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When corporate/startup innovation programs fail

A great article describing the closure of Coca-Cola’s Founders startup incubator over on TechCrunch. It details some of the challenges with this approach that I thought were worth sharing here. I especially love the quoted thought below:

You need a translator to help them understand what’s going on. That’s why a lot of platforms inside big companies fail and you have to take the time.

This could apply equally to my role as a customer success manager I thought and with the launch of new platforms and the challenges with this which I wrote about here: Launch like a boss – bringing consumer startup practice to your enterprise technology platform


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The state of startup / corporate collaboration 2016


Cracking report from Imaginatik and MassChallenge. Its available to download from either site if you can find the page (registration required) but I’ve added the the-state-of-startupcorporate-collaboration-2016 (pdf). Key findings below:


While most startup/corporate interactions used to begin at the negotiation table, corporations and startups increasingly recognize the benefits of earlier interactions. Corporations said that 67% now prefer working with startups at earlier stages, mainly “to explore new technologies and business models”.


At an overwhelming 82%, corporations now view interactions with startups as “somewhat important” to “very important”, and 23% indicated that these interactions were “mission critical”. Innovation efforts, it seems, are no longer just nice-to-have programs within corporations.


While 86% of large organizations view innovation as crucial to their future, most of their current attempts to work with startups to further that objective are early stage, underfunded, and scattershot—such that 25% of corporations aren’t even sure how much they’re spending.


Startups and corporations agree that “strategic fit” is by far the primary criterion for working together, but the way they interpret the term diverges significantly. Thus, a lost-in-translation problem sometimes persists, despite the best of intentions. This is exacerbated by remaining cultural issues within corporations: many are still struggling to re-organize themselves to enable productive interactions. Conversely, startups are persistent, but remain frustrated at the number of hoops to jump through.


Startups are seeing corporations in a variety of roles—no longer are they cast solely as either “competitors” or “potential acquirers”. As the startup culture matures, founders are realizing that corporations have a lot of wisdom, experience, and resources to be leveraged, and that perhaps working with, rather than against them, could be the smarter way to go. Also, in a post-Uber and Airbnb world, startups realize that the power is not only with large corporations, and that leads them to be more selective with whom they choose to work. In fact working with corporations is shaping up to be a startup’s most powerful growth hack.


I found this interesting website/activity on my travels. It’s an up to date database of Corporate Accelerators being run by company’s around the world.

Ties in nicely with findings from my trend report which you can buy from iBooks or add a comment and I can provide a voucher for a FREE COPY :)



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Launch like a boss – bringing consumer startup practice to your enterprise technology platform

The users of a technology platform inside an organisation are a peculiar, collective beast. They are very different to the masses of end users that are customers of a consumer product or service. They are also subject to very different forces than the free, open market subject’s consumers to. However, we can draw parallels and bring in comparisons and best practices from the consumer world and startups that launch successfully there. Launching a platform to enterprise users should be seen as no less important than launching on the open market.

In many cases the numbers of users will be vastly different. Inside the organisation the numbers will be on a much smaller scale for most but the very largest of organisations. Types of users also differ. For example, in the consumer world you have customers mixing with employees such as buyers and sellers on a shopping portal or travellers and hotel operators on a booking service, etc. In some cases enterprise platforms will be intended for use with end users or consumers but the platform will still have to be addressed and launched internally first which is what I focus on. Other platforms will be purely for internal use.

Also, their will be a difference between platforms intended for general use and collaboration or communication like intranets and those for specific purposes like HR or Sales software. The former will have the larger number of users generally. The latter will have a more focused niche of users with very specific motives.

Why emphasise the launch? Because its what you do in the first 90 days that matters. So if you are responsible for technology platforms inside your organisation or help those that are, hopefully these tips will be of use.

Its what you do in the first 90 days that matter most

I work as a customer success professional and have done for some time. In that capacity I’ve always been focused on the longer term strategic outlook for a customer’s use because I’ve always had an eye on the renewal date of the software. This generally tends to be at least a year down the line from the time the platform is first used. Most often these days though, its two to three years down the line with longer term contracts being signed.

In my job I advocate meaningful and strategic long-term considerations in the form of a good success plan. I’ve written about that in this primer on SlideShare. The launch phase is covered in the primer but only as part of the longer term approach. So I’m calling it out and expanding on it in this article specifically.

In some organisations, the customer success manager (CSM) is lucky to play a role in the launch of a platform and can effect outcomes positively. In other cases, launch is managed by an implementation manager and the outcomes of a good or bad launch have to be dealt with by the CSM when he or she takes over after the initial implementation phase. If the latter and the CSM is lucky, the hand off will be on the back of a successful launch.

The fact is also that if you don’t tackle the beginning stages properly, tackling the longer term is hugely more difficult, if not impossible. There are major challenges and opportunities with tackling adoption and engagement in the early stages:

  • You only have one chance at making a good first impression. With so much competition for people’s attention, if you don’t make an impact at the beginning you may have lost before you’ve even properly started. These days in fact, not only do you have only one chance at making a first impression, it is severely limited in terms of the time it takes to make it. In many cases it’s decided in the first few seconds or minutes. This article makes the case brilliantly: First-Time Use: How To Reduce The Initial Friction Of App Usage
  • Tackling the long term with a solid base of users that have had a favourable experience in the early stages is vastly easier than otherwise. It’s difficult to claw back good will and enthusiasm when a users first experience is lacklustre. Both from an organisational support as well as product capability point of view.
  • Some may say that the enterprise is different and that these platforms, which might often be critical business systems, don’t need special attention. Besides this, a mandate to use them from the top, from senior execs, will take care of it. Mandating a platforms use is a strategy you could use in the enterprise and this might overcome some resistance and any competition in the early stages. However it is never guaranteed to work and should never be the only strategic lever.
  • Getting a mass sign-up at the outset can almost eliminate uncertainty about a platform’s prospects because it effectively builds critical scale into the platform’s network from day one. This might be more relevant to the mass scale general use platform than the niche one in the enterprise but still important in either case. Users find a platform compelling when there are people on the platform to talk to and learn from and it provides some kind of evidence of early value. Every platform starts out empty, making these worries particularly acute. Building a network or network capability into a product is not easy (good evidence here: ‘Come for the tool, stay for the network’ is wrong) which makes launch activities all the more important.

In the chart below I’ve tried to position where the launch phase would sit in the context of a longer term success plan and its key goals. Achieving the main aim of engaging users and ensuring they derive value from their use of platforms is made immeasurable easier when you launch successfully.


Steps to follow for a successful launch

Based on some excellent experiences from startups and my own with launching dozens of enterprise platforms I have distilled it down to these steps (in no order of sequence or priority):

  1. Communications or marketing. Arguably the most important element of the launch, for startups at least. For the enterprise this should be simple and educational and could include marketing mails pre, during and post the launch phase. Crucially, it should build anticipation ahead of the launch. Think like Steve Jobs – the master marketer at building anticipation for new product launches. Some great ideas that could be transferred from the consumer world can be gleaned from this colossal post by Jeff Bullas: 23 Ways to Build Colossal Pre-Launch Product Buzz. Key as he suggested is building buzz – just make sure the actual reveal is not a let down if you do. Also, make sure to capture the main reason and benefits for using the platform both from an organisational as well as end user point of view.
  2. Supportive collaboration platform and community. The former only be necessary outside of the platform if the one you are launching doesn’t have any conversational or social features included. The purpose would be to build and amplify network effects – as covered in the article shared earlier, a crucial piece of the startups arsenal. Yet the point here is not to focus on the technology but rather the community. The community is what builds stickiness for the platform and that is a positive end if done well, not necessarily the means. The community is primarily where users can leverage their connections to help each other (solving learning issues or any other issue for that matter and for the platform, or more importantly, for the business) as well as share positive outcomes. This latter point is where you can scale success from an early stage in a positive feedback loop of success with the platform and business use cases.
  3. Webinars, training and offline events. You can do many things online to help scale your success efforts (I wrote an article about that here: Scaling your customer success efforts online – a guide) but nothing succeeds like physical interaction face to face. A launch event is a really good idea if you can manage it. Good training (online or off) should be one one of the basic boxes you tick off in this area but that really is just the start. I’ve seen the case far too many times where some training has been delivered (badly for the most part and only focused on features and functions) with the expectation that this is all that is needed and from there users can be left to their own devices. Coming back to the community part, it would be right to think about how you can keep the building of a community in mind when you carry out these activities. For example, offline events are the best way to start seeding an online community and webinars are also a great way to supplement and sustain it.
  4. In app intro’s and help. A lot of support in the early stage can be automated but however you do it, this is a critical time for it. If users get stuck and cannot find a solution to progress their use, it may well end up stalling further use altogether. Setting up a help desk (temporarily or ideally for the long term) that supplements a vendor’s own platform is a good idea. From a platform point of view, users should be able to easily log issues and requests for help that get handled at speed, possibly even in real time. Ideally the platform also offers walk through’s of different features or help buttons that explain a feature. Rich media like video or perhaps gifs should also be adopted.
  5. Senior exec sponsorship. In the startup world this might be enthusiastic customers that have been on a beta version of your product or service and are happy to speak for it. In the enterprise we speak of sponsorship which is a better way of framing the importance of using a platform than mandating it. However, if the platform is business critical from the get go, the task of mandating its use is made easier. Doing either well means explaining clearly why its important to use and why its critical to the business. When senior execs participate and show their involvement by leading from the front that helps greatly too. Sponsorship is a far more participatory approach but actual participation from senior business leaders is critical for success.
  6. Champions. In the startup world this would mean bloggers and other thought leaders and potential brand advocates. Giving them special attention, sneak peeks and information upfront is key before launch. In the organisation, having a network of super users that you identify far in advance of launch day is critical. They should be predisposed to using the platform and supporting other users. Pre-train them to a very high level. These users will be the early adopters and advocates that help scale your adoption and engagement efforts and pull other users along. You should have an entire program dedicated to identifying, building, growing and rewarding this cohort of users. Incentives to be and for being a member of the program would go a long way to making it successful.

What if you fail to launch successfully?

Then, as in Brian Chesky’s case (co-founder and CEO of Airbnb), don’t fret as you still have two more chances. At least that is, if you haven’t bungled the non communication aspects. This point only really applies if you launched and no one noticed. Maybe the timing was wrong and employees were too busy with other priorities or you simply bungled the communication and the messages didn’t resonate or make a big enough impact.

If on the other hand you have made the wrong choice of platform or the platform had terrible problems, bugs and issues, well then you have a harder task. Coming back from the latter is not going to be achieved simply by relaunching :)

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Creators win in digital age

I discovered this new way of evaluating a company’s standing amongst competitors in this video over on HBR (and there is a follow-on link to a more detailed article worth reading): In the Digital Age, Physical Assets Are a Burden.

It’s especially relevant to the digital age we are currently in. It places a premium on companies that provide services and enable us to share what we have (insights, relationships, assets) and key is that they are asset light. Also key is that they leverage Intellectual Capital which chimes with what Michio Kaku said as I wrote about in an earlier post. I love that the winning companies are called Creators :)

Watch the video and read the article to see the approach they took- captured in the chart below:



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After robots and AI – intellectual capitalism where creativity and imagination thrive

I loved this video by Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist, futurist, and popularizer of science.

Probably because it supports my hypotheses that creativity, imagination and innovation will be the high ground of organisational actualisation as work modernises. Check out my post on that here: The Modern Organisation’s Hierarchy of Needs.

I also believe like he does, that this is something robots and AI will not be able take away from humans, at least not for the foreseeable future.

We’re moving from a commodity based capital, like coal, to intellectual capital, like rock and roll.


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Round up of latest #innerventures trends

Lots going on recently so this is a big update with an excellent selection of articles and activities.

You can see other updates like this by checking out posts with the #innerventuresupdate tag as well as the original posts I curated under the #research tag which I then used in the InnerVentures trend report that you can find here: Trend Reports

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Scaling your customer success efforts online – a guide


I mentor startups that go through Microsoft Accelerator’s London program. Because of recent experience I focus on customer success management practices and enterprise software startups, but not exclusively. I recently joined a startup (again) and here too I’m helping with building out a customer success practice.

In all cases what often comes up is the importance of an online presence to deal with various elements of customer success. So I thought I would capture what I have recently been communicating as important and that is the purpose of this post. If you are not sure about what customer success is, I’ve written a simple primer on SlideShare.

To clarify what I mean by online presence, this doesn’t just mean a website with some documentation. This could be a basic starting point but there are many more considerations. I’ve broken these out into sections in this post, explained each and tried to give examples from companies who I know do it well.

The purpose of a good online presence would be to educate, support and add value to the way the customer uses products and services. As an extension of  a company’s support, service and customer success department it’s intended to scale those efforts. If done really well it will enhance the customer experience, build an army of customer advocates and ultimately drive loyalty.


success-online-eduThis goes a step beyond basic product information that would be well served by a good document library. Incorporating rich media like a video series and even going as far as incorporating a certification program could really enhance a learning program. Pixelmator does an awesome video tutorial series.

Education doesn’t just have to be delivered on the site itself. Offer a webinar series where customers can sign up and attend predetermined sessions with other customers. These would be delivered using screensharing, chat and audio/video software. This could be added to a formal training program as a way to top up and refresh learning.

A webinar series needs a team to run regular sessions that customers can get a calendar view of from a page on your site, sign up for and drop in to. If you have a global customer base, stagger the times to cover all time zones.


salesforce community.png

This is the dark horse of a well delivered customer success presence. Not easy to deliver well, it takes serious and authentic effort. If achieved it can deliver substantial benefits:

  • Customer on customer support, scaling and reducing your own support efforts and costs
  • Building an army of customer advocates they scale your marketing efforts
  • Incorporating good collaborative and content features can really help drive the learning process for customers in the community.

Salesforce have done an amazing job with this incorporating their own community platform on the back of their success site.

On the risk side, you may have customers mounting an insurrection if things go wrong or they don’t quite appreciate a new product release. Having a good community management contingency plan in place is critical. The Community Roundtable has an excellent Community Manager Handbook if you want to develop this further.


success-online-supportThis is a fairly obvious area and the cornerstone of any attempt to help customers. Mostly a case of helping them with problems they are experiencing with your product or service, it’s often a question of turning a negative situation into a positive one. But that is a golden opportunity to enhance the customers experience if done well.

In an enterprise environment with a complex product or service that’s especially tricky. Support for the enterprise may have to take many different user types into consideration like the end-user, someone who acts on their behalf, an IT help desk for instance, etc.

A means to log issues and track responses would be table stakes but even this is not done well by many, if at all. In my view this is best done on a site (main site and/or a support or success site and also “in app” ideally) and personalised to the individual so he or she can track progress and responses, rather than via email. Other things to think about (and check out Code School who does a great job with many of its activities):

  • Do you offer a good FAQ (and good search) where users can find a solution without needing to raise a support ticket?
  • Is there a way to contact a human immediately in the event of a pressing problem, either by phone or by chat?
  • Can and should you go beyond problem resolution to feature requests, e.g. an area for users to submit and vote on ideas?
  • With all that is possible these days with AI and chatbots, can you automate the process?

chatbot customer support.png


success-online-docsAgain this is a really basic area that should be relatively easy to do well. Surprisingly many companies don’t.

You should at the very least have a well laid out and searchable or filterable document area on your site. The structure should be intuitive in relation to your product and service or offering. You could go further and structure the content for user type or proficiency level.

In addition to this there are some really basic things you can do to enhance the experience. For instance, you can incorporate rich media like video but if you want to keep that to a learning section, you could simply include gifs which are simple, animated images.

Percolate where I currently work does a really good job of this in my view.


Office 365 Roadmap.png


If you have decided to expose your thinking about the future direction of your product (this is something more specific to product features than service elements) you can make this a compelling part of your efforts. This is also most often a consideration with complex enterprise software products where future enhancements might impact on a customers operations. It’s of special interest to those responsible for the platforms use.

There are risks to doing this. Customers holding you to ideas that are in essence just ideas, not commitments to develop something. The risk is you add something to the roadmap and then for some reason or another it has to be removed or changed. Expectations that this created then have to be managed. If done well this can be an incredibly powerful way of engaging and ultimately committing customers to the future of your product and company by making them co-creators.

If you were to offer a feature request and/or ideas section on your site, this could even be incorporated into the approach. Submitted ideas that are incorporated into the product roadmap is an incredibly tangible way of showing customers that they are co-creators of your product.

Microsoft does this really well for Office 365 features and they took this approach from Yammer where I used to work until we were acquired by Microsoft and we then perfected the approach.

Other things to think about:

  • Positioning and branding
    Showing customers how committed you are to their success seems a natural strategy. You could make your customer success efforts a substantial part of the selling proposition by emphasising them boldly. Salesforce is probably the best example of this (link shared further up). Like them you might do it separately or on your main website, with pro’s and con’s to either. You could give them a specific identity that employees who focus on this and in general, as well as customers, can align with.
  • Customer success stories and use case library
    Use cases are the currency of a good customer success program. Both to show customers how they can use your product or service as well as to capture good use of it (thereby inspiring further use). If you turn the latter into well told stories that resonate then even better. Some way of capturing and categorising them for easy reference would be useful.
  • Customer success program
    Have one in the first place (I cover this in my primer shared at the beginning) and then lay it bare for customers to see. The benefit of this is that customers are shown you are serious and have a well laid out approach to making them successful. It should also show what resources you are putting behind this but also the commitment required on their side – because you cannot always outsource customer success.
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Can you outsource success?

3 minute read.

I’m in the success business. I work at Percolate, a marketing technology startup. I help drive the successful use of our technology by customers. I’ve done the same in roles before this at Yammer and then Microsoft.

Customer Success Management (CSM) is a pretty new role and function. It started with enterprise technology startups. It’s now applied at many companies that focus on subscription offerings. I’ve written about it here: Customer Success Management – Experience Hacking for the Subscription Age. That links to a slide deck on SlideShare and is a useful primer if you need it.

The belief is that customers cannot achieve successful use of enterprise technology alone. This makes sense since it is often less than simple. You wouldn’t expect a simple iPhone app to need customer success intervention.

Its most important goal is retaining the customer. It’s most applicable where the service is subscription based where it is easy for a customer to churn. If customers use technology with success and derive value from it, use will continue. This is a key assumption behind customer success efforts.

Success management is not just about enterprise technology. The self help business which is worth huge amounts is in many ways about success management. The focus of all the books and programs is to achieve success through some endeavour or another.

success-design-chanceThere are similarities between the two approaches. A common factor is that to achieve success you have to start with the individual or organisation. If the individual or organisation is not committed, success will not ensue.

If you read my primer you will see that it emphasises a robust program, another common factor . The elements of the program vary. From having a good strategy and planning process to support technologies and community. Rooted in this is the belief that success can not be left to chance. The view is that good design gets the organisation there with a greater chance at success. 

This would also hold true to the individual. It’s no less what many countless self-help programs promise. That if you follow a good program well, you will be successful.

Of course the suitability and robustness of the program is important. But that consideration is for another post.

You could argue with what has greater influence on chances of success. It could be that the commitment and attitude taken is more important. In an organisational context as well as for the individual, there are many other factors too. For instance, in the organisation, culture plays a key role.

The point of this post is not to argue one over the other. Let’s assume you need a balance. I also want to come back to my main focus which is customer success management in an enterprise context.

Let’s accept that a function like customer success management is necessary. We’ll believe that it should incorporate a well designed approach. We’ll agree that on balance, the customer needs to commit. Organisational factors like culture also need to be supportive.

Now to the crux of the matter. Why is it that so many fail to take responsibility?

I often see customers accept the validity of the program. They accept that the technology will not deliver results on its own. They accept that they have to take responsibility and commit. Yet all too often I find they don’t.

I see many reasons why this is the case and wanted to list a few:

  1. Accountability: No one knows who is responsible and so its easy to pass the buck
  2. Purpose: No one knows what they are trying to achieve or why and there is no wiifm (what’s in it for me) for key users.
  3. Resources: Not enough time or the right people are not involved to do what it takes to achieve success.
  4. Attention: So many competing tools and areas of work compete for attention. This leads to a lack of focus.

One to to highlight because it’s so pernicious is: it’s the vendors responsibility.

It may be the raison d’être of a customer success manager. Yet there is no way ultimate responsibility for customers success can fall in his or her hands. There are many reasons for this but most of all it’s because the CSM is not part of the organisation. It’s why I think you cannot outsource success, to answer my main question.

It doesn’t matter how integrated a CSM becomes in the customer’s business nor how good the program is. The customer has to commit and take full responsibility for the best chances of success.

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Round up of latest #innerventures trends

It’s been a while since I updated on trends in this space so quite a few to add.

You can see other updates like this by checking out posts with the #innerventuresupdate tag as well as the original posts I curated under the #research tag which I then used in the InnerVentures trend report that you can find here: Trend Reports

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Digital Marketing Innovation Framework

digital marketing innovation framework

This post is in the Sense Making category for good reason. I’ve tried before to look at this space – check this LinkedIn post: Marketing Technology Solutions and the Digital Transformation Challenge.

Unlike the article before, this attempt really has me stepping back and trying to form a view without too much influence from outside perspectives. I wanted to plot a landscape or framework as I’ve called it, within which digital, innovation and marketing coincide. I started with a diagram and this one has been iterated several times. I’ll go on to explain some of the main elements in a moment.

First to also just add that I’m doing this as a precursor to my new job at Percolate which I start in August and to serve as a baseline (hence the Version 1 under the heading in the diagram). I expect to be learning a whole bunch of new things and want to go into the new job with an unadulterated view. After a few months, I’ll come back and revisit this to see if it makes sense and may revise it further based on my insights in the interim.

So without further ado, here is a breakdown of some of the main elements of the framework, in brief:

Employees and Customers

These are in my view the two largest constituent stakeholder groups. The only distinction to make as I have is where the two overlap. I’ve specified (in brackets) that these are advocates – a pretty normal label. The point to add perhaps is that on the employee side it’s not just anyone. There is probably some degree of training or professional qualification. In contrast, on the customer side, those that engage probably do so not by virtue of any degree of qualification. At least on the conversation front. Customers that engage in conversation about brands likely do it out of passion.

Conversations and Commerce

I’m not sure these are the only two categories of interaction these two subgroups engage in but they are probably the most important. They’ve even been combined in a hip new trend amongst consumers which I discovered in researching this post I wrote about on chatops. Chris Messina coined the term conversational commerce to describe the way consumers interact not so much with employees but with bots within messaging apps when transacting with services. That is probably an entirely separate train of enquiry.

Suffice it to say that the importance of individuals engaged in meaningful dialogue that ultimately lead to profitable outcomes cannot be overstated. At least in the context of this post. The one thing I would stress it that it does contain the element of (digital) technology that allows for a lot of these interactions both on the conversational level (social media) and commercial levels.

conversational commerce

Translation Engine

By this, I don’t mean literal translation. The translation I am referring to is between the requirements or needs of the customer and of the services / products the company offers that go to meeting them. For me, this is an essential and critical element of the interaction – one that drives relevance. More on that in the next section. What is worth noting in this section though are the sub-sections.

Now I know that marketing technologies are hugely complex and fragmented in their purpose and function as I wrote about in the first post I shared above. Again I’m taking a stab below at what I think are the most important. The separation between employee and customer segments are not as clear cut as the diagram would suggest – there is much more overlap.

Content: Here I’m focusing on the creation side of things. Good content marketing, storytelling and collaborative authoring tech and processes that allow multiple people to contribute based on their passion and knowledge. This would also probably include or incorporate user-generated content.

Channels: Obviously once you have the content you need to get it to customers in the right format and channel and that of course increasingly means mobile. But that’s not the only channel and the key thing is to make the contact impactful dependent on context.

Storage/Workflow: This is where assets are kept and who has access to them (permissions) is determined. This is also where processes are embedded in workflow and some of these workflows will touch the customer. In other words, the customer will be exposed to some of these workflows or processes and may even be an active participant, for example with user generated content.

Demand/Sentiment: This is probably one of the most important because it touches on the measurement of marketing impact and effectiveness. It has to do with accountability. It covers data gathering, reporting and analysis. Demand would cover things like lead generation and capture and sentiment things like net promoter scores if that is something your organisation subscribes to.

One element I haven’t included is AI and automation because it probably encompasses all of the sub-sections above. It early days yet but I can see this kind of tech taking greater and greater prominence.

Innovation and Marketing

This is the one area where I will perhaps borrow from outside perspectives and I’ll “stand on the shoulder of giants” to do so.

In the first instance, I would refer to Peter Drucker, the grandfather of modern marketing. He also intertwined it with innovation and I fundamentally agree with this. More fully, Drucker said, “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

drucker marketingDrucker’s other fundamental view (see image) also ties in nicely with that of another key thinker on innovation and that is Clayton Christensen who gave us the “jobs to be done” paradigm. The jobs to be done framework emerged as a helpful way to look at customer motivations in business settings within the context of his disruptive innovation theories. I thought it was a perfect, classical context in which to frame modern day activities.

As you can see from the diagram, the two opposite ends of the spectrum left and right are effectively inputs to the translation engine and are the main elements covered in the jobs to be done paradigm.


Assuming you have done all of the above well, this should give rise to the total sum of experiences that go to make the brand up. I don’t intend to explain what a brand is. Suffice it to say that I still see it playing a dominant and all-encompassing role for marketing efforts. Especially in an increasingly fragmented digital landscape it can serve as a beacon that guides employees and customers alike.

So that’s my view of this space for starters. It combines state of the art technology and practice with time-tested, classical marketing and innovation theory. I wanted to anchor the new in what I thought was still fundamental and unchanged. I’ll revisit this in time. Anyone adding a different perspective, filling in any gaps or making any corrections would be most welcome – please add a comment.

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Five paradoxes to navigate when trying to reinvent your business

5 paradoxes reinvention

Often labelled change or transformation efforts (and there is some confusion about which is which: We Still Don’t Know the Difference Between Change and Transformation) there is little doubt organisation’s of all kind are under increasing pressure to keep pace with a rapidly shifting marketplace. I chose reinvention because it’s the more innovative and proactive approach in my mind. Fashionable these days is also the label disruption which is probably overused and somewhat pernicious. I also aptly used the term navigation because the waters are choppy and the destination or purpose of many of these efforts, whatever you label them, is very seldom reached as planned. It’s no secret that success rates are greatly in question too. But the question is what gets in the way.

I’m no expert change practitioner and have made my priorities of where it fits known before. Based on my lay observations over the years as a participant or observer of a great many efforts in this space, I think this will be a constant tussle. I put it down to the ever present paradoxes listed below.

Change and resistance

The pace of change is increasing exponentially hitting many industries incessantly. Inherent in many organisations that have operated in the same way for many years and been highly successful at it, is a natural resistance to the change they see outside. Until it’s too late that is, but that’s for another point. And the paradox is that sometimes the greater the external need to change is, the more resistance there is to adapting to it from internal forces.

Leaders and blockers

Leadership (that is, senior executives) are often looked to, to drive the transformation. Indeed they are most often the ones that come up with the need and plan to change. Sometimes they end up being unable to live the change. It ends up being lip service. They expect others to do the heavy lifting on change work. In extreme cases they actively block the change. At worst, their lack of authentic engagement stymies successful change.

People and tools/processes

It’s easy to look to tools and/or processes first for solutions. They are inanimate and don’t talk back. You can draw pretty diagrams, flow charts and graphs or point out funky features that will lead to success. The difficult work is dealing with people and they are also through whom the real execution takes place. The culture (another loosely formed construct with powerful impact) of the current organisation and how receptive it is to changing is where work is also required but seldom with looked to first.

Network and hierarchy

Hierarchical management approaches have served the organisation for many years and although it has come into question in recent years, may still suffice for larger organisation’s that operate at massive global scale. What it is definitely less effective for is when change is required especially when it needs to happen fast. Information flows are not efficient in a hierarchy. In a network, information is not bound or contained and can flow as it needs to, to find its most useful outlet.

Innovation and crises

The worst way to try and reinvent yourself is when you are reacting, when you are being forced to make it happen out of necessity. Far better would be to have the luxury of foresight and planning and a deep level understanding to decide what and how you will reinvent the business. Not as a knee jerk reaction. Far better ultimately would be to have the capability to ingrained into the business – to be able to predict changes needed ahead of time and respond intuitively and ahead of the curve.

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Product review of Spire-a Quantified Self Device which measures breath to increase mindfulness

Today I am reviewing a wellness gadget / device called Spire which measures your activities like steps, walked distance, burned calories like other fitness trackers but it is very unique when tracking breath and analyzing tension, calmness and focus times.

As you can see on this pictures it comes with a beautifully designed wireless charging plate and a USB cable, also a free slot to charge another USB-device. Spire can be worn on a belt or bra. I am using it now since 3 months and quality is very high which means: bluetooth connection to the iOS App (Android is under development) is very stable, battery lasts minimum 5 days and I don’t notice it while wearing on my belt. Congratulations to the Spire time for an excellent complete redesign of the iOS-App which was launched June 28th!

Now I am going to coverage the most important usage scenarios for me:


Measure your breath in Real Time

In the landing page of the App I can easily see how often I breath per minute. 11.5 is very relaxed and calm (until 15 BPM). “Focus” is defined as 15-19 BPM and “Tense” is > 19 BPM. Really helpful insights if I am currently in a certain situation (e.g. phone conference) and see how it changes depending on my activity (listening vs presenting), engaged vs disengaged or topic (interesting / boring)

Get a Boost when you are feeling tense

Spire knows when you  are tense and can push a notification alert to your smartphone (if you want) and recommend an exercise. This can be a calmness or meditation exercise around breathing (from well-known teachers like Deepak Chopra and Thich Nhat Hanh) or freshness and productivity booster for work.  I have tried all exercise and really enjoyed the style. Very nice voices, short exercises which are easy to integrate into everyday life (around 3 minutes) and they bring me directly back into calmness and  more mindful and present state.


History of your week: Breathing and Activity Pattern

Spire App also offers a weekly review where you can see how calm, focused and tense you were. Easily it can be switched between activity and breath. That certain Wednesday was a successful working day because I wasn`t stressed, had more than 1 hour of calmness and relaxation and more than 2 hours of full focus time.


I can also drill down and find out where I was in a tense state. So yesterday for example I had a tense situation at 5:57pm at our Kindergarten Festival. It started to rain and I was in a rush helping to move kids and stuff inside.



Spire is an excellent gadget for Quantified Self of measuring calmness (should I rather say: Quantified Selflessness?), focus time and tension additional to activity tracking of steps and distances. 129.95 US$ are not too much because it is currently the only device in this price range and market segment which can track your breath. Stanford University’s Calming Technology Lab.  was involved in the R&D of this beautiful product. I find it very useful if you really change your daily habits and that is the most difficult thing: wear Spire everyday and make the exercise without skipping if the alert notification pops up. Exercises are great and helpful but it is is so easy to agree to its effectiveness without doing it. The magic is not inside the device, it is in your daily practise and your personal way to become more mindful and know what is good for you and not. It can help to discover patterns of chronical stress that you were not aware of. That is maybe the most important use case.

If you understand German, you also might want to watch my son`s review on Youtube



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Review of Jiyo-a Wellness Wellbeing Mobile App by Deepak Chopra

Deepak Chopra, a well known and leading figure in the meditation and alternative health movement, has launched on June 12th together with his his co-founder Poonacha Machaiah a new service called Jiyo.

This wellness services is focused on a mobile App experience (iOS, Android) and also works fine in a browser. It collects a lot of data from sensors and content sources like Apple Health, Fitbit, Moves, Jawbone Up, HeartCloud and Google Fit

Jiyo wants to prevent intensive typing. You can easily share the lessons you have done on Twitter and Facebook, adding your own comments, experiences or/and photos. You can interact with other members (freemium or premium) but it`s a difficult to search for people because it does not search through your address book, Facebook or Twitter account. So currently I still have zero followers and no interactions or motivations from a peer group as you can see in my profile.  It also shows that I have done these two exercises around breathing which I found really helpful, easy to do (less than 3 minutes) and great inspiration to do something in your daily habits (before you dive into your dreams or start your working day)

As you can see here a number of different kind of exercises are available. Quality of the content (videos, photos, inspirational ideas) is very high and I found every single one useful and could recommend it.  There is so much more content in the premium channels which I haven`t purchased yet (1,99 US$/month).


Here you get a short impression of the varity in the premium Jiyo+ Channels, currently counting 24 channels.


So how does a Jiyo landing page in the Browser look like? Here you can see that you see a summary of your own activities like average number of steps this month or hours you slept combined with content. I have not spoken to other Jiyo Users yet but it`s possible that the content / exercises in my Jiyo are customized for me because it knows my gender, age and activity patterns.


jiyo Landing

Here is one notification about a sport exercise which I have received on my mobile app and found very useful. It`s a stretch exercise with your bike which opens chakras.



First summary:

I am very impressed about the excellent usability and user interface of the mobile App. It is so focused on exercises which are easy to do and achieve, integration into daily habits and routines shouldn`t be an issue. Notifications on my mobile help not to forget that this App is existing (yes, that already happened to other meditation Apps I have installed).

I really love the idea of integrating usage data from other activity and wellness trackers and get tailorized content. That`s an extra value I would pay for and I am close to subscribe to Jiyo+ – and write a second blogpost. I would also allow Jiyo to access my breathing patterns and history from Spire.

Finally I want to close with this remarkable and beautiful quote from Deepak Chopra why he actually built Jiyo. Nothing to add:

“I’ve always had this idea, I don’t know why, but the idea was that if I could reach a billion people and help them personally transform, we would have social transformation. Because society is a function of a critical mass of people with similar intent. If I want a more peaceful, just, sustainable, healthier and happier world, then we have to be the change we want to see in the world, as Mahatma Gandhi said.”

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Find and share your gift by working out loud #wolweek 2016

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” — Pablo Picasso

This is the first day of this year`s Working Out Loud Week #wolweek and Simon Terry has recommended to reflect about PURPOSE.

First I was contemplating about the term “purpose” and what it exactly means in German. Is it more about intention, a goal, aim, only a task or it more about a higher meaningful purposeful goal with significant core values which makes the world a better place? Well, I guess this question exactly triggers the right aspect and to starts my and your own journey (‘The way is the goal’ — Confucius)  into a purposeful (work) life where I am first discovering my own gift:

  • my talents and skills: am I using them to help others?
  • my  (working) time: how should I prioritize my time?
  • my power and influence: How I could I have a larger positive impact on the life of others?

I have made the experience that joining a Working Out Loud Circle as described by John Stepper is really helpful to discover my own gifts because of this impressive feedback culture which should exist in every great circle. A circle is a protected and confidential space (video conference or on-site meetup) where a group of people meet every week for 12 weeks to reach their goals. Using public social media channels is part of the exercises but not an isolated goal without a senseful meaning behind it.

Working Out Loud is not a wild and uncoordinated broadcasting of news or random (personal) information. That is what I hear a lot as major concern: “Why should I want to read that others are currently eating a cookie?”

For me it is a learning space with very concrete purposes: helping other people and organisations to achieve more. That is the main focus. It`s all about supporting others and reaching own goals is a secondary gain.

I have modified the famous quote from Pablo Picasso: The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” — Pablo Picasso
Find your gift, share your gift