March 2009 Archives

Have you ever used YouTube's "Insights: Statistics and Data" feature?

It's a remarkable tool for effective market research in real time.

Let me walk you through how I use it to:

- test new product ideas
- learn what customers like right now
- deduce where events should be held
- learn exactly which portion of a video clip grabs audience attention
- see which topics get customers engaged and why
- learn the exact demographic profile for each product

The first thing to do is create a separate video for each product or idea you are interested in selling. If you're selling an information product - like a video or an audio, simply use a short excerpt. Keep it under five minutes. Three minutes is optimal. Upload your clips, make them visible to the public, and watch the fun begin.

In a few days or when you get to over a thousand views, it's time to check your YouTube Insights.

Here's what YouTube gives you:

stats

This summary of your results:

(1) Tells you how many views your videos are getting. This will tell you if you're getting any attention at all.

(2) Shows you which video is getting the most attention. Now you know what your prospects like - and the margin between what's getting attention and what's not.

(3) Expose your real demographics. Not too fancy, but you get to see the age range your product resonates with. Every now and then I'm surprised.

(4) Identifies the regions where you are getting traction. Again, results do vary by geographic location, so you can decide if you want to spend some money to gain exposure in a particular country or state, for that matter, or if you want to focus on your natural geography - the places in which you're getting organic attention.

Now let's go further:

stats

(1) View your traffic over time - days, months, a year.

(2) Sort video popularity by region - again, a handy guide to what the reaction is to your message... country by country.

(3) Details on which videos are winners and which are not. Based on this you can decide which product merits backing, and which ones need more work.

stats

(1), (2) and (3) Which videos are getting the most traffic and from where...

stats

(1), (2) and (3) Which countries (or states) are most receptive to your work!

stats

(1) gives you the age breakdown for your products. Is it senior women or adolescent boys?

stast

(1), (2) and (3) tell you which products get the most response from your prospects - positive or negative. Let's you know early on if you need to go back to the drawing board. A quick measure of engagement.

stat

Probably the most powerful piece of information, this tells you the level of attention - the peaks and valleys - for your work. Use it to optimize your messaging. Now you too can be a Frank Luntz (just don't go over to the dark side).

All of this information costs nothing. And from my experience, the quality of results can't be matched easily, not even by expensive focus groups!

Is Ratan Tata the re-incarnation of Henry Ford?

Suddenly, innovation takes a front seat in the automotive world. And it happens to be led by an Indian engineering sensibility: frugal enough to do the job. This is the type of value-engineering that shifts the mindset of an entire industry:

13 iPod Nanos = 1 Tata Nano. Which Nano do you want?

Congratulations, Ratan Tata and the Tata Motors team of engineers. Brilliant!

Queen Noor today presented the 2008 King Hussein Leadership Prize to my friend Bob Freling, the executive director of the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF), at the Aspen Institute Energy and Environment Awards in Aspen, Colo.

Past winners of the award include Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) and Muhammad Yunus, founder and creator of the Grameen Bank.

Bob Freling is one of those people who go about making the world a better place without any fanfare.

Under his quiet leadership, SELF has pioneered innovative applications of solar power such as for drip irrigation in Benin, telemedicine in the Amazon rainforest, vaccine refrigeration in Rwanda, online distance learning in South Africa, and microenterprise development in Nigeria. These successful pilot projects culminated in SELF's whole-village approach, or Solar Integrated Development model. Since 1990, SELF has completed projects in 18 countries, making it a leader among non-governmental organizations in realizing practical and cost-effective alternative energy solutions for rural villagers.

Congratulations, Bob!

Maybe the folks at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will pay attention to Bob now.

Videos here >>

I was stunned to see this ad today:

cloned milk advertisement

At first, I thought it was joke, but then, after seeing this site I wasn't so sure:

cloned milk company

It seemed like a spoof - note the "Clone Zone" with the "Fun Facts on Cloning."

My hilarity turned sour when I realized they were serious.

Now I'm asking you, do you really believe the FDA when they tell you it's safe?

Not these crooks.

Obama needs to weed out the Bush appointees, quickly.

Who knows what they'll approve next? And the worst thing, they aren't even required to label cloned products.

Let's hope they're not cloning mad cows.

And who is Linda?

cloned milk company

Goodbye Google, says Douglas Bowman.

Apparently the engineers at Google have killed his creativity.

Is this the triumph of data-driven decision-making?

In my view, and I do like data, this is a minor symptom of Google losing its soul. When petty data kills the poet, you know its time to hit the eject button.

Head for the hills, Douglas!

Sidenote: this reminds me of a Peter Drucker story. Drucker insisted, during one of those waste/cost-cutting-witch-hunting exercises, that the consultants should not go after every last penny. Doing so, in his mind, would destroy the soul of the company. Sure there's a little waste, but you still have an engaged workforce.

Another way to say this is: "Detroititis."

The nerds at Google still have a lot to learn.

How low has the Associated Press fallen?

Or maybe the question should be: how low will they go?

I just caught site of an article by Liz Sidoti which seemed rather vicious in tone and decided to check up on who she was.

Here's what came up: AP's Sidoti smears Obama

Then I decided to do a search on Media Matters.

Hello! Here we go again. The media attack dogs are back. I wonder who is funding them? The Heritage Foundation?

But it's not just Sidoti, it's the AP, period.

And newspapers still wonder why no one reads them anymore? Keep buying that AP feed, Mr. Editor.

UPDATE: Thanks, Joseph! Apparently Liz Sidoti was a donut donor to the failed McCain campaign:

Wow, wow and wow.

Cloud Storage Strategy

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The Cloud will change the way you live. Everything as a service: your computing, your desktop, your life.

One of the things I like about my job is I learn about cutting edge stuff, like customer-driven innovation, intuitive intelligence, and now cloud storage strategy.

We launched the cloud storage strategy site a few days ago, and now it's simply a matter of keeping up with ideas. The Economist for example, in their global entrepreneurship survey, tells us that:

The development of “cloud computing” is giving small outfits yet more opportunity to enjoy the advantages of big organisations with none of the sunk costs. People running small businesses, whether they are in their own offices or in a hotel half-way round the world, can use personal computers or laptops to gain access to sophisticated business services.

Now that's what we're talking about!

The Cluetrain posse continues their journey:

1. The Internet isn't complicated
2. The Internet isn't a thing. It's an agreement.
3. The Internet is stupid.
4. Adding value to the Internet lowers its value.
5. All the Internet's value grows on its edges.
6. Money moves to the suburbs.
7. The end of the world? Nah, the world of ends.
8. The Internet's three virtues:
a. No one owns it
b. Everyone can use it
c. Anyone can improve it
9. If the Internet is so simple, why have so many been so boneheaded about it?
10. Some mistakes we can stop making already

Details >>

Now that we've learned that customer segmentation is important on your website, let's look at customer segmentation and pricing. When companies make sweeping, "across the board" cuts in pricing, they basically shoot themselves in the head. A smarter approach is to segment your customers by understanding their decision-making attributes, and then price accordingly.

Here, Oliver Wyman tells us how "market pricing" is done:

segmentdecisionmaking.gif

On the flip side, I wonder if companies do the same thing with employee pay - i.e. segment their employees based on performance and individualized intrinsic motivations and then give them what encourages them the most.

And of course, it's not all about money. Unless you're at AIG.

It looks like Forrester Research has gone off the deep end. Either that, or their website designers aren't reading their own reports. Like the ones on creating personas for the audience that visits your site...

forresteraudience.jpg
Apparently these are the types of people who are visiting the Forrester website these days. Note the sour faces, forced smiles, and abject hand wringing - a definite sign that the recession is taking hold...

P.S. Instead of spending money on inauthentic website design, Forrester should've just spent the money and hung on to Charlene Li. Too bad.

What happened to love, mercy, and forgiveness?

Everywhere you look, the churches of the world are turning their backs on Jesus, choosing social and political power over service to the poor.

The extremism of the Catholic church rears its ugly head again in Brazil, where a nine-year old girl gets excommunicated for getting an abortion to save her life.

Meanwhile in the American South we've got Christian militants ramping up, bringing their guns to church as a they build their christian security network.

The Talibanization of Christianity is not surprising when you look at the mindset of these people. They preach the gospel of fear, not love. If it was up to them, the apostles would be armed and dangerous, protecting Jesus by shooting anyone who came too close.

And when these same people start inciting violence, it's time for reason to step in.

Who would Jesus shoot?

Really, ... ask that question, and put away your guns.

A former senior managing director of Toyota Motor Corporation and renowned leader of their famous manufacturing system, Masao Nemoto is known throughout the world as a leader in quality control and process optimization. In a sense, he is one of the principal architects of the "Toyota Way."

What we learn from Nemoto is far more than quality management. His ideas on leadership have been documented, and reveal the profound knowledge Nemoto infused into the day-to-day operations at Toyota.

One particular aspect of Nemoto's thinking has been largely ignored by western companies to their own detriment: coordination between business units.

Nemoto insisted on a culture of shared responsibility. Here's what Nemoto says:

"One of the most important functions of a division manager is to improve coordination between his own division and other divisions. If you cannot handle this task, please go to work for an American company." (see his 10 leadership principles below)

Nemoto believed that critical tasks could not be left to a single business unit, but rather should be a collective responsibility.

What has this got to do with leadership?

Nemoto's point of view says that leaders must lead across the company, not just their own fiefdom. It is ironic, to say the least, that the democratization of business happened first not in the West, but in Japan, at companies like Toyota. Or in Brazil, with Semco.

Note: OK, there are a few American companies in this camp as well: Zappos and W. L. Gore & Associates...

Nemoto's thinking went all the down to the individual worker on the assembly line. Everyone speaks, insists Nemoto, not just management. A direct result of this view is the work principle: problems must be solved at the lowest possible level. All employees take responsibility for problem solving, instead of pushing the issue upwards. Every worker in a process can be stop the work flow, without waiting for a supervisor to make the decision. It is this transparency which drives out defects and makes quality job one. Now wasn't that a slogan we heard somewhere before?

Next time you bring your business unit heads around the conference table, ask yourself: "Are we competing against each other or against the competition?"

For reference, here are Nemoto's 10 leadership principles:

1. Improvement after improvement. Managers should look continually for ways to improve the work of their employees. Advance is a gradual, incremental process. They should create all atmosphere conducive to improvements by others.

2. Coordinate between divisions. Managers of individual divisions, departments, or subsidiaries must share responsibility. Nemoto offers this advice to his managers:

One of the most important functions of a division manager is to improve coordination between his own division and other divisions. If you cannot handle this task, please go to work for an American company. A corollary of this is that upper management should not assign important
tasks to only one division.

3. Everyone speaks. This rule guides supervisors of quality circles at Toyota, ensuring participation and learning by all members. It has also been generalized to all meetings and the annual planning process. By hearing everyone's view, upper management can create realistic plans that have the support of those who must implement them--an essential element in quality programs.

4. Do not scold. An alien concept to most managers. At Toyota the policy is for superiors to avoid giving criticism and threatening punitive measures when mistakes are made. This is the only way to ensure that mistakes will be reported immediately and fully so that the root causes (in policies and processes) can be identified and amended. Assigning blame to the reporter clearly discourages reporting of mistakes and makes it harder to find the underlying cause of a mistake, but it is difficult to train managers to take this approach.

5. Make sure others understand your work. An emphasis on teaching and presentation skills is important because of the need for collaboration. At Toyota, managers are expected to develop their presentation skills and to teach associates about their work so that collaborations will be fuller and more effective.

6. Send the best employees out for rotation. Toyota has a rotation policy to
train employees. There is a strong tendency for managers to keep their best employees from rotation. But the company benefits most in the long run by training its best employees.

7. A command without a deadline is not a command. This rule is used to
ensure that managers always give a deadline or schedule for work. Employees are instructed to ignore requests that are not accompanied by a deadline. The rationale is that without a deadline, tasks are far less likely to be completed.

8. Rehearsal is an ideal occasion for training. Managers and supervisors give numerous presentations and reports. In a QC program there are frequent progress reports. Mr. Nemoto encourages managers to focus on the rehearsal of reports and presentations, and to require that they be rehearsed. Rehearsal time is used to teach presentation skills and to explore problems or lack of understanding of the topic. Because it is informal, rehearsal time is better for learning.

9. Inspection is a failure unless top management takes action. The idea
behind this is that management must prescribe specific remedies whenever a problem is observed or reported. Delegating this task (i.e., by saving "shape up" or "do your best to solve this problem") is ineffective. So is failing to take any action once a problem is defined.

10. Ask subordinates, "What can I do for you?" At Toyota this is called "creating an opportunity to be heard at the top." In the first year of a quality-control program, managers hold meetings in which employees brief them about progress.

Three rules guide these informal meetings:
1. Do not postpone the meetings or subordinates will think their project is not taken seriously.
2. Listen to the process, not just the results, since QCs focus in on the process.
3. Ask the presenters whether you can do anything for them. If they ask for help, be sure to act on the request.

This philosophy can be generalized. If top management is perceived as willing to help with problems, employees are more optimistic about tackling the problems and will take management's goals more seriously.

While reading these principles of Nemoto, I couldn't help but be reminded of good old Deming.

Peter Drucker used to say that management development must be dynamic, that is to say it should not aim to replace today’s management, but rather must focus on the future - the “needs of tomorrow,” as he called it.

In this context, Drucker asks us to think about the following:

- What organizations will be needed to attain the objectives of tomorrow?

- What management jobs will that require?

- What qualifications will managers have to have to be equalto the demands of tomorrow?

- What additional skills will they have to acquire?

- What knowledge and ability will they have to possess?

The answer to these questions will help us define your companies future leaders – the men and women who will create your company’s future, the world’s future.

Fast forward to the June 2006 Harvard Business Review. In a revealing interview, General Electric’s Jeffrey Immelt tells Tom Stewart that GE has defined five growth traits for all of GE’s leaders. In their quest to become growth oriented (the target is to sustain an 8% rate of organic growth), Immelt tells us they had to change some of their DNA.

Here are the 5 traits of GE’s growth leaders:

1. External focus

2. Imagination and creativity

3. Clear thinking and decisiveness

4. Inclusiveness

5. Deep domain expertise

As part of the annual HR review at GE, executives are rated green, yellow, or red on each one.

Immelt tells us that everyone has to have at least one red, because the point is not to pick out winners or losers, but rather to show that everyone (Immelt included) is working on one of these areas.

Interestingly, Immelt tells us the area he’s working on is - decisiveness.

The White House announced this morning that Vivek Kundra will be the administration's Chief Information Officer.

It won't be easy, since our government IT is basically a patchwork of competing departments (fiefdoms) and vendors (mercenaries) and CIOs (the entrenched aristocracy).

Here's Kundra talking about his previous position:

'

Steve Ballmer's probably having a fit over at MS right now. Here's his Howard Dean moment.

So what can we expect from Kundra? Three things to look for:

1) Transparency: of costs and just as important, procurement processes
2) Lower costs: through the use of open apps like Google Apps
3) Virtualization: everything in the cloud...

And who is Obama going to bring in as Chief Technology Officer (CTO)? I'd like to see JSB, but I'm getting this "Google in the White House" feeling, i.e. Eric Schmidt...

In the history of business, Procter and Gamble will be remembered for many things- its products, its branding acumen, and its memos.

Memos? Those boring treatises that no one reads, you ask.

Wrong.

An account executive who worked closely with P&G had this to say about the importance of the memo at the company:

“P&G seems to have figured out that if you structure information certain ways, people will readily understand it, good ideas will emerge, and bad ideas will be exposed. I really think that is what has made them so successful. They make fewer mistakes because they find mistakes before they happen.”

In a book which is still relevant today - Winning With the P&G 99 - Charles Decker tells us that if you can learn to write a P&G memo, you can learn how to think. The memo becomes a knowledge codification tool, a way to present ideas, arguments, and recommendations in a language and style everyone at P&G understands.

Think about how effective this is. In most companies, the quality of communications depends on the writer. Every department, every individual speaks and writes in their own language. At P&G, the language and style is the same everywhere. What is original is the idea in the memo.

Dr. Andrew Abela tells us (on his blog) that when he joined P&G twenty years ago, the one page memo discipline was in full force. He shows us the format:

1.The Idea. What are you proposing? This is typically one sentence.

2. Background. What conditions have arisen that led you to this recommendation? Only include information that everyone agrees upon in the Background - this is the basis for discussion, so it needs to be non-debatable.

3. How it Works. The details. In addition to How, also What, Who, When, Where.

4. Key Benefits. This is the "Why?" There are usually three benefits: the recommended action is on strategy, already proven (e.g. in test market or in another business unit), and will be profitable. You can think of these three in terms of the old Total Quality mantra of "doing right things right." The first (on strategy) means you're doing the right thing. The second and third mean you're doing things the right way, because you're being effective (proven to work) and efficient (profitable).

5. Next Steps. Who has to do what and by when for this to happen?

Simple enough. So why don’t you adopt this for your company? And better still, why not use this format for all your company meetings as well.

Looking back, it’s easy to see that P&G made memo writing a critical knowledge management process, or even more importantly, a decision-making process.

The process itself has created a framework for critical thinking, for decision-making and ultimately for strategic advantage.

If corporations want to be treated like persons, then they will have to pay their taxes like normal people. That's just another founding principle in the ongoing war on corporatism.

If I go work overseas, I still have to pay US taxes - as long as I'm a US citizen. So why should the corporations be any different?

The tax experts may question this line of thinking, but let's remember who pays them.

The Hindu has an article on the issue which seems fair and balanced.

Of course, more and more companies are choosing to move to Dubai, where, under a dicatator, they enjoy more freedoms than here in the US. More on Halliburton and KBR here>>

Who needs democracy when you can have bigger profits instead?

It's all about the size and share of the pie...

Funny thing, Dubai is not weathering the global financial as well as might be expected. Many of these offshore companies will come back or disappear. No bails-outs for them! Good luck Dubai.

For individual tax dodgers, watch the weasels squirm as Swiss bank accounts become more transparent. First Switzerland, then Panama and Singapore.

What's my point in all this raving? Pretty simple really: businesses and individuals have a responsibility to all their constituents, not just shareholders. And the sooner they wake up to that reality, the sooner they will truly become "good citizens of the world." It's capitalism 2.0 versus police state 2.0 - which do you prefer?

I still sense a strong French Revolution 2.0 vibe.

Here's Exhibit A:

goldenparachute.jpg

UPDATE: More fun facts here>>

The idea that deregulation is a good thing is perhaps the most destructive legacy of Bush's Republican agenda. Here's are some of the midnight de-regulations the Republicans need to be held accountable for:

- A rule that relaxes enforcement against factory-farm runoff
- A rule that permits more waste from mountaintop mining to be dumped into waterways
- A rule seemingly designed to protect pharmaceutical companies from being held liable for marketing products they know are unsafe
- A rule that makes it more difficult for workers to take advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act
- A rule that reduces access of Medicaid beneficiaries to services such as dental and vision care
- A rule that could limit women’s access to reproductive health services.

Read all about it in this report from the Center for American Progress (not funded by Exxon or Peabody).

Speaking of Peabody, here's more on how Peabody is forcing the Navajos off Big Mountain >>

The business lobbyists that have been of the deregulation gravy train are now going to have to deal with transparency and accountability - starting with official sites like recovery.gov, along with netroots activism. The time for crooked corporatism is over.

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This page is an archive of entries from March 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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