What's going on in Seth Godin's world

Seth Godin coined the term 'Ideavirus' some time back, and demonstrated how ideas can spread, and spread rapidly. I got infected with the Ideavirus and I'm following his latest since. Here is the collection of my thoughts on the subject of Ideas, customers, business, marketing, and Seth's riffs on anything he chooses to riff on.... including other powerful sneezers in the entire Ideavirus chain!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Exceed all expectations

Another gem from the genius - The expectation paradox.

My take:
Most things in life follow the bell curve. There are minimum and maximum limits set and rest everything (most everything) falls in the normal zone.

What Seth refers to as the paradox is in reality the marketers inability to set the expectation bar in the realistic zone. Marketers' near paranoia of swinging to the lower extreme and missing out "trial" opportunities shows up in their over-correction. Result?


Often this over-correction is a knee jerk to competitive pressures.Remember my What is weirdness: Seth Godin asks mere mortals ?

Even if your execution capability tends towards the maximum limit of the bell curve, the expectations still need to be set near normal and not to the maximum.

That is the trick to undersell and overdeliver. Be promising enough to generate interest but Exceed all expectations. That's the end-game.

Or should be.

P.S: Haven't been active on the blog for a while. Reason: Have traversed across continents in the process of settling down in Australia. Hope that in the future I do some reasonable expectation-execution math myself!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Pleasantly Puzzled by Google

It's not my birthday! But there is this Google gift (maybe I am gifted...) you can sample by Googling seth perspective as below:

But I prefer the sensational:

One 'blink' (Weblink) from me on Seth (Seth's perspective..) somehow gets the "I'm feeling lucky" spot ahead of the actual perspectives of that genius.

Maybe it all did start on my birthday. I have monitored this search phrase for over a month now, hoping (or dreading?) that it will go away. But the surprise remains, my most prized possession till date.

I leave it to the SEO experts to explain!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Strategy execution: Key to success

Strategies draw a reasonably close parallel to the Physics or Chemistry laws, & Strategy execution resembles those experiments we all remember. The business world is like a lab; experiments are constantly being made to seek the truth because there are no readymade answers.

What we forget at times is that there are more instances than one would think, that demand extreme delicacy. An example that you would no doubt remember from the school days:

HCl + NaOH = NaCl + H20 ----- (i)

What a simple and basic formula! Just move around radicals from here & there and lo! You have an equation. But is it that simple when it comes to its execution in real life? Now try and remember your chemistry lab. You required a burette; a pipette; given concentration of Acid and Alkali; phenolpthalein (a "third party" which had the unique property of showing its visual presence in a neutral to slightly basic medium)....

Remember the delicacy with which you measured an exact quantity of the alkali in the pipette, how carefully the acid was released drop by drop.....
When you remember all that, you begin to realize that merely having a Strategy (read equation) does not warrant success. The above simple equation for instance does NOT mean that if I empty a drum of concentrated Hydrochloric acid, and a drum of equally acrid Sodium hydroxide in a bigger drum; I would get a drum of common salt dissolved in a drum of water!

Should I dare to jump in this mixture assuming it is no different from taking a dip in my neighborhood beach? If the basic tenets of delicacy are not followed (ridiculing them as unnecessary riders) then I daresay I would emerge badly scalded & scarred, having entered under the mistaken belief of the above chemistry equation being universally applicable.

Some things seem so absurdly simple - that they are almost rhetorical. Yet it surprises me that the moment "business" people think for the "business"; simple things are conveniently forgotten. Things like the delicacy to be maintained in the chemistry lab; things like paying attention to the Execution of a howsoever well thought out Strategy...

"Time is of the essence", and rest all can go to hell; seems to be the typical business pundit's mantra. Apparently whosoever wants to put prudence on the fore, is either trodden over, or shown the door. Some fancy equation like ---- (i) above is picked up from somewhere and without bothering too much about applicability (oh those consultants... don't know why they charge so much..!) headlong they go in, trying to make common salt out of the experiment!! Will they bother with the value equation on both sides? I bet they wouldn't.

For example, take this equation;

Fewer People + Technology = More People ----- (ii)

People simply don't perceive it in its value terms. They believe that more people mean simply paying few extra salaries, whereas Technology.. .. it's a HUGE investment, man! What they fail to perceive is that Technology does not come tapping at your door every week demanding a paycheck. A word here especially on the typical Indian corporates talking about Indian labor being cheaper, and completely denouncing equation ---- (ii). Well they would be as wrong as they would be if they believed equation --- (i) gave them a fantastic way to make common salt..

So please don't hesitate to ask questions. You are not being an obstacle in the strategy execution by being inquisitive. The more questions asked and answered, the better for any strategy. Understand that the strategies demand appropriate execution, and for that you need to appreciate and know
  • the environment;
  • the value objectives (is it prudent to make common salt the harder way as in --- (i)?);
  • that any amount of discovery work that you do or get done through consultants, is most welcome;
  • that in fact the discovery process is absolutely required to establish the facts in any equation...

The lifeblood of any business is being innovative. Granted. Let there be innovation; but not at the expense of common sense. Let not the intricacies, and the mandatory processes be overridden citing paucity of time; under the mistaken belief that if enough number of people think that the details aren't important then so will it be.

"So let there be light"! Let the strategies be made boldly, but being properly informed. The clearer the understanding is; the closer the strategies will be to the goal; and then the right detailed execution will produce success.

That Success = Nothing succeeds like which!!!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I Know What You Want

When I started this wonderful journey -- I promised myself (on behalf of the many readers I would be amassing in the future), that I will cover, comment, and communicate on Seth Godin's riffs, AND would also cover other powerful Sneezers in the Ideavirus chain...

Just today I realized, after having posted something on my Customer Interaction blog, that I too have created something that can at least get a passing mention in 'Seth Godin's World'. And so I invite you to sample -- I Know What You Want

It may not be a powerful enough sneeze to make you say - "God Bless You!"....But why am I assuming what you will do? Having written and now been convinced by my other piece; I really don't know what you'll do next!!! (But hope that you will comment).


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

What we want from Search Engines

Background: Seth Godin refers to the Search engines (Yes, but how do you search for that?); how exactly can they match the buyers to the sellers; and wishes someone somewhere figured it out.

There was a time when people got by without search engines. Some of the engines that at least I knew, were railway engines, 2-stroke engines, 4-stroke engines, fire engines etc. But today, the issue is not whether you know that THE Engine has arrived. The issue is that many people, including some self-proclaimed 'geeks', do not know how to operate the engine.

Examples swing between the extremes of people drawing 'blank searches', to people wondering where they are, when their search returns some 22,220,000,000 matches found, across god knows how many pages...! Most of the time they forget to put double quotes around what they want, whereas people of the former variety would be well advised to be a bit more generic and not nit-pick to the extent of typing "What is round, silver, squeaky, and flies so fast that it's hard to catch it?" in the search box.

And so, even for me, who operates the engine reasonably better than many, the million dollar question is - What is the ideal spot in between?
Is it exactly mid-way between the two extremes? How do I achieve that feat? How would I even know whether I reached the Ideal?

In the search engine world, you are trying to figure out exact answers in the shortest possible time, and hence it's not a question of mere Quality vs. Quantity. It's a question of finding the exact Quality out of the enormous Quantity that is now out there.

George Gamow gave us a glimpse of this problem in his "One, Two, Three ... Infinity". His premise was simple. If you could build a press, that was capable of printing out each and every combination of the alphabet & punctuation, then presto!, it would give you everything. It would print out each and every letter of the wisest, the choicest, and even the futuristic (that which is yet to have been written..)!!!
It would print the entire works of Shakespeare, each and every advert ever appearing in the newspapers, all the scientific treatises, love-letters, shopping lists, and even everything that me or Seth Godin has ever written (including this text), and also what me, Seth Godin, Kathy Sierra or Tom Peters is ever going to write.

Appears a simple enough concept. But the problem is that to achieve this, the chief ingredient actually is - time. Time is not on your side. Suppose each and every atom in the world was one such printing press, printing away since the Big Bang (which occurred quite some time back..), and that all those 'atom-machines' print with the vibrating speed of the atom; then collectively they would have produced by now only 1/30th of 1 percent of the entire possible output. And even if you had this much, it would still not mean a thing, because you would have to edit the works. It would contain meaningless gibberish (..aaaaaaaa), proper sentences that mean nothing (I like apples cooked in turpentine..), and also sentences that give you the secret of the universe (which I just gave...:-).. So if it took industrious atoms the entire to-date life of this universe to come up with a paltry 1/30th of 1 percent etc. you and me will not get very far with our editorial dreams.

Now I don't exactly know whether or not every single piece of information out there on the Information & Intelligence Internetwork (which some people call the Internet) is entirely devoid of gibberish. I hope it is, to make the life of a budding editor (or a Google) a bit easier. But George Gamow's envisaged 'atom-mahcines' are even now type-padding, blog-spotting, and geo-citying relentlessly to make M/s. Google / Yahoo / Lycos / Microsoft (being futuristic..)... sweat it out. Playing editor is increasingly becoming a difficult role...

Information overload is bad, even if good information creates it. And so along with Seth, I too wait for that someone, somewhere, who will do something about it.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Extrapolating some thoughts from Seth Godin & Kathy Sierra

Three posts in the recent past - each one a Codex, from visionary duo Seth Godin & Kathy Sierra - with powerful messages having a strong inter-correlationship - "Back Seat drivers and the wikipedia problem" (Seth Godin), "Listening to users considered harmful?" (Kathy Sierra), and "Don't give in to feature demands" (Kathy Sierra).

I went through them feeling like Professor Langdon, trying to decode the insights contained within, insights that eventually inspired me to pen down the following contribution.

The common point driven home by "Back Seat driver.." (Seth's one line summary is THE actual message) and Kathy's "Listening to users.." is that Customers don't necessarily know what they want. And Kathy's "Don't give in.." tells us what happens if you try accommodating the myriad demands coming in from different types of users: You will end up with 100% dissatisfied users. Not a good shape to be in.

Seth and Kathy, the visionaries they are, make a strong and sensible point, and my take from this is to tell businesses WHY should they absolutely, absolutely focus on Customer Segmentation as a key strategy, and work it out to the 'T'!

Allow me to don my thinking hat and try putting a structure around Kathy's 13 user types from "Don't give in..". Instead of adding more types to the phenomenal work done by her, I'll attempt to categorize those into the following user types:

1. Concerned
2. Complacent
3. Celebrities

These are my 3 C's of Segmentation. Concerned users are your critics, they are "Hopping mad" to tell you things. Complacent users are merely complacent, and usually go "Ho, hum..". Celebrities are the "Happy" ones, they are your Stars.

Remember the above 3 C's give you 3 H's! (Now is this resembling an Organic Chemistry class - C3... H3...?? Some more elements for the Benzene type of formula? Thankfully no!) I will now venture into the type of things these broad Segments will be pestering you with - if you bother to listen.

The varied and interesting feedback typically comes in either of the following: a) Continue (C) doing what you are doing fine; b) Start (St) doing these things that you didn't earlier think of; & c) For God's sake Stop (Sp) doing these terrible things to us. "Continue" / "Start" / "Stop"! The music player for you! Making you sing tunes: start / stop / keep going... .. the core concept of "Listening to users...harmful?" (Kathy)

Now take a look at how the 3 C's typically operate the music player:

The 3 broad categories also have shades within. Something like an "Extremely Concerned" being distinct from a "Concerned bordering on Complacent" .. and so on. And the feedback will proliferate accordingly. For instance, C=These:St=These:Sp=X, is a possible shade. This shade hovers on Complacent<->Celebrity border, and appears to be a Creative Innovator.
Whereas C=X:St=These:Sp=These, probably denotes a Balanced Innovator.
An "All three" C/St/Sp = These contributor is an enthusiastic Celebrity eager to tell you a lot of things!

The moot point is that if you are not a "Basecamp" which can attempt to be an e2e, i.e. everything to everyone (keyword 'attempt' is my disclaimer, I'm neither saying yes they are e2e, nor that they're not); then the only way out for you is to figure out how to divide your market into meaningful segments - each with its own 3 C's; rather than a big huge befuddled mass market.

Why not create Segments with only Celebrities? Tempting though it sounds, that would mean: a) you create a befuddled mass of multiple markets instead, and b) you would spend too many resources building 'exactly' what the Celebrities want in that segment (who might turn out to be THE solitary Celebrity left there..)

So, Segment. Segment judiciously. Identify the 3 C's, know their 3 H's, and the shades of C:St:Sp mix. And NO, don't implement each and every C:St:Sp combo. Apply your subject matter expertise, apply your knowledge of the 3 C's and implement what you know will work. Also try converting the Complacent into either Concerned OR into Celebrities! Extremism may be taboo in Politics; but it's certainly the key lever in business.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Signal is Noise - another Point of View

Yesterday I wrote about the advent of the Information era, the phenomenal power of the III (Information & Intelligence Internetwork), and the pyramid standing on its head. (Signal is Noise, Noise is Signal)

Today I get to the point another way. How Signal is not Noise, but how to convert Signal into Noise. Pardon me for making it sound like a DIY series, it's not. It's a commentary on the current partial III embargo we Indians are going through. Which is the trick. The trick of "blocking". The trick to achieve the above How to.

As I write these lines, (and thankfully I can write them because the parent "blogger.com" is still accessible), the whole domains of .blogspot.com, .typepad.com, and some more have been rendered inaccessible in India as an anti-insurgency measure, in response to the recent train bombings in Mumbai.

I am not passing any judgment on the validity of the move, whether it is right-on-your-money or downright-stupid. But I want to re-emphasize the tremendous power of III. Right now it's a one-way street for me (again thankfully at least one-way). I cannot visit many of the blogs I admire (and was stupid enough not to put on my Bloglines). The egotistic touch I referred to yesterday is something I can feel more deeply. Millions of other Indians also must be facing similar difficulties in this temporary 'blog-less' phase.

If by chance someone catches this blog through a proxy, or some other means of countering the How to trick then please, please use My Feedburner feed to subscribe. For those who can still read this on blogspot, I urge you to do the same. Who knows what has future got in store for you?

Thankful having Seth, Kathy, and Tom (Vander Well) on Bloglines, I am now looking out for other noteworthy (remember NOISE?..) feeds myself. That will be my Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity plan for the future........

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