Archives for posts with tag: Technology


Silly question, right? (Even sillier now since fax machines are now almost extinct.)

You never heard a CEO asking the CMO: “So, what’s our telephone strategy?”

In the old days, no marketers had a smoke signal strategy. Or a telegraph consultant.

All this seems bizarre because fax machine, phone and telegraphs are tools, a medium with the purpose to connect human beings with each other.

Suddenly, Al Gore invents the Internet and everybody demands digital strategies, email strategies, social strategies, mobile strategies, emerging media strategies – you name it.

Does the demand for all these strategies equal the need of people?

Not really.

In the end, it’s about connecting people. Email, social platforms, emerging media, anything digital are just conduits. Nothing more than technologies that people use to connect, engage with, learn, waste time or communicate. Behind all these technologies and amazing new tools are just people. Is there a story they want to hear from you? Is there anything of value you can offer them?

Most brands focus on the technology part and it gets quite complicated and complex. All that complexity fades away when you focus on people and the connections you want to build.


Almost every day I have chats with colleagues or friends about technology. Apps are being shared and soon the typical talk start that this thing or the other thing will change the world. You will change the way you communicate, interact with the world, become a more evolved species.

And, then it starts to rain. (For people leaving outside of Los Angeles: the world stops, cars don’t move, blackouts and people are severely confused and annoyed).

Just about twelve times a day, if you read the advertising press, if you sit in numbing meetings led by social media experts, etc., you hear about some technology that will change everything. Technology that will change the fundamental wiring of the human brain. Technology that will change the way the world works. Technology that will transform everything we know and love.

We live in this illusion of advanced technology equaling advanced human beings. But when we encounter elemental forces and have elemental experiences, we revert back to tools we used for hundreds of years. When a water pipe broke in our house last year, no iPhone app was available. Towels had to suffice.

The same is true for our industry. One day we might be able to utilize neuroscience and beam messages directly to our decision center in the brain.

But the technology will never beat a human story, well told.


The brief about a viral video. The request for a LinkedIn strategy. The need to be on Twitter. POV’s about location-based marketing. What about Quora? What’s the strategy for the iPhone app? Are you done with the iPad strategy?

Brands and agencies: We’re all guilty

Marketing and advertising should be about making the product/service we’re trying to sell look good. The lightning fast speed of technology change has led to this bizarre reality that we’re trying to fit our product/service to the technology. To make the technology look good.

Brands and agencies are trying to top the competition all the time. That’s their job. We’re all tasked to come up with new and innovative ideas. But, somehow, everybody just focuses on the “new and innovative” part. And we have forgotten the idea part.

We chase the newest and innovative platform and tool because “new and innovative” equals technology. The latest garage venture, the latest tool that has some traction because you need to be first. Whoever is first on the platform gets all the PR, the calls from Ad Age and NY Times, the brownie points.Deep inside we know that our definition of “new and innovative” is too incremental to make a real dent. To move the needle. Since everybody is doing the same thing, because that little early adopter advantage disappears in a heartbeat. Chasing technology has become our idea.

That’s why Foursquare is now littered with useless promotions. Facebook with pages nobody cares about. Twitter with feeds nobody reads. YouTube with videos nobody every watched. Second Life, well…

Let’s stop building “The Homer”.

“The Homer” has two bubble domes; one in the front, while the one in the back is for quarreling kids, and comes with optional restraints and muzzles. The engine sound causes people to think “the world’s coming to an end.” There are three horns, as Homer claims that “you can never find a horn when you’re mad.” The three horns play the song “La Cucaracha.” Last but not least, the car features shag carpeting, tailfins and a metal bowler as a hood ornament.

Homer had no clue what he was doing. He just came up with a list of features, things he would like to have. Because he always wanted to have them. Or because nobody had them yet. Just like the kitchen sink brief you received yesterday. Or the kitchen sink memo that you’re preparing for your employees tight now.

The technology looks so bright and shiny because our ideas are often so stale and superficial. That’s why people can distinguish between platforms. But they have no clue which product or service ran an ad/campaign or initiative. Because the ideas are meant to fit the technology. It needs to be the other way around.


In case you haven’t heard yet: We’re in a deep recession. We’re in the middle of a structural transformation of our economic system. Ok, I won’t bore you: We have major problems. Bailouts, global debt crisis, nature pillaged – our future is at stake.

Many influential people have told us technology will be the savior: It will pull the economy out of its misery, improve our lives, the way we connect with each other – you heard all this before.

Which brings me to TechCrunch Disrupt.

I watched the majority of Battlefield presentations where startups pitched their products/applications. And I was utterly disappointed.

A lot of clones, bandwagon riders and way too many companies relying on advertising revenue. (99.9% of companies basing their business model on advertising revenue shouldn’t be funded and close the doors now. The last thing we need is more advertising impressions. We have plenty of those. We need innovation in advertising, not new platforms using the current digital advertising model.)

And, I’m not alone. Even Scobleizer, the biggest fanboy of digital innovation, communicated his disappointment with the chosen companies:

“Silicon Valley needs to be sent a message that we need real innovation and interesting new ideas.”

Mahatma Ghandi said famously: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Looking at the innovators at TechCrunch Disrupt, our future will be filled with badges, more advertising, more clutter and more applications we need to download. I didn’t see anything revolutionary that questions the Status Quo. Nothing that improves our broken educational system. Nothing that improves our broken political system. Nothing that helps improve communities or our daily lives.

At one point, Silicon Valley used to have a feel for developing stuff that helps change the world. Nowadays, Silicon Valley is more concerned with flipping.

Instead, we need to question our priorities. Questioning the current society constructs and finding new ways to evolve our world into a livable, sustainable and fair community. How can we care more about others and less about material products? How can we develop communities that are less centered around “me” and more centered around a common purpose? How can we make this beautiful world a better place?

We need visionary ideas. Revolutionary products. Companies with missions focused on changing the world, not valuations. I saw a lot of small steps at TechCrunch Disrupt. The big dreams didn’t show up.


Image: Courtesty of

“It turns out that an eerie type of chaos can lurk just behind a facade of order – and yet, deep inside the chaos lurks an even eerier type of order.” – Douglas Hofstadter

One of the fundamental characteristics of today’s enterprise environment is change. Today’s rate of change can often be experienced as chaos. All of us are grappling with the implications of technology, demographic changes and the impact of the human race on the planet. And we have an armada of experts that tell us how it will affect us physically, psychologically, socially, and organizationally. The fact and necessity of change needs to be a major consideration in the management of any enterprise. In addition, it is imperative for executives to be competent in introducing, responding to, or coping with fluctuations in the environment.

Before an enterprise can deal effectively with chaos and the always-present change, it needs to craft a situational analysis. It provides a comprehensive view of the system they manage. It also helps with determining its projected future, where it will be if it continues on the current path and be prepared for situation where the unexpected happens. These projections are imperative to understand how the enterprise will be affected unless it changes.

Situational Analysis Content

The situational analysis needs to contain at minimum:

  • Flow of business transactions from initial order to final delivery
  • Information flow required by underlying business transactions
  • Flow of financial resources
  • Culture of the enterprise. Differentiating between real culture and externally communicated culture (Policies)
  • Conflicts within the enterprise and between the enterprise and other stakeholders
  • External Trends and implications to the performance of the enterprise

This situational analyis is a much more in-depth look at the overall health of the enterprise compared to the typical SWOT analysis. In addition, we do recommend enterprises developing an ultimate apocalypse scenario.

Ultimate Apocalypse Scenario

The goal of the ultimate apocalypse scenario is to understand when and how the organizational system will break down if there are no adjustments. We all know that enterprises will eventually intervene and adjust. (Often too late or not early enough.) To be clear, this scenario is very unlikely to happen. But it helps enterprises to understand when and how the system will break down if no changes are implemented.

Fact is, the majority of organizations will not change their course unless they are in a state of crisis. Let’s just have a look at the current state of the U.S. government: For how many years have we heard we need to change fiscal direction? For how many years have we listened to politicians talking about the crisis of entitlements? Only after we stepped away from the brink of the financial abyss, we started to have an intelligent discussion about fiscal policy. Projections about our impending bankruptcy revealed the crisis of of our fiscal policy unless we change our behavior.

The ultimate apocalypse scenario should be communicated through a lively narrative. Humans react favorably to real stories, to vivid images. Just explaining the the federal deficit might reach 50% of GDP doesn’t evoke any emotions. A scenario where nobody will buy our debt and bond vigilantes will run the fiscal policy of the US evokes strong emotions.  The ultimate apocalypse scenario provides an enterprise with an opportunity to control and influence a significant part of its future. The goal of the enterprise is to influence the future and not be influenced by the interventions of others.

In Part 5, we will discuss Pie in the Sky planning.

And, in case you missed the first three parts, you can find them here: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

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The World Cup is upon us and as a lifelong soccer fan and player, I reflected on a few insights that the soccer game taught me that can be applied to small and large businesses.

1. Embrace and live your culture

I started playing soccer when I was 5. We practiced twice a week and played each Saturday. Raised in Germany, our practice consisted of 90 minutes running and 30 minute playing time. Fairly insane when you think about it: forcing 5-year-olds to run for 90 minutes through the forest or doing laps after laps. But that’s the German culture for you. We were no masters on the ball but my team could outrun anyone. We won 90% of our games in the last 10 minutes because we never tired. (I hope there’s more balance in today’s practices in Germany, though)

Each country has a specific soccer culture: the playfulness of Brazil, the physical intimidation of England, the defensive discipline of Italy, the exuberance of African teams. While you need to embrace and live your culture to be successful, you shouldn’t fall in love with it and be always open to change. Brazil wasn’t a dominant force in the 70’s and 80’s because they focused too much on playfulness and not enough on execution. Once they added execution into the mix, matches and World Cup’s were won again.

2.) Hire entrepreneurs

Most soccer coaches last only for a few years. It’s a tough job to gather all your players from clubs all over the world, fight internal bureaucracies and deal with the press. Coaches, just like players, are superstars. They have to take huge risks in order to succeed and most of them fail. Just to rise on some other bench to try it again.

Soccer is a team sport but individual decisions make or break a team. The collective approach to soccer will always fail. Both coach and player are entrepreneurs, and the more creativity they display, the more leeway they are given. Coach and players have two different tools of influence to impact the outcome of the game.

The coach can create a cohesive, yet competitive culture that rewards creativity and innovation, build team spirit and nurture team culture. He has strategic tools at his hand (formations, substitutions, etc.) but his input won’t lead to innovation or moving the game to a new level.

This is done by 22 feet of 11 individual players. Players innovate on a daily basis to get a small but significant competitive advantage. They need to surprise other players with new ways of dribbling, moving, passing and reacting. The coach is there to create the right environment for players to innovate. Daily. With every move.

3.) Dramatic innovation is rare. Daily innovation a must.

As a soccer aficionado, it’s very interesting to watch games from the past and compare them to today’s sport. The game was much slower, formations not as fluid as they are today and positions have been redefined over the years. But, what’s even more intriguing is that these changes take years to really come to life. Franz Beckenbauer perfected the position of “Libero”, the “sweeper” before the goal-keeper, freeing him from marking a direct opponent. (Rather revolutionary, if you think about it: Instead of marking a person, you’re defending a zone.) He played his first World Cup in 1966, not really filling the position of Libero yet. In 1970, he showed massive improvements on this new style of play but it took him until 1974, when he crowned his career with a World Cup win and a performance that showcased his evolution from support player to innovator.

Innovation didn’t happen in one game. It happened over more than a decade. And influenced generations to come.

4.) Don’t blame technology. Don’t worship technology. Just use it.

Each time the World Cup comes around, there’s a lot of talk about the new ball. Some people fear it, some embrace it. Most players don’t care. The ball is just a tool they use to accomplish a task. Because it’s new, players will have to find the challenges/dead spots when handling or shooting it. Introducing a new ball right ahead of the biggest sporting event seems wrong. But it is a great way to determine the best playing team and the team that answered this challenge with a strong creative approach. There’s nothing to fear. And a lot to explore.

5.) Play. Hard.

I could write about the beauty of soccer, get all poetic and philosophical. But the real beauty of this sport is that’s it’s still a game. When players have a creative thought, they can implement this idea immediately. And fail. Or succeed. At the heart of American Football is strategy. Creativity is not rewarded. At the heart of soccer is creativity. (Based on a foundation of technical excellence, supreme conditioning and mental toughness.)

Tomorrow the World Cup begins. A clean slate. For all we know, North Korea might win it this time. Or South Africa. History exists only in the books and in our heads. On the grass, there’s no history. Just opportunity. Possibilities. The best playing team will win the tournament.

And, that’s the most important lesson soccer can teach business: Business is a game that reinvents itself each and every day. The basic rules remain the same, your team defines how to play with these rules creatively. As an executive, it’s your responsibility to assemble the best players, to lay down the rules and develop plans. At the end of the day, the players have to play to move your business. Let them play. And enjoy each moment of it.