July 30, 2008
Yesterday marked the much anticipated (in the tech world anyway) launch of Cuil.com, a new search engine from a couple of ex-Googlers. In case you missed it, I invite you to go check it out right now. Of course it is very early to tell whether or not Cuil will make any kind of a run at Google’s search market dominance, but initial reports were less then great.
Upon trying the engine out for a short while, I found that the search results were questionable at best. It is clear that their one major claim, that they index many more web pages than Google, is true. However, the search rankings varied on significance, and the alternative layout tends to put me off. But like I said, it is a long road, and we will see if Cuil can pick up the kind of steam they are looking for.
Now I bet you may be asking yourself, why even challenge Google? Well, I have to tip my hat to them. How else can you expect any change to happen if new companies don’t challenge the market leaders? As internet users, we didn’t know we needed Google before the search behemoth came along. And now, it would be pretty hard to see whether or not we need something new. It’s time for the wait and see game, as we find out what kinds of tricks Cuil.com might have up their sleeves.
July 28, 2008
In today’s world, it is people within a company that add the value. Whereas in the past, companies were built around their superior production and manufacturing, now everything depends on people. Ideas come from those people within the company, and that is what drives a company forward.
It is up to the company to empower people at all levels. Ideas can come from anyone, in any position within the organization. The best ideas need to have a way or working through the system and implemented quickly. So the question becomes, how do you reward this type of innovation so that you can encourage your employees to continue to create?
Many companies are trying out new ways of compensation and rewards to help their employees feel like they are valued. A yearly salary used to be all it took, because it made people feel comfortable and secure. But today, that will not work because it will not lead to real growth and development. More direct encouragement is needed to give people a reason to think outside the box. Reward those people that bring the best ideas forward, and let it be known throughout the company that this is how you do business.
In an age where personal branding is just as important as a company’s branding, a little recognition can go a long way. Think about how much more likely it is for someone to come forward with a revolutionary idea if they know they will be given full credit. This will limit turnover, encourage personal and professional development, and lead to a more fulfilling employee/employer relationship.
Ideas must be cultivated. The people with those ideas must be advanced. And systems need to be implemented to allow this to happen seamlessly within an organization. The companies that do this will not only cultivate a better corporate culture, they will draw the best young talent to continue to move the organization forward.
July 23, 2008
The web has paved the way for some of the greatest innovations. We now have new ways of doing things that are unlike anything we have ever seen before. The mail became email, which led the way for chat rooms, instant messaging, online telephone services, and social networks. These are all major things that have developed out of grand ideas and designs.
But not everything has to be so big or daunting. Take a look at Woot.com. What they have done is successfully create a website that gets a huge amount of traffic each and every day by doing something unique. They offer one, and only one, product a day at a discount. The product changes every night at midnight, and a rush of visitors come to check out the deal and see if it’s the one for them.
The traditionalists among us would say, why limit yourself to selling one product? Why not offer a variety of deals and draw in more people, increasing the chance that each visitor will make a purchase? Well, quite simply, that has been done to death. Why compete with Amazon.com when you can create something that much more remarkable? The same people don’t go to Amazon.com on a daily basis. Woot has created something with a very loyal customer base that continues to spread the idea around.
Another example is “The Million Dollar Home Page“. Here is a site that bought an interest-peaking url and sold ads. That’s it. The page is one million pixels, covered in ads, with each pixel costing one dollar – hence the million dollar home page. It’s a simple idea with guaranteed revenue and easily spreadable story. It gets attention.
You don’t have to solve world hunger every time you innovate. Create something unique, no matter how simple, and run with it. The web allows us to do this quickly and easily, at a fraction of the cost. Create something that makes people say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
July 21, 2008
“The citizens of Gotham deserve a new class of criminal, and I’m gonna give it to them,” uttered Heath Ledger (The Joker) just before the final scene of the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight. He makes this comment about the state of the so called bad guys in Gotham being too obsessed with money that they miss the whole villainous point of being evil.
This is not a movie review, nor is it comment on villains. It’s about innovation from another point of view. The batman comic, tv show, and movie series has been a staple of comic lore for decades. But just like any other large “organization” that has been around for some time, the mystique began to fade. People were losing interest as quality began to falter. It was judgement day for the long-standing enterprise. Either innovate, or fall to the wayside.
Along comes co-writer/director Christopher Nolan, with a new vision of the heroic series. He took everything about the famed tale and turned it on its side. He changed the way we thought about heroes and villains. He put the story of batman into a realistic world where good and bad are cloudy and difficult to judge. And in doing so, he revived a dying brand.
When something gets mundane, and people begin to lose interest, something drastic needs to happen. Change can be difficult, but it is the only way to revitalize dying products, services, brands, companies, etc. Christopher Nolan saw that, innovated, and succeeded.
Imagine Batman is a corporation, and Nolan is it’s new CEO. Quite the turnaround. Sometimes you have to change the way you think about a brand to see the opportunities that lay ahead. Open your mind to alternative points of view and let the creativity begin all over again.
July 19, 2008
The mission is a big one. Change the world through innovation. People have responded to this blog and are contributing through words and action. It is a movement that must continue to grow in order to accomplish the greatest things that I can see are possible.
“Be Innovation” was just featured in a guest blog that I wrote for www.toiletpaperentrepreneur.com. The website is for a book by Mike Michalowicz that is due out in September about entrepreneurs that work with limited resources and sheer determination. I invite you to check it out, as it echoes a lot of the same themes that I write about here. And I want to thank Mike for the opportunity to contribute.
As the movement spreads, so too can the spirit within each of us. Never stop innovating.
July 15, 2008
Fire plus gas equals bigger fire. Too often we have heard the phrase “throwing gas on the fire” in a negative sense. When things are going wrong, people tend to try and douse the flames any way they can, often leading to more problems. Hence the phrase, instead of putting out the fires, they are causing them to grow.
However, let’s take a look at this from the other side of the spectrum. When you start a business, or you have an idea, it’s like lighting a match. At first the idea is small, though to you it may be big. No one else can really see it, but you know it has the ability to grow.
Slowly but surely it does start to grow and spread. Your match has started a fire. Now what are you going to do to keep that process going? Throw some gas on it! Throwing gas on the fire is not forcing it to grow, it is helping the process along at a faster rate. Spread the fire by letting the forces of nature act on it.
Too many people and small businesses see that are starting to get the word out or starting to get some attention and get comfortable. You never want to get comfortable. When you are comfortable you sit back and relax, just waiting for the idea to take off. Instead, get excited. Get motivated. Get some gas and throw it over the flames.
How, you ask. Well you can come out with new products to keep customers interested. You can add upgrades and features to get noticed. You can start collecting feedback to get people involved. You can get media exposure to capture new audiences. It doesn’t matter what you are doing as long as you are spreading the fire. Doing nothing smothers the fire. And when that last flame goes out, you’re left in the dark wondering how it all came crashing down when all you had to do was add more gas.
July 15, 2008
Innovation is hard. As a concept, innovation is not something that just happens on its own, hence the whole point of this blog. It becomes even harder for those of us that are not used to and have not been built on innovative principles and experience. Case in point, our government.
The government has never been an institution that has embraced change all too well. They are slow to move, slow to act, and quick to defend the old ways of doing things when presented with change. When presented with a situation in which change is necessary, they don’t know what to do.
One example of this is the current economic conditions. They know that certain things must be done to help the individuals and the companies that have been hurt the worst. The Federal Reserve has arranged buyouts and bailouts for struggling financial institutions. Congress approved a stimulus that put billions of dollars back in the hands of consumers. And now everyone seems to be debating what to do about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Short term fixes and get out of jail free cards will never get at the heart of the problem. These are not solutions because they do not address the underlying issues in the financial institutions. They are just cover ups, like medicine for the common cold. I am not going to sit here and say that I know what to do, but the government needs to take a long hard look at themselves and realize that in this day and age, they need to be able to adapt to change quickly and decisively. No longer can partisan politics keep this country from moving forward. It causes more pain in the end when we hesitate or do nothing than simply taking action.
July 11, 2008
Innovation can come from a number of different situations. Sometimes innovation comes out of necessity: to prevent a company from going out of business or to prevent an industry from losing touch. Sometimes innovation comes out of luck: product development gone wrong or a “just for fun” project goes the distance. And sometimes innovation is a well-planned strategy.
Companies that live on innovation have always found their place in the market. The book, Blue Ocean Strategy, written by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, is excellent read on this subject. Instead of fighting in the red oceans, where bloody competition is the name of the game, Blue Ocean companies create their own uncontested market. They take an existing idea and change it to find a new market.
A company that is built out of this type of strategy is innovating all the way. Built from the ground up on the ideals of innovation, they tend to change the game for many well-established organizations, and open up consumers eyes to greater ideas and expectations. Some great examples they use in the book are Cirque de Solei and Southwest Airlines, two organizations that approached old industries in a new way to capture their own market.
What is your Blue Ocean? Stop cutting prices. Stop the negative ads against your competitors. Find your own market and let innovation guide you to even greater success.
July 10, 2008
The electric car was an incredible innovation…15 years ago! The fact that we don’t have cheap, dependable electric cars on the market today is not because the technology is not available. It is a variety of reasons stemming from consumer demands, government protectionism, and corporate trickery. It is well documented that the technology was there in the 90’s, and the cars were built, and then scrapped. Check out the movie that explains it all.
So why now, in 2008, when Nissan announces that they are working on an electric car for 2011, is it news? Maybe it’s because they are behind the times and they realize that in order to compete they need to make news. Maybe it’s because the media is fickle enough to buy into anything that sounds fancy. Maybe consumers are not smart enough to realize that this could just be a promotional stunt used to get people excited about Nissan.
Whatever it is, it’s not very innovative. Sure, it’s a step in the right direction for a company that has not been at the forefront of the energy talks. But the fact that they announce it as if we should be impressed by their forward thinking offends me. I think electric vehicles are a real solution, but I also think they always have been. Why is it taking so long?
GM built a line of electric cars in the 90’s. Why will it take Nissan three years from now? Battery power is there. Designs are there. Consumers are there. What is everyone in the car industry waiting for?
July 6, 2008
If you think about social networks and other web 2.0 platforms of the time, it is obvious that these websites offer the large majority of their services for free. Web 2.0 technology was born on the idea of “free”. It created a whole new way of looking at business models. Create something for the masses, let them use it for free, then advertise to them as directly as possible.
It also created a whole new way of valuing companies, which continues to amaze people today. Instead of looking at a company’s profitability, we create this image or idea of profitability in the future. We say, “This company has so much information, and is so popular, that there must be a way to make millions.” Facebook, which at this point continues to lose money on a daily basis, is valued around $15 Billion.
What if an established network decided to change the price of their services? What if free was not working out? What if Facebook implemented a $4.95 yearly subscription today? Would people quit using it? Would a competitor take over the market?
It seems that most people you ask would tell you its ridiculous to pay for a social network like Facebook. but that is only because we have been so used to the idea of “free” up until now. With the huge amount of money they could take in from a low subscription rate, the services and opportunities they could offer would be infinite. Maybe it’s time to take a bold step.