Innovation in reruns

It’s interesting how one finds innovation in forms as unlikely as reruns in the Disney channel. I was accompanying my son in our living area earlier when I remarked that they showed one episode of a cartoon twice in a row. My wife was quick to point out that it was “spot the difference” night!

Imagine that. Disney was actually showing a rerun (and twice!) to kids who are lapping it up because it was turned into a game (and an old game, mind you) with little effort. When you look at it from a technical perspective, you won’t find anything innovative. But look at it on the whole, and you see a very good example of innovation.

It’s innovation because they were able to convert something that previously had little to no value (old episodes) and changed it into something more valuable many times over using a reasonably small amount of effort and with existing resources.

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No such thing as organizational goals

People act on their own self interest whether that it lies in money, power, or the feeling of contentment and piece of mind. This is basically what an organization is: it is a collection of individuals pursuing their own self interests. They may let their self interests compliment one another (intentionally or not), eventually (perhaps accidentally) achieving a more collective goal but they act out largely on their own self interest nevertheless.

An organization may seem to have its own set of goals. But most of the time it’s really just the goals of top management translated to fit the organization. The vision and mission may be plastered on the walls of each conference room. Firms may hold annual gatherings designed to remind employees of these goals. But if the organizational goals do not line up with the self interest of the individuals comprising it, if management fails to show its employees how achieving the goals also helps them achieve their own individual interests, nobody is going to get anywhere.

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Stocks are chips in a casino

Where else in the world can you find customers who are crazy enough to part with their money without even a the slightest guarantee that they will get back what they pay for, or at least be refunded should they not get what they think they paid for? When you buy an expensive watch or a new appliance, you want some sort of warranty. When you buy a web hosting service, you want to know of the SLA. When you go to the casino or invest in the stock market? Nada.

No big surprise therefore that a friend of mine who plays in the stock market regularly refers to the whole industry as being comprised of emotional, speculative individuals, driven more by gossip than in-depth analysis of the stocks they’re buying. I’m sure it’s not limited to just the investment industry in the Philippines. In fact, I was quick to argue that it’s not a Filipino trait, but a human trait: When you dangle hope in front of people, in this case the hope of making it big, and you do it convincingly, they will be more than willing to part with their hard-earned possessions in favor of that hope. Seth Godin will probably agree with me on this. As for the stock market, it comes with a facade of apparent smartness and a long history of respectable practice and conscientious decisions. Until the bubble burst.

An article in The Economist mentioned that most economic scholars nowadays have abandoned or started to abandon the idea of an efficient market: a theory that states that whatever route the free market takes is probably the most rational one. Now they are thinking about factoring in the possibility that most of these decisions may be driven more by “animal passion” than anything else. I’m not exactly sure what it means but I suppose it’s not too far from what I mentioned above: a tendency for human beings to cling to hope wherever it is sold convincingly.

So is animal passion a bad thing? Probably not. It’s certainly a good tool that a marketer can use. But as with many tools, it can be used for the good of man as well as to his destruction.

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Entrepreneurship education is like a pair of glasses

I’ve said this before: after working for more than a year for a very dynamic company that’s in a, likewise, very dynamic industry, I’ve come to realize that I’m learning so much more now that I’m in the field and that the stuff that I’m learning here, critical stuff, are things that my Master of Management program barely touched on back then.

But does that make the MoM useless? Heck no! Inadequate? Far from it. The stuff that I learned then, I liken to a pair of corrective glasses that an optometrist would recommend to a patient with less than 20/20 vision. It won’t make the patient an instant genius, but it will certainly help him study/work more effectively. For me, the MoM program I received allows me to see the entire organization I work for in a clearer way: I can see how Marketing, Finance, HR, and Operations work hand-in-hand to fulfill the business’ obligations.

I think this also should be the objective of any entrepreneurial course or program. It should be to teach students how to see a business in a more wholistic way. To require them to create business plans and usher them into business-making right after college? That *might* be doable given the right conditions but at the end of the day, the best person to decide is the student.

For now, I think that giving them an entrepreneurial lense is a noble enough objective and will improve their chances of taking the plunge and suceeding once the right entrepreneurial conditions are met.

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Business Model Innovation in the Arts

The Economist: Musicians are finding clever ways to pay for the tools of their trade (premium content)

This is an article I read back in 2006 but somehow failed to post about until now. I remember being particularly interested in this article because of how musicians have managed to utilize a technique in raising fund–one that you usually only see in corporate arenas–into their practice. And I suppose it begs the question, who was the first to think of doing this? And what was the thought process that brought it about? Was it just an accident or deliberate? I probably will never know the answers to this, but wouldn’t it be interesting (and, I would imagine, vastly valuable) if I did?

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The Art of Building Whatever

Dead air, or air that does not move, provides the same or perhaps nearly the same insulating characteristics of a vacuum. This is the reason why Styrofoam is such a good insulator: it’s not the material, but the dead air that the material traps, that produces excellent insulation. This is the same principle being exploited in glazed windows wherein two glass panes are installed parallel to each other as closely as possible, just enough to produce dead air between them.

Now, this post is not an attempt to change the focus of this blog to something more technical or scientific. Neither is this meant to show off my intellectual prowess in the realm of physics (I am almost certain I am missing a couple of scientifically critical facts in the above paragraph). Rather, it’s an attempt at being creative in introducing a couple of questions that I had in my head early this morning: What do I do with facts like this hanging around in the drawers of my memory such that it contributes to my productivity as a product manager (or more generally, an entrepreneur in training)? How do entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs manage their general knowledge in such a way that it produces innovations out of seemingly disparate areas of thought? Continue reading

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new media + old business model = ???

DISCLAIMER: I’ve no direct connections with or the Philippine Daily Inquirer and these opinions are based on nothing more than an outsider’s point of view. Feel free to read on while taking it with a grain of salt. Would be good if you could comment on it too.

Interesting news about how is folding and will be absorbed by its parent the Philippine Daily Inquirer (read here). It might seem surprising that an organization built on top of new media would be packed up and returned to its old media parent which supposedly belongs to a sector which is dying itself (Example. search for more in Google). On the other hand, when I look at how is designed, it seems as though it’s built on the same business model as its offline counterpart. Sure it comes with the usual Web 2.0 bells and whistles such as an RSS feed, tag clouds, and spaces to add comments here and there. But in general, it still feels a lot like an online carbon copy of the print version. I don’t know about you, but if that’s the case it doesn’t really offer me anything new and if I wasn’t much of a fan of the printed version, then what makes you think I’d suddenly be a big fan of the online version? Because it’s free? Not good enough. I like the free stuff from the Internet not because they’re free but because they have an innate value to me in the first place.

Furthermore, from what I see as an outsider, it also appears that their revenue model is a lot like the paper version’s: Ads peppered across the site (they have other paid services but I doubt if it makes them enough money). Might be a good enough means in a booming economy, but when the tides change (and drastically in the case of the past few months), advertising as a revenue stream isn’t so reliable unless you can provide advertisers with an excellent set of tools that allow them to gauge and even directly manage the effectiveness of their campaigns (think Google AdWords). Their media kit tells me that they charge by ad impressions and that is it. They don’t appear to provide tools that actually allow advertisers to gauge how many leads their ads generated. The best that the media kit can do is cite a survey by AC Nielsen. This is where Google AdWords excels and where traditional media companies fail to this day.

Taking these two things into consideration, it’s not so surprising therefore that is folding: There really was no significant innovation other than on the cost side (going on the Internet potentially allowed them to increase their readership without incurring the costs associated with the old media such as ink, paper, and physical distribution). Cutting cost is nice, but you can only do so much with it. This development should serve as an example to the many other newspapers in the country who are thinking about taking advantage of the Internet.

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