The latest in welsh innovation?
Raw Talent or Learned?
I read an article in the IoD magazine this morning (also available online), which was a debate about whether “entrepreneurship” is something that can be taught?
The media often takes the view that anyone can become an entrepreneur (why do I always have to spell check that word), however there is a school of thought that takes the view that entrepreneurs are born, not made.
Perhaps the right answer is a bit of both… you need the natural aptitude or make-up of an entrepreneur, but you could be taught how to make it happen and succeed?
Perhaps this last point is most relevant in a large corporation that is trying to create an environment & culture of innovation: identify the natural entrepreneurs and provide training that shapes them into successful ones.
(posted by Rob Gray)
I attended the Fuel conference on Friday 13th June… I’m not really their target audience but it was interesting to see some of the innovative ways that people are using “web 2.0″ tools to connect better with customers. One of the great examples of the day was delivered by Alex Hunter from Virgin America.
Branson was not an option
I didn’t realise that the US regulations on foreign ownership of airlines, meant that Virgin could not use Richard Branson to run the company, or promote it in any way. For a brand that is so dependent on a very public figurehead, this is a big issue. Branson himself embodies much of the virgin brand himself, and I have often wondered how it would impact the Virgin brand if he were not there. Well this situation was a good test of that!
So it was up to the rest of them to make a success of Virgin America. There is quite a long story to their success, but what I want to highlight here is their innovative and very successful use of low cost marketing technique.
Watching Paint Dry
They had a camera filming the painting of their planes, so they decided to put a video of this on YouTube… literally enabling people to watch paint dry… but very cleverly getting the general public involved by asking them to name a plane.
(unfortunately the original video has now been removed)
This also led to increased publicity when they invited BoingBoing (very popular blog) to name a plane, as well as fans of the Spice Girls to name the plane that would take them on their world tour. hmmm… I didn’t know the spice girls had any fans…
This also led to the idea of letting the Digg folks on board to film an episode of Diggnation… this is mass publicity and no real cost to Virgin, except using what they already had (a plane with an upperclass cabin).
BillyBob and Wall Street Trader fight it out for the flight route
They also used he Virgin website, to invite the public to choose the US flight routes… resulting in a online exchange between people living in different cities, arguing about whether Virgin should choose their city or not. In retrospect it seems obvious to ask customers what they want before giving it to them… traditionally we may use expensive market research techniques that rely on accurate sampling and take a long time. This is a great example of how web 2.0 (the participative web) techniques can have a great impact on a business decision, and don’t cost very much at all. What is the ROI (Return on Investment) for this activity? Well, the “I” is very, very low, and the “R” is that they could make an informed decision quite quickly, when combined with the traditional market analysis.
There is no need to try and do a long, difficult financial justification for this… just think about it with common sense. Would we want to make a better decision about flight routes, based on what customers actually want? YES. How much is it going to cost us to find out? Probably about the same as a nice team lunch. It also does contribute very specific calculation financial return, in that choosing the best routes has a direct impact on revenue.
Measuring the “stories in the cloud”
Virgin Eye is a tool that they developed, so that you can see what everyone in the world wide web is saying about Virgin, including the ability to filter out specific brands of theirs, so if you just want to see everything about Virgin Galactic, you can.
Has your business used web 2.0 tools in an interesting way? I’d love to hear about it
I really learned a lot of things that I didn’t know about how some innovations have materialised, and some of the factors that do and do not contribute to an innovative idea actually being brought to fruition.
Not only did I find this book interesting, I also found some choice nuggets that I can actually use and put into practice.
I would highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in innovation, new ideas and fostering creativity within groups of people.
I read an interesting post about Internal Blogging on Library Clips, talking about some of the benefits of internal blogging. In the beginning, blogs were something that existed on the public Internet, but soon people started experimenting with blog use inside of the organisation. The post referred to above covers many appropriate scenarios and benefits to internal blogging, and the one element that I want to expand on is group blogging.
As the name would suggest, a group blog does not have a solitary author, but rather a group of people that are able to author a single blog. This means that you benefit from the authoring power of the masses, but the content is still viewed over a single ‘channel’ – i.e. as an information consumer I only need to subscribe to the one blog. The typical communnication mechanism that this would replace would be something like a weekly internal email newsletter, usually authored by one or two people. A group blog is a better tool for this type of internal communication, as employees become much more engaged in the process because they are now a part of it, rather than just consumers.
However, the issue with ‘empowering the masses’ is that it can lead to a loss of control. For example, if Joe Blogs (being the blogmeister that he is) decides to blog about his night out on the town, the chances are that most people don’t care, and he is just adding to the problem of information overload…. the internal group blog is just not appropriate for his musings of a personal nature… that’s what his personal blog is for. So how do you strike a good balance between empowerment and control?
A good example of how this has been achieved is an internal group blog that is used at Microsoft UK. If you’ve ever had to deal with the Microsoft organisation, you’ll know that it can be very complex, with individuals and small groups extremely focused on their particular areas. This is a good thing in terms of business performance, because people have clear goals and can channel all their energy into a focused area. However it also means that people may not always be aware of what others are doing in other business groups, meaning that an opportunity for shared learning is lost. A group blog provides an easy way to keep up with what others are doing in the organisation. At Microsoft, a weekly email newsletter (owned and authored by 3 comms people) has been replaced by a group blog, enabling any of the 2000+ staff to become authors of this blog. It’s a great way for people to share what has been going on in their part of the business, but how does Microsoft stop this from becoming a complete free-for-all with no control?
The answer is quite simple; they have added a short approval process for blog postings, shifting the responsibilities of the 3 comms people from being content authors, to ‘executive editors’. Now, instead of having to write a newsletter from scratch, they can review all blog postings, rejecting anything that they deem to be innapropriate. I think that this strikes a really good balance between empowerment and control. Microsoft benefits from the experience of the trained comms people, yet still manages to engage and empower employees by allowing everyone (potentially) to have their voice heard and share their views and successes.
In the world of ‘Enterprise 2.0′, striking the balance between empowerment and control is a delicate, yet vital, principle. It doesn’t only apply to blogs, but also wikis and anything else that is ‘end-user generated content’.