According to a study of 1500 CEOs, 8 out of 10 expect the business enviroment to grow in complexity. The CEOs see a lack of customer insight as their biggest deficit in managing complexity.
(…) many companies are turning to customer research that is powered by big data and analytics. Although that approach can provide astonishingly detailed pictures of some aspects of their markets, the pictures are far from complete and are often misleading. It may be possible to predict a customer’s next mouse click or purchase, but no amount of quantitative data can tell you why she made that click or purchase. Without that insight, companies cannot close the complexity gap.
In the rush to reduce consumers to strings of ones and zeros, marketers and strategists are losing sight of the human element. Consumers are people, after all. They’re often irrational, and they’re sometimes driven by motives that are opaque even to themselves. Yet most marketers cling to assumptions about their customers’ behavior that have been shaped by their organizational culture, the biases of the firm’s managers, and, increasingly, the vast but imperfect data stream flowing in.
Customers are people, after all… You need to understand their needs, and what motivates them.
In the past months, several apps like Secret or Whisper have appeared. These apps let you publish anonymously to friends in your circle or to the whole internet. Others, like SnapChat, let you send ephimerous photos and messages that vanish after 10 seconds of being opened by the receipient.
Is this one of those inflection moments where a new trend is appearing? Because this apps are growing millions of users. And established players didn’t see them coming. Otherwise, Facebook1 or WhatsApp would have developed some similar feature first.
Lowering the barriers to creating content
As Andrew Chen writes, the primary audience of any social product is a large group of passive consumers who just want to flip through cool photos, videos, tweets, and more, maybe commenting or linking a few they really feel strongly about2.
Content creation is in the heart of any social app. If it’s easy to create compelling content, then that content is quickly shared to other networks, driving viral growth back to its source.
In this context, anonymity dramatically lowers the cost of creating content. Share what you really think, without worrying about what other people will think of you.
Anonimity lowers the barrier for users to leave the network
Social networks, however, are all about connections, even if most of your connections are passive consumers of content. Saying things without being accountable may be fun for a while. Reading such posts may be cool for some time. But if you want to establish relationships and connections, anonymity may be an obstacle. (Does anybody like Facebook suggested posts?) And a less mentioned effect, anonymous posting also lowers the barrier for users to leave the network, because the bond between a user and her circle is weak. Such is human nature, anonymity does not help to forge relations or connecting with others.
Another obstacle, as Sam Altman explains, is that anonymous services tend to foster meanness3, which can make the service less atractive for mainstream users, or lead to more serious problems4.
Anonymity breeds meanness —the Internet has proven this time and time again. People are willing to say nice or neutral things with their name attached—they need anonymity for mean things and things they are embarrassed about. In fact, the closer to real identity internet forums get, the less they seem to decay. Anonymous social networks have been (thus far, anyway) in the category of services that get worse as they get bigger—unlike services like Facebook or Twitter that get better as they get bigger.
Growth Rate vs Churn Rate
These anonymous services are growing because they are new and original. Their growth rate is grater than their churn rate… for now. The question is if they can keep it that way before burning all their funding. Or getting acquired5.
Snapchat is different. The service is not anonymous. It just leaves no trace. (At least on the user side.) This makes it attractive for frivolity-based posting, or for privacy-concerned users. My bet is that Snapchat will continue to be a major player, while full-anonymous services will have a difficult time surviving.
It’s the Internet’s 1% rule, according to Wikipedia: A rule of thumb stating that only 1% of the users of a website actively create new content, while the other 99% of the participants only lurk. ↩
Chris Poole, founder of 4Chan, an anonymous community with several years of existance, says that anonymity facilitates honest discourse, creates a level playing field for ideas to be heard, and enables creativity like none other. (The anonymity I know). I think that 4Chan is an exception, and not a mainstream community. ↩
PostSecret, a similar service, decided to close in 2012 because abusive content —pornographic, gruesome, and threatening material— from a small group of users was overwhelming and causing users to complain to the company… and to the FBI. ↩
Maybe their business model is really growing a huge user base and selling it to a third party. ↩
Tags: anonymous, social networks, facebook, connectinos
Among other interesting data in the article, two interesting facts:
WhatsApp has nearly 500M users after 4 years of founding. (It took Facebook 6 years to reach that point.)
Monthly active users per employee at time of acquisition was 8 million users per employee, the most efficient in the market. (For example, Facebook has less than 500 thousand users per employee, and Snapchat less than 1.5 million.)
Om Malik is the founder of GigaOm and venture partner at True Ventures. ↩
Some people consider visibility crucial to their carrer. In this mindset, being visible at work is seen as highly important, and lacking visibility the direct path to career stagnation1.
It’s not that you shouldn’t care about visibility. Maybe you are an introvert and your company culture is somewhat outdated and favors extrovers. And it is true that sometimes we hear that a candidate for a position is not ready to be promoted because she lacks visibility. But being obsessed about visibility can lead to stupid behavior2.
What you should care is about your work, and how it is perceived. Perception is like reputation: it takes long to build, but can be blown away easily.
Outstanding work required
The first step is to ask yourself how good are you at what you do. Is your work outstanding? Do you take projects you don’t specially like, but are important to your company? Do you meet your deadlines? Do you step out of the line to do things that are needed but are strictly outside your responsibilities? Do you behave as a team player, calling the shots when needed? Do you give proper credit to your team when goals are accomplished3?
Next, you need to ask others for feedback about your work. Feedback is important, because it is difficult to judge ourself objectively. Ask your boss, peers, your internal and even your external clients if you think it is appropiate. The sum of opinions does not make a truth, but if most of the feedback you receive says you lack strategic thinking, chances are you lack strategic thinking. Know your weak spots and opportunities of improvement.
Even high-potentials need help. Marshal Goldsmith’s excellent book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There explains how highly talented people with fast-paced and succesful carrers may get stuck at some point because higher responsibility positions require not only to be an over-achiever and deliver constant results, but also leadership skills. And leadership skills cannot be improvised over a short time.
If you do this consistently, visibility will be a consequence of your work, not a goal to be pursued. If you don’t, chances are no amount of visibility will help you.
Perhaps a better question is Do you define yourself as an entrepreneur, but are working for your own business as an underpaid freelancer? You do if you are falling in any of these traps:
You hire the cheapest smartest person you can find for most of the work that needs to be done. That is, you do most of the work yourself.
You have no time to work on the business, because you are working in the business.
Freelancing and entrepreneurship require different mindsets, and have different growth models. If you are not comfortable delegating work but thrive doing things by yourself, chances are freelancing is your thing.
A Freelancer is someone who gets paid for her work. A good freelancer knows her value. She also knows that her work doesn’t scale: she can try to get more clients, but only up to a point. So, she tries to become better at her work, so she can charge more for it.
An Entrepreneur is someone who is building something bigger than himself. He knows that his time is finite and that it doesn’t scale, so he hires people to delegate any work that can be done by others. In order to grow his business, he needs not only a great product or service, but a business model that is scalable.
The reason to bet on the spread of large-scale low-cost education isn’t the increased supply of new technologies. It’s the massive demand for education, which our existing institutions are increasingly unable to handle. That demand will go somewhere.
Those of us in the traditional academy could have a hand in shaping that future, but doing so will require us to relax our obsessive focus on elite students, institutions, and faculty. It will require us to stop regarding ourselves as irreplaceable occupiers of sacred roles, and start regarding ourselves as people who do several jobs society needs done, only one of which is creating new knowledge.
It’s easy to take other’s opinions and make them our own. This isn’t hard. (…) We read but often we don’t digest. Reading involves effort; the more you put in the more you get out.
The same applies to conversations. We are so busy thinking that we understand the other person that we start thinking about what we want to say before they’ve even made their point. We’re not listening.
When it comes to taking the opinions of others and making them our own, we skip the thinking. We don’t do the required work.
Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson are known for 37signals. David HH is also the creator of Rails, the most used framework for Ruby web programming. I’ve read and enjoyed both Getting Real and Rework, their previous books.
This book shares practical experience about working remotely, taken from 37Signals and some other companies. The authors spend a lot of time explaining the benefits of remote work, the resistance one may encounter against it, and the most common excuses for not allowing remote work. That is, prejudices like that innovation happens only face-to-face, or that people can’t be trusted to be productive at home, or that company culture would wither away if remote work is allowed…
As a consultant I rely on remote work a lot. I think that a mix of remote work of some kind is in the future of many positions. But I have to say that I was disappointed by this book, specially after the expectations raised by the authors in the Introduction:
Above all, this book will teach you how to become an expert in remote work. It will provide an overview of the tools and techniques that will help you get the most of it, as well as the pitfalls and constraints that can bring you down.
This book will give you insights on remote work, but won’t help you become an expert, or give you much in tools and techniques.
The ideas that the authors share are not new. You don’t need to read this book to realize that interruptions are bad for your concentration and productivity1. The examples given of companies and their use of remote work are poor. The examples are real, but they barely descend to any detail about the implementation, or the problems encountered. More important, there is no mention of the impact of remote work on things like work climate, productivity, meeting deadlines, client satisfaction, or the bottom line. From a more conceptual point of view, a question one would expect to be answered by the book is what are the key factors for a position to be considered for remote work?
The authors often use 37signals as a self-reference for remote working practice. For example, at one point the authors mention than Jason (Fried) usually starts working at home at 7:30 a.m. and arrives at the office at 11 .a.m. Great, but Jason is the CEO of his own company, and as most CEOs do, he organizes his time as he sees fit. But how does this apply to a second-level manager of a big company? Or to a sales supervisor?
Many of the ideas mentioned, in my opinion, depend more on the company’s culture that on allowing remote work or not. 37Signals grew up being remote from the start, and has managed to remain a small workforce of great talented people. But established companies with years of operation and an established culture need more than good reasons to implement such changes, at least company wide.
To give credit to the authors, the ideas are not new now because both of them have spent many years preaching the virtues of remote work. ↩
(…) when you expect applause, when you do your work in order to get (and because of) applause, you have sold yourself short. When your work depends on something out of your control, you have given away part of your art. If your work is filled with the hope and longing for applause, it’s no longer your work —the dependence on approval in this moment has corrupted it, turned it into a process in which you are striving for ever more approval.
If it’s finished, the applause, the thanks, the gratitude are something else. Something extra and not part of what you created. If you play a beautiful song for two people or a thousand, it’s the same song, and the amount of thanks you receive isn’t part of that song.
Seth Godin, The Icarus Deception. How high will you fly?, p. 71. ↩
Tags: motivation, motives, recognition, incentives, work as art, great work