Monday, February 28, 2011

Off to London for Business

I'll be flying off to UK for a work trip tomorrow morning, to visit some of their leading art museums and galleries, learn how they run their institutions, and explore collaborative possibilities. There're quite a lot that we can learn from the Brits who are world leaders in the art, science and business of running museums, art galleries and cultural institutions.

On the cards are an eclectic mix of meetings that we'll be scheduling with both private and publicly funded mueums and art galeries. They include the world famous Tate Modern which showcases international modern and contemporary art...

Courtesy of News-Poland

...the Victoria and Albert Museum, which transformed an age-old building into an exciting and lively cultural institution showcasing an eclectic blend of art, design, lifestyle and heritage...

Courtesy of Britbound

...and last but certainly not least, the National Gallery, London which displays art from the 13th to 19th century, including most of the Renaissance and Realist masterpieces....

Courtesy of the Dabbler

I'll try to update on my trip if possible, but if not, see you all in a few days time! :)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

How Much Should You Charge?

Courtesy of Rentoid

In an age where anything and everything is trending towards FREE, companies face many increasingly thorny dilemmas on the issue of pricing. What should one charge in order to make a profitable and sustainable living? How can one stand out from other similar businesses using price as a lever? Is there a trade-off between the number of users/subscribers/fans and actual paying customers?

Answering these questions isn't easy. One can either choose to go with one's gut (ala Malcolm Gladwell's the Law of Thin Slices) or perhaps embrace a more methodical approach.

Thinking aloud, here's what I would do:

First and foremost, make sure that you're in the right line to begin with. Is there value in what your company does and potential to offer a compelling and unique proposition? What is your complete product portfolio and how are they positioned - economy, deluxe, premium, or premium plus? Have a sense of how you can differentiate yourself from the hordes of other businesses out there and sharpen your product/service offerings before even thinking of slapping on any charge.

Next, survey your landscape. Consider what your competitors and other substitutable product/service providers are doing. Are there industry trends already prevalent on the nature of how such businesses charge? It is critical to have a good feel of what's happening in your immediate business environment as consumer expectations are often shaped by what's already out there.

In my business of museums and attractions for example, it is common for entities in this space to charge a gated entry to their most prized visit experience, while possibly offering free access to other spaces. Revenue streams are often spread out between different sources - from ticketing to tenancy rentals, merchandising, facility sales, to add-on services (eg tram rides, guided tours etc).

Thereafter, pore over how potential customers might behave from a cultural and socio-psychological point of view. Hire or consult experts in the field of consumer psychology or sociology who can highlight the thinking and socialising process behind purchases.

Apple did a brilliant job in this space with iTunes. They understood that paying a double or two each time is far more attractive to a customer in purchasing music, than dumping 15 bucks for an album when you only like one or two songs.

Consider auxiliary sources of income from add-ons, downstream services, or bundled products. If you make your main product free (or very cheap), are there premium upgrades that you can charge for? The world of technology products and services are full of such examples, but it doesn't stop there. Brick and mortar businesses have also done that for years, calling the initial free or cheap offer a "loss leader" so that profits can be made from other more profitably priced products.

Finally, remember to do a business model and a financial pro-forma projection. If necessary, consult a financial expert to ensure that your cashflow, balance sheets and overall financial position is in order with different scenarios (optimistic, realistic and pessimistic). While nobody (perhaps except the apostle John and some say Nostradamus) could predict the future, it is prudent to consider how different pricing models coupled with forecast demand would affect one's business viability.

Two examples of such models can be found below. The first is the price-profit-quantity curve, which maps out the relation between cost, quantity, price and potential profitability:

The price-profit-quantity curve provide a useful basis for determining the impact of different prices on one's profitability (courtesy of Jim Luke's Microeconomics)

The second model below is a commonly known price-sensitivity analysis, which maps out the anticipated responses of consumers/clients based on historical information and projected behaviours in relation to different prices.

Courtesy of Market Decisions Corporation

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Strategic Value of Nuancing

The world of art, like Pierre Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party, are full of subtle nuances

We've all been there before.

You spend weeks working hard on a kickass strategy or a revolutionary campaign. According to the gameplan, this new initiative will change the world. Your competitors will be scuttled. You customers will come to you in droves.

In your view, the stars are all aligned.

And then the strategy hit a wall the moment you try to execute it. Your bosses laugh at its ludicrosity, your colleagues snigger, or the market hardly gives a whimper on roll-out day.

Why does an otherwise perfect plan fall flat on its face?

The answer? You haven't done enough nuancing.

What's that? According to the Free Dictionary, nuancing takes two forms, both of which are relevant:

"1. A subtle or slight degree of difference, as in meaning, feeling, or tone; a gradation.

2. Expression or appreciation of subtle shades of meaning, feeling, or tone"

In the corporate world, nuancing is critical to success. It can mean the difference between a client signing on the dotted line, or feeling mortally offended. That gentle nudge in the right direction can result in a tipping point of positive - or negative - feeling towards your organisation.

Nuances provide that special "oomph" which a master chef knows will transform a dish from good to extraordinary. It is that finely calibrated effort which makes your company's new product launch transform from run-of-the-mill to buzz-worthy.

In practice, almost everything can and should be nuanced. However, let me start with some basic principles:

1) Timing. In Sun Tzu's Art of War, he wrote that the "...quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim." Similarly, one should choose the best time of the day, week or month to present one's case to management, pitch a story to the media, or roll-out a new staff incentive. What's more, one should also determine how best to implement a strategy - big bang or step by step.

2) Place. This works hand-in-glove with timing. Choose the right platform to announce your new service and pay special attention to how your message is articulated in different channels. Sometimes, chatting with somebody at the water cooler may work better than doing so at a formal meeting.

3) Design. Subtlety is key in the world of product design, and having the right mix of ergonomics, aesthetics and functionality can result in a new hit being created. Apple is a master in this game, and every new technology product is painstakingly crafted and shaped to ensure nothing is left to chance in the user experience.

4) Body Language and Tonality. Top salesmen are masters in reading their client's body language, anticipating their next action to move in sync with their customers. In this arena, ladies have a huge advantage over men with their keenly honed abilities to read, understand

5) Words. While sticks and stones may break my bones, choosing your words wisely may mean the difference between winning and losing a customer, an account or a boss. Take some time to understand your socio-cultural environment, and adopt the communication style that best suits the occasion or person.

Nuancing is both an art and a science. Years of trained experience and expertise play major roles in helping one to understand the finely filigreed complexities of the corporate landscape. You can't expect a struggling violinist to hit the right notes as well as a world class virtuoso.

Fortunately, newbies need not feel dismayed so long as they are willing to humble themselves to learn from their seniors. Spend time and effort talking and learning from folks who have been there. Over time, you will be able to shorten your learning curve and minimise making that silly mistake all because you are ignorant of the prevailing social norms and cultural traditions in your line.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Braving the (Relaunched) Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica @ Universal Studios Singapore
Suspended and screaming riders of the Battlestar Galactica

At the kind invitation of the PR folks from Resorts World Sentosa, a couple of blogger friends and I had the chance to be the first to try out the newly relaunched Battlestar Galactica roller coaster ride. It was certainly one of the most adrenaline pumping, nerve wrecking, and scream-tastic time of my life!

Battlestar Galactica @ Universal Studios Singapore

For the uninitiated, Universal Studios Singapore has a total of 24 attractions, 18 of which are original or new to the park.

Battlestar Galactica @ Universal Studios Singapore

These are laid out over seven thematic zones surrounding a man-made lagoon, and focused on Hollywood blockbuster movies and characters like Shrek, the Mummies, Jurassic Park and Madagascar.

Battlestar Galactica @ Universal Studios Singapore

Positioned as a high thrill attraction at the 20 hectare Universal Studios Singapore, Battlestar Galactica is located at the Sci-Fi City of the theme park.

Battlestar Galactica @ Universal Studios Singapore

The ride boasts of the following vital statistics:

- Its the world's tallest pair of duelling roller coasters themed after the TV show of the same name

Battlestar Galactica @ Universal Studios Singapore

- Two options are available: the Human coaster where one is seated or the Cylon coaster where one is suspended

- The coasters engage in aerial combat at speeds of 90 km/h and over 14 storeys above ground

- The ride comprises several inversions, a zero-G roll, cobra roll, vertical loop, corkscrews, and near collisions inches apart (no kidding!)

- Lasting 90 seconds, each side of the coaster stretches to almost 1 km of track

Here's a blow-by-blow account of my experience for your vicarious viewing pleasure.

Battlestar Galactica @ Universal Studios Singapore
At 9.30 am in the morning, the theme park wasn't very crowded except for some leftovers from last night.

Battlestar Galactica @ Universal Studios Singapore
One of the few occasions where these streets are empty enough for a clear shot.

Battlestar Galactica @ Universal Studios Singapore
More costumed friends, this time its Woody Woodpecker and his girlfriend Winnie Woodpecker.

Battlestar Galactica @ Universal Studios Singapore
At Sci-Fi City, we were greeted by characters like this guy here.

Battlestar Galactica @ Universal Studios Singapore
Here's the entrance to the Human Coaster of Battlestar Galactica, complete with ominous warning.

Battlestar Galactica @ Universal Studios Singapore
To get on the coaster rides, we have to pack everything away, including our glasses so the world became quite blurry during the ride. Of course the girls with contacts didn't suffer the same fate as us guys.

The 8 bloggers smiling for the camera. Did you notice that we had a few celebrity bloggers with us?

Battlestar Galactica @ Universal Studios Singapore
The Human Coaster was fast, furious and fun, especially the first precipitous drop.

Battlestar Galactica @ Universal Studios Singapore
The Cylon coaster (pictured above) was a lot more thrilling in my opinion, and the shocks and swerves were significantly more pronounced, especially when the darn thing flipped over a couple of times.

Battlestar Galactica @ Universal Studios Singapore
An example of the "duelling" action with the legs-in-the-air action by those riding the Cylon coaster.

Battlestar Galactica @ Universal Studios Singapore
We'll be coming round the coaster when we come...

Battlestar Galactica @ Universal Studios Singapore
More duelling action, with a closer view of the action...

Battlestar Galactica @ Universal Studios Singapore
...and another...

Battlestar Galactica @ Universal Studios Singapore
After the ride, we were treated to a lovely Middle-Eastern themed lunch at this place.

Battlestar Galactica @ Universal Studios Singapore
Somehow or other, this giant green rabbit helped somewhat to soothe my nerves at the end of a gravity defying experience.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Why Ideas are Overrated

Courtesy of American Hell

This is going to sound hypocritical for a business blogger like me, but I am going to say it anyway.

It's better to get something REAL done than to spend too much time reading my blog. Or, for that matter, the hundreds of other business, PR and marketing blogs offering an endless buffet of secrets, strategies, tips, theories and models.

Watching a continuous stream of inspirational TED videos without any follow-up action wouldn't help either. Neither is subscribing to a "guru" who spouts periodic tweets of wisdom (in 140 characters or less).

While the age of social media has made it easier than ever to crowdsource for ideas, it has also led to a deluge of half-baked hare-brained schemes that pass themselves off for strategy.

Ideas are not only cheap, they are mostly free. All you need is to have a couple of search engines at your disposal - Google being one of them of course.

The challenge is to implement these ideas and strategies effectively. For a start, you have to seive carefully to separate the wheat from the chaff. Be brutal in culling the thousands of thoughts into a few true gems of wisdom.

Once you've done that, think about how you can transform words into action. Ask yourself these questions:

- What are the resources that you need?
- Where are your blind spots and how do you overcome them?
- How much time do you need?
- Who else do you need on your team?
- What are the measures of success?
- When should you quit and when should you persevere?

After working out your gameplan - it doesn't have to be a thesis - you should then work on doing something and making that idea, whatever it is, a reality. Closely monitor your actions every step of the way, and calibrate your activities according to the results achieved.

Don't make the mistake of only reviewing your strategy when its far too late in the game. Closing your eyes and praying won't make real life problems disappear and go away on their own.

Effective implementation of a half-baked strategy often yields better outcomes than poor implementation of a "perfect" strategy.

Good ideas are a dime a dozen, but the devil is in the details - especially when you're down on the ground executing them. Don't just take my word for it, go try it out for yourself!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Futuretainment - A Fabulous Forecast

Futuretainment Cover (3D)
Courtesy of Mike Walsh

They say you can't judge a book by its cover. Well, Futuretainment by "digital anthropologist" Mike Walsh with art-direction from Vince Frost proves that age-old adage wrong, scoring on both looks and content (you may want to check out its website too).

Walsh, the CEO of consumer innovation research agency Tomorrow, doesn't just know a lot about consumer trends in entertainment, he looks like an entertainer (the rockstar variety) too!

Mike Walsh (Courtesy of China Statistics)

Aesthetic jokes aside, Futuretainment packs a good dose of wisdom in the form of 23 insights on how social media and technologies change the way entertainment is consumed. Crisply written with cleverly crafted copy and headers (eg "change always appears incremental until it's too late" and "fact is a function of fiction"), the book uses a mixture of design, photos and text to bring the message across.

Walsh's manifesto for the future is divided into three main sections, namely Reset, Play and Power. I'll cover these briefly in turn.

Reset - Yesterday the World changed, now it's your turn

This first section covers the key observations in how changes in media and technology drives how we consume entertainment. We're now in an age of revolution, where mass produced media is replaced by citizen generated media. Digital piracy (or its euphemism "information wants to be free"), ubiquitous networks in multiple formats, and "always on" availability also means that entertainment consumption is done wherever and whenever one chooses.

The phenomenon of snowballing crowd responses - comments, ratings, reviews, tags, links, and sharing - results in a more adaptive way in which content is consumed. It results in a cascading chain effect which helps to exaggerate the differences between the winners and the losers in this game.

Play - You see children playing; I see future soldiers of the Revolution

This next section focuses on how the digital natives behave and consume entertainment. The future will be one that is social, serendipitous (accidental discovery as opposed to purposeful search), viral, and oriented around multiple avatars. Always connected lifecasting will be more commonplace, especially with geotagging mobile applications, and consumers will crave for authenticity.

Screen shifting from mobiles to cars to offices to homes will be commonplace and entertainment will largely be a screenfest. The web's continuous pulse - like a 24 by 7 hive of millions of users - will result in an ever dynamic, ever flowing system. Mash-ups will also be commonplace, and content will no longer be neatly sealed and packaged but "remixed, reissued and then re-distributed".

Power - Your only power is knowing you now have none

Yes, Walsh makes it sound ominous for companies, but it doesn't have to be truly so. According to him, you should look at the entire package of stuff that surrounds the core content - reviews, recommendations, ratings, remixed stuff. Keepers of walled gardens should also beware as audiences are looking at customised "slices of entertainment" that are aggregated for them. Keeping to a broadcast schedule in front of the goggle box will no longer be relevant.

What about the platforms for future entertainment? Well, they will offer micro transactions, targeted advertising, user-generated content (UGC), intelligently engineered data, allow feedback, as well as be open and persistent. Revenues will no longer be possible through direct content or distribution (eg music, TV shows), but be gleaned from events, merchandise and secondary content. Advertising will also change from complex campaigns to stories on digital platforms that add to brand mythologies.

Winning in this Space

How does one cope with these sea changes then? Walsh suggests that "to win the game is to change it" through disruption. This involves understanding how technology, consumer behaviour and business can be integrated, dispelling tried and tested business models, and innovating ahead of the pack.

The worlds of TV, movies, music and games will increasingly veer towards "FREE" as the default. To thrive, one should look at ways to enrich audience experiences, allow them to engage with one another, and generate revenue from subsidiary products and services.


Overall, Futuretainment is a highly recommended read and a good kick-in-the-butt for individuals and organisations who are still living in the bottom of their wells.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Citizen Marketers - A Book Review

Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba are stalwarts of the highly popular Church of the Customer blog and founders of Ant's Eye View. Proponents of customer evangelism, community marketing and good old Word-Of-Mouth (WOM), McConnell and Huba's book Citizen Marketers - When People Are the Message reads alot like their blog, using numerous examples and stories to drive home the point.

Against the omnipresent backdrop of social media (forums, blogs, podcasts, video streams, and social networks), Citizen Marketers focuses on four different groups of citizen marketers Filters, Fanatics, Facilitators, and Firecrackers:

Filters are the wire services of the web world who are aggregators and content curators. An example is Starbucks Gossip which provides the latest gossips and news on the world's number one coffee brand;

Fanatics are the true believers and evangelists who work like "volunteer coaches", both praising and critiquing a company and its products. An example is the McChronicles blog which highlights the McDonalds experience from a consumer viewpoint, and the Disney Blog;

Facilitators help to create online communities and special interest groups through bulletin boards and other software. An example is the Tivo Community in the US and a fan forum on the MINI car;

Firecrackers are like the one-hit wonders of the online world, and they generate trending topics that grow very quickly but can also die down as fast. An example is the recent Old Spice Man Youtube videos, as well as Vincent Ferrari's notorious AOL Cancellation Video.

(Check out this page which shows all the examples cited in the book. I love how generous these guys are!)

Citizen Marketers highlights the now familiar One Percent Rule, which cites that a tiny proportion of users generating content on social networks (Wikipedia, Youtube, Flickr, MySpace, Digg, etc) can exert a disproportionate influence throughout the network. Through the advent of Web 2.0 technologies, the playing field is levelled as everybody has a fighting chance to make an impact through their own digital content, networks and influence.

Peppered with numerous case studies, the book paints a rosy picture of how citizen content creators are democratising media akin to how Johann Gutenberg's invention of the printing press democratised literacy. Hobbyists and volunteers like Eric Karkovack who started Save Surge (and later Vault Kicks) to petition the Coca-Cola Company to resurrect a dead soda are lauded as the altruistic brand activists of the 21st century.

On the same token, fans may not let any company off lightly if deceit is discovered. High profile examples include Working Families for Walmart, Lonelygirl15, and the failure of Whole Foods CEO from disclosing his involvement in anonymous Yahoo! postings.

So how can companies "democratise" their businesses? McConnell and Huba suggests that companies should develop programmes and communities specifically for citizen marketers, and to incorporate their ideas into one's production system. This approach is labelled the "3 Cs", namely

Contests - Solicit citizen-created media and active fan communities to get the word out;

Co-creation - Involve customers in the production process and get them involved in voting on them. T-shirt maker Threadless is a great example here;

Community - To succeed in creating an enduring online community, it is suggested that one's consciousness of kind (eg being a New Yorker), adoption of shared rituals and traditions, and sense of moral responsibility to the community is key.

To those new to the world of social media marketing, Citizen Marketers provides a good starting point to understanding how influence spreads. However, it provides more of a tour of what's happening in this space rather than practical and tangible strategies. What's more, most of the case studies cited appear to be those of already established companies with well-known brands. Unless you have an extremely innovative or remarkable product or service in the first instance, it would be a mammoth task trying to form fan clubs of engaged citizen marketers to support your cause.

Admittedly, the social media universe have changed since the book was published in 2007 and online community engagement is now more challenging than ever (Facebook and Twitter weren't in the reckoning then). However, some of its principles are still enduring, like the fact that companies should let others do the talking for them without overt interference. Overall, I'd recommend this book as a good way to understand how one can better engage one's online stakeholders and to better manage the process of community marketing and engagement.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Is Mubarak's Downfall a Digital Revolution?

Courtesy of

By now, everybody would have known that long-time Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has resigned from his post, after facing a rebellion of epic proportions by the citizens of Egypt. After 18 days of protests where huge crowds of over a million showcased their democratic rights, compelling the beleaguered but stubbornly resilient 82 year old statesman to step down.

Deposed President Hosni Mubarak in happier times (Courtesy of the Bugle Wiki)

The downfall of Mubarak has been highly analysed by media pundits all over the world. Many in the tech world has associated Mubarak's downfall with the rise of social networks and the Internet. Apparently, his attempts at shuttering the Internet has backfired in a spectacular fashion. Techcrunch states that the "Mubarak shut down the Internet, and the Internet paid him in kind", while Mashable claimed that the digital revolution helped to spark off the real revolution in Egypt.

Courtesy of Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff

Two tools in particular - Twitter and Facebook - are lauded as the technology topplers of the Mubarak regime. Interestingly, Google got into the fray by allowing Egyptian protesters to tweet using their mobile via a loophole.


The question on some people's minds is whether web-based social channels are the lynch pins for the revolts to be successful, or whether social networks are simply tools in an overturning of the administration that would have occurred anyway.

Apparently, renowned author Malcolm Gladwell doesn't think so. Against of chorus of voices lauding the "tipping point" effects of Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Wikileaks and blogs, Gladwell boldly asserted that...

"..surely the least interesting fact about them is that some of the protesters may (or may not) have at one point or another employed some of the tools of the new media to communicate with one another. Please. People protested and brought down governments before Facebook was invented. They did it before the Internet came along."

Gladwell thinks Egypt's "tipping point" isn't just technology (source)

Gladwell has his supporters like Ethan Zuckerman, who reported that the uprisings were broad-based popular revolutions. The people involved in it "aren’t just the elites using social media – they’re a broad swath of society, heavy on young people, but including a wide range of ages, incomes and political ideologies." Quirksmode also posted that Egypt is "not a social media revolution", and gave evidence that only 21% of Egypt’s population is online while 5% uses Facebook (source). In contrast, 66% has a mobile subscription and thus the age-old SMS could be the real "mobile technology" hero.

Naturally, views like this incited the ire of digital proponents like Brian Solis as well as Matthew Ingram. Solis states that technology provided the tools for the revolutionaries to organise themselves, achieve sufficient density, and build a united social culture, while Ingram states that it is the power of communication networks which helped unseat Mubarak regardless of their form.

My own assessment is that the key ingredients for any social activism probably lies first in the country's own socio-cultural situation and second in the presence of enabling communication platforms. For sure, the presence of digital technologies has greatly accelerated and facilitated the end of the Mubarak era. The arrest of Google Executive Wael Ghonim (captured in online video) probably helped fuel the revolt.

However, the initial sparks for the fire must be fanned first, and in Egypt's case, they probably belonged to the Kefaya, a grassroots organisation set up in 2003 who are largely staffed by young people. The initial stirrings of the uprising were largely onsite, with flyers being distributed and a guy setting himself on fire. It is thus likely that strong human ties and the right socio-cultural conditions are significant prerequisites in assembling any population for revolution, aided by whatever communication technologies available.

Kefaya activists played a key role in the revolt (Courtesy of Ikhwanweb)

What are your thoughts on this? Will Egypt still be undergoing a regime change without the power of digital might?

Friday, February 11, 2011

What Truly Motivates Us

Daniel Pink (source)

If you don't already know it, paying people more money - at least beyond a certain point - will not result in better performance. In fact, the old carrot-and-stick approach to management is broken.

That's what bestselling author and careerist Daniel Pink claims. According to the motivational speaker and writer, higher financial incentives only work for traditionally mechanistic roles - manufacturing tasks, book-keeping, software programming and the like.

In numerous studies conducted by behavioural scientists from leading universities like MIT and the London School of Economics, results show that the more you pay for a relatively simple and straightforward task, the better the performance. However, in cases where creative problem solving skills are needed, better monetary rewards resulted in poorer performance.

Why is this so? Well, Daniel claims that the true motivators for knowledge workers in the 21st Century are Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.

Autonomy pertains to providing sufficient empowerment and independence to one's workers to allow them to solve creative problems on their own. In organisations like Google, 20% of the time is given to engineers to do whatever they wish to do. Often, the most inventive and impactful products (eg Gmail) are created. Self direction is a key to encouraging people to work towards their peak.

Mastery, on the other hand, is about providing workers with challenging tasks that help to stretch their capabilities while providing learning opportunities. It is about giving them an opportunity to refine and hone their skills and competencies in specific areas, while being tasked with a good-sized challenge.

The final driver, Purpose, relates to a higher goal and reason for an organisation's existence. This goes beyond merely generating more money to achieving something more noble - solving the world's food crisis, reducing one's carbon footprint or eliminating discomfort amongst hospital patients.

Together, these drivers help to steer workers towards achieving results in more cognitively challenging occupations.

Do check out Daniel's RSA-animated talk on "The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us" below for more information.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Success Strategies for a Networked World

Zach Tumin (Source)

At the recent GovCamp in Singapore, Professor Zachary Tumin from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government shared several strategies on how public and private organisations can lead in an increasingly connected and networked world.

According to Tumin, organisations around the world should work more closely with their citizens to "do together what no one can do alone". In his words, collaboration is the "Difference Maker", "Game Changer" and "Force Multiplier" (you get the point).

Through such an alliance, social and civic benefits such as safety, education, national resilience, sustainability, profitability and togetherness could be forged. Three notable examples of such collaborations were cited:

Dude Its a Balloon

When participating in a contest to spot 10 red weather balloons, young hacker-geek George Hotz started this challenge to amass the help of his rather large community of 10,000 or so friends.

Find 10 of me and win a Chevy! (source)

Unfortunately, he didn't win (he was ranked 4th in the final standings). However, he operated as a solo person behind the comforts of his computer directing the efforts of his massive followers while the other teams actually slogged it out in the real world.

Claudia Costin the Twittering Secretary of Education

A winner of the web's Shorty Award, Claudia Costin (@claudiacostin), the Secretary of Education in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, used social networks to do much good in the poor city. Through Twitter and other channels, she amassed the help of the city's teachers to think of solutions to the age-old problem of providing quality education to underprivileged kids. Claudia is quite a prolific twitterer, and blogs about what she does too.

Toyota Recovers Quickly Through Partnership

While everybody would remember Toyota's brake parts fiasco, few would know that the world's leading car company had employed social networks to recover from a damaging fire at one of its supplier's (Aisin Technology) plants. By leveraging on its extensive network of suppliers and adhering to the lean Just-In-Time (JIT) manufacturing practices, Toyota and Aisin was able to bounce back quickly and to begin production of brake parts again within 3 days. By a week's time, production went back to normal again.

Strategies for Collaboration

So how does one work in alliance and leave that "Marlboro Man" solo cowboy mindset at the door?


Here are some strategies proposed by the good professor, in an 8 P, 1 L mnemonic format:

Picture: Align on the vision with your collaborators and ensure that you're looking at the same big picture

Plans: Right size the problem and parcel it out properly to your network

Platform: Look at using technology as a lever to achieve quick results

Pay: Consider what's in it for your communities and partners - there's no such thing as a free lunch!

People: Think about hiring the right A-Team of people with the appropriate mindset and skills to work in a networked environment

Performance: Measure the gain obtained through collaborative partnerships

Politics: Don't be sidetracked - stay in your headlights and be focused

Persistence: Continue using strategies to make it stick and employ artifacts to keep the relationships going

Lead: Teach, Learn, Deliver

REPEAT: Once you've completed the cycle, repeat all over again...

Finally, to succeed in collaborations with one's communities, citizens, or partners, Prof Tumin offers two new mantras for the networked world:

1) Being humble because no one can go it alone

2) Being optimistic with the mindset that together we can always do better

PS - Tumin will be publishing a book with former NYPD and LADP Chief William J. Bratton called “Collaborate or Perish” sometime this year. Look out for it!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

What Does Success Mean to You?

Is the difference between success and failure that clear? (source)

Success is a perpetually debated and discussed topic. It drives us both as a group and as an individual, steering our corporate, personal and social lives.

Some feel that success can only be metered by quantitative indicators. These measures tend to be financial, cumulative, self-oriented and tangible in nature.

In the corporate world, these could include having a leading market share, strong share/stock prices, sterling profits, high industry rankings, and positive overall corporate result. On the personal front, it may include one's personal wealth, influence and rank in one's organisation, educational qualifications and results, or prizes and accolades accummulated.

Others may feel that success is an outcome of one's impact on others. While still measurable through surveys and popularity contests, such indicators tend to stakeholder-focused and other-centred.

For organisations, it may include its popularity on opinion surveys, number of "tweets" highlighting its brand names, performance in customer satisfaction/opinion studies, or employee engagement scores. Individuals that succeed in this "arena" would be those with lots of friends/fans/followers, are constantly bombarded with messages, and enjoy an endless flow of invitations to all kinds of cool parties and events.

Yet another school of thought looks at success in a more philosophical manner. Success is less about profits or popularity, but more about reaching a positive state of sustainable contentment.

It is no longer about chasing the numbers, but getting off the ladder and taking a different unconventional path.

In companies, this may mean supporting community pursuits that result in the betterment of humanity, leaving behind a zero carbon footprint legacy, sponsoring the arts, or having an entire football team named after your brand.

The personal equivalent would be taking an indefinite hiatus from work and travelling around the world, switching from full-time to free-time, starting a band at 40 just "for the heck of it", or giving away every penny to a cause.

What is your idea of success and how would you determine if you've arrived?

Friday, February 04, 2011

Celebrating the Bunny Year @ Chinatown

Chinatown on CNY Eve - 2011

One of my family's favourite tradition every Chinese New Year Eve is to squeeze in with the masses at the Chinatown Night Market. Located along Trengganu, Sago, Smith , Pagoda and Temple Streets, the annual nocturnal bazaar is a celebration of sight, sound, scent, touch and tastes, mingled with hordes of humanity. Organised by the Chinatown Business Association with the support of the Singapore Tourism Board from 14 Jan to 6 Mar, the open air stalls offer all manner of calorific goodies, decor, toys, clothes, souvenirs, and of course, food glorious food.

After reunion dinner at my parent's place, my wife and I decided to join the festive fray and mill with the crowd. Our aims were to grab some last minute bargain items (since this was usually the last night for people to fill their larders and wardrobes), catch some festive spirit, and just check out what's popular in the retail scene. The cool night air after many days of non-stop rain made for a pleasant night out.

Join us on a tour of Chinatown on Chinese New Year's Eve!

Chinatown on CNY Eve - 2011
The street lights on South Bridge Road, New Bridge Road and Eu Tong Sen Street were decked for the oriental occasion.

Chinatown on CNY Eve - 2011
Crowds of every colour throng the Chinatown Night Market on Chinese New Year Eve.

Chinatown on CNY Eve - 2011
These colourful tassels are supposed to augur good fortune. They were going at $10 for 3.

Chinatown on CNY Eve - 2011
Chinese Zodiac animal themed chopsticks were another new feature in the night market this year.

Chinatown on CNY Eve - 2011
Festive reds, yellows and golds burnished brightly amidst the household decor items.

Chinatown on CNY Eve - 2011
Similarly, these plump and colourful pumpkins and gourds are not for eating!

Chinatown on CNY Eve - 2011
This poor guy seemed to have difficulty getting customers to write some "chun lian" or auspicious couplets for their homes...

Chinatown on CNY Eve - 2011
...on the other hand, everybody's queueing to get their caricatures done!

Chinatown on CNY Eve - 2011
Foreign tourists enjoying a meal and a beer in the cool night air.

Chinatown on CNY Eve - 2011
Mandarin oranges are must for CNY, whether in twos, threes or a bunch.

Chinatown on CNY Eve - 2011
So are pussy willows, although these looked a little forlorn and neglected.

Chinatown on CNY Eve - 2011
I loved the sight of this uncle selling colourful balloons in the middle of the street. It somehow reminded me of the movie "UP".

Chinatown on CNY Eve - 2011
The most "happening" part of the market centred around Taiwan packaged titbits. You can fill up a bag full of these delights for only $5.

Chinatown on CNY Eve - 2011
I hope nobody treated this preserved pork leg as a punching bag!

Chinatown on CNY Eve - 2011
More goodies of the Taiwanese variety, with the customary vendor shouting till he's hoarse, imploring customers to check out the one hour last day special.

Chinatown on CNY Eve - 2011
Another quirky sight, this time of the God of Fortune, decorated with a specimen $2 note and perched on a roof.

Chinatown on CNY Eve - 2011
The crowds never seemed to end as the clock struck closer to Chinese New Year.

Chinatown on CNY Eve - 2011
These scarlet lanterns provide a nice visual spectacle while adorning a shopfront.

Chinatown on CNY Eve - 2011
Guess what these hordes of humanity are waiting for? Yes, its the usual Channel 8 CNY show!

Chinatown on CNY Eve - 2011
Fresh coconuts are a great way to slake their shopping and snacking thirst.

Chinatown on CNY Eve - 2011
A blast from the past with these hand crafted wooden clogs. My wife recalled making a pair of these during her younger days.

Chinatown on CNY Eve - 2011
Cheap Chinese New Year CDs are the order of the day. I suspect that the songs don't change very much anyway!

Chinatown on CNY Eve - 2011
Cushions were also going for cheap. Unfortunately, they weren't very comfortable and so we scratched the idea of getting new covers.

Chinatown on CNY Eve - 2011
Along the way, we got a little multi-coloured glowing fortune cat for Ethan.

Chinatown on CNY Eve - 2011
Finally, guess what these toothpaste looking receptables are used for holding?