Behavioral Innovation

A fantastic talk by Umair Haque, Director of Havas Media Lab on Behavioral innovation and the Great Compression.

He gave this talk at the Brite (Brand Innovation and Technology) Conference.

Umair’s key message was that for business to survive they need to redefine how they treat  innovation. We have a global crisis where the economy underestimates costs and overstates benefits. A company wants to maximize profits by making consumers worse off. Consumers are being sold things they do not need. (e.g. mortgages)

He argues that the value businesses are creating today is inauthentic, brittle and unsustainable.  Many industries today are unable to survive the global crisis.

To get past this we must re-conceive value creation. Value creation is done through innovation.

Innovation is normally addressed with strategic output likes launching better products, shifting from products to services, redesigning value chain, managing resources more efficiently, profit centers etc…. all management innovation.

The problem with this is that it has companies acting strategically and strategic behavior does not spawn the type of innovation we need now. We need innovation that allows a company to reinvent itself yesterday for tomorrow’s challenges.

An example he provided was Google- they think beyond strategy and always have. He compared it to Microsoft where the strategy has made them very rich, but they are unable to grapple with challenge of re-invention required for today’s economy.

He suggests that we move away for strategic behavior (dominance, control, brand, differentiation) and use 5 paths of behavioral innovation to unlock new sources of advantage.

5 paths to Behavior Innovation

Stewardship

  • Is about not exploiting resources to point of depletion.
  • Think about advertising- it has been over done.  The cost to advertise got too high, there were too many ads and now consumers don’t want to see ads anymore. Now the media industry is struggling with reinvention.

Trusteeship

  • Is about the good, always playing on a level playing field.
  • Not manipulating people.

Guardianship

  • Is about the common good.
  • Nobody is looking for the common good when everyone behaving strategically.

Leadership

  • Is about challenge.
  • Having willingness to disrupt yourself.
  • Challenge the status quo in your company and industry.
  • Doing things in a different way.

Partnership

  • Is about outcomes.
  • Focuses on people’s outcomes.
  • Making people better off in some way. (e.g current food industry does not see people as partners- the obesity epidemic).

Definitely worth watching..

Umair Haque at BRITE ’09 conference from BRITE Conference on Vimeo.

We’re not a Family, we are a Pro Sports Team

Netflix’s reference guide to their business values and culture is fantastic.

One slide that resonated with me was slide 27  “We’re not a Family, we are a Pro Sports Team

Growing up I loved playing on sport teams. My favourite team was probably my middle school basketball team.

The school was made up of grade 8, 9 and 10.

Grade 8’s had their own team that almost everyone who wanted to play got to be on it. It was fun, not very competitive, and we were never any good. However, the school varsity team of grade 9s and 10s was a whole other story. They were good, really good and it was cut throat to be on it. You now had twice as many girls vying for the 15 positions and everyone wanted it.

I always knew I wanted to be on this team– it just meant so much to me and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, so I trained, I trained a lot. The summer before grade 9 I played basketball as much as I could. Luckily, I had a basketball hoop at the end of my driveway where I would play my dad or brothers any time they would. I normally lost, but losing was okay as long as I was practicing.

I also went to basketball camp where I spent a week training harder then I ever had before. When I wasn’t  putting band-aids on my blisters, I was running lines, working on on my free throws, learning to do left handed layups and playing game after game.

What kept me going when every bone in my body hurt was the all consuming feeling that I wanted to make the team in September.  I knew I was at a disadvantage because the team the year before had been made up of primarily girls in grade 9, who would probably just float back into their position. This meant there were only a few open spots from the grade 10 girls who had moved onto high school.

This was cut throat, we now had the entire grade 8 team +  the returning grade 9s + anyone else who had failed to make the teams all wanting to play- every tryout was going to count.

Every day after school for 2 weeks we’d meet the coach in the gym where we would be taken through numerous skills tests, pick up games, and 2km time trial runs.

You’d go home every night exhausted with a pit of nerves in your stomach and every morning you walk up to the gym door to see if your name was still on the list.

For a 14 year old this was stress, this was passion.

I made the team and I had never been so excited and proud. Not only was it a testament to hard work and determination, but having gone through such a difficult trial process had set a tone for the team. Everyone wanted to be there and everyone wanted to be successful.

This made the season an incredible experience. We trained hard, we practiced hard, we supported each other, and we loved playing together. There was no room for indifference, apathy, or slackers.

Now back to Netlfix- absolutely, I think a company with a true sports team culture would be incredible. A team made of people with the same passion, commitment, and drive that I experienced  with a group of 14 and 15 years playing basketball.

Netflix Presentation

Culture

View more presentations from reed2001.

Geeks are Creatives too

I was reading an article How to Manage Geeks. A friend sent it to me, probably because I work with a team of developers.

I am not sure how I feel about the word “geek”. As a kid, it was insult, but now it’s a term used widely about amongst the “geek” community to describe themselves. If used appropriately, it’s no longer derogatory. Times they sure have changed!

I don’t consider myself a geek, but I suspect to someone outside of the “IT world”, a product manager building online web applications is a pretty geeky profession! (The truth is that I love my job, so maybe I am a geek…)

Anyway I wasn’t sure what to expect reading the article, whether is was a joke or serious, but it was the real deal- a true “How To” on the dos and don’ts of managing a “geek”.

I am writing about this because one of these “How Tos” really stood out for me- #10 Remember that geeks are creative workers.

I think quite often in website or application development, it’s easily forgotten how much design is required by software engineers to give life to the specification documents and the designs that accompany them.

Whether you are creating something for the first time or extending an existing product- the engineer needs to think about the problem holistically and design a solution that meets the specifications and looks and works like the design while ensuring it’s a solid build with minimal bugs.

Through this design process they also need to feed back to the team any suggestions for revising the specifications or design based on technical constraints or suggestions for improvements.

This technical design phase is critical to the success of any project.

So I do agree- give the “geek” a creative environment to work and allow them the time and freedom to design their software as allowing for this will only result in better products, websites and applications.

Take your ego out of the job

I just read this article on Joel Cohen, a writer and producer from The Simpsons. The article talks about the creative culture and innovation required to keep The Simspons fresh considering they’ve made over 400 episodes now.

What stuck out for me was his comment– “Take your ego out of the job

In innovative and design lead organisations there are often so many smart creative people trying to solve problems that sometimes you’ll find your ideas and concepts being dismissed.

As everyone, we’ve all felt that sting of being shot down when we really thought we were onto something. Sitting in a brainstorming session, spiting out our brilliant idea to only find it being quickly passed over or even worse, slightly considered and then passed over with the next suggestion. Ouch!

Cohen suggests that this happens because “Not every great idea is the right great idea“.

To survive in a creative environment you have to leave your ego at home.  You can not let ego or hurt feelings come into play or you won’t make it. You probably love working with your colleagues because they are smart and talented and ironically it’s those characteristics which creates the reality where their ideas are chosen instead of yours.

However, if you are good at your job, for every idea that is dismissed I guarantee another one will be picked up. Just be prepared that your idea belongs to everyone so it’s going to be massaged and amended with team and management input. That’s just the way it goes and quite often with collaboration the outcome is far superior then had it only been worked on by you.

How do you start your development projects?

The starting point- it’s different for every project and often it’s not where you thought it would be.

A project can start because there is a business requirement or a user need. Either way,  I have found over the years, it doesn’t matter how big or small your project is, there always needs to apply a business analysis layer to it.

I say this, as people on a project team, especially the solution design team, need to understand the who, what, when, where and why if they are to deliver an excellent outcome.

Quite often it’s the why that ends up being the most important factor as you really need to get in there and understand what the problem is before you can solve it.

I don’t think you’ll ever regret taking the time at the start of a project to dig into the questions,  allowing yourself to develop a well structured problem before diving into developing a solution.

I read an interesting article today on the Six Secrets of Top-notch Business Analysts.
Having worked with many BAs and as one myself with multifaceted teams,  this article resonated well with me.

Check it out here