Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tethered Content business model

What do you think about the tethered content business model?  To recap, this is when you can only access content from a certain location, such as inside a store.  If you wander off, the content will disappear (hopefully with an alert first!).

When I first heard about this, I wasn’t sure where it makes any kind of logical sense.  I think it originated as a form of digital browsing.  When you are inside a bookstore (or library), you can flip through the books digitally just like you can physically.  But in the same way you can’t take the book outside without purchasing it (or checking it out), you can’t view it on your e-reader outside either.  An art gallery (or museum) could do this with high-res images of its works or audio guides that play when you are looking at something historic. 

But what else makes sense?  Anything else I can think of, it makes more sense for the company or organization to let you access the content from home.  A shoe store’s inventory, a restaurant’s menu, movie reviews, all work to bring you inside in the first place. 

I suppose there are some geolocation games for which this makes sense just because it adds a scavenger hunt feature to the information.  Games often have counter-intuitive features because added challenge is part of what makes the game fun.

Any other ideas?

Can America Compete?

There is a fantastic compilation of economic analyses in Harvard Magazine.  They present a series of interviews in which incredibly knowledgeable and insightful thought leaders describe something they wrote a Harvard Business Review article about recently.  An added perk is that they made the cited HBR articles available for free for the next month.

What I like best about this article is that in less than 20 pages you can learn more about the current state of the economy, what to expect in the near future, what we need to do going forward – basically the wisdom of a generation in about 30 minutes of reading. 

Authors include Michael Porter and Jan Rivkin (on US competitiveness), Wally Shih (on manufacturing in the US), Mihir Desai (the future of compensation and performance incentives), Thomas Kochan (on the workforce and jobs), Rosabeth Moss Kanter (on the business ecosystem), and David Moss (on political dysfunction). 

I can’t recommend enough to anyone who has a job, wants a job, cares about the country, cares about the economy, plans to vote,  or is interested in the way the world works to read this article.  Even if you know a lot already about these topics, you will learn even more.  And if you don’t know much, this is essential reading. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Geopolitical Confirmation Bias

What President Obama said (in essence): "Use chemical weapons and our military comes in."

What Assad heard (in reality): "You won't come in if I unleash my air force and heavy artillery on the rebels. So I can bomb them mercilously with no consequences."

The human mind is fascinating in the way we can interpret anything to mean anything when it serves our interests.  Although in this case I think it is correct.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A silver lining about ethics

OK, since my last post was so depressing about ethics, I have to add one of the positive takeaways from Dan's work.

He ran a version of his study all over the world.  He found the same results everywhere.  West and east.  Developed and developing. 

Why is this a positive?  Isn't it even worse that we are unethical all over the world?  At least it shows that humanity has something in common.  Something we can point to as a shared characteristic.  And if we find a way to overcome this lapse in one place, we can use the same intervention all around the world. 

The slippery slope of ethics

A new article at MIT Technology Review discusses the finding that it is easier to be ethical 100% of the time than 98% of the time.  

On the very surface, this seems paradoxical, but it really isn't.  Knowing in your mind that “this can be one of the 2% I do the wrong thing if I want it to” sanctions you to do the wrong thing a lot more than 2% of the time.  It turns out that our brains don't represent"2%" very well.  Instead, we use a more fuzzy concept like "most of the time" which can be something more like 80-90%.  

What long term effects does this have?  Dan Ariely says that the slippery slope on cheating is pretty strong.  Once you have set your ethics at a fuzzy level, it slowly becomes “often” (60-70%), then “when possible” (40-50%), “only when I feel virtuous” (30%, 20%).  He talks about the “what the heck” threshold where honesty is just not an attribute in your self-identity anymore.  At this point, you don’t have worry about ethics at all any more. 

So the message is that we have to keep ethics at an absolute 100%.  But how do we do this with dishonesty?  We learn from an early age that we lie to be nice to people (“Sure, your new haircut looks great”), to keep harmony in the home (“I’d be happy to have lasagna again”).  Even G-d does it (you can read the Abraham and Sara story in Genesis or in this fantastic interview of Dan Ariely’s on the DR Show).  

Maybe we are just screwed.  We are destined to have Enrons, Madoffs, et al forever. What a cheery thought for a Monday.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Why are bronze medal winners happier than silver medal winners?

 A team of researchers, led by one of my favorite thoughtleaders in the decision making (and why it is counterintuitive) space, did a study looking at video and audio for every winner of a medal in the 1992 Olympics.  What they found is that bronze medal winners are happier than silver medal winners. 

The reason (a hypothesis in the study, but shown over and over again in studies across the board) is that it comes down to counterfactual thinking – otherwise known as “What could have been!”. 

When you win a silver, you focus on the fact that you almost won the gold.  Just one place away.  Oh how great that would have been!  What could I have done differently?  Obsess obsess.

But when you win a bronze, looking up doesn’t help.  “Oh I could have won a silver!” just isn’t as obsession-worthy.  Instead, the closest alternative, and therefore the one that attracts your mental focus is that you almost came in fourth.  No medal at all.  That is a huge difference.  Nothing to show your friends.  Nothing to hold up during a TV commercial (and therefore tons of $$ in lost endorsement opportunities). 

So what does this teach the rest of us who are not competing in contests where you might explicitly come in second or third place?  Every time you are thinking about your performance on something, your status in something, or whatever, be cognizant of what you compare yourself too.  OK, maybe the Joneses next door have a nicer house.  Maybe Mary in the office next to yours makes more money.  Maybe the guy on the treadmill next to yours has a better physique.  Put that thought out of your head.  Instead, focus on the comparisons that are in your favor. 

And the real truth of the matter is that this is not fooling yourself at all (although as you know from previous posts I am a big fan of the Placebo Effect).  Out of the 7 billion people in the world, you are better off than 99% of them in more ways than you can count.  And yet somehow, global studies of happiness show that some of the bottom 1% are much happier than you are.  Think about that.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Million dollars in 6 months. Anyone interested?

Here is a million dollar idea for anyone willing to take the heat.  All I want is a cut J.

Oddly, it came to me in a very complicated dream that had a ton of very bizarre pieces to it.  But that is a story for another time. 

At one point in the dream, I was at the fridge getting some beverages to put out for a party that was about to start.  I noticed an item that grabbed by attention.  It was a six-pack of baby blue colored juice boxes, shaped like beer cans, called “Baby Beer.”  Looking closer, I saw that it was a non-alcoholic rice milk shake. 

What a fantastic idea I thought.  It would help kids feel like they are part of the party.  We know they are always trying to copy the adults.  This way they could do it in a way that was spill-resistant (the juice box), age-appropriate (non-alcoholic), uniquely branded (baby blue color), and could have a variety of tastes (the idea doesn’t really hinge on what is inside – could be juice too). 

But here is why it would work for an entrepreneur with no skills, no distribution, no branding expertise, and no capital to invest.  What is the first thing that would happen if rumors got out of this product?  First, MADD would have a conniption.  They would protest in every newspaper, TV, talk radio, blog, Twitter, Facebook . . .   And then the “Oh get over yourselves” crowd would counter with a “Drink Baby Beer” day.  They would create their own campaign on talk radio, TV, etc.  And all of the “Fair and Balanced” media would have one on one debates and hype the controversy to boost their ratings. 

So all of sudden you would have free publicity, incredible brand awareness, skyrocketing demand, and a product that is simple enough you could outsource production and distribution so you could meet this demand without initial investment. 

Then you have to be ready for the fall.  Since this is really a silly idea, you know as soon as the controversy subsides the demand would as well.  But you would be ready for it.  So as soon as it starts, you immediately halt production, sell your leftover inventory at 30% off to the Dollar Store, take your profits and run.  By getting out quick, you could avoid losing all the profits that you made on the upswing.  I figure $2 million net in 6-months.

Then here it gets better.  Wait a year and do it again with something slightly different but just as controversial.  The advocacy groups would be watching you like a hawk, so it would immediately hit the media again.  “Here he goes again!!!  What a jerk!!”  “Here he goes again!!  What an American Hero.”  Jerk/Hero/Jerk/Hero.  Six months later another $2 million and 18 month vacation.  I figure you probably have 4 or 5 cycles before society gets bored of you.