Fliggo, Obama, and Other Thoughts

February 27, 2009

fliggoAfter reading this article in TechCrunch yesterday, I decided to do a little research on Fliggo.com.  Fliggo allows you to create your own video sharing site, your own YouTube in a way.  I see a lot of potential in their service and started to brainstorm a few ways that this could be used.

It would be a great tool for companies to host online training videos for new hires.  It can be branded and customized, closed or open, and allow for alerts, comments, and ratings.  All company training videos can be posted in the right order, and link to and from training sheets and workbooks.

Consultants could use it to showcase ideas and strategies to potential clients.  Friends and family can use it to share videos and comments in a private space.  Certainly entertainers can create their own dedicated space to draw new fans and entertain their devout followers.  And non-profit organizations and interest groups can use it to build their community and share their message.

There are many more things that Fliggo could be used for, and I expect that if they follow the path of Ning, which did this for social networks, they will successfully launch a paid version.  I myself just created a community at http://innovate.fliggo.com as an extension of this blog.  Please go there, sign up for free, and join. There are no videos up there now but I am working on some ideas for the near future.  Feel free to upload and share your own videos.  Tell the community what you are doing to innovate, or any ideas you might have on the subject.  I look forward to seeing them.

On another note, I found this quite interesting.  It is a breakdown of specific word usage in Presidential speeches, comparing Obama to all past presidents.  The one thing that struck me was that he used the word “entrepreneurs” more than any other president.  In an economy like this, it is important to have a president that not only supports small business creation, but also recognizes the need for small business growth to help the total economic turnaroundWhat stands out to you?

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Does Saying No Hurt Innovation?

February 25, 2009

2035781407_23e1c60febNO. It’s one of the first words we learn, after the occasional “mom”, “dad”, and right in line with “mine”.  It’s a strong word, one that can hurt, offend, and put off.  But does saying no mean that you are not contributing to innovation?

In my mind, the process of innovating in an organization is a mostly positive process.  It takes inspirational leaders, empowered workers, continued discussion, creativity and and constant flow of ideas. Shooting down ideas only hurts the process, because it blocks the way to getting to the right idea.  So, in a sense, when coming up with new strategies, the word “no” may be unnecessary.

But there is another side of innovation.  When companies are struggling to perform at a level of success that they are accustomed to or striving towards, something may be wrong. It may be organizational or administrative, it may be a disconnect between the brand and the consumer, it may be a failing process or product line.  Whatever it is, it takes an innovative focus and strategy to be willing to change something that is not working.  And in that sense, pointing out negatives can be very important.

When an online company is making content too hard to find, saying “our user interface is no good” is important.  When a car company is on the verge of complete failure, saying “we need to get rid of some of these lines” is important.  And when companies are trying to restructure, reorganize, or redevelop certain systems, someone has to have the courage stand up and disagree when necessary.

Not all ideas are good ideas.  Some ideas are too expensive, will take too long, or are just not possible.  Saying the word “no” is a bad way to shoot something down, but we have to be willing to object to things for real innovation to be possible.  If something is not right, say it.  Then we can start the process of fixing it.

Don’t be afraid to disagree.

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Steve Jobs to Take Over at GM

February 23, 2009

gm_chrys_fordIt looks like there is a different reason for Steve Jobs’ leave of absence from Apple than was first reported, a spot at the head of the American Auto Industry.  Not really, but that is the suggestion that a recent open letter to the President brought up.

Posted on TechCrunch, the letter written by Todd Dagres suggests that the one thing that the auto industry needs, along with this bailout, is an innovative leader with the ability to think outside the box.  Someone we should use as a model, Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs has the ability to see the big picture, outside what is being offered to the public.  He has always done right by his employees, his shareholders, and most importantly, his customers.  His innovative spirit has made the companies he leads forward looking, creative, and successful.  And the truth is, we need to be describing the auto industry in the same way.

Here is a short piece from the letter:

“It is time for us to put tax payer money behind an executive capable of transforming the automotive industry. I respectfully submit that neither the current leadership behind these companies nor government officials are the answer. We need entrepreneurs, consumer product savants and creative managers capable of effecting change. We need great leaders who can transform cars into computers rather than horse-less carriages.”

I tend to agree with the thoughts presented in the letter, and as someone who spoke out against the idea of bailing out failed companies, would see this type of solution as a positive step.  We do need to rethink the auto industry, as failed practices continue to hurt the market and foreign car companies continue to outpace us.  Technology has offered solutions that have previously been only figments of our imagination.  From fuel to design, from function to form, things need to change fast to bring these companies back to the head of the field. And who better to lead a technology innovation than a tech genius like Jobs, or anyone else at the cutting edge of technology and Silicon Valley.

I recommend giving the letter a read.  For the full text, click here.  Tell me what you think in the comments area below.  Thank you for the suggestions Mr. Dagres.

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When Will Google Take Over TV

February 20, 2009

googletvThe question is not if Google will make it as the dominant Television Advertising company, but when.  And yes, I know that all those defenders of the old world view will debate me on this one.  To tell you the truth, I am looking forward to it.

For starters, I think that the entire television advertising model is on its way out. We already see the need for alternate sources or means of advertising thanks to the power of technologies like DVR, TiVo, OnDemand, and TV online.  Advertising dollars seem to be going to waste more times than not in the tv world.

Secondly, Google has revolutionized the delivery of ads online by controlling the largest network of advertisers and delivering relevant content in all environments.  They are an advertising company, and they are damn good at it.  So why shouldn’t they try their hand at television?

They already started to look at the possibility.  In fact, they set it up so that through your AdWords account, you can set up a commercial that you produced to be aired on stations and in regions that you like.  Google acts as the media buyer in this case and uses a bidding system to decide how often and when the ads will show.

This is a nice start, but give it time and I think things will change a great deal.  First, the price for ads will go down, with a true bidding system in place, owned and operated by Google (and maybe other likeminded advertising companies).  The networks will have to buy into this new system or risk missing out on the last hope of commercial advertising dollars.  Second, I think ads will start to become more personalized and content relevant, just like they have become online.  This makes commercials easier to deal with for the everyday tv viewer.

I believe that with Google at the helm, ads will be more direct, with ways of tracking success like never before.  Spread out the commercials within the show, with more, shorter breaks, and they become part of the viewing experience again.  I think Google can save TV advertising. Do you agree?

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What do your Customers Want? Ask them

February 19, 2009

pdre042052The days of focus groups, hiring expensive business consultants, conducting mass surveys, and spending countless amounts of money designing and redesigning products that go nowhere are all but over.  We are officially connected. Connected with each other, with other businesses, and with the customer.

Whether you are a small business owner struggling to find more business or a CEO who is comfortable with your current market position, you can always learn from your customers.  Don’t ever let yourself be tricked into thinking that because you know the company so well, you know best what to do next.  Because you don’t.

First, think about who talks to your customers the most.  You have a customer service department that solves their problems, a sales team that helps them answer questions and make a purchase, and maybe a group of brand ambassadors that communicates with potential customers and advocates.  They are all in a better position than you to create real change in the customers’ eyes.

Listen to what they have to say. Create a suggestion box and give them credit (maybe cash) if one of their suggestions gets implemented.  Hold weekly meetings for them to voice their opinions.  Allow them a forum for open communication between various departments.  Create teams to develop these new ideas.

Start a blog that you use to communicate directly to a community of your customers or clients.  Tell them what you are working on, how you are solving their problems, and who you are working with.  And constantly ask for their feedback.  They will be quick to tell you where you are going right and even quicker to tell you where you are going wrong.  But as many companies that have already done this have seen, they will show you where you can improve and thank you for actually making the effort.

Use various social networks to solve problems and open the lines of communicationTwitter accounts can be used for customer service just like JetBlue, Zappos, and Comcast have done.  A Facebook page can be used for idea and strategy discussion.  Make the customers feel like they have a real ownership interest in the company.  They will reward you for it.

Starting today, you won’t have to come up with any new ideas on your own.  All you have to do is implement some or all of the strategies above and let the people do the talking.  Then just sit back and relax, make the decisions as they come, and enjoy a more powerful business; a business supported and backed by a community of evangelists.

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JetBlue Impressions: Good then Bad

February 17, 2009

jetbluepillow2_080408_mn1Back from a short stay in the Dominican Republic and innovation is on my mind.  Of course most of my thoughts are on travel, in general, and how it can be made better/easier/more convenient.  If you missed my post last week on innovative travel service ideas from the road, check it out.

A lot has been said about the struggling airline industry.  And, with a few crashes in the past month, they obviously have some important things to look at.  But they still have yet to really get the business right.  In a recession, people are looking to the companies that help them out.

It was my first time flying JetBlue, and overall I had a very good experience.  Their terminals are big and comfortable and come with many amenities.  The planes are roomier and more comfortable than other airlines that I have flown in the past.  Overall, I see a lot of people praising JetBlue, but they do lose some of us.  Here is where they lost me, or at least their business model lost me.

They advertise special services that you can pay for on the flight.  You can pay $5 for an in flight movie, but they only have 2 choices, and I can’t start and stop it whenever I like.  You can pay $5 for special food or beverages, except they don’t take cash.  And finally, you can pay $7 for a pillow and blanket which they claim is a “State of the art, most comfortable pillow and blanket set ever”.  Are you kidding me?

First of all, thanks to the guy sitting in front of me, I got to see this “magical set” first hand.  Let me tell you this, if you have ever gotten a pillow or blanket on a plane, this was the same or worse.  It was, in no way, more comfortable.  And second of all, the stewardess, along with the advertisement in the brochure, make a big deal out of the fact that you can take it with you when you leave.  Awesome!  I remember when you could take the free ones with you.

A note to all airlines, you’re trying to scam your customers.  I know you operate in a tough industry, but it is one that will always be there.  Air travel is a modern day necessity and it’s not going anywhere.  Figure out how to model your pricing so that you can afford the amenities we want.  Cut down on costs that are dragging you down, perfect the processes that are costing your employees time and money, and get the business back on track.  Some airlines are moving in the right direction, but others are moving backwards.  Wake up.

Readers, take your shot at the airlines that have caused you trouble in the comments section below.

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Innovative Travel Service Ideas on Vacation

February 13, 2009

dominican-republic-natureI find myself thinking about travel right now.  Maybe it’s because, even as this post goes live, I am probably sitting on the beach in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.  But nevertheless, it is an important subject to think about because there a lot of untapped ideas out there.

First, I still believe that the online travel sites leave a lot to be desired. Planning a trip is not as easy as it should be, considering how far we have come in the spread of ideas and access to information.

In college, my roommate and I were planning on starting a social networking site for travelers.  How has this not been done yet?  How have one of the big players in online trip booking not added this feature to their website.  It does not have to be much, just a place where people can record their trip with photos, blogs, etc.  Also have them set a profile with details about what they look for in a trip, destination ideas, a wish list, and travel history.  Allow them to “link up” to other profiles, search information to find photos, blog posts, and travel ideas from other users.

If you put all of this on the same site that we can use to plan a book a trip, it would be much more complete, and much more helpful.  It is what the people want, who is going to give it to us?

Second, in a tough time for the travel industry like this, what can companies that service that industry do to entice travelers?  Are there any hotels that offer better packages when the economy is bad?  Are there open hotel rooms that companies could be giving away dirt cheap to gain customer loyalty and spread brand awareness?  There should be. If you own or operate a business that caters to the travel sector, now is the time to focus on what your customers need, and give it to them, no questions asked.
Third, how can the airlines continue to compete? Airlines are probably some of the most complained about companies out there.  It’s a tough job.  People don’t like the hassle of traveling, the time it takes, the uncomfortable feeling of it all, etc.  Many of the airlines are trying to help out people by eliminating delays, offering cheaper deals, and more locations.

But the companies that are performing the best are concentrating on making people more comfortable. It’s like admitting the act of travel is annoying, but telling them that while they have to go through it, we will make it as pleasant and convenient as possible.  This can be done with things like comfortable waiting areas, better cabin service, wireless connectivity, better food and beverages, etc.

I will leave you to ponder all of that as I enjoy a few relaxing days on the beach.  Add your thoughts here…what are some ways that “travel” could be better?

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