The $300 House: Go, Go, Go!

The final Harvard Business Review post in the series, and hopefully the start of some real change at the bottom of the pyramid.

Our goal is to go social for social business. Can social co-creation help the poor?

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Keeping fingers crossed.  Thanks to Ingersoll-Rand for the sponsorship and to all the judges and advisers at 300House.com!  Thanks jovoto and COMMON. Thanks Shaun.

Thanks also to Scott Berinato at HBR and of course – VG, my partner in crime.

Shameful: The Business Roundtable CEOs

Writes Floyd Norris in the New York Times:

The Business Roundtable, a group comprising 200 of the largest companies in the United States, is out with a “study” that claims to show that the United States levies excessively high tax rates on companies. It actually shows nothing of the kind.

This is the sort of thing that makes business look E-V-I-L.

What is the Business Roundtable?  Another version of the US Chamber of Commerce? And just who are the members of this august organization?

Surprise! They’re only the CEOs of the “most respected” companies in the US.

Have they no shame?  No sense of decency?

The CEOs should be embarrassed, but instead they keep playing this absurd, deceptive game. We have come to expect this sort of behavior from the oil and coal lobby, but not you. To Bank of America, General Electric, Xerox, Wal-Mart, UPS, Target, SAP, Pepsico, Microsoft, and Procter and Gamble: Grow up, ladies and gentlemen. You are hurting both democracy and capitalism. Not to mention your brand.

Good on you, Google and Apple, for not being part of this institutional lying machine.

Rethink: Where to Look for Growth in an Uncertain World

This chart by the folks at the Eurasia Group, got me thinking. Something just doesn’t make sense:

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Then it hit me.  This is a rather conventional way to screen for global opportunities.  If we looked at other screens like “innovation potential,” “middle class expansion rate,” “Gini coefficient shrinkage,” or “corruption index,”you’d see a very different picture.

A Third Career Path for the Corporate Social Strategist

Report: Career Path of the Corporate Social Strategist: Be Proactive or Become Social Media Help Desk

View more documents from Jeremiah Owyang.

I was recently going through this report by Altimeter’s Jeremiah Owyang
when a  “Deja-Vu all-over-again” wave came over me: this is exactly
what happened with corporate community managers – back in the heady days
of “community” (see JH3’s Net Gain). 

Except that there was a third career path: striking off on your own. 

That’s what I did with Double Loop Marketing. And it’s still the best professional decision I ever made.





How to WikiLeakproof your Company

[NOTE: This post was cross-posted on Alex Bogusky‘s FearLess Revolution; I’ll be posting some thoughts there as well from now on.]

Years ago, when I was a kid just out of college at my first job, I had an interesting chat with the legal counsel for the world’s largest engineering and construction company. We were talking about ethics and business. [All of this was before Enron and WorldCom, before Michael Moore’s Sicko or the BP oil spill.]

His advice?

As I recall, he called it the “New York Times Test” – which went something like this: if your actions or behavior show up on the front page of the New York Times, could you still face your family without embarrassment?

The point he was making was that it wasn’t about being legal or adhering to the law. Ethics was about doing the right thing above and beyond the law, because you’re going to judged by the standards set by your family, not the courts.

Today, we might just call this the WikiLeaks Test.

In other words, if you’re engaged in private activities which will cause you public grief – stop. Pretend all your actions are transparent – open to the public. For all you know, they already are!

The $300 House: Seth Godin on the Marketing Challenge

Seth Godin posts a very insightful blog entry on the HBR site. He’s talking about the challenges of marketing at the bottom of the pyramid:

When someone in poverty buys a device that improves productivity, the
device pays for itself (if it didn’t, they wouldn’t buy it.) So a drip
irrigation system, for example, may pay off by creating two or three
harvests a year instead of one.

Read all about it >>

The $300 House: Bob Freling on the Energy Challenge

The Solar Electric Light Fund‘s Bob Freling has posted an entry in Harvard Business Review about his Solar Integrated Development (SID) Maturity Model and how it fits into our concept of the $300 House.

Here’s Bob waxing eloquent:

Together with potable water, nutritious food, accessible health care,
educational opportunity, and economic empowerment, the $300 House
completes this virtuous ecosystem in which individual households and
their communities can march hand in hand towards a bright and
sustainable future.

Read the whole post The $300 House: The Energy Challenge >>

Minding the Gap: A Failure in Intuitive Intelligence?

The Gap screws up with their logo redesign. A giant failure of imagination in the boardroom.

But Umair Haque asks the right questions:

  • Do designers have a seat in the boardroom — or just in the basement? How often does your CEO ever talk to a designer?
  • Are designers empowered to overrule beancounters — or vice versa?
  • Is the input of designers considered to be peripheral to “real” business decisions — or does it play a vital role in shaping them? Is design treated as a function or a competence?
  • Are designers seen just as mechanics of mere stuff — or as vital contributors to the art of igniting new industries, markets, and catgeories, sparking more enduring demand, building trust, providing empathy, and seeding tomorrow’s big ideas?
  • How much weight does senior management give to right-brained ideas, like delight, amazement, intuition, and joy? Just a little, a lot — or, as for most companies, almost none?

Seriously.

We all need to wake up. The Chamber of Commerce approach to design isn’t going to work anymore.

9/11: Reject Hate

9/11 shows us just how divided our country still is. On the wrong side you have the threat of Koran burning from a lunatic preacher. On the right side you have President Obama making a plea for tolerance and true freedom.
For me the lesson of 9/11 is pretty simple: reject hate.
Here’s some stuff to think about:
Alex Bogusky: God issues recall
Michael Moore: If the ‘Mosque’ Isn’t Built, This Is No Longer America
Byron Katie: Inquiry – Terrorism and The Work
Tom Friedman: What If 9/11 Never Happened?
Adam Weinstein: America’s Jihad on America
Will Ferrell‘s Dubya impersonation
We still have a long way to go.

Russia burns; will the US be next?

The global-warming deniers are quiet as the world’s forests burn.

Across Russia, the political drama adds to the horror as this, the hottest summer on record, takes its toll on the poorest Russians as they lose property, homes, and even lives:

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For those of you who are ready to say this is “God’s punishment,” I can tell you we’re probably going to be next. Maybe not this summer, because we’re getting far more rain in the West than usual, but perhaps the next.  The reason I can say this with near certainty is that our forests are already dead or dying. So my guess is that all these dead trees are going to burn across North America pretty soon.  The map looks like this (it’s an overlay of the extent of the pine-beetle plague):

us_fire.gif

None of this is normal.

NASA watches as the carbon footprint grows.

Our politicians do nothing. Our Republican Senators have been owned by Big-Oil and Big-Coal forever.  And the poor Christians haven’t yet figured out that they’re being taken for a ride.  For them, I say – check your Revelations 11:18 – at some point you have to say “enough!” Why do you support these people who are destroying God’s Creation?

Sen. Jim Inhofe, this is on your head. Your grandchildren won’t forgive you, even if they think you’re just swell right now. This is not “global warming deception” as you call it in your Luntzian language of deceit. It’s g-l-o-b-a-l w-a-r-m-i-n-g, period.

Have you no shame, Senator?

The $300 House-for-the-Poor

Ever since the Haiti earthquake, I’ve been thinking about why we don’t have a quick-build house made of sustainable materials at a price point that the poor can afford (with micro-credit if needed).

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The $300 House-for-the-Poor is an extension of the concept of “reverse innovation(inspired by my client and friend VG) in which innovations developed in poor countries are then brought back for use in developed countries and other parts of the world. Housing impacts health, energy, education, and security.

What if we could build sustainably designed houses for the world’s poor at an affordable cost? What if these same designs could provide relief to refugees and victims of natural disasters? The we I’m referring to is a collaborative of companies, governments, and NGOs.

This type of a structure will be engineered in the same way the TATA Nano was engineered – without the traditional assumptions.

Once built, the $300 house should be used across the globe – from Haiti, to Africa, India, and yes, even in this country, to help the homeless.

So what are we waiting for?  It’s time to get busy designing the $300 House!

Shine, Baby, Shine: Larry Hagman talks Solar


Go J.R.! Note he mentions my client – the Solar Electric Light Fund. Stay tuned for more news about them…
I like the SolarWorld ads Hagman does quite a bit. Here he’s talking to Sue Ellen (who seems to be blaming him for BP’s mess in the Gulf):

Shine, baby, shine! Well said, Larry Hagman!
The thing about Hagman is he put his money where his mouth is – years ago – by converting his estate to solar, before solar was cool.

The Journalism of Hate? Joel Stein and TIME magazine

Anytime we see people dividing people based on otherness,
it’s time to worry.

Joel Stein‘s My Own Private India is not the kind of journalism you expect from TIME magazine. But it does show you how immigration in the US has become an irrational issue – charged with racism and tones of hatred.

Never mind that Stein and TIME have apologized. How could either one have assumed that this could pass as journalism, or commentary, or even satire?

Sandip Roy‘s commentary in response: Joel Stein and the Curry Problem – provides some insight into just how irrational we have become.  His point, that some “good” Indians have sided with Arizona’s nuttiness, should not be lost on us. 

Maybe we should all go watch Fiddler on the Roof – including Joel Stein. Either that, or everyone needs to “go home” – and leave the U.S.A to the Native Americans.

Happy July 4th, everybody!

Courage: Kindra Arnesen takes on BP


Question: Will President Obama invite Kindra Arnesan to the White House? She represents “We the People,” not “Them the Corporations.”
Run for governor, Kindra!
Now we know that our corporate newsmedia isn’t going to cover this, let’s see if Rolling Stone magazine or The Daily Show will. Funny when the news comes from the edge, not the center. The center continues to not hold…

Marketing ROI: Notes on Advertising Effectiveness

For the first time, in 2010, online advertising will pass traditional advertising on TV and print:

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While this is remarkable, I can tell you where the highest ROI is. 

It’s with the Republican party.  You can buy every single Republican vote for a paltry $34 million, as the health care circus has shown us.

Wow. Who needs Google when all you need is the budget for one Superbowl ad.  Think about that: all it takes to buy the entire GOP is one Superbowl ad.  There goes the future of our country. 

PS – On a side note, I wonder what it takes to buy our Supreme Court… 5 bucks to Clarence Thomas’ wife?

Forrester should have talked to Jakob Nielsen (What You can Learn from their Mistakes)

Just a few days ago I praised Forrester‘s decision to create individual blogs for all their analysts.  So they finally get it, I thought.  Boy, was I wrong!

Yesterday I noticed how their migration to the new blogging platform was executed:

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Yes, that’s the dreaded “The requested page could not be found” message. 

Apparently, for Forrester, moving to a new platform means all old URLs die.

This is just so wrong. Linkrot is a common mistake that companies and institutions make all too often. For this to happen at an institution like Forrester shows me they don’t understand web basics.  Don’t get me wrong, a lot of big companies have made this mistake, but for Forrester it’s inexcusable!

Maybe Forrester should have a chat with Jakob Nielsen.  Check this:

Any URL that has ever been exposed to the Internet should live forever: never let any URL die since doing so means that other sites that link to you will experience linkrot. If these sites are conscientious, they will eventually update the link, but not all sites do so. Thus, many potential new users will be met by an error message the first time they visit your site instead of getting the valuable content they were expecting. Remember, people follow links because they want something on your site: the best possible introduction and more valuable than any advertising for attracting new customers.

and

At other times, it becomes necessary to re-architect a site and impose a new structure. Even then, the rule continues to be: you are not allowed to break any old links. The solution is to set up a set of redirects: a scheme whereby the server tells the browser that the requested page is to be found at a new URL. All decent browsers will automatically take the user to the new URL, and really good browsers will even update their bookmark database to use the new URL in the future if the user had bookmarked the old URL.

I remember when the same stupid mistake was made by Harvard Business Review back when they switched domains from hbswk.hbs.edu to harvardbusiness.org. Overnight, they destroyed their online ecosystem, as Forrester has just done.

What’s the big deal, you ask?  In today’s connected world, this is brand destruction plain and simple. Not the way to build an attention platform.

Forrester: Individual Bloggers Strengthen the Company Brand

In 2000, back when I was working at a large software company, I was responsible for building their online communities. And part of the challenge was trying to explain to executives that “marketing is a conversation” and that conversations occur between people – opinionated, passionate people – not PR departments.

I’d make everyone read the cluetrain manifesto.

People are brands. And like brands, they can be fake or real. The real dilemma is this – is there a line, a demarcation between the voice of the company and the voice of the individual?

My point has always been this: when companies allow their employees to blog, they are strengthening their brand by making connections, building relationships, improving the quality of the conversation with the market, etc. etc.

And yes, there are times when people go off the deep end and act unprofessional. So you’ve got to have an employee blogging policy; and these days that means you’ve got to have a social media policy which covers Twitter, Facebook, and god-forbid, MySpace, along with the rest of the social stuff.

But all of this boils down to common sense; see Sun’s, Oracle’s blogging policy, for example.  The older version spelled it out like this:

1. Do not disclose or speculate on non-public financial or operational information. The legal
consequences could be swift and severe for you and Sun.

2. Do not disclose non-public technical information (for example, code) without approval. Sun
could instantly lose its right to export its products and technology to most of the world or to
protect its intellectual property.

3. Do not disclose personal information about other individuals.

4. Do not disclose confidential information, Sun’s or anyone else’s.

5. Do not discuss work-related legal proceedings or controversies, including communications with
Sun attorneys.

6. Always refer to Sun’s trademarked names properly. For example, never use a trademark as a
noun, since this could result in a loss of our trademark rights.

7. Do not post others’ material, for example photographs, articles, or music, without ensuring
they’ve granted appropriate permission to do this.

8. Follow Sun’s Standards of Business Conduct and uphold Sun’s reputation for integrity. In
particular, ensure that your comments about companies and products are truthful, accurate, and
fair and can be substantiated, and avoid disparaging comments about individuals.

When it comes to thought-leadership or a CEO blog, the voice of the individual is even more important.

Forrester gets this, finally.  In a recent blog post, Cliff Condon, Forrester’s VP in charge of their social media efforts, explains the company’s official position on the topic of analyst blogging:

   1. Forrester wants more analysts using social tools because it makes for better research.  The research we write for clients has always depended on a rich two-way conversation with experts and practitioners in the marketplace.  The rise of social tools like blogs and Twitter allows analysts to extend that conversation with more people in the marketplace.  The more smart people our analysts interact with, the better our research will be.  That’s the basis of the Groundswell.  Therefore, Forrester is investing in building social tools and associated best-practice training for our analysts so that more of them get involved. 

   2. We are building a new blog platform to provide each analyst with a personal blog.  Our platform today supports team blogs based on the professional roles we serve – such as the Forrester Consumer Product Strategy blog.  The new platform we are building will allow our analysts to also maintain an individual blog on their coverage area.  We are doing this so that our analysts can have direct conversations with key players in the marketplace and so clients have the flexibility to engage at an individual analyst level or a team level.

   3. We want to make it easy for our clients.  Our clients rely on us to help make them successful.   They have told us that they are starved for time – they subscribe to our services in part because they conveniently get the insight they need from us and others who join in the Forrester conversation.  Therefore, we can best serve client needs by placing all of our blog content in one place (at blogs.forrester.com), and put it in context alongside the rest of our data and analysis.

I hope that adds some clarity to what we are working on – I’ll share more as we move closer to roll-out later in the quarter.  However, I felt it necessary to add to the conversation now since there has been discussion about analysts’ brands and the Forrester brand.  The fact is we want to do everything possible to give analysts a high degree of visibility. Giving every analyst a personal blog is a step toward that goal. Our analysts’ reputation and our own are tied together.  Our new blog platform is being designed to boost them both.

Definitely a step in the right direction for Forrester.

Finding Your Blog’s Voice: The Company, the Individual, and Thought Leadership

Every now and then, a CEO or company founder asks me one (or both) of these two questions:

1) must I have a separate blog from the company site?
2) do I have to use my name on the blog?

My answer depends on the individual. It’s quite simple, really.

If I think they’re a thought-leader in their industry – that’s to say their opinions and ideas lead the field – then I often encourage them to blog under their own name on a blog that stands outside their company domain (more on that in a second).

The key assumption is that they are thought leaders. If  I don’t get this assumption right, we are all wasting time. There’s no point setting up a double-loop model if you aren’t going to have something important to add to the conversation. Here’s what to do instead: have a company blog, put your press releases on it, and talk about your products. Have your agency Twitter and Facebook away to their heart’s content.  Just don’t call it thought leadership, because it isn’t.

So, now that we’ve established that, let’s look at what is thought-leadership. 

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How do you know you are a thought leader?  Here are some clues:

1) people you’ve never heard of start emailing you long (relevant) notes about something you said on your blog

2) your clients start reading your blog – so do analysts, journalists, and others you respect

3) you notice your blog gets ten times more traffic than your company website

4) you start getting calls from prospects asking for your services (and products)

If these four things don’t happen, (1) you’re not blogging right, or worse, (2) you aren’t a thought leader.

Now let’s talk about individuals and why using your name is actually a very good idea.

Authenticity. People relate to other people.  We see this in entertainment: Oprah, Martha Stewart, David Letterman, Elvis, Bob Marley; in sports: Shaun White, Cristiano Ronaldo, Pele, Ali (and unfortunately Tiger Woods); and in business: Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Jeffrey Immelt. So if you’re the founder or CEO, and you have a message worth getting out, you want people to know who you are. The connection is personal not corporate.

Passion. If you believe fiercely in what you say, do, and think, then it is this passion that people want to connect to – directly. Without that PR person.  Passion can’t be staged.

Trust. Your voice as an individual is far more trustworthy than a faceless corp. And you are believable when you believe.

Findability. People search for names.  So if you write a book, they’ll search for you, the author. “Byron Katie”* gets 10X more searches than “The Work,” for example.

Longevity. As a person, you live till you die. You may switch companies, or labels, or publishers.  You, the brand, stays constant. Your attention platform is how you go direct to the customer, no resellers necessary. Your followers stay with you forever.

Ideas. Companies don’t have good ideas, people do. Good ideas originate in the heads of your people.  These are your thought-leaders. Don’t make them anonymous thinking this will help your company; it won’t.

The Brand. Too much has been said about you, the brand. A company can renovate its brand by hiring an ad agency.  You, on the other hand, have the opportunity to be real.

Lately, even large companies are seeing the benefits of using thought leaders as ambassadors for their brands. 

So we see Don Tapscott and Tammy Erickson* at NGenera, JSB* and John Hagel* at Deloitte, Chris Meyer at Monitor, etc. etc.

At academic institutions we see examples like Vijay Govindarajan* at Dartmouth and Tom Davenport* and Larry Prusak* at Babson College.

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The CEO blog works well for startups and SMBs as well: Gaurav Bhalla* for Knowledge Kinetics, Francis Cholle* for The Human Company, Dean McMann* for McMann & Ransford, Phil Townsend* at Townsend and Associates, Bob Freling at SELF, and Steven Feinberg* at Steven Feinberg Inc.

When a blog is shared – i.e. when more than one executive participate –  then it is alright to pick another name, usually connected to the topic we want to blog about. See: Steve Lesem* at Mezeo.

* disclosure: Tammy Erickson, JSB, JH3, VG, Tom Davenport, Larry Prusak, Gaurav Bhalla, Francis Cholle, Dean McMann, Phil Townsend, Bob Freling, Byron Katie, and Steve Lesem are some of my clients.

VG: “The U.S. Must Grab the Lead on Green”

Vijay Govindarajan on the HBR blog: The U.S. Must Grab the Lead on Green. High time our business leaders started leading, as VG encourages them to do. 

According to VG:

At the company level, many energy businesses are unwilling to
cannibalize their existing services and their current investments. At
the national level, the same dynamics are in play. Aided and abetted by
the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the traditional energy lobby (oil, coal)
is using its political and economic muscle to stifle innovation in
alternative energy and clean technologies.

Don’t get me started on the losers at the US Chamber of Commerce!

Zero Currency: Fighting Corruption at the Point of Sale

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A nice story from the World Bank blog about a grass-roots organization‘s efforts to stop petty corruption in India and around the world:

the idea was first conceived by an Indian physics professor at the
University of Maryland, who, in his travels around India, realized how
widespread bribery was and wanted to do something about it. He came up
with the idea of printing zero-denomination notes and handing them out
to officials whenever he was asked for kickbacks as a way to show his
resistance. Anand took this idea further: to print them en masse,
widely publicize them, and give them out to the Indian people. He
thought these notes would be a way to get people to show their
disapproval of public service delivery dependent on bribes. The notes
did just that. The first batch of 25,000 notes were met with such
demand that 5th Pillar has ended up distributing one million zero-rupee
notes to date since it began this initiative. Along the way, the
organization has collected many stories from people using them to
successfully resist engaging in bribery.

I like it. Now let’s send some “zero dollars” to the Famous Five justices Supreme Court, the Blue-Dog Democrats, and the entire Republican party.