Some of the best ideas are illustrated by taking the accepted view and turning it on it's head. The AARP did this in a small video snippet that they produced. I thought you might like it too.
I just saw this video from Google as a follow up to the recent IO conference.
It's a live demo of Googles new Collaboration platform called Wave. Very, very impressive, and it starts to lay a much better platform idea for the future of these technologies. It will not be long before the desktop is the collaboration tool rather than a place to hold all of the various loosely connected applications we use today.
If you have an hour or so to spare and you can get past the nerdy-ness, take a look at the future.
Happy Birthday Mr. Morse. Sam Morse was born today in 1791. This gent is of course one of the pioneers of communications who invented the standard "Morse Code" which is still in use today. This technology revolutionized communications and brought the time it took for important information to be relayed from months/weeks to minutes.
WIth the advent of radio communications, Morse Code was used to enable communications around the globe. Morse gave way to telephony and now, VoIP where voice is now digitized and sent across the network as packets of information. But you can still get a good Morse key and try your hand at the code if your are interested...
Now that essentially everything is digital, you can do all sorts of things with communication packets before they get where they are supposed to go. For example, check this out: MakeYourselfSick.com
This is a WebSite where you can leave yourself a message, add various effects (such as hospital noises, coughs, sneezes etc.) and then have it send an SMS or Voicemail to someone else. The applications are endless...
You gotta love it, 250 years of technology innovation and finally something the masses can relate to.
Today is the 200th anniversary of another fine Brit, Charles Darwin. This is the gent who put forward the theory of evolution which still causes such a huge amount of controversy today (in the United States where so many local governments have been unable to keep government and religion separated effectively).
His idea is that (and to paraphrase, a whole lot) species that develop favorable traits will become more common, those that don't, wont, and will subsequently die off and disappear. Natural Selection.
If you want to see his theory alive and well and in action at a hugely accelerated rate, all you have to do is take a look at the world of technology or business. For example, does anyone have a "ZipDrive" any more? or has anyone had a delivery from Webvan recently?
How should your business evolve? Given the current economic climate it's probably an interesting (if not critical) discussion for everyone who is involved in running or managing a business today to have RIGHT NOW!
If the answer to all of these (and many other similar questions) is yes, then you have a great chance of not only surviving the downturn, but assisting others in their survival also. If your answers are not so good, then the big question becomes; What can you do RIGHT NOW to become indispensable and key to your customers survival?
Figure out how to do that and if you can keep providing this kind of solution or service, you will end up among the fittest, and ultimately stronger for it. Your colleagues in competition who do not match up will suffer and end up being abandoned to the wolves or eaten by the herd. Horrible I know, but accept it and grow that extra arm.
Being involved with technology orientated business (for the most part), I have always enjoyed the whole idea of embracing change and innovating to discover the next move, the next trend and ultimately, the next source of revenue dollars for those companies.
That being said, I look at the situation that the auto manufacturers in Detroit find themselves in and for the life of me, I cannot figure out why they should be rescued.
It is easy to see why companies such as Toyota, Honda and others are doing well, even building vehicles in the US. They have innovated. They have created technologically advanced vehicles, created cost efficient processes to build them, and have managed quality to provide a consistently high quality product for a reasonable price.
It seems that the culture in "the big 3" has not supported innovation, rather has crushed it [literally in the case of their original electric car, the EV-1] in favor of producing more of the same large, fuel-inefficient vehicles that required cheap fuel to be viable propositions. Now that we no longer have cheap fuel, these products are no longer being purchased, and they leaders of those organizations are now pleading for bridge cash that will cover them while they try and reorganize their business. But therein lies a problem.
That reorganization process will require a huge amount of innovation. Innovation is about culture. The culture of the business has to support, promote and embrace new ideas at the very core of every department and employee. These 3 businesses have not been built around that kind of culture and unfortunately that kind of culture change takes many years to occur, IF it even can.
So this begs the question, why save them?
I say, let them die, it is the natural way of things in business. That void created by their failure will promote more innovation in the auto industry then anything else. New vehicle manufactures will appear and start to develop new, innovative, fuel-efficient vehicles that consumers will want to purchase. Competition between those manufacturers will cause the level and speed of innovation to increase and will also force the manufacturers to develop products that cost a lot less to purchase, maintain and use.
Albeit a painful pill to swallow, letting these 3 dinosaurs die off, will seed a whole new era in the auto industry and create an entirely new set of companies to fill that role. All of this will benefit consumers.
A couple of things happened to me in the past week that made me think a little about expectations and how they change over time and how these have led to some pretty significant scope-creep in my life
(1) My nearest and dearest has gotten bored with the Minivan. She wants a car. When we bought this particular vehicle our needs really were very utilitarian, we had (still have) two young children, needed the extra space and enjoyed the fact that you could almost move house with that thing along. Hence, new car.
(2) I have gotten annoyed and upset with my current laptop, its a very fine laptop, will do everything that any sane person would want it to. I however, want it to do the work of two (or three) computers at the same time (literally) and use VMWare to do it. At first, the laptop did it admirably, but now I find myself saying "hold on while I switch to the other machine" way to often. Hence, new laptop.
But anyway, the point here is that both of our expectations have changed over time, ironically, 2.5 years for both, that have made the existing solution unworkable or impractical for whatever reason. So does this mean that when we start a huge capital project in our business, that we should do so fully expecting that it's not going to be in place very long? And if thats truly the case, what can we do to mitigate the huge costs and reduced ROI's that would result?
With my laptop, it would have been nice I could have added memory or updated the processor (I did add a bigger hard drive, but the other two are already maxed out). With the Minivan, it would have been nice if GM had put in the magical convert to 4 door car feature, but they didn't, so nothing I can do there.
However, if you start a technology project, I would recommend you take a good hard look at the technologies and methodologies that you put in place. Here are some ideas:
The list is endless, oh and please excuse my own cartoon at the top, but you get the idea.
This is an outstanding demonstration of three separate musicians drumming together, in sync, in rythm, and in tune...outstanding!
Now think about this demonstration in the context of business. Are all of the separate departments, teams and people in Concert like this? If so, I would wager your customers are ecstatic, you and your fellow employees love working there and the company is making money hand over fist right now. If you all have different sheet music, I suspect the results are somewhat different from that.
Now go back to the video and imagine every drummer had been drumming something entirely different. I bet you wouldn't have watched 8 minutes of video, your customers and co-workers wouldn't either.
Three separate but themed stories:
I called Bose, explained the problem. I was passed to a real engineer who took down all of the details and promised to keep me up to date on the plan of action and the fix. A week goes by and he calls back, verifies a little information and asks a couple more questions. Calls back two or three days later, "We have a fix, we worked with Apple and troubleshot the issue and they will be updating the iPhone with a software fix. You should see it in a couple of weeks".
Score: Passed with flying colors, for (1) following up on the problem and (2) calling me back to tell me what was happening.
Score: FAILED, it seems to me the car rental business must be based on a huge amount of repeat custom. I have not been back to Hertz since and will probably not go back because of this experience. I get that you don't want to refuel your vehicles, but please don't stick pins in my eyes because I didn't have time.
Score: Dubious, it seems like customer service should be immediate, at least in the first instance, not requiring a customer to leave a voicemail and hope for a call back. I have never used BuyOwner and thus cannot really comment very well on their service, but this idea of getting a call back within a day being the best customer service this person had seen? I don't buy it.