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Book review: Mobilized

I recently read “Mobilized” by SC Moatti, “an insider’s guide to the business and future of connected technology.” SC Moatti is a mobile veteran from Silicon Valley, having developed successful mobile products and services at the likes of Nokia, Facebook and Trulia. Moatti makes the book’s intentions clear in the first chapter: with businesses increasingly shifting their strategic focus to mobile, there’s a need to create a truly mobile culture and mindset within the business. To help companies become mobile first, Moatti introduces the “Mobile Formula” which contains the three rules for successful mobile products:

SC Moatti

SC Moatti’s “Mobile Formula”, the three rules of successful mobile products – Taken from: https://www.leanplum.com/blog/mobilized-on-mobile/

The Body Rule – The best mobile products operate by beauty: Contrary to what one might expect, the beauty in mobile products isn’t about aesthetics, it’s about eliminating waste. ‘Efficiency’ is the keyword here and Moatti refers to the Birkhoff formula in this respect: M=O/C. In this formula, M is a measure of beauty, O of simplicity and C of complexity. Beauty will increase with simplicity and will decrease through complexity.

Measure simplicity through the “thumb test”: Ultimately, the best measure of simplicity is to create a product that’s easy to use by everyone. The so-called “thumb test” is a great way to test whether your product is easy to use. To pass the thumb test, a task should be easily completed by a user with a thumb of average size and without incidentally hitting an unrelated link, button or design element by mistake. Take a look at AnkiDroid for instance. The flash cards on AnkiDroid’s Android app make it easy to learn words in a different language, with clear buttons and calls to actions (see Fig. 1 below).

AnkiDroid-1

Fig. 1 – Screenshot of AnkiDroid – Taken from: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/6-flash-card-apps-for-android-compared-which-is-the-best/

Even the “thumb test” will become redundant (eventually): With voice command software like Apple’s Siri ,GreenOwl’s service TrafficAlert and virtual reality all being hands free, the thumb test will eventually become a thing of the past (see Fig. 2 below). Moatti argues that the principle underpinning the thumb test will still apply: beauty on mobile means that all user interactions need to work effortlessly and efficiently.

TrafficAlert

Fig. 2 – Screenshot of TrafficAlert – Taken from: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.greenowl.ta.android

The Spirit Rule – The best mobile products give us meaning: When describing ‘meaning’ in the context of mobile products, Moatti identifies ‘personalisation’ and ‘community’ as the two key factors that add meaning. One might argue that these two factors contradict each other, but Moatti makes compelling arguments for both. Firstly, ‘personalisation’ is all about the user feeling cared for, by giving the user total control of the mobile experience. Contrary to what one might think, recent research shows that mobile products create deeper bonds between users and their communities. For example, a study by Kyung-Gook Park at the University of Florida illustrates how mobile products make people feel more connected to those around them.

Building for meaning – Mobile products as extensions of our spirit: Moatti makes some great points about the use of internal and external filters to create mobile products with meaning. Internal filters, Moatti explains, can be as simple as our location or address book. These internal filters help in connecting users to their environment; using location or user based data to create a personalised experience for the user (see example in Fig. 3 below).

Personalisation

Fig. 3 – Personalisation through onboarding on Beats’ mobile streaming service – Taken from: http://www.appvirality.com/blog/personalization-in-retail-apps/

External filters come into play once it’s understood what users care about through internal filters. External filters allow the experience to be shared and enjoyed with other people. For example, a privacy policy is an external filter, in place to outline what a product can and cannot reveal about its users.

The Mind Rule – The best mobile products learn as we use them: The mind rule is the final component of Moatti’s Mobile Formula. Mobile products constantly adapting is of the essence here. This adaptation can happen either fast or slow. Messaging app WhatsApp is a good example of adapting fast. The team at WhatsApp have adopted a culture of ‘continuous learning’ where they learn from users and their behaviours on an ongoing basis, adding new features constantly. This is driven by a realisation that in order to keep up with the competition, they’ll need to adapt relentlessly.

In contrast, slow learning is all about breaking new ground, focusing on new users or launching new offerings. It basically comes down to taking one’s fast or iterative learnings to the next level; creating new mobile divisions to conquer a new target market or value proposition. Whereas an existing mobile product or business might not be the best place to explore new territory, due to a fear of alienating an existing customer base, a completely separate app might be a better place to do so.

Main learning point: “Mobilized” really made me think about how to approach the creation and improvement of mobile products. Most books on mobile products concentrate on design. The great thing about SC Moatti’s book is that it focuses on the mobile user instead, and provides great insights on how to best create a great user experience.

 

Related links for further learning:

  1. https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/using-mobile-apps-the-one-thumb-one-eyeball-test-for-good-mobile-design
  2. https://www.sciencenews.org/article/measure-beauty
  3. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sophiecharlotte-moatti/the-7-design-elements-of-great-mobile-products_b_8175942.html
  4. http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/6-flash-card-apps-for-android-compared-which-is-the-best/
  5. https://uxmag.com/articles/personalization-the-pillar-of-the-mobile-user-experience
  6. http://www.appvirality.com/blog/personalization-in-retail-apps/
  7. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sophiecharlotte-moatti/3-best-practices-to-get-c_b_5910572.html
  8. http://ufdcimages.uflib.ufl.edu/UF/E0/04/35/17/00001/Park_K.pdf
 

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Book review: ValueWeb

Chris Skinner – author of the bestselling book Digital Bank – recently published ValueWeb: How FinTech firms are using mobile and blockchain technologies to create the Internet of Value. The ‘”ValueWeb” covers the rise and importance of blockchain technology, describing it as a key technology for authentication and transactions. Skinner positions blockchain technology as a means to an end, with the ValueWeb being the ultimate outcome. The ValueWeb, being closely linked to to the Internet of Things, allows machines to trade with machines and people with people anywhere, in real-time and at virtually no cost.

The blockchain can be used as a shared ledger for shared economies. One of the things I liked about the ValueWeb book is how Skinner removes all sense of buzz around blockchains by stressing the fundamentals which underpin this new technology: “The blockchain creates a marketplace for globalised value exchange that is trusted, secure and irrevocable.”

These are the main things that I took away from reading Value Web:

  1. Mobile as an authentication tool – Skinner makes the point that mobile “makes invisible banking visible.” He also explains how mobile serves as a very effective authentication tool, based on four key mobile attributes (see Fig. 1 below).
  2. Africa shows the way to the future – The book’s chapter titled “Africa shows the way to the future” felt the most inspiring. In this chapter, Skinner zooms in on the success of M-PESA in Kenya. M-PESA is a pioneer with regard to facilitating mobile money transfers between people in Kenya, through mobile network operator Safaricom, a subsidiary of Vodafone. Through M-PESA, a mobile wallet, the mobile phone is acting as a ‘value exchange mechanism’, making it easy for people to send and receive money. M-PESA’s “agent network” is the key component here. Agents in Kenyan towns take money and text the agent in the location the money needs to be delivered. The agent in the receiving location gets the text message and then issues cash to the target recipient.
  3. Digital currencies –  The ValueWeb is based upon two key technologies. Firstly, mobile, which enables people to exchange value in real-time and facilitate real-time authentication (see point 1. above). Secondly, digital currencies, to provide a store of value to exchange. Bitcoin is the key value currency which started it all. The key thing to know about bitcoins, and the different variations of this cryptocurrency, is that it was the first ‘enabler’ of online value exchanges, conducted in real-time and at very low processing cost. Skinner offers a good overview of what the bitcoin is (see Fig. 2 below).

Main learning point: In “ValueWeb”, Chris Skinner does a great job of demystifying some of the buzz around blockchain technology and bitcoins. By focusing on the value that people can now exchange in real-time, Skinner paints an exciting picture of great opportunities that are are already starting to happen.

Fig. 1 – Mobile as an authentication tool, four key mobile attributes – Taken from: Chris Skinner, “ValueWeb”, p.  47

  • Tokenisation – You can check the customer is who they say they are by locating if they have a second token – a mobile registered to their account – with them.
  • Geo-location – You can geo-locate customers using location. For example, a company called XYVerify does this using telecom masts, rather than a mobile device. The system will establish a person’s location based upon where their signal can be located between different mobile transmitting masts.
  • One Time Passwords (‘OTP’) – You can authenticate who the customer is interactively OTP by text messaging. An interactive text or app-based OTP process means that mobile can offer a great second level authentication tool.
  • Mobile biometrics – Using mobile biometrics can become a very effective way to authenticate customers. For example, Banca Intesa in Spain was using mobile apps for iris recognition and Voice Commerce offer voice verification by mobile.

Fig. 2 – A quick overview of bitcoin – Taken from: Chris Skinner, “ValueWeb”, pp.  81-86

  • New bitcoins are generated by a network bode, and these network nodes are created each time a solution is found to a specific mathematical problem.
  • The people trying to solve these math problems are called miners, and each time they successfully solve the problem they create a new bitcoin.
  • This math challenge is so difficult to solve that there are businesses dedicated to this, with data centres running thousands of computers focused upon bitcoin mining.
  • The reason they do this is that each tine a bitcoin is created, the company or person who solved the problem receives 25 bitcoins, which were $250 each as of August 2015. Hence the bitcoin miners do this to earn virtual currency rewards.
  • Before you can buy any coins you must create a wallet to store them. You can do this by installing the bitcoin client, the software that powers the currency, or use an online wallet, where this data is stored in the cloud.
  • A bitcoin transaction is recorded on a public ledger system called the blockchain. The blockchain is a shared ledger system that means all of our bitcoin wallets can be see publicly.
  • No one knows who made the transaction, but the fact there is an electronic shared ledger ensures transactions cannot be made twice.
  • All confirmed transactions are included in the blockchain. This way, bitcoin wallets can calculate their spendable balance and can be verified to ensure they are spending bitcoins that are actually owned by the spender. The integrity and the chronological order of the blockchain are enforced with cryptography.

 

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Posted by on April 24, 2016 in Book Reviews, FinTech, Mobile, Technology

 

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Book review: “The Lean Enterprise”

Most of the product people or businesses that I speak to all seem to want one thing: to be ‘lean’. They all nod when you talk about wasting resources on making products that no wants to buy. They’ve picked up on the approach adopted by many successful startups who have got the capacity to learn and adapt rapidly to what customers want.

However, large corporations have struggled to adopt ‘lean’ practices and to create a culture in which the focus is on “continuous learning”. Are big corporates geared towards releasing products in small iterations and accepting failure in the process? Trevor Owens and Obie Hernandez have published The Lean Enterprise, which is about large corporations adopting a lean startup mindset and which provides practical tools on how to best do so.

Why The Lean Enterprise? What is it?

“Why do large companies need to adopt a lean attitude to product development?” is the first question that the “The Lean Enterprise” raises.  Here are some common characteristics of large companies :

  • Need to improve speed to market
  • Losing against faster, more nimble competitors
  • No room for innovation or quick response to market or consumer changes
  • A culture of “decisions take ages” or, worse, “things don’t get done around here”

I guess the main message which underpins “The Lean Enterprise” is that big businesses need to adopt “lean” practices which have been adopted by lots of (successful) startups.

“Lean Startups” (a term coined by Eric Ries in the eponymous book) are geared towards determining “product/market fit” in the quickest and most efficient way possible. “The Lean Enterprise” is all about big businesses becoming more like lean startups.

But can large companies really become leaner?

The main premise of “The Lean Enterprise” is that large enterprise can:

  • Create or acquire a company which is like a large company’s ‘lean playground’
  • Act like a “lean startup” by applying lean startup practices

I agree with Owens and Hernandez’ point that large corporations at their core are not geared towards fast pace innovation. To overcome this, the book suggests creating an “Innovation Colony” via internal incubation, acquisition or investment:

“An innovation colony is an outpost where entrepreneurially minded employees and talented marketers, engineers, and designers from outside the enterprise can build new products and services, bring them to market and, share in the fruits of their success.”

However, the idea of an “Innovation Colony” seems to be closely modeled to “Skunkworks”, which dates back to the Fifties. The Skunkworks concept has had varying degrees of success. Even if large businesses succeed in creating an autonomous unit, I wonder if the mindset and autonomy is really there for these skunkworks to launch great innovative products.

How do you inject a lean mindset of experimentation and ‘failing fast’ into organisations that have a long lasting legacy of a slow speed to market or a well ingrained culture of bureaucracy. The Lean Enterprise provides a lot of detail around lean concepts such as “product / market validation” and “innovation thesis”, but I wish it could have elaborated more on the mindset required to be be truly lean and autonomous.

I wonder if it might not be easier to create a lean mindset in-house and across the organisation, rather than going down the route of creating a skunkworks unit where the large company issues might still resurface. I would love to know more about how to best tackle some of the aforementioned problems ‘at source’ and at scale.

How do you transform a large company with an ‘oil tanker mindset’ into a nimble speed boat? What does it take to get people to buy into such a transformation? I expected The Lean Entrepreneur to focus more on such questions, as I am just not convinced that creating an Innovation Colony is the best way to making large companies more lean. Having listened recently to a talk by Shah Shelbe in which he spoke about introducing an entrepreneurial mindset into large corporates such as Boeing, I’m curious to find out more about best ways to transform cultures and mentalities of large companies, making them more nimble and entrepreneurial.

https://i1.wp.com/ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41dh-HPHrlL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

 
 

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Book review: “User Story Mapping”

Three years ago I wrote about Jeff Patton’s “Story Mapping”. I described this technique as a great tool to help design and develop products (see Fig. 1 below for a good example of a Story Map). Jeff Patton has now written a book about this technique, titled “User Story Mapping”.

Patton is a well-known user experience (‘UX’) specialist. He starts “User Story Mapping” by stating that “story maps are for breaking down big stories as you tell them.” His point is about telling stories instead of concentrating solely on what should be written. Patton subsequently explains about “talk and doc”; this technique helps you to externalise your thinking as you map the different stories.

“User Story Mapping” then goes on to describe the aspects involved in mapping user stories – taking an idea, mapping it and talking about it:

  1. Frame your idea – For me, the ability to put structure around your product idea is one of the most important benefits of Patton’s story mapping technique. Patton urges us to focus on “desired outcomes” for a specific group of customers and users (see Fig. 2 below). Once you’ve gone through the exercise of figuring out what to build, for whom and why, it should be much easier to prioritise development work. As Patton explains, the ultimate goal is “to minimise the amount we build.”
  2. Breadth over depth –  Patton recommends focusing on the breadth of a story first, before delving into the depth of it. This means starting with mapping big activities first, and then breaking these down into smaller, more detailed stories. I’ve included a good real-life example from the book in Fig. 3 below. After covering breadth, you can then start exploring details and options per individual user story: What are the specific things my target user would do here? What are alternative things they could do? What would make it really cool? What about when things go wrong?
  3. The backbone organises the story map – With a story map, one typically starts with a “backbone”, which is formed at the top of the map. One level can be a basic and high level flow of the story. When this first flow gets too long, you can use the row below to summarise some of the stories.
  4. Focus on outcomes – For me, the key of “User Story Mapping” is the point that Patton makes about focusing on outcomes instead of features. “Focus on outcomes – what users need to do and see when the system comes out – and slice out releases that will get you those outcomes.” He then goes on to stress that the secret to prioritisation is to prioritise outcomes and not features.
  5. Minimum viable product – Paton takes a leaf out of Eric Ries‘ book by talking about what makes a “Minimum Viable Product” (‘MVP’). You can see how you can use story maps to slice out stories to make up an MVP. Patton debunks the myth that MVP stands for “the crappiest product you could possibly release.” By contrast, Patton reminds us that the MVP is “the smallest product release that successfully achieves its desired outcomes.” Also, an MVP is the smallest thing you can create or do to prove or disprove a (risky) assumption.
  6. Start by discussing your opportunity – The first story discussion should be about framing the opportunity, suggests Patton. This is very much akin to the “opportunity assessment”, which product guru Marty Cagan introduced a number of years ago. An important part of this initial assessment of the opportunity is to establish whether the problem that you’re looking to solve really exists (see Fig. 5 below).
  7. Exposing risk in the story map – For me, being “Lean” is all about managing risk. User story mapping can help you to identify and mitigate risk early on in the product development process. Story maps are a great way to make risks visible (see Fig. 6 below) and serve as a starting point for a conversation about how to best manage risk.
  8. How to create a story map? – Chapter 5 of “User Story Mapping” is all about how to go about creating a story map. Patton provides a good overview of the steps involved in creating a story map as part of a collaborative process. I’ve listed these steps in Fig. 7 below.
  9. It’s about the conversation! – So you’ve created a story map, so what!? I’ve learned over the last few years that the critical part of creating a user story map is the conversation around it. Getting the right people in the room to create a shared understanding of the user problem(s) to address is a critical first step. The next, but equally important step, is to use the story map is a reference point for conversation and collaboration. Patton provides a very useful “checklist of what to really talk about”, which I’ve included in Fig. 8 below.

Main learning point: User story mapping is a great tool for anyone who wants to create a structure and conversation around a user problem or a product idea. Jeff Patton’s technique makes you take a step back and think through the problem(s) you’re looking to solve. “User Story Mapping” thus provides a very valuable framework to anyone involved in product development.

Fig. 1 – Example of a User Map – Taken from: http://www.barryovereem.com/the-user-story-mapping-game/

UserStoryMap

Fig. 2 – Frame your idea – Taken from: Jeff Patton – User Story Mapping, pp. 8-11

  • What is it?
  • Why build it?
  • What will happen when you do?
  • Type of users?
  • Types of activities people would use the product for?

Fig. 3 – “Mimi’s Big Story” – Taken from: Jeff Patton – User Story Mapping, p. 13

At the top of the user story map you’ll see big activities like:

  • Signing up
  • Changing my service
  • Viewing my band stats
  • Publicising a show
  • Viewing promotions online

“Publicising a show” was a big thing. It broke down into these steps arranged left to right underneath the “Publicising the show” card.

  • Start a show promotion
  • Review the promo flyer Mimi created for me
  • Customise the promo flyer
  • Preview the promo flyer I created

Fig. 4 – Anatomy of a User Story Map – Taken from: http://www.slideshare.net/bradswanson/lean-startup-story-mapping-awesome-products-faster

lean-startup-story-mapping-awesome-products-faster-15-638 Fig. 5 – Start by discussing your opportunity – Taken from: Jeff Patton – User Story Mapping, pp. 38

  • What is the big idea?
  • Who are the customers?
  • Who are the users?
  • Why would they want it?
  • Why are we building it?

Fig. 6 – Adding risk stories to make risk visible – Taken from: http://www.slideshare.net/AgileME/jason-jones-agileme2015

user-stories-and-user-story-mapping-by-jason-jones-11-638

Fig. 7 – Creating a story map – Taken from: Jeff Patton – User Story Mapping, pp. 67 – 77

  1. Write out your story a step at a time – Start with user tasks; how do you expect people to use your product or software to achieve their goals?
  2. Organise your story – Organise your stories in a left-to-right flow with what you did first on the left, and what you did later on the right. Maps are organised left-to-right using a narrative flow: this is the order in which you’d tell the story.
  3. Explore alternative stories – Once you’ve got a basic narrative flow in place, you’d want to consider edge cases, alternatives, exceptions and capture these in stories. In other words: your basic narrative flow forms the “backbone” or a “happy path”, and the alternative stories are in the “body” of a story map.
  4. Distill your map to a backbone –  At this stage, your user story map is likely to look pretty wide and expansive. This is a good point to take a step back and identify clusters of stories that go together. Creating a backbone of your story map is about grouping stories. Patton refers to these groupings as “activities”. These activities aggregate tasks directed at a common goal. Activities and high-level tasks form the backbone of a story map.
  5. Slice out tasks that help you reach a specific outcome – This is the bit where you focus on a specific outcome and where you extract those tasks and related details relevant to the outcome.

Fig. 8 – A checklist of what to really talk about – Taken from: Jeff Patton – User Story Mapping, pp. 104 – 107

  • Really talk about who – Don’t just talk about “the user.” Be specific. Talk about which user you mean.
  • Really talk about what – Start the user stories with user tasks – the things that people want to do with my product.
  • Really talk about why  Talk about why the specific user cares. Talk about why other users care. Talk about why the user’s company cares. Talk about why business stakeholders care.
  • Talk about what’s going on outside the software – Talk about where people using your product are when they use it. Talk about when they’d use the product, and how often.
  • Talk about what goes wrong –  What happens when things go wrong? What happens when the system is down? How else could users accomplish this? How do they meet their needs today?
  • Talk about questions and assumptions – Take time to question your assumptions. Do you really understand your users? Is this really what they want? Do they really have these problems? Also question your technical assumptions. What underlying systems do we rely on? Do they really work the way we think? Are there any technical risks we need to consider?
  • Talk about better solutions – The really big win comes when those in a story conversation discard some original assumptions about what the solution should be, go back to the problem they’re trying to solve, and then together arrive at a solution that’s more effective and economical to build.
  • Talk about how – Talk about the “how” as well as about the “what”. Patton explains the risk of people assuming that a particular solution or the way it’s implemented is a “requirement.” Without explicitly talking about “how”, it’s difficult to think about the cost of the solution. Because, if a solution is too expensive, then it may not be a good option.
  • Talk about how long – Ultimately, we need to make some decisions to go forward with building something or not. And it’s tough to make this sort of buying decision without a price tag. For software, that usually means how long it’ll take to write the code.
 

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Book review: “The Emotional Life of Your Brain”

In 2012, Richard J. Davidson, Ph.D. with Sharon Begley, published The Emotional Life of Your Brain. Davidson is a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “The Emotional Life of Your Brain” explores how the unique patterns of our brain affect the ways in which we think, feel and live – and how we can change these ways.

Six dimensions of the so-called “Emotional Style” form the core of “The Emotional Life of Your Brain”. Davidson describes an “Emotional Style” as “a consistent way of responding the experiences of our lives”. He makes the point that these responses are governed by specific, identifiable brain circuits and which can be measured as such. In other words, each person has an overall Emotional Style which is comprised of six different dimensions. These dimensions can influence the occurrence of feeling certain emotional states and ways in which we respond to life events.

The bulk of book is dedicated to explaining the six dimensions which make up one’s Emotional Style, investigating how these dimensions emerge, evolve and affect how we respond. Let’s have a closer look at these  six dimensions which comprise the Emotional Style:

  1. Resilience – How do you usually respond to setbacks or meltdowns? Do you carry on despite the setback or do you give up and surrender? People at one extreme of the “Resilience” dimension are Fast to Recover from adversity; those at the other extreme are Slow to Recover, crippled by adversity.
  2. Outlook – The “Outlook” dimension refers to one’s emotional disposition. Do you manage to maintain a positive outlook on life or do you tend to be more cynical and pessimistic, struggling to see any positives? People at one extreme of the Outlook dimension can be described as Positive types whilst those at the other extreme can be described as Negative types.
  3. Social Intuition – The ability to pick up on other people’s mental and emotional states is key to the “Social Intuition” dimension. Can you read people’s body language? Are you able to pick up on the signals that people give off, indicating for example that they are stressed or bored? Those at one extreme on the Social Intuition spectrum are Socially Intuitive types. Those at the other end of the spectrum are the Puzzled types.
  4. Self-Awareness – Are you aware of your own thoughts and feelings and attuned to the messages that your body sends you? Or do you act or respond without really knowing why? At one extreme of the “Self-Awareness” dimension are the people who are Self-Aware and at the other end the people that are Self-Opaque.
  5. Sensitivity to Context – The Sensitivity to Context dimension is all about being sensitive to a specific situation or context, understanding which behaviour is appropriate and which is not. Are you able to pick up on conventional rules of interaction or are you surprised when people tell you that your behaviour is inappropriate? People at one end of the Sensitivity to Context spectrum are Tuned In and those at the other end are Tuned Out.
  6. Attention – How sharp and clear is your focus? The “Attention” style hones in on people’s ability to stay focused and ignore any distractions. Are you so caught up in what you are doing that you do not notice anything that is happening around you? Or do you tend to flit between thoughts or emotions, unable to hold on to anything long enough? At one end of the Attention spectrum are people with a Focused style; at the other, those who are Unfocused.

In subsequent chapters of “The Emotional Life of Your Brain”, Davidson explores areas such as assessing your own Emotional Style and how your style – and its underlying dimensions – develop. The book’s chapters on “Assessing Your Emotional Style” and “The Brain Basis of Emotional Style” form in my opinion the heart of Davidson’s findings on Emotional Style.

In the chapter on “Assessing Your Emotional Style”, the book provides readers with ways to assess the different dimensions that form their Emotional Style. Davidson provides specific statements and scenarios to enable readers to find out where they sit on the spectrum of the different dimensions (see sample statements and scenarios in Fig. 1 below). He also provides more context around the various dimensions, explaining their role and significance in relation to one’s emotional responses.

One of the main points that Davidson makes in relation to the dimensions of the Emotional Style is that each dimension reflects activity in specific, identifiable brain circuits. Each dimension has two extremes. For example, the Outlook dimension has a Positive and Negative extreme (see the “Outlook” dimension above). These extremes are usually the result of heightened or reduced activity in the relevant brain circuits.

In the chapter on “The Brain Basis of Emotional Style”, the book delves into the specific parts of the brain that ‘power’ each dimension. For example, the left prefrontal cortex and amygdala allow the brain to bounce back from an upsetting experience, thus enabling people to be resilient (see the “Resilience” dimension above). The book contains numerous pictures of relevant brain circuits (see Fig. 2 for a sample illustration of the workings of the Resilient Brain) and explores in subsequent chapters what can be done to influence the activity in these brain circuits.

Main learning point: The Emotional Life of Your Brain is a fascinating book and a good read for anyone interested in understanding more about the inner workings of our brains and how we respond emotionally in certain situations.


Fig. 1 – Sample statements and scenarios per dimension of the Emotional Style – Taken from: “The Emotional Life of Your Brain” by Richard J. Davidson, Ph. D., with Sharon Begley, Chapter 3, pp. 43 – 66

The Resilience dimension

The Resilience dimension is very much about how quickly or slowly people recover from setbacks.

  • When I have experienced profound grief, such as the death of someone close to me, it has interfered with my ability to function for many months.
  • If I make a mistake at work and get reprimanded for it, I can shrug it off and take it as a learning experience.

The Outlook dimension

The capacity to remain upbeat and to sustain positive emotion over time is the key measure of the Outlook dimension of your Emotional Style.

  • When evaluating a coworker, I focus on details about which areas he needs to improve rather than on his positive overall performance.
  • I believe the next ten years will be better for me than the last ten.

The Social Intuition dimension

This dimension of the Emotional Style looks at the extent to which a person’s social intuition is developed; how attuned are they to nonverbal cues from other people?

  • I often find myself noting facial expressions and body language.
  • I find it uncomfortable when someone I barely know looks directly into my eyes during a conversation.

The Self-Awareness dimension

Self-Awareness is all about being in touch with one’s feelings and thoughts. Some people have a hard time “feeling” their feelings whilst others are acutely conscious of their thoughts and feelings.

  • I am strongly oriented to the external world and rarely take note of what’s happening in my body.
  • I am usually sure enough about how I am feeling that I can put my emotions into words.

The Sensitivity to Context dimension

Sensitivity to the rules of social engagement and the capacity to regulate our emotions and behaviour accordingly varies enormously among people.

  • I have frequently been reminded when in public to avoid mentioning the names of people who might be around.
  • When I am in a public setting like a restaurant, I am especially aware of modulating how loudly I speak.

The Attention dimension

The Attention dimension is about one’s ability to focus, explaining how focused people can concentrate despite emotion-laden intrusions, whilst the unfocused cannot.

  • I can concentrate in a noisy environment.
  • My attention tends to get captured by stimuli and events in the environment, and it is difficult for me to disengage once it happens.

Fig. 2 – Sample illustration of the Resilient Brain – Taken from: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/reading-between-the-headlines/201309/violence-the-media-and-your-brain

 

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Resilience: Signals from the prefrontal cortex to the amygdala, and from the amygdala to the prefrontal cortex, determine how quickly the brain will recover from an upsetting experience. Taken from: “The Emotional Life of Your Brain” by Richard J. Davidson, Ph. D., with Sharon Begley, Chapter 4, p. 71

 
 

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Book Review: “Big Bang Disruption”

After reading “Crossing the Chasm” by Geoffrey A. Moore, I read “Big Bang Disruption: Strategy in the age of Devastating Innovation” by Larry Downes and Paul Nunes.

I could stop the book review right here by saying that the product lifecycle of a traditional product looks very different to that of a “Big Bang Disruptor”. The traditional market adoption model looks more like a Bell curve, whereas the Big Bang adoption model looks more like a cliff (see Fig. 1 below). Let’s delve into the characteristics of a “Big Bang Disruptor” a bit more:

  1. What defines a “Big Bang Disruptor”? – The book mentions three broadly defined characteristics which define a “Big Bang Disruptor”: (1) Undisciplined Strategy (2) Unconstrained Growth and (3) Unencumbered Development. The words “undisciplined”, “unconstrained” and “unencumbered” clearly indicate that Big Bang Disruptors don’t follow the stages of the traditional market adoption model. Forget about the gradual steps from “early adoption” to “market maturity”, it’s very much about entering the market with a big bang (see Fig. 2 below).
  2. Four stages of Big Bang disruption – The book talks about the four stages of Big Bang disruption: “Singularity”, “Big Bang”, “Big Crunch” and “Entropy”. The main thing I learned in this respect is the extremely rapid growth and decline patterns which characterises most Big Bang Disruptors.
  3. Customer focus – It was interesting to read in “Big Bang Disruption” about the changed role of the customer. Not only is the customer closely involved in product development (“experimentation”), the customer also actively drives marketing rather than the other way around (see Fig. 4 below). As I highlighted above, Big Bang Disruptors totally disrupt traditional market wisdom (see Fig. 5 below).

Main learning point: “Big Bang Disruption” is a great book that will help you to better understand the rapid rise (and decline) of certain companies. The book does a good job in explaining common characteristics of Big Bang Disruptors, showing how traditional market strategies are slowly becoming redundant.

Fig. 1 – Big Bang Market Adoption vs ‘Classic’ product lifecycle – Taken from: http://www.accenture-blogpodium.nl/tag/big-bang-disruption/

Accenture-Big-Bang-Market-Adoption-Graph-large

Fig. 2 – Characteristics of a Big Bang Disruptor – Taken from: Larry Downes and Paul Nunes – Big Bang Disruption

  • Undisciplined Strategy – Undisciplined Strategy means that, rather than concentrating one’s market entry strategy on a specific aspect – operational excellence, product leadership or customised offerings – Big Bang Disruptors will try to compete on all three strategic values at one. They will offer products or services that are both better and cheaper than the incumbents.
  • Unconstrained Growth – As highlighted in Fig. 1 above, the typical growth pattern of a Big Bang Disruptor is nearly vertical, a “winner takes all” model. This is in stark contrast with the more traditional Bell curve whereby growth tends to be more gradual. Big Bang Disruptors are typically fast-cycle products that often don’t have “early adopters”. Instead, there are effectively two user groups: “trial users” (who are closely involved in product development) and “everyone else”. Unconstrained Growth comes down to faster growth but also rapid obsolescence, hence the “cliff” like shape of the Big Bang model (see Fig. 1 above).
  • Unencumbered Development – In the book, Downes and Nunes describe a Big Bang Disruptor as “simply an experiment that goes very well”. They explain how the availability of off-the-shelve components enables companies to quickly build and launch a whole range of products, and see which of these products takes hold.

Fig. 3 – The four stages of big bang disruption – Taken from: Larry Downes and Paul Nunes – Big Bang Disruption

  • The Singularity – The key characteristic of this phase is the amount of failed product experiments which signal the change that’s about to arrive.
  • The Big Bang – Users abandon old products in favour of new products and services.
  • The Big Crunch – This phase signals a quick implosion of Big Bang Disruptors. At this stage, innovation becomes incremental and growth slows.
  • Entropy – This is the last phase of dying industries and the stage is set for the next bunch of disruptors to enter the market.

Fig. 4 – Comparison of conventional wisdom against Big Bang wisdom – Taken from: http://brandgenetics.com/big-bang-disruption-speed-summary/

12 rules of big bang

 

Fig. 5 – The 12 Rules of Big Bang Disruption – Taken from: Larry Downes and Paul Nunes – Big Bang Disruption

  • Rule 1. Consult Your Truth-Tellers Find industry visionaries who see the future more clearly than you do, and who won’t sugarcoat it even when you want them to.
  • Rule 2. Pinpoint Your Market Entry  Learn to separate the little bumps from the Big Bangs,choosing just the perfect moment to enter a new ecosystem.
  • Rule 3. Launch Seemingly Random Market Experiments – Practice combinatorial innovation directly in the market, collaborating with suppliers, customers, and investors – who may be one and the same.
  • Rule 4. Survive Catastrophic Success  Prepare to scale up from experiment to global brand in the space of months, if not weeks, and to redesign your technical and business architecture even while running at full speed. Watch for emerging standards that signal the maturing of winning technologies
  • Rule 5. Capture Winner-Take-All Markets  Sacrifice everything, including short-term profits, to ensure victory in winner-take-all markets, especially when success with one disruptor can be leveraged into follow-on products that can be created and launched even faster than the original.
  • Rule 6. Create Bullet Time  Judiciously employ litigation and legislation to slow the progress of disruptors, even as you proceed with your own experiments, partnerships, and well-timed acquisitions.
  • Rule 7. Anticipate Saturation  When consumers adopt and then abandon new products and services all at once, it’s essential not to be caught with excess capacity or inventory. You need to anticipate saturation before it happens and to scale down as quickly as you scaled up. Poorly timed purchases – whether of raw materials, inventories, or of companies whose value is about to peak – can wreak havoc with your balance sheet.
  • Rule 8. Shed Assets Before They Become Liabilities  As one generation of disruptors fades, related assets -factories, distribution networks, and intellectual property – can lose value, gradually and then suddenly. Knowing the right time to sell, and to whom, can mean the difference between your ability to develop the next disruptor and bankruptcy. Knowing which assets to keep for the next cycle of innovation is equally important.
  • Rule 9. Quit While You’re Ahead  Even if – especially if – you’ve dominated your industry for decades. The replacement of core technologies with new disruptors can wipe out all your retained earnings quickly if you allow it to. Courageous executives accept the inevitable, and announce their exit from current markets while they are still strong. Doing so gives you more time to move to a new ecosystem. Even better, it forces competitors to change on your schedule.
  • Rule 10. Escape Your Own Black Hole As the lone remaining incumbent, it may seem as if there’s no more competition to worry about. But beware the deadly behavior of your older products and services once better and cheaper alternatives are readily available. Legacy costs, legacy customers, and legacy regulation make it harder, not easier, to compete.
  • Rule 11. Become Someone Else’s Components  As humbling as the idea may sound, companies trapped in Entropy often find their best hope is to shut down retail business and transform into a supplier of parts and other resources for innovators in markets emerging elsewhere. When you’re losing the war, in other words, become an arms merchant.
  • Rule 12. Move to a New Singularity  Co-opt the tools of the disruptors and their investors, and use them to relocate your remaining assets to a healthier ecosystem. Sponsoring hackathons, opening innovation centers for entrepreneurs, and excelling at corporate venture capital can often buy you the access and equity you need to catch up for lost time and missed opportunities in the early stages.
 
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Posted by on April 13, 2015 in Book Reviews, Digital Strategy, Startups

 

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Book review: “Crossing the Chasm”

I recently read both Crossing the Chasm and Big Bang Disruption, which are two books covering a similar topic: how do you position and sell innovative products in fast pace market?

“Crossing the Chasm” by Geoffrey A. Moore was first published in 1991 and talks about how to bridge the “chasms” which can occur in the traditional “Technology Adoption Lifecycle” (see Fig. 1 below). This traditional model depicts the transition from a market solely for “innovators” and “early adopters” to reaching a mainstream audience.

In his book Geoffrey A. Moore, describes two cracks in this traditional bell curve. Firstly, a chasm between “early adopters” and the “early majority”. An approach to market that works for early adopters might not work for more mainstream users of the product, or vice versa. Secondly, Moore talks about a chasm between the early and the late majority, pointing out that each market has its own dynamics.

Moore’s advice with respect to crossing these chasms sounds fairly straightforward: “make a total commitment to the niche, and then do your best to meet everyone else’s needs with whatever resources you have left over”. I like how Moore then goes on to break down customer segments into related target-customer characterisations and scenarios (see Fig. 2 below).

Once you’ve established the specific market niche that you want to target, you can then start creating a strategy for developing this market. Moore provides a very helpful market development strategy checklist (see Fig. 3 below).

The other key thing which I picked up from Crossing the Chasm is the “Whole Product Concept”, which idea was first described in The Marketing Imagination by the late Theodore Levitt. This concept is quite straightforward: There is a gap between the marketing promise made to the customer – the compelling value proposition – and the ability of the shipped product to fulfil that promise. The Whole Product Concept identifies four different perceptions of product (see also Fig. 4 below):

  1. Generic product – This is what’s shipped in the box and what’s covered by the purchasing contract between the seller and the buyer.
  2. Expected product – This is the product that the consumer thought she was buying when she bought the generic product. It’s the minimum configuration of products and services necessary to have any chance of achieving the buying objective of the consumer.
  3. Augmented product – This is the product fleshed out to provide the maximum chance of achieving the buying objective.
  4. Potential product – This represents the product’s room for growth as more and more ancillary products come on the market and as customer-specific enhancements to the system are made.

Main learning point: Things have changed quite significantly since Geoffrey A. Moore first wrote “Crossing the Chasm”. The pace of new technology introductions has probably increased tenfold since the first publication of the book, with businesses concentrating hard on making technology products as accessible and mainstream as quickly as possible. “Crossing the Chasm” nevertheless contains a number of points which I believe are almost timeless: thinking about target users and their scenarios, and the concept of a minimum product configuration that fulfils customer needs.

Fig. 1 – The Technology Adoption Lifecycle by Joe M. Bohlen, George M. Beal and Everett M. Rogers – Taken from: http://blog.ftfnews.com/2012/11/01/transforming-uncertainty-into-opportunity/

talbellcurve_single1

Fig. 2 – Geoffrey A. Moore’s template for creating a target user characterisation and scenarios – Taken from: http://torgronsund.com/2011/11/29/7-proven-templates-for-creating-value-propositions-that-work/

Template

For  ____________ (target customer)

who ____________  (statement of the need or opportunity)

our (product/service name) is  ____________  (product category)

that (statement of benefit) ____________ .

Sample(s)

For non-technical marketers

who struggle to find return on investment in social media

our product is a web-based analytics software that translates engagement metrics into actionable revenue metrics.

Scenario / A day in the life (before)

  • Scene or situation – Focus on the moment of frustration. What’s going on? What’s the user about to attempt and why?
  • Desired outcome – What’s the user trying to accomplish and why is this important?
  • Attempted approach – Without the new product, how does the user go about the task?
  • Interfering factors – What goes wrong? How and why does it go wrong?
  • Economic consequences – So what? What’s the impact of the user failing to accomplish the task productively?

Fig. 3 – “The Market Development Strategy Checklist” – Taken from: Geoffrey A. Moore – Crossing the Chasm, p. 99

  • Target customer
  • Compelling reason to buy
  • Whole product
  • Partners and allies
  • Distribution
  • Pricing
  • Competition
  • Positioning
  • Next target customer

Fig. 4 – “The Whole Product Concept” by Theodore Levitt – Taken from: http://technotrax.tumblr.com/post/93541189402/classifying-market-problems  

original metaphor

Related links for further learning:

  1. http://blog.ftfnews.com/2012/11/01/transforming-uncertainty-into-opportunity/
  2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-bussgang/scaling-the-chasm_b_6478622.html
  3. http://torgronsund.com/2011/11/29/7-proven-templates-for-creating-value-propositions-that-work/
 

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