Archive for the ‘How Cool? ’ Category

MENA 2.0: The Arab Digital Market

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

A new engine of economic growth is quietly emerging in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Demographics, rising purchasing power and a burgeoning private sector are fueling economic development in a region where markets have been fragmented for too long.

Stretching from Morocco to Oman, MENA’s population tops 350 million, making it the world’s ninth largest market. But trade barriers among countries in the region have constrained market growth. Until now.

Today, an emerging trend is disrupting MENA’s traditional market patterns: a growing segment of urbanized, tech-savvy Arab youths is devouring on-line entertainment, gaming and social media, creating demand for digital services that are delivered across borders. Here comes the Arab digital content market.


Harnessing the Power of the Hive

Friday, December 4th, 2009

It’s a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before.Lev Grossman, Time Magazine

The Urge to Connect

History shows that that when robust tools serve a powerful human drive, revolutionary changes occur. That’s happening now as social media enable people to satisfy their primal urge to connect with each another. Social media are ubiquitous, cheap, and accessible, and their widespread use is having a profound impact on business.

While the technology is grabbing the headlines, the more interesting story is how people around the world are using social media. They’re fulfilling their desire to connect with each other, forming communities in the process. The communities function like virtual beehives — amorphous, dynamic structures where members coalesce to share information.

Smart companies recognize the commercial value of communities. They treat community members more like stakeholders than consumers. Instead of broadcasting their messages at them, they engage followers in dialogue. In time, followers can be converted to evangelists.  In a hyper-connected world, evangelism carries messages fast and far, boosting the value of the brand.


Virgin America Transforms Air Travel

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009


You never know with these things when you’re trying something new what can happen. This is all experimental. ~Richard Branson

Over the years, there have been surprisingly few breakthroughs in the airline customer experience – until recently. Sir Richard Branson’s venture into the U.S. market, Virgin America, (VX) is redefining air travel by providing passengers with a fresh, distinctive on-board experience. The carrier is less than two years old but it’s quickly becoming a template for what’s possible in the future.

The choices VX is making demonstrate a “customer experience mindset” that’s all too rare in the industry. It’s evident that the VX team devoted their attention to passenger comfort and convenience. Features “baked in” to the customer experience include seats with power-outlets and USB ports. Cabins in their new A320s have soft mood lighting.


Aspen ’08 Ideas

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

Last week’s ASPEN IDEAS FESTIVAL once again brought together some very impressive participants and the presenters’ videos have been posted.  For those not familiar with the annual festival, here’s a blurb from the organizers:

Imagine some of the most inspired and provocative writers, artists, scientists, business people, teachers and leaders – drawn from myriad fields, from across the country and from around the world – all gathered in a single place, ready to teach, speak, lead, question and answer – all interacting with an audience of thoughtful people, who have stepped back from their day-to-day routines to delve deeply into a world of ideas, thought and discussion.

I haven’t had a chance to sample many of the video clips yet. But one of the more enjoyable so far has been Walt Mossberg’s entertaining talk on The Future of the Internet and the Rise of the Cell Phone.  Among other things, he suggests the interesting, broader implications of the device “formerly known as the cell phone,” (aka smart phone).

Want more?  Visit Mossberg’s and partner, Kara Swisher’s informative site, AllThingsD


Wikis & Co-Creationism

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

What’s next?  Web 2.0 is revolutionizing the way companies operate. Mass collaboration is already having a profound effect on the way we work. Blogs, JAMS, collaborative filtering, tags, feeds and wikis are fundamentally changing the way business knowledge is created and, despite some new challenges, what’s not to love?

The revolution is discussed by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams in their compelling ’07 book, Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. The authors explore opportunities for organizations to understand and tap into web-enabled collaboration.     

Describing the upheaval as a social revolution isn’t mere hype. Even though mass collaboration, on a global scale, has just begun, encyclopedias, airplanes, software and a host of products and services are being created by distributed teams across oceans.  

P&G was struggling until it shifted to a mass collaboration-driven R&D model several years ago.  Their  success in creating new products and gnerating incremental revenue captured the minds and hearts of analysts around the world.

My company is taking part in wiki-based client-directed efforts.  Team members in Chicago, Seattle and Dublin are collaborating on projects for clients in Capetown and Milwaukee.  

The immediacy and accessibility of wikis leads to an informal, roll-up-your-sleeves setting. And it’s not just atmospherics at play. Under the right circumstances productive wiki-brainstorms tend to occur… 

There are many new challenges concerning how to structure problems to enable multiple teams to work on them and how to manage organizational networks of collaboration. This is fertile ground for social networkers and other theorists to explore.  We keep abreast of emergent practices across industries but some of our best insights come from direct experimention.

The spirit of enthusiasm and experimentation drive our best wiki effots. And I can’t begin to describe the pure joy of escaping the shackles of e-mail.  What’s not to love?  To be continued…

The Elusive Black Swan

Friday, June 20th, 2008

I’m shamelessly lifting the content for this entry.  I really got a charge out of Chris Anderson’s review of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s ’07 book, The Black Swan.

Now I really like Taleb’s work, and this book is a fascinating look at the world of unpredictable events. Taleb is an  mathematician who explains why such events are impossible to predict. But Anderson tells it better than I could, and I’m sharing:

Four hundred years ago, Francis Bacon warned that our minds are wired to deceive us. “Beware the fallacies into which undisciplined thinkers most easily fall–they are the real distorting prisms of human nature.” Chief among them: “Assuming more order than exists in chaotic nature.” Now consider the typical stock market report: “Today investors bid shares down out of concern over Iranian oil production.” Sigh. We’re still doing it.

Our brains are wired for narrative, not statistical uncertainty. And so we tell ourselves simple stories to explain complex thing we don’t–and, most importantly, can’t–know. The truth is that we have no idea why stock markets go up or down on any given day, and whatever reason we give is sure to be grossly simplified, if not flat out wrong.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb first made this argument in Fooled by Randomness, an engaging look at the history and reasons for our predilection for self-deception when it comes to statistics. Now, in The Black Swan: the Impact of the Highly Improbable, he focuses on that most dismal of sciences, predicting the future. Forecasting is not just at the heart of Wall Street, but it’s something each of us does every time we make an insurance payment or strap on a seat belt.

The problem, Nassim explains, is that we place too much weight on the odds that past events will repeat (diligently trying to follow the path of the “millionaire next door,” when unrepeatable chance is a better explanation). Instead, the really important events are rare and unpredictable. He calls them Black Swans, which is a reference to a 17th century philosophical thought experiment. In Europe all anyone had ever seen were white swans; indeed, “all swans are white” had long been used as the standard example of a scientific truth. So what was the chance of seeing a black one? Impossible to calculate, or at least they were until 1697, when explorers found Cygnus atratus in Australia.

Nassim argues that most of the really big events in our world are rare and unpredictable, and thus trying to extract generalizable stories to explain them may be emotionally satisfying, but it’s practically useless. September 11th is one such example, and stock market crashes are another. Or, as he puts it, “History does not crawl, it jumps.” Our assumptions grow out of the bell-curve predictability of what he calls “Mediocristan,” while our world is really shaped by the wild powerlaw swings of “Extremistan.”

In full disclosure, I’m a long admirer of Taleb’s work and a few of my comments on drafts found their way into the book. I, too, look at the world through the powerlaw lens, and I too find that it reveals how many of our assumptions are wrong. But Taleb takes this to a new level with a delightful romp through history, economics, and the frailties of human nature.

Want more on Taleb?  Check out Charlie Rose’s interview

Learning through Collaboration

Sunday, June 8th, 2008

It’s always interesting to browse TED: Ideas Worth Spreading.  TED is like a virtual symposium of talented thinkers and doers.  The videos are bite-sized nuggets that can be sampled anytime you like—how cool is that? I’d like to get through most of them and catalogue my top picks for bold new insights.

Speaking of which, here’s a gem: It’s Rice University professor Richard Baraniuk (TED, 06) discussing his vision of creating a free online learning system based on collaboration among global instructors and learners.

He’s realizing his vision with Connexions, a collaborative software platform that enables anyone to create, share, modify and vet learning material accessible, at no charge, through Creative Commons licensing.

Currently, their content is accessed by over 850,000 users per month — a critical mass of global learners — making it one of the world’s most popular OER sites.

What’s next, I think, is the rise of global knowledge networks and learner-driven content made possible by the new generation of collaborative tools like wikis. Big things come from small steps…

Re-thinking On-Board Services

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

In an Executive Traveler wiki titled, “Blue Skying It,” Ross Klein, President and CEO of Starwood’s Luxury Brands (including W Hotels), is quoted as saying, “Airlines are in the hospitality industry, although they don’t think they are,” he comments. “Flight is extraordinary, but airlines view it as ordinary.”

Klein says, “When I think of air travel, there is a conditioned response that it is going to be bad,” and adds, “We’ve forgotten it is a social occasion. I can’t think of any acknowledgement of that by the airlines today.”

He’s so right.  He’s probably someone the industry should tap to help redesign on-board service programs.  In fact, bringing experts from analogous fields like hospitality is a great place to start when rethinking services.  Successful restauranteurs can also bring a lot of practical insight.  Of course, we’d have to bring designers and artists to the party.

I like the concept of tapping experts from a variety of fields and disciplines outside the industry — along with customers — to come with distinctive alternatives that make the on-board experience more enjoyable.

Re-thinking the Hotel Experience

Friday, May 16th, 2008

An article appearing in the May 2008 issue of Fast Company by Danielle Sacks discusses how Le Meridien, a top-tier Starwood property, is rethinking its customer experience from start-to-finish. Why re-invent the hotel experience?

According to Eva Ziegler, a senior VP who is driving the transformation, “When the business guy who just did 10 meetings in a day arrives at the hotel, all he can dream of is room service and sleep,” he says. “We want to reset his mind!” She added, “My role is to create unique experiences for the guest that stimulate all five senses.”

How are they doing it? The hotelier set out to create a rich, even suprising experience for the customer from the time he or she arrives.  That includes music, art, and food—even scents that waft through the hotel.  The ambience of the hotel is infused with elements that engender a pleasurable experience.

Ziegler set up the LM100, a rotating group of artists assembled to enhance the service experience.  Her mission has been to “court LM100’s cast of artists – painters, designers, and architects – to transform more than 50 aspects of the hotel.”  The artists have created a range of unique artifacts to enhance the customer’s experience.

Le Meridien is already enjoying impressive results. In February, its 2.4 million on-line bookings were 41% higher than the year before.

Branding consultant Steven Addis observes: “The old-school version of this would have been to put together a committee, redesign the hotel, and that’s it.” He adds, “Instead, these guys are going to be perpetually curating on behalf of — not marketing at — its audience.”

Blogging Advice Taken to Heart…

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

I tend to over-research and over-analyze things. Before I ever wrote my first blog, I studied the art form exhaustively.  I read books like Naked Conversations.  I scoured biz, political, and science blogs–looking for acceptable ways to offer my purely unsolicited opinion.

But it turns out the best (read: game changing) tip on blogging came from Nora Ephron who advised Charlie Rose on how to do it. She said, “Sit down and write, and write it fast, and if you’ve been working on it for more than an hour and a half it’s not a blog. It’s something else and you’ve taken too long on it because it should really feel as if it’s true at that moment and then not much longer than that.”  Bingo.