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Extracted from an interesting short piece by Christian Madsbjerg is the author of SENSEMAKING: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm:

Silicon Valley needs to get schooled

Silicon Valley is getting antsy. It’s been awhile since we were collectively wowed by the next big thing. The iPhone is ten years old. Uber is eight. The problem isn’t a lack of ideas. As engineers keep breaking new ground, it seems like anything will be possible soon. Why aren’t more of these technologies breaking through to our everyday lives?

What Silicon Valley is missing is an understanding of people—what is meaningful to them, the way they live their day to day lives, what would make a difference for them on an ordinary Tuesday in Phoenix or Shanghai. There is a dearth of deep, nuanced cultural knowledge

From my experience working with major corporations, I would say that technological advancements are only half of the picture. Knowing how to build things is great, but if you have no idea for whom you’re building them—how these inventions will connect with people’s aspirations and challenges—you will fail, no matter how many coding geniuses and data scientists you employ.

If you, like me, are a reader of great novels, you know that almost visceral sensation when you come to understand the world of someone else – the suffering of an Afghan woman, enduring abuse and horrendous conditions to spear her loved ones, or the drab misery of life as an IRS clerk in middle America, someone who had always imagined his life would turn out differently. Literatures—like in-depth journalism, plays, music, art, and even activities like cooking—can put you in the shoes of people unlike you in profound, empathetic way. But the importance of these activities is under attack from the big data-mindset that has invaded both Silicon Valley and many of the world’s biggest corporations.

Spend a few days immersed in a great novel by Tolstoy or with the work of Greek scientist and poet Ptolemy and one is forced to acknowledge that nothing is ever entirely disrupted nor is anything ever completely new. Learning does not function independently of what has come before, but rather in dialogue with it. If executives at Google had taken some time to contemplate this fact, they might have avoided the disastrous rollout to their Google Glass product in 2014. The technology itself functioned just fine. In a narrow Silicon Valley perspective, Google Glass might be considered a successful technology. But when does a piece of technology ever exist independent of a world, a societal structure and culture? Yes, the glasses “worked” but did they belong? Google Glass wearers were dubbed “Glassholes” and people shunned Google Glass wearers at social events. Silicon Valley may have new technology, but in this instance it failed at the much larger challenge of understanding how people relate to one another.

When we use a skill set based in the humanities to understand the world, we gain insight into these deeper issues. And these are the factors that actually drive business forward. Let’s return to China: one by one, the world’s biggest and most cutting edge Silicon Valley companies—Yahoo, eBay, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Groupon, and, finally Google—have attempted to develop a meaningful market there. They have come armed with all of the best technical knowledge along with plenty of cash and intellectual property. And yet, today, Internet market leaders in China are still local: Alibaba, Baidu and TenCent.

Technical superiority is a very small part of this story. Limited by their “Silicon Valley” state of mind, American companies simply had no feel for the nuances that made the Chinese marketplace different. With a deeper immersion into the lives of Chinese consumers as well as into their literature, history and religion, technologists might have grasped the more subtle differences between professional and personal network building in Chinese society

When we stop valuing culture, we become blind to the very opportunities that drive “world changing” technology to mass adoption. The greatest challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century are cultural, not algorithmic. And the greatest tools for the study and understanding of culture exist within the wealth of theories and methodologies that make up the humanities.

To those of you with a liberal arts degree, I say this: your skills are essential in today’s world, and more companies need to recognize that. To those of you with a STEM degree (or who never bothered with college in the first place), I would say: pick up a book or two every month. Go to plays. Travel and immerse yourself in a culture unlike your own.

Without a deep, empathetic understanding of other people, turning that good idea into the next big thing may prove elusive.

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The original article may be read here.

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“…

This is a true story. Some years ago a client engaged a consultant to help with a small postal mailing to the purchasing departments of blue chip corporations. The consultant sourced the list (which was provided on MS Excel) and drafted the letter. Thereafter the client was keen to take control of the project, i.e. to run the mail-merge and the fulfillment (basically printing, envelope-stuffing and mailing).

The consultant discovered some weeks later that a junior member of the client’s marketing department had sorted the list (changed the order of the listed organizations in the spreadsheet), but had sorted the company name column only, instead of all columns, with the result that every letter (about 500) was addressed and sent to a blue chip corporation at another entirely different corporation’s address.

Interestingly the mailing produced a particularly high response, which when investigated seemed to stem from the fact that an unusually high percentage of letters were opened and read, due apparently to the irresistible temptation of reading another corporation’s mail

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Source: businessballs.com/

 

 

 

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peruse this short and very readable article here – an update adding a seventh technique, Principle of Unity’, to Dr. Robert Cialdini’s much acclaimed earlier reference work on  communications/persuasion.

A useful and ready checklist to see if our collateral’s, presentations, sales-pitch, web-sites employ one or more of these techniques. Of course cognitive research keeps throwing up new insights all the time.

No doubt we are consciously or otherwise using all along some of these in our social and family interactions. And it’s the right place to remind ourselves  even if we’re not professionally selling, we’re all the time pulling it on our friends, colleagues at work-place, neighbors, spouses, children…no running away from it. So, no harm in helping ourselves with a refresher,  eh?

If you appetite is sufficiently whetted, here is more stuff on RC’s six techniques.

Though can’t say what it would do to unrequited love…:-)

 

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Business needs more than bare facts to sell these days’, the consultant advised.

So here’s his maiden effort, trying it out on an office colleague:

My interest in your problem.jpg

 

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Source: funnygifs123.wordpress.com

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Nudging e-Shop Customers to Buy

 A recent article in NYT “Nudged to the Produce Aisle by a Look in the Mirror” talks about interesting experiments carried out by researchers to increase the purchase of produce by the American shoppers firstly for an altruistic motive of reducing the consumption of unhealthy processed food without hitting on their head and in turn save indirectly tax-payer’s money on health-care. Preaching about diabetes or slapping taxes on junk food have not yielded expected results. And of course the business motive of higher profit margins the produce fetch for the stores.

The corollary question is: could these experiments be applied to generate in an online e-shop just the right amount of pressure to nudge the shopper towards the desired behavior?

Let us look at a few possible candidate experiments/findings:

 Produce 800px-Fredmeyer_edit_1

 “In one early test at a store in Virginia, grocery carts carried a strip of yellow duct tape that divided the baskets neatly in half; a flier instructed shoppers to put their fruits and vegetables in the front half of the cart. Average produce sales per customer jumped to $8.85 from $3.99

A shopper filling his basket with unhealthy processed food would be unable to ignore seeing a near-empty produce-side of his basket.

Likewise in a e-shop, we could total up and present how much of produce has the shopper bought till now as he fills up the shopping-cart? We could also present the RDA value of items selected.

 Produce EmpressWalkLoblaws

 “With those same guinea-pig customers, the scientists tinkered again with the cart, creating a glossy placard that hung inside the basketsIn English and Spanish, the signs told shoppers how much produce the average customer was buyingand which fruits and vegetables were the biggest sellers (bananas, limes and avocados)By the second week, produce sales had jumped 10 percent

This is about conformance to social ‘norm’.

Bruce Temkin in his article lucidly sums it up as:

“Why it works: Unlike the previous two examples, this tactic makes no effort to engage reason, rather it harnesses one of our intuitive biases—conformity bias. Our brains like shortcuts, and in order to skip unnecessarily lengthy rational calculations, our minds tend to assume that if other people do something we should do it too.”

In fact this easy flowing default disposition of the shopper is used to advantage in a variety of ways in designing the layout of the mall and its stacks.  

In a e-shop this simply amounts to presenting prevailing context sensitive social ‘norms’ without appearing too obvious.

A flavor of this is already a common practice in many other market segments: “Those who bought this have also bought…”

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 “Scientists are beginning to study ways to get shoppers to buy more produce, but grocers and their suppliers have already spent years perfecting strategies to sell processed foods. Here’s a sampling of tactics:

THE SWEETEST ITEMS are sold at eye level, midway along aisles, where shoppers’ attention lingers longest.

THE ENDS OF AISLES are huge revenue generators, especially for soda, which makes 45 percent of its sales through racks there, according to the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council.

IMPULSE PURCHASES (60 percent of purchases are unplanned) can be encouraged by placing items next to checkouts…”

There a number of these findings all about placement of the items to advantage on the shelves in the mall.

Similarly generic research findings for on-line shopping and site-specific and shopper-specific analytics could aid in tweaking placements, search results ordering, etc.

For e-shop designers, it would certainly be profitable to look at what works for the physical shops.

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Credits: nytimes.com/2013/08/28/dining/wooing-us-down-the-produce-aisle.html, Bruce Temkin in experiencematters.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/design-experiences-to-nudge-consumers/ and Wiki

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Magician j

Here’s a snippet on a magic wrought by positioning:


Demographics don’t lie. They are one of the few external trends shaping organizational outcomes around which there is little if any controversyA critical question facing business models therefore is “What will be the impact of demographic trends on our future success?”

The answer depends upon context. Lima, a small city in the eastern part of Pennsylvania, has a median age of 79. It suffered a 15% decline in population from 2000 to 2010. City officials and local businesses clearly have an issue!

On the other hand, a large city with one of the oldest populations (Scottsdale, Arizona) experienced a 7.2% growth in population over the same period. Here, demographics work to city government and local business advantage, as Scottsdale attracts new residents by positioning itself as a retirement hub.

What’s bad for the goose may not be for the gander.

Well, I again dipped into Kay Plantes’s blog for this post.

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Source: http://www.plantescompany.com/blog/business-model-innovation-best-practices/demographics-gop-and-business-model-strategy/ and openclipart.com (johnny automatic)

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Argument

In many small to medium software services organizations engaged largely in opportunistic selling, a weak Marketing function, located far away from the scene of action, sees itself producing case-studies and glossies, setting up web sites and corporate presentations, managing customer/prospect visits, and presiding over the periodic ritual of getting some spreadsheet numbers. Not as a strong point of purposeful integration between Sales and Delivery. When the Sales meets with the Delivery, it is usually in a conference room for a day or two to wrangle over those hypothetical spreadsheet numbers right under the nose of the C- suite. Once the meeting is over they go back to: the Sales chasing opportunities in areas Delivery is not into and the Delivery busy developing capabilities Sales doesn’t care for.

When the Marketing does stumble up on a few threads of strategy here and there, the failure is assured either due to a lack of buy-in or faulty planning and execution.

The following is an excerpt from a post in Kay Plantes’s blog written for a different context where Marketing is a strong force of integration across the functions of the organization. And in this context, it’s about the Marketing’s new challenges to look beyond products, services, strategies, etc.

Now for the excerpt:

Today’s customers, clients, and consumers are instrumented, interconnected, intelligent, engaged, informed and empowered. They want companies they buy from to know them, interact with them on their terms, and personalize marketing offers and customer support. They even want personalized products and services. IBM (my employer) calls this the Connected Consumer Era and it will lead into a digitization of the front office comparable to the back office digitization of the past two decades.

In today’s copycat economy where a Connected Consumer can more easily compare offerings from different vendors for both personal and business decisions, the basis of competition is no longer individual products and services and effective tactical marketing. Rather, the business models in which offerings, marketing efforts and customer experience processes are nested are determining winners and losers. HP and Dell lost company value relative to Apple not because of weaker tactical marketing efforts, but because Apple transformed its business models as technology changed, grabbing the lion’s share of changing industry profit pools.

Somewhere in the strategic thinking and planning cycles of an organization, CMO’s must step away from demand management considerations and look at the organization as a whole vis-á-vis its customer base and ask questions such as:

• Do we have differentiated and hard to copy business models that offer superior customer value promises and experiences?

• Are they leveraging hard-to-copy platforms that will sustain our differentiation?

• Is the concept of our business evolving to remain highly relevant to customers?

• Are we fully leveraging our capabilities to capture new market opportunities?

In other words, the best CMO’s will be those that make sure that the make-this-quarter’s-numbers urgent does not drive out what is strategically important for long-term customer and company value. And they will work collaboratively with other C-Suite leaders to investigate these questions. Why? The organization as a whole, not new marketing techniques alone, creates the brand that customers and prospects experience.

When such are the challenges faced in the new setting by organizations with strong Marketing function, what would you give as chances of survival for those organizations that have not achieved yet even basic levels of integration between Sales and Delivery?

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Source: http://www.plantescompany.com/blog/business-model-innovation-best-practices/as-cmos-become-immersed-in-technology-beware-of-the-cio-myopic-thinking-trap/ and openclipart.com (mazeo)

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