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Archive for February 1st, 2008

Yeah, yeah, by now you have the news. Microsoft wants to spend $44bn to buy Yahoo!

Personally, I want this to happen.  Professionally, I think it will drive search, online media, and social networking to new vistas (hahahaha, good pun!).

I’m not going to talk about the business case for this.  Everyone and their mother will do that.

I owe any success I have to 4 things: Yahoo!, Microsoft, Google, and Britney Spears. No really.

I have no Microsoft stock.  I have no Yahoo! stock.  I don’t work at Yahoo! nor Microsoft.  I have worked at Yahoo!, consulted for a division.  Most of the “investors” in companies I’ve been at made their fortunes at Yahoo! I’ve attempted to sell businesses to Microsoft.  I’ve partnered with Microsoft on media and advertising efforts.  Microsoft software powers most of my daily tasks and has consumed 75% or more of any IT budget I owned. (i know, I know… linux is cheaper….)

Sites’ SEO and usability I was responsible for accounts for well over 2% of the Google Index.  Most of the businesses in my experience make a substantial revenue line from Google ads and get most of their traffic from Google directly or indirectly.

In 5 companies I’ve worked at or consulted “Britney Spears” has been the largest source of traffic and best example of how to be “findable”.  Yes, inevitably all pop culture and music sites must devolve into “What is Britney Doing Now?” More advertising money is earned against Britney Spears than any other term on the internet, at these 5 companies and net wide.  (Britney’s handlers should trademark her name and likeness aggressively and attempt to collect royalties.  I mean, she really has made a lot of people very rich and most have no grasp of how much traffic and clicks she drives)

Putting all that together… literally 98% of my income and assets are tied to those 4 entities.  Microsoft and Yahoo! make up at least 60% of of that 98%.  This is the truth.

So yeah, I’d rather owe less people than more.  Combine Yahoo! and Microsoft and I only owe 3 entities.  Google should buy Britney Spears (they make enough money and get enough traffic from her in search, youtube and blogger!).  Man, that’d be great.  Just 2 entities.  that’s not so bad.  it’s kinda like parents.  I can handle that.

~R

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One of the biggest misconceptions, or non-truths, in business is the idea that there is an agent of innovation.  There is no individual innovator, an innovative business, an innovative group that is the cause or source of innovation.  There is no agent capable of manufacturing innovation.

That’s a bold statement from someone (me!) who used to put “innovator” on his business card and hold email aliases at companies innovator@company.com.  Yes, I used to think I was a source of innovation.  Somewhere deep inside of me there was a well of not just good ideas but radical execution.

I was wrong.

Innovation’s cause is selection by consequences.  No individual nor business innovates.  The environment – market, cubicle group, building, peers, media – selects “innovative” products, methods and behavior.  Individuals and businesses we consider innovative tend to survive and thrive (earn more media attention!) because the market selects them and their more innovative behaviors.  As these entities’ innovative behavior is reinforced, they increase those behaviors.

Innovative behaviors??!??!  That phrase usually references a new or unconventional approach.  A behavior consider outside its context or environment is not inherently innovative.  When the market (environment) selects (recognizes, buys, talks about…) the uncommon behavior (method or product) above all others, we call it innovative.

Just as a behavior can be innovative by the market selection, that same behavior may be non-innovative, standard or status quo in a different market (time, money, people, weather change a lot!).

Herein lies the difficulty in bottling up innovation and xeroxing it into individuals and companies.  Innovation is not anything.  It is not an object.  It is not a property of an individual.  It is not cause of success nor failure.

Anyone who has an exact prescription for innovation is a fraud.  Anyone who claims to be able to predict market conditions for innovation is a fraud.

The only thing we can do as businesses and individuals is behave.  The rate of your behavior gives you the best chance to “innovate” – to uncover that method or product the market will reward.  The more you behave (or DO STUFF) the more the market can reinforce or extinguish.

Again, though no prescription for behavior exists we can categorize businesses and individuals by their rate of behavior.  Google, Apple, IBM, HP, Gentech, Glaxo…. all these companies have enormous rates of behavior.  Robin Williams, Cohen Brothers, Steven Spielberg, Barack Obama, John McCain, Michael Criton, Ian McEwan… all outbehave their counterparts.  These entities all have increased chances at success (market selection) because of their huge repertoire and rates of behaviors.  Need proof?  go look up the number of press releases, new products, new hires, changes to websites, additions to catalogues, documentation and compare to “less innovative” competitors.  Consider the people in your life you call innovative, what’s different about them?  what were they doing when they got their “break”?

Are these not the icons we turn to for “innovation”?  do we not write endless books about their approach, in search of the magic formula?

Stop the search for innovation.  Just do.  Not just something.  lots of things.

(yes, of course, I’ll talk about “focus” at somepoint.  Focus is another baggage word thrown around.)

~Russ

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