nd once you discover it, there is no going back. It’s addictive and powerful. It ruins your ability to be a worker bee, because you’ve tasted blood: you become a killer bee, intent on understanding why things are the way they are, finding their flaws, and pushing the universe forward by fixing them.
Did you know that Groupon originally launched as a blog? The first version of the daily deal site was “totally ghetto,” according to an interview with founder Andrew Mason. To launch the idea, the team re-skinned a Wordpress blog with the Groupon brand. Each day, they manually posted offers for heavily discounted restaurant gift certificates, concert vouchers, movie tickets, and other deals in the Chicago area. Using off-the-shelf software, they generated PDF coupons, emailing vouchers to customers using a script and Apple Mail.
From the fall of Polaroid, to the rise of Wal-Mart, to the age of the Internet, which among other things ushered in an information revolution, changed the way we buy/consume, led to the proliferation of mobile devices and social networks, we are seeing a constant evolution of ideas that creates market leaders as others lose their leadership positions. Indeed, the pace of change is becoming increasingly rapid such that relatively recent products can become redundant – for example, the slowing sales of PCs, point-and-shoot digital cameras and music players amid the continued cannibalization from tablets and smartphones.
I. People subscribe to people — not brands — on YouTube. So much so that the name of the game on YouTube is to do spinouts. Have Robin Williams on ‘Happy Days’ as Mork, then spin out ‘Mork From Ork’ if he’s likeable
II. Anything funny or juvenile (e.g., Google ‘milk prank’)
III. Do anything a 10-to-15-year-old would show a friend
IV. Music, action sports or dance
V. Unbelieveable/that’s incredible type stuff; VI. traffic recirculation (aka collaborations between channels);
VII. Audience engagement in comments.
Making digital experiences from scratch is hard, especially for big companies. Isn’t it obvious why start-ups can so easily disrupt end-ups?
- We create distance between ideas and execution. Internal debate, powerpoint presentations, and business cases dilute ideas and waste months of time. We not only outsource production but also idea generation to an expensive agency.
- Less-than-perfect is unacceptable. Managers believe that a half-baked release could ruin the brand. A failed product will signal doom to the investors.
- We debate the smallest aesthetics. We require designers to make 8 iterations from which to choose. We present interim design to VPs and CMOs and expect feedback.
- We obsess over finding and agreeing on the perfect idea.
- Vague vision statements and platitudes (e.g., “create a more [relevant/real-time/personalized] experience”) guide strategy.
- Our digital agencies loathe our lack of taste and are frustrated beyond comprehension by our poor feedback and ridiculous timelines.
Yet big companies realize all of these things. Talk to CMOs and they will lament their dissatisfaction with expensive (but essential) systems, a pervasive feeling of slowness, jealousy of startups, IT ineptitude, and lack of innovation.
It’s so hard to change culture. That same CMO, all-knowing of his or her plight, will continue to make short-sighted feature requests, plan for technology in 3-year windows, and over-rule those who have taste.
Big companies are in a strange predicament, forced into a role of software developer and publisher, but still wielding the same manager-heavy marketing organization and agency relationships of the past.
The old-school model of incubating an idea over years instead of months is fading. IT departments cannot prototype – functional specs and business requirements don’t have a role at the early stages of a great idea. Technology and behavior changes fast enough that an 18-month waterfall production schedule doesn’t cut it. The digital agency will never out-innovate a small-team of founders, developers, and designers at a startup, where the concentration of intrinsically-motivated, 2am coding, talent-dense employees has every advantage.
The old approach has not led to market-defining innovation. Innovation in digital isn’t a marketing campaign or microsite.
There is a new model for big companies who reject the old ways of doing things. It’s for companies who are fed up with poor digital execution from agencies and look at their digital-first counterparts with wonder.
It’s a new approach for invention in a mature, profitable organization, one that acknowledges the misguided direction of current practices and recognizes the potential for getting it right.
"Over the years I’ve learned that the first idea you have is irrelevant. It’s just a catalyst for you to get started. Then, you figure out what’s wrong with it and you go through phases of denial, panic, regret. And then you finally have a better idea and the second idea is always the more important one.
"We built all sorts of things and everything we did turned out to be relevant, because you’re in the right area and giving yourself time to investigate. Eventually you run into an interesting idea and you execute on that."
From Founders at Work.