Seeking innovation? Look for the intersection of physical and digital worlds.

Take, for example, Tesco supermarkets in South Korea.  The company wanted to increase sales without creating more stores.  Tesco understood that Koreans work long hours and have little appetite for shopping at the end of the day so they created virtual grocery stores at subway stations.  These virtual stores, shelves and all, are projected on the walls of subway stations.  To purchase items, shoppers simply go to a Tesco app on a smartphone and scan the projected items’ QR code.  When purchases are completed, the order is delivered to shoppers’ homes shortly after they get home from work.

The Tesco app was downloaded 400,000 times in one month after the launch and Tesco skyrocketed to number one in online sales in Korea.

(via Saul Berman blog, When trying to find innovation, look for the intersection of the physical and digital worlds — Tech News and Analysis)

The Science of Storytelling: Why Telling a Story is the Most Powerful Way to Activate Our Brains

A good story can make or break a presentation, article, or conversation. But why is that? When Buffer co-founder Leo Widrich started to market his product through stories instead of benefits and bullet points, sign-ups went through the roof. Here he shares the science of why storytelling is so uniquely powerful.

In 1748, the British politician and aristocrat John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, spent a lot of his free time playing cards. He greatly enjoyed eating a snack while still keeping one hand free for the cards. So he came up with the idea to eat beef between slices of toast, which would allow him to finally eat and play cards at the same time. Eating his newly invented “sandwich,” the name for two slices of bread with meat in between, became one of the most popular meal inventions in the western world.

What’s interesting about this is that you are very likely to never forget the story of who invented the sandwich ever again. Or at least, much less likely to do so, if it would have been presented to us in bullet points or other purely information-based form.

For over 27,000 years, since the first cave paintings were discovered, telling stories has been one of our most fundamental communication methods. Recently a good friend of mine gave me an introduction to the power of storytelling, and I wanted to learn more.

The most unexpected aspect of the explosion of the web — now the dominant modality for human communication and sense-making — is that it has been a social revolution. And as the cultural dynamics that have evolved in the open web have been carried into the business world, we are starting to see the same sequence of stages: denial rapidly followed by bottom-up adoption and then commercial colonization. The current thinking about social business may turn out to be like the B2B fantasies of the early ’00s. We should anticipate the unexpected (or actively suppressed) to happen, instead: when the people formerly known as employees take control of cowork, bypassing pre-web systems of control, and changing the way that work works through new emergent behaviors. This will blindside the world of business, although it is already happening, right in front of our eyes.

Stowe Boyd, cited by Justin Kirby in Rethinking the Connected Marketing Future - Part 3

The social revolution in business won’t be like today’s vendors are telling us. They mostly are selling a rewarmed collaboration tool framework (‘groupware’ of the '90s) with an activity stream glued on. The emergent business will be based on cooperative tools and norms underlying postnormal cowork, not collaborative ones.

The more time you spend among poor people, the more you become convinced that poverty is not the result of any incapacity on the part of the poor. Poverty is not created by poor people. It is created by the system we have built, the institutions we have designed, and the concepts we have formulated.
—  Muhammed Yunus, Building Social Business
My Social Strategy for 2014...

Social media has changed a lot over the last 12 months - the “noise” seems to have increased exponentially while engagement seems to have dropped through the floor. I thought it was just me, but many of the social media professionals I’ve chatted to also have also noticed that their tweets and posts are only getting a fraction of the love they got the year before…

I think it’s fair to say that more people are just using social networks as discovery platforms, news networks or to simply check out events and photos from their friends.

Having decided that social media was taking up far too much of my time in 2013 (even though it is my job), I decided to make a plan to post much less content, but to manage it more effectively. Only so many hours in the day right? You might decide that you don’t need a plan, and that’s cool too - but if social media is part of your professional and personal life, I reckon having some form of a plan, no matter how small or simple - would make a big difference.

Mine is above. It’s pretty self explanatory. I’m aiming to create professional content for my day job at Adobe on our blogs and slideshare (hugely under-rated) —> talk to the people who matter most to me on Tumblr, Instagram and Twitter (using 4SQ data where relevant - especially for meetups) —> and then helping to amplify that content (if it’s any good) across G+, In, Pinterest and Sina Weibo (500m+ users and you’re still not using it?).

It’s not really rocket science, but in the midst of trying to decide how to spend much less of my time on social networks - I also came across the brilliant P.O.S.T process from Forrester on Nate Elliot’RaDaR report, suggesting 4 points to help brands become more effective with their content marketing. No doubt I’ll be talking a lot about it this year. 

THE P.O.S.T. Process by @Forrester

  1. People —> Review the social & interest graphs of your audience.
  2. Objectives —> Decide what your social goals are.
  3. Strategy —> Determine which social tactics best match your people and objectives.
  4. Technology —> Choose the vendors and tools that best support your plans.

So that’s it really. It looks good to me. Might not be your thing if you’re the organic and spontaneous type - but if like me you’ve found yourself struggling with social fatigue during 2013 (at the expense of spending time with real friends), then maybe having your own P.O.S.T strategy wouldn’t be a bad thing….

Top 7 Social Trends That Will Emerge In 2014

1. Social business will not be just about collaboration, but also about unlocking the engines of collective knowledge, differentiated expertise and rapid learning.

2. Social Businesses will  tap behavioral data to help drive decision making

3. Social Business will deliver personalized experiences customized to individuals with marketing delivered as a service

4. Social will take on talent management

5. The customer activated social enterprise will drive innovations that really matter

6. Social, mobile, analytics and the cloud will truly converge

7. Brand journalism will begin to gain traction

Via Mark Fidelman in Forbes,  based on interview with IBM’s Scott Huebner
‘Social Business’ isn’t dead, but it isn’t enough, either — Stowe Boyd -- Gigaom Research

A recent resurgence of the ‘is Social Business dead?’ meme bubbled over this week in a post by Chris Heuer, and smelling the bacon grease I ran toward the fire, offered up an analysis, and announced a new project, at the same time:

an excerpt

Social business isn’t dead, but it has become tired. It’s not longer even an edgy and emotive alternative to business-as-usual, and partly because of the half he [Heuer] gets wrong or never examines: today’s tools for social business. The world of business has moved ahead to accepting the class of contemporary technologies that embody the slightly better 2013-style of collaborative business, dominated by work management tools from Microsoft, Salesforce, IBM, Jive, and other established enterprise software vendors. To the extent that those tools and the practices that surround them define the social business, then they have become commonplace, not a profound redefinition of working together in new ways.

• What is needed, though, is not a retreat to arguing about the term social business, but a movement forward, a movement embodied as a community of people committed to advancing new principles of learning, organization, leadership, and management, pushing forward into a new future of work. •

In  writings more recent that the January piece Heuer pointed to, I have made a strong case for the following trends, supported by a wide range of research here at GigaOM and other firms:

  1. C-level executives hope to gain another round of productivity from new technologies and practices that are grouped under the loose rubric of ‘social’.
  2. They believe that the mechanisms used in the past — demanding more work from employees, and routinization of work practices — cannot be used again, at least not to get any serious gains.
  3. The answer — if that is a question — is for organizations to adopt a new form factor for business, one that undoes the rules and loosens the ties that make businesses slow to learn, innovate, and respond.
  4. One of the toolsets to apply in this quest for the fast-and-loose business are ideas about working socially and tools to support that. However, the greatest advances are likely to be more closely linked to fundamentals of organizational culture, and the relationship of the individual to work and the organization, rather than a social business breakthrough, per se.

• To the extent that social business was a concept that a community of practitioners hoped would represent or spark a radical break with the past, it has fallen short. •

Perhaps, then, I could restate Heuer’s apocalyptic statement into something more practical and pragmatic: social business isn’t dead, but it isn’t enough, either. And simply getting the meaning of the term straightened out — if such a thing is possible, at this point — won’t add much, either. At the best, there are a set of ideas derived from the social revolution on the web — like pull versus push communication, and the benefits of defaulting to open, not closed, communication — that can be productively applied to make working socially easier and faster.

What is needed, though, is not a retreat to arguing about the term social business, but a movement forward, a movement embodied as a community of people committed to advancing new principles of learning, organization, leadership, and management, pushing forward into a new future of work.

To the extent that social business was a concept that a community of practitioners hoped would represent or spark a radical break with the past, it has fallen short. You can interpret that as a failure of the concept, or a sign of endurance of the mainstream notion of business, or perhaps even as a failed power grab by those most loudly advocating for ‘social business’-led change. But this does not mean that work isn’t changing, or that we do not need even more change — in our organizations and ourselves — in the months and years ahead. We do. It is essential to find new balance in a new normal, where the ground beneath our metaphorical feet is never steady and always shifting.

I am committed to help give such a movement a bit more definition, and in the following weeks I will be laying out some ideas about a loose community of people committed to the investigation of the future of work. I am launching an effort to do that called Chautauqua, named after the adult education movement of late 19th and early 20th century America. I hope to work with local groups across the country and internationally to explore a topic central to the future of work each month, in a model stolen (honestly) from the Pecha Kucha and Creative Mornings movements.

You might want to read the whole piece at GigaOM Research, or visit the Chautauqua site and join up. 

How Adobe Followed Apple's Lead to Better Internal Tech Support

How Adobe Followed Apple’s Lead to Better Internal Tech Support

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Technical support has been a beleaguered business function over the past few decades because a conflict exists between the needs of the organization — to operate efficiently — and the needs of the users — to get real help from a trusted human.

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MIT tool connects the dots of your life through Gmail metadata


How much does the metadata gathered in your inbox reveal about you? Quite a lot, judging by what researchers at the MIT Media Lab have managed to accomplish with Immersion. They’ve built a web app that — once you grant it permission to do so — digs through your email history to piece together a “people-centric view of your email life.” What does Immersion look at, exactly? Only the senders, recipients (including those CC’d), and timestamps within your email archives. It steers clear of subject lines and the actual bodies of your messages. Still, the end result is fairly impressive depending on how much Immersion has to work with. What first appears to be an arbitrary list of people you’ve contacted is actually linked together in logical ways. (Again, this will depend largely on how far back your email trail goes.)

“All of this data is about people. Data basically doesn’t make sense without humans.” César Hidalgo, one of the creators behind Immersion, told The Boston Globe. “When you see it all together, it is, in a way, an out-of-body experience.” Your takeaway may not be that emotional, but Immersion succeeds in showing that, even with limited information like metadata, when collected in bulk, you can visualize the relationships contained within. You can try it at the source below, but keep in mind you’ll need to grant MIT access to your Google account for the purpose.

The 3 Types of Social Media Strategy (Retro Post)

Editors note: This post was first published on April 8, 2010 (5 years ago!). I was recently informed that this post was required reading at a college in Canada. I realized I have a whole backlog of posts that are spread out across the web, and I should re-aggregate them here. I’ve edited this post slightly just for continuity.

Do you have a social media strategy for your business? Can you articulate what a social media strategy is? Don’t feel bad if you answered no.

A friend once asked me the very dangerous question: What’s missing from most social media strategies? The correct answer of course is the strategy.

Defining Social Media Strategy

When people talk about their social media strategy they are usually talking about their Goals (their desired outcome), or the specific tactics used to achieve their goals. A strategy is neither of these things. Strategy may be one of the most misunderstood and misused terms in business, probably because every business expert has their own definition. How strategy was explained to me in my MBA program was:

  • A business strategy is creating operational alignment between all functions and activities of a business.
  • A communication strategy is a subset of the business strategy. 

If you buy my professors definition then:

  • A communications strategy is the alignment between all the marketing and communications groups and their activities in support of the business strategy.

(This is a long post, so I’ve put the rest behind the break)

Keep reading

“To me, poor people are like bonsai trees. When you plant the best seed from the tallest tree in a tiny flowerpot, you get a replica of the tallest tree, only inches tall. There is nothing wrong with the seed you planted; only the soil base that you gave it is inadequate. Poor people are bonsai people. There is nothing wrong with their seeds, but society never gave them the proper base to grow in. All it takes to get poor people out of poverty is for us to create an enabling environment for them. Once the poor people can unleash their energy and creativity, poverty will disappear very quickly.”

– Muhammad Yunus

Crowdsourcing creates brand loyalty

“If you want people to be emotionally connected to and invested in your business, everyone has to think they matter as a customer,” said Jon Olinto, co-founder of the b.good Family Foundation, which puts its annual grant recipient up to a consumer vote. “As long as you’re willing to turn some decisions over to the customers, you can empower them. Anyone who participates is automatically engaged with the company and part of its story.” (via How to Crowdsource Innovation for Your Business | Crowdsourcing Tips)
Why the internet of things is moving from industry to consumers sooner than you think


Devices connected to the internet — everything from coffee makers to toys — are going to become a

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widespread consumer phenomenon sooner than you expect, even though Europeans and Americans for now regard the technology in different ways.

Until now, smart machines connected to the internet have largely been the province of industry and governments. In the view of two executives, however, such devices will soon become ubiquitous at a consumer level, and everything from coffee machines to toys will have at least a brief life on the internet.

According to Alicia Asin, the CEO of Libelium, which creates cloud-connected sensors, it is not just university researchers who are asking questions about the internet of things. Asin says that, thanks to the growth of inexpensive open hardware platforms and crowd-funding, a growing number of consumer companies are proposing compelling business cases to tap into the internet of things.

Asin, whose company’s devices measure everything from stress levels in koala bears to power plants, made the remarks at GigaOM’s Structure:Europe conference in London. She was joined by Michael Simon, CEO of LogMeIn, to discuss the business implications of more connected devices.

Simon said that, not long ago, his colleagues regarded his interest in the internet of things as a pet science fair project but that the technology has become table stakes in any serious manufacturing proposal related to appliances or energy. He adds that predictions of 60 billion connected devices worldwide by the end of the decade are not optimistic, but are likely too low.

Asin and Simon also reflected on different perceptions of the internet of things in Europe versus the United States.

Simon, pointing to the popular Nest thermostat, said that Americans are focused on the user experience — the beauty of the design and the ability to control it with an iPhone are the primary draws, with energy savings a third consideration. The opposite is true in Europe at the moment, where the internet of things discussions begin and end with energy efficiency. Simon believes, though, that the attitudes will soon converge.

We are moving into a new, post-industrial world, and new ways will have to be designed so that business can thrive.

This is like the economic pressures that drive us to build new infrastructure in the real world, or the societal pressures that lead us to make basic changes: like universal suffrage, the abolition of slavery, and child labor laws.

Whatever else social business comes to be, it has to be based on how people operate when they feel most free, most creative, most engaged, and most needed. We have to build a way of working where the people doing the work matter as much as the work being done.

Whatever else, social business must be that.


- Stowe Boyd