Innovative Business Masterminds

November 25, 2008

inovasi_4When you’re ready to stop talking innovation, and start doing it…

IBM basically stole their tagline from my blog, but I’m not complaining.  They could have thrown a little credit my way, but I don’t expect it.  Why this blog is not part of IBM’s group of blogs is beyond me.

Innovative Business Masterminds.  It’s not what IBM stands for, but it might as well be.  And by masterminds, I mean both the actual machines that they produce, but also the systems they have in place, and the people behind the scenes.  IBM is a brilliant company that supports the success and development of many other companies.  As they rise, we rise.

Between the research that they do, the computer systems and data technology that they produce, and the corporate technology consulting business, IBM has long established their place in the world economy.  And now, IBM is taking action in an area that is of interest to me.

Project Blue Spruce is a new collaboration platform that IBM is currently working on as part of a move into online collaboration and social networking.  The goal is to set up an easy to use platform for anyone to meet and collaborate online.  Differing from existing web based platforms, this will be a completely shared environment that you can access with a server and a browser.  You’ll be able to download and share all tools and capabilities associated with the space, and work with people anywhere in the world.

This fits in with their plan to develop social networking tools for business that they announced earlier this year.  This shift is one that is both necessary, and brilliant.  IBM will originally use their social network developments to interact within the company, their partners, and their customers.  This will give them a real life testing agent, as well as help them collaborate to make new systems more useful and intuitive.

I am a huge proponent of collaborative work.  In my opinion, working with others is the best way to develop truly innovative and new ideas.  And social media has taken us into an era where online collaboration is easier than ever before.  As internet access continues to open up to the masses, and physical distance becomes irrelevant, technologies like this will allow us to do anything we want to do.  The future is one of mass innovation, collaboration, and change.  And IBM is helping to take us there.

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2 Emails Worth Mentioning

November 20, 2008

In the past week I have received two emails that I feel are worthy of a mention on a blog about Innovation. Both were from people I do not know, have never met, have never talked with online, and most likely will never talk with in my lifetime.

The first was from Steve Gentile at Think Tank NYC, and he probably had no idea that he was emailing me. You see, Steve decided to leave a social networking group that we were both a part of called Sta.rtUp.Biz. In deciding to leave, Steve emailed all the members of the website explaining his reasons for leaving, and also saying that he is interested in communicating with any of us who would still like to remain in contact with him.

This email stands out for two reasons. The first, is a direct shot at Sta.rtUp.Biz. We are in a world where everything you do can and will be used against you, online. And word travels fast. When you market yourself as a social networking site for entrepreneurs, where we can enjoy the freedom of idea creation, open discussion, and useful information to start our business, you better follow through with that. Now I don’t know if it was the creators or the members who transformed this site into what it is now, but Steve is blaming the creators. “A fool’s game of mindless invitations and posts delivered with the purpose of point building without substance, and not networking or provoking deeper thoughts”, is how he described it in the email. That got my attention, and I am sure many others’, and will hurt the website’s credibility.

Two, this is a semi-ingenious move on Steve’s part to get some attention. As an entrepreneur, what better way to promote without promoting. Take something you are going to do anyway and send an email about it that gets in the heads of people that you may want to work with. I don’t know Steve, but I emailed him with interest after receiving that blast.

The second was from John Podesta. John is the co-Chair of the Obama/Biden Transition Team, and apparently the one in charge of sending out the emails (or at least the name that someone else puts on their emails). I got this email because I had signed up at the new website of the Obama Administration, Change.gov. I encourage all those who have never seen it to check it out. It is still quite bare right now, but very promising.

It is interesting to think about a presidency that will be more in touch with the people. Even if this is all an act, which I don’t think that it is, it’s still a strong step. A president who devotes time to including people and getting involved in online communication, what a concept. Well, we already saw how well they used this sort of internet grassroots promotion in the campaign, now we get to see if they follow through with it during the next 4-8 years.

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Chief Innovation Officer

November 17, 2008

innovation-venn-1According to Wikipedia, innovation is a new way of doing something. Successful companies invent a new way of doing something, then package it, and sell it. Innovation is business. Success is a direct result of innovations on all levels. So it is no surprise that a new executive position is popping up within many large organizations these days, the Chief Innovation Officer.

Job descriptions may vary, but for a CIO, idea generation will always be king. Real innovators know that there is never a shortage of ideas. That is just the way some people’s brains work, constantly thinking of new ways to do things. Those are the people that can rise to the duties of CIO, and lead corporations to the next level.

This job position has become more and more popular over the past year and a half. Companies like Citigroup, Coca-Cola, Apple, Google, and Toyota all list this position among their list of executives in the organization. You can even attend various workshops and seminars to learn what you need to know to fill this role. Some of the things you will learn: fostering an innovative corporate culture, establishing innovation processes, building idea teams, etc.

In 2006, the University of Colorado became the first university to offer degrees in innovation with its Bachelor of Innovation program. I am sure there are fresh young minds out there being groomed for these positions right now.

In my opinion, a CIO can go a long way to helping a company go from good to great. The key is hiring the right person for the job, and then giving them the space and freedom to define the role for themselves. The innovation department is a place where ideas go to develop and people go to learn. It can be an extension of R&D, with a little technology and marketing thrown in the mix.

A lot of the qualities that I would look for in a Chief Innovation Officer are those qualities shared by entrepreneurs. He or she needs to be able to come up with ideas, strategize, and put it into action. They need to be able to see things through from start to finish, and then they need to be able to pass it on to others within the organization to run it while they create the next great idea. A good CIO should own their position, and be able to develop and put into action a few big ideas every quarter. With this type of constant growth, good companies will never be stagnant or hesitant, and it will keep things moving in the right direction.

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Mobile Battles, Monetization of the Social Web, and Risk Taking

November 14, 2008

Economists and writers are still stuck in the bad news area. And why shouldn’t they be? Look at the stats that keep rolling in. They are not good.

But here’s something to think about. As more and more of the traditional companies that dominated the old economy (pre-internet) struggle and go under, the new economy companies are finding new ways to develop. In fact, this whole meltdown could in fact be the final transition between the old and new economy, where new technologies win out over dried up 20th century business.

Michael Baxter points out that risk taking has been the thing that has led to many of the great innovations of91052290-ce47-36c5-6628f34fc51e972c_1 the past. Companies, scientists, economists, advertisers all took risks, made mistakes, and stumbled upon the next great idea or invention. And those “inventions” carried us to the next level. New companies form, old companies die, but the economy as a while continues to move forward.

But in this economy, it seems that all of those companies are scared for their lives. And because they are so scared, they seem to be pulling out the risk taking business. In an effort to save cash, they cut marketing, they cut R&D, and they cut people. I have said it before, but it bears repeating, the companies that will succeed are those that find the opportunities in this mess and exploit them.

blackberry_2_430So who is taking advantage? Look at the Technology sector, look at the web. Social Media seems to be moving forward at the speed of light, and looking for the right way to make money and develop into valuable commodities. Youtube and other online video platforms continue to experiment with advertisements and partnerships to find revenue. The more people that watch videos online, the more traditional marketers try to enter the market, the more important a revenue stream will become.

Social Networks are starting to see the dollar signs. A week after MySpace announced $1 Billion in ad revenue, Open Social discussed how they will monetize their applications. The valuations of companies that connect people online used to be based on the idea of monetization, and now we are seeing the first real signs of those possibilities in action.

And let’s not forget about the Mobile Web. With the popularity of the iPhone as high as ever, here comes Google’s G1, and the new Blackberry Storm. The battle is on to connect more people to the web from a touch-screen phone. This means new opportunities for mobile service providers, platform developers, and third party applications. This is a battle that is sure to be waged for years.iphone_3g

Am I saying that traditional companies are dead in the water, of course not. But I am saying that it is time to wake up and see that online strategies are paying off. Technology is moving forward far faster than any other sector of the economy. They are the ones taking all the risks, and it appears that all the rewards are falling in their direction. So are we on the verge of a major transformation? That is for you to decide.

To here more on this topic and others in business and innovation, you can now sign up for email updates. Happy reading.

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FluTrends from Google: Information Innovation

November 12, 2008

Making big news yesterday was the announcing of Google FluTrends.  The idea is simple: use search trends and data to track the spread of the flu virus throughout the country.

Google has long been able to track everything that people are searching for, and they have used that data to find trends, recommend certain search phrases, and track where their users go for answers.  Most people that use Google may not realize this, but they know a whole lot about you by “watching you search”.  This has brought up privacy concerns for a long time, but the company built on the motto “Don’t be evil” seems to be using this data to help people.

annual_cdc_comparison1

Google FluTrends is one example of an innovative way to use this information for good.  Google can see where their users are searching for things like “flu symptons”, “flu shots”, or anything else flu related.  Now obviously there will be people with the flu that don’t search, and people who search it just for information and not because they have it, but overall this system works well.

Now, even the government is taking interest.  Whereas normal health reporting agencies will notify when and where the flu is most active within 10 days, Google FluTrends can do it almost instantly.  In many ways, it can predict the outbreak, and help health officials prepare.  The goal is to get the vaccination in the hands of those that need it most before things get too bad.

In my opinion, when a company like Google has this type of information, they have a moral responsibility to use it to help people.  And if this new “product” proves useful this flu season, it is an ingenious way to use their power for good.

For more information on projects they are working on at Google, visit www.google.org.


The 3 “S” Formula to Innovative Viral Marketing

November 10, 2008

Remember the days when just having a website was enough to make a name for yourself on the web. The companies that put information online were ahead of the game. No interaction, just text and images, just information and a phone number to call, and you win.

Bad news, those days are long gone. Too many companies don’t get that. They don’t understand what they are doing wrong. “We have a website, it works fine, why isn’t anybody coming to it?”

Nowadays, the market is so crowded when you get online, that you have to put in some real effort to get the attention that you are looking for. Every website is designed for a different reason, but one thing they all have in common is that they are hungry for traffic. How do you get that traffic?

The 3 S’s of viral marketing that I have come up with are very basic ideas that companies and talented individuals have been using to help develop their online brands. You have to Stand Out, Spread the Word, and Serve the Users.

  • Stand Out – These days, different is good. You have to be unique to get noticed. Seth Godin will tell you that if you aim to do everything, you’ll be nothing. Focus on the things you can do best, and do them to the n’th degree. Stick to one message, stick to one service, and make sure people see that.
  • Spread the Word – Viral marketing is all about the spreading of a message, or an idea. If you stand out, people will talk about you. Your job is to make the flow of the conversation easy. Blogs, forums, discussions, wiki’s…these are all ways that people will be talking about you. Interact with them, give users and “journalists” a voice. SEO and search marketing will always help. If you have something unique to say, people will hear it.
  • Serve your Users – You have to give the people what they want. Learn and understand why exactly they are coming to your site. If they come for the latest news in the tech world, give them more of that. Make it fun for them, and don’t waste their time with other things that you think are cool. Listen to them, help them, serve them 100% of the time. They will love you for that.

Kevin Pruett over at www.techsoomer.com will agree that for websites to be “sticky” they have to be well done, serve a simple purpose, and stand out. Use the 3 S’s as a guide to start to reform your online habits. Traffic is not going to find you, go out and make things happen. In the online world, if you are sitting still, you are way behind.


Innovations in Shopping Make Your Life Easier

November 6, 2008

Are you ready to change the way you shop? The answer is yes for more people every year. And this year, we are guaranteed to see a higher percentage of people doing their holiday shopping online than ever before. Why?

Well, there are many reasons. It obviously helps most people avoid the stress of the shopping experience. It is easy, less time consuming, and can be more fun.

Innovations by companies that have taken shopping online are making it easier still to find what you are looking for at the right price. And in this economy, we will all be looking to save a little money during the holiday season. Here are a few things that are going on that more people should be aware of:

  1. Social Shopping: Thisnext.com, Kaboodle.com, and Wists.com are a few of the websites that have defined this new category. Social shopping combines wish lists and popular trends with the ideals of social networking. Users have individual profiles and can communicate with one another. The site tracks what its users desire, feature the most popular products, and offer specials for gift giving. They have been growing in popularity recently and are sure to pick up steam heading into the coming months.
  2. Gift Finders: Websites like FindGift have made it easier than ever to get ideas for gifts. Simply go to the website, and follow the steps. They will ask you who the gift is for, what the occasion is, and then they will show you literally hundreds of great suggestions. These gifts are not offered directly through the site, but through third party sites that would otherwise be near impossible to find. I have personally used this website in the past and would definitely use it again.
  3. Deal Finders: Dealcatcher.com and Shopzilla are two sites that I have used to find the best deals on the web. There are many sites out there like these that will scour the internet for the best prices on certain items. Dealcatcher.com is one of those sites that you can come to every day and find new specials, as they highlight deals and let the users decided which are the best. If you have a general idea of what you are looking for, use one of these sites to get it at the best price.
  4. The Classics: eBay and Amazon have been long standing shopping sites. They both continue to build their services and make it easier to find exactly what you are looking for. eBay allows you to search through their auctions, as well as individual “stores” that people set up so there is no limit to what you can find there. Amazon has added many features that let you customize the products you see on a regular basis. They will show you deals that they think you are interested in, and their user reviews make it easy to compare products you like.

No matter how you do your shopping now, the new tools that are available online will certainly have an impact. This holiday season, change the way you shop, you may be very happy you did.