Category: Business

Feb
17
2011

Working While Sick

Categories: Business, Psychology

Nothing quite depletes a company like a viral germ spreading amongst its employees. When that happens, I see a curious phenomenon. There are two types of sick people:

  1. Those that still come into the office – either because they believe face-time is important or need to interact face-to-face with their coworkers often, like leading meetings.
  2. Those that stay home – either because they want to get better or they don’t want to infect others.

Personally, I would rather sick employees follow case #2. One person home sick means some loss of productivity, but it’s nothing compared to that person trying to follow case #1 and spreading the illness.

In high-tech companies, working remotely is becoming more & more effective. That strikes me as a healthy way to minimize the disadvantages of someone following case #2.

However, face-time can be an important political tool in certain environments. Those environments tend to be highly political and appearance-driven. You don’t see them in startups often, but they are usually a fact of life in large corporations.

If you work in such an environment, I hope you bring plenty of medicination to work. Common OTC cold medicines don’t cure the underlying illness, but they can at least minimize the symptoms.

Otherwise, stay home and get better. And make use of online communication and conferencing tools to stay productive, if you must.


Jun
24
2010

The Emotional Adoption Curve

You’ve heard of the Technology Adoption Curve, yea? In Marty Cagan’s book Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love, he references an insightful talk he had with Jeff Bonforte, then a VP at Yahoo! and now the CEO of Xobni.

Bonforte has a slightly different view of Geoffrey Moore’s Technology Adoption Curve. Instead of looking at just the psychographics of each user group, he adds an additional layer: the driving emotions of each user group. Here is how Bonforte’s user groups map to Moore’s:

The Lovers = Innovators
They purchase something new because they believe it is cool and feel passionately about it. Determining product or service offerings on them can lead to misleading results because their motivations are very different from the other groups.
The Irrationals = Early Adopters
They purchase something new because they are very frustrated with a problem this product or service aims to solve. Their purchase decisions are driven by the same emotions as the majority, but with more intensity. This means their purchase decisions are not always economically rational.
The Efficients = Early Majority
They purchase something new because it solves their problems in a practical way for a reasonable cost. Essentially, they are driven by the same emotions as Irrationals, but with less intensity. Thus, their purchase decisions are more pragmatic.
The Laughers = Late Majority
They purchase something because it is proven, readily affordable, and easy to use. Like the Efficients, they are driven by the same emotions, but at a low, muted level.
The Comfortable = Laggers
They feel their current solutions are good enough and don’t see a good reason to purchase new solutions. While they may have the same problems as the others, they don’t mind.

New technologies tend to attract Lovers and Irrationals alike. However, for the longevity of your business, you should target Irrationals and not Lovers. If you don’t distinguish between the two, you might accidentally build features for Lovers, leaving Irrationals unserved and disappointed. Why is that bad? As Bonforte puts it:

Lovers are the worst possible people in the world from a product manager’s perspective. …they mislead you one hundred percent of the way. Lovers buy a Prius because they like the battery technology.

On the other hand, Irrationals buy a Prius because they love the environment so much they’ll spend $22,000 over the benefit of the environment. They could just buy carbon credits and carbon neutralizers themselves, or they could get a motorcycle, but they overspend on the solution because they’re passionate about the problem they’re trying to solve.

…You really need the Irrationals to slingshot your business into the Efficients and the Laughers. Without that emotion from those irrational people you don’t get the passion that carries the product over the chasm.

If you have a new product, does it target Lovers or Irrationals? How can you tap into customers who care so passionately about the problem you’re trying to solve that they’ll pay a premium for your offerings?


Jun
21
2010

Business Scalability

Scales I’m obsessed with scaling.

Not in the technical, keep-the-Fail-Whale-away sense. In the business sense.

Every time I work on a particular business issue, I can’t help but think: “How can I scale this process?” What can I do to increase efficiency, to produce more with less effort?

This is, of course, rooted in laziness. As Carl Stoddard said: “If necessity is the mother of invention, then laziness must be its father.”

Have you thought about how you can be more lazy with your business? About how you can make your business operations more efficient?

Thinking About Scalability in a Service Business

To get you thinking about business scalability, here are some processes we’ve set into place for our web development agency, WebMocha. A service business like ours is different from a product business, so keep those differences in mind if your business is of the latter type.

Scaling Resources

Revenue potential in a service business is tied directly to your resource capacity. The more talent you have, the more client projects you can take.

However, resources are finite. So how can you scale your resources?

By increasing their productivity. This can be done through training & mentoring, providing them with efficient frameworks & methodologies, automating repetitive tasks, and removing roadblocks from their paths. Doing this well requires careful examination of their workflow, since a well-intentioned but unenlightened process addition can sometimes hurt more than help.

This is why service companies that have been around for years tend to be better than newer shops. Assuming they’ve been actively scaling their business, they’ve had more time to study and improve their methodologies. The result is more value for their company and their customers.

Scaling Clients

Another revenue driver of a service business is the number of client projects you can get. The more paid projects you have, the more revenue you are making.

However, finding customers is difficult. So how can you scale your clients?

By increasing the number of projects you get from existing clients. Since customer acquisition costs are high, if you can encourage current & previous customers to pay for your services again, you’ve skirted those acquisition costs. This requires providing high-quality work, personalized attention, thoughtful follow-up, going above & beyond, and an attitude of “we’re all on the same team” as opposed to “us vs them.”

Another way to scale your clients is to streamline the customer acquisition process. This requires exploring various channels and analyzing which offer the most efficient conversions. For some companies, it’s SEM. For others, SEO. Yet others, social media. For us, it’s the use of brand champions and word-of-mouth marketing. An analysis of our channels has taught us to focus on what works best. The other channels are de-emphasized: we do a little SEO and social media marketing, but no SEM at all.

What Can You Do?

Look at your business processes. Your resources, customer acquisition process, marketing tactics, inventory, distribution channels, etc. If you have the data, examine each one to see where you can be more efficient. If you don’t, instrument your processes to get some data. Or interview your employees to get some qualitative information.

Then you’ll need to think creatively. The answer isn’t always obvious. Talk to a mentor if you have one. Post a question on LinkedIn Answers or Bright Journey if you want outside help. Or even better, talk to your employees. The people doing the actual work will often have lots of good ideas. After all, this will be making their lives easier.

Then you can sit back and revel in your laziness.

Photo by: ~Brenda-Starr~


Jun
14
2010

Technology, Mobile, Internet Business, Digital Design and Web 2.0 Conferences

Got the itch to travel? And the desire to meet colleagues from other states? And perhaps catch an interesting talk or two? How about an industry conference?

Within the world of web startups and internet businesses, there are a dizzying number of conferences. I’ve attempted to list all of the major ones here. Upcoming dates are included if they’ve been announced. Many of these conferences have already had their 2010 events, so perhaps I’ll have to create this list again early next year to catch the 2011 events before they happen. If I’ve missed anything, please let me know.

General Conferences in the United States

South by Southwest Interactive

Next date: March 11-15, 2011 in Austin, TX

This event started as an Austin, Texas-based music festival in 1987 that added the film and interactive conferences in 1994, all of which have become some of the world’s largest industry events in their respective fields.

TechCrunch Disrupt

Next date: September 27-29, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

This was created in 2010 from the ashes of Michael Arrington and Jason Calacanis’ disbanded TechCrunch50 conference, to continue the vision of TC50 as a way to demo emerging Web 2.0 startups.

D: All Things Digital

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This was created by Walter Mossberg and Kara Swisher in 2003, and is held in Carlsbad, CA annually.

DEMO

Next date: September 13-15, 2010 in Santa Clara, CA

Venture capitalist Stewart Alsop created this conference in 1991 as a launchpad for emerging technologies. It has since changed hands, from Chris Shipley to Matt Marshall.

Voices That Matter

Next date: June 28-29, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

Created by the educational publishing company Pearson Education in 2007, these events emphasize opportunities for learning and networking from industry leaders.

Gnomedex

Next date: August 19-21, 2010 in Seattle, WA

This was created by former TechTV personality Chris Pirillo in 2001 as a single-track technology conference.

Supernova

Next date: July 29-30, 2010 in Philadelphia, PA

Created by Wharton professor Kevin Werbach in 2002, this event explores the transformation of computing, communications, business, and society.

ReadWriteWeb Summits

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

Created by the team at the ReadWriteWeb blog, these events cover a variety of topics, from the real-time web to mobile technologies.

Social Developer Summit

Next date: June 29, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

Started this year mediabistro.com and All Facebook founder Nick O’Neill, this event aims to unite social app developers to discuss solutions and best practices for building applications in the rapidly expanding social web economy.

Inside Social Apps

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

Created by the social media & gaming market research agency Inside Network, this event covers issues around the social app and gaming industry.

Virtual Goods Summit

Next date: October 12-13, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

Created by Charles Hudson of mediabistro.com, this event focuses on the emerging market opportunity for virtual goods and economies.

Startup Lessons Learned

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This event is designed to unite those interested in what it takes to succeed in building a lean startup.

BizConf

Next date: August 4-6, 2010 in Amelia Island, FL

This event is aimed at entrepreneurs, thought leaders, startup founders, and consultants.

The Founder Conference

Next date: August 17, 2010 in Mountain View, CA

This event was created to allow participants to network with other startup founders, find co-founders, improve their ideas and learn how to bootstrap.

LessConf

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This event covers topics ranging from startups to design to marketing to business.

Big Omaha

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This event was created by Silicon Prairie News (SPN) in 2009 and is held in Omaha, NE for entrepreneurs, innovators and creatives.

FailCon

Next date: October 25, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

This conference focuses on start-up failures and how to prepare & recover from them.

BizTechDay

Next date: September 18, 2010 in Seattle, WA

Next date: September 24, 2010 in New York, NY

Next date: October 23, 2010 in San Francisco

This event was started in 2008 by Edith Yeung after a conversation she had with Gary Marshall from the Small Business Administration, and aims to be a conference that inspires entrepreneurs to create and grow their business with the help of technology.

SF New Tech

Next date: July 20, 2010 in San Francisco

These are a series of regular events for startup entrepreneurs, VCs, journalists, recruiters, and others in the industry.

Startup Weekend

Next date: June 25-27, 2010 in Chicago, IL

Next date: September 17-19, 2010 in Edmonton, Canada

Created by Andrew Hyde, this event became a non-profit when Marc Nager and Clint Nelsen took over all operations. Ticket prices are typically much lower than other conferences.

Startup School

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This was created by Paul Graham in 2004 for technical entrepreneurs to learn about building startups.

Finance4Founders

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

Founded by Dave McClure & Dan Martell, this exclusive, invitation-only event is dedicated to educating and helping the next generation of internet startups around issues of fund raising, option pools, and term sheets.

Maker Faire

Next date: July 10, 2010 in Aspen, CO (mini event)

Next date: September 25-26, 2010 in New York, NY

This was created by Make Magazine to celebrate arts, crafts, engineering, science projects and the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mindset.

E3

Next date: June 15-17, 2010 in Los Angeles, CA

Created in 1995 by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) covers the video game industry.

DEF CON

Next date: July 30-August 1, 2010 in Las Vegas, NV

Created in 1993, this is one of the largest and oldest continuously-running conferences for the hacker community.

SF MusicTech Summit

Next date: December 6, 2010 in San Francisco

This event covers the music and technology space.

Hacks/Hackers Unite

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This was created by Rich Gordon, Burt Herman & Aron Pilhofer as a hands-on workshop to build storytelling applications on tablet devices. This past 2010 event was the first.

Lunch 2.0

Next date: Varies; there are lots of them

These events are informal gatherings organized by various companies who hold a short presentation, then break off for lunch and networking.

General Conferences in Europe

LeWeb

Next date: December 8-9, 201 in Paris, France

This was created by Loïc Le Meur in 2005 as a conference covering technology, the Internet, and entrepreneurism.

The Next Web

Next date: April 27-29, 2011 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

This was created by Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten, Arjen Schat & Patrick de Laive as a means to bring the professional web industry together in Europe.

O’Reilly Conferences

Web 2.0 Summit

Next date: November 15-17, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

This is an invitation-only conference where Internet executives gather to debate and determine business strategy.

Web 2.0 Expo

Next date: September 27-30, 2010 in New York, NY

Next date: March 28-31, 2011 in San Francisco, CA

This is a spin-off of the Web 2.0 Summit and has open registration.

Ignite

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This is run by local volunteers and gives presenters 5 minutes each to present their ideas to the audience.

Velocity

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This covers web performance and operations.

OSCON

Next date: July 19-23, 2010 in Portland, OR

This covers the vast open source industry.

Gov 2.0 Summit

Next date: September 7-8, 2010 in Washington, DC

This is an invitation-only conference that covers the intersection of web technologies and the US government.

Tools of Change for Publishing

Next date: February 14-16, 2011 in New York, NY

This covers technologies in the publishing space.

FooCamp

Next date: No new dates announced yet

This was originally created in 2004 as a joke by Tim O’Reilly and Sara Winge. More recently, topical Foo Camps have been held at various locations and by various organizers.

BarCamp

Next date: Varies; there are lots of them

This started in 2005 as a spin-off of Foo Camp and has evolved into a series of user-organized conferences and unconferences all around the world.

GigaOM Events

GreenNet

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This event covers green technologies and businesses.

Structure

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This event covers the cloud computing industry.

Mobilize

Next date: September 30, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

This event covers the mobile computing industry.

NewTeeVee Live

Next date: November 10, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

This event covers the online video industry.

Net:Work

Next date: December 9, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

This event covers the tools, technologies and practices shaping the future of work.

The Bunker Summit

Next date: No new dates announced yet

This is an invitation-only retreat for 150 selected executives to confer about creating new opportunities across industries.

Bunker Sessions

Next date: July 28, 2010 in San Francisco, CA (open source software in enterprise)

Next date: August 25, 2010 in San Francisco, CA (e-books and publishing)

Next date: September 29, 2010 in San Francisco, CA (mobile technologies in healthcare)

Next date: October 27, 2010 in San Francisco, CA (app marketplaces and TV)

These are a series of town hall meetings covering a wide variety of topics.

Carsonfied Events

Future of Web Apps Conference

Next date: October 4-6, 2010 in London, United Kingdom

This is a conference on the web development industry.

Future of Web Design Conference

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This is a conference on the web design industry.

ThinkVitamin Online Conferences

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

These are a series of online video tutorials covering a variety of topics.

UBM TechWeb Events

Interop

Next date: September 28-30, 2010 in Mumbai, India

Next date: October 18-22, 2010 in New York, NY

Next date: May 8-12, 2011 in Las Vegas, NV

This series of events covers a spectrum of IT and mobile technologies.

Enterprise 2.0

Next date: November 8-11, 2010 in Santa Clara, CA

This event covers technology and software in the enterprise space.

Cloud Connect Conference

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This event focuses on cloud computing and the cloud eco-system.

Environments for Humans Events

In Control Web Design Workshop Conference

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This event covers web design practices, trends and technologies.

CSS Summit

Next date: July 28, 2010 online

This virtual event consists of a series of videos covering CSS development techniques.

Web Optimization Summit

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This event covers web performance optimization techniques.

Mobile Technology Conferences

Mobile World Congress

Next date: November 17-18, 2010 in Hong Kong, China

Next date: February 14-17, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain

This event covers the mobile industry with an international audience.

Mobile 2.0 Conference

Next date: September 20-21, 2010 in Mountain View, CA & San Francisco, CA

Created by five entrepreneurs in the mobile space, this event covers on mobile applications, services, ecosystems, and disruptive innovations.

MobiSys Conference

Next date: June 15-18, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

This event is held by the ACM Special Interest Group on mobile technologies (SIGMOBILE).

APPCON

Next date: August 24-26, 2010 in Las Vegas, NV

This event focuses specifically on mobile applications.

Web Design Conferences

An Event Apart

Next date: September 16-18, 2010 in Washington, DC

Next date: November 1-2, 2010 in San Diego, CA

This was created by Eric Meyer and Jeffrey Zeldman in 2005 for passionate practitioners of standards-based web design.

WebVisions

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This was created by Brad Smith as an event to explore the future of web design, content creation, user experience and business strategy.

BayCHI

Next date: June 22, 2010 in Santa Clara, CA (eye tracking)

Next date: July 13, 2010 in Palo Alto, CA

These events are held by the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction (SIGCHI).

AIGA Design Conference

Next date: October 13-16, 2011 in Phoenix, AZ

These events are held by AIGA, a professional association for the design industry.

Computer Hardware Conferences

Comdex

Next date: November 16-17, 2010 online

This long-running computer expo has been in operation since 1979. It is now operated by UBM TechWeb. The next event will be entirely online.

CeBIT

Next date: March 1-5, 2011 in Hanover, Germany

This is the world’s largest computer expo. It was created as a spin-off of the Hanover Fair in 1986.

Computex Taipei

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This is the world’s second-largest computer expo. It was created by the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) and the Taipei Computer Association (TCA) in 1981.

Company-specific Conferences

Google I/O Conference

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

Google hosts this conference as a platform to present their latest products and technologies.

Facebook f8 conference

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

Facebook hosts this conference as a platform to present their latest features and technologies.

Apple Worldwide Developers Conference

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

Apple hosts this conference as a platform to present their latest products and technologies.

Microsoft MIX Conference

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

Microsoft hosts this conference as a platform to present their latest products and technologies.

Twitter Chirp Conference

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

Twitter hosts this conference as a platform to present their latest features and technologies.

Adobe MAX

Next date: October 23-27, 2010 in Los Angeles, CA

Adobe hosts this conference as a platform to present their latest features and technologies.

Props to: Casey Allen


Jun
3
2010

Business Idea Evaluation with The Innovator’s Scorecard

Need another way to evaluate your business idea? Thomas McKnight, author of Will It Fly? How to Know if Your New Business Idea Has Wings…Before You Take the Leap, has a robust method he calls the Innovator’s Scorecard. This scorecard rates various factors of your business idea to tell you if it is worth pursuing. Each factor is discussed in detail in the book, so if you would like to learn more about this method, check out the book.

An Excel version of the Scorecard is available. I’ve also created this online version of it.

To use this scorecard, type in a score for each feature into the Raw Score column. This score can range from -10 to +10, with -10 being the worst and +10 being the best. McKnight discusses each factor in great detail in his book. Purchase a copy if you would like to know more about any of them.

CriteriaRaw Score
(-10 to +10)
WeightTotal
Compelling unserved need

Does your product fulfill a lack of something required, desirable, or useful?

Explainable uniqueness

How unique is your product?

Sustainable differentiation

Can you sustain your uniqueness, or regain it if lost?

Demonstrable now

Can the customer touch, feel, taste, see, sense, or use your product right now?

Good competition

Are there weak competitors that validate your market, yet can be beaten easily?

Bad competition

Are there strong competitors that pose a real threat?

Compelling pricing possible

Could you offer your product at a good price?

Closable customers

Do you have any actual customers right now you could sell to, even before you have a product?

Quality of evidence of demand

Do you have good proof that there is a demand for your product?

Ahead of market

Can you deliver your product at the right time to capture substantial market share?

Ambush exposure

How likely are you to be ambushed by an unknown competitor? How defensible is your product?

“Hot Market”

Is there a wild, almost irrational demand for your product right now?

Attitude: confidence and fearlessness

Do you & your team have enough confidence in yourselves & your product to push no matter what?

Commitment

Can you & your team realistically commit yourselves to this product?

Staying Power

Do you & your team have long staying power, even if your product isn’t profitable at first?

Passion

Do you & your team have true, deep passion for your product?

Management Competence

How competent are you & your team in building and marketing your product?

Honesty and Integrity

Are you & your team known to have high honesty and integrity?

Success Ethic

Do you & your team have a record of achieving significant successes? Are you all capable of doing so?

Looking Good in the Lobby

Are you & your team presentable in fromt of investors?

Cash Flowing Now

Can you earn a cash flow now or very soon?

Revenue Model Swamps Costs

Will your business model allow you to earn real profits (revenues minus expenses)?

Delivery Advantages

Do you have any special relationships or privileges within your intended distribution channels?

Resources available

Do you have access to the resources you’ll need to launch your product?

Preemption & Domination

Would you be able to preempt your competitors and dominate some aspect of your market, value chain, distribution channels, etc?

Strategy to Penetrate Market

Do you have a strong strategy with which to enter into the market?

Strategy for Breaching the Chasm

After you’ve released your product, do you have a strong strategy with which to reach a general audience?

Proprietary Ownership

Can you attach enough value to your product that those who wish to own or use it think of you first?

Partnering Candidates

Are there good partnership opportunities that will give you an advantage without hindering you as well?

Appropriateness of Location

Does your company’s location give you any advantages in resources or customers?

Quality of back-up plan

Do you have a good, realistic back-up plan in case things go wrong?

Unfair Advantages

Do you have any significant advantages in your favor that competitors don’t have?

Manageable Capital Requirements

Do you need to raise an unrealistically large amount of funding? Or is it a manageable amount?

Low Cash Required Prelaunch

In the days & weeks immediately before the launch, do you need a large, or manageable amount of cash?

Visible Capital

Is your funding proven? Is it in the bank, or at least accessible to you with a good degree of certainty?

High Potential Value

Will your business have a high valuation after about five years of existence?

Foreseeable Harvest

How likely will a return on investment be possible for an outside investor?

Taboo

Does your product violate any ethical, societal, cultural, politcal, or environmental taboos?

Lack of Showstoppers

Do any foreseeable showstoppers exist to block your success?

Pretending not to Know

Are you or your team in denial about any threats to your success? Be honest.

High Profile Persons Available

Can you attract any high profile individuals as team members, customers, or evangelists?

Punchy, compelling story

Do you have a solid, interesting, and catchy elevator pitch?

Government Relevance

Can you gain any political standing or supporters in the government?

Low-Hanging Fruit

Do you have any easy wins you can make, such as prospective customers, rock star employees, low-cost resources, etc?

TOTALS

Grade:

After you’ve finished scoring your business idea, your final Grade will indicate the viability of your idea. If your grade is:

  • 80% or higher – You have a good chance of success, and your grade is high enough to potentially seek outside funding.
  • 70% – 79% – You have a decent chance of success. Examine each factor to see if you can improve its score.
  • 60% – 69% – You have a low chance of success. Examine each factor to see if you can improve its score.
  • 50% or lower – You should move on to another idea.

This scorecard isn’t only designed to give you a one-shot assessment of your business idea. As mentioned above, it also reveals the various factors that can significantly improve the success of your business. If you have a low score on any of these elements, consider revisiting each one and thinking of ways to raise that score.


Jun
1
2010

Business Idea Evaluation with The Product Opportunity Assessment

Want to know if your idea is worth pursuing? There are lots ways to determine this. Marty Cagan, author of Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love, outlines a lightweight method he calls the Product Opportunity Assessment. This document’s goal is to determine whether or not a particular product opportunity is worth pursuing.

Here is what goes into a Product Opportunity Assessment.

  1. Value Proposition: Exactly what problem will this solve?
  2. Target Market: For whom do you solve that problem?
  3. Market Size: How big is the opportunity?
  4. Metrics/Revenue Strategy: How will you measure success?
  5. Competitive Landscape: What alternatives are out there now?
  6. Differentiator: Why are you best suited to pursue this?
  7. Market Window: Why now?
  8. Go-to-Market Strategy: How will you get this product to the market?
  9. Solution Requirements: What factors are critical to success?
  10. Go or No-Go: Given the above, what’s the recommendation?

This sounds like a method entrepreneurs can use as well. It’s meant to be fairly basic, yet comprehensive. While it may not replace a full business plan for a VC presentation, seeing all of these factors spelled out and help you decide on your next product or business idea.


May
17
2010

Game Design and Business Design

Categories: Business, Marketing

Sid Meier You know who Sid Meier is, right?

Sure you do. He’s the creator of the infamous Civilization series, the turn-based strategy games that pit you against the computer and other players for utter world domination. It’s history class on crack cocaine.

As the Director of Creative Development at Firaxis Games, we have Meier to thank for our addictions.

How did he architect such engrossing worlds? By understanding player psychology.

Gameplay is really a psychological experience, and that this fact can make the game design process easier sometimes, but it can also make it more difficult for those in development too. [Meier] outlined several major “disorders” that players deal with: egomania, paranoia, delusion, and self-destructive behavior.

Ultimately, if the designer can make games that address these psychological issues, the player will feel much better, and the game most likely will be a much greater success as a result.

Egomania, paranoia, delusion, and self-destructive behavior, eh? Methinks the way Meier dealt with these disorders can also be borrowed into the business world. Let’s see how they translate, one at a time.

Egomania

First and foremost, the designer must recognize that the player is an egomaniac. The game is all about the player, not the designer.

The products you create are all about your customers, not you. They don’t care if you’re a nice person, spent all of your savings on these products, and help little old ladies across the street. If your products don’t solve their problems, or make them feel great about themselves, then they won’t purchase your products. Fashion designers know this. Charles Revson, co-founder of Revlon (REV), knew this very well when he said, “In our factory we make cosmetics. In the drugstore we sell hope.” Your business, and your products, need to be all about them, the customers.

Paranoia

Paranoia in the player is also something that the designer must be careful to avoid. Meier said that randomness in a game can trigger paranoia quickly because the player wants/needs to be in control of the experience.

Quality consistency is key. Customers aren’t going to stand for uneven and unpredictable solutions. What good is a product that turns left when the customer steered right? Who wants to buy wine from a vineyard where some bottles are a little too dry and others a little too sweet? Once a product’s credibility is shattered, it is very difficult to restore. If variety is part of your offering, like variety in flavors, colors, or tastes, that’s fine. But don’t vary in quality. Otherwise, your customers will not know what to expect when they purchase additional products, if they even do.

Delusion

Player psychology had nothing to do with rational thought.

This quote is from another source. You may think it unfair, but customers aren’t necessarily thinking in pure logic when dealing with your products. They’ll bring with them all of their preconceptions, misconceptions, and other mental baggage. These psychological issues will be the filter through which they view your products. You could be doing everything right, but if your customers perceive you as doing something wrong, then you are doing something wrong. So the key is to change those delusions into favorable perceptions.

Self-Destructive Behavior

It’s important to protect the players from themselves.

Can good products have unintended consequences? Sure they can. Look at automobiles a century ago. Before seat belts became standard issue in the 1950s, countless lives were lost in automobile collisions. To a car manufacturer, isn’t just a matter of ethics, it also means the permanent loss of customers. If your product has the potential to be harmful or fatal, it is up to you to protect your customers. The food industry is another example. By succeeding, they’re slowly killing their customers. They’re making some moves to reverse their predicament with healthy alternatives, but it’s doubtful this will be enough. In my opinion, it’s just good business practice not to kill your customers.

Player Psychology Drives Design

Like any good psychologist, listening is a crucial skill; Meier said that designers need to listen to what the player is really saying. The designer can’t take everything literally, but the feedback can be very helpful. … Ultimately, Meier said the designer’s goal is to take the player on an “epic journey” and psychology can be a great tool to do that.

Spot on, Mr. Meier. Ultimately, your products and your solutions should take your customers on an epic journey that is all about your customers, is consistently high-quality, encourages favorable perceptions, and cares enough about your customers to genuinely take care of them.

Via: Carsonified


Apr
15
2010

Map of Technology Competitors

Know what is totally awesome? The game Civilization IV.

There’s this feature in Civ4, called the Foreign Advisor, that displays a map of all the known civilizations. Between each civilization is a color-coded line to show the relationship between each civilization. White means they’re neutral, red means they’re at war, etc.

Looking at that screen, I thought it would be interesting to map out how some of the more prominent technology companies would compare. Here is what I came up with:

Color key:

  • Red – In direct & aggressive competition
  • Green – In some form of alliance
  • Gray – Neutral with each other

It’s interesting to see how many red lines come out of Google (GOOG). Looks like they’ve put themselves against just about everyone. The only one they don’t seem to be overtly competing against, and may be collaborating with, is Twitter.

AOL (AOL) also has quite a few red lines, though I doubt anyone considers them much of a competitive threat anymore. With their rumored Bebo sale, the lines between them and Facebook & MySpace (NWS) will probably turn gray.

Twitter, as far as I can tell, only seems to have one competitor in this diagram: Facebook. Both Google and bing (MSFT) / Yahoo! (YHOO) are indexing tweets in their search engines, so I assume their relationships are friendly. I wasn’t sure how competitive their relationship with MySpace is, so I assumed it was just neutral.

What do you think of this diagram? How would you color these lines & relationships?


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