Thinking about Flipboard

Full confession – I am a big fan of Zite, a news curation platform that not too long ago was sold to its competitor Flipboard.

It was just a few years ago that the idea of a mobile device news curation service was revolutionary. The idea that I could access a flow of content from many different sources on any topic that I wanted beat the hell out of only being able to access what one content provider could generate.

How could this go wrong? Well, it is going wrong. As time has gone by, other big players in the mobile game have realized that they can stream  news content as well. And while Flipboard is not going out of business, it is no longer the darling of the mobile content provider world.

There is a broader issue here. As a daily user of Zite (essentially the same thing as Flipboard) I see it. The problem is that while I can ask for articles on a given topic – let’s say London or Paris or cooking – that ask does not generate precisely what I am looking for at that moment. Instead, it generates a lot of crap with a few interesting things. In other words, the curation does not “level up”. And because it does not level up, it can be copied.

The question — and it is a question that no one really has figured out yet — is how to do that leveling up. How do you empower content users to get precisely the content they need in order to learn.

Stay tuned!

Silicon Valley Inflection Points

Digital markets have been in flux for a while now and they are likely to stay that way. This allows us to see relatively quickly which companies are in synch with flux and which are not. A report card, so to speak, for firms on the issue of adaptability.

BTW, adaptability is the focus on Rita Gunther McGrathäs interesting book, “The End of Competitive Advantage”. Her main point is that firms that try to hold onto competitive advantage after markets adjust to what gave the advantage will fail. They need instead to find advantage, use it, learn from it, and exit. They need to adapt.

So what about the report card? BI offers this one looking at ho well firms have adjusted to the cloud. Apple and Facebook and Amazon and Microsoft have done ok.  HP and Oracle? Yikes!

The Circular Economy

The 20th century saw the rise of mass production. The idea is simple. Standardize the production process with fixed inputs and you can dramatically reduce the costs of producti0n and distribution. The world’s economy achieve prosperity unlike any other time in human history. The consumer society emerged.

This is pretty great, but it is not perfect. What is wrong? For one, standardizing production means a “one size fits all” focus. If you can scale a single product that everyone busy, you make a tone of money. If you cannot, you are falling off a cliff with your investors with you.

But one size fits all is not what consumers want. To the contrary, we want new things, better things, more imaginative things, more exciting things. And we want to be part of the process — to partner with producers to get what we want. And we want better ideas about what we might want.

Another problem with 2oth century mass production is waste. We waste an enormous amount by make use and throw away systems. The world is groaning with the amount of waste we have produced in a single century. We need to re-think how well we manage our resources going into product manufacture, products, and post produce materials salvage and reuse.

Enter circular econom8ies of scale. The link takes you to a BI article that profiles five circular economy business models. But the idea underlying them is the same — capturing more value in usage.

South Korea as Mobile Incubator

From NYT

Tim Chae, who runs 500 Kimchi, said that American investors have begun to think of Seoul as a sort of crystal ball. In it, they can glimpse a future where the most ambitious dreams of Silicon Valley — a cashless, carless, everything-on-demand society — have already been realized. Nearly all of Seoul’s residents use smartphones, and many of the services just now gaining in popularity in the United States have been commonplace in South Korea for years.

this is an impressive article – and the key takeaway is how the South Korean public sector invested big money to build the infrastructure that makes it possible. That infrastructure allows for much, much faster web interaction.

What holds innovation back?

Rita Gunther McGrath launches into this in an interview. Pretty short and interesting. I am most interested in her idea of “innovation training”. We will work here in Tartu to develop an innovation curriculum. Stay tuned on that!

One interesting tidbit. Only around 11% of polled managers say that they are in a high growth sector of the economy. An equal number report that their sector is rapidly declining. That means only 22% are living with rapid change now. 78% do not have this experience. This is one reason why firms do not innovate as fast as they would like — they do not have the experience of needing it.

Another tidbit – the assumption to knowledge ratio. Rita argues that many managers value knowledge highly (that is they like operating in a low assumption to knowledge environment). But innovation requires a high assumption to knowledge ratio.  Very interesting — so how good are you at seeing the assumptions that underlay what you are doing?