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.

Meaning based brand development

For quite a while, I’ve been using Ford as an example of a brand that’s redefined itself (or rather refocused) from car manufacturer to what they refer to as a mobility brand. I think it makes all the difference.

What they did early on was team up with ZipCar on US campuses, getting young drivers (note; drivers, not car owners) to get into Ford cars. Stats on that car selling challenge here. Now, of course the meaning with owning a car is transportation and mobility (not taking into account the, to be honest, not so small addition of signalling something about you as a person, which I think sits equally much in what you choose to drive and not just what you own). Hence a new business model. You may come from manufacturing and selling Ford cars, but that’s not necessarily the business for ever after. If Ford viewed their meaning market like Avis do (Avis bought ZipCar), they’d step past the competition by way of a business focused on getting people transportation – whether that’s a BMW, Volvo, Ford or whatever car brand. Potentially pretty drastic from a scaled up business model perspective .

Envisioning freely what Ford could be doing and what the larger meaning market could be, and what offers and services fit in, you touch on selecting models and vehicles. So I’m always thinking why not be able to buy the sporty one – but get 5 free rentals a year for when the family needs a larger vehicle for soccer games or something like that. You know, bake that in as the augmented product. Relieving difficult choices, in a way. Because it’s not about buying a car, it’s about transportation, mobility – even family logistics, when you think about it.

So now I found this similar offer/service/nudge from BMW to make the decision of buying the i3 easier. Good one.

The exercise of thinking Product (category) vs. Meaning (value of the (bigger/multiple) market(s)) is one that I stress every brand and organisation to do in a recurring manner. It sits in the project/process/challenge of figuring out the digital strategy, mind you. It’s because technology and digital, if we allow ourselves to refer to it as loosely as that, is driving societal changes. That means what you do, who you are and how you do things – can, and will, drastically change. Meaning your basic existence is the topic. That’s a cultural question, not a technical one. And that, dear reader, is the most importan distinction to be made when getting an organisation of not-so-tech-interested people to start pulling in the same direction. To feel ownership in a question that they, hence, understand and grasp (culture and meaning as opposed to that “digital stuff”).

I use meaning and not purpose. I might seem like semantics but I think the two are distinctively different. With brands defining their purpose, I think often we see an inside/out perspective still lurking there. It’s our purpose (for us) vs. the meaning (for users). Meaning is about the new markets (and business ideas, models and revenue models) that can be identified and that may not resemble anything your used to from before (scary). The value they provide and generate. Purpose is centered too much around a statement about the brand and doesn’t get “verbified” as well.

Have you phrased, framed and begun the cultural transformation that is the result of technological change yet?

A Ted Talk where Bill Ford Jr shares some thinking on the future of transportation and mobility (2011).



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Medieorganisationers större roll i samhället

Tidningar, nyhetsorganisationer, journalistiken (?), mediehus i en bredare bemärkelse har problem. Utmaningar drivna av teknisk utveckling, och med detta förändrade beteenden med betalningsovilja betyder grus i maskineriet. Knappast en nyhet för någon. Men som en mycket intelligent man påpekade, så kan man inte lösa problem på samma nivå som problemet skapades.

I många fall betyder det att dessa tekniskt drivna förändringar och utmaningar inte nödvändigtvis löses med hjälp av tekniska lösningar, utan lösningen ligger på en djupare, mer fundamental nivå. Från två medieorganisationer kommer två exempel, inte på lösningar, men intressanta steg som vittnar om en utvärdering av sin roll i samhället. Sin mening ur ett större perspektiv och därmed nya möjligheter att tackla utmaningarna.

Det jag enkelt kallar meaning markets (och skrev lite om här) är ett förlösande koncept/metod/arbetssätt. Absolut besläktat med begrepp som brand purpose men mycket mer aktiverande än så. Brand purpose är en form för att, som så ofta, kort och koncist utrycka ett varumärkes kärna och syfte. Ett viktigt konstaterande, men inte så speciellt drivande i sig. Att aktivt arbeta med meaning market genererar riktning, idéer, förhållningssätt och även nya/alternativa affärsmodeller eftersom det hela tiden söker slutvärdet för användaren. Inte ingångsvärden. En verbifiering av purpose helt enkelt.

Medieorganisationer tycker jag är extremt intressanta ifrån detta perspektiv. Vad har vi dem till? Vad är dom för oss i samhället? Förr i tiden väldigt tydligt nyhetsförmedlare. Mycket papper. Initierade, inlästa, ifrågasättande och granskande. Men varför?

Medieorganisationer beskrivs medievetenskapligt utefter ett gäng parametrar så som organisation, medieteknisk beskaffenhet (etermedia, print etc), juridiska aspekter, affärsmodell och så vidare. De skiljer sig på olika sätt, men hur man än vänder och vrider på det så är medieorganisationer det (starka) klistret i samhällskittet som ju förutsätter insatta och upplysta medborgare, och aktiva kanaler mellan samhällets deltagare.

Betyder det då “bara” rapportering eller har detta av historiska (och medietekniska) skäl varit så bara för att…?

The Guardian har en väldigt framåtlutad och offensiv inställning till deras roll i framtiden. Globaliserad organisation med exempelvis satsning på USA. Digital first-initiativet är mycket tydligt. De är erkända som bland de bästa på nyhetsvärdering, men inte nödvändigtvis de bästa att snappa upp och rapportera. De kan alltså inta en mer faciliterande roll, med samma slutmål, och gör också detta genom tydliga initiativ kring citizen journalism.

Guardian Reporting

Det är då ett naturligt steg att för ett mer kollaborativt arbetssätt (och globaliserat perspektiv) börja utbilda. Inte journalister, bredare än så. Vad de kallar Guardian Master Classes har växt till sig.

Att arbeta för att stärka samhällskittet, inte själva bara rapportera och granska. Samma mål, mycket större mening. Större marknad, ökad och bredare relevans samt möjligheter att generera nya typer av intäkter och bättre knyta användare till sig (lock on, som en kollega utrycker det).

SvD tillhandahåller “SvD Läs och Skriv”

Även SvD har reflekterat över sin roll bortom rapportering och ett samtidigt konstaterande av minskande intresse ibland yngre personer. Med “Läs och Skriv” agerar man proaktivt och inte endast efter ett rapporteringsfokuserat syfte. Man spelar en aktiv roll i skapandet av intresserade (och läskunniga) medborgare. För det är målet med rapporteringen, men därmed inte sagt att rapportering är den enda aktiviteten eller metoden. Intressant, och förhoppningsvis mer än en sidosyssla.

Här finns sådant som är relevant för tonåringar. Jag läste en krönika om skolor som slösade pengar på reklam; det var något som jag inte hade tänkt på förut, säger han.

– Alexander Willemsen, 15 år

Att få engagerade samhällsmedborgare är ju jätteviktigt, säger hon och tillägger att ungas läsförmåga och samhällsintresse är centrala frågor för en demokrati.

– Madeleine Ellvin, lärare

Det är inte svårt att komma att tänka på mängder av företag – varumärken – som kämpar för sin relevans, momentum, betydelse(fullhet) och lönsamhet. Hur många är inte de som tuffar på, bakbundna av det man alltid gjort? Vad kan de göra? Vad skulle de kunna vara? Jag påmindes att posta de här raderna som legat och skrotat som lösa reflektioner när följande citat dök upp på en skärm nära mig.

“Every organisation eventually becomes inward looking, bloated and loses sight and becomes pretty much useless”

– Steve Forbes

Ouch!

Business transformation report, by Tieto

My work is never dull. I frequently get involved in workshops and discussions with stakeholders from different industries, all battling the same core challenge. That of change and transformation. Recently I got a taste of private banking. I’m not going to share any of that, but it struck me how true much of this Business Transformation Report, from Tieto (a leading Nordic IT Service Company) and Kairos Future (Strategic Futures Consultants) is spot on and true based on the conversations. Some excerpts:

“Hand on heart: Is your prime goal with adopting new technology incremental change or radical innovation?”

”The reason we do not invest more in transformation is not lack of resources. It’s because we simply don’t know what to invest in”.

– Major Bank executive (Tieto report)

“Even though they might have a rough idea of where the market and technology is heading, they are uncertain of how the business models will play out and what the consequences will be. The questions those executives need to ask is: Will you be more certain if you sit waiting, or if you invest small in exploration and low-cost experimentation?”

Easier said than done, transforming and changing. But waiting to be sure isn’t the route you want to bet on.

Don’t just stand there (chapter):

  1. Do you have a clear view of where the future of your industry is heading over the next 3-7 years?
  2. Would you describe your company as an active future-oriented reallocator?
  3. Do you have a process for scouting and acquiring promising companies or technologies?
  4. Do you actively engage your partners and customers in co-creation activities to find the future for you?

“Consequently, having a culture where people are embracing or at least not rejecting changing behaviours (my marking), practices and attitudes is necessary if a fundamental transformation will ever take place.”

That’s an interesting distinction when working with change. You don’t have to focus on loving change, start by not disliking it so much, and from that position you can do things slightly different. Doesn’t sound as a big difference, but it is. Don’t go for daring to do things differently. Go for not being afraid of trying some things differently.

“As neurologists and neuroscientists say, we become what we constantly do. This is true not only metaphorically. Even our brains are being transformed and rewired as we start to use them in different ways. So fundamental transformation in terms of new practices and behaviours is – literally – fundamental.”

End of block quotes…

Full report accessible here.

Hardware becoming software – dimple

Is hardware becoming like software? What is that even? We often hear about hardware becoming more and more like software, meaning open source (-ish), hackable and customisable. Then, of course, focusing too much on hardware might be wrong. Either way.

This thing dimple is quite interesting as it lives somewhere in-between software and hardware and kind of transcends those boundaries. Keeping hardware intact, yet still customising it. By way of software. Hmmm. Something like that.

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Patagonia, are you asking us not to buy?

I recently bought a Patagonia jacket. Which made me think of this. Worn Wear. Not just the fact that they do in fact become stories and memories, but the reaction from a lot of people when Patagonia explicitly encourages people not to buy their clothes.

I can hear proponents of the concept of brand loyalists scream. Of sales people squirming in their chairs. But it all aligns beautifully with how brands grow, and how brands can resonate, if we think about it.

Aware Patagonia loyalists, because it’s quite likely one of the fairly few brands who actually have real loyalists. Those who go quite far to stick to Patagonia. But those people are few, and they’re most likely very environmentally conscious already.

Another thing is about the message here. It’s not so much about the message, even though it’s very clear, true, and firmly positions the brand as a true “do good brand” with a purpose beyond making quick bucks. But it’s also about how they make this public. It’s so real. There’s not an ounce of fake in here even coming from a brand. I wrote/commented a few lines on how brands publicise themselves creatively here.

And with this in mind, lets just remind ourselves that there’s always people out there, however environmentally conscious or unconscious they might be, in the market for a new jacket and pants. And those people can buy from a number of brands (except for the exceptionally small group of die hard loyalists), all of which would suit their needs. The question is about who do they come to think of first? Who resonates more?

A few of those people might take you up, reconsider, and get used clothes or maybe even repair what they have. That’s a win for Patagonia. But enough people will get something new.

So, as Byron Sharp and other myth-busting researchers have pointed out to us – go for penetration, because the potential buyers are everywhere. They’re not loyal, they’re just likely buyers, to a varying degree.

What Patagonia does isn’t risky, it’s doubly good (and they’re f***ing awesome).

hipsters – an iteration of the dandy

The word hipster. eww. But I quite liked this investigation, in Monocle Urbanist, of the concept – if it at all exists. Knew of dandyism, but not the connection between the two. Also, love sound cloud.

In 1836 Thomas Carlyle wrote:

A Dandy is a clothes-wearing Man, a Man whose trade, office and existence consists in the wearing of Clothes. Every faculty of his soul, spirit, purse, and person is heroically consecrated to this one object, the wearing of Clothes wisely and well: so that the others dress to live, he lives to dress … And now, for all this perennial Martyrdom, and Poesy, and even Prophecy, what is it that the Dandy asks in return? Solely, we may say, that you would recognise his existence; would admit him to be a living object; or even failing this, a visual object, or thing that will reflect rays of light…[15]

– Wikipedia

Mt. Gox, official systems and a parallel CEO profile

There are some hilarious quotes and secions in this story in Wired, about Mt. Gox and its fall. Simply hilarious, even though there is a serious side to it.

The 28-year-old Karpeles was born in France, but after spending some time in Israel, he settled down in Japan. There he got married, posted cat videos and became a father. In 2011, he acquired the Mt. Gox exchange in from an American entrepreneur named Jed McCaleb.

But soon, McCaleb was getting wires for tens of thousands of dollars and, realizing he was in over his head, he sold the site to Karpeles, an avid programmer, foodie, and bitcoin enthusiast who called himself Magicaltux in online forums.

That’s exactly what I would do with a burgeoning financial empire, sell it to a cat-vid-poster.

No, but seriously. As with everything that has a future affect – before it comes, it comes in numerous versions. This (sort of thing) might do something with how we view the more traditional structures and systems. More positively. Or it might not. Regardless, It has shown that official systems aren’t nessesarily a rule.