Sustainable innovation and excellence in product development

In this MIT Sloan School of Management lecture on sustaining innovation, the CEO of W.L. Gore & Associates, Terri Kelly, has some great insights on how creative knowledge environments drive profitability.

W.L. Gore is a diverse and innovative company, creating products ranging from GORETEX to surgical devices. Kelly stresses to give your team the right tools, promote the right culture, maintain minimal bureaucracy, have high expectations for networking within the organization to connect and share knowledge, and recognize that leaders are “leaders” only if people actually want to follow them.

Define what you believe, define your guiding principles, define your core values, and define key disciplines. Use these four elements as the framework around which culture is nurtured, all the while recognizing that these elements must work as a system; any one element does not ensure success…it’s the interrelatedness of the components that promotes success. Culture is an active investment in terms of time, energy, and dollars, not a cost.

For W.L. Gore, this investment in culture results in amazing products like OPTIFADE hunting gear (play this game to see how it works). Obviously, W.L. Gore is doing something right. This Kelly lecture is well-worth 54 minutes of your time to gain some amazing insights.

Related post: Creating a culture of creativity and innovation

Creating a culture of creativity and innovation

Viewpoints on the future of free

Free is not the future of business.

Jason Fried, founder of 37 Signals, made this argument earlier this year at the Future of Web Apps conference. And this comment to Fried’s statement  makes a great argument based on simple economics: free is unsustainable from a product development perspective. So how does Red Hat make money by leveraging an open source system like Linux? Here’s a recent article that sheds some light on this, Red Hat is contemplating building a North American channel partner program, and it’s recently inked a deal with Amazon, and here’s an academic paper that points to three dominant ways by which to make money on open source:

  • consulting and support services around the software
  • derivative products built on the community project
  • increased revenue in ancillary layers of the software stack

The article goes on to predict that by 2012 more than half of open source revenue generated will derive from commercial open source.

I’m in agreement with Fried, and align with Robert Scoble,

I love paying for apps. Why? Because when I do that I encourage developers to build more cool apps for me…Anyway, the main point here is that it’s not the app store that’s screwed up: it’s our expectation that developers should work for free.

Scoble’s argument also aligns with Chris Brogan,

Don’t ever feel embarrassed to charge for value. Never apologize that something costs money if you’ve determined the value of it.

Makes sense to me.

Moving beyond social media

The label “social media” has lost its resonance in so far as the concept of “social media” has been reduced to a series of marketing tactics. As David Armano says in a Harvard Business Review blog article:

Let’s start with the challenges — the term “social media” itself is indicative of the state of affairs. “Media” limits our view of the movement, and brings with it the baggage of decades of advertising. Marketers are only too happy to view the social web as a new array of channels to market their goods in some shape or fashion. That’s because it’s a model they’ve used since the beginning.

Armano goes on to essentially say that “social media” represents a fundamental cultural shift. It’s a shift that started many years ago. In 2006, Cory Doctorow on BoingBoing uttered 10 words that embody this shift

Conversation is king. Content is just something to talk about.

This sentiment was re-articulated recently by Jay Thompson’s humorous, yet prescient, “Og the Caveman” parable

Back in the day, Og the Caveman would sit around the fire and talk about his day to anyone who would listen. The cave-ladies would roll their eyes while Og recounted his manly adventures, and cave-dudes would all be one upping each other with tales of who speared the bigger Mammoth…They had friends, and followers. There were popular cave-people, and there were annoying cave-people. And everything in between. Just like we have today. Only today we have whiz-bang technology tools to take our socializing and networking planet wide.

Indeed, it’s the technical infrastructure that’s a catalyst to this conversation enflamed cultural shift, most recently embodied by the battle for real-time search dominance. For example, a friend of mine recently commented on the uselessness (to him) of CNN in terms of real-time news and authority where, in the midst of the Mumbai attacks last year, the CNN anchor kept referring to Twitter as the source. Given this, my friend’s legitimate question was (still is) “So why am I wasting my time with you?” As a brand, CNN took a negative body blow.

Brands are not incognizant to this sentiment, this cultural meme, or gestalt-like shift to mine the real-time conversation core, and have launched full-bore social media marketing efforts to be part of the vein. But have these efforts been designed? Again, Armano, is on the money with this post on “filtering” the network economy and this presentation, Social Business By Design,

I especially like slide 23 where he points out an article discussing the concept of having a “Chief Social Media Officer”, which reminds me of turn-of-the-century job descriptions like Chief Electricty Officer and how irrelevant those titles were when electricity became as ubiquitous as air. So at a high-level what’s brand to do, be it a brokerage or agent brand?

As Armano demonstrates brand impressions–positive or negative–occur through many touch points, and as a brand you only have so much control. What you can control is 1) how you listen (through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blog, etc), 2) how you respond via these same channels, 3) what brand “persona” you want to convey via these listening and responding posts, 4) who you put in place to manage this process (are you serious and demonstrate that by hiring the right person for your brand versus having interns manage this process; the former indicates you’re in for the long haul whereas the latter indicates you still consider this cultural change child’s play), 5) architect your tactics by following a “designed” strategy. Here are four places to begin your strategy:

David Armano’s mind meme on design and his post on experiential design
Adam Singer on niche versus mass media
Understanding and measuring user engagement by Eric T. Petersen

Related posts: Choreographing Client Experiences on Your Website, Theatre of Cruelty in a Carnival of Real Estate, Twittering Away Your Digital Legacy

Photo credit: vkurland