Google vs. Humans

Greetings. There are many days when I worry that Google has become the “de facto” source of all knowledge. Students, including our own children, use it as the most essential “go to” place in doing homework assignments. They also use it as an easy first stop for answering most of the essential questions that arise in the rest of their lives including finding out about the best new artists, the latest movies, and things to do. Adults use it as a quick reference for insight on products and services, and to get referrals for the best neighborhoods to live in, the best schools to send their kids to, the best vacations to take, the best places to dine, and the best doctors to use. And companies of all shapes and sizes turn to it as the quickest and best way to research customers, competitors, and even prospective employees. Not that all the world’s information is owned by Google, but for most of us it has become the principal gateway for finding out about stuff that matters.

At the expense of humans.

Now I’m sure that there are humans at Google…very smart humans…but I’ve rarely had the pleasure to talk with them.

Remember the “epic” battle in 2011 between IBM’s Watson supercomputer and Ken Jennings, the exceedingly smart (or should we say “trivial” in a good sense) Jeopardy champion who had won on this gameshow an amazing 74 straight times? It was a battle to see if a computer was smarter at trivia than a well-versed human. Well Google has taken it a step further. Rendering all of us humans as somewhat deficient providers of knowledge.

And that has interesting implications for all of us.

Not that I find Google to be unhelpful. And, truth be told, I use it a lot of the time. But I’d like to think that I use it most often to find remarkable people and ideas to connect with and that it is simply the start of a process of being curious, learning new things, and then making new connections so I can start meaningful conversations with actual humans that increase my understanding, stretch my thinking, and enable inspiring collaborations.

Because in an era when all of us tend to rely on the internet and Google for more and more guidance, I still believe that real sparks and breakthroughs happen best when we challenge ourselves to engage new people…especially people with ideas, perspectives, training, and life experiences that are very different than our own.

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We win in business and in life when we get beyond the world that sits conveniently at our fingertips and connect with others in new and compelling ways.

Cheers!

The Most Innovative Companies

Greetings.  Fast Company magazine is out with its newest list of the world's 50 "most innovative companies" and it's a great place to look for clues to your future success.  It's also a great place to learn about companies that prosper by unlocking the real genius in all of their people.  And it doesn't matter if you work in an internet start-up or an established firm in a more traditional industry.  This year's winners operate in a wide range of markets.  Sure, the majority are either new technology firms or companies that are using new technologies to transform existing industries.  But there are also a number of leading companies that are winning by rethinking the customer experience, injecting new energy into aging brands, and reinventing products that are more than 100 years old.

So check out the latest ideas by companies like Apple, Twitter, Google, Netflix, and Facebook.  Then enjoy the brilliance of businesses like Pepsico, Nissan, Burberry, Marks & Spencer, and Trader Joe's.  It's a fascinating mix of enterprises that are joined together by a special DNA that's all about innovation, delivering unique value to customers, and creating the future.

A DNA that's within your grasp…

 

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We win in business and in life when we dare to create new markets and reinvent established industries.  And when we constantly imagine how to deliver new and greater value to those we serve.

Cheers!

Books Worth Reading: “Different”

Greetings.  If you read this blog regularly or even occasionally you know that I spend a lot of time thinking about the importance of providing unique and compelling value to customers, employees, and partners.  Now a new book titled Different, by Harvard Business School professor Youngme Moon, offers some fresh thinking on part of this important topic.  Sharing her perspective and insight on well-known companies including Google, JetBlue, Swatch, and IKEA, she suggests three characteristics of brands that are truly different:

  1. They "offer something that is hard to come by."
  2. They "reflect a commitment to a big idea" and to being "different in a big way."
  3. They are "intensely human" and are "acutely sensitive to the complexities of the human spirit."

It's a thoughtful and enjoyable read that should spark your genius as you think about new ways to set your company or organization apart.

Different Book


We win in business by standing out from the crowd in ways that make a real difference.

Cheers and happy reading!

Knowledge Leverage-ment

Greetings.  Recently I wrote about the importance of casting a wider net in our search for new and better ways to solve important problems and create meaningful business opportunities.  In that post I outlined eight great places to look for ideas, insight, and inspiration that ranged from our own "backyard" to other industries, disciplines, and cultures.  So let's start to spend a bit more time looking at each one, beginning with the easiest and most obvious–unlocking all of the genius inside our own companies and organizations.  I say "easiest" with a slight bit of trepidation.  Because while it seems logical for companies to assign a high priority to leveraging their own best thinking and practices, most don't. Instead, they allow knowledge and wisdom to remain "trapped" in business units, groups, silos, divisions, verticals, teams, functions, projects, programs, or whatever they choose to call them.  Rarely sharing, and building on, existing ideas that could support innovation and growth more broadly.  

But it doesn't have to be this way.  And, it doesn't have to be overly complicated. Sure, there's a lot of information and data floating around our companies.  And, not all of it is important to our growth and future success.  But there's real reason to believe that you and your colleagues are clever enough to be capturing your best thinking and using it as a starting point for even better thinking.  We're often told that the biggest obstacle is finding the time to capture our ideas. But that's merely a cop-out for an unwillingness to make our knowledge assets a strategic priority. Many leading businesses–like IBM, Adobe, Dow Jones, Salesforce, and Google–consistently win in their marketplaces because they understand the real value of knowledge.

Granted, the phrase "knowledge management" doesn't help to get people on board. After all, it isn't a name that really demonstrates the clear business value of what we are trying to accomplish.  Why waste your time "managing" information? Instead, we ought to call it knowledge or genius "leverage-ment" because our real need is to unlock the best thinking in our organizations and leverage it to create greater value for all of our problems and customers.  But even with a better name, we still have to do a few key things to really capitalize on our intellectual assets:

1.  We have to make capturing, sharing, and leveraging knowledge an essential priority and hold people accountable.

2.  We have to make it part of the life of our business.

3.  We have to create a simple system for capturing and accessing what we know.

4.  We have to make the system interesting, engaging, thought-provoking, up-to-date, user-driven, and consistently valuable.

5.  We have to build a culture of creating, sharing, and leveraging knowledge that includes idea and insight "forums" and learning events, greater collaboration across business units, and information sharing "awards" and incentives that demonstrate the importance of tapping our collective brilliance.

6.  We have to track and measure our effectiveness in "leveraging" knowledge.

KM 

We win in business by sharing what we know inside our organizations and using our "collective genius" to create greater value for customers. When was the last time you shared a great idea with a "distant" colleague?  Maybe it's time to get everything out in the open.

Cheers and have a great week ahead!