My expectations for fast food are never very high, but my disappointment in Burger King recently reached an all time low. In my opinion, Burger King failed.
I am a huge fan of Iron Man and superheros in general. In my younger days, I was one... often. Burger King recently offered Iron Man swag as part of its kid's meal. The sack is pictured to the left.
Once I took a closer look, though, my disappointment set in. The boys get action figures and girls get jewelry and mirrors. Is this really how corporation American thinks? Are we still attempting to pigeon-hole boys and girls into assumed roles?
I am the father of three girls -- all who have the capability of becoming scientists and engineers. In fact, my oldest, when she was nine years old, saved up some money and bought her first robot. My son (the youngest) is an incredible artist and has the verbal acuity of his elder sisters. All of them would love to get a LEGO MindStorm NXT 2.0 for Christmas.
It is obvious, therefore, Burger King failed in not recognizing that girls are just as able to become the next Tony Stark as boys. They missed a golden opportunity to promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Instead, they opted for the least creative and most unimaginative twaddle, appealing to children's vanity rather than their intellect. They failed to help make society just a little better by inspiring children to pursue the science and technology.
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) is a major focus of the National Science Foundation as well as the U.S. Department of Education. The STEM action plan for a 21st Century education can be found here.
"Execution is a systematic process of rigorously discussing hows and whats, questioning, tenaciously following through, and ensuring accountability. It includes making assumptions about the business environment, assessing the organization's capabilities, linking strategy to operations and the people who are going to implement the strategy, synchronizing those people and their various disciplines, and linking rewards to outcomes. It also includes mechanisms for changing assumptions as the environment changes and upgrading the company's capabilities to meet the challenges of an ambitious strategy.
"In its most fundamental sense, execution is a systematic way of exposing reality and acting on it."
--from Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done (Bossidy, Charan)
I think a good picture of execution is in the Appendices of the movie The Fellowship of the Ring. When you learn how Peter Jackson as the director got everyone and everything working in various departments and then began the process of bringing everything together -- it's truly amazing.
In this way, a business is not much different than making a movie. Your vision/strategy is your main story -- your from point A to point Z -- and your main theme. You still have to make everything come together to make that strategy a reality. Peter Jackson didn't micromanage people. He did, however, concern himself with many details. He trusted key people to do what he knew they were capable of. And he communicated ad naseum.
Execution is knowing what needs to get done and how the whats will get done and then delivering on the promises across multiple departments or personnel. Execution is about getting the right things done in the right ways at the right time in order to achieve success; all the while weaving in and out known and unknown dependencies and environmental factors. Execution is not about doing for the sake of doing. It is about taking action in order to make things happen on the chosen path towards the goal. A thousand mile journey begins with the first step is a true.
In a sketch on Prairie Home Companion a character said, "Sincerity is the new irony." Similarly, Mr. Nussbaum has promoted transformation as the new innovation. It doesn't appear that "transformation" is any different than what innovation is becoming. His main point is that the word innovation has become overused and degraded.
Nussbaum says this about transformation: "It implies that our lives will increasingly be organized around digital platforms and networks that will replace edifices and big organizations (students already know this, university presidents still have edifice-complexes, which is why so many of them are getting the boot)."
Similarly, @ricetopher said: "Deleuze and Guattari had it right in 'A Thousand Plateaus': the tribe must become nomadic, rhizomatic to survive/thrive." Which, if I understand it correctly, means that there is no longer just one expert, but a multitude of voices contributing to the knowledge base. Wikipedia entry states: "Rhizome theory is also gaining currency in the educational field, as a means of framing knowledge creation and validation in the online era."
If we crowdsource the term, what might we get? Is "Transformation" a better description of what company's need to do to embrace a the future? Or is there something else?
Nussbaum continues: "(Transformation) implies radical transformation of our systems—education, health-care, economic growth, transportation, defense, political representation. It puts the focus on people, designing networks and systems off their wants and needs. It relies on humanizing technology, not imposing technology on humans. It approaches uncertainties with a methodology that creates options for new situations and sorts through them for the best quickly."
Tony Fry, author of "Design Futuring" believes that transformation is wrong.
"Design Futuring argues that responding to ethical, political, social and ecological concerns now requires a new type of practice that recognizes design's importance in overcoming a world made unsustainable."
Nussbaum makes mention of Paul Saffo. Here's a recent discussion he had on KQED. Tim Brown with IDEO on his blog Design Thinking summarized Saffo's thoughts.
"He discusses what he calls the ‘Creator Economy’ based around the simultaneous creation and consumption of value. He thinks of this as the evolution of what was once the producer economy, where scarcity was the controlling factor, and then became the consumer economy, where sales and marketing was the dominant idea. I have been wondering about this idea recently and see it as a natural extension of Robert Wright’s Non-Zero thesis. As our communication networks grow so does our ability to create new kinds of value. The early examples are Google, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, Threadless. These all rely on their ability to generate participation and through that create individual and group value."
What I appreciate about the discussion so far -- across multiple channels -- is the understanding that we can move forward; that we need to move forward. Innovation may very well be old-school, bushleague. Join the conversation at my Friendfeed... it only makes sense, right?
There are three things this question unpacks:
1. Scope -- It unpacks how big you perceive your market. Are you chasing the small business owner market? Or have you focused your efforts on reaching the private family physicians only? The scope of your market matters. If you're a start-up, in order to cross the chasm you need a single market you can lay claim to. A more established company may want to spread out from a base of operations and tackle a new channel -- the question still applies.
2. Segmentation -- It unpacks how well you understanding your customer and his/her wants and needs and aspirations. Target Stores has a disproportionate amount of women who shop there -- something like 70% or more. Understanding your customer also means knowing how to innovate for them. Businesses depend on profitable differentiation and disciplined innovation is a means to that end.
3. Stream -- It unpacks your revenue stream. Who is paying you? Why are they giving you their money? What are they paying for? Following the money is a major clue to knowing what your customers value. And equally important is understanding why it's valuable to them.
What seems like a rather benign question turns out to be a key to success. It reveals more than just these three. This is a start. Another thing it unpacks is your competition, because your competition isn't defined by you but by your customer and what he is willing to and wanting to purchase. It may also unpack the degree to which you apply empathy to your customer relationships. I'll have to give this last one some more thought.
Who is your customer? is a good question. Use it.
At first, I was going to dis Seth's post on Malcolm Gladwell's book "Outliers" with a strawman argument: "Miley Cyrus doesn't have a White Album...& probably won't." I even imagined adding that I suspect -- 10 years from now -- Miley will have joined the ranks of Debbie Gibson and Cindy Lauper.
However, I've reconsidered my position after a careful re-reading of Seth's post.
Seth -- you make a great point. Success depends on pushing through a dip. And pushing through a dip is hard work: more than 1K, 5K, & sometimes 10K hours. It's a lot easier to settle than it is to push.
What is evident by both Gladwell's treatise and your insights is this: It can't be done alone.
Hockey players in Canada have dedicated parents. Jewish lawyers and tailors had community and family supports. Bill Gates may never have attained his status had it not been for the mother's fundraising efforts that brought in the necessary $3,000.
Motivation is important and 10,000 hours is important. Skill is important and timing is important. I think what community and family and friends bring to the discussion is this: Purpose.
We are better people because of those who both support us and depend upon us. I am a better man because I am a husband, father, son, friend, and citizen. The work I'm doing to find the topside of the dip I'm in is meaningful because I am not doing it for myself.
We could all settle for the trough of mediocrity if it wasn't for those who are most important to us. Love may actually make a bigger difference in a person's life -- both loving and being loved -- than either 10,000 hours or dip-mastery.
I appreciate having the privilege to comment. Thank you.
I was wondering the other day whether or not Apple's new aluminum "unibody" laptop is indeed innovative or merely an upgrade. I watched the video from apple.com and walked away scratching my head. It is remarkable that we have the technology to shape a piece aluminum.
Personally, I'm still getting the hang of Twitter and blogging. This is a great post by Julie Roads with sage advice. It's a keeper.
Here's my add to Tim Leberecht's blog from December 7, 2008, on the "end of big ideas."
Exciting things going on in the world of design and innovation.
I listened to a BusinessWeek podcast with Rajesh Chandy, Professor of Marketing at University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, from December 3, 2008: Five Traits of Innovation Companies. The main difference between innovative companies and non-innovative companies? Culture.
"The battle is within. It is a cultural one: between glorifying the past or being paranoid about the future (Grove 1996); between protecting one’s successes or cannibalizing them (Chandy and Tellis 1998); between averting risk or embracing it. The battle is for the soul of the firm. Innovative firms are those that clearly understand this battle and adopt decisive practices to win it."
What this suggests, then, is that innovation is something you are rather than just something you do. Of the five traits of innovative companies, the top two are: 1) Forward-Thinking Orientation; and 2) Willingness to Cannabalize.
A forward-thinking orientation is identified by -- of all things -- the language top management uses to communicate. Specifically, how often they use the words like "will" and "shall." Cannabalization is somewhat self-explanatory -- it's the willingness of the company to overtake its own products -- much like Apple with the iPod and Gillette with its razors.
Among other things, the implication of just these two traits of innovative companies is the impact on ROI. If within 3 to 5 years your new widge is essentially obsolete or vulnerable to competition, then the return on investment has to also be fast. Not only do firms have to be thinking 3 to 5 years out, they also have to understand the nature of planned obsolescence when it comes to their product development.
If you're interested, here's a link to Chandy's paper, recently published in the Journal of Marketing.