18 December 2006

Amber waves of brand?

If you string the last few topics I have written her together, you might be able to project where I am going. The larger the company is, the less nimble it will be. The more focused on command and control, of people, property and ideas… the more difficult the ship will be to steer. As start ups progress – and eventually see profits, they tend to not want that to change. Systems like TQM and Six Sigma are installed to moderate volatility. Finance and operations executive are easy to pick on because they seek this stability at nearly all cost. The largest of cost, is of course the ability to take advantage of opportunity. That requires change, exactly what all this stability is working to minimize.

My question today is… how can brand affect this syndrome of staleness and complacency in the maturing (read stagnating) corporation? Will we be seeing constant waves of corporations alternating between stability and revitalization? What can brand do for this effort to maximize the value? And lastly, is stability in conflict with agility?

Ownership of ideas…

It frustrates me to no end that the path of the small innovator is extremely dangerous. Idea vultures - attorneys in wait for an innovation to hit the tipping point, threaten entrepreneurialism. It is in large part why I have moved into the corporate sector. The cost of defending an idea in a US court is too high. Pending legislation may change this soon, but in the long run a different strategy will be needed.

Globalization will affect intellectual property rights well beyond the projections of current economists. Just as nationalism is stronger than democracy, the western worlds ability to enforce rights management will ultimately fail. It is a cultural notion that can be disrupted by counterfeiting technologies, and even the most scrutinizing of ethical consumer cannot be assured of buying the “real” thing.

So when the complete lack of “idea protection” is global, the power will be in the ability to make use of an idea faster, better and in the right location. This will require a constant and tireless effort. The arrogant and complacent will certainly not be able to compete.

It’s micro for now…

I have been thinking a lot about the future of large corporations lately. I think that in many industries, companies are just too large – think Airlines, Telephony, and Automobiles. The largest seam to struggle and the mid size find ways to thrive.

While re-reading “In the Bubble” by John Thackara I came across one of his more interesting observations. That organizations and companies are compelled to own stuff. Buildings, equipment, ideas, just to name a few. John contends that this ownership reduces a company’s ability to change and be nimble. I would concur in theory. Then I applied the same to my household. I feel compelled to have cars that are paid for (a dwindling asset), a house that is secure or maybe even paid for… and a load of recreational stuff at my disposal. I am especially materialistic about books. If I borrow one and end up liking it… I buy it.

All of this materialism is a feeble attempt to secure some sort of stable environment and lifestyle. I wonder, if I put my efforts into person agility and resourcefulness if I would not be better off?

The macro factor in US economics

It pains me to see the daily results of governmental mis-prioritization. The artificial robustness of the housing industry is coming soon to haunt us. Interest rates are too low. And, the continued efforts to keep fuel prices low (even by today’s standards) are costing us trillions. The gulf war, continued deficit growth and the zillion pound gorilla that we are lying next to with our debts to China. The sky is not falling… but something is in the way of a power shift is certainly looming.

11 December 2006

Disfunctionality is telephony’s forte

I understand that the long distance industry was the result of regulation. I also understand that the mobile phone companies are all renamed long distance companies. I also understand the problematic situation of a CEO when participating in an oligopoly. But it boggles my mind how this industry can consistently get it wrong.

Cingular might be the one possible exception… they tend to lead. Clearly, for consumers, the service must be nearly ubiquitous. And, we know by watching other industries that bigger is not necessarily better (airlines, autos, banking, etc).

It takes Sprint two years to catch on to the RAZR. Duh – people buy service based upon the hardware you offer. This industry is divided cleanly between fashion and function – with a light overlap (enter Venn diagram here).

Verizon takes the horrible software interface resident in most Motorola products and manages to replace it with one that is even worse.

And yet, this is the future of the internet, computing and information dissemination. And further… I keep working in that direction. I have found an industry with so much room for improvement it is hard to decide where to start.

05 December 2006

Of course culture matters…

I love reading Grant. McCracken’s blog, This Blog Sits at the Intersection of Anthropology and Economics [www.cultureby.co,]. Grant nearly always has an opinion, and a strong one at that, but more importantly he never hesitates to call out and discuss the elephant in the room. He recently posted number three of a series entitled, “Culture Matters.” In this episode Grant takes to task some of the most influential and powerful methodologies in marketing, branding and innovation published recently. He picks them apart mercilessly. I respect that. And I think all literary works should have such scrutiny applied.

But I think that Grant’s expectations are naiveté. All of the books or authors mentioned are presenting a perspective or a method of measuring. None are the absolute, take it to the grave, perfect process, or solutions. A very smart group of people I worked with in grad school helped me to break my bias and habit of developing process.

Now I think in terms of assembling tools and methods - and finding where the can best be of benefit. Each has strengths, each has weaknesses, and none are appropriate all of the time. There is no truth, just a lot places to view from.