While I haven’t always ascribed to Christensen’s disruption theories, particularly as he’s applied them to journalism. (He ignores demand for high quality news products that new market entrants aren’t positioned to provide.) 

I do buy Christensen’s point that high-end brands are in danger if they don’t position themselves across more of the market.


Clayton Christensen on disruptive innovation - Clarendon Lectures 10th June 2013 (by Saïd Business School - OxfordSBS -)

A good tool for breaking it down

I was asked recently by a CFO to help develop a RACI matrix to help his team implement a new strategy.

Simple tools can serve a higher purpose, beyond the program and project management level.

The financial crisis underscored how important it was for CEOs of financial institutions to conduct a quick check of the firm’s risk exposure — via a Value at Risk figure or simple dashboard. We’ve also learned how risk can come in many forms, across all stages of a project or strategy, and from within all layers of the organization. 

A RACI matrix can act as a dashboard-view of any big endeavor. First, it helps strategists and managers break down a big idea into a many-staged plan, and assign multiple layers of ownership. Second, it helps monitor progress. 

You can download a template here to help you and your team:


Just be sure to follow the rules of thumb:

  • Each task/function/activity (row) should have ONE and only ONE Accountable (A).
  • Each task/function/activity (row) should have at least one Responsible. In some cases, a task can have more than one role responsible with shared responsibility.
  • If a task has more than one R then the task should be brainstormed further and see if it can be split into two tasks.
  • The number of Consults should be minimized.
  • Too many I’s is also not a good sign. Minimize the I’s so that only those who need to be Informed are informed.
  • If a column has no empty spaces, that means that Role/Person is involved with all tasks.  See if you can reduce C’s and I’s for this Role.
  • If a column has many R’s – The role may have too much work to do. Try to break the task into small sections and delegate to other roles.
  • If a column has no A’s or R’s, may be this role can be eliminated from this process.
  • If a column has many A’s means this role be a bottleneck. Try to see if these tasks be shared.

#Climate change 2013: what message types spread on social media


Our company thought it would be interesting to track which social media messages re: climate change were most effective last year. After parsing lots of data, some themes emerged — some interesting, some obvious. 

For starters, we looked at quantity and quality: messages that had the broadest reach, and those messages by individuals who are climate change influentials (read: people who move the conversation forward or contribute new and different perspectives). Here’s what we learned:

  • Meta-level discussion is the big new thing of 2013 — If a tree falls in the forest from global temperatures rising, will anyone notice? Climate change influentials have stepped away from using the science of climate change to engage — though they still cite new research findings — in favor of focusing on how news organizations and even high level politicians are talking about it. In the past month, we see a focus on The New York Times’ coverage of climate change news. Previously this year, we’ve heard about how meteorologists reference climate change when they describe the conditions. Indeed, programs have cropped up at universities investigating this very issue. 

  • Viral messages are simple and short (nothing new here) — Here’s a tweet that caught our eye this year for its brevity and effectiveness: “Economists Have A One-Page Solution To Climate Change http://n.pr/126X1o1 Make that one line: price carbon.” While you might not agree with this perspective, it offers a solution and it briefly references economics and science, always a good approach.
  • Redefining the terms of debate plays wellForces are coalescing around third-way approaches to climate policy, and organizations that put forward or amplify new ideas will be seen as innovators (which is clearly better than being stuck with the “denier” label). Two Op-Eds that went viral this year attempt to forge a new way forward:
  • In August, four former heads of the EPA for Republican administrations called for a united front to protect against the “undeniable costs” of inaction on climate change, saying “climate change puts all our progress and our successes at risk. If we could articulate one framework for successful governance, perhaps it should be this: When confronted by a problem, deal with it. Look at the facts, cut through the extraneous, devise a workable solution, and get it done.” Read William Ruckelshaus, Lee Thomas, William Reilly, and Christine Todd Whitman’s message here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/02/opinion/a-republican-case-for-climate-action.html?ref=environment&_r=0

 Photo: Montana, last month.

Double your personal productivity in 2014

Inc. (and every other tech publication) features five technologies that can help you organize more productively and save hours of time in 2014. 

I take a “one-in-one-out” approach to my closet, my device, and my day. If I’m adding an app, I remove one that hasn’t helped me. If I subscribe to a new magazine/organization/social network, I also unsubscribe from one that no longer serves a useful purpose. The key is to create space and time to make better decisions, but you really have to force yourself to do this or you’ll be leaving yourself with less. 

NSA used cookies (a sometimes food) to bolster surveillance


The National Security Agency used “cookies”, the same tools that enable Internet advertisers to track consumers, to discover location data for targets for government hacking, WaPo reported last night.

Whereas I would generally commend the smart use of available technologies, this move further erodes what little trust there is online and it will speed the inevitable demise of cookies. (It’s no surprise, even Cookie Monster anticipated the move away from cookies.

Consumers are asking for and companies (should be) giving them more privacy and control over how personal information is collected. Cookies were never an elegant advertising tool, and more companies are adopting the approach of asking individuals to provide select personal information in exchange for access to something they find valuable. Someone should brief the NSA on this. 

Image cred: PBS

G.M. names first female CEO

Mary Barra, the automaker’s head of product development, was named as its next chief executive officer. She would be the first female C.E.O. of a major automaker (!). 

The evidence is overwhelming: in business, having women in senior positions is linked to better results.

- Catalyst, a research organization, found that the companies with the most women board directors earned a 26% higher return on invested capital than the companies with the least women. 

- McKinsey & Company, the consulting behemoth, found that the international companies with more women on their corporate boards far outperformed the average company in return on equity and other measures. Also, operating profit was 56 percent higher.

Thanks to Nick Kristof (NYT) for these facts/figures

On spam and spying

If you happen to get an invite for JobAndTalent, don’t click! It very quickly pings all your contacts across all platforms/email accounts without permission. I thought I was helping out a fellow entrepreneur by clicking, but no.

The realization that I spammed every single person I know, including clients and advisors to our company and my mother, coincided with news today that the NSA collects 5 billion records a day on cellphones worldwide, incidental to its investigations of foreign nationals.   

It has me thinking that we see too many organizations acting cavalierly with our data. As many of us don’t share their “free data” ideals, more of us will quickly vacate those platforms they we don’t view as trustworthy (our cellphones may be another matter, of course).

Beyond being transparent about the value customers get from sharing their data (and being explicit about what they are sharing, which JobAndTalent does not), organizations should consider ways they can empower individuals by allowing them to aggregate, store, find, securely share, and get value from data about them and their lives. 

We should demand more. Beyond calling bad actors to task, we should raise the bar for what we get for what we give.  

Tech mega-trends will reshape companies


The evolution of technology has brought us “Big Data,” with its emphasis on analytics and data visualization, and changing how companies think about technology.

Remember the VP of electricity? Yeah, me either. The point is that technology results in many macro- and micro-level changes, from the “end of average" to new conceptions of how the firm manages roles at the corporate center. It’s easy to foresee a future where there is an executive whose sole purpose is managing and analyzing the company’s information flows, and where teams and divisions are oriented around activities instead of functions.  

Pic: Cornell University computing icon Richard Lesser at CPC in Rand Hall (Copyright: Cornell University)

Amazon’s drone delivery brings new meaning to ‘Black Friday’


Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos said the online retailer is developing pilotless flying vehicles that can deliver packages within a half hour of an order.

Same-day delivery services aren’t intended to be profit-making, but rather habit-forming and brand-strengthening, but this news strikes me as a pure brand play/ploy — like D.C.-based iStrategy Labs’ push-button pizza-ordering system (which they readily admit to). After all, drone burrito delivery has already been shot down (so to speak) by the FAA.

Pic: my friend Dan Merwin, who designs drone tech for photography, took this one with his unmanned camera (Copyright: Dan Merwin)

The driving factors of sustainable mobility: BMW’s charge into the U.S. EV market


BMW’s thinking about the future of mobility holds lessons for other companies (across industries) and all of us as consumers.  

Wha-wha Washington, D.C.?!?
When the German automaker introduced the BMW i3 — the company’s pure electric vehicle (EV) — to the U.S. market this month, the company’s leaders didn’t go to New York or Silicon Valley and rub elbows with capitalists and venture capitalists. Instead, they convened a group in a downtown D.C. art gallery space that included a White House official, a Senator (not from Michigan), a grid expert from a large American energy company, and a professor of urban planning. 

A quick scan of the room made clear that BMW is focused on selling an idea ecosystem as well as a car. Yes, there were cars on display, but the company also highlighted the tech companies it’s working with to enable mobility (e.g., an app that enables car sharing) and those it’s worked with on the i3’s development (e.g., a joint venture with SGL Group to make carbon fiber in Moses Lake, Washington).

Making an electric vehicle is a big bet for any car company. There isn’t a high degree of global demand for electric vehicles and the question of power supply is a significant one that relies on lots of players.

What’s clear is that car companies that are serious about electric vehicles need to build the ecosystem around electric vehicles, on top of building the cars themselves, and it’s interesting to see BMW taking the lead domestically, particularly when government involvement — both local and federal — is key. 

Government as a Partner and Player
Car manufacturing is inextricably linked to politics, trade, regulations, subsidies and taxes, and mobility is a function of state and local government.

To build the ecosystem around electric vehicles, every level of government is needed, from agencies to zoning boards. 

The federal government’s role is to look over the hill at future needs and support ubiquity and mass adoption of new technologies to serve those needs, enabling market viability and removing information asymmetry for consumers. For example, the U.S. Department of Energy helped develop an affordable lithium ion battery used in electric vehicles, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is responsible for those stickers that tell you how much energy your car will consume down the road.

State and local governments, on the other hand, are critical partners in electric mobility because they regulate HOV policies, allocate space for parking, bus, and bike lanes, as well as bike share stations. 

Government at all levels cares about attracting foreign direct investment by international businesses that creates jobs for American workers. Foreign companies also bring with them the benefit of tech and knowledge spillover: technology developed in the plant and management techniques used there spread naturally across domestic industries. 

Watch for Mega-trends Before They Hit
When companies think in terms of decades instead of quarters, they change the way they invest resources — seeking out an array of opportunities — in adjacent or new markets. Transportation is a long game.

Here’s the thing that most car companies know about electric vehicles: the internal rate of return is not immediately compelling. BMW’s executives noted that development of the BMW i3 took four years, and while the company has already absorbed the investment — the i3 will be profitable from day one, which was last week in Europe and spring of 2014 in U.S. — there’s uncertainty around when the global population will reach critical mass with the electric vehicle segment.

What sets companies up for success is thinking up products that align with current and future trends. Apple created  technologies that are embedded into our lives by first making our music more accessible to us, and then giving us tools that help us manage our lives more efficiently. That’s how you achieve super-long growth streaks.

Currently the sharing economy is taking hold with early-adopter types in urban centers. While it’s not yet hitting the bottom line of most legacy brands, it may do so soon. BMW i is starting to play in this space, imagining ways its cars can facilitate car-sharing. Its executives note that they see this as a way to serve a new segment of consumers (e.g., former non-drivers). 

Driving Factors of Sustainable Mobility
Mega-trends are those that hit broadly, and they affect the multiple facets of our lives. One that BMW is banking on is mass urbanization, which will affect most of the world’s population in the coming decades. The question for all companies becomes, how does that trend let you play from strength? How do you build your company’s strategy around it? 

For car makers, what’s key is that there is an inherent antagonism between city culture and cars. New forms of infrastructure are needed to support burgeoning populations, and new types of transportation solutions will crop up. Cars may not be as big a part of an evolving urban landscape, but their relevance isn’t diminished when one considers that developed economies have aging populations. 

In terms of the urban landscape, gas stations are a terrible use of urban space. So, car companies are smart to ask: how does it become more convenient to charge than pump gas? Similarly, looking for parking uses up too much energy (both in terms of gas and personal productivity), and car companies must offer solutions or risk being left behind, particularly if drivers are older and less mobile. 

BMW assumes time, space, and energy are all constrained under the mass urbanization scenario. With this in mind, the company rethinks everything from its supply chain, to its users, to reducing the total cost of ownership (the cost of using and disposing of a good):

  • The company’s manufacturing centers are powered by a mix of wind, solar, methane and conventional energy sources, and the i3 contains post-consumer recycled materials.
  • The car is designed to manage its own energy intake and conservation — owners can indicate to the car when they’ll be ready to leave and the car will charge itself accordingly taking into account peak energy use and other factors.
  • Additionally, the car helps drivers find charging stations, parking, and even enables car-sharing for occasional drivers.
  • Finally, the company reuses batteries when upgrades become available to car owners, using them to collect and store energy generated from solar arrays, reducing the cost of recycling batteries by extending their useful lives.

Share the Risk/Share the Wealth
Beyond government, companies that are investing in inherently risky propositions like electric vehicles should look across industry lines for potential partners.

Since electric car makers must ensure that supply is there to meet demand, energy companies and utilities are obvious picks. But there are also opportunities for adjacent industries. For example, anyone who owns parking lot space can generate revenues by providing charging stations (e.g., sports teams with under-utilized complexes). Platforms like eBay can enable personal charging station rentals. These new ways of thinking can turn a depreciating asset into one that generates revenues. Thus, a recharging industry rises.

So, while the barriers to entry for electric vehicles remain high, companies that start us down the road of thinking differently about mobility are doing us all a favor — even their competitors. This is no “I drink your milkshake" scenario; what BMW builds and cultivates in the U.S. will benefit domestic auto makers and all of us, really.

Photo cred: auto evolution (more here

What can we learn from cord-cutters?

Many more of us are cutting the cable cord, ditching paid subscriptions for television services.

While behavioral change is not in itself a mega-trend, it signals new habits are being created around emerging technologies. Considering how your company can align with new habits is key to business growth. One example we’ve heard recently was from a European car maker who told us that the prevalence of smartphones makes mass adoption of electric vehicles more feasible since people can find charging stations more easily.  

Two great organizations get featured in Wired

Two friends’ orgs made the pages of Wired this month. It’s well deserved coverage of two great endeavors. Congrats, Skillz Street and WellDone!

1) Skillz Street is a girls-targeted intervention that combines an activities-based HIV prevention and life skills curriculum with fair play soccer and peer-led community outreach activities. 

image2) WellDone builds technology tools that empower resource-constrained communities with the data they need to provide critical infrastructure that lasts.



How for-profit schools are working for the poor

Using a school-in-a-box model, for-profit schools in Sub-Saharan Africa have found a way to give primary school kids a quality education for roughly $5 a month.

Grameen Bank taught us that the so-called “unbankable” can benefit from micro-lending and large-scale organizations can even make money in that space. Bridge International Academies may very well demonstrate how technology and scale can overcome severe education gaps. Publishing, tech, and education services companies should take note.  

Pic: Rural Zambia

"I guess nobody really has it all together, huh?"

~ Corey (Liv Tyler/Empire Records).


After almost 20 years, Liv Tyler is channeling her inner Corey to help us avoid soliciting this response from our co-workers: “Well, Sinead O’Rebellion. Shock me, shock me, shock me with that deviant behavior.” 

Excerpted tips from her new book Modern Manners: Tools to Take You To The Top

The DOs:

“…maintain eye contact while shaking hands and greeting someone.”

“…show respect for the invisible personal space of others; keep your body at a minimum of about 18 inches (1½  feet) between you and the other person.”

“…let the person finish talking before you chime in.”

“…answer the phone with confidence and a smile, because that smile can be heard.”

“…return calls as soon as possible.”

“…use spell-check and proofread your message before sending.”

“…be aware that all feedback won’t be positive, because there are envious and unkind people who thrive on negativity.”

“…step aside before boarding a train to allow exiting passengers to depart. Rushing to get on board is not only rude but also can cause someone to fall.”

“…use earphones when listening to music.”

“…take small bites, and you’ll find it’s easier to join the conversation.”

“…keep the toast short and simple. Use the three B’s: Begin—Be Brief—Be Seated.”

The DON’Ts:

“…tilt your head to the side—unless, of course, you’re flirting. That’s a no-no in the business arena.”

“…put your hands in your pockets. People may wonder what you’re hiding.”

“…panic if you’ve forgotten someone’s name. Say something kind, like, ‘I’m sorry, I’m a little forgetful at the moment; please remind me of your name.”

“…make jokes or wisecracks about a person’s name—it’s rude.”

“…offer the ‘fingerella’ handshake to anyone, regardless of age or gender. The giver of a fingerella handshake extends the right hand with the thumb down, an fingers curled, which invites the receiver to grab the fingertips. The receiver wants to shake your hand, not kiss it!”

“…use ALL CAPS—it’s like shouting.”

“…send confrontational or insulting e-mails, and don’t respond to any sent to you.”

“…hit the Reply All button if you want only the sender to receive your reply.”

“…blot lipstick on a cloth napkin or use it as a handkerchief.”

“…talk with your mouth full of food, or chew with your mouth open.”

“…text at the table.”

“…place any personal items on the table, including your cell phone.”