Tag Archives: web

The Heinz Ketchup Case Study

heinz-largeMy midterm exam in Marketing Management at Harvard B-School was the Heinz Ketchup Case.

You, the student, had just been appointed brand manager (we called it product manager back then) for the iconic red condiment. The case included the demographics of buyers, the geographic spread of the market, and all manner of information about packaging options. Sales were steady and growing. The case asked the classic question, “What would you do?”

The school solution was: Do nothing. Don’t mess with a winner. Leave things as they are. If you suggested changing anything, you failed the test. You don’t walk into an established company with no experience or credibility and suggest they mess with the cash cow.

The brand managers and UI designers at Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and other consumer web services need to learn this lesson. No change for change’s sake. Don’t confuse the customer. We don’t want New Coke.

I’ve been on the web since the beginning, when you had to log in to Sir Tim’s NeXT machine at CERN to access the World Wide Web. I have blogged for more than a dozen years. I’ve shown thousands of people how to join the collective consciousness that is today’s net. I once knew how to get things done expeditiously.

Now I’m confused about some basic functions. While I was on the road for the last 24 days, Google+ donned a new skin. I lost a long post (by pushing the wrong button?). Ironically, I find G+’s search function confusing. WIIFM? I haven’t found anything in the changed appearance for me.

Then there’s Yahoo’s Flickr. I have been unable to upload portrait-mode photographs since the new look came in. Sometimes I can only upload two or three photos at a time. The uploader apparently can’t recognize some of my photos–they show as black and won’t upload. I’m on the lookout for something that will work for my 30,000 photos.

Facebook locked me out because someone in Wilmington, North Carolina, tried to access my account. I didn’t bother setting up a new password until just now. The garish new timeline page that greeted me was cluttered with marketing crap, boxes trying to get me to divulge my taste in movies, books, and television shows. I’m cutting off every option I can.

Whenever I visit Facebook, which is rare, I tiptoe around, fearful that I’ll fail to click one innocuous-looking little box and give Zuckerberg & Co. the email addresses of real friends or the right to repeat anything I write or say. I treat Facebook like quicksand and it’s troubling when the hazards have all moved to new locations.

Worst of all, changes like these are needlessly disruptive. We all have too many balls in the air right now to waste time rewiring our brains and fingers to punch buttons that have moved.

Crowdsourcing a design from 99designs

Internet Time Lab needed a logo for its iPhone app to measure emotion. At my partner’s suggestion, I turned to 99designs.com, “the fastest growing design marketplace in the world.” Their site says they’ve conducted 174,000 design contests and paid out $1.4 million to designers last month. I’d never heard of them.

Nine days ago, I posted a spec for what I wanted, put $149 on my credit card, and began receiving design options. 23 designers submitted a total of 62 entries. 3 withdrew their designs. 3 designers made my short list. I selected the winner last night.

Here’s the winning icon:

Look for it at Online Educa Berlin.

99designs also does brochures, web pages, t-shirts, banners, and book covers. I’ll be back.




Help me select a design for Blips, our iPhone app

Internet Time Lab needs an icon for its forthcoming mobile app. “Blips” records a person’s feelings at various times during the day and displays aggregate results on the web. The name Blips refers to the scant amount of time — a couple of Blips a day– it takes to increase one’s feelings of contentment and satisfaction.

I crowdsourced the design of the icon to 99Designs. I put up $149 and designers are submitting ideas. What do you think? If you feel strongly, leave a comment. Note that all entries are numbered.

Here’s the Web poll. If that doesn’t work, I’ve cut and pasted the contest pages below.






My elements of style

Caveat lector.

As my research shifts focus from informal learning to well-being, I’m gaining new readers.

Welcome! Let explain where my blog is coming from.

When I began studying informal learning eight years ago, I decided to exemplify what I was talking about. I gave PowerPoint a rest. I became transparent in my work. I began thinking out loud. I shared ideas that were not fully formed.

Soon after Informal Learning came out, I arrived to give a speech to sixty people just as the curtain rose. I blurted out how happy I was to be here because I was looking forward to hearing what I was going to say. That spirit continues to this day.

I’ve been blogging for more than a dozen years. My blog is where I think in public. I’m cantankerous. I like to tease. I go to extremes sometimes, trusting my readers to pull me back from the brink.

I’m getting on in life. I am claiming the oldster privilege of being feisty. I’m opinionated. If you don’t like my opinions, let’s debate. If we find our agreement is fundamental, please go away. You can’t please all of the people all of the time. Life’s too short.

Lurking’s cool. I consume lots of information passively. However, I would like to hear from you once in a while. Make a comment. Take issue with me. Expand on what you find. Offer suggestions.

I write whatever’s on my mind. This blog is opinion, not news. I write from experience. Don’t expect footnotes.

What level of objectivity can you expect? I will never knowingly lie to you, but my recollections may be off. I may tell an impressionist variation of a story to capture the moment, so long as the meaning is preserved. In the story of the speech above, there might have been thirty people in the room; there may have been a hundred. I don’t remember. They didn’t have a curtain but that better conveys what was going on than my telling you I was whisked up to a veneer portable podium. Did I lie? Not in my book. The gist was right. This is not The New Yorker.

Speaking of which, I shed a tear for Jonah Lehrer. To me, the manufactured Bob Dylan quote was not that big a deal. I can’t imagine being in Jonah’s shoes: keeping up with neuroscience, being cutting edge, writing three great books, churning out articles for Wired, WSJ, and The New Yorker, appearing in the media, being showered with money, and heaven knows what else. Instant celebrity. He could have been delirious when he answered the phone and lied about the source of the Dylan quote. Give him a break. I don’t consider that such a big deal. All nonfiction is fiction anyway. That’s inherent in interpretation. I’d be surprised if I don’t tell the same sort of white lies here. I also self-plagiarize, retelling tales I’ve told before.

On this blog, timeliness trumps dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. The “b” in blog stands for beta. Expect typos.

I’m not aloof. If you’d like to interact, get in touch.

What else do you need to know?

I have a good track record at describing the future. I was promoting the web, eLearning, blogs, and informal learning before most people had heard of them.

I understand business. I’ve managed start-ups and have a string of accomplishments in marketing, product development, sales, and management. I have an MBA but I am not a business person at heart. I would prefer to be an artist than an investment banker.

I am a optimist and I have faith in the goodness of most people. I give people the benefit of the doubt. Most people are well-intentioned and live up to your expectations of them. My calling in life is to help people improve their performance on the job and satisfaction in life.

I am contrarian. I like to consider all the options, kosher or not. Convention rarely constrains my thinking.

I am playful. Beware of jokes, puns, and double entendres.

I am a generalist who innovates by force-fitting models from one discipline into another. My mind enjoys toying with such things.

I am visual. Well, we’re all visual, but in my case I go to sleep if there’s nothing but text on the page. I take snapshots. (I have 25,000+ photos on Flickr.) I rarely write a blog post without some sort of graphic.

I am edgy. I enjoy spicy food, bold wines, and stirring ideas.

I can be socially obtuse. (Insensitivity goes along with the ability to hyper-focus.) If you feel I’ve stepped on your toes, call me on it. I probably didn’t mean it.

I am re-reading The Elements of Style. I want to write sentences that grab you by the throat and shake you up. Please help become a better writer by critiquing my writing when it is not working for you.

I believe in the karma of the web. I love to share discoveries. I give to the web and the web gives back. I’m generous but I’m way ahead thus far.

Peace be with you.

Hypercard 25th Anniversary Celebration

Twenty-five years ago Apple released a visionary product, Hypercard. Bill Atkinson designed the app to free people to create their own programs without the rigors of programming. Hypercard invited anyone to create “stacks” of linked cards that could display text, play sound, and show video. Hypercard was sort of like an internet browser for your hard drive except that it included authoring as well as consuming from the get-go. Apple abandoned Hypercard in its near-death days, but the idea lived on with General Magic. The Mosaic team credits Hypercard with many of the concepts that went into the first web browsers.

Bill Atkinson

Bill Atkinson

We celebrated Hypercard’s 25th anniversary at the Hillside Club in Berkeley this evening at one of Sylvia Paull‘s Cybersalons. Raines Cohen, co-founder of BMUG (Berkeley Mac User Group), once the largest user group in the world, drew out Bill Atkinson with initial questions and then wowed the audience by searching and displaying sites and photos on the web in real time as Bill and the audience brought them up.

Bill Atkinson

Bill credits his success to Steve Jobs. “He believed in me.” They were best friends for three years, often as not having dinner together. Bill created MacDraw, QuickDraw, and Hypercard. Bill had gone independent by the time he wrote Hypercard. Apply had agreed to bury another brilliant programmer’s masterpiece, Mac Basic, to get a lifeline from Microsoft, which immediately killed it. Programmers were wary that Apple might not do what was best for their applications.

People in the audience stood up to tell Hypercard stories. A number of former Mac journalists were on hand. Some people credited Hypercard with having started their now successful businesses.

Bill Atkinson

Bill? He spends a lot of time perfecting a postcard writing app. To his mind it’s cooler than Hypercard. You can upload a photo and the app will print a high res card, stamp it, write your message on it, and get it in the mail. It’s ironic, a sophisticated app that is out to save an old artefact, the post card. PhotoCard is s a free app for the iPhone.

I was struck by the simplicity of Hypercard. It was powerful but never added the useless chrome and doo-dads that modern apps ship with. Someone asked, “How did you know you were done?” Bill said he was finished when the kit was complete. You’re through when the app does what you’d asked it to do. Hypercard is sort of like Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language. You don’t have to be an architect or city planner to get the concept and apply it elsewhere.

Bill is very high on iBooks Author. It’s the closest thing there is to Hypercard. iBooks Author. It’s industrial strength multimedia manipulation with drag & drop, no programming.

Many of us have tread in Bill’s shoes, trying to find ways to enable people to pursue their passion without having to become experts in arcane domains like programming.

Power Searching with Google

Search is like driving a car. Most people think they’re in the top 10% of performers.

Google just opened enrollment for an online course, Power Searching with Google. I signed up for several reasons:

  1. I’m insanely curious and search the web many times a day. Becoming a better searcher will save me time.
  2. Customer learning is the new frontier. The knowledgable customer is a better customer. Moreover, co-learning forges deeper relationships. We trust companies we learn from.
  3. I wanted to see Google’s instructional design. As Picasso said, “Mediocre artists imitate; great artists steal.”
  4. Perhaps I’m in the top 10% of all drivers (although I doubt it), but I’m definitely not in the t0p 10% of all searchers.

I just completed the introduction and Class 1.

A Google scientist leads you through five lessons per class, each followed by a simple quiz which is graded on the spot. I’ve learned a number of tips and tricks: word order matters; capitalization doesn’t matter; filter image searches by color; use Command-F to pop up a text search of a page. The videos are three to six minutes long. The instructor is folksy.

Often the instructor shares the screen with an example.

This morning someone in a web discussion told me she was in the “Google MOOC” along with thousands of others. Turned out she was talking about this course. From the responses posted in the companion Google Group, I’d say about a thousand people have completed Class #1. If there are other discussions going on, I’m unaware of them. It’s early yet, but so far, this course is your standard one-to-many, linear learning experience. No way this is a MOOC. That said, I’m still with it and can’t complain.

Gary Hamel: Reinventing the Technology of Human Accomplishment

15 minutes with Gary Hamel. Gary and I are on precisely the same page.

“Management” was invented in the beginning of the 20th Century and was arguably that century’s greatest invention.

Now the nature of change has changed, and 20th Century management isn’t working very well. Its goal was getting people to behave like robots; that’s the opposite of what we need today.

The future starts on the fringe. Take the web. It’s the global operating system for innovation. The web has all the innovations our organizations lack. How can we bake the principles of the web into the organization?

For the first time, “you cannot build a company that’s fit for the future without building a company that’s fit for human beings.”

The new model, exemplified by software company HCL, puts employees first and customers second.

Human beings have the essential qualities our organizations lack.

Management of learning is in the same soup, still more concerned with controlling people than with encouraging them to bloom.

Paris et Expo-Langues

On Thursday, I’ll be addressing the social web and its impact on practical education at Expo-Langues in Paris. I plan to talk about the shift from push learning to pull that refocuses language learning from courses to learning environments. Du pousser au tirer. 

Today started with a black swan event: snow on the French Riviera:


I used to bring California weather with me wherever I travelled. Now I seem to bring snow and ice. Brrrrr….


Just got back to my apartment in Paris after a lovely dinner (grilled sardines, lieu noir, creme brûlée) discussing innovation, Sarkosy, and whether the Stoos vision of management will ever fly in France. (Oui, non, peut-w)

Dialog about management and learning practices

Focus: Switzerland. Informal learning, web 2.0, blogs and tweets not for everyone, tools for learning, slamming into the wall of the future. It's in English. 23 minutes. (Sorry.)

Embedded Link

Dialog mit Jay Cross über die Zukunft von Personalentwicklung und
Dialog mit Jay Cross über Ausbildung und Lernen 2012 und in der Zukunft zum Start ins Neue Jahr

Google+: View post on Google+

Making Sense of the World

The process of seeking out and sharing meaning is a responsibility of enlightened social citizenship.

Work-life was much simpler in the last century. Information work entailed following instructions, logical analysis and left-brained procedures. Today’s concept work is improvizaton. Learning leaders must deal with situations that aren’t in the rule book. Concept work relies on pattern recognition, tacit knowledge and the wisdom borne of experience. You can’t pick this up in a workshop.

The workplace has changed. Business has become unpredictable. Results are asymmetric. Everyone’s connected. Value has migrated to intangibles. Organizations are becoming organic. Talent chooses where to work. Power is shifting from suppliers to customers. Learning and work are converging. Time has sped up.

The 21st century workplace is so different from its predecessor that managers and professionals must follow a new set of practices to succeed. I’m consumed with identifying and documenting those practices.

My research methods — my personal knowledge management system, if you will — are also different from yesteryear’s. I’m pulling information from a vast array of disciplines. The more diverse the sources the better because the freshest ideas pop up from outside one’s comfort zones. There’s obviously too much information to choose from. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt said “Every two days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003.” You have to develop an approach for making sense of this sea of information and knowledge.

Let’s engage in a little over-the-shoulder learning. I’ll describe what I am doing around 21st century leadership (more at 21cLeader.com). I begin with open-ended inquiry. I liken this to dipping my ladle into an immense river of knowledge that’s flowing by. If I miss something, it’s not a big deal; important stuff comes by more than once. I extract general pointers and patterns from tributaries such as:

  • Twitter, where I receive tips from a couple of hundred people I respect and follow
  • Working Smarter Daily, workingsmarterdaily.com, a “smart aggregator” that displays what’s hot in my field
  • Skypechat, for instant messaging and discussion with my peers at Internet Time Alliance
  • Google+, where I plunder knowledge from several hundred diverse peers
  • Email subscriptions to research services and blogs I don’t want to miss
  • Blogs, via Google Reader for sifting through RSS feeds or suggestions from friends
  • Print magazines, Forbes, Fortune, Wired, etc. Great for reading on planes or while sitting on the porcelain throne

When I’m researching a specific topic, I turn to other sources to pinpoint what I’m looking for:

  • Searches on Google, Wikipedia, TED talks, YouTube and the knowledge of friends
  • My personal research page at http://bit.ly/oaLCsv, a general jumping-off point for looking things up
  • My personal archives, which have grown to thousands of entries. (I use Google to search my own work.)

The next phase is processing what I’ve found. What happens is refinement, hypothesis-testing, looking for patterns, mapping, conversation, and reflecting on ideas and images that are emerging. I generally do my best synthesis while asleep. I plant an idea or just have concepts floating around in my head; overnight the boys in the back room come up with a new way of looking at things. Among the streams that feed this phase of sense-making are:

  • Social networks, primarily private networks such as Socialcast, Google Groups, or Jive
  • Internet Time Blog, internettime.com, where ideas turn into posts
  • Mind maps, online and on paper, always a great way to find connections
  • Journals, again online and on paper, a vital tool for reflection

Eventually, I turn from pulling ideas in to pushing them out. I share my take on things in conversations, both in person and in social networks. I post definitive thoughts to my learnstream. That generates feedback that enables me to improve things. It’s a virtuous circle.

For me, this cycle of pull-reflect-push is my contribution to the knowledge commons that is the web. I believe in karma. I give to the web and the web gives back. I always receive more than I give. In an organization, I feel that this process of seeking out and sharing meaning is a responsibility of enlightened social citizenship.