Top Posts of 2012
Well, we’ve almost made it through 2012 without blowing up the economy (hopefully) or a good sized country. Along the way, we found the Higgs boson and landed a rover on Mars that continues to send us back amazing pictures and other souvenirs.
I have a feeling that when we look back, 2012 will be seen as a pivotal year. Partly because Microsoft has entered the three-way race for mobile domination, but mostly because it was this year when artificial intelligence finally came into its own and looks set to drive technology for the next decade or so.
Most of all it was a great year for Digital Tonto. The community grew by leaps and bounds this year, to almost 150,000. Thank you all for your support, encouragement and advice. Once again, here are the posts you liked best over the past 12 months. I wish you a safe, happy and prosperous New Year. All the best!
To be honest, I was surprised that this was my most widely read post over the past year. It’s a bit on the technical side and never had an avalanche of people rush to read it. Nevertheless, it had staying power and has received significant readership every single day since I posted it last spring.
The basic idea is to present a framework for pursuing innovation by asking two questions: “How well is the problem defined?” and “Who is best placed to solve it?” From there, it’s a pretty straightforward approach that points to some fairly common sense answers.
I’ve used the framework operationally and found it extremely useful and others have told me that they have as well. So take a look, maybe you’ll find it helpful too.
Some posts you just know are going to do great and this was one of them. I listed what I thought were the best ideas in history based on three criteria: Longevity (i.e. they survive a long time without being amended or surpassed in any significant way), impact (i.e. they greatly affected the lives and work of others) and authorship (i.e. they can be traced to one person).
This one really inspired some great discussion in the comments, so check those out as well.
The past few years in technology have been dominated by social, local and mobile computing. The next few will be all about integrating “at-home” and “in-store” to create fantastic experiences that work seamlessly with the rest of our lives.
This post focuses on some really exciting things that are going on that are revolutionizing how we shop.
Things have clearly changed. Whereas before, businesses were built by moving men and materiel around efficiently, today we live in an information economy. One of the impacts of this shift is that transaction costs have diminished and that’s deeply affected scale advantages.
The upshot is that successful business can no longer succeed by directing work, but must direct passion toward a particular mission.
Probably the greatest single competitive advantage that any organization can have today is the ability to motivate its people. Unfortunately, despite an army of HR people, compensation consultants and team-building offsites, most enterprises remain depressingly uninspired.
So how to solve it? Dan Pink offers a helpful framework based autonomy, mastery and purpose, but I think we need more. In this post, I introduce one overarching principle that leads to a better motivated organization: Dignity.
In his book, The Business Model Innovation Factory, Saul Kaplan points out that business models no longer last. While it used to be that once you chose a career, you could assume that its method of creating, delivering and capturing value would remain viable until your retirement, these days you can expect that its model will change within a matter of years, not decades.
This posts was my first attempt to point the way towards Bayesian strategy, a topic I expect to be writing quite a bit about over the next year.
In the 20th century, strategy became synonymous with planning. Every action was to be thoroughly researched, vetted and discussed before being implemented. Not only has that approach fallen out of favor, it can kill your company. You’ll simply be too slow, for the reasons I laid out in the “Business Models and The Singularity” post above.
This post lays out an alternative approach, which suggests that the strategist’s role has changed from a master who gives orders to one who facilitates knowledge transfer between highly qualified subject matter experts.
Every once in a while it’s a good idea to take a step back and lay down basic principles. This post provides a good overview of how to market products and services in the digital age. Check it out and let me know what you think.
While the marketing industry has spent the last few decades becoming more modular and efficient, the rise of digital technology requires a more integrated approach. Old distinctions, such as “creative vs. media” and “digital vs. traditional,” no longer make sense. In fact, they’ve become counterproductive, inspiring infighting on the agency side and frustration for clients.
There’s been a lot of talk about this for a while, but most of it has been empty platitudes. Everybody seems to think that things would go just fine if everybody else would just adopt their approach. It’s time to get serious.
There is no doubt, Apple has dominated the last decade as few companies ever have before. They have done it by creating fantastic products that inspire. Microsoft, on the other hand, has mostly plodded along, milking what they could out of the franchises they built in the desktop PC era.
That may be beginning to change. As we enter a new digital battlefield, Microsoft has made a series of smart moves that put them back in the center. A few years from now, xBox and Kinect could be as central to their business as the iPad and the iPhone are to Apple’s.
Central to our digital future is the emerging Web of Things. A confluence of cheap, low power sensors along with vast computing power and ever more powerful algorithmic techniques is creating a world where everything is a potential computable entity. This will change the way we live in a profound way.
One of the early trends that’s due to the rise of the Web of Things is co-creation in marketing. No longer are we simply trying to guess what people will want and pushing it out to them, we are using them to create and customize products and services. As I say in the post, these days, if you want to build a better mousetrap, you need to ask the mouse.
This is one of my favorite posts because it goes to the heart of a deep misunderstanding in the business world: the conflation of strategy and innovation. All too often, these two very different activities are lumped together when, in actuality, they are wholly distinct and require very different approaches.
I was very happy how this one turned out.
Extra: Blasts From The Past
In addition to the ones mentioned above, there are two posts that I wrote in previous years that continue to be widely read. In case you missed them, here’s a chance to check them out and let me know what you think.
One of the most overused words in business is “strategy,” which leads to an enormous amount of confusion.
When I was a CEO, the roles of different people in the “strategic process” was one of the most frustrating things I had to grapple with, until I realized that strategy is actually three distinct activities: forming strategic intent, resource allocation and implementational strategy.
That realization really helped focus my efforts. Check out this post and let me know if you find it helpful as well.
As you’ll notice from the poor formatting, this was one of my first posts, written just a few months after I started Digital Tonto. Nonetheless, people continue to read it, so I guess I must have gotten something right! Take a look and see if you think so as well.
A Personal Note:
Before I sign off, I would like to thank all of the people who have supported, advised and inspired me over the past year. You are too numerous to mention, so I won’t even try for fear of leaving someone out and feeling horribly about it. You know who you are and I hope you know how much I appreciate you.
I’m looking forward to next year and excited about what’s going on in the digital world. We’re moving very quickly toward a completely new paradigm (or actually, several of them) and while it’s all very thrilling, it’s also incredibly daunting and confusing.
Here’s some of the things I’ll be trying to make sense of in 2013:
Machine Intelligence: There is a new form of life emerging on the planet and it is our machines. As the power of technology combines with increased understanding of our own neurology, we’ll be seeing Watson-like computing power combining with Siri-like interfaces
Bayesian Strategy: With technological cycles moving so much faster than corporate decision cycles, the old planning approach is no longer tenable. We need something more iterative and emergent, with simulation and experimentation at the center of it. I’ve touched on this topic before, but hope to evolve Bayesian Strategy into a viable framework.
Bits Invade Atoms: We’ve come to accept that an economy driven by information is different. However, as technology continues to advance, we’re going to see the same trends such as accelerating returns and drastically lower transaction and search costs invade the world of atoms. This will have global economic ramifications, for manufacturing especially.
Technology and Society: As the world economic crises begins (hopefully) to fade a bit, we’ll increasingly become aware of the next great challenge: How to make peace with our machines. Computers are taking on a wide range of tasks that we’ve always assumed were uniquely human, with both positive and negative consequences.
The Marketer’s Dilemma: All of this will continue to challenge marketers and we continue to muddle through. As always, I’ll do my best to lend some clarity and vision.
That’s all for now. Feel free to leave any suggestions or questions in the comments below.
Have a safe and happy New Year!