About Disruption…

There is no place you can go nowadays without hearing the D-word. Disruption. Everything needs to be disruptive. We need disruptive companies, we need disruptive team members, our whole food consumption pattern was disrupted, everything and everybody needs to be disruptive.

The Next Big Thing

Something else you may hear quite often nowadays are discussions about the new way of work. Everybody agrees that the world has changed and that it will never be the same. As such, our working worlds have changed as well, and they as well are not likely to go back to what they were anytime soon. And we all seem to love it right? I mean, aren’t we all looking forward to who will be the next Google or the next Facebook? Will Apple be still as hot in five years time as they were in the final years of Steve Jobs (I am writing this on a brand new Microsoft Surface…, the one that replaced my iPad and Macbook Air). Will it be Elon Musk Inc.?

Everything we ‘predict’ about the next big thing is a prediction. And it should be handled with care as such. Nobody knows what will be next so nobody knows where you should really put your efforts and money in. So how do you prevent from being the laggard time after time after time? You need to be flexible. Or disruptive, whatever you like.

Disruption vs. flexibility

Being flexible allows you to be disruptive. Being flexible means it won’t take you months or years to change plans. And if it doesn’t take you months or years to adapt to new trends, you can actually be disruptive. Because you have the ability to switch gears in the fastest way possible and be ahead of your (new) competitors time after time. I mean, everybody knows the examples of Netflix, Uber and Airbnb. But shouldn’t they be questioning themselves where they will be in five or ten years from now? Sooner or later, Airbnb will become too commercial or too much like a chain. And sooner or later, Uber is going to have to comply with legislation, no matter how strong their legal teams may be. These companies seem very disruptive at first sight but it takes them just a few years to become part of the establishment as well.

I read a quote the other day that triggered me: “If you were to cross the Atlantic by boat and you either had the choice to touch the steering wheel once, or once every day. Which option would you pick?”. Everybody picks the second option as the change of failure is way too big in the first scenario. So what would it take to apply this principle to the world of business? You are a boat, the Atlantic is your market. You tell me how often you want to touch the steering wheel.

It’s The End Of Car Driving As We Know It

While I am still waiting to own my first electric car, the next big hype in the car industry is already upon us: self driving cars. The rumors have been going strong for a few years now and it seems we are just waiting for existing legislation to be modified before they are upon us. Cars that take you from A to B with you only telling your car where you want to go. There is however one other thing that still needs to happen and so far, only Mercedes Benz has shown it.

If you are no longer required to actually drive a car, there is also no need for a steering wheel to be present, nor the specific setup of chairs and backseat. In tegendeel. I would definitely opt for a more living-room-look-alike-setup if I had the choice. And if possible, I would still like the ability to put my chair(s), or sofa(?), in driving mode, to enjoy a few miles on the road.

But imagine how your trip to the office would look like if you have the ability to relax, sit down, check some emails, read a newspaper or well, why not, drink a cup of coffee. And all of that will your car will move you from A to B. No sudden stops, no heavy acceleration or stress as a result of other drivers. Imagine how you would press a button to switch your seats to relax mode or something similar, have them turn towards each other instead the setup you know today and you might well use your car for a meeting, a chat with a friend or for something similar.

I would want to have one!

Understanding the interface you work with

From time to time, I am designing websites. For fun, for friends, for learning purposes. It was recently that I learned a small but interesting lesson about user interfaces.

I had designed a website that had a slider on its homepage that showed the last three “featured” news articles. The setup was fairly easy. All the users had to do was to flag a checkmark “Featured” and upload an image that was big enough. However, it never took off, with me questioning what was the problem. PEBCAK? (Google that)

After some time, I decided to change the label of the checkmark from “featured” to “slider”. 10 seconds work.

But it worked. Apparently, the users never understood “featured” but did understand “slider”.

So, whenever you design a website for somebody, make sure they understand how the backend works. Speak their language.

Fear as a business model

Last week, Jay Z and some others announced their “rescue” of modern day music consumption. Tidal. Uh yes. Absolutely. Consumers are definitely waiting for another music subscription service. Especially one that serves them the music at truly high bitrates, rapidly consuming everybody’s data plans, against a fee that is twice as much as Spotify, while 90% of the market is consuming over low budget headphones anyway.

And why?

Jay Z and buddies feel they don’t get paid enough by companies like Spotify. Well, it is true of course that Spotify is making a whole lot a money so one could doubt whether their margins are too big. On the other hand: Beyonce bought Jay Z a $50 million private yet for fathers day. That is pretty much the amount that I would spent on a father’s day gift, multiplied by one million.

So they’re using fear as a business model. Their fear, to become less rich, drove them to do this. A marginally better service at a double price. A selfish-millionaire centric business model, not a customer centric one, with bitrate as the only differentiator. Call that innovation.

Presentations – New Style

Quite a lot of people have a love-hate-relationship with Powerpoint or Apple’s equivalent Keynote. And I can understand why. I have seen some truly fascinating slideshows, that really were able to get a message across. But more often, too much information is pasted into one slide, making the slide and its presenter totally irrelevant. Prezi did a good job a few years back by, sort-of, reinventing presentations, but in the end, their product is the same as the two mentioned earlier.

So what makes a good presentation good? It isn’t found in the slides. Nor the technology or the animations, or the lighting settings. It is the presenter that makes a good story. And what makes a good presenter good? His (or her) ability to get a message across.

So if there’s nothing in the technology used, why don’t we start with a blank sheet? Yes, that’s all. No images, no animations, just a blank sheet. Feel free to use a digital sheet, for example Paper or another tool, but start with a blank sheet. Start telling your story and use your iPad as a tool to give some additional explanations if required. not as your guidance if you’ve lost your storyline. You better learn that inside out anyhow.

I have yet to try it myself but am curious for the results.

Voice assistants – How to make them smarter

Nowadays, we live in and age where we’re accompanied by digital voice assistants. I own an iPhone and therefore have access to one of these creatures as well. Mine is known as Siri, speaks Dutch (but in beta) and I try to talk to him (beta stuff only has a male voice) every now and then.

And I have to admit Siri is quite good. There are however two suggestions I would like to see realized here:

  1. Connect voice commands. If I would ask you who the current president of the US is and who he’s married to, you would know that the second question relates to the first. Siri currently doesn’t, while this shouldn’t be that hard. I mean, while I am figuring out what to ask next about Mr. Obama, Siri could take a quick look at it’s internal Wiki page, summing up all the related information.
  2. Select language through voice commands. I frequently communicate in both Dutch and English and would prefer to be able to send out communications in both languages through Siri. However, Siri’s language can only be changed through the settings app. Wouldn’t it be cool to tell Siri: “Please switch to Dutch now”.

So, dear Tim, if you’re reading this, let me know if you think it’s worth trying.