Archive for October 2009
As my original career was in biology, when I started working with stories I naturally wanted to consider the natural history of stories, including their life cycles. Now this is a much more difficult thing with stories than with tadpoles or mushrooms, because stories mingle and morph in ways that creatures can't. But here is try at it, based on my experiences and what I've read. I've been pondering this cycle for a long time and playing with it in mind, and this is what I've got to lately. Of course this cycle will be nothing new to anyone who thinks about stories, and it's obviously a greatly simplified metaphor, and I'm merrily making up terms as I go. But this sort of thing can provide a scaffold for discussions about helping people tell and share stories to attain goals.
The right conversation strategy answers two big questions: What meaningful content will attract sufficient conversations with the right people? And, how will you jump-start conversations and keep them alive? When people are starved for time and already engaged in many conversations, jump-starting new and meaningful conversations is the big challenge of marketing today. Just building a website, writing a blog or posting videos on YouTube doesn't mean sufficient numbers to impact ROI will find them organically, much less take the time and energy to converse with you. By definition a conversation requires others to be present and participate -- otherwise you're talking to yourself. Perhaps therapeutic, but no way to make a living.
These days, lots of people ask me: "Phew! So, the crisis is over, right?" Wrong. The real crisis is in the DNA of the industrial economy — and it's just as lethal as ever. Most businesses are socially useless. They're about as useful to society (to paraphrase Gloria Steinem) as bicycles are to fish. Sound controversial? If it does, it only underscores just how out totally of touch with real value we've gotten. (Here, for example, are Paul Krugman, Simon Johnson, and Lord Turner all discussing social uselessness.) What has socially useless business cost just over the last five years? $12 trillion at a minimum. Those are the costs of the various bailout packages for socially useless banks.
Open source, open access, open standards, open architecture — all are part of why so many have fallen in love with Facebook, Firefox, WordPress, and — I’ll say it because everyone else is saying it — Twitter. They’re all flexible platforms, invite user opinions, and enable co-development and co-creation to varying degrees. The “open web” and its underlying set of technologies have indeed made a big impact on how we interact and engage with online properties, sites, social networks, and the like.
Since its invention towards the end of the 20th century, the Internet has changed a great many things. And one of the things that is has done time after time is dismantle business models that had seemed, until its arrival, absolutely rock solid. From music to publishing to TV, the Internet has swept away seeming certainties and replaced them with doubt and uncertainty. Whilst this fact can not be argued with, the common perception that the reason these media models have been so badly damaged is due to the rise of UGC is, like so many ‘commonly held facts’, actually untrue.
They're off! Although trick-or-treaters are still days away from ringing doorbells, the nation’s retailers are already starting their mad dash toward the Christmas finish line. The efforts to stimulate holiday feelings ahead of schedule are, of course, a result of the dire economy, as retailers remain anxious about the parsimonious mood among shoppers. The National Retail Federation predicts that Christmas sales will decline 1 percent from Christmas 2008 — not as bad as last year, when retail holiday revenue fell 3.4 percent from 2007, but still not in positive territory.
Heeding the wisdom of Peter Drucker might have helped us avoid—and will help us solve—numerous challenges plaguing communities around the world: restoring trust in business in the wake of accounting scandals and the global financial crisis; attracting and motivating the best talent without creating crippling financial commitments; addressing societal problems such as climate change, health care, and public education; dealing with trouble spots in central Asia and the Middle East. If Peter Drucker were here today, what would he have to say about such pressing matters?
Noreena Hertz had to seduce Bono. The Cambridge University economist was writing a book on the developing world, and Bono's personal saga of getting the U.S. government to cancel more than $400 million of debt was just the pop-culture bridge she needed to move her ideas beyond the wonkish corridors of academia. After all, Hertz's motive for The Debt Threat -- a deep dive into the debt trap that, she argued, would have global consequences for all -- was to juice the campaign that had been building slowly in activist ranks. The book itself would be a battle cry (a postcard inside made it easy for U.K. readers to urge the prime minister to cancel billions owed by the world's poorest countries), and its release was pegged to hit before the 2005 G8 meeting. Hertz sent Bono an email, unsure if it would find him. To her astonishment, it did: "I'm so glad you got in touch," read the rock star's reply. "I'm a real fan of your work. Bono."
Around the world, four billion people live in poverty. And Western companies are struggling to turn them into customers. For the past decade, business visionaries have argued that these people, dubbed the Base of the Pyramid, make up an enormous, untapped market. Some of the world's biggest, savviest corporations have aimed to address their basic needs—by selling them everything from clean water to electricity. But, time and again, the initiatives have quietly fizzled out. Why? Because these companies were looking at it all wrong.
With Apple posting record profits last week, thanks in large part to brisk sales of its iPhone, it may seem downright crazy to mount a smartphone challenge at all, let alone one that takes direct aim at the iPhone. But that's just what Verizon, Google and Motorola are doing. With a teaser ad from Verizon zeroing in on the device's perceived shortcomings, such as its lack of a physical keyboard, the triumvirate is beginning a big push for Droid, the flagship device of the Google-backed Android operating system. So far, industry observers are unmoved by the buzz and give the Droid long odds in its bid to become the next ubiquitous handset.