Subba’s Serendipitous moments

April 26, 2010

The push and pull models – Not business models, but a mindset!

Filed under: Business,Innovation,Perspective — Subbaraman Iyer @ 6:08 pm
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A good friend of mine who is a regular reader of my blog and keeps asking me what’s serendipity got to do with what I write sent me the blog post which published extracts of the new book by John Seely Brown and John Hagel III titled The Power of Pull. The extract mentions the role of serendipity in creating new paradigms;which was one of the reasons why the blog post was sent to me.

I have been mulling over the push and pull models for several years. Apart from what is mentioned in the blog post, I reckon the following:

A push based thinking is at best an eclectic  mix of intellectual sloth and arrogance. It starts with the premise that the “pusher” knows what it is in the best interest for the recipient. Push further accentuates the efficiency syndrome and believes that the right mechanisms and triggers will ensure success. It invariably tends to replicate the past, making just minor tweaks to current environment. The more different the reality, the greater is the research and more diligent is the design of the mechanisms and “push” messages. The arrogance of the past success ensures that they remain in continuous denial about the new world and push outmoded things with greater vigor. The perpetuation of the past is sadly created by the elite at the top who often believe that they are the sole owners and arbiters of the reality. The role of conceiving and creating new offerings gets considerably devalued over time. Tactical thinking gains ascendancy often at the cost of strategic thinking and innovative approaches. Such thinking has led to a slow but sure decline and eventual death unless a radical thinking ensues.

A pull based thinking on the other hand forces people to be humble as they necessarily have to be clued to the environment and listen constantly. A pull based thinking essentially harnesses the power of many different entities and creates possibilities and scenarios that were not conceivable in the first place. It does create chaos and confusion, but slowly there’s a defining fluidity which lends itself to constant learning and innovation. Further a force of serendipity acts as a regular glue helping people make connections and improvisation. It is an open mindset that constantly calibrates itself.

Tell me a successful innovation or a major breakthrough and I can demonstrate how pull based thinking contributed to the phenomenon.

Sharing has becoming second nature (thanks to social networking and Facebook) in the world that we live in. Facebook’s open graph in fact is perhaps the biggest opportunity for pull based thinkers and marketers as they can participate in the conversation. It will force people to conceive not just value propositions but every attractive value propositions as they compete for attention in a rapidly attention deficit mental state. The digital native should have had a natural advantage here. Yet most digital natives are content with pulling data and information from the Web and not creating value out of them. Worse still, many impose their own pull based thinking into this push based environment and are none the wiser.

Hence I am tempted to conclude that notwithstanding the environment it is one’s thinking model that needs examination and scrutiny.

While the sort of pull based thinking described above is externally directed, there is an internally directed pull based thinking that is equally potent. It transforms passive observers and learners into performers. I have often noticed that pull based thinkers are natural performers as they constantly attempt to pull new information, concepts and thinking into something meaningful to them. All that is needed is persistence, the willingness to experiment and occasionally fail and constantly call upon themselves to be curious and seek out new things.

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April 22, 2010

Twitter’s cruel irony

Filed under: Business,India,Learning — Subbaraman Iyer @ 2:52 pm
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In the media frenzy world that we all live in, Twitter has suddenly taken center stage, especially in India.

Twitter came into its own during the Mumbai 26/11 terrorist attacks when it even upstaged the mainstream media. Now the irony is that India’s best twitter – Shashi Tharoor (with over 750,000 followers) had to resign as Minister of State for Foreign Affairs had to quit in ignominy in a scandal which had the potent mix of cricket, illicit romance, politics and of course money. All of it triggered by a rival’s tweet (Lalit Modi commissioner of IPL).

The saying goes: “Those who live by the sword, perish by it.” Lalit Modi himself who conceived the IPL and generated more than $4 billion in revenues in just 2 years got a taste of his own medicine, when a tweet by Shashi Tharoor had the tax authorities making one of their biggest investigations against him and all his partners.

That Lalit Modi is now toast is a foregone conclusion. Worse things await him based on all the news stories that’s breaking out every moment.

It all happened because two egoistic, pompous, publicity seeking and twitter addicts were stupid to tweet in the middle of the night and wake up the whole world. Had they not done so, the party would have gone on.

A fine instance of the law of unintended consequences.

Facebook wants to be the Internet

Filed under: Business,Competition,Leadership,Strategy — Subbaraman Iyer @ 12:01 pm
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Facebook’s f8 conference yesterday is a significant event. The Facebook juggernaut seems unstoppable. It will go down in history when Facebook revealed its intent to revolutionize not just the Internet, but act as the default Internet.

Facebook launched 3 major “features”, all of which may seem pretty much innocuous but that could have a dramatic and profound impact. Though I had referred to some of the implications in my talk on How Facebook will impact us and Why CIOs should meet the Facebook at the CIO conference in Singapore, I didn’t expect it would come to us so soon.

Becoming social is default: Facebook repackaged the Social graph as Open graph. With this it is not only possible to see social connections between people, but also connect people with the interests – be it books, movies, places, brands and the list is endless. As Mark Zuckerberg  said: “The web can can become a series of personally and semantically meaningful connections”. There’s nothing more sticky in the world than a Social graph.

This will surely accelerate the move to search becoming more social. I am quite sure that the “social search” phenomenon will be something that will gain preference over the normal search in many product categories. Businesses and brands will perhaps consider shifting marketing campaigns to leverage this in lieu of the traditional web page.

As a corollary, the Web which has been defined by hyperlinks (which Google exploited to its advantage), will gradually morph into social connections – with likes, dislikes, interests, behavioral patterns etc. that could become increasingly machine readable and all social interactions get assembled in a large database which Facebook can exploit.

Social plugins:The social plugins may be viewed as mere widgets, but again the impact is far reaching. The LIKE button offers not just “instant personalization” but enables to create a persistent and continuous relationship with the entity – be it a book, music album, food, almost anything. It feeds into the Open graph seamlessly. Any user who searches for the book will immediately bring it to the Open graph from Facebook’s search engine and with another click can take it to any book site.

Mark mentioned in his address that he expects to have 1 billion LIKES within 24 hours of the launch.  Quite possible given that Facebook now has over 30 major partners like CNN, ESPN, IMDb and others. With about 30 billion LIKES a month, in addition to over over 25 billion shares a month (without LIKES), Facebook will become the largest sharing site in the world.

The social plugins will be the much needed catalyst for viral marketing or buzz marketing. Nothing else comes close. It will take a while before marketers learn to exploit this, but the tools are already there.

There are other features targeted a t developers and its implications will become clearer soon.

Other interesting developments:

Growing numbers:Facebook is approaching 500 million subscribers and close to 100 million subscribers access this through the mobile. In fact my view is that the killer application for the smartphone is Facebook quite serendipitiously. The Facebook Connect itself has close to 100 million. With the social plugins and open graph, Facebook Connect has become unassailable.

Microsoft alliance:One clear application that may not strictly qualify as social plugin, could be Microsoft’s Docs.com which enables users to share, edit, view web based documents with their Facebook’s friends. Obviously this is a frontal attack on Google Docs.

The implications of Facebook’s initiatives promise both unparalleled benefit and great risk depending on one’s worldview. While on the one hand it will make sharing and connecting a snap, it will enable Facebook to own every activity on the Internet. If people were scared of Google’s power and influence, Facebook takes this fear to new heights – it will become the Web itself from the big glue that tied the Web itself.

In that role, Facebook will have to be the most trusted entity in the world. It is awesome but on second thoughts leaves me scared.

April 19, 2010

Prof C K Prahalad – the paradigm creator passes away

Filed under: Uncategorized — Subbaraman Iyer @ 8:58 am

 

Globally recognized as one of the greatest  gurus who regularly created several management paradigms Prof C K Prahalad (known as CK) passed away on Friday.

Other than reading most of his articles, books and spending about 1.5 hours with him in a cafe at Borders Singapore on a rainy day, I can’t claim to know him closely. But his books and the time that I spent him had a profound impact on me.
My meeting with him was purely chance. We both were browsing the books at the book store when I saw him reach out to a book. I instantly recognized him. I asked him : "Excuse me, are you Prof C K Prahalad"? In a soft tone, he replied "Yes, I am unfortunately". We talked for about 10 minutes, before I summoned the courage to ask him to have a coffee with me. Given that it was raining and that he had no other engagement, he graciously accepted.

Time flew by. Before we realized, it was 1.5 hours. The finest 1.5 hours that I had spent. Few people would have been so fortunate to have learnt the philosophical underpinnings of Competing for the future and The Core competencies of the firm than me. He patiently explained the choices global firms have in developing the strategic architecture. However before every answer he gave, he always asked a couple of questions perhaps to assess my sincerity and understanding. Every answer that he gave opened my mind further.

His writings on Competing the future came at a time Reengineering was the reigning buzzword and hence for many it was a radical new thought. Subsequently he became a regular paradigm creator and continued till he wrote “The Fortune at the bottom of the pyramid" that drove businesses not to ignore the poor but consider them as value seeking consumers. Every idea that came from him was a blockbuster of sorts.  His intelligent play on the word "foresight" as "future insight" and not just "insight" was breathtaking.

It took me several years to imbibe what he taught. Each time I saw an interesting and bold business strategy, I could see how one of his blockbuster ideas were applied.

I have it from a friend (who is now a CEO of a major Indian firm) that whenever he conducted workshops for Indian CEOs, he exhorted them to think global, even when circumstances were daunting. When a CEO questioned him about resources and why it was difficult to think global in the 1990s, he gently rebuked him and asked him " Is there a constraint even in thinking global?" If today many of the Indian firms have gone global, at least some credit has to go to him for having changed their mindset.

His parting comment to me as he left that evening became one of my core values. He said " Pursuing excellence in whatever one does is an enriching way to lead life. People often exaggerate the cost of pursuing excellence and often undermine the impact. If one has to compete in the future, pursuing excellence is a core necessity".

Thank you, Professor! This student of yours has been trying hard to do that since you said and I have to say it is enriching. And on this day with all reverence, I deeply acknowledge the impact that you made on me.

April 16, 2010

Android and Nexus One shows momentum

Filed under: Business,Competition,Innovation,Strategy — Subbaraman Iyer @ 11:29 am
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Contrary to perceptions that the Nexus One is a failed product, Google actually announced in its Q1 2010 earnings report that Nexus One is meeting expectations, if not exceeding them.

Google mentioned that “driving the business (the Nexus One)  to be a profitable business from the get go. and is happy with device uptake and impact it has had raising the bar showing what a Smartphone can do.”

Report from Mark Huber SVP of Engineering on Android:

Huber: We believe in open platforms.. Our efforts in mobile are a great example of this at work. Schmidt said Google is taking mobile first approach. Your Smartphone knows where you are, so this location launched near-me-now. Turns your location into the search query. New stars in search feature, you click star next to result to save it. Makes it easier to find later (from mobile device). Android and Chrome gaining lots of momentum.

Android powering 34 devices from 12 OEMs. Over 60,000 Android devices sold/activated a day. Our mantra with Android is “open”. The platform and Market. 38,000 Apps, up 70% quarter over quarter.

Now with such an apps surge, it is no surprise that Apple wants to make it difficult for developers to be in both camps – the Android camp and the iPhone camp. It is trying to rewrite history.

April 14, 2010

The mobile is the future

Filed under: Uncategorized — Subbaraman Iyer @ 7:11 pm

 

The mobile is indeed the future. Korea, Japan and to some extent even China has made impressive strides with mobile applications. India lags behind considerably despite having close to 300 million subscribers. The Facebook on the mobile was the catalyst; though few acknowledge its contribution.

Eric Schmidt reinforces the view in this interview.

I particularly like Eric’s statement that large IT apps are inflexible, late and complex. That is an understatement.

The other thing is that more apps are moving to the Web and while it has gained momentum in the consumer space, the Enterprise is still to embrace the Apps on the Web paradigm. It will take time. I also agree that barring the critical and classified part of the government apps, more government apps can be Web based and hence a lot of scope for open source apps, something that I spoke about in Reengineering Government apps last year.

Is Apple rewriting history?

Filed under: Business,Competition,Model,Perspective,Strategy — Subbaraman Iyer @ 12:27 pm
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Recent moves by Apple clearly indicate that Apple seems intent on rewriting history. Time will tell whether this is a brilliant move or a move that is just more than a misstep!

First, the attempted lock in of developers into its walled garden. The garden may be beautiful, but it is walled; not open. So far Apple has defied the odds of making its  walled gardens innovative and “developer friendly”. Now it is offering a mixed bag.

The iPhone and iPad is becoming a closed system which Apple only can control. Its current rift with Adobe is well known. The fight with Adobe is not about Flash but Apple’s fundamental approach to developers . Apple is insisting that all apps be developed using Apple’s proprietary tools with its SDK and discouraging porting of apps developed on other platforms based on its most recent license agreement. It clearly is an affront to all developers alike. It is clearly a move to limit developers from building apps for other platforms (read: Android)

Second, as a sop to developers, than as a new line of business, Apple offered the iAds an advertising platform for developers and offered to share advertising revenues. Advertisers can place ads in apps and when clicked direct users to a web site without leaving the app. Apple would serve up the ads and offered to give developers 60% of the advertising revenue to developers.

Just another way to keep the developers of more than 180,000 apps happy and help them make some money in the process!

As much as the media portrays this as yet another battle between Apple and Google, I do not see this way! The entire market for mobile advertising is less than U.S. $ 500 million accounting for just 2% of the total U.S. online advertising market. The revenue stream for Apple is insignificant. It is clearly a battle for keeping the developers firmly in the Apple fold and trying to deprive Google to build the developer community for the Android platform.

So make no mistake: It is not Apple taking on Google for advertising dollars, it is about developers!

Will the walled garden work or will open systems succeed or will both co-exist? Time will tell!