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50 posts from January 2005

Marketers Borrow the Crowd at the Super Bowl

Thanks to Tim Manners ( for catching a Wall St. Journal article (subscription required) article by Suzanne Vranica earlier this week about how advertisers are flocking to the Super Bowl, not to run high-priced commercials, but to create brand experiences for the attendees.

Among the marketers setting up tents and running activities for the Super Bowl attendees are Motorola (navigate an obstacle course blindfolded but supplied with a wireless headset), Campbell's Soup (sample soup or play the Armchair Quarterback game), General Motors (free ride to the stadium in a Cadillac or watch celebrity go-kart races), and DaimlerChrysler (test drive a Jeep on a specially constructed track). Apparently not returning this year is Proctor & Gamble's Charmin Ultra Mobile Potty Palooza, which is now touring the country and racking up flushes at state fairs.

Link: - Super Bowl XXXIX: Obstacle Course vs. 'Potty Palooza'.

Event marketing -- a term encompassing everything from simple product sampling to concerts and elaborate interactive kiosks -- is one of the fastest-growing tactics in marketers' repertoires. U.S. spending on event marketing grew 15% to $152 billion in 2003, according to the Promotions Marketing Association. While total spending isn't available for 2004, the group says it expects there was an increase of more than 15%.

The Innovator's Predicament

By digging at a book author, Art Kleiner has unearthed a valuable insight as to why innovators can fail to thrive, even in an organization that prizes innovation and creativity. The book is How Breakthroughs Happen by Andrew Hargadon, and the interview is at strategy+business, where Kleiner writes a regular column.

Link: Recombinant Innovation.

Most creative people have two needs they must simultaneously satisfy: an obsessive focus on the problem at hand, no matter where it leads them; and the craving for respectability. Innovators have to show to the company and their peers that they are in control, with an enviable and error-free track record. It’s no wonder that, in trying to do all this, many innovators (and companies) get twisted up in knots. Professor Hargadon gets closest to this point when he writes that most successful innovative labs consciously try to reduce people’s exposure to the highly personal derision and rebuke that is common in innovation cultures.

Systemizing Innovation

The next big turning point in the economy is the systemization of innovation.

The MIT Sloan Business Review is available by subscription only, but the MeansBusiness newsletter has this excerpt from one of their articles by Armand V. Feigenbaum and Donald S. Feigenbaum in the Winter 2005 issue. Their new book, The Power of Management Capital, looks interesting.

We find evidence in a wide range of industry sectors that the systematization of management innovation will be a critical success factor for 21st century companies. An increasing emphasis on it can be detected in companies' gradual but nonetheless enormous shift from investment in 'hard' assets - bricks and mortar, equipment, inventories - toward investment in 'soft' assets - supply chain processes, human resources, technology, copyrights, brands, patents and the like.

Hard to Achieve More than Expected

Check out the link below for more evidence that bad employee performance is driven by poor management. We can only afford to expect the best from each other.

Link: EBF Articles on Europe Business Management Economics & Strategy.

bosses who think they can mask their real opinions of subordinates should think again. Under-rated employees can read their minds; they can feel the underconfidence. Does it matter that subordinates can discern their boss’s low expectations? Research suggests that it matters a great deal, both in terms of effort and performance. There is clearly a strong link between expectations and employee performance.

In the rest of the article, the authors give tips for managers to avoid denigrating employees, but most of it is obvious stuff like, giving mostly negative feedback, double-checking work, not using or crediting their ideas, and other signs of distrust. However, they mention to more insidious behaviors that I can catch in myself sometimes.

  • Giving unneeded advice, especially suggesting the obvious, and
  • Pressuring co-workers to conform rather than letting them make a few mistakes.

The Culture of Innovation Spreads Globally

I've seen this shift in attitudes coming for awhile. Now Corie Lok at MIT Technology Review has some direct evidence from India.

Link: Two Sides of Outsourcing.

Alumni of outsourcing companies like Wipro have launched dozens of startups in India, a few of them funded by JumpStartUp, a small venture capital firm based in Bangalore and Santa Clara, CA. One explanation for this trend, says JumpStartUp cofounder Sanjay Anandaram—himself a former Wipro employee—is that skilled and experienced Indians are returning home from abroad to provide leadership. Another is that people who’ve worked for Indian outsourcing firms serving multinational clients gain critical experience managing global operations. But perhaps most important is a gradual change in attitudes in a culture where entrepreneurs were once seen as loners who couldn’t hold down regular jobs, and business failure was traditionally equated with personal failure. Today “a startup is no longer viewed as a no-no,” says Rajam. “It is in fact viewed very positively.”

An Idea for the Lazy Creative

'Nuff said!

Link: Veer: The Skinny: Social Sloganeering.

Social Sloganeering: So you're a whiz at filling up a whiteboard with concepts and spiel, but can't execute on an idea worth beans? Then OMG Clothing might be a gig that fits your mitts. You supply a slogan and if the voting public decides that it's not too lame to slap across their chests, it gets printed on a shirt... and you get paid for the privilege. It's yet another fresh take on tees from the folks behind Threadless - our favourite place for designer upperwear...

Innovation in Higher Education

Over at, Alex Wright has a terrific round-up of the trends and issues around taking college-credit courses online. He interviews professors, students and administrators and presents a very balanced view of the ways the internet could improve higher education, and what we could lose...

Link: Technology | From ivory tower to academic sweatshop. (Subscription required, but you may be able to watch an Utramercial for a free read.)

Just as the Internet brought wrenching operational changes to many corporations, so online learning is triggering a seismic shift in the academic power structure. Those changes stretch far deeper than the visible presentation layer of courseware, online discussions and multimedia presentations. Distance learning is changing not only teaching methods but also the shape of the curriculum itself. As schools reach out to a market composed largely of professional, career-minded students, they face growing pressure to cater to employers' agendas; in some cases, even wiring themselves into the corporate information technology (IT) infrastructure. If a company like Lucent underwrites online courses at a business school, it expects a direct return on its investment.