Check out a new “doodle blog” about the worlds of start-ups, high-tech, and social media. Two of its recent posts are in the top twenty this week for blogs on Medium. This is one:
(Disclosure: The blogger is my daughter…)
In a post on my other blog this week I made the argument that the acquisition of WhatsApp… and the earlier purchase of Instagram by Facebook is an acknowledgement that the FB is really the champion of Web 2.0. And there is a new platform taking over.
Mobile is overtaking Web 2.0 and Facebook and Zuckerberg are choosing likely winners in mobile. This is a compliment to founder Mark Zuckerberg — CEOs are usually unaware as disruptive new products consume market leaders.
For more see the other post:
If you have a few moments you may want to review twelve new blogs created by students for a social media class! Some interesting tastes and ideas!
This might be slightly off topic, but take a look at the twelve new blogs created in my SMM class!
Do you have thoughts about a theory of Innovation?
Over the past 50 years, researchers have learned a lot about innovation, including:
But what would be the central theory or theories of innovation?
I see three key pieces of innovation:
The last two pieces match famous Steve Jobs observations:
Why am I asking for your help today?
Suppose that you volunteered to talk for 10 minutes to a conference about my thoughts on a theory of innovation… And suppose you realized that the audience would include:
Wouldn’t YOU be asking everyone for their thoughts?? So…
Do you have thoughts about a theory of Innovation?
BTW: A post related to the ongoing discussion of the Tsunami in higher education was posted on my other blog:
Jeffrey Phillips wrote a good post last week about his insights into HigherEd problems from his college tours with his daughters: HigherEd Insight from college tours
Insights from his trips and discussions of college include the high costs from inefficient use of capital such as classrooms to meet capacity from 11 am till 3 pm eight months a year and spending on plush dorms, workout facilities and student unions. He also discussed whether the use of online course shouldn’t permit students to put together a combination of the best online courses with traditional courses – eventually forcing universities to allow packages similar to iPod music mixes.
I have been planning to post a series of articles on the “Tsunami in HigherEd”. I have written before about the problems with innovation in the business models of Universities, for example a post: HigherEd: Who is the Customer?
In my upcoming posts I plan to look at four big issues facing universities: (1) continuing ballooning costs, (2) a possible bubble due to loans, government policy, and high expected returns, (3) disruptive technology (online MOOCs), and (4) internal resistance to change.
One of the great things about working in academy is the change to talk with experts. I had the opportunity yesterday with a small group to have lunch with Richard K Vedder, who has been writing about HigherEd cost pressures and other risks for years in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Wall Street Journal and other outlets. I had read his book, Going Broke by Degree,some years ago.
I asked Dr. Vedder about the four forces I thought threatened HigherEd. He was in strong agreement and even added a fifth, (5) unfavorable demographics ahead as potential users decline and seniors argue for reallocation of government money to keep Medicare solvent. He agreed that another cost pressure was the growth of administrative overhead at universities (increase in “Ass Deans”) which had been discussed in another book, The Fall of Faculty (Meddle Management) .
Dr. Vedder questioned the usefulness of accreditors as well as administrators. Overall I found him to be more complacent about the future of higher education than I would have expected.
A cool insight that I would have liked to hear more about was how my university benefited from being near a major football power without having to pay the incredible costs of such a program. (Our students go to the games, but the ludicrous coaching salaries, funds siphoned from academic programs, and legal problems from athletes – such a when a “student-athlete” decides to steal drugs at gunpoint – are borne by the school across the river.)
Dr. Vedder says he is looking into pairs of schools in similar situations…
My article about group methods for ideation, including focus groups and brainstorming was published in the May issue of the Journal of Product Innovation and Management. Regular readers of this (irregular) blog will know the key findings about the use of groups to generate innovative ideas. Individual interviews with users as suggested by Abbie Griffin in “Voice of the Customer” will outperform group methods (even adjusted for time). Compared to the group brainstorming, individual ideation will generate:
The full paper is here: Using focus groups and brainstorming for user ideas.
Osborn introduced Brainstorming in a book in 1957, claiming that he had empirical evidence that a group brainstorming by his four key rules—(1) criticism not welcome; (2) freewheeling welcome; (3) quantity of ideas welcome; and (4) combining/improving ideas welcome—could produce twice as many ideas as individuals brainstorming alone and also produce better ideas.
However within a year, Taylor et al. (1958) conducted experiments, finding that the combined results of individual brainstorming outperformed groups in terms of the number, quality, and uniqueness of the ideas generated. As noted, subsequent research has strongly supported the inferiority of group methods.
Why then are brainstorming and focus groups still so widely used for product innovation ideas? (That question is the second half of the paper…)
Investors lost money in three recent frauds: Madoff, MF Global, and Peregrine. Are there lessons for a careful investor from these debacles. Three quick lessons come to mind.
Don’t trust the SEC – they are clueless. Barron’s had run an article calling Madoff a Ponzi scheme, an analyst had contacted the Boston and NY offices of the SEC repeatedly, and yet the fraud went on. Do your own homework.
Don’t trust the CFTC or NFA – they may be even more clueless. How hard is it to check segregated funds? Do your own investigating.
Check the auditors. Both Madoff and Peregrine were audited by obscure, one-person, accounting firms. Seems sorta strange for major concerns, right? It may not concern the regulators, but it should concern you.
There are many other lessons as well, but these are three to start with!
I have started a second WordPress blog, http://smm4biz.com/2012/02/16/class-infomercial/ .
With teaching the new course in SMM I feel that I will have more ideas to share about SMM. I continue to believe that there is a great synergy between experiential innovation and social media, so there should be some overlap between the two blogs. PLEASE CHECK THE NEW BLOG OUT!
I posted a video that I showed my class to try to get them excited about being buried under 3 major projects… http://wp.me/p1reuk-9
Consider subscribing to the new blog as well! – Gary
I believe that the two biggest threats to the wide open Web and social media as we know it are the potential dominance of:
Facebook is an evolving closed system that threatens to overtake the WWW as the world wide information space. Further evidence of this trend was the launching of the WSJ facebook site this week: WSJ Social, For a World Where Facebook Is the New Internet – Forbes http://onforb.es/rniic2 (thanks @laurelschirr)
The Klout threat is even more insidious as it can change the behavior of social media participants. As people seek higher Klout scores for K-rewards, status or even job screening tricks reminiscent of commercial website SEO will come to twitter, FB, etc. For example someone would likely increase a Klout score by:
Does that sound like a social world? See this article, also from Forbes: How Do You Like Being Publicly Scored? http://onforb.es/phDoeX
Do you agree that these are THE two big threats?
When I first considered a new undergraduate social media marketing class I started with a few ideas and a half page outline. The outline in the previous post is the one I am now using in the course. It has benefited immensely from input from twitter, LinkedIn and blog friends.
Would I call the course “crowdsourced”?
Most of the help came from experts who consult to companies on social media marketing, have led seminars on SMM, have written books, or taught pieces of SMM in their university classes. (Although good suggestions came from students and others as well.)
So should I instead call it “lead user” innovation?
I think the process is best called “Community-sourcing.” I believe that this is a case study in why you should develop a focused twitter and blog following and community: the benefit from such a community is obvious at times like this but is also present day-to-day.
The incredible help I have received on my SMM course reminded me of an aha! moment after I moved to Hong Kong. When I was in Chicago I was good at generating trading ideas; after being in Hong Kong for a couple months it was getting harder. I at first blamed the long hours. Then I realized my infrastructure had changed: in Chicago I rode the morning train with an economist focused on fixed income and currency markets; when I got to the office I talked with the floor people before they headed to the bond pits and had pre-market calls with major institutional traders. The decline in ideas was not due to lost sleep, but my lost community…
Why do people help?
Why did I receive such an outpouring of help and support from the online community? This is always an issue in crowdsourcing and lead-users as well -WHY DO PEOPLE HELP???
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
(The current full outline is in the following post)
When it comes to ideas, especially CREATIVE ideas: Groups Kill!
See my previous post: http://wp.me/pdSfz-dC
This course will debut at Radford U in January. In the planning and proposal stage the course has benefited from crowdsourced ideas from my online friends and colleagues. So I have come back for more! What follows is an outline of the topics, planned workshops and group-led discussions. I appreciate any thoughts on additional topics (for example we need four more group-led topics).
Organizational Application of social media
Please post suggestions here or at the FB fan page: www.facebook.com/SMM4RU
Happy 2012 to all!
An earlier post that generated “crowdsourcing” help for the course design is here: http://wp.me/pdSfz-aF
Most people have heard something of the incredible story of the PARC division of Xerox and the Apple MacIntosh computer but it is a wonderful story to illustrate the difference between innovation and invention.
Xerox invented the Mac
That seems a strong statement. But read the excellent account that I have ripped from the WSJ:
“At Xerox in the 1970s, a group of brilliant researchers invented the personal computer—they called it the Alto—complete with onscreen windows, menus, icons, graphics and the mouse, all more-or-less as we know them today. Alan Kay was foremost among these genius innovators. Mr. Kay built, in turn, on the 1960s inventions of Douglas Engelbart. Mr. Engelbart was first to develop the mouse, the onscreen window, and the whole idea of computers that did more important things than compute. He wanted computers to solve everyday problems, do word-processing and make pictures and graphs instead of (only) performing complex numerical calculations, controlling intricate machinery, and keeping inventories and payrolls up-to-date.
Corporate Xerox was unimpressed with the Alto. It was expensive, and who needed a personal computer anyway? “Personal computer” sounded like “personal aircraft carrier.” The market had to be smallish. Xerox accordingly made a deal with Apple whereby a group from Apple was ushered into the top-secret research boudoir in Palo Alto and allowed to look and ask questions. Jobs led the Apple group, and he understood right away that the Xerox researchers had done something tremendous. They had made an easy-to-use computer that spoke pictures instead of numbers. Jobs saw that a cheap version of this elegant computer might be gigantically popular and hugely important. And he ran the project that rolled out the Apple Macintosh in 1984.” (see full WSJ article by David Gelernter at GelernterArticle )
Xerox saw no potential in the device so they let the Apple Engineers come in and see their wonderful invention!
“Real artists ship” or Real innovators go to market!
Steve Jobs and Apple did not invent the GUI, or the Icon, or the mouse, or really any of the features that made the Mac revolutionary – the guys at PARC did – but Jobs and Apple brought the Mac to market. As Steve jobs said in the Atlantic link below: “Real Artists Ship”. Xerox invented; Apple innovated.
Coolest Show on earth (WSJ) GelernterArticle
Praise for Bad Steve – The Atlantic http://bit.ly/pDJ6Tw
For my dissertation I conducted multiple interviews with managers involved in innovation in 40 service organizations. Two types of organizations stood out as different from all the others in terms of innovation: hospitals and universities. I concluded that universities and hospitals had three key traits in common that hindered innovation:
Despite the incredible growth as Higher Ed moved from an elite luxury to a middle class requirement, the dominant business model and primary delivery process hasn’t changed much in 400 years. Ironically, organizations that serve as centers for scientific research and innovation have not innovated despite incredible growth and skyrocketing costs.
Customer- and user-driven innovation
Readers of this blog know that I believe that innovation starts with a deep understanding of user needs and ideally draws users and customer into co-creation and collaborative innovation.
Customer-centricism drives innovation in many industries, but in education it is not simple to define the customer. Are customers current students? Employers? Alumni? Parents and government (who pay)? Each of these groups may have different views on needs and what would improve the service.
Most colleges now have students evaluate their professors. Some universities (especially teaching-oriented schools) weigh the ratings in pay reviews and tenure or promotion decisions.
Are current students the customer? Students have a wide range of reasons to be in college including: parental pressure; credentials for a job after school; a relatively safe and enjoyable place to continue their high school experimentation with sex, drugs and liquor; and (hopefully) studying something that they are interested in.
Scholars have argued that attempts to focus on current student feedback have resulted in dumbed-down courses and less focus on cheating. See:
For how student evaluations and course selection dumb-down courses: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272775703000256
For how student evaluations taught a professor not to enforce the honor code: http://t.co/tt9ppan via @rogerschank
Math is hard and writing papers are a drag. Through course selection and student evaluations rigor and demanding assignment decrease. As the saying goes “a college education is one of those very few goods for which the less the buyer gets, the more he likes it.” Once again: Are current students the sole or even primary customer for Higher Ed?
Who do you think universities should consider the customer? Who can they use as innovation partners?
I am interested in innovation in services and goods. Much still has to be learned about the (Fuzzy) front end of innovation: Where do good ideas come from? How do you gather information from users? How do you evaluate alternative ideas?
Not group brainstorming or focus groups — they kill
One technique that has been rigorously researched for over 50 years is the use of group brainstorming and user focus groups to generate and evaluate ideas. The evidence of these studies is consistent and conclusive:
Group methods (compared to individual ideation):
Why then are focus groups and group brainstorming still employed to generate ideas from users? I used to believe that charlatans ignored the research and oversold their expert skills at running such groups. But I now realize that there is more to it than that: these group processes create an illusion of effectiveness to everyone involved.
Group Brainstorming and Focus Groups are FUN
Participants enjoy the process, believe that they individually are personally responsible for most of the ideas produced, believe that the group was creative and very effective, and leave the effort committed to the ideas generated. There actually is value to an organization of this positive illusion: it is often hard to sell innovation or new ideas to an organization – this enthusiasm can help innovations go forward.
How to combine the bad and the good?
Participants don’t come up with the best ideas but they believe in the ones they do come up with… People already employ techniques to help overcome group idea-cide: for example it is common to have participants individually brainstorm and write down their ideas before starting a group ideation effort.
If I were leading a group brainstorming or focus group for innovative ideas I would start with individual brainstorming, collect all the individual ideas, and then have the brainstorming session. I would either ignore the group ideas or more likely collect them as if they were the ideas of another individual and then separately evaluate all the ideas.
[Of course this puts off the questions of how to evaluate the ideas for another day… research also indicates that groups do a bad job at evaluation…]
Earlier posts on idea-cide from group efforts:
I also have an upcoming article in the Journal of Product Innovation Management on this topic. I will post that article when the editor gives me permission. [See http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-5885.2012.00918.x/abstract ]
Interesting story in last week’s WSJ:
Bank of New York Mellon Corp. has been fighting accusations that it took advantage of clients while trading currencies… BNY Mellon priced 58% of the currency trades within the 10% of each day’s trading range that was least favorable to the fund, the analysis shows. As a result, the trades cost the pension fund, the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association, $4.5 million more than if the average trade occurred at the middle of the trading range for each day, the analysis showed.
A BNY Mellon spokesman confirmed the accuracy of the data and… said there was nothing improper about the practice. It said clients like the Los Angeles pension fund knew—or “should have known—that the bank doesn’t act in their interests when pricing the trades.”
How to Serve (Wall St) Clients
Less sophisticated clients of Wall Street firms such as BNY Mellon, Goldman or Morgan should know that there is a standard procedure for dealing with them, reminiscent of a famous Twilight Zone episode. Aliens invite humans to visit and have their hospitality pre-planned in a book that a scholar has tentatively translated as “How to Serve Man.” [Spoiler] Warm feelings turn to horror when the scholar figures out that the book is actually a cookbook! Similarly Wall Street firms have standard rules of “How to serve Customers.”
Best pricing is for large trades with sophisticated clients who check prices with multiple firms. Prices get further away from market prices as: (1) clients are less sophisticated, (2) clients are perceived as loyal customers who don’t price check (or as stupid), (3) the client position is known, so traders can guess which side they will trade from, and (4) for smaller trades. Since the municipal clients are less sophisticated, loyal, clear their positions with the bank, and trade in odd lots, they get really bad prices. To quote Animal House – a classic movie about investment bankers in college – when a distraught character sees what happened to his brother’s car, his partners, er-frat brothers say:
You F***ed up: You trusted us!
Next quarter when Goldman again reports that they made money trading every single day of the quarter bear in mind that much of it is not trading in the sense of taking real market risks but instead “Serving Customers” (well done, no juice left).
WSJ article: http://dld.bz/abhDn
I am sure you think carefully before you follow someone new on twitter. You look at the #FF list of someone you trust; or take a look at someone wise enough to RT one of your great tweets or blog posts. Yet occasionally you get a quick signal from a tweet or DM of the newly followed that you may have erred…
I have collected my top nine quick indications that I screwed up below.
Number one of course is the DM we all hate:
Hey, I just added you to my Mafia family. You should accept my invitation! Click here: http://t.co/thedon
What can I say? I would like to urge him to go back to Facebook and help tie up the world’s internet during the afternoon playing Farmville, but a quick unfollow is best.
The remaining indicators are in reverse order, ala David Letterman:
9. Make some money tweeting, sign up to for Sponsored Tweets! http://bit.ly/spamu
Bet I’m going to really enjoy reading your tweets! Let’s sing the SPAM song…
8. BBW lovers join me on my webcam. I can travel to help you relax on business trips. http://warmup.com
Even if the #FF list is from a trusted twitter friend you should still check out the profiles before following. You don’t know everything about your twitter friend or what he does away from home…
7. Home Teeth Whitening – What is the Best Teeth Whitener?: http://bit.ly/whiteisright
Everyone on twitter should have gleaming teeth by now!
6. Get followers fast! Today’s giveaway: 5,000 followers!
I bet that they are a fascinating group of tweeters! In The Tao of Twitter, Mark Schaefer discusses advising a friend to close a twitter account after he had “enhanced” it with one of these services.
In August the 25th annual Global Research Symposium on Marketing and Entrepreneurship will be held in Rio. There is a journal known as the Journal of Research in Marketing and Entrepreneurship that has been around for a couple of decades. And there is an active and well-run Entrepreneurship SIG in the American Marketing Association. Yet these are exceptions: generally in academia when entrepreneurship does not have its own domain it is included in Management, not Marketing. Why?
Why management, not marketing?
I have known and studied a number of entrepreneurs. I have yet to hear one say: “I wish I had studied more about strategy.” Or “I wish I had studied HR.” Or “I wish I knew more about transactional leadership!” What I have heard is “I wish I knew more about selling” or “I wish I knew more about marketing.” So why isn’t e-ship often included in marketing?
Some of it may come from the leadership of management scholar Drucker (who also wisely noted that ALL that matters for firms is marketing and innovation). And some of it is likely due to some of my Brethren in Marketing who see themselves as applied psychologists and are somewhat hostile to crude capitalists such as salespersons and entrepreneurs. However, in a world of lean startups and effectuation, it is clear that understanding markets and clients are key skills of entrepreneurship.
So I would like to tip my hat to Marketers such as Gerry Hills, David Carson, and Glenn Omura who are studying entrepreneurship and trying to keep it in its proper domain!
Journal of Research in Marketing and Entrepreneurship @J_RME http://www.emeraldinsight.com/products/journals/journals.htm?id=jrme
2011 symposium: http://2011rsme.com/author/2011rsme/
Since I had been involved in new service development as well as in several startups before becoming an academic I was skeptical of formal product development models such as stage gate. But still there an attraction to research and planning, so much of the recent research on product innovation is disquieting.
Just Do It!
Agile development, lean startups, probe-and-learn, and effectuation all describe a rapid-prototyping-like process of simply (1) putting a “minimal” product into the market, (2) observing results, (3) learning, and (4) doing another iteration. In other words: Just Do It!
Nuances include keeping the “bet” small, so that you can afford failure and future iterations. And having a vision and discipline so that the iterations are more like controlled experiments than random evolution.
Marketing’s role is thus to be agile, to collect and understand data, and to adjust product vision. Forget the formal market research and business plans.
Brave new world for marketing and product innovation!
An aside: Origin of Nike Slogan
As an aside, do you know the origin of Nike’s slogan Just Do it! ?
Hint: It was inspired by the phrase “Let’s Do It.” Not the Cole Porter song made immortal by Ella Fitzgerald; that would hardly fit the edgy image of Nike! (This is the company that was still running commercials using the imagery of dog fighting after their spokesperson Michael Vick had been arrested.)
Let’s do it! were the final words of career criminal and serial killer Gary Gilmore before he was executed by firing squad in Utah.
Apple’s great timing
Two recent articles have heralded Steven Jobs’ excellent timing of innovation:
First mover advantage?
Is Steven Jobs the exception to the well-known “first mover advantage?” We all know how pioneers such as Apple Computer (in PCs), Gillette (in safety razors), Hewlett-Packard (laser printers), and Microsoft (PC operating systems) commanded long term market dominance by being first…
However in reality none of those firms in the previous list was first…or second…or third to market! Most entered the market 3-5 years or more after the first entrants. Bill Gates bought DOS on the cheap after he sold IBM on the product! As Tellis and Golder point out in their book Will and Vision, most of the companies we assume were first to market have simply benefitted from “survival bias” or “the-winners-write-history” syndrome.
If it weren’t for the movie The Social Network within a decade or so we would all probably have come to believe that at least some key attribute of Facebook was introduced by Zuckerberg; and would have forgotten Geocities, Friendster, MySpace, and ConnectU (Winklevoss twins). [And of course even the W twins weren’t the first to think of marrying MySpace features to elite college .edu addresses…]
Will and Vision
It turns out that Pioneers often do end up with arrows in their backs and latecomers win the categories. What factors decide winners? Tellis and Golder explore key factors. Two of the biggest are persistence and continual innovation in response to market feedback. Tellis and Golder provide further support of principles underlying:
Book by Tellis and Golder: Will & Vision: How Latecomers Grow to Dominate Markets
On the first day of class I announce that there are to be no computers open during class discussion or lectures. (Of course they are permitted or encouraged during group work or for some online exercises, but that is an entirely different issue.) My pronouncement generally elicits horrified looks from 20-25% of the class and a student or two may choose to drop my course at that point.
Some of the strongest reaction has come from colleagues or profs from other schools. “If I didn’t think I could compete with the internet, I would give up teaching” is a common refrain, often uttered by someone who has trouble communicating one-on-one. As if his fascinating talk on advanced auditing was more interesting than the beer pong pics just posted on FB! Never mind that current research on learning indicates that attention is the most important factor in learning and multitasking of any sort kills attention and learning. Multitasking
In the book, The Shallows, studies are cited showing that hyperlinks to citations in the text of a paper impair learning: imagine having Facebook and YouTube in your control bar while you are trying to take lecture notes! As Aaron Herrington, founder of Modea, said in a recent lecture: “online you are always 1-click or 3 seconds away from cute kittens or porn.”
Even after a keynote speech on Brain research and learning that focused on attention and the risks of multitasking at a recent conference on pedagogy, I get the standard pushback from other faculty when I said that I banned open devices. “If I didn’t think…”
However two young women who had recently graduated from the well-known research university across the river from my school were there. They both said that they wished their professors had banned computers from their large lecture classes because of the third-party effects: even though they kept their own computers shut the noise from the student next to them playing WOW and the embarrassment at the guys in front of them viewing porn affected their concentration.
So profs be honest. Open computers, students communicating on FB and viewing YouTube movies and free porn, may help keep your class happier and more docile – especially in large lecture classes, but it does not aid learning by them or their neighbors!
In an article last week, I showed that the careful-experiment, iterative, innovation process called “Build-Measure-Learn” by Eric Ries had earlier emerged in a dissertation research by Gary Lynn as “Probe-(study)-Learn” twenty years earlier. Dr. Lynn studied goods-producing firms. There are good reasons to be aware of the earlier studies
Lean or Not?
One interesting contrast between the “Probe and Learn” article and the writing of Eric Ries on Lean Startups is that the former actually go to great lengths to contrast their procedure to the Lean Process. Lynn et al. cite The Machine that Changed the World several times and note that their Probe and Learn procedure is for discontinuous innovation not for the mundane innovation described in that book (which is one of the original works on Lean). Ries also stresses that Lean Startups are doing discontinuous innovation…
Interesting issue! The authors of “Probe and Learn” viewed it partially as an antidote to Lean Thinking while a promoter of the process for startups views it as a Lean process…
I have thought about it and conversed with a friend at the Lean Institute and I think Lean Startups is OK and that “Probe and Learn” could have been called lean innovation: What do you think???
For more information I recommend:
I have written about Lean Startups, both the phenomena and the writings of Eric Ries and Steven G. Blank in a recent article and will continue to do so. I would suggest that anyone interested in innovation and entrepreneurship read Ries’s blog and consider his upcoming book (links to both are at the end of this article.)
In his articles Eric Ries describes how web entrepreneurs launch “Lean Startups.” He focuses on the need for a new style of management and metrics to conduct careful experiments on “minimum viable products.” Bringing radical or discontinuous innovations to market can be described as:
This experimental, iterative process is ideal to bring discontinuous products to the market. Most examples Ries cites are web-based services or software but he asserts in several articles that the process can be applied elsewhere.
TWENTY years ago…
Gary Lynn published his dissertation in 1993. He had collected data from manufacturers of high-tech business and medical devices that had or were bringing a discontinuous new product to market. He found that the process was vastly different from incremental product innovations that depended on traditional marketing research. He and his co-authors found a process they called Probe and Learn defined as:
Do you feel you have seen the “probe and learn” process before? I certainly do!! (Of course both also strongly resemble Lean improvement, E.W. Deming’s change model, and the scientific method…)
It seems fair that Gary Lynn and his co-authors get credit for the process that they discovered, but even more importantly for our purposes it is useful to note that he found the process by studying goods-producers. Therefore iterative “Build-Measure-Learn” using “minimum viable products”, or iterative “Probe and Learn” using “immature products” are indeed generalizable far beyond the world of internet services and software.
In a future article I will look at the subtle differences between Probe and Learn and methods of Lean Startups and the contribution that Ries and Blank are making beyond the Probe and Learn model.
For more information I recommend:
Can users help with the technology trajectory???
In an excellent blog post that I have cited before SonyiPod , David Aaker asked the interesting question: Why Wasn’t the iPod a Sony Brand? His conclusion was that Apple timed the technology:
“The answer is timing. Apple got the timing right by entering the market when the technology came together. Of course, the Apple design flare, its brand, and its iTunes store were all important, but the timing was the key.”
Last weekend, inspired by Watson’s Jeopardy win I pulled out Kurweil’s “The Singularity is Near” – his take on the eventual triumph of machines over man. On page 3 famed inventor Kurweil notes that:
“I realized that most inventions fail not because the R&D department can’t get them to work but because the timing is wrong. Inventing is a lot like surfing: you have to anticipate and catch the wave at just the right moment.”
I shared that quote with David Aaker and he said: “I love the catch the wave metaphor. It suggests also that there needs to be a way to predict when the wave will occur.”
How do you catch the wave? For those of us who study co-creation and user engagement:
I have written several articles about Sarasvathy’s conception of effectuation by entrepreneurs. Effectuation is a theory of entrepreneurial activity based on experiential learning by organizations.
Effectuation is a prescription for innovating when the risk is unknown and unknowable. Effectuation comprises four principles presented in contrast to the causal model of marketing strategy (Sarasvathy 2001):
In other words: just do it! Get in the ring and start fighting… But how does a budding entrepreneur actually use this procedure? How can you enter a market on a shoestring, effect its development, and develop a product? Many people find it hard to visualize how effectuation can be put into action.
How to effectuate?
According to John Hagel at Edge Perspectives, executives can benefit from six lessons derived from studying innovation in big wave surfing.
Check out the article (now a couple years old) at:
Hagel cites von Hippel’s two books. After his original work showing user innovation in B2B markets like scientific instruments, von Hippel did a number of studies on open source software and then extreme sport enthusiasts. Perhaps all lead users try to “catch a wave”!
I strongly recommend David Aaker’s blog post on the importance of TIMING to the success of Apple’s iPod, “Why wasn’t the iPod a Sony brand?”: WhyNotSony
As David relates, Sony had launched two digit players two years earlier, but the technology was not yet right. Apple launched when affordable flash memory was available.
A follow-up question is why wasn’t Sony still trying? The company had been built on successful waves of portable, personal music: (1) the transistor radio, (2) radio Walkman, (3) cassette Walkman, (4) CD Walkman. Sony knew that the digital flash player was inevitable, had been willing to change to new technologies before, and must have viewed personal portable music as a core business: shouldn’t Sony have continued incremental improvements (ala Microsoft) until they finally had a decent offering?
One of the reasons why this blogger and many innovation researchers are skeptical of traditional market research methods, such as surveys and focus groups, is the importance of contextual knowledge and sticky information. Users sometimes fib on surveys but more importantly they don’t know what information is relevent. Hence a long history of suggested approaches that more completely involve/immerse the researcher such as site visits, ethnographic techniques, probe and learn, experimentation and effectuation.
Studies by Gabriel Szulanski, Eric von Hippel and others have shown how difficulty it is to verbally transmit key information: even within the same firm. I had personal experience with this phenomenon when I moved to Hong Kong.
A message from the idea of open innovation is that traditional transactional or even transformational leadership may not be sufficient to draw innovation from EVERYONE. A leader who wants to draws on the creativity of the entire organization must be empowering.
Several types of empowering leadership are practiced: one, servant-leadership, has been promoted and practiced since 1970 and has been heralded in such companies as Service Master and Starbucks (see good book by Howard Behar). The main message of servant leadership can be summarized in a few lines from Robert K. Greenleaf’s 1970 essay:
“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead…“The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons?”
Does servant leadership lead to innovativeness?
On Wednesday I listed some innovative and some of my least favorite student excuses on twitter. Here is a summary of mine and other examples that were offered…
Nicholas G. Carr wrote an excellent article, “The Ignorance of Crowds,” about the limitation of crowd-sourcing or open source software. He focuses on the experience of Linux and Wikipedia. The masses primarily serve as bug-fixers for Linux, whose development is closely managed by a small team; Wikipedia is attempting to bring in similar control to address issues such as “The Flintstones” having twice as long an entry as Homer.
Carr argues that the choice is not “The Cathedral” or “The Bazaar” as presented in a seminal paper by Eric Raymond, but how to use both approaches. Further he argues that really radical or disruptive innovation is more likely to emerge from the Cathedral model led by a few elite leaders.
Anyone involved in innovation should read the full article at:
Group methods (compared to individual ideation):
Add-on ideas building on others ideas were generally lower quality than individual ideas. In short group ideation stinks.
My summary may be too kind… Stop killing ideas and wasting time!!
Does Ethnography make the front end of innovation less fuzzy?
I have written several posts about the use of ethnography to gather good data from users. A recent article in the Journal of Product Innovation Management explores the topic in detail, including likely advantages from using ethnography and advantages of using in the early stage of innovation.
An abstract of the article can be read here:
Past posts have included: