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  • feedwordpress 05:54:31 on 2016/02/16 Permalink
    Tags: BigCo, Business, , ,   

    The NewCo-BigCo Shift or, These Nine Things Will Change Business Forever 

    The post The NewCo-BigCo Shift or, These Nine Things Will Change Business Forever appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

    VIP Dollar Shave Club

    Addressing the crowd at Dollar Shave before interviewing CEO Michael Dubin during NewCo LA last November.

    (cross posted from NewCo)

    Thanks to NewCo, I’ve gotten out of the Bay Area bubble and visited more than a dozen major cities across several continents in the past year. I’ve met with founders inside hundreds of mission-driven companies, in cities as diverse as Istanbul, Boulder, Cincinnati, and Mexico City. I’ve learned about the change these companies are making in the world, and I’ve compared notes with the leaders of large, established companies, many of which are the targets of that change.

    As I reflect on my travels, a few consistent themes emerge:

    1. Technology has moved from a vertical industry to a horizontal layer across our society. Technology used to be a specialized field. Technology companies sold their wares to large companies in large, complicated IT packages and to consumers as discrete products (computers and software applications). In the past decade, technology has dissolved into the fabric of our society. We all can access powerful technology stacks. We don’t need to know how to program. We don’t need a big IT department either. Now, technology is infrastructure, like our physical systems of highways and roads. This levels the playing field so new kinds of companies can emerge, and it’s forcing big companies to respond to a new breed of competitor, as well as a newly empowered (and informed) consumer base.

    2. Big companies are on the precipice of the most wrenching transformation in history — and tech is only part of the reason why. BigCos change very slowly. They are cautious by nature and extremely suspicious of “the new.” BigCos study new developments and wait for proof before they change. As digital technology spread through society over the past three decades, big companies were slow to get a web page, slow to conduct business over the web, slow to lean into mobile and social, and slow to respond to new types of startup competition. Of course, now that the web is mature and consumer platforms like Facebook and Google are massive, BigCos have shifted resources to digital. But that last point — responding to startup and business model competition — is far more problematic, because responding to new kinds of competition isn’t something you can outsource. It requires a fundamental shift in corporate social structure — and culture is hard to change.

    3. The next generation’s leaders don’t want to work at BigCos (if they don’t have to). In the past year I’ve met with senior executives at massive companies like Nestle, Publicis, P&G, Walmart, Visa, and McDonald’s. When I ask what keeps them up at night, all of them answer “hiring the next generation of leaders.” The best and brightest now see “launching a company,” “working at a startup,” or “working at a digital leader like Google or Facebook,” as a preferable career choice, starving BigCos of their most valuable asset: talent. While one might dismiss young professionals’ penchant for startups as a fad or a phase, there’s something far deeper at work, namely …

    4. A job is table stakes. To win talent, companies must compete on purpose, authenticity, and organizational structure. Millennials are now the largest force in the global economy, and they have a markedly different view of work: Purpose and “making a difference in the world” are central in their work-related decisions. They’d rather work at The Honest Company than Unilever, if given a choice — and the best and brightest always have a choice. Members of the next generation want to be at a company where work means more than a paycheck. They believe work can be a calling (Reich) or an expression of our creativity (Florida). BigCos aren’t currently organized to enable their workforces in this way (human resources, anyone?), but NewCos — even the very largest ones like Google — most definitely are.

    5. Today’s consumers are newly empowered and are making decisions on more than price. If millennials are choosing employers based on purpose and authenticity, it follows that they decide how they spend their money in similar fashion. Convenience, selection, and price are important, but new kinds of competitors are exposing weaknesses in big companies’ essential truths, and that’s an existential threat. Dollar Shave Club questions Gillette’s core premise, MetroMile questions Geico’s core premise, Earnest does the same to large financial institutions, HolaLuz to energy companies, and the list goes on. Companies profiting from practices or products that demonstrably create more harm than good in the world are threatened in an age of transparency and accountability. Regardless of good intent or excellent marketing, if your business makes people unhealthy, or depends on exploitation of vulnerable workers, or can be laddered to climate change, it’s at risk of mass consumer migration to businesses with better narratives.

    6. The platform economy means traditional competitive moats are falling away. Today’s largest consumer companies earned their power by consolidating and optimizing their access to commodities (what their products were made of), manufacturing (how their products were made), and distribution (where their products were sold and how people became aware of them). They were built on humanity’s first global platforms: television and mass transportation networks. We all know that the Internet undermined this hegemony; physical distribution is no longer a surefire competitive advantage (just ask Walmart). But what’s not well understood is how quickly other parts of the product stack have become platform-ized. Just as startups can now access technology as a service, they can also access sourcing and manufacturing as a service (Dollar Shave doesn’t make its blades, for example). This of course bolsters point #5 above: If any company can access the same economies of scale, brands must compete on more than price or distribution, they must compete on voice, innovative (and information-first) approaches to markets, and purpose.

    7. Cities are resurgent. I just returned from Mexico City, which earlier this month hosted its first NewCo festival. While there, I heard a refrain consistent with my visits around the world: The city is changing for the better and new kinds of companies are at the heart of that change. When people gather at NewCo meetups or inside NewCo sessions, I keep hearing “There’s just no way these kinds of companies could have made it in this city ten years ago.” Coupled with the horizontal force of technology and the rise of a purpose-driven zeitgeist, cities have become both the epicenter of humanity’s greatest challenges, as well as the birthplace of our greatest innovation. One generation ago, one-third of humanity lived in urban centers. Today, it’s more than 50 percent. One generation from now, more than two-thirds of us will reside in the tangled banks of a city center, and that number will surpass 80 percent by the end of this century. Cities offer access to capital, education, regulatory frameworks, and a collaborative density of human curiosity and connections. It’s where great companies are born and grow.

    8. BigCos are deeply aware of all this — and a massive shift is about to reveal itself. For as long as I’ve been in the media and technology business, I’ve heard big company executives proclaim they were committed to change. But it always rang hollow: Large companies expended far more resources preventing change than they ever did committing to it. Over the past year, however, I’ve sensed a deep shift in the tone of my conversations with BigCos. These are some of the smartest people in the world, and they understand the technological, generational, and social tectonics at play. In their board rooms and C-suites, conversations are already underway about changes so significant, they’ll be viewed as “calendar reset” moment: Before Shift and After Shift. We’re already seeing leading indicators — Walmart’s commitment to sustainability, GE’s move to Boston, Publicis’s rewritten purpose statement and organizational structure — but in the next year or two, the pace will quicken. New CEOs at category-leading companies like McDonald’s, Ford, and P&G will most likely announce stunning new initiatives that would have been inconceivable a decade ago.

    9. The best NewCos realize there’s a lot to learn from the BigCos. After years of feasting on BigCo markets, “established upstarts” like Google, Facebook, Uber, Zenefits, and Square are transitioning from cultures based on “move fast and break things” and “ask for forgiveness, not permission.” Their leaders are now turning to questions like “How do I build a company that will last for generations? How can I maintain a strong corporate culture when I have thousands of employees? How do I work productively with regulatory and policy frameworks, now that I’m an established player?” Turns out, BigCos have decades, if not centuries, of experience in answering these kinds of questions. In my conversations with leaders of both NewCos and BigCos, I sense a new kind of detente as each side realizes how much it has to learn from the other. In the coming months and years, I expect we’ll see a lot more cooperation between the two.

    In the coming months, NewCo will be focused on exploring these business trends, with new media and event products. If you’d like to join the conversation, please follow us on Facebook or Twitter, share this post, and/or sign up for our daily newsletter. We believe this the most important story in business, and we’re committed to covering it for you.

    Want to follow the biggest story in business? Get our NewCo Daily newsletter.

    — —

    * A note on climate change: Our society’s response to climate change is one of the most remarkable issues ever to face humankind. More than 70% of Americans now believe that climate change is real, and more than half of the world views the issue as the most serious global threat to humanity. And climate change is to Millennials what mutually-assured destruction was for Boomers: An existential threat. Whether or not you believe in this threat, climate change is now a social and business fact, a force affecting billions of decisions large and small around the world. Consumers are voting with their conscience, forcing unsustainable businesses to adopt provable, net positive products and processes. When Unilever, Walmart, Pepsi and scores of others align with the Pope on sustainability, a movement is most certainly afoot.

    The post The NewCo-BigCo Shift or, These Nine Things Will Change Business Forever appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

     
  • feedwordpress 23:05:13 on 2015/04/12 Permalink
    Tags: , Business, Experience Map   

    Hillary’s Logo Stinks. Here’s What To Do About It. 

    Hillary Clinton recently announced her intention to run for president of the United States of America with a logo that looks partially inspired by Fed Ex, partially an "I'm with Stupid" T-Shirt and something from the 80s (not in a good way).

    In short, it stinks.

    Full disclosure, I'm not voting for Hillary, but this is not a political opinion piece. It's about good strategy, design, execution and branding--all important things in the worlds of business or politics. In fact, some of the information in this piece may even be useful to her and her team as she crafts her image and message in the coming months. There's much I believe is wrong with the logo from its visual aesthetic to the message it conveys. Here are a few areas where it likely fell down:

    The Strategy

    The designer behind this approach may have been trying to communicate "strength" "reliability" "steadfastness" and possibly "trustworthiness". Whatever the intent, strength comes across most loudly as well as hinting at aggressiveness with a bulky, thrusting arrow that dominates the visual. Hillary Clinton is well known to be strong and assertive and while a logo should be authentic to your personal brand, the strategy to start here may have been off as it reinforces negative perceptions here as well.

    The Design

    Aesthetically it's less than refined--something that is likely to turn off Hillary's base. It's also decidedly un modern, which flies in the face of today's shifting voting demographic. It seems to be the opposite of the elegant approach put forth by the Obama team during both campaigns which may have been the intent, but goes too far. The only conclusion I can come to is that it may have suffered a process over informed by focuse groups and or design by committee.

    The Reaction

    Conversation has erupted on Twitter and elsewhere with mostly a collective head scratch reaction to the logo with some pointing out the unfortunate red arrow pointing to the right (both conservative symbols in color and direction) as well as the general lack of design sensibility or apparent rationale.

     

    What Team Hillary Should Do About It

    There's a strong temptation to do nothing here. After all, it would require significant time and resources and perhaps it would send the message that team Hillary is strong and unwavering in their conviction and that they believe in the decision to launch with this brand mark. The other school of thought: a bad decision is a bad decision and leaders who move quickly to correct bad decisions can reap the rewards of appearing both human and effective. If I were Hillary, I would look to help from the folks who know how to fix a problem like this. Perhaps enlisting a firm like IDEO who know both design and problem solving.

    Or, they could just dig their heels in and live with what's done. A logo may seem a temporary and insignificant part of a political campaign. But if candidates are brands (and I believe they are) then every interaction with them counts. Hillary's logo isn't just a first impression--it's a reinforcement of her brand and name every single time you see it... much like the candidate herself.

     
  • feedwordpress 02:59:12 on 2014/11/17 Permalink
    Tags: Business,   

    Five Things I Learned In Five Years 

    Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 8.55.26 PMAccording to the US Department of labor—the average tenure at at job for 2014 is 4.6 years. In less than a month, I'll be celebrating five years at Edelman, so I thought it would be a good time to reflect in what can be learned in five years, not just on the job but in life as well. I'm a big believer that looking back can help you look forward, so here are are a few things I've learned over the past five years. 

    Mentorship Comes In Many Forms
    The traditional image of a mentor is someone who takes you under their wing, puts time aside for you, and imparts wisdom—often a more senior person who you view as established or experienced in areas you yourself seek experience in. But mentorship is really another way of thinking about relationships, and growing from them in the process. I can think of several relationships I've established in the past five years both with people senior to me and junior alike, where I learn and grow from. As a result, I've come to view mentorship, both giving and receiving it a bit differently. It's a mindset about relationships more than a formal arrangement. 

    Travel Requires Discipline 
    I do my fair share of traveling. Not as much as some of my colleagues or peers outside of my company but also more than others. One thing I've learned over the years is that it requires discipline. Sleep, food, drinks, work and even socialization—they can all be overdone or just the opposite. Business travel requires a certain level of discipline and balance as it represents a state of living, that isn't the same thing as your everyday life (unless you indeed travel every day) and stresses like flight delays can sometimes threaten to throw the balance off. I've found that all things in moderation help keep the road from getting the best of me.

    The Enterprise Adapts (And That's How It Should Be)
    Five years ago, tablets weren't even introduced in the market and when they first arrived—they weren't seen as viable work devices. Today, it's a different story and the same goes for mobile devices of all shapes and sizes. We've moved beyond work happening on desktops and laptops, and our IT and infrastructure has had to adapt whether they wanted to or not. A lot of technology change happens in five years. 

    We Are A Collection of Our Experiences 
    When we have new experiences, we grow. My biggest professional growth spurts in the past five years either happened from taking on a challenge that was a stretch from my core competencies, jumping on a project or engagement doing something I had not done before. Once we do it—whether we "succeed" or not, we learn from the experience. And learning is growing. 

    You Have To Make Time For Yourself
    The higher you move up in an organization, the more people expect you to give of yourself. Giving is a noble thing and many of the great leaders I know are generous with their time, knowledge and attention. But nobody is going to help you make the time for yourself to replenish your well. I've learned to block out some time on the calendar so I can catch my breath—on weekends, I'll huddle in my office or a coffee shop. In the past five years especially, I've learned that time is precious and should be treated as such. 

    Five years is half a decade—no doubt that I've still much to learn, but it's definitely more fun learning by being surrounded by great people who strive to do great things. 

     
  • feedwordpress 01:40:04 on 2014/05/19 Permalink
    Tags: Business, , Innovation Report, Jill Abramson, Leak, ,   

    The New York Times Innovation Report is Both a Manifesto and Warning For Entrenched Organizations 

    "To improve is to change; to perfect is to change often"
    ~Winston Churchill

    There are few documents, articles or any media for that matter that capture and illustrate the complex yet efficient nature of disruption than the New York Times 2014 Innovation Report. Recently leaked, presumably in some connection with the dismissal of executive editor Jill Abramson the 91 page report has been somewhat eclipsed by the debate around Abramson. But while that story has been garnering the most attention in the media—it is the innovation report which needs to be read cover to cover by anyone whose work includes a digital media component. 

    Scratch that—anyone who works should read it. And you have no excuse—I'll make it easy for you. You can download the PDF from here. Print it out or save it to your iPad/tablet but just READ IT. After spending a few hours with it myself over an evening, my conclusion was that the document, while not earth shattering in the recognition of disruption nor the recommendations to combat it—it paints an eerily detailed portrait of an entrenched organization struggling with itself to adapt, change and succeed in a world that no longer recognizes the New York Times as king of the hill. If you read between the lines as you digest the information, it is astonishingly insightful. 

    I don't think I can do the entire document justice, but I'm going to try to capture a few reoccurring themes that stood out for me. I'll also include quotes from the report—but again, please do yourself a favor and make the time to read it yourself. 

    Screen Shot 2014-05-18 at 8.42.00 PM
    Agility
    Page 32: "Launch efforts quickly, then iterate. We often hold back stories for publication, as we should, because they're "not quite there yet"...we can adopt a more basic form so that we start getting feedback from users and improve it over time"

    Agility in some form or another is a constant theme in the report surfacing as a response to the reason it was being championed; disruption. In fact the entire report is essentially a response to the disruption from competitors who move quickly and seem to have an intuitive understanding of customer media behaviors from mobile to social and beyond. The notion of agility highlights initiatives such as Snow Fall but also promotes a systematic approach to both experimentation and innovation highlighting setting goals and tracking progress. 

    Culture
    Page 38: "At The Times, we generally like to let our wok speak for itself. We're not ones to brag. Our competitors have no such qualms, and many are doing a better job of getting their journalism in front of new readers through aggressive story promotion".

    I could not help but feel the tension in culture in nearly every page of the report. Old vs. new, editorial standards vs. attention grabbing techniques, silos vs. open collaboration—you could almost feel the palpable struggle of an established organization grappling with itself. One of the areas where you could feel culture at play was in the section where the report discusses "connection" and puts forth the idea that journalists like Nick Kristof, David Carr and Charles Duhigg—all journalists who promote their own work are doing it right and these skills can be taught. it remains to be seen if the organization can stomach a small army of staff who have built personal brands at scale and leverage them for mutual benefit. Ultimately the document evangelizes a "digital first" movement to be embraced in all corners of the organization, de-emphasizing the front page, print and other hold outs from a previous era. Some would question if it's too late—but that's where the report is rooted. 

    Customer Centricity
    Page 60: "The many business-side development and roles which we refer to as "Reader Experience" throughout this report —need to work more closely with the newsroom instead of being kept at arm's length."

    I debated on elevating this, but I think it's a macro theme in the report and it's not unusual for any organization, especially a large one that has enjoyed dominance in market for a time to lose sight of how their customers think, act and behave as it relates to the world you have in common. There are numerous areas in the report that reference how the NYT's competition have seemingly mastered timeliness, relevance or features which media consumers can't get enough of. The report also goes into some detail about the silos the organization needs to work through as an impediment to serving the modern needs of customers. it seems elementary, but there's enough evidence to support a concerted effort to make "Reader Experience" a top priority. 

    Talent 
    Page 88: "I looked around the organization and saw the plum jobs—even the ones with explicitly digital mandates—going to people with little experience in digital. Meanwhile, journalists with excellent digital credentials were stuck moving stories around on section fronts"

    There were numerous references to the type of talent The Times had at their disposal from analysts to design to technology, product, R&D and more but it wasn't toward the end that you got the sense that there was a struggle to ensure that the right talent was retained. Digital talent by definition can be fickle, impatient and drawn to emerging trends (as digital media typically is always evolving)—but you got a sense from the report that there was a concern for today's departures becoming tomorrow's competitors. 

    Summary: Disruption Happens
    The NYT Innovation Report provides a glimpse into an industry under tremendous pressure and illustrates what it looks and feels like for a large, established organization with a rich heritage to come to terms with a world that looks very different than it did when tried and true formulas worked. It should be required reading for any executive or professional whose job it is to make sure their business is resilient enough to thrive in spite of change. In short, being an entrenched organization or a business resistant to change is no longer a viable strategy. 

    Also: See Scott Monty's excellent take on the same subject. 

     
  • feedwordpress 02:55:31 on 2013/10/02 Permalink
    Tags: Business, ,   

    What Comes After Social? 

    Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 8.57.11 PM

    Social media has been good to me. It's re-defined my career, opened new doors and enabled me to make connections that would have been impossible had the Web not gotten connected. I started blogging in 2006 and in less than a year found myself in the pages of BusinessWeek. From there things only got more interesting, not only for me personally but for the business world at large. One by one, brands, organizations and even governments had to come to terms with the connected Web and subsequently the rapid evolution of mobile. It all makes me wonder what's next—and I've been thinking a lot about it. Here are a few not so random thoughts. Many of them fall under the lens of marketing and communications, where I spend a lot of my professional time. Consider it thinking aloud: 

    Social Increasingly Becomes a Paid Game
    The early days of social under the broader context of the marketing function was organic by nature. Facebook, Twitter etc. weren't even thinking of monetization models—for them it was about building an audience around the platforms. Today, it's increasingly difficult to reach an audience through your social channels without leveraging a paid component. 

    Content Isn't Enough Anymore
    The problem with content is that it can be anything. Text. Photos. Video. It's not enough. People don't share content but they do share stories which resonate with them and their friends/connections. Telling really good stories is hard. Today, we have to be able to do it in a single Instagram sized image and in a six second Vine. We also need to be able to make marketing feel like something bigger—something with a larger purpose. It's the reason we see Dove and Guinness and instantly want to share the story. This is not content—it's a narrative. Narrative which stops us in our tracks and breaks through the noise to earn our attention.

    Integrated Marketing Becomes Mandatory
    One of the stories I love to tell about Oreo is how they launched Instagram. "Dunk In The Dark" is a diversion—a one hit wonder, but Oreo is a masterful integrated marketer and incorporated social and digital into their Superbowl advertising, leveraging paid dollars and creativity to build a sizable audience on Instagram literally overnight. Why this story doesn't get told more is beyond me. Smart integrated marketing is the future, while social one hit wonders will become a thing of the past. 

    Art Director + Copywriter + Social Engineer: The Creative Team of Tomorrow
    As someone who works in the "Public Relations" industry, I can reflect upon how we were quick to hire social savvy individuals who knew how to manage and grow communities. Now we hire creatives and planners who must figure out how to partner with these social savvy individuals. Madison avenue was built on the duo of art directors and and copywriters. Tomorrow's creative team will be a trio at the core (and don't forget analytics).  

    ROI Becomes An Efficiency Play
    The early days of social revolved around proving out a specific ROI (did you sell more X?) for example. But in the maturation phase that we are in today—under a marketing lens, it becomes about proving out that metrics like reach and impressions were achieved at a cost reduction, or even better, cost reduction combined with qualitative benefits like better targeting (did you reach the right people?). 

    Yesterday's disruption was digital. It created a new economic model and dominant players (Google, Amazon, Apple, etc.). Social came next followed by the infusion of mobile—we consume information and participate on demand, anytime, anywhere. But none of these things can be viewed in isolation. I've talked about the responsive marketing model recently and some even talk about the responsive organization. Even marketing in an iterative and more agile fashion has to be a connected part of a bigger machine. I believe what comes after social looks more like the aggregate of many pieces vs. the single view of one or two which have dominated the industry discourse for years. It's time to elevate the role of digital, social and mobile as core elements of a bigger, complex and integrated machine. 

     
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