Monday, March 31, 2014

Implied Free

It used to be that if you wanted to access the internet in an airport that you had to pay for it through services like Boingo, or T-Mobile, AT&T, etc.  You can still pay for that internet access if you want, or you can access it through what I call, "Implied Free".  Implied free is telling the consumer that something is free, but it isn't really.  In the case of airport internet access, you watch an ad and then you get a half-hour or so, and then you can watch the same ad again, and get another half hour or so. And on and on it goes. It seems free, but it's not because we have taken our time to look at the ad and distract ourselves from doing something else. What is the cost to us? It's the cost of what we could/would be doing otherwise.  "Implied free" is not new.  Broadcast media was built this way and we now see the same for the "implied free" of ad supported streaming entertainment services.  We are just a moment away from walking into a coffee shop and receiving what appears to be an "implied free" cup of coffee, but we will have to show that we watched the ad, tweeted or create a Facebook status about being in the store and trying the coffee.  I personally don't mind "implied free". It feels active and full of choices.  If we can find the goodness in the approach, there is much we can do and have our consumers and customers join in to help.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The "Work Market" and "BYOW"

I was asked the other day why I invest and put my time and money where I do?  I told this person that I subscribe to the theory that you can be the person who makes big changes to big things or make little changes to big things that add up to a big change, but it's kind of silly to fool around with anything that only addresses small things.

This is why I am fascinated with the size of the "Work Market".  Nearly everyone works, will work, or has worked and while we go up and down economically, this premise won't change.  And up until now, the "Work Market" has been approached only on the "enterprise level" bringing tools, processes and programs to the employer, the ones who create the work and hire the worker.  And until now, the only outside of the office support or help a worker could get to make them better was what they could find at the local bookstore.

But the world has changed.  Today, the "Work Market" is open for those who are doing the work.  I first felt the shift when the guys in Austin at 37 Signals created a collaborative project management software called "Basecamp".  Companies were slow to offer project management tools and when they did they were heavyweight, clunky and one-size fit all, like Microsoft Project.  Workers who couldn't and wouldn't wait started sourcing their own tools and were using Basecamp, inside the firewall, on either their own credit card, or expensing it monthly as a nominal fee.  Box and DropBox have grown in the same way.  We now have "BYOD", bring your own devices to work.  This week I will talk to a group of top HR Leaders that we are now in the "BYOW" era..."Bring Your Own Way" to get these things done.

Every company and their employees are now an open "Work Market" platform that we can build work, productivity, data, prediction, reporting, trending, and whatever else we can think of applications.

Mark Newman, the Founder and CEO of HireVue (one of the HCM companies where I sit on the Board) estimates that there are a billion interviews done a year in the United States. He's probably wrong in that is a low number.  Consider just that number as the number of (as Mark likes to call them) "interactions" that are available to capture, improve and provide tools and support. Interviews are a perfect example of BYOW as everyone does an interview in a way that is easy and best for them.  But, that haphazard approach is also a part of the problem in why that part of the "Work Market" always feels so broken.

BYOW is not going to stop. The "Work Market" is not shrinking.  Who will be the ones to capture the needs and the wants of those who work and those who create and fund the work?

If you are looking for a big market fraught with lots of problems to solve, then look no further than right here.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Investing In Home

I was back at Purdue (my alma mater) this week. On Wednesday, General Electric announced a partnership with Purdue around advanced manufacturing practices and technology, and that GE would be building a new jet engine manufacturing plant in the Greater Lafayette, Indiana area.  It was a big deal for Purdue and the community.  In the same week I read that BMW is investing and expanding in South Carolina and Ford is doing the same in the Midwest.  It's a good sign to see multinationals investing in the U.S..  We still have a ways to go as Shenzen, China claims now to be the largest manufacturing location for smartphones.  I predict that might change over time as well.  It's not an easy decision to invest at home.  It can be more expensive and the regulations around the environment, safety and labor can add to that cost, but once the plunge is taken, the reduced complexity of time, travel and cultures, can win the day. At least an honest discussion about the tradeoffs looks to be being held with certain segments of our economy. Here's to more and more of those decisions landing back to home.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Closer Than They Appear

Success and failure share a trait; they both, like the images in the right-hand side mirror of our cars, can seem closer than they really are.  Success can feel close, but might still be a ways away so we have to stick with it, don't take our foot off the gas, and don't assume that we can change course before we achieve the success that we are trying to achieve.  Failure, on the other hand, can feel so close that we start to get fearful and paralyzed of what might happen next, when we are still far from failing.  The truth is that success and failure are located just about the same distance away from where we are.  We can't over anticipate either nor overreact to what we encounter along the way.  I have seen too many people who make decisions based on not accurately knowing where they are on the road to either success or failure.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Greener Grass?

A former colleague of mine is up for a big promotion. It's the job he has waited for his entire career and if he gets it then he is at the top of his functional area and the years of working hard within the company will have been worth it all!  I checked in him the other day to see where things stood.  He told me that the decision was down to him and one other person.  I was puzzled because who else inside the company could be in competition for the job?  He responded, that it was him against an external candidate!  I cringed for him.  I was quickly reminded of how easily we look to the outside and think the grass is so much greener.

Sometimes, when it is time to upgrade or change direction we have to go to the outside but I have always been of the mind that internal choices need to be decided and dismissed before that decision so that those who have worked hard and held their loyalty are not put in this awkward position of, "Am I not good enough?"  While the grass looks greener, let's not forget that it takes more fertilizer, water, nurturing and caring to keep that grass green, than it does to maintain the turf that we know that is not as fragile or will fail under who we already are.

Monday, March 24, 2014


Last week I wrote of the 25th anniversary of the Internet.  A week later there is lots of new talk about the congestion of the internet as both Netflix and Apple are talking to Comcast about streaming their services over cable.  The internet, for a moment there, looked like the end of cable.  We were all to be free of the high fees and reliance on what was programmed.  But, it appears that for those who dropped their cable service for an Apple TV set-top-box, the freedom is ending.  But, of course Apple will still stream over the internet, but I will say here and now that not too far after the deal is done, along will come a program that only those who are on Comcast will be able to view. It will be disguised as a benefit, an extra, or a bonus, but we will know better.  What does this mean for the rest of us? It might mean more choice. Or, it might mean more consolidation. What it will mean is that some of the beauty of the wide open and far ranging internet is being lost and that we didn't think far enough ahead to keep the pipes large enough to handle all internet traffic, that the congestion is starting to change the rules.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Still Missing!

Until something miraculous happens, when you are reading this, Malaysian airlines flight 370 will still be missing and the speculations over the reasons for the disappearance will still be raging.  We get enthralled with those things that can't be explained and something like a plane full of passengers going missing captures our attention.  The same could be said for anything that is in the ordinary that can't be found.  Money.  People. Items. All, when expected to be one place and not there, become a mystery for us to solve.

What if we were this curious and obsessed with the mystery of why someone stopped buying our product, or using our service?  Would we, do we, become obsessive about their disappearance, or do we instead, rationalize that they are only one of so many that w couldn't possibly ever really track and know the reasons, therefore, we should let it go? 

I hear these excuses, and more, all the time and each time I wonder if that business or organization will ever fully reach their potential?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Fire Drills

Even though they are technically called Emergency Evacuation Drills we still call them by the name we learned long ago; Fire Drills. We've all been through them at work at some point or another. Just when we are in the middle of an important phone call or meeting, the alarm sounds and out we go to stand on the lawn or concrete and wait for the evacuation manager and the floor wardens to clear the building and allow us back in when the "all clear" is sounded. It always seems like such a pain and a bit of a waste of time, even though in the real one, we all want to be prepared and out the door pronto. Because we all have been through the drills many times, we have come to call those assignments and requests that come to us in the last moment or the least acceptable time and don't end up producing anything of substance, as another "fire drill". There is nothing more precious that we have at work than our time so when someone wastes it with an unnecessary request it can take us all the way to angry and make us quite resentful. Which makes it all the more important that we not waste others time either. We have many choices each day when we ask for time from others. Before each request we should evaluate to ensure that what we are asking for will make a difference, yield a needed result, and most importantly, be the best use of the other person's time. No one like a fire drill exercise. All that said, the real evacuation and fire drills are to keep all of us on our toes and for us to be alert at all times so that we can be ready and prepared if there is an emergency. This is not a bad lesson in life as well. There are certain dangers in life, both literally and figuratively that we must always be ready for and prepared to avoid.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Going Direct!

Part of the power of the internet is that we can go direct to consumers without having to go through third parties, like retailers, brokers or dealers.  But, not all industries are allowed to do so. The most glaring is the car industry where a manufacturer can't sell directly to consumers but must have a car dealer in the middle to make the sale.  I don't know where this practice came from, why or who it protects but it is causing problems for Tesla as they try and expand across the U.S. with their electric cars.  We might take for granted how great it can be to build a direct relationship with our customer and consumer, but we shouldn't.  If we were the music, book or movie industry we would try anything to establish and keep that relationship. 

Who really knows our customers/consumers?  It's Amazon. It's Apple.  It's Best Buy, Target, etc.  Where we can, go direct and go with all humility as this is the best relationship to have.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Here Today, Gone Today

It caught my attention that the SAC Capital Advisor trader, Mathew Martoma, who was convicted of insider trading, had his MBA from Stanford rejected. He had earned that degree in 2003, but Stanford has now taken that degree back.  I actually didn't know that a university could do that, but it makes sense to me.  By breaking the trading laws, Martoma proved that his education didn't sink in and he never learned the lessons taught.  I suspect he is learning his lesson now.  This is a stark reminder that what we think we have today, can be taken away from us tomorrow if we don't respect and honor that with which we know and keep in trust. A brand's reputation can be tarnished forever if we don't care for it and cherish it closely. An employee that we need, can can leave at a moment's notice because we overstepped our boundaries and didn't do all we could to keep them happy.  A partner won't  renew because we didn't treat them like a real partner. A customer never comes back after the salesperson refused to truly listen to them.

The old adage is, "Here today, gone tomorrow". 

In today's world, it's more like, "Here today, gone today".

Monday, March 3, 2014

Downhill Woes

On Saturday of this past weekend, I completed the Phoenix Marathon, which was my eighth Marathon.  I was so excited about the race, the course, and being in Phoenix with dear friends for the weekend. I felt like this might be a race where I could shave a few minutes off of my personal best.  But, not to be.  I was almost 19 minutes worse than my best time.  The course was predominately downhill, which should make for a fast time.  You would think, right?  What looks like it can be one thing, can actually turn around and bite you. Look at this elevation map:
This map shows a 1000 foot elevation drop, but it's the first 4 miles that are of most notice. Those 4 miles at that steepness, was a killer on the quads and by mile 18 my quads were thrashed (they are still killing me).  What looks to be an advantage, can turn out to be a real disadvantage.  Just because it all looks like smooth sailing and downhill doesn't mean that things will work out for the better.  

The best course is always the one that you expect, have managed before and can predict, even if they have some uphills in them.