Is ‘good enough’ the new black?

During the presentations of last night’s Mobile Monday in Brussels (#momobxl – tablet edition) it struck me how often businesses’ seem to work with a ‘good enough’ strategy. It came up during Corelio’s presentation on their mobile approach as well as during SBS’s presentation on the 2nd Screen (Tweede Scherm). The basic idea to create something fast and put it in users hands as soon as possible. Now I’m a big fan of an agile and iterative development approach, I don’t like ‘good enough’ though. Good enough means ‘almost good’ as in ‘mediocre’. How can that ever be a strategy?

‘Good enough’ is also not very inspirational, it’s not very ambitious. A point I wanted to convey during the Q&A session of the event but without success. The response was that (especially the Belgian market) is still very small when it comes to tablets and that we need to be careful with the investments we make. We also need to be careful with what we wish for, since the general public is trailing us geeks and therefore obviously not into digital like we are. Fair enough, but why is that an explanation of ‘good enough’?  The following analogy was made: “ we want to drive 300mph with a car and we’re only just figuring out what a car is, these things need time”. My take on that is that businesses (again especially in Belgium) are not dreaming of driving 300mph at all, they’re trying to drive a car the way they learned to ride a horse. In this case that means merely duplicating experiences on new platforms. And again, that’s still no reason for ‘good enough’.

It might be a Belgian thing, but I just don’t get it. I know, it’s a small country with limited reach and thus limited budget. But that’s no explanation on why things can’t be ambitious. What they can’t be great… instead of good enough. Dream big for god’s sake – “The bigger the statement, the bigger the idea, the bigger your brand will become” dixit Hugh MacLeod (‘the hughtrain’).

The future belongs to the geeks…

Nobody else wants it.

This is without a doubt one (of many) personal favorites out of all the cartoons Hugh MacLeod has created in the past x years.

I think there’s a lot of simple truth in this one. Every day/week/month I see innovation that impacts the business I am in and which found its origin in technology, software development or something like it. And then I’m not only talking about pure technology innovation but also about innovation of business processes, creative thinking, etc.

An obvious one is about how technology is driving change in the media landscape. And then especially when you think about how long existing ‘traditional’ media are transforming, not just the new media that gets added. Particularly the interactive tv experience is something that fascinates me a lot recently. In this domain several big players are active – television manufacturers, service providers, content networks, … – and yet somehow I believe the main innovation will come from outside, from a few geeks in the corner that will really create a richer tv experience using a tablet device or whatever. They can think without bounderies of current business processes, revenue management, … no old business models to try to protect. There’s a lot of cool stuff out there already.

Another recent example of technology driving change, and this time in business thinking is Agile Strategic Planning, really interesting stuff if you ask me. This whole idea is an answer to changing consumer/brand needs but is based on a concept that has been used (by some) in software development for almost 10 years now. Neil Perkin used the following quote in a recent post while trying to explain the need for this agile thinking:

“Our structures need to be more speedy. Speed used to kill now lack of speed kills. Lets have organizations that can iterate quickly and empower its folks to make decisions. Percolating decisions up and down an organization makes little sense”

Agile strategic development, adaptive marketing, lean planning, … all terms that highlight more or less the same thing. We have to start thinking in ways that allow for much more iterations and changes while the process is ongoing. A new kind of strategic planning that is heavily influenced by concepts developed in software development.

Just 2 examples in my area of interest that came to mind when I saw this cartoon again. But yeah, the future belongs to the geeks, I’m sure of that.

Is creativity a dirty word?

Posted in June of this year, the cartoon below is probably yet another one of Hugh’s classics. I don’t think ‘creativity’ is a dirty word for big companies, I actually believe it’s pretty popular. Still I agree with the point that Hugh is trying to make. I hear a lot of talks about ‘creativity’ at the start of a product/campaign, but once things start going it seems like creativity is the first out of the door.

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So get over to Hugh’s gallery and buy this print so you can hang it in your office ;)

Le Web ‘09

Have to admit, I’m kinda sad. Today and tomorrow the best web/tech conference in Europe is on in Paris… and for the first time in 4 years it’ll be without me. Since I had a good part in the sponsorship of the conference by Microsoft, the fact that I’m not even going this year makes the difference even bigger.

The first time I went to Le Web was in 2006. The conference just changed name from Les Blogs to Le Web 3 and MSN UK had been a sponsor for the first 2 edition of Les Blogs with Windows Live Spaces. With Le Web 3 we decided to sponsor from the EMEA budget and link it to Windows Live in general and not just Spaces… it wasn’t just about blogging anymore so that made sense. If you were there in 2006 you might remember that little piece of network cable in your welcome bag with which you could win a smartphone at our booth, it worked rather well I’ll tell ya :)

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© Peter Forret

That was where I met Hugh MacLeod for instance (where he did this interview), our paths would cross quite often again… especially in Paris.

In 2007 we were back, this time with shared sponsorship from the European and the French team of Microsoft. This was the year that Le Web became big, like really big. It was a always a good conference, but in 2007 it changed into big. Hans Rosling, Philippe Starck, Yossi Vardi, … just look at some of the videos I selected back then and see for yourself. Made a lot of good new contacts that year, unfortunately our presence (Microsoft’s I mean) wasn’t really good that year.

Last year Microsoft BizSpark took over the lead in the sponsorship, just like it’s the case this year. And I made sure we had the Blue Monster in Paris, with Hugh as our guest. Good fun, I’ll tell you that much.

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© Dennis Howlett

Good thing about Le Web though is that the event is broadcasted Live, check out this page from tomorrow morning to follow the livestream from the main stage (via Ustream). Or check out the Le Web iPhone app.

And let’s hope I can make it back to Paris next year. Greetings to all my friends in Paris and good luck to Loic and Geraldine for what will be most certainly another great conference ;)

Ignore everybody!

One of the perks of being unemployed is that you actually have time for a few things that you didn`t really have time for before… like reading books for instance, so that`s what I`m doing… well one of the things I`m doing – looking for work is another one ;) One book I read a couple of days ago was Hugh MacLeod`s upcoming “Ignore Everybody” of which I had received an advance copy thanks to Hugh and the fine people at Penguin Group.

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Long time ago – while reading something on Hugh`s blog – I stumbled onto a series of posts/writings that were all tagged with “How to be creative”. It was a good read, so finding out it the content was also available on a free PDF on changethis.com made it even better. More than 1 million downloads don`t lie of course, I still have a printed copy of that PDF right here. When Hugh mentioned he got a book deal on this which involved writing some extra chapters I was a bit sceptical though. I totally loved the series but all of that stuff had come about quite organically, there`s a difference when you write things when you think about them basically whenever you feel like it… or when you have to write chapters for a book. Hugh proved me wrong about being sceptical, there`s now way you could tell which chapters where there first or which ones are new, the book is rock solid. It`s an easy read in the typical style of Hugh MacLeod – unique, smart and funny – and with a good dose of cartoons in them. My favorite one in the book? Especially while jobhunting… is this one (from 2006):

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So pre-order the book now, you won`t regret.

Business card v.2

I still have to order new business cards after I changed jobs early October. I didn’t just want the corporate default though so instead I waited until this week to add some gapingvoid magic to it. The front of the card will still be the classic Microsoft design but on the back I will have this (see below) from now on. It sort of says the same as on the front but just in another language :) Can’t wait to get these printed.

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And in case you wonder where the ‘geek marketer’ comes from, read this.

Hugh at LeWeb 08

As I mentioned about a week ago in the ‘Blue Monster in Paris’ post, Hugh MacLeod was a regular guest at the Microsoft BizSpark and Live Mesh booth at LeWeb in Paris this year. We had agreed with Hugh to try out something different than usual and everybody who stopped by while Hugh was there could get a personal Hughcard and maybe even something more… like say a signed Blue Monster wine bottle for instance.

"Amsterdam Blogs" by Hugh MacLeod @ Le Web 08  hermione

It was great to see a lot of people stopped by and had cartoons drawn on business cards, wine bottles, body parts, computers, etc. All good fun and a lot of times real conversation starters, just like we hoped it to be.

Those of you that were interested in the event will all probably have read what The Guardian had to say about it, well if you did then make sure you read Thomas Crampton’s answer to that as well. Every year when I look back at LeWeb it is with the eyes of both an attendee as a sponsor. Every year there are some things that could have been better (yes it was cold, yes I liked last year’s venue more, yes we were definitely spoilt re food last year, …) and there are always plenty of reasons why I will be back next year.

It’s still one of the best conferences for networking, there’s all kinds of great content to be discovered and you just know it’ll start a conversation just like the years before. When I checked with the program manager for BizSpark or the startups that were able to show off what they got as part of that program, feedback was very good. When I checked with the Live Mesh guys, feedback was good. And quite a few people went home with a personal cartoon… yeah it was good for me. Thanks again for joining us Hugh!

Blue Monster in Paris

Next week we’re heading to Paris again for what is probably one of the most exiting tech/web events in Europe: LeWeb. This year Microsoft is the main sponsor and so make sure you come and check us out. And while you’re at it, bring your business cards as Hugh Macleod will be a regular guest and he might just end up drawing a cartoon on the back of it ;)

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We’re also going to bring some Blue Monster Sauvignon Blanc with us but more on that later. For those that would like to get a chance to get one of those right now already, I’m actually going to give away 6 bottles right here, right now. (that is 1 bottle per winner to be clear). All you have to do is let me know in the comments why you should win it. By the start of LeWeb next week I will pick the winners (with the help of Hugh) out of the hopefully numerous comments ;) Make it original. Oh and just so you know, these bottles aren’t for sale.

Come and say hi if you’re going to be at LeWeb. Go here if you’re interested in finding out more about the Blue Monster.

A friend’s birthday

It seems to be quite appropriate that the 2nd anniversary of the Blue Monster coincides with Steve Clayton’s birthday as Steve has been crucial  in getting the Blue Monster where it is today. Hugh Macleod has a nice little write-up about the Blue Monster history, well worth reading. For me this story started at a similar time that I got to know both Hugh (we met for the first time at LeWeb 2 years ago) and Steve and that’s how I got affected by our little blue friend. It was good getting to know all three of them.

In his post Hugh refers to what David Armano had to say about the Blue Monster, something he wrote after he and I met at MIX08 in Vegas:

“What’s to be learned? Blue Monster shows us that no matter how big or small the company that the world is a bigger place. And external influences can become internal influences. And it teaches us that if we are interested in the evolution of corporate culture, that symbols are important. If we don’t find our own—someone will find them for us.”

bluemonster Even more, the Blue Monster became an example of how companies can embrace social media. It has become an example of how a company (or anybody for that matter) can benefit from letting go of control. Just read through Rohit Bhargava’s “Personality Not Included” for instance, or the more recent “Crowd Surfing” from David Brain.

Hell no, the Blue Monster is not dead – it’s alive and kicking, not only within the spirit of many Microsoft employees but also outsiders are starting to see change. And did you read Hugh’s 7th point? Well the Blue Monster is going to Paris… but more on that soon ;) For now, it’s just happy birthday.

Like who?

Every time I go through my RSS feeds there are a few bloggers that keep amazing me with what they do. Somehow they stand out (more) and they are good at something I wanted to be good/better at as well. So here is my list, I wish I was a bit more …

… like Thomas Hawk, because then I would also be able to take these amazing photos like Thomas. Just take a look at his Flickr account, or sign up to his feed if you haven’t done so already. My Flickr account (which I recently start using) is here by the way.

… like Hugh Macleod and not only because I would be able to draw funky cartoons. Hugh is one of the smarter people I know and a natural marketer, it’s in his blood. Just take a look at ‘How to be creative‘, ‘The Hughtrain‘, his work for Stormhoek or his recent thoughts on ‘Social Objects‘ (and his cartoons of course). I’m happy Hugh is a friend though, so at least I can pick his brain once and a while ;)

… like Shel Israel because he’s a nice guy (as everyone knows) and because he has written a book with ‘Naked’ in the title. For the same reason I also add Ine Dehandschutter here. She’s just a really nice lady… although she hasn’t done anything naked yet on a cover, but who knows :) I’m happy I got them introduced to each other once, and I still hope “Global Neighbourhoods” (featuring Ine) will be written one day.

… like David Armano / Alain Thys (his blog) for their creative thinking, and maybe even more important for the ability to present creative thoughts in a very clear, visual way. Make sure you sign up to the Slideshare feeds of these guys as I bet you will use some of it at least once. That is here and here.

Ewan McIntosh, because he has some of the most refreshing views on technology. As a researcher for education, I admire the way how he can look at services such as Twitter (and many more of course) and come up with the most interesting ideas to use these.

Having written all this, it looks like the perfect start for a meme. Now I don’t take part in every single meme that comes around either, but I do hope that the following people would share a few names of bloggers they admire for a certain reason. So here we go (and make it global): Gavin Heaton, Nir Ofir, Marcus Brown (not only your alter egos alright), Valeria Maltoni and Tamara Gielen… would you do that for me? ;)