Innovation Is About Keeping Our Options Open

4 visions of innovation with Censhare’s Dieter Reichert

Innovation is on everyone’s lips except that what we see is hardly what we get. For innovation is, primarily, a matter of vision. Technology is nice and it travels fast, but what is it to us who can understand so little about it? It’s as if we, modern day Frankensteins, had invented new creatures and as they come to life, we barely understand what is going on. As the frightful Swiss in awe with his newborn wretch, we run around like headless chickens, trying to embrace these new technological objects of ours or merely trying to survive them. What if the answer were in the hands of the Indians of an obscure tribe in a Mexican desert? I tried to find out while interviewing Dieter Reichert, CEO and founder of Censhare, a worldwide software house set to redesign the way we handle information. And God knows there is a dire need for this.

Visions of Innovation can be found in the way native Americans perceive the world around them, Reichert says
Visions of Innovation can be found in the way native Americans perceive the world around them, Reichert says

Dieter came to visit me some time ago. We had decided I would interview him about software and we came to talk about his background and experience. Talking with entrepreneurs is always a fascinating experience. One gets to understand how they innovate, how they lead their business in their daily lives, how they overcome whatever obstacles they encounter. This is a very worthwhile experience, especially when you are are yourself an entrepreneur. Talking to Dieter for a few minutes, I realised that our interview would be on a totally different level. His was not the experience of an average businessman, but a real journey through life, deeply rooted in experiments. Well, all kinds of experiments, so to speak.

Vision of innovation 1: don’t do what’s expected of you

Dieter started in a way that wouldn’t appeal to most Parents, by flunking school at the age of 18. He wasn’t “cut out for that”, he admitted. By “that”, he meant reading books, and learning with a teacher locked up in a schoolroom. He was one for larger spaces, he fled to India. There he learned Yoga, then became a teacher and eventually, got bored, because “not much happens in India” he said. Not one for contemplation, Dieter, but much of a rolling stone.

He left India soon after that to live among Mexican tribespeople. Columbus had mistaken them for Indians and named them after others, Dieter went on to live with them. He liked it a lot. In actual fact, living with them shaped his vision of life and innovation. His vision of time and understanding the cosmos. He thinks he can understand innovation better than us because of this. This is a life-shaping experience, not just any kind of experience.

So here went Dieter, from adventure to venture, from the Mexican Indians to the creation of an events organisation setting up symposiums with the Dalai Lama and other celebs, then to the creation of a drugs rehab centre, all the time working with and for Apple. Meditation being the link between these things, most probably. “Think different” is certainly a motto that Dieter could live with. For he is a very different kind of person.

Vision of innovation 2: one day, computers will be less dumb

I liked his views on IT too. It’s true that computers aren’t that smart. This is an understatement. The more we are sold new versions of AI and self-driving cars, the more we have to reboot our machines, circumvent bugs and even live without the features one used to enjoy (where has the old Phatware ICR – intelligent character recognition – feature in our year 2000 PDAs gone?) They are just miniaturised versions of their bulky elders, even though we have gone quite a long way from the prehistory of IT, I readily admit.

Yet, exactly 26 years ago to the day, I was tip tapping away on a computer just like the one I have now in front of me. It’s true I was one of the happy few to be equipped with a laptop computer, its battery life was not going beyond 1 hour and a half and it was black and white (two years later I pawned it in exchange for a brand new colour Zenith PC). Having said that, it was a PC nonetheless, with an older but reasonably functional version of Office by Microsoft. Not much less powerful than the ones we have now and certainly less bug-ridden.

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Taking the Wraps off Product Packaging

Today’s selection is…

A selection of creative packaging with some very good and very innovative ideas. I have found out that just before going on vacation, rather than write yet another piece about the future of marketing or innovation, we would take some time off as and start browsing the Web a bit in search for ideas. That’s how I came across this photo mag list of “30 of the most creative and innovative product design you have ever seen“. Here are some other musings taken from my reading of that very good list of creative ideas:

  • innovation is not only in the product:  one can have a very trivial product like butter (photo) for instance and using innovative packaging change the customer experience; in essence, the same recipe could be applied to high-tech as well. You can very well take an ordinary online service and turn it into a superior customer experience through the way that it is packaged. Let’s take an example with the now defunct Posterous service, unfortunately bought and killed by Twitter. These guys were offering superior user experience through their innovative way of opening an account: with Posterous, you didn’t need to open an account at all. All you needed to do was to type a new URL (or send an email to a Posterous email address), and that would generate your account by default. You were then led to linking that account to an existing social media account and hey presto! you had bypassed the signup process entirely,

Taking the Wraps off Product Packaging

  • Some of these ideas are very innovative but also very unpractical: One of the lessons I derived from the reading of that piece, is that sometimes innovation can defeat is its own object. If we take this salami CD thing, I’m probably very thick but I still haven’t figured out whether it was a CD with a salami shape, or a piece of salami shaped like a CD. Okay, I must be lacking a sense of humour completely,

Taking the Wraps off Product Packaging

  • In some cases (Kleenex boxes) they have even managed to turn the product into a whole experience which makes you feel like collecting even the most trivial products like tissues. If you collect all the boxes then you will be able to rebuild the entire fruit. I found that extremely inventive and clever.

creative package design, innovative packaging ideas2

Here are some of my musings, I’m sure they are thousands of new ideas you can pick up from those beautiful and innovative photos. Enjoy!

30 of The Most Creative And Innovative Product Design You Have Ever Seen

When it comes to product design the packaging of the product play a very important role. A beautiful and creative product design greatly influences our decision while choosing one product over another. You may agree that several times you purchase a useless product because it was designed beautifully.

So a product design not only serves the purpose of informing the customers, but it should also appeal to your target market and impress the customer with its creativity and design. Below is our selection of 30 creative and innovative product packaging designs that will inspire you!

30 of The Most Creative And Innovative Product Design You Have Ever Seen – StumbleUpon.

Reinventing Marketing at Adobe Summit 2014

My first presentation at Adobe summit 2014 in London today was the morning keynote and it’s so packed with information that I still wonder, while I’m writing these lines, how I can summarise so much information. Here is my account of this morning’s keynote in which Adobe delivered gazillion innovations impacting both the field of marketing and digital. 

Adobe: reinventing marketing

Marketing, let’s be clear, needs a hard reset. We work in silos, pedalling heads down trying to get to grips with new tools as they emerge, and each tool that comes in is being added one after the other in an increasingly hard to digest multichannel sandwich. It’s time to reinvent marketing. And believe it or not, Adobe, the Brand famous for bringing software like Photoshop and Dreamweaver, might well be a major player in this entire marketing rethink. I know it sounds zanyish but it’s happening; if the Adobe Marketing Cloud BU has already reached the $ 1Bn mark, something big must be happening.

Brad Rencher in this morning’s keynote, announced just that; but unlike most corporate marketing presentations, Rencher and his teams showed us, in real time, on the screen, how they deliver on their promises. “We hear about changing consumer behaviour all the time but what we are seeing now is that these changes are having an impact on organisations” Brad Rencher said by way of introduction. “We’ve seen this coming for decades as marketeers and now, we have the opportunity for marketers is to reinvent ourselves and create new things. This is something much broader than just marketing”, Brad said, “it’s about reinventing the enterprise”.

 
reinventing marketing
 
Adobe’s Rencher, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Digital Marketing Business Unit at Adobe Systems ready for a hard reset of marketing
 
Adobe’s CEO Shantanu Narayen stepped in and delivered his vision. “Technology isn’t enough. Enterprises will have to break the silos and listen to customer expectations”. This is in fact what Adobe did for themselves. By moving all their business into the cloud : the creative cloud.  Their whole business model has changed. They were able to embrace this humongous change even though their existing business model made up 70% of their revenue. Tell us about people entitled to talk about digital transformation to others. “This means  reinventing everything and break through the clutter of the buzzwords and deliver outstanding customer experience” Narayen said.
 
How will we unlearn marketing
 
Reinventing oneself is the challenge but “unlearning is a huge hurdle” Brad Rencher said. Like driving in London when you learnt in the States for instance. So how we in the industry unlearn marketing?
 
“Imagine there are no bosses, no hierarchy, no processes … What would marketing look like if we started with blank sheet. Then we’d focus on doing just one things, that is serve our customers” he said. Like jumping on new channels as they emerge and adding channels on top of channels means that we are working the wrong way. We need to be backwards compatible but this is a huge problem because we’d have to ditch everything we do at the moment.
 
Adobe marketing cloud is aimed at doing that
 
Marketing cloud handles the whole process from cradle to grave: analytics, campaign, experience management, media optimiser, social and target. By feeding existing analytics data into the media optimiser adobe is able to make clients save 50% on their SEM for instance. The platform is huge and supports zillions of transactions every year and Adobe comets on pursuing their effort of innovation to support marketeers with their challenges due to fragmentation. In the new version of the marketing cloud platform there a re new tools aimed at solving such issues.
 
Brad took two examples: profiles and content. The profile management service will enable users to use profiles through all existing channels to run their marketing campaigns without having to manage different profiles. As to content, adobe has worked on a system to help users move faster by creating an assets library to speed up the sharing of content assets across platforms and users. Marketing mix planning gives hints as to where marketeers should spend their dollars. And once the recommendation has been issued, marketeers can also use the platform to execute that campaign.
 
And of course the platform is linked to the company’s CRM, and ERP and all necessary back end systems.
 
Marketing reimagined

This is “marketing reimagined” Brad said and he and his teams went on demonstrating how they deliver this directly from the screen. The demo which impressed me most was that of the mobile app development system which gives you hints as to the amount of savings which can be derived from that. Here is how it works :

  • Understand our client as a whole person : never lose sight of customer. Not the media plan view or the CRM viiew of the customer but all bungee.ed together, the real view of the customer. This is what analysts call emergence. This is not just a data store, it’s about taking that data and turning it into useful information. Master marketing profile takes information for of all sources about your customer and sharing it with other employees, it’s some sort of superior webs analytics inclusive of information from social media. Profiles can be grouped into what Adobe calls Audiences. All profiles are shared in an anonymous manner and Adobe insisted on maintaining the highest standard of data privacy but the profile core service is also able to merge. Social media and buying media from an indentified existing client for instance; this enables Adobe to bridge the gap between behaviour (through analytics), assets managements (like items of a marketing campaign which can be generated directly from within the marketing cloud platform) and even the campaign management therefore delivering on the promise of a non fragmented marketing environment sketched out by Brad Rencher earlier.

 
reinventing marketing
A holistic view of Marketing … at last, all unified through Software. Some found it funny that we had to have Software to do that, but in fact, ERPs did this to HR & Finance and many other areas 15 years ago… I’m not surprised
  • Burst of creativity : we’ve had our moments with “cute display ads” Brad said but one has to move beyond this Brad said. We have the data now we must deliver the right experience with the help of the data that we have. Adobe experience manager is about that. Assets can all be inter connected and deliver for desktop and the mobile web. Brad has focused on mobiles in his presentation. Consumers want apps but creating deploying and evolving these apps has never been more challenging. But are we thinking broadly enough? We need to make apps easier to develop. Adobe has development is making it possible to create and maintain mobile apps with drag and drop applications and that included e-commerce applications too. A lot of what we see in the mobile application space is similar to how websites were built 20 years ago. One of the biggest challenge is, despite what people think, bringing the app to a phone. “We want to to make this an accelerated experience” the Adobe rep said on stage. It’s done on IOS only and IOS 7 only though, but the landscape is very fragmented and poses a real issue to marketers. It also enables marketeers to test the look and feel of the new app without talking to IT nor contacting the many agencies involved in the development.
Time will tell us how marketing has been reinvented. Software can certainly trigger behavioural changes, but it will also require a fair bit of change from the people point of view, a challenge which Adobe is ready to tackle as well, knowing that they are very active in various in-job training programmes to help marketeers evolve. They sure have a long way to go.
 
Evernote Snapshot 20140514 092924
 
 Shantanu Narayen … reinventing marketing

Gartner’s Vision Of The Future Of Mobility; Should Users Be Afraid?

The opening session I attended this morning at the Gartner symposium was entitled “by 2017 your smartphone will be smarter than you”. The speakers were Martin Reynolds and Carolina Milanesi from Gartner and the moderator was Charles Arthur from the Guardian. As a matter-of-fact, the discussion ended up being far more interesting than the title suggested. The panel started to review the future of Smartphones and wearable devices and connected it very well to the issues of data privacy and user benefit, which are central to the use of big data.

Carolina Milanesi introduced the subject by saying that “smartness is achieved through sensors and also geolocation. Yet, “we are not there yet” according to her, and mostly if “people don’t want to share their location information, smartness may not even happen”. I think she exposed the issue very well by emphasising the fact that innovation related to Smartphones will not just be a matter of technology, but of user acceptance and benefits.

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Gartner’s Martin Reynolds and Carolina Milanesi today in Barcelona

There are, according to those 2 Gartner analysts, 4 phases of what they call “cognizant computing”. “We have caught glimpses of each of these phases at the moment depending on the vendors and the services, but we are nowhere near complete smartness” Milanesi added. She and Reynolds went on describing these four phases:

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Gartner’s four phases of “cognizant computing”

  1. “sync me”: this is the most obvious phase, the one which most of the Computing giants have achieved; it is composed of storage and the syncing of personal data,
  2. the “see me” phase: this is all about our digital footprint. “This phase is still not very intelligent, and not many companies are taking advantage of this” the Gartner analysts said,
  3. the “know me” phase: this is about understanding who the user is, what he likes and what he does through the data he stored; so that he can be presented with offers and messages which are relevant to him,
  4. “be me” phase: this is where services are acting on the user’s behalf based on learned or explicit data.

Yet, looking at how many companies do this show that there is still room for improvement:

  • the “sync me” and “see me” phases are pretty common and are mastered by most high-tech giants like Evernote, Google, Apple, Amazon etc and Facebook of course,
  • the “know me” and “be me” phases are more restricted at the moment to mostly Google and also Apple. “Google now” is a good example of that, mostly on Smartphones: it is able to suggest ideas, for instance a restaurant which is relevant to your tastes, when you might actually need one and one is available in the vicinity. Apple’s Siri is a bit different. “It looks smart but is not” said Gartner’s Milanesi. When Carolina’s daughter spoke to Siri and said: “Siri, I don’t like you” he responded “now, now”; that’s because it was cleverly programmed but it doesn’t mean that it’s smart at all, Milanesi said.

clip_image006So all in all, we are several years away from smartness, Martin Reynolds explained. “Smartness will happen when your phone is able to ring 30 minutes earlier because there is to be heavy traffic and you have a meeting with your boss” he added. Yet, “if the meeting is not with your boss but just with a colleague, then the system should be able to send an email to say that you are going to be late”. That’s an example of how smart and predictive a service can be. I must admit that some of the stuff that I see from Google on my Galaxy S4 smartphone (the service is called Google cards) at the moment is already very close to this as Google is able to propose quite a few things (sights, public transport, stocks, birthdays, all based on social data…) already without me asking for anything (see screen grab).

Only a limited number of companies have that ability

Only a limited number of companies have the capacity that Google has gathered over the years in order to store and compute all this data. Others are following now said the Gartner analysts. Microsoft is on Google’s heels with an amazing catch up in terms of how many servers they are investing in at the moment, Reynolds said. Apple, and even Amazon too, but to smaller degree, they said.

But the real question is “how does this innovation affect regular businesses”?

“Some of these ideas will be disrupting traditional businesses” Martin Reynolds said. Through a combination of mass storage and Twitter feeds (Martin thinks that companies which don’t have a proper kept Twitter feed will soon be at a disadvantage) you will be able to reach a proper strategy which will project your company in the future.

What will change by 2017?

Carolina demonstrated a Plantronics prototype headset which is “a lot smarter than existing headsets” insofar as it knows what its user is looking at. Applications for that innovation could be found in video conferencing, but also in the user shopping experience, live navigation in Google Street view (as demonstrated live to us this morning), and even insurance applications for bikers and hikers, for instance, who would be able to record road accidents even before they happen.

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Gartner’s Martin Reynolds and Carolina Milanesi

Powerful motion sensors

“There are also new motion sensors which make it possible for online services to know exactly what it where you are going and at what speed” Martin Reynolds added. “You will be able to record all your movements” he said. “Companies like Google and Apple, and even possibly carriers, will be able to map out where people go; even your house will be tracked” said Martin, and you will be able to see where you, but also your guests, are actually sitting and moving about in your house.

Avoid crossing the “creepy line” (Eric Schmidt)

Where is the boundary between storing a lot of personal information for statistical purposes in order to bring value to the user and prying into personal data in order to be able to track what people do? That is the real question. A lot of that issue boils down to who actually does the tracking in fact, and how much trust the user is putting in them. Governments definitely seem to be out of that game (at least if I believe the responses from the audience to Gartner’s questions), but also possibly carriers (for the same reasons). Strangely enough, companies like Google, and to a lesser extent Facebook, were perceived as less intrusive by the audience because “they bring more value to the user” according to Gartner. So the “creepy line” is less about the usage of personal data as it is about the value that the service brings in the users’ eyes.

As a Conclusion, what will be the future made of?

“The unlocking of all the data that is being stored at the moment will always take place” according to Reynolds, but the real question is “whether this is being done with the objective of bringing value to the user or third-party”.

According to the Gartner analysts in the panel today, value will also move away from the handsets and therefore we will witness a shift in prices and a lot of pressure on the manufacturers in the next three years. Even then, it’s difficult for us to see that happening in the very near future, given the recent demise of Blackberry and Nokia which left a very significant market share to Samsung and concentrated the market in a few hands. Also, “Consumers are starting to get more interested in the ecosystem and applications than the hardware itself”, Reynolds added. A sign of this being Apple’s decision to give away its software for free (as they did with “Pages” and other apps on iOS recently).

So what will be the future made of in 2017? And how smart will our Smartphones be? Certainly, more wearable devices will be available out there. And Smartphones will probably not get much smarter than they are at the moment as intelligence is bound to shift into the software and the ability to do predictive things using the data that users have provides… that is to say as long as they agree with that!

Sinek and the Golden Circle of innovation

Today’s selection…

idea-visionary-marketingIs this motivational video by Simon Sinek, a master in the Art of captivating the audience while only teaching a single thing and demonstrating it several times in the course of the same recording session. I find the video as impressive in terms of presentation skills as of the contents. Sinek is the inventor of the Golden Circle of innovationconcept:

The Golden Circle of innovation is something very simple, and very often, simple things are the most effective. Yet, simplicity in this particular example boils down very much to the presentation skills of a top-class orator. What Sinek shows here is an explanation of how leadership, and innovation work, and the reason why true leaders manage to innovate and cross Geoffrey Moore’s chasm (see figure per below), in order to convince the early and late majorities.This is applicable, not just for one form of innovation in particular, but whatever field of innovation is concerned. Sinek quotes three very different examples:

  1. Jobs at Apple (“because everybody can understand that particular example” he says, in essence),
  2. Martin Luther King (“who shared a dream with us and not plan”),
  3. The Wright brothers (who managed to fly an aeroplane whereas they had no money and not even education and no other reasons to succeed).

Crossing the Chasm by Tom Fishburne

La vidéo de Simon Sinek

goldencircle

What’s the trick? It’s very simple, at least on the surface of it: it suffices to focus on one single question “why?” and everything else will follow suite. Whereas we (marketeers) tend to focus on the “what?” and the “how?” of the things that we make and sell: we spend all our time on the features even though they are more or less uninteresting – most of the time not interesting at all – of our products, whereas we forget one essential thing: why we make them, with what philosophy, with what vision.

Like all simple things, it’s all very complicated to implement: on the one hand, having a vision doesn’t mean that your products must have no features (Jobs, and Ives, was obsessed with product features and quality but he was doing this with a vision); besides, this doesn’t mean that you will be able to have a vision (most of the time, most people are obsessed with details and have no capacity for abstraction); lastly, not all visions are good (there are tonnes of visionary men or women who aren’t leaders, and are considered lunatics and will keep on preaching in the desert; not all visions have the same value).

Forming a vision, the ability to inspire, innovate and lead cannot be taught, and it takes more than a recipe for innovation; it’s a state of mind, a way of life. Besides, being a true innovator means that you should not be afraid to be despised.