Can #Wal-Mart compete with #Amazon?

Two large dominant competitors, such as Kroger vs. Wal-Mart in groceries, is not ideal competition, but I believe it is much better than a single monopoly like the old Ma Bell. Kroger/Wal-Mart, Microsoft/Apple, and Coke/Pepsi were certainly not perfect competition, but innovation continued in those two-way fights. For this reason, I have been hoping that Wal-Mart would get its act together to compete with Amazon online.

There has been some recent good news: first quarter online sales for Wal-Mart were up over 60%, the acquisition apparently going well, and projections of passing up eBay to become #2 to Amazon online.

Wal-Mart SHOULD be a competitor in online retailing for as it is:

  • The biggest brick-and-mortar retailer in the world,
  • A leader in logistics, supply, distribution, and retail IT,
  • Blessed with deep pockets,
  • Everywhere, with so many locations, and
  • A fierce competitor.

The multiple retail locations are partially a drawback for Wal-Mart as they establish a brand known primarily for low cost and “people of Wal-Mart.” However, Amazon is experimenting with showrooms for people who want to see and touch the products and with lockers in malls for people who don’t want deliveries on their front porch or driveway.

The Opportunity for in-store pick up should be a big advantage for Wal-Mart. Do working people or people with unpredictable schedules want their product left out in the snow or rain, or visible to passerby’s or neighbors who might be interested in using the products?

Walmart pickup

Four years ago on my other blog, I wrote Showrooming: Why Wal-Mart will lose to Amazon. This picture illustrates my major issue. When I go to pick up an order at Wal-Mart I must go to a deserted area – the backup restroom area – in the back of the store, pick up a phone, request help, and wait 15-25 minutes for someone to arrive. Compared to waiting outside the deserted restroom area for 20 minutes, Amazon’s idea of lockers at a mall might seem warm, friendly and personable!

Maybe Wal-Mart is already addressing this issue, but there is no evidence in our local stores or others that I have visited.

Does any reader live near a Wal-Mart that is doing a nice job with pick-ups?

I have noticed a similar problem with their financial “service” offerings, which would require a customer to be very patient. Maybe the areas could be combined into a service center, or perhaps pickups and financial services could be handled by trained assistant managers.

Any other advice to Wal-Mart on delivering service??

There will always be startups or niche online retailers, but again, I believe Amazon needs a big competitor.

Posted in NSD Process, Online service delivery, Service Design, ServiceInnovation, Social Media Marketing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Amazon made my day…

I was delighted to see the seven books (all about innovation) suggested to me by Amazon when I landed there today.

OK they may have been flattering me and my colleagues from Sweden, but still…


Service Innovation on Amazon.

Posted in ServiceInnovation, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Service Innovation Applied to Marketing

I was honored to be included in the Brand Quarterly list of “50 Marketing Thought Leaders Over 50” released this week. I can now cite one clear advantage of passing 50…

The 50 marketers listed were asked to share and explain their marketing mantra for 2017. Not surprisingly my mantra came from principles of service innovation:

“Just do it!  Try, observe, and then iterate or pivot.”


Even though Service Innovation was completed in February and published in May, the collaboration is still fresh in my mind. Despite our focus on innovating service, issues of branding and broader marketing kept arising from examples and discussions among the four of us writing the book.

Just as social media and the Internet have made it fast and cheap to fail in developing new service, testing marketing ideas has never been so easy. Marketers: Try, observe and iterate!

  • Check out all of the mantras in the current edition of Branding Quarterly.
  • Amazon is discounting both the Kindle and Paperback versions of Service Innovation.
  • Service Innovation has been selected by Harvard Business Press to pair with some of its cases…
Posted in effectuation, experiential innovation, Experiment, NSD Process, ServiceInnovation, Social Media Marketing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

2015 Top Downloaded Innovation Articles in JPIM

Gloria Barczak, editor of the leading journal on innovation, JPIM has provided a list of the top downloaded articles from their website. You can download the list as a PDF here: Top 10 2015 JPIM Downloaded Articles (2).

These are the top 10 downloaded articles from the JPIM website in 2015:

Rank Authors Article Title Volume Issue No. of Accesses


Joel West, Marcel Bogers Leveraging External Sources of Innovation: A Review of Re- search on Open Innovation  

31 (2014)








Marion K. Poetz, Martin Schreier

The Value of Crowdsourcing: Can Users Really Compete with Professionals in Generating New Product Ideas  

29 (2012)





3 Constantinos Markides Disruptive Innovation: In Need of Better Theory 23 (2006) 1 2960



C. K. Prahalad

Bottom of the Pyramid as a Source of Breakthrough Inno- vations  

29 (2012)








Robert G. Cooper

Perspective: The Stage-Gate® Idea-to-Launch Process— Update, What’s New, and NexGen Systems  

25 (2007)








Rosanna Garcia, Roger Calantone

A Critical Look at Technologi- cal Innovation Typology and Innovativeness Terminology: A Literature Review  

19 (2002)







Nikolaus Franke, Frank Piller Value Creation by Toolkits for User Innovation and Design: The Case of the Watch Market  

21 (2004)








Erwin Danneels

Disruptive Technology Reconsidered: A Critique and Research Agenda  

21 (2004)







Michael Song, Ksenia Podoynitsyna, Hans Van Der Bij, Johannes I. M. Halman  

Success Factors in New Ven- tures: A Meta-analysis


25 (2008)







Nikolaus Franke, Eric Von Hippel, Martin Schreier Finding Commercially Attractive User Innovations: A Test of Lead-User Theory  

23 (2006)





Articles over 10 years old are still in the top 10 recent downloads.

The topics are diverse: success factors, disruption, lead users, stage-gate process, crowd-sourcing, categories, and open innovation. I would say that four of the articles discussed user involvement in innovation.

The JPIM has multiple online resources, including:




Posted in Co-creation or User collaboration, Customer Research Methods, Process Innovation, Stage-Gate® | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

All Innovation is Really #Service #Innovation

According to government statistics 70-85% of the GDP of Western nations, and 63% of the world GDP is service.

Traditional goods firms are emphasizing service in their offerings. So it is positively weird that intro marketing texts put a single chapter on service marketing. It also seems odd to me that most research articles on product innovation focus on new product development for goods. And that most articles on service innovation attempt to apply processes from new product development of goods to services.

ball bearings

Goods makers are increasing offering there products as services. GE sells hours of thrust instead of aircraft engines; truck engines and even building roofs are offered as a function.

Ball Bearings can be a  service. As the linked HBR article on SKF, the leading ball bearings provider, discusses once a good becomes smart, an offering is a system of data and controls.

One thing that the four authors of Service Innovation quickly agreed on while writing the book was the “service trifecta:”

  • All Products are Service
  • All Marketing is Service Marketing, and
  • All Innovation is Service Innovation

Viewing all products as service, understanding that all marketing is service marketing, and focusing on service innovation should change the way an organization plans and executes.

As I noted in a post a few weeks ago, another blogger has suggested that servicization is bad for small business. Good or bad, it is a trend for organizations to deal with.

I will write more about the service trifecta in upcoming posts. What are your thoughts on servicization?

  • How does viewing all products as service and all innovation as service innovation affect  your view of your organization’s mission and processes?



Note Service Innovation is available from Amazon or on the Business Expert Press site.

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#Service #Innovation: The Book

I was THRILLED when these five glossy paperbacks were delivered to my home a few weeks ago! Service Innovation, An eighteen month collaboration with three professors from the CTF Service Research Center at Karlstad University, Sweden, was now tangible and on my coffee table! Service Innovation 4

What was it like to collaborate on a book with researchers 6,691 km. away? With all the modern tools it was surprisingly trouble free! We posted chapters on Dropbox. The three Karlstad professors seemed to have no trouble coordinating work between them. I typically signed on after in the evening after they had finished for the day.

We had a couple conferences on Skype but primarily communicated by email or Facebook Messenger. I remember thinking how much communication had advanced since I was in Hong Kong in 1993, dealing with bosses in New York.

SwedesI, of course knew all three of them by their stellar reputation in service research. I met  Per Kristensson (youngish guy in the middle) at a PDMA conference and had shared a few drinks and talked about service innovation. Anders Gustafsson, editor of JBR (distinguished gentleman on the left) was a Twitter and Facebook friend. I sometimes asked Anders his thoughts on service research, but more often we simply traded pictures of our photogenic and brilliant Bichon Friese dogs. I knew of Lars Witell (right) from his research on proactive methods for innovation. I was delighted when the three of them invited me to join the collaboration!

Ditka5It was an easy collaboration since our views about service innovation were closely aligned. They had published articles on service co-creation and proactive methods to facilitate collaboration. My dissertation and followup conference and research papers were on service co-creation and methods. Very often we even had matching examples: they talked about a Swedish tabloid newspaper; I had done research  with the creators of a tabloid in Chicago.

Speaking of my dog…that is Ditka on my lap. I guess he gets an assist for networking!

If you are considering it, I would recommend writing a book! Advice based on my wonderful experience would be:

  1. Find collaborators whose work you respect highly, and who are demanding,
  2. Expect the effort to take at least twice as long as you can imagine, and
  3. Get buy-in from your family before you start! (My wife started pushing me…)


Links related to the book:


Posted in Co-creation or User collaboration, NSD Process, Service Design, service-dominant logic of marketing, Social Media Marketing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to profit from REALLY poor #service!

Last Friday my wife and I drove 2.5 hours to Charleston, WV, in order to purchase a 5-year pre-check pass from the TSA for $85 each. Most sites have a waiting time of a month for an appointment to buy the pre-check. There are three clear benefits from the pass:

  1. Skip the “TSA Strip Tease.” You know the dance: remove your shoes, jacket, sweater, belt, wallet, phone, change, etc. Hold up your arms and see if your trousers stay in place. (All without accompanying music!)
  2. Leave your computers, electrical gear, and shampoo in your carry-on case.
  3. Clear security faster.


The TSA collects $17 per year from each participant PLUS costs go down since not everyone goes through the same torture process. A true Win-win for the TSA!

I was wondering if other notorious bad service providers have similar profit opportunities…

How much would you pay annually to:

  • Verizon DSL to have your calls answered by someone fluent in English?
  • Xfinity or Comcast to have your calls taken initially by a “manager,” instead of someone at the end of an hour empowered only to ultimately say “I am sorry” or “would you like to talk to a manager?”
  • Tech support to skip the initial party who knows only to suggest turning your computer off-and-on and then to transfer your call to someone useful?

Other suggestions for candidates or ways to profit from poor service???



Service Innovation was published in May by Business Expert Press

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Should you involve customers? How radical and hedonic are you trying to be?

When does a firm benefit from customer co-creation?

The leading journal of product innovation, JPIM, has a cool YouTube channel to view short summaries of selected articles on innovation. I strongly recommend checking it every couple months for new posted videos. Even if, like me, you read the journal cover-to-cover every issue, it is interesting to see how the authors portray their research via video.

Readers of a blog originally titled “Service Co-creation” will undoubtedly be interested in this video – which asks when does a firm benefit from customer co-creation. The authors found that benefits from customer involvement vary based on whether the innovation is:

  • Incremental or Radical, and
  • Utilitarian or hedonic.

Watch the video to get the insights:

Video LInk




This full article is featured in the July issue of JPIM.

Again the video link is here.

Posted in Co-creation or User collaboration, communication, Customer Research Methods, NSD Process | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Essence of Service – In a Cartoon

In the middle of final editing for recently published Service Innovation we decided that we needed an illustration in Chapter 1, for our discussion of what service is. I sent a Facebook message to my talented daughter, Kiki Schirr, and asked her if she could send an illustration within 90 minutes. This is what she sent:

Service Innovation 6

The illustration is on page 8 of the book, published last month.

Frame 3 catches the essence of service: the value created with the customer. The young woman, together with the airline were able to create a memorable visit with loved ones.

Frame one adds a more nuanced view. The flight was crowded and noisy, but that was not important to this consumer who was creating a visit at the end. So other customers who might focus more on the experience during the use of the service might not have been as satisfied as the young woman was.

A service provider should understand the value creation process of customers. An effective service innovation process will focus on enhancing both the customer value creation and the service experience.

A single illustration can say a lot!




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All Products are #Service – Watch out Small Business?

A central theme in the new book Service Innovation is that “All Products are Service” and that all businesses accordingly should focus on the value-creation and experience of users.

Service InnovationOver 80% of the US economy is service by traditional measures, but increasingly goods are being sold on the basis of ad-on service such Onstar or extended warranties for cars. Servicization actually converts goods into service by providing the benefit of the good not selling the good: airlines pay for hours of thrust for their vehicles instead of buying jet engines; consumers  join monthly mobile phone plans that include keeping phones current. All product ARE service.

A recent post by Elke Stangl, a physicist and small businessperson in Austria, notes the phenomena “Everything as a Service” and argues that servicization bodes ill for small businesspeople.

Certainly when a customer commits to a service for an extended period or entrust another firm to effectively own assets for them, the image of financial stability or size may matter. Even more fundamentally Ms. Stangl raises the issue of the “winner take all” effect popularized by Nassim Taleb in the Black Swan. Due effective communication, globalization, network effects, and scale, services on the Internet seem to quickly have one or a small group of big winners with all other providers instantly marginalized.

Do you agree that “all products are service” or “everything as service” inherently favors large companies? Leads to a small group of winners?

How can small businesses adapt to servicization?



Posted in Service Design, service-dominant logic of marketing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Ideation is for INDIVIDUALS, not groups!

Group brainstorming is not a good way to generate innovation ideas.

In the Preface to Sprint, a book my entrepreneur daughter insisted I read, the author discusses his missteps using group brainstorming at Google.

He notes the group brainstorming sessions were “a lot of fun,” participants enjoyed the process, but… they did not generate successful ideas. The best ideas were generated by individuals “sitting at their desks, or waiting at a coffee shop, or taking a shower.”brainstorming3

Jake Knapp’s Preface is a good summary of what I found in a study of 50 years of research on group brainstorming.

Flawed Tools: The Efficacy of Group Research Methods to Generate Customer Ideas” which appeared in the Journal of Product Innovation Management reviewed five decades of experience and research on group brainstorming and some recent data. The study showed that compared to ideas generated by individuals, group methods produced:

  1. Fewer ideas,
  2. Fewer good ideas, and
  3. Fewer really creative ideas.

But… participants did enjoy the process and felt productive….

[Which raises an issue of whether groups might have a role to encourage organizational buy-in for innovation…]

But once again:


If you want to review the evidence check out the JPIM article here.

Posted in Customer Research Methods, Ideation, NSD Process, Service Design | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Innovation books – what do we NEED?

The process of listing my 16 favorite innovation books got me to thinking about what is missing – What is the “Blue Ocean” space in popular innovation reading?

I think I found two clear blue patches – Do you spot others?? Or do you think I missed a great book in those patches?


In the fall I listed my 16 favorite books on innovation. In alphabetical order by author they were:

  • Tim Brown                     Change by Design
  • David Burkus                 Myths of Creativity
  • Henry Chesbrough      Open Innovation
  • Clayton Christensen   The Innovators Dilemma
  • Peter Drucker                 Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Abbie Griffin                  Serial Innovators
  • Walter Isaacson             The Innovators
  • Ken Kahn                          PDMA Handbook of New Product Development III
  • Tom Kelley                      Creative Confidence
  • Mauborgne & Kim         Blue Ocean Strategy
  • Geoffrey Moore              Crossing the Chasm
  • Gina C. O’Connor          Grabbing Lightning
  • Eric Ries                            Lean Innovation
  • Gerald Tellis                     Will and Vision
  • Stefan Thomke               Experimentation
  • Eric von Hippel               Democratizing Innovation

To read more about this list see the previous two posts in this blog – Part I or Part II or the summary on LinkedIn.

What is missing?

I would classify the topics of the 16 books above into four categories:

  1. Innovation processes (design thinking, lean, experiment, lead users, disruption, etc.)
  2. Strategy for innovation in an organization (blue ocean, open, etc.)
  3. Fostering individual creativity and innovation
  4. Fostering innovation in an organization.

So what is missing that we would expect in such a list?

Ten or 15 years ago we would have expected something on the Internet but the Internet is ubiquitous by now. One could claim that social media is everywhere today, but I was still surprised that I hadn’t found a great book on:

  • Social Innovation – Either using social in the innovation process OR innovating in the social media space itself.

The other clear gap or blue patch that I see is in service. (Of course I started a blog on service co-creation 5 years ago…) The majority of the world’s GDP is services, over 80% in most of Europe and 90% in the U.S. Services are different. Yet no book in my list is focused specifically on innovation of service. Service has a major influence of course – the iteration and experimentation that underlies most of the new approaches has been facilitated by the ease of making changes in services. Yet there again seems to be a vivid large blue space:

  • Service Innovation – Either innovation of service offerings or services provided with goods.*

I ask the reader if (1) you see another blue patch I missed and/or (2) if I should review a book that fits in one of those spaces.


*Note: I am a co-author (with three impressive scholars) of a book on service innovation that should be released this spring. Trust me – you will hear more about that book as the launch date approaches.


Other innovation books

A reader suggested Econovation by Faktor should be considered for the list. Other lists of innovation books include:

Again, after reading through these other lists, this reader still spots the key blue spaces:

  1. Social Innovation, and
  2. Service Innovation.

What is missing?

Posted in Co-creation or User collaboration, effectuation, entrepreneurship, experiential innovation, Experiment, NSD Process, Service Design, service-dominant logic of marketing, Social Media Marketing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

My very favorite books on #innovation : K to Z

Innovation FlickrHere are the remaining nine of my 16 favorite innovation books. As I related in the discussion of the first 7 books in my last post, these books are my personal favorite books on innovation and are listed in alphabetic order by author. There may be some subjectivity in this list: all are from my bookshelf and there are none from authors I personally dislike.

8.  Ken Kahn                  PDMA Handbook of New Product Development III

I valued the first two editions of this handbook from the leading association for product innovation when I was involved in product development and again when I started my research. Nice short summaries of key topics from leading scholars and practitioners. The new edition, under the editorship of Ken Kahn – associate dean of the da Vinci Center for Innovation at VCU, is as good or even better than the first two! And Ken invited me to contribute a chapter!

9.  Tom Kelley               Creative Confidence

IDEO book two… Everyone can be creative if they are allowed to! How to facilitate and tap into that creativity. Read it and create!

10. Mauborgne & Kim  Blue Ocean Strategy

I like this approach which is based on the marketing concept of mapping product attributes and finding gaps. The stories are compelling. However, I was disturbed by a conversation I had with Dr. Mauborgne at a conference: he told me that his team had been able to find a firm that had successfully executed a blue ocean strategy more than once!

Continue reading

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My very favorite #books on #innovation : A to I

I decided to create a list of my 10 favorite innovation books…but came up with 15. It was hard enough to narrow the list to nearly 10 – no way I was going to try to rank order them. So here are the first seven in alphabetical order by author. (No slight intended for Eric von Hippel and Gerry Tellis!)

I teach and research innovation and read a lot of books, but I do not claim to have performed a methodical or scholarly study… In fact my leg work for this post consisted of walking around my university and home offices, pulling books off the shelf, and asking myself: did I enjoy this? what do I remember? was it really good?


  1. Tim Brown                 Change by Design

I am annoyed by the exposure that IDEO gets in the creativity and innovation space. I would like to have not included anyone from IDEO in this list. Yet somehow I ended up with TWO books on it. I use this book in my MBA innovation class – it is a solid introduction to the concepts of design thinking.

  1. David Burkus             Myths of Creativity

This is a list of books about innovation. I will likely do a separate list on creativity. Yet I think Burkus catches many of the traps that would-be innovators fall into. Good read for students and innovators. Plus I like his blog.

  1. Henry Chesbrough   Open Innovation

This book has had a huge influence on innovation research and practice. Companies such as P&G have been influenced by it. I agree with Eric von Hippel’s criticism that users and customers are the most important collaborators, yet get little attention from Chesbrough. However few books have had so much influence on the practice of innovation.

Continue reading

Posted in experiential innovation, Innovation education, NSD Process, Process Innovation, Service Design | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Un-Business-Plan Innovation Contest

Business planA colleague and I agreed to chair the committee to run an innovation competition open to all students in our university. We want to encourage and celebrate the innovation among our students!

So how does one design a lean/agile/design-thinking innovation competition???? Our current proposed approach is to have students submit:

  1. A 3-10 minute video of the new service or product in use: showing prototyping and ideally a pivot in response to use.
  2. A one-year budget and
  3. Possibly – A completed summary Business Canvas.

What do YOU think???? Does it sound good? Is the canvas overkill for an 8-week student contest? What would you change?

[ The current full proposed summary outline of the contest is posted here. ]

For the past several years innovators I admire have been posting tweets and FB posts urging VCs, angels and academics NOT to participate in student business plan competitions. One of the earliest I were three blog posts by Steve Blank:

The consistent arguments against the traditional business plan competition include:

  1. A formal business plan really only fits large companies.
  2. A business plan does not survive the first encounter with customers.
  3. It does NOT recognize the lean or iterative approach to innovation. An agile or lean startup should have a new business model after user testing and probably again in 6-9 months.
  4. Financial projections 3 or 5 years out for a truly innovative new service or product are exercises in “creative accounting” and we don’t need to teach our students how to lie using spreadsheets.

Brief confession here – I helped with a couple startup business plans. I learned the following technique:

  1. Find out what revenue the VC or Angel needed to see.  Increase it by 2% and make it the year 5 projection.
  2. Assume “hockey stick” growth with takeoff in year 4.
  3. The result was reaching the target number without undue pressure in years 1-3.

Not something I want to teach my students!

Again here is a more complete description: Innovation Contest Draft

I appreciate your thoughts and ideas!!!!

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Tech “Doodle Blog”

View collection at

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:

View story at

(Disclosure: The blogger is my daughter…)

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Disruption to #Facebook?

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.

  • Do you think the disruptive innovation model applies to Facebook?
  • Do you think Instagram + WhatsApp are classic Christensen disruptions?

For more see the other post:

WhatsApp is the future; Facebook is history

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New #Blogs by Students

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!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Innovation in #Blogs?

This might be slightly off topic, but take a look at the twelve new blogs created in my SMM class!


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Thoughts on a Theory of Innovation

Do you have thoughts about a theory of Innovation?

Over the past 50 years, researchers have learned a lot about innovation, including:

  • Classifications: there is incremental, innovative, radical and also disruptive innovation,
  • Collaboration: Innovation should be open and collaborative with suppliers or outsiders, 
  • Customer or user collaboration is especially effective (VOC, Lead Users, Co-creation),
  • Another form of collaboration is to bring a product (minimum viable?) to market and learn real-time from market reaction (experiment, probe and learn, lean innovation or effectuation)
  • Product innovation and process innovation are not easily separated in services, and most product now have a major service component,
  • A formal innovation process seems to help incremental innovation but may inhibit, radical or disruptive innovation and may also hinder organizational learning.

But what would be the central theory or theories of innovation?

I see three key pieces of innovation:

  1. Discovery or recognition of a solution to a customer problem or need,
  2. Evaluating the potential of a solution (regardless of source), and
  3. Orchestrating a collaborative effort to bring the solution to market.

The last two pieces match famous Steve Jobs observations:

  • Good artists copy; great artists steal.
  • Real artists ship.

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:

  • Innovative leaders from several industries,
  • The former and current editors of the leading academic journal of innovation,
  • Leading academic researchers, including the authors of Serial Innovators, Will and Vision, “Voice of the Customer”, and other key innovation books and articles.

Wouldn’t YOU be asking everyone for their thoughts?? So…

Do you have thoughts about a theory of Innovation?

Posted in Customer Research Methods, effectuation, experiential innovation, Experiment, Innovation education, Process Innovation, Slow Burn Entrepreneurship, Stage-Gate® | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Tsunami in #HigherEd: Social Media and Peer-to-peer

BTW: A post related to the ongoing discussion of the Tsunami in higher education was posted on my other blog:

Social Learning and Online #HigherEd

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Going Broke by Degree – #Higher Ed Tsunami?

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.

Outsourcing Football

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…

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Flawed Tools – Focus groups and brainstorming for ideas

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:

  1. More ideas,
  2. Better ideas on average, and
  3. The most innovative ideas. (Trifecta!)

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…)

Any thoughts??

Posted in Ideation | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

New Klout – An Innovation Strategy?

“You have eyes: Plagiarize!”   – Product Development at Salomon Brothers (Liars Poker)

“Good artists copy, but great artists steal.” – Steve Jobs

Borrowing ideas from your competitors has a long and esteemed history in innovation, as noted in the quotes above. Therefore it should not necessarily negative to note that Klout’s ballyhooed new version and business model seems to be lifted entirely from a competitor, Kred.

When I summarized popular, retail influence-measuring services to my SMM class last semester I noted that Kred had created some buzz and excitement about its pledge of transparency and noted several differences from Klout including:

  1. Kred enhances transparency by clearly displaying events, called activities, that lead to Kred points,
  2. Kred goes back further to compute your score, up to 1000 days, so a temporary event such as going on holiday or celebrating a birthday on Facebook should not have as much impact,
  3. Participants can award each other +Kreds, which will contribute to a score, and
  4. Kred has an option to include evidence of real world influence “offline Kred” in your total score.

Of course differences remain, but substitute “moments” for activities, “90 days” for 1000, “+K” for +Kred, and “automatically” for has an “option” in these four former differences and you have the key innovations Klout just announced!

Kred seemed to be getting some traction, so Klout said “I can be like them.” Is this a winning innovation strategy??

In fairness, Facebook has been using this strategy successfully to thwart competition from Google+. However I am reminded of another example…

Coca-Cola reformulated its product, dropping the vanilla and adding sugar, to make it taste more like Pepsi in reaction to the Pepsi taste test promotions. The “New Coke” was a near disaster until management pivoted and went back to the historical formula.

Is Klout just tactically fending off Kred or is it endangering its service by introducing “New Klout” – what do you think?

[I will discuss my thoughts and your ideas in my next post…]

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Crowdsourcing a New Marketing Course: Social Slam Presentation

From 2012 Social Slam in Knoxville, TN

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3 Quick Lessons from Bernie, Jon, and Russell

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!

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ROI – Misleading title, great read!

Mark Schaefer’s new book, Return on Influence or ROI, is an interesting and very readable overview of Klout, the rise of Klout, and its importance going forward. I recommend it to all avid tweeters and students of social media: Return On Influence: The Revolutionary Power of Klout, Social Scoring, and Influence Marketing

Despite its title, ROI is NOT a discussion of metrics for social media marketing or the return on investment from SMM efforts. Klout has gained such clout over the individuals tweeting and posting that it merits this book length treatment. I worry from the tone that Mark has bought into the Klout Kool-Aid: However the book is even-handed in its treatment of the issues.

Read the Tao of Twitter first if you haven’t: The Tao of Twitter: Changing your life and business 140 characters at a time

Continue reading

Posted in Social Media Marketing, Uncategorized | 1 Comment


I have started a second WordPress blog, .

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…

Consider subscribing to the new blog as well! – Gary

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Top threats to the Internet and SM!

I believe that the two biggest threats to the wide open Web and social media as we know it are the potential dominance of:

  1. Facebook as a social media platform and
  2. Klout as an SM-rater.

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 (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:

  • More frequent postings,
  • Hot topics (“what if Justin #Bieber and Lady #Gaga hooked-up?”)
  • Following people with high scores, and
  • Only following back half of followers.

Does that sound like a social world? See this article, also from Forbes: How Do You Like Being Publicly Scored?

Do you agree that these are THE two big threats?

[A couple earlier articles of mine on Klout: Why Klout is dangerous; Will Klout Kill Community? ]

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Community-sourcing a new course!

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???


(The current full outline is in the following post)

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The imperfect Social Media Marketing course

When I was soliciting ideas for the new course I used the title “The Perfect Social Media Marketing course”. Now that we are a couple weeks into it, I already am thinking of changes for the fall, so the following is the detailed outline of my imperfect social media marketing course…

Social Media Marketing – Spring 2012

Objective – The objective of SMM class is for each student to understand and apply: the principles of social media marketing, the use of the key social media platforms by organizations, how SMM differs from standard marketing and internet marketing, key issues and changes in social media, and to demonstrate the capability to use social media to support the mission of a professional, business or non-profit organization.

Social Media Marketing is not Internet Marketing. In internet marketing promotional tools such as direct selling, coupons, advertisements are brought online and established success measures include SEO, click-throughs, etc. Social Media Marketing is really social networking online: reaching out and advancing real relationships with customers, prospects, and stakeholders. Promotional tools used in SMM can be jarring and counter-productive if not used carefully.

The “big four” SM platforms for professional SMM (per @michellegolden) are:

  1.  Facebook [And FB fan pages]
  2. Blogs
  3. Twitter
  4. YouTube
  5. And… LinkedIn for anyone interested in networking or B2B or professional advancement…

 Reading: This is a rapidly changing field with many questions and few answers. There is a lot of reading including books, blogs and articles.

Books: We will use 4 interesting business-oriented paperbacks.

  • Tao of Twitter by Mark Schaefer and
  • Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk

are easy reads and should be read quickly as they will be discussed in the first two weeks. These two books are key to project 1 – your passion. Mr. Schaefer will address our class via Skype in one of our first four class meetings.

  • Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day (Dave Evans) and
  • The New Rules of Marketing and PR (David Meerman Scott)

are available in the bookstore or can be purchased through Amazon or a bookstore. I urge every student to get a copy of An Hour a Day; you can share the Scott book if you wish, but must keep up in reading.

Recommended books  include: Engage (Solis), Likeable Social Media (Kerpen), Social Media ROI (Blanchard)

Websites: I hope you follow many websites and blogs. These should definitely be included for this class:

Articles: As assigned by instructor

Class Projects: Projects are the focus of Social Media Marketing class. The instructor will post sheets with more detailed information about each project

  1. Personal Campaign – each student designs + executes a social media campaign for a personal “passion.”
  2. Turn an author into a best seller – each group will generate ideas and a SMM plan for a new book author.
  3. Organizational SMM – each group will generate ideas and an SMM plan for an organization.

Student Content: There is so much to understand and so much changing that no one person…but the each group will help with two videocasts for the entire class to view.

Student reports – each group will create a video-cast for the class on one of these topics:

  1.  Presenting pictures: Flickr and its competitors
  2. Blogging on WordPress, BogSpot or Tumblr; video-blogging
  3. SMM on singles sites: OKCupid, Casual Kiss, Plenty of Fish
  4. Google+, What’s happening, what’s coming…
  5. Promoting blog content: StumbleUpon, DIGG, Technorati, Delicious, etc. & Syndicating a blog – B2Community, Triberr, etc.
  6. Influence measures: PeerIndex, Tweet Grader, Klout, etc.
  7. Video – winning on YouTube, vimeo, blogs – merits of platforms and techniques
  8. Internal social media – Yammer, Ning, etc.
  9. SM ads (FB, Linkedin, etc.) and compare to Google Ads.
  10. Guerrilla marketing for small businesses with social media
  11. Forecasting with social media

Best practices – Contrasting a good and bad organizational social media effort – video-cast from each group.

Course Topics Outline

  1. Types of social media: blogs, microblogs, networking, media sharing, special interest
  2. The “Big Five” – Facebook (& Fan Page), Blog, Twitter, YouTube… and Linkedin
    1. Other SM platforms –Flickr, Google+, Tmblr, Digg, etc. Other important social media and benefits (presentations by students

    3.  Word of mouth marketing and theory
    4. Niche marketing: the long tail
    5. Engagement: Building a community
    6. Creating CONTENT

    1. Social issues in online communities

Organizational Application of social media

  1. Traditional vs. new media; organic vs. amplified word of mouth
    1. Networking – what it means and how it is done; Networking vs. Marketing: conflicts and synergy
  2. Brand narrative, storytelling, and brand community
  3. Innovation: Wikinomics, lead users, and crowdsourcing
    1. Co-creation and prosumers
    2. Netnography and SM customer research
    3. Forecasting with social media data
  4. SMM for intra-organizational communication & collaboration (& supply/distr chain)
  5. Mobile Marketing and location-based social media
  6. Successful and unsuccessful firm use of SMM
  7. Organizational Applications of SMM: Setting organizational goals and tracking them. Measures / metrics of influence –
    1. Google Analytics, Klout, etc. What do they measure? Do they really matter?
    2. ROI of social media efforts.
  8. Selling, service and social media – Leads, pipeline, customer service and CRM
  9. Developing an organizational social media plan – Integrated marketing, C-S, internal
    1. Integrated with organizational Marketing and Strategy


  1. Engagement and creating content: Blogging and Micro-blogging
  2. Creating a great Fan Page
  3. Mobile marketing and Location-based SMM
  4. Determining ROI of social media
  5. Benefits of Social media clubs and groups
  6. Video-pods and presentations
  7. Using video
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Groups kill ideas… especially the good ones!

A good NY Times article provides further support to my research on group ideation and groupthink. There is a benefit to solitude:

When it comes to ideas, especially CREATIVE ideas: Groups Kill!

See my previous post:

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Help: The Perfect Social Media Marketing Course

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).

Course Topics

  1. Types of social media: blogs, micro-blogs, networking, media sharing, special interest
  2. The “Big Four” – Facebook Fan Page, Blog, Twitter, YouTube, (and Linkedin)
    1. Other SM platforms – YouTube, Flickr, Google+, Tmblr, etc. Other important social media and benefits (presentations by students)
  1. Word of mouth marketing and theory
  2. Niche marketing: the long tail
  3. Engagement: Building a community
  4. Creating Content
    1. Social issues in online communities

Organizational Application of social media

  1. Traditional vs. new media; organic vs. amplified word of mouth
  2. Innovation: Wikinomics, lead users, and crowdsourcing
    1. Co-creation and prosumers
    2. Netnography and SM customer research
  3. Brand narrative, storytelling, and brand community
  4. Networking – what it means and how it is done; Networking vs. Marketing: conflicts and synergy
  5. Mobile marketing and location-based social media
  6. Successful and unsuccessful firm use of SMM
  7. Organizational Applications of SMM: Setting organizational goals and tracking them. Measures / metrics of influence – Google Analytics, Klout, etc. What do they really measure? Do they really matter? ROI of social media efforts.
  8. Developing an organizational social media plan


  1. Engagement and creating content
  2. Creating a great Fan Page
  3. Mobile marketing and Location-based SMM
  4. Determining ROI of social media
  5. Benefits of Social media clubs and groups
  6. Video-pods and presentations
  7. Using video 

Student reports

  1.  Presenting pictures: Flickr and its competitors
  2. Micro-blogging: Tumblr
  3. FB competitors: Google+, Ning, MySpace (emphasis on G+)
  4. Location-based: Foursquare and its competitors
  5. Promoting content: StumbleUpon, DIGG, Technorati, Delicious, etc.
  6. Influence measures: PeerIndex, Tweet Grader, Klout, etc.
  7. Video tricks – winning on YouTube

Please post suggestions here or at the FB fan page:

Happy 2012 to all!

An earlier post that generated “crowdsourcing” help for the course design is here:

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Real Innovators Ship: Innovation versus Invention

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

Posted in entrepreneurship | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Innovation in Higher Ed: Who is the customer?

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:

  1. The organizations were not “user-centric” – they were instead “doctor-centric”,
  2. Both had distinct “silos” and difficulty with cross-departmental cooperation and innovation, and
  3. Government and third-party payers.

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:

For how student evaluations taught a professor not to enforce the honor code: 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?

Posted in Innovation education, NSD Process, Process Innovation | Tagged , | 14 Comments

Why Klout is dangerous

I have posted two previous articles here and one at SMM Magazine on the Klout menace. Mark Schaefer has recently posted a number of warnings on his excellent blog, Grow. But I think the topic deserves another visit.

Mechanically measuring someone’s influence using an algorithm is going to be imprecise and quirky. Does anyone really believe that Justin Bieber is the most influential living being? or even the most influential online American?

I check my ratings on PeerIndex, Klout and TweetGrader and my rank on SMM marketing professors list, but don’t get distraught when I have slipped a point or another highly followed marketing professor has emerged. It is kind of fun to see how I and my online friends are rated and ranked.

What is the problem?

I am not looking for a job, selling my consulting services, desperate for a free giveaway or in need of approval. But others on twitter are. Recent WSJ and NY Times articles have shown that job hunters were screened by influence scores and some have begun putting them on resumes! Hiring decisions have been based on scores. Companies have offered previews or free goods or services to “high influencers.”

Klout is preying on these trends as it tries to make its site more “social.” Special offers for tweeters with are highlighted. And everyone can award 5 +Ks a day. For now the +Ks don’t mean anything in the Klout rankings but they give us a chance to pat each other on the back (FollowerFriday every day!) and keep us coming to the site. Watching the site daily we should get caught up in the trend of our score and worry about it. [I confess that I now visit the site more often…] Increased focus on influence measures matters since:

  • Measuring an activity changes it.
  • People will try to behave to the measure.
  • Many will cheat. (See Atlanta Public Schools)

In some of his recent columns Mark Schaefer has reported the despicable ethics in SEO: How long till they spread to SM influence? How long till a large number of tweeters decide:

  • To follow or follow-back based on solely on influence scores,
  • To increase frequency of their posts significantly
  • Choose post content based on RT rates, and
  • Hire fake re-tweeters?

Twitter will be a different environment!

What can we do?

Some actions to help save SM include:

  1. Don’t focus on our Klout score
  2. If we refer to influence scores refer to two or three measures instead of just one.
  3. Try to remain true to our interests and relationships on twitter.

Other posts see:

Will Klout kill twitter?: from me
Klout: An Infographic from @markwschaefer
Social media slut from @markwschaefer
Will Klout Kill Community? SMM Magazine
Big fat Klout scores via @markwschaefer
Posted in Social Media Marketing | Tagged , , , | 25 Comments

Group Brainstorming is fun… but kills good ideas!

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):

  1. Produce significantly fewer ideas
  2. Generate ideas of lower average quality
  3. Produce fewer of the very best ideas, and
  4. In addition, groups are not effective at evaluating or ranking generated ideas.

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 ]

Posted in Customer Research Methods | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

How to serve Customers

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:               

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Top 9 Clues that you MAY have followed the wrong tweeter

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:

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!

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.

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?:

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.

Continue reading

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Entrepreneurship and Marketing

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

2011 symposium:

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Just Do It!

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.

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Pioneers get arrows in their backs…

Apple’s great timing

Two recent articles have heralded Steven Jobs’ excellent timing of innovation:

  • David Aaker’s article on his blog asked “Why wasn’t the iPod a Sony brand?”: As David relates, Sony had launched two digit players two years earlier, but the technology was not yet right. Apple waited then launched when affordable flash memory was available. Article: WhyNotSony
  • “How Apple Foot-Dragged to Victory” by HOLMAN W. JENKINS, JR. (WSJ), notes that: “Mr. Jobs’s slowness is the key to Apple’s success. His focus on the device, his emphasis on perfecting the user experience, meant holding back, not overreaching. The iPod would only be a music player. The iPhone and iPad would be Web-browsing devices that wouldn’t play most of the video on the Web… And notice that each of these device categories had been around for five or 10 years by the time Apple entered (clobbered) them.”

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:

  • Probe-and-learn
  • Experimentation or rapid prototyping
  • Lean Startups
  • Effectuation
  • Agile development

Strongly recommended:

Book by Tellis and Golder: Will & Vision: How Latecomers Grow to Dominate Markets

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Reflections on two years of tweeting

Actually it was two years in March, but I sometimes procrastinate a bit…

I had two purposes when I signed up for twitter: (1) to promote my year-old blog and (2) to try to understand the twitter phenomenon. My first tweets were classic newbie tweets – “trying to figure out what this is all about” and “read my blog at “. I was slow to figure out what it was about, but benefitted from early connections to people like @waynemarr, @kenthuffman, and @markwschaefer who tried to explain it to me.

I connected to marketing professors and consultants. Kent’s list of “top marketing professors” inspired me to continue to connect with people so I could make his list which had a cutoff of 500 followers. The habit of seeking out interesting tweeters and then looking at who they followed and who twitter said was like them, caused my numbers to grow.

From Broadcasting to Social Engagement

But the most important discovery was from @markwschaefer and a new tweeter who I originally helped a bit, @ckburgess, who showed this “broadcaster” that twitter was actually a social media. Why not converse on twitter? Virtual friends can become real friends… I have made friends and linked to really interesting people as I began to interact not just broadcast.

My initial objectives were met: blog viewings went from 10/day to 50 or more with over 100 subscribers and many more comments and tweets from the site. One article was recently viewed by over 1000 persons in 3 days and tweeting almost 200 times. I think I now also have some idea of twitter’s potential.

Virtual world spills into the real world!

The coolest discoveries were benefits to my real world life: when I decided to enter a last minute grant proposal for a social media marketing course a couple tweets and a blog posting resulted in a lead user community to co-create the proposal.

Just a few weeks later I needed a proposal for a conference presentation and in 48 hours combined a couple blog articles into a conference paper!

My online efforts are now spilling over into my daily life! For a more thorough review of twitter see my earlier post on Mark’s excellent book, The Tao of Twitter.

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Computers in the classroom: no surfin’

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!

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Is “Lean Startups” a misnomer?

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

  1. Thought pioneers should receive proper credit. But more importantly…
  2. The experimental iterative has been known in the product development literature for over 20 years, so it should be a robust theory.
  3. The process originally emerged in studies of discontinuous hardware, so the principles should apply universally, not just to web-based businesses or software.

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:

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Crush It! A Review

My review of Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk:

YouTube link:

Amazon link: Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion

Feel free to buy, borrow or steal the book anywhere! Using the Amazon link above merely abets my Amazon addiction…

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Before “Lean Startups” there was “Probe and Learn”

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:

  • Build a “minimum viable product” to take to market as a controlled experiment
  • Measure results
  • Learn
  • Iterate with followup experiments

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:

  • Probe – bring an “immature” product to market as a controlled experiment
  • [carefully study the market results]
  • Learn
  • Iterate with new experiments 

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:

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Social Media Strategies for Professionals

My review of Social Media Strategies for Professionals and their Firms by Michelle Golden:

YouTube link:

Amazon: Social Media Strategies for Professionals and Their Firms: The Guide to Establishing Credibility and Accelerating Relationships (Wiley Professional Advisory)

Feel free to buy, borrow or steal the book anywhere! Using the Amazon link above merely abets my Amazon addiction…

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Book Review: The Tao of Twitter

My review of The Tao of Twitter by Mark W Schaefer:

YouTube link:

To order from Amazon:

The Tao of Twitter: Changing your life and business 140 characters at a time

Feel free to buy, borrow or steal the book anywhere! Using the Amazon link above merely abets my Amazon addiction…

(Thanks to my twitter and other SM “friends” who gently pointed out to me that 5 minutes is too #$@% long for a video review!)

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Social Media and User Research Methods

Social media and online communities of users are increasing and changing user input into new product and service development. We are all familiar with crowdsourcing and monitoring of user input online.

If you haven’t already, consider reading my feature article in the current issue of Social Media Marketing Magazine: In that article I used a deep knowledge / engagement framework to categorize user research methods.

Getting at deep (or “sticky” or “contextual”) user information is the motivation of such research methods as ethnography and voice-of-the-customer.

Engagement is another dimension that draws users to tap their own creativity to improve the product or service. Examples of methods that both access deep knowledge and engage the users would be crowsourcing, open-source software development and the lead user method of Eric Von Hippel. The following diagram shows is my effort to map user research methods by deep knowledge / engagement AND show how social media is already having an impact.

Continue reading

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