Awesome, Scary, or Something in Between

Greetings. Giant thanks to my dear friend (and wonderful consultant) Becky Ripley for letting me know about a remarkable innovation that might be a sign that the future, or the end of civilization as we know it, has arrived. All with the simple touch of a finger.

Yes, Tesco’s Homeplus store in Seoul, Korea has proudly accepted the crown as the world’s first virtual store that is actually a physical store. Sound a bit confusing? Well it certainly might be for those of you who think of websites like Amazon.com, Zappos, eBay, and Etsy as “virtual” stores, i.e., stores that exist in what most of us tend to think of as the virtual world of commerce. A place where our favorite products are only a few keystrokes and a UPS truck ride (or drone flight) away. A place where colorful images, clever descriptions, easy price comparisons, and the promise of free shipping enable us to buy anything from books to bicycles to trips around the world without ever having to leave the comfort of our offices or kitchen tables. But imagine walking into an actual store where you can simply touch a screen with pictures of actual products and then have your entire actual order, or the sum total of all of your touches, appear at the checkout counter packed in actual bags that are ready for you to actually take home.

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Amazing. Weird. Awesome. Scary. Or something in between.

I must admit that I actually like the act of shopping in a physical store. Though not all of the time. Yet there is something appealing about being surrounded by actual products as they compete for my attention. And there’s also something about being able to hold them in my hands and gauge their substance as I study their list of mind-numbing benefits, features, calories, and ingredients.

But maybe the folks at Tesco are on to a different way of experiencing products that is all about merging our growing love of technology and ease of buying with the human desire to still be out there in the public marketplace surrounded by other actual shoppers. Or maybe this experiment is simply a powerful reminder that in today’s economy there is no end to the variety of business models that we might imagine.

We win in business and in life when we challenge ourselves to do more than simply lift a finger. And when we never stop wondering how to deliver real value to a changing world of customers and technology.

Cheers!

Saved by a Drone

Greetings. Most of us have a slightly skewed image of drones. Until recently we thought of them primarily as remarkable and lethal weapons of warfare…sleek, stealth, and precise unpersoned aircraft that could be launched from literally anywhere with the touch of a single key stroke and sent into unfamiliar territory to blow up a building or a bad guy in a fast-moving car. And hopefully with little or no collateral damage. Just like in a video game.

More recently we have been encouraged to imagine them as the handiest of personal assistants, cleverly dispatching our parcels with the greatest of ease for companies like Amazon.com in their quest to use technology to meet an insatiable desire for ever quicker response times. Need a new book or Fido’s vitamins this afternoon? No problem. We’ll fly them from the closest distribution center to your front porch in thirty minutes or less.

Super cool. I guess.

But what if drones could do more than blow things up and deliver packages? What if they could actually save lives?

In fact, they can. And one awesome application of drone technology is the work of Alec Mormot, a graduate student in industrial design at TU Delft University in the Netherlands, who has created a drone with a built-in defibrillator that can not only be sent quickly to the aid of someone experiencing a heart attack but also give their companion clear and effective guidance on how to zap them back to life. Take a look at his innovation in the video below and you will quickly appreciate the power of this idea, the level of thought that has gone into every detail, and the greater potential for drones as tools for delivering remarkable good…

It strikes me that his idea is just a starting point for thinking about all of the ways that drones might be designed and used to provide emergency services that include medical care. And it might be a fun exercise for you and your colleagues to imagine how this technology might enhance the work that you do.

We win in business and in life when we see the real potential of technology in not only making things easier for all of us, but also saving our lives.

Cheers!

On the Road in Sweden

Greetings from Sweden. Those of you who follow this blog or have read “The Necessity of Strangers” know that I regard travel as one of the most remarkable ways to learn new things and stretch our thinking about how to reach our full potential as individuals and organizations. So during the next couple of weeks I will try to share some ideas, insights, and observations from my latest visit to the land of Vikings, Volvo, Skype, Spotify, and marinated fish. But before I get started it is worth noting that not everyone here in Sweden is blonde. Granted there are a lot of blonde Swedes, but many Swedes who have been here for countless generations have dark hair and there are a growing number of immigrants moving here from a wide range of not particularly blonde places. People who are bringing with them new ideas as well as new traditions, languages, religious preferences, music, foods, spices, and ways of doing business. It is simply becoming a more diverse place which poses challenges but also brings many new possibilities.

Swedes are really into technology and are innovators in many areas including IT and the internet, telecommunications, transportation, energy efficiency, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and medical technology, and even defense and aerospace. I use the word “even” in referring to defense and aerospace because Sweden has long prided itself on being a neutral country–a neutral country that creates and provides weapons to lots of non-neutral countries. And the Swedes also have a reputation for being quite concerned with automotive safety. They accomplish this in two ways. One, by engineering cars to be as safe as possible. In fact, for several decades Swedish automakers Volvo and Saab were widely regarded as the safest car brands. And two, by having strict societal pressure and significant penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol. As a result, a percentage of party-goers are automatically designated as non-drinking (alcohol that is) drivers who take on responsibility for driving their beverage-consuming family and friends home. And the hosts of parties throughout the country often provide a variety of special non-alcoholic drinks to make their experience a bit more palatable. On the engineering side the list of Swedish automotive safety advances is particularly long and includes three-point seat belts, side impact protection, car crumple zones, integrated child safety seats, and pedestrian detection systems. And I was struck by two interesting features of my 2015 Volvo xc60 rental car. It turns out that the car has a camera specifically designed to read every speed limit sign and to instantly post the speed limit clearly on the car’s speedometer the second that it changes. This helps drivers to stay continuously focused on the speed limit without having to remember the last sign that they passed. It also has self-adjusting high beams that turn themselves on and off when (a) another car is approaching or (b) the lighting environment changes (i.e., when driving into a town or city). This is pretty cool and makes it easier to focus on driving without having to continually be on the alert to turn off the high beams before blinding an oncoming driver. And there are probably a bunch of other things the car can do that I simply haven’t discovered yet. It is also worth noting that the highway department in Sweden has the ability to preempt every car radio to provide information to drivers on accidents or road closings along their way.

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We win in business and in life when we are continually innovating in ways that matter. And when we are all focused on traveling and driving as safely as possible.

Cheers!

The Power of Technology

Greetings. We all know that technology has the power to change everything…which makes it important for all of us, no matter what business we are in, to be continually paying attention to a range of “technologies” that are reshaping the world we live in. Here are five “technologies” that should be on all of our radar screens. And it might be a good idea to spend some time thinking about how you and your colleagues (i.e., the geniuses you work with everyday) might capitalize on them in creating more valuable products, services, and solutions, and delivering more remarkable customer experiences.

Mobile. Think smart phones and tablets, but more importantly think about how central they have become to all of our lives and how you and your organization can leverage mobility and create mobile applications to better engage all of your employees and inspire and empower all of your customers.

The Cloud. Think about new and more remarkable IT capabilities without costly investments in infrastructure, people, training, or even licensing new software. No matter how large your company or organization is, you now have the ability to redefine your business model and deliver and support almost any solution you can imagine.

The Internet of Things. Okay, so more and more everyday objects are being connected to the internet. Objects like cars, homes, security systems, and a growing variety of household appliances. And while your business might not have anything to do with “objects,” it does have everything to do with enabling employees and customers to control and make better use of their most important information.

Wearable Tech. A lot of people think that the next stage of mobility is wearable technology. From Google Glass to Nike Fuelbands to the rumored Apple Watch to diagnostic clothing. In the future many of us will be “wearing” a lot more technology and it is worth thinking about the real power of driving greater knowledge and diagnostic ability to our team members and those we have the privilege to serve.

Social Media. How well do you and your organization use social media to connect with, deliver value to, and gain insight from your employees, customers, and partners? Even the most traditional businesses understand the growing influence of social media as an essential tool in their success.

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We win in business and in life when we are open to new ideas and new technologies. And when we try our best to continually get with the program.

Cheers!

Real Innovation or Clever Marketing?

Greetings. The recent ad campaign for the new Adidas “Spring Blade” running shoe made it seem remarkable. In fact, I started to imagine that this might be the greatest innovation in the history and science of running since the actual invention of the shoe or the development of smooth pavement. A marvel of modern technology that could instantly transform me into an Olympic-caliber athlete the moment I laced them up. Be still my pounding heart!

And all because the folks at this leading athletic apparel company decided to rethink the way that running shoes might work by forming a sole with sixteen super high tech polymer blades (or springs) designed to create explosive energy that would literally launch runners (or in my case joggers) forward while requiring less effort. Blades “tuned” to provide perfect support in each phase of a runner’s stride.

The only real question is whether this is brilliant innovation or simply brilliant marketing. And if you have $180 to spend you can see for yourself on August 1st when they arrive at your favorite running store or online retailer. And please let me know what you think…because in the mind of this middle-aged athlete and technology enthusiast hope springs eternal!

Springblade 1

We win in business and in life when we capture the imagination of those we have the privilege to serve. And when we enable them to reach new heights of performance and success.

Cheers!