to the details of building integrated digital capabilities, one at a time, making the right data accessible, and simplifying processes. Most retailers will struggle to do this because they haven’t architected their product or customer data for easy access by the new digital capabilities. Without those core capabilities, integration with and among new digital capabilities is virtually impossible.

  • building integrated…
  • data accessible
  • processes
  • easy access
  • integration

Notice how all of that has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with how people are going to work with it. And that demands understanding why it’s needed at all (what can we do better, i.e. what problem do we have today). These aspects revolve around the business, they highlight the importance of stakeholder alignment, cross departmental understanding, processes etc.

The authors sign off by suggesting that we Develop a strategy for succeeding in the digital economy—a purpose that leverages your unique capabilities and responds to market opportunities. Then grab every technology that takes you there.

And thinking about how to succeed in the digital economy is, of course, equally thinking about how to be real world ready. So if strategy is a word that sets the wrong tone and triggers the wrong associations – just make it about the real world.

future of key societal institutions

So, as mentioned earlier, banking is one of the most exciting industries from a service design perspective and definitely one on the verge of really being disrupted. Perhaps less likely by new entrants surprising the old dragons, but rather one or more old dragons to finally redefine and rewrite their ”normal” approach to banking.

In my feed, these two initiatives surfaced. Don’t know how serious they are with this, but we’ll see.

nordea innovation challenge

Nordea Bank Challenge
A team from IBM, Nordea and Apple were available for all the teams through out the event.

Deutsche Bank, future of banking

Design boom - future of banking
A future of banking event by designboom, in collaboration
with Deutsche Bank.

If banking, as a key institution in society yet until recently quite unlikely to progressively move forward, is doing it , who aren’t, yet? Library and other public services? Governments as such? Traditional education system? What area or industry is the least progressive and change embracing, I wonder.

Digital marketing in a laboratory?

Photo from Digital Marketing Lab in Singapore, 2014
On of the many active, collaborative, parts of the Digital Marketing Lab in Singapore, 2014.

Earlier this year I was in Singapore running a 4-day lab on digital marketing. Running it as in collaborating with Hyper Island (and the wonderful Maria, who’s responsible for the Labs within Hyper Island) in tailoring the different parts of the content around which to, well, lab.

Other labs include rapid prototyping and social – both very suitable to do hands-on lab type of workshops, especially rapid prototyping of course. Our first collective challenge with this lab was actually figuring out the labs ingredient.

A laboratory (/ləˈbɒrətəri/ or /ˈlæbərətri/; informally, lab) is a facility that provides controlled conditions in which scientific or technological research,experiments, and measurement may be performed.

We were definitely in a controlled environment. For 4 full days in a large, open, area approximately 20 people with different backgrounds worked together. Representatives from Google, business consultants figuring out what to do next, community managers, account directors, digital creatives and even recruitment professionals. We were experimenting with propositions, hypotheses and opinions – all open for debate. Hypotheses around how organisations needed to, perhaps, rethink and reorganize how marketing was viewed, budgeted and executed. Very much perceptions of what has been true, but not necessarily anymore.

One key challenge we gave the participants was a hands-on assignment – a brief – from a multinational brand, very much recognized for having momentum and guts to rethink its existence and purpose. Both from a consumer product/brand point of view, but also from an organizational sustainability point of view. This assignment was evaluated by key representatives from the company (the measurement part). My role very much being that of a nudger, suggester, questioner. Without digging into the ideas – there were some really great stuff, some of it actually already in the pipeline within that organisation which says something about its commercial viability. Impressive.

A participant’s recap and reflections on the digital marketing lab

I’m not going to share anything detailed, because one of the participants has shared a quite extensive summary of the digital marketing lab. It’s one individual’s summary, and someone else might recall it differently. But what strikes me is how some of the content that I shared (Simon Kemp of We Are Social, Singapore also shared his) is obviously referred to and has thankfully been helpful. I like that.

Posting your video on YouTube does not make it Digital Storytelling. Building a story of your brand, creating an experience, a feeling, a journey (that holds together across platforms), something worth remembering – and telling others about. That’s digital storytelling

But. If I were to highlight a few key nuggets that I keep coming back to as fundamentally important, from the digital marketing lab but also from doing presentations and workshops (and everyday work) around digital strategy (challenges), they’d be a bit different and framed in another way. Which brings me to the conclusion that I probably need to get my stuff together and share it in a properly packaged and connected manner. Easy to share with more people. Easy for people who have been in workshops to access and refresh or get clarification.

So, in a while I suppose this will be a link to the first of a series of post. Which means this post about a lab participant’s post is a trailer for posts to come.

Robinhood and the disruption of financial services

The financial service sector is one of the most interesting ones in terms of burgeoning disruption. A sector up until fairly recently not seen as especially dynamic – mainly because the sector itself seemed, and perhaps still is, largely uninterested in advancing things – is now rattling, shaking, squeaking and bustling in every way.

Simple Bank sold to BBVA. Tink, a Swedish company, raises more capital and claims 2% of the swedish population holds an account. In the same area, that of personal finances and money management, is another Swedish start-up in Dreams, helping individuals better save money.

This kind of stuff is natural when you think of the meaning of banks (or whatever we’ll call it). Why individuals need them in their lives. Entrepreneurs focusing on user value, solving problems and seing unmet opportunities, create these things because they should exist. They make sense. And as living our lives involves money and financial services, and technology allows for it, that industry is now booming. Great for almost everyone.

From private finance to investment and trading

Many of the new players in financial services have focused on payment and personal finance. At least the user facing ones. Robinhood takes it in another direction, that of trading.

If I were part of the old school trading industry, I’d be paying close attention as the waves of disruption come rolling in. But, what struck me in the Wired article on Robinhood, is the quote below, where the founders paint a picture, a usage scenario, that really helps us see the viability in the service, and hence potential democratisation of trading.

We all know how toilet breaks, queuing in line, bus rides, ad breaks, just-after-eating-up, micro breaks etc and so on are devoted (more by some) to not only instagram and Facebook – the status check of the collective also known as group of friends – but candy crush, poker, casino and other game like apps, providing that micro fix of excitement. Every gambling company I’ve come in contact with knows (and struggles to perfectly articulate) that intersection of fun/excitement and risk/benefit tickle. But it’s right there in the middle, which is why trading – when made accessible like this – might very well find its way into that usage occasion. I think Roobinhood perfectly exemplifies the importance of looking at behaviours in combination with technology and business vision.

Standing in line for coffee may seem like an awkward time to trade stocks. But for the makers of the new app Robinhood, those casual moments are exactly when they want to reach a new generation of potential investors who might otherwise feel the markets are closed to them.

Robinhood - democratizing stock trading
Screen grab from Roobinhood

Hiring people, managing people, protecting people

It’s always interesting to hear how Google think and does things. I guess anybody in a business where smart and creative people matter – which is in increasingly so as we move beyond the need for mere knowledge workers – would be wise to listen and reflect.

Another management issue with regards to people being able to think up brilliant stuff and producing wonderful ideas, products and services, is that of time, focus and effectiveness. I’m increasingly sure that handling constant interruption, time theft and other sources and reasons responsible for disturbing our cognitive abilities, bandwidth for thinking – basically our time to focus and get things done. One at the time. I really love this piece about his students and multi-tasking, by the brilliant Clay Shirky. He recognises the fact that what the situation calls for, is really protecting people from what they don’t realise. That is a key responsibility and future (present) competitive advantage.

Why I Just Asked My Students To Put Their Laptops Away…

From 2009 to 2014 – the deal-breaker that is APIs

an rfid and twitter powered cat door via psfk.com

Back in 2009, the above twitter/rfid cat door surfaced in my feed. I remembered that me and a colleague of mine (a brilliant digital director now at North Kingdom) had an interesting discussion about possible futures of APIs in general and connected physical things more specifically. It’s really ever since (and before that) that I’ve been bookmarking and in other ways saving and reflecting thoughts on what I label “offline/online”.

If the internet as such is now finding its way into the minds of the less technically advanced, the second revolution re: internet is the physical one.

I often get “oh shit” reactions when I let my thoughts wander. I had one while preparing a deck and a few workshops around the subject of brand strategy and digital strategy considering the new reality that is networks and the dramatic impact it has on businesses, communications, great ideas etc. I had completely missed the Watson API. I mean, Watson computer. Cognitive powers. AI. API. When that evolves. Oh shit. My head hearts.

An API for the Watson computer by IBM
The IBM Watson API, over at Programmable Web.