The legendary reggae band releases the 2012 version of the Barack Obama Song >>
The 2008 video version is here >>
The legendary reggae band releases the 2012 version of the Barack Obama Song >>
The 2008 video version is here >>
I know what some of you are thinking - "Well, did America have a soul to begin with?" I happen to think it did. For me the soul of America is "We, the people..."
Furthermore, I'm quite sure that people, as defined by our founders, did not mean corporations. (See what Charles Handy has to say >>)
But to get back to the topic of inclusivity, I'd like to make a shameless plug for our new book, co-authored with University of Michigan's Professor Michael Gordon, called Inclusivity: Will America Find Its Soul Again?
BUY now >>
I go to my local bookstore, drink a coffee and
browse the shelves. When I get home, I rush to the computer and buy the books I
fancied - online! If it's a business
book, I download a copy on my digital reader, and if it's a literary
work, I buy the physical book at a discounted price.
As a way to assuage my guilt, I've thought of some ways to help my local bookstore survive - because, like so many of us, I love the physical bookstore experience - nothing beats the Zen practice of disinterested info-grazing - and I'd like to continue to enjoy it.
However, I notice at my local Barnes & Noble that
they're busy selling Nook ereaders in every cranny. [Do they really think they
can compete with the iPad or even Kindle?] Is this really going to save the
physical store? Nope.
Most likely, it's an idea dreamt up by the financial types at headquarters who've been "missioned" to tap into the digital value-stream. After all, why should B&N just stand there and watch their profits drift lazily down a South American river? It's important to note that despite B&N saying the Nook is a "success," they still rely on brick and mortar stores (retail and college bookstores) for over 75% of their revenue and the competition is going to become even more intense with dozens of new tablet and reader devices being introduced this year.
And how does B&N take a trip down the Nile? Apparently, the secret sauce is that they allow Nook owners to take their devices into any B&N physical store and read any e-book for free. Nooktalk tells us that in reality, it's not exactly a seamless reading experience. And now that Amazon allows Kindle owners to "lend" books to each other, the Nook may find itself in the, ahem, corner.
So what can your local bookstore do to take advantage of its strengths?
Here are three suggestions to shake up the physical bookstore business model:
Daily Book Rental
Why can't the bookstore become a pay-as-you-read library? As a kid growing up in India, I remember borrowing books (alright, some these were Asterix and Tintin comics) from the bookstore for a daily fee. This business model shows some reverse innovation promise. Can you imagine "tiered pricing" linked to free coffee rewards? Sign up for the all-you-can-read buffet. And of course, we get to pay fines if we return our books late.
Distribute Local Books
What if a physical copy of your book gets published in-store and sold in your town's bookstore? Can you visualize a "Newbie Authors" section where one copy of your book gets to sit on the shelf for a week? If it doesn't sell in a week, you can either pay for shelf space or you can buy your books back. The minute you or your mother buys your Great American Novel, a new one is printed and placed on the shelf. The top 5 bestsellers in each town get national distribution and placement for a week. Book fest!
How does a bookstore do this? If you're Barnes and Noble, you could hire retired teachers to do this; pick people who are enthusiastic and spread their love of the subject. If you're a small bookstore, you can still find enthusiastic community leaders to do the same - in fact you can specialize, and create a niche around the main clientele in your store.
Does all of this sound a bit off the wall? Good, then it's worth a try. The Nook, I'm sorry to say, isn't going to save Barnes & Noble.
P.S. Over at HBR, Sarah Green gives us another suggestion: Amazon should partner with Independent Bookstores!
Michael Gordon's book, Design Your Life, Change the World: Your Path as a Social Entrepreneur [A GUIDE for CHANGEMAKERS] is for changemakers - the people and organizations that want to make a difference in the world.
The book tries to answer two questions, says Professor Gordon:
1) How can organizations best address important societal problems such as poverty, inadequate health care, sub-par education, and an unhealthy planet?
2) What's the best advice for students who want to address these issues and still live lives of relative comfort?
The reason I'm helping the professor is because now, more than ever, we need the brightest students to tackle the world's biggest problems. And the oil-coal-nuclear lobby isn't making things any easier...
Are you a changemaker? Go find out >>
P.S. - you can download the PDF version here >>
I don’t watch TV much but I just caught a clip of Richard Branson promoting his book Screw Business As Usual. Looks like he’s on the same page as Stuart Hart - who has been essentially saying the same thing for twenty years. They ought to compare notes!
What was funny was watching Branson sit there as the producers had him wait and wait for his three minute interview. He was clearly in distress - the anguish of the entrepreneur who can’t bear to waste time - as he smiled and waved every time they turned the camera on him.
The book is available later this month… have a Happy Green Christmas!
I first met Bob Freling at a board meeting of the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) in San Francisco several years ago. At the time, I felt that here was an NGO doing innovative things but not getting enough visibility for their work. They were solar way before solar was cool.
What struck me is how informal and close the board members were. One of the board members - Larry Hagman (good ol’ J.R. Ewing) - did a brilliant set of solar commercials which I think says a lot about his character and wanting to make the world a better place (quite the opposite of his TV character!). But I digress.
The story here is that SELF pioneered the use of solar power to fight “energy poverty” across a spectrum of applications with their “solar integrated development model” - from clean water, to drip irrigation to improve food security, to electricity for health clinics, schools, and micro-enterprise.
In his blog post about the $300 House Energy Challenge, Bob explains:
“It’s simple really. First, solar energy powers pumps and filters for clean water. This also enables drip irrigation for critical crops. Once people have those necessities, the solar energy is used to power health care facilities which can power equipment and refrigerate vaccines, for example. This increasingly healthy population can then open schools which are powered by solar to provide computer and Internet-based learning. Finally, these well-fed, well-cared for, well-educated villagers can begin community and entrepreneurial activities to grow their economy.”
Bob’s optimism is tempered with reality. The Millennium Development Goals won’t be achieved without energy access, he explains in another blog post. In case you forgot what the MDGs are (as I often do) they’re listed as:
1) eradicating extreme poverty and hunger;
2) achieving universal primary education;
3) promoting gender equality and empowering women;
4) reducing child mortality;
5) improving maternal health;
6) combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases;
7) ensuring environmental sustainability; and
8) building a global partnership for development.
Note that they are interrelated, ecosystemic problems - and that from Bob’s perspective, energy is the key factor which makes all of them feasible.
With the $300 House project, my eyes have been opened to the fact that the approaches for dealing with the poor are often not very constructive, and sometimes end up doing more damage than good. That’s what $300 House adviser Stuart L. Hart is talking about when he says we need to create smaller problems. It is also a concern of our critics on the $300 House. When I spoke to Matias Echanove recently, he was concerned that mass produced housing could in fact disrupt the local economy - the small businesses that are based in informal slums around the country. I hear him.
Our $300 House project is exploring ways to integrate services and jobs into the ecosystem as well, and we’re reaching out to talk to the leaders in the communities that are interested in this approach. In India, we’ve just completed a survey - with the help of THL - that covers 15 villages in three of the poorest states in India - Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Jharkhand. I’ll go into more detail in a later post.
For me the question is quite simple - we see an explosion of interest in developing integrated townships for the middle class in India, but why is there nothing comparable for the poor? To borrow a phrase from the US, why can’t we build “master-planned communities” for the poor?
Is it too much to ask that governments, NGOs and development institutions, and businesses work together with the communities involved to build integrated solutions?
Unfortunately, there are far too few examples of collaborative development. This is something we all need to look at urgently. There is also a problem of ownership. The development community, NGOs, and most governments think they “own” the problem. Unfortunately, without a business mindset to make solutions scale, their is so little real progress.
The poor remain poor.
And that’s why the work Paul Polak is doing is so important. He’s looking at making small changes at the bottom of the pyramid; small changes that make a big difference in the earnings of the poor. This is also the approach advocated by Esther Duflo and Abhijit Bannerjee in Poor Economics.
At a much larger scale, we see an example in the Gates Foundation’s approach - which is all about examining the ecosystems of poverty. A common criticism of the Gates Foundation goes along these lines: “How can people like Gates, living in a different universe, help people at the bottom of the pyramid?” This is a false and damaging argument, but answered quite well by Sam Dryden:
“Some people may ask how my team and I—working at the world’s largest foundation located in a prosperous corner of a rich nation—can relate to a subsistence farming family in Ethiopia or Bangladesh. This is a very reasonable question to ask. The farmer has a direct connection to the land and we are considerably removed, both by distance and culture. We begin by realizing these differences and humbly listening to farmers and their families, learning and respecting their cultures, ways of living, and knowledge of place and home. The solutions we seek are those appropriate and welcomed in this context, not those imposed by distant values or interests.”
And finally, perhaps there is an alternative to the giant top-down programs, and incremental bottom-up “Let the Poor Do It Themselves” approaches we’ve encountered.
With the $300 House, we’re thinking micro-development - is it possible to build integrated micro-solutions at the village level? And in cities, at the neighborhood level?
Look back over the last hundred years and you’ll see the pattern. During periods when the very rich took home a much smaller proportion of total income — as in the Great Prosperity between 1947 and 1977 — the nation as a whole grew faster and median wages surged. We created a virtuous cycle in which an ever growing middle class had the ability to consume more goods and services, which created more and better jobs, thereby stoking demand. The rising tide did in fact lift all boats.
During periods when the very rich took home a larger proportion — as between 1918 and 1933, and in the Great Regression from 1981 to the present day — growth slowed, median wages stagnated and we suffered giant downturns. It’s no mere coincidence that over the last century the top earners’ share of the nation’s total income peaked in 1928 and 2007 — the two years just preceding the biggest downturns.
Sometimes not knowing what you’re doing can help you do it.
Here I make a fool of myself at the Guardian’s Activate2011 conference in London:
The final Harvard Business Review post in the series, and hopefully the start of some real change at the bottom of the pyramid.
Our goal is to go social for social business. Can social co-creation help the poor?
Thanks also to Scott Berinato at HBR and of course - VG, my partner in crime.
For the past two years I have been conducting some extensive testing with a number of my clients in various fields - software, consulting services, academics, non-profits, entertainment, and self improvement - and here's what I came up with at the end of the study. I'm interested in one metric - conversion to sales.
Conversion to Sales
Website: 29.5% of sales
Facebook: 4% of sales
Twitter: 1.5% of sales
Print: 2% of sales
Book: 9% of sales
E-book: 7% of sales
Email newsletter and blog combined: 42% of sales
The old rules of online marketing beat social media by a mile, period.
See you later, FB and Twitter...
Writes Floyd Norris in the New York Times:
The Business Roundtable, a group comprising 200 of the largest companies in the United States, is out with a “study” that claims to show that the United States levies excessively high tax rates on companies. It actually shows nothing of the kind.
This is the sort of thing that makes business look E-V-I-L.
Surprise! They’re only the CEOs of the “most respected” companies in the US.
Have they no shame? No sense of decency?
The CEOs should be embarrassed, but instead they keep playing this absurd, deceptive game. We have come to expect this sort of behavior from the oil and coal lobby, but not you. To Bank of America, General Electric, Xerox, Wal-Mart, UPS, Target, SAP, Pepsico, Microsoft, and Procter and Gamble: Grow up, ladies and gentlemen. You are hurting both democracy and capitalism. Not to mention your brand.
Good on you, Google and Apple, for not being part of this institutional lying machine.
This chart by the folks at the Eurasia Group, got me thinking. Something just doesn’t make sense:
Then it hit me. This is a rather conventional way to screen for global opportunities. If we looked at other screens like “innovation potential,” “middle class expansion rate,” “Gini coefficient shrinkage,” or “corruption index,”you’d see a very different picture.
I was recently going through this report by Altimeter’s Jeremiah Owyang when a “Deja-Vu all-over-again” wave came over me: this is exactly what happened with corporate community managers - back in the heady days of “community” (see JH3’s Net Gain).
Except that there was a third career path: striking off on your own.
Seth Godin posts a very insightful blog entry on the HBR site. He's talking about the challenges of marketing at the bottom of the pyramid:
When someone in poverty buys a device that improves productivity, the
device pays for itself (if it didn't, they wouldn't buy it.) So a drip
irrigation system, for example, may pay off by creating two or three
harvests a year instead of one.
Read all about it >>
The Gap screws up with their logo redesign. A giant failure of imagination in the boardroom.
But Umair Haque asks the right questions:
We all need to wake up. The Chamber of Commerce approach to design isn't going to work anymore.
Cracking the challenge of slums is the world's biggest problem of the next quarter-century, because the ecology of slums and the ecology of cities are linked. We cannot have a healthy global economy without healthy cities, and we cannot have healthy cities without tackling slums.
Join us >>
We're building a "creationspace" (JSB's word) for the $300 House-for-the-Poor at 300house.com >>
Please sign up, and tell your friends!
Here it is. The new song from Steel Pulse - for the people of Haiti.
At: www.holdon4haiti.org >>
Watch Paul Farmer explain:
Disclosure: SELF is my client, and I helped facilitate the project.
Ever since the Haiti earthquake, I’ve been thinking about why we don’t have a quick-build house made of sustainable materials at a price point that the poor can afford (with micro-credit if needed).
The $300 House-for-the-Poor is an extension of the concept of “reverse innovation” (inspired by my client and friend VG) in which innovations developed in poor countries are then brought back for use in developed countries and other parts of the world. Housing impacts health, energy, education, and security.
What if we could build sustainably designed houses for the world’s poor at an affordable cost? What if these same designs could provide relief to refugees and victims of natural disasters? The we I’m referring to is a collaborative of companies, governments, and NGOs.
This type of a structure will be engineered in the same way the TATA Nano was engineered - without the traditional assumptions.
Once built, the $300 house should be used across the globe - from Haiti, to Africa, India, and yes, even in this country, to help the homeless.
So what are we waiting for? It’s time to get busy designing the $300 House!
The political intentions of our GOP friends would leave the US with a hollowed-out economy.
Here is an example of how Obama’s unpopular bail-out for the auto-industry led to the creation of a new and critical cleantech industry - electric batteries - in this country. What say you, FOX News?
Go J.R.! Note he mentions my client - the Solar Electric Light Fund. Stay tuned for more news about them...
I like the SolarWorld ads Hagman does quite a bit. Here he's talking to Sue Ellen (who seems to be blaming him for BP's mess in the Gulf):
Shine, baby, shine! Well said, Larry Hagman!
The thing about Hagman is he put his money where his mouth is - years ago - by converting his estate to solar, before solar was cool.
Question: Will President Obama invite Kindra Arnesan to the White House? She represents "We the People," not "Them the Corporations."
Run for governor, Kindra!
Now we know that our corporate newsmedia isn't going to cover this, let's see if Rolling Stone magazine or The Daily Show will. Funny when the news comes from the edge, not the center. The center continues to not hold...
For the first time, in 2010, online advertising will pass traditional advertising on TV and print:
While this is remarkable, I can tell you where the highest ROI is.
It's with the Republican party. You can buy every single Republican vote for a paltry $34 million, as the health care circus has shown us.
Wow. Who needs Google when all you need is the budget for one Superbowl ad. Think about that: all it takes to buy the entire GOP is one Superbowl ad. There goes the future of our country.
PS - On a side note, I wonder what it takes to buy our Supreme Court... 5 bucks to Clarence Thomas' wife?
Just a few days ago I praised Forrester’s decision to create individual blogs for all their analysts. So they finally get it, I thought. Boy, was I wrong!
Yesterday I noticed how their migration to the new blogging platform was executed:
Yes, that’s the dreaded “The requested page could not be found” message.
Apparently, for Forrester, moving to a new platform means all old URLs die.
This is just so wrong. Linkrot is a common mistake that companies and institutions make all too often. For this to happen at an institution like Forrester shows me they don’t understand web basics. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of big companies have made this mistake, but for Forrester it’s inexcusable!
Maybe Forrester should have a chat with Jakob Nielsen. Check this:
Any URL that has ever been exposed to the Internet should live forever: never let any URL die since doing so means that other sites that link to you will experience linkrot. If these sites are conscientious, they will eventually update the link, but not all sites do so. Thus, many potential new users will be met by an error message the first time they visit your site instead of getting the valuable content they were expecting. Remember, people follow links because they want something on your site: the best possible introduction and more valuable than any advertising for attracting new customers.and
At other times, it becomes necessary to re-architect a site and impose a new structure. Even then, the rule continues to be: you are not allowed to break any old links. The solution is to set up a set of redirects: a scheme whereby the server tells the browser that the requested page is to be found at a new URL. All decent browsers will automatically take the user to the new URL, and really good browsers will even update their bookmark database to use the new URL in the future if the user had bookmarked the old URL.
I remember when the same stupid mistake was made by Harvard Business Review back when they switched domains from hbswk.hbs.edu to harvardbusiness.org. Overnight, they destroyed their online ecosystem, as Forrester has just done.
What’s the big deal, you ask? In today’s connected world, this is brand destruction plain and simple. Not the way to build an attention platform.
Every now and then, a CEO or company founder asks me one (or both) of these two questions:
1) must I have a separate blog from the company site?
2) do I have to use my name on the blog?
My answer depends on the individual. It's quite simple, really.
If I think they're a thought-leader in their industry - that's to say their opinions and ideas lead the field - then I often encourage them to blog under their own name on a blog that stands outside their company domain (more on that in a second).
The key assumption is that they are thought leaders. If I don't get this assumption right, we are all wasting time. There's no point setting up a double-loop model if you aren't going to have something important to add to the conversation. Here's what to do instead: have a company blog, put your press releases on it, and talk about your products. Have your agency Twitter and Facebook away to their heart's content. Just don't call it thought leadership, because it isn't.
So, now that we've established that, let's look at what is thought-leadership.
How do you know you are a thought leader? Here are some clues:
1) people you've never heard of start emailing you long (relevant) notes about something you said on your blog
2) your clients start reading your blog - so do analysts, journalists, and others you respect
3) you notice your blog gets ten times more traffic than your company website
4) you start getting calls from prospects asking for your services (and products)
If these four things don't happen, (1) you're not blogging right, or worse, (2) you aren't a thought leader.
Now let's talk about individuals and why using your name is actually a very good idea.
Authenticity. People relate to other people. We see this in entertainment: Oprah, Martha Stewart, David Letterman, Elvis, Bob Marley; in sports: Shaun White, Cristiano Ronaldo, Pele, Ali (and unfortunately Tiger Woods); and in business: Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Jeffrey Immelt. So if you're the founder or CEO, and you have a message worth getting out, you want people to know who you are. The connection is personal not corporate.
Passion. If you believe fiercely in what you say, do, and think, then it is this passion that people want to connect to - directly. Without that PR person. Passion can't be staged.
Trust. Your voice as an individual is far more trustworthy than a faceless corp. And you are believable when you believe.
Findability. People search for names. So if you write a book, they'll search for you, the author. "Byron Katie"* gets 10X more searches than "The Work," for example.
Longevity. As a person, you live till you die. You may switch companies, or labels, or publishers. You, the brand, stays constant. Your attention platform is how you go direct to the customer, no resellers necessary. Your followers stay with you forever.
Ideas. Companies don't have good ideas, people do. Good ideas originate in the heads of your people. These are your thought-leaders. Don't make them anonymous thinking this will help your company; it won't.
The Brand. Too much has been said about you, the brand. A company can renovate its brand by hiring an ad agency. You, on the other hand, have the opportunity to be real.
Lately, even large companies are seeing the benefits of using thought leaders as ambassadors for their brands.
The CEO blog works well for startups and SMBs as well: Gaurav Bhalla* for Knowledge Kinetics, Francis Cholle* for The Human Company, Dean McMann* for McMann & Ransford, Phil Townsend* at Townsend and Associates, Bob Freling at SELF, and Steven Feinberg at Steven Feinberg Inc.
When a blog is shared - i.e. when more than one executive participate - then it is alright to pick another name, usually connected to the topic we want to blog about. See: Steve Lesem* at Mezeo.
* disclosure: Tammy Erickson, JSB, JH3, VG, Tom Davenport, Larry Prusak, Gaurav Bhalla, Francis Cholle, Dean McMann, Phil Townsend, Bob Freling, Byron Katie, and Steve Lesem are some of my clients.
Vijay Govindarajan on the HBR blog: The U.S. Must Grab the Lead on Green. High time our business leaders started leading, as VG encourages them to do.
According to VG:
At the company level, many energy businesses are unwilling to cannibalize their existing services and their current investments. At the national level, the same dynamics are in play. Aided and abetted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the traditional energy lobby (oil, coal) is using its political and economic muscle to stifle innovation in alternative energy and clean technologies.
Don’t get me started on the losers at the US Chamber of Commerce!
...the idea was first conceived by an Indian physics professor at the University of Maryland, who, in his travels around India, realized how widespread bribery was and wanted to do something about it. He came up with the idea of printing zero-denomination notes and handing them out to officials whenever he was asked for kickbacks as a way to show his resistance. Anand took this idea further: to print them en masse, widely publicize them, and give them out to the Indian people. He thought these notes would be a way to get people to show their disapproval of public service delivery dependent on bribes. The notes did just that. The first batch of 25,000 notes were met with such demand that 5th Pillar has ended up distributing one million zero-rupee notes to date since it began this initiative. Along the way, the organization has collected many stories from people using them to successfully resist engaging in bribery.
I like it. Now let's send some "zero dollars" to the Famous Five justices Supreme Court, the Blue-Dog Democrats, and the entire Republican party.
First Tylenol, now Toyota. Same old story. Silence is not damage control.
Now the NHTSA is looking at the pedal maker. There must be a way to check the electronics - some way to look at the log files, perhaps?
Note that both companies are blaming their suppliers.
Is this the result of in-house PR?
Orville Schell's portrait of a Nation that says "No, We Can't".
Somehow, I think that the US still offers the world the best way forward.
Yes, despite the lobbyists and the money-grubbing pirates in high office, there is still hope.
Don't give in, America.
My client Gaurav Bhalla has just published an article in the January-February Harvard Business Review titled - Rethinking Marketing.
Along with his co-authors - Roland Rust and Christine Moormon - Bhalla insists that companies must shift their mindsets from a product-centered focus to building long-term relationships with customers.
This can only be done if companies reinvent the marketing function.
"The traditional marketing department must be reconfigured as a customer department that puts building customer relationships ahead of pushing specific products. To this end, product managers and customer-focused departments report to a Chief Customer Officer instead of a CMO, and support the strategies of customer or segment managers."
You can sign up for Bhalla's Customer-Driven Innovation Newsletter and download "Rethinking Marketing" here >>
What a wonderful world. While you were wrapping Christmas presents, China decided to lock up Liu Xiaobo and throw away the key.
Xiaobo's crime? He drafted Charter 08, which demands the open election of public officials, freedom of religion and expression, and the abolition of subversion laws.
His wife's cell phone mysteriously stopped working so she could not be reached by the press. Nice touch.
If this is how the New China plays the world, it looks too much like the Old China.
We need a new strategy to deal with this kind of stupidity. Obama can start by inviting the Dalai Lama to the White House.