If You Force Me to Change, I’ll Fight You

May 28, 2009

newspapersWe have seen it time and again in business and in society as a whole.  If you force someone to change their behavior for whatever reason, they will fight back.  They will resist what does not come naturally, and they will hate you for pushing this change on them.  Lots of them will simply look for a new alternative that will allow them to keep up the status quo.

Governments can force corporations to change
the way they act by enforcing new laws and taxes and business activities.  And those businesses that can afford to do so, will fight back.

Companies can force consumers to change by reinventing a product or service that we have come to know.  Many times customers will fight the change, because it is new, and look for any way to get the products that they are already used to.

Companies can force their competitors to change
by shifting the way their industry behaves or creating a new model for success.  And those business that find themselves behind struggle to turn things around.  They fight the innovators, claiming that they are cheating or that they’re wrong.  They fight with politicians to get some protection.  And they fight with their own customers to avoid losing them (see if that makes sense).

Enter the printing industry in all their luster.  Enter newspapers and magazines and major publishers.  Enter paid content providers.

We are in the midst of a content revolution.  Advertising markets are down everywhere you look.  Major media companies that have relied on newspaper and magazine circulation to thrive are losing money in a hurry.  People don’t want to pay for their information, and advertisers don’t want to pay not to be seen anymore.

Too many online content providers are succeeding in a free model system.  The issue is that the publications that have been around and successful for so long as pay services don’t know how to react.  So most of them fight the change.  They ask the government for help.  They ask consumers to make difficult choices.  And they spend all day firing back at those free content providers that have made it work.

Publishers are being forced to change, and because of that, they are fighting that change.  It’s time to rethink distribution, rethink salaried reporters, rethink free vs. paid models, and rethink consumer behavior.

I can get free information on technology and small businesses via TechCrunch, on business and investing via Bloomberg, on the law via Above the Law.  They have made free information work by making money on other ventures or in other ways.  They are valuable to me, more valuable to advertisers, and they are winning.

Change has come.

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A Case of the Mondays

May 11, 2009

office-spaceA surefire way to bogged down by routines is to come in every Monday morning after a nice relaxing weekend and do the exact same thing you always do.

Most people use the better part of Monday before noon to clear their inbox of all the emails that have accumulated over the weekend, update yourself on the to-do list you carried over from last week, and catch up on some work that you left over from Friday.  And before you know it, you are moving through your week the same way you do every week.  And even though this is what feels comfortable and efficient, it will never create the need or desire to create or innovate.

So here is a thought.  In order for your business to thrive and grow, you need to be thinking outside the box.  To help spur new thoughts and creative vision, you need to do something different.  Use Mondays as routine busters, because if you take the time to throw yourself off a bit, then your mind will have more freedom to roam and create.

Take your breakfast at a place you’ve never been before.  Stay away from the computer.  Read a magazine article.  Take a pad and a pen and just start making lists.

Keep your mind active, but also free to wander. Take a walk, listen to music, keep your distance from work.  If you have the ability to stay out of the office, this is the time to do it, though you can certainly do these things at the office as well.

I know that eventually you have to get to your emails, you have to finish those boring, endless tasks that you’ve been chipping away at, but there is plenty of time for that as you move through the week.  A little time to think on a Monday morning can be just the medicine you need to help avoid the weekly routines and help you concentrate on the big picture.

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Carpooling Service…from an Oil Company?

May 1, 2009

carpool_sign_500The good people over at Springwise continue to point out some of the most innovative startups competing for your attention, and today, they had one that really caught my eye.

“In March 2009, Galp Energia launched Galpshare, a carpooling platform where commuters can create a profile, specify their daily route and find others heading the same way. Users can also list their musical preferences and interests (politics, sport, business, etc.), helping them find people they’d enjoy sharing a ride with.”

The most interesting thing to note here is that Galp Energia is the largest oil company in Portugal.  It’s strange to think of an Oil company as part of the solution for energy efficiency.

I commend them for stepping up to the plate and designing a service that is forward thinking and helpful.  A quick look at the website and you can tell that it is still relatively new, but there are a number of members.  The free site could obtain some significant advertisers as the network starts to grow.  It is the perfect example of a company innovating outside the boundaries of their current business model to position themselves in a new market and become more sustainable.

Hopefully this is more than just a PR ploy to gain some friendly attention, and they are in this for the long haul.  Maybe other companies in a similar situation will start to take notice and deploy similar business strategies.

As more companies see the value in becoming environmentally conscious, we will see a growth in the “green economy” that will help society as a whole.

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Earth Day Message: Businesses Need to do More

April 22, 2009

earth-transparent1April 22, 2009 is Earth Day. This is a day when we all should remind ourselves that innovation is not only about making more money and helping more people, but truly about thinking outside the box and creating newer, forward moving strategies.  Going green and helping the environment in business is a great way to kick off your innovation discussions this year.

To help get you started, here are a few blogs that focus on Green Business practices that should inspire you to change the way you think about the environment.  This will show you that there are a lot of businesses out there that are starting to do the right thing, but so many more have to join them in order to make a difference.

http://www.greenbiz.com/
GreenBiz is a great resource.  Reading this blog on a daily basis will show you what companies, large and small, are changing to put themselves in a better position to help the environment.  Included are stories on innovative new business practices, “green” jobs, and energy and climate data.

http://www.futureofbusiness.info/
Future of Business is a blog which features some fantastic videos and interviews with professionals in the green business landscape.  It is a great place to find out what we can look forward to in the area of environmental innovation, and what companies are planning on doing to go green in their business ventures.

http://www.cleantechblog.com/
The Clean Tech Blog is a good source of information related more specifically to alternative energy and clean technology innovation.  With posts ranging from Government policies to international updates, this blog gives you a good mix of important information when thinking green.

http://got2begreen.com/Got 2 Be Green is a very interesting green blog that I was referred to by a friend.  I have been an avid reader for quite some time.  They offer everything from lifestyle advice to charity features to green events that are coming up all around the world.  I recommend that anyone interested in the spread of the environmentally friendly lifestyle check out this site.

And finally, a little self promotion.  I am the main contributor to a legal blog called The Legal Beat over at http://www.lawline.com/blog.  We have put together a series on Going Green for Lawyers, with a focus on a more environmentally friendly legal community.  We offer various tips for lawyers and law firms to implement in their day to day practice of law.

The world is changing, and that means you have to change with it.  Businesses have a moral responsibility to help move us forward as a people.  You can start by helping the environment one day at a time.

Happy Earth Day!

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Dear Facebook: Don’t Listen to Us(ers)

March 23, 2009

markzA big deal is currently being made about the recent redesign of Facebook.  You can read about it anywhere, see it in a new Facebook poll, or check it out for yourself.  It’s the same old story from the same people about the same problems, blah, blah, blah.

In the most recent round of design changes, Facebook changed the Homepage, made company pages more like profile pages, and made some minor font and layout changes on the profiles.  All of these changes were announced ahead of time, and users were updated as the changes came closer.  And then it happened, the changes took effect, and people got angry.

This is nothing new in Mark Zuckerberg’s world. In fact, nearly every time Facebook has changed something about the website they have encountered a backlash from their own community.  And when you serve as many people as the most popular social network does, you would almost expect it.

The crazy thing is, the backlash is usually followed by an explanation from Zuckerberg himself, but no real change (or a very small one), never going back to the way things were before the change.  And what happens to the people who hated the changes?  They just accept things the way they are.  Why? Basically because they are already so hooked as a Facebook user that they will shut their mouths and continue to use the network anyway.

I have a feeling Mark Zuckerberg knows this, and he uses it to his advantage.  Whereas other companies who may shake things up when this many users complain about a new program or design, Facebook seems to be sitting back and waiting for the latest round of craziness to pass.  And I think that is exactly what they should be doing.

Remember when Facebook changed their homepage the first time, adding the news feed that everyone is talking about.  For the first time as users, we were privy to a constant stream of updates from all of our friends.  Remember the backlash that created among the community.  What happened?  People threatened to leave Facebook forever, Mark Zuckerberg issued an apology for springing this on us without telling us before hand, updated a few privacy features, and left the news feed exactly as it was.  Those who fought back against it eventually stopped talking, accepted the change, and moved on.

This is will no doubt happen again with this design change.

In addition, this round of changes increases the value that Facebook has to corporate members and paid sponsors.  By updating these pages and feeding them into the profile-like stream, they allow companies to connect with more people on the network, increasing the chances of Facebook finding new and successful business models.

So when I say that Zuckerberg, and the rest of the team at Facebook, should not listen to the naysayers on this one, I mean it.  Just keep doing what you are doing, focus on improving the service and finding a monetization strategy (one that works), and let us complain all day.

I know this might sound odd coming from someone who discusses the need for companies to listen to their customers to drive forward moving and successful change.  And I also know that many people will disagree with this.  But the point is, Facebook is in a different league.  They are not defined by what their users think because their users have already shown how fickle they are.  No one is going to leave the network because of these design changes, Facebook will not lose any money, and truthfully, the service is not worse.  Sorry guys, Facebook wins.

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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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