Elop’s New Job

Todd Bishop for GeekWire:

Julie Larson-Green, the former Windows executive who most recently led Microsoft hardware development as the top executive in the company’s Devices and Studios Group, is moving to a new role in the company’s Applications and Services Group.

[…]

Her role leading the company’s Devices & Studios Group will be filled by Stephen Elop, the Nokia executive who is rejoining Microsoft as part of the Redmond company’s $7.2 billion acquisition of Nokia’s devices and services business.

Oh boy. I’m trying hard to imagine a world where this is a good idea. Remember that Elop was the one who during the CEO search was saying that he would spin off the Xbox division—the only thing at Microsoft that’s really trying to innovate in services—away from Microsoft itself.

Nokia’s hardware approach has been a disaster for some time now and I’m not too thrilled about that track record coming to Xbox, which is a brand I love quite a bit. On the other hand, this has the potential to give the “Windows Mobile should be a fork of Android” idea a bit of an internal push, which would be great to see.

The article goes on to quote an internal email that was sent as part of this transition from Larson-Green. Some choice quotes:

As you will read in the notes below from Qi and Satya, I’ve accepted a new challenge, leading the My Life & Work team in ASG and serving as the Chief Experience Officer (CXO).

This appears to be an actual team and position name. I have no joke that is better than the real thing.

I want to thank each and every one of you for welcoming me and supporting me as the leader of Devices & Studios over the past 7 months.

7 months is hardly enough time to grasp the relationships in a team as big as that has to be, let alone effectively drive them to innovate. I’d love to be wrong here, but that kind of short executive tenure with a group doesn’t sound fun.

Our opportunity to grow as a world-class devices and experiences company is greater than ever, and I have every belief that as One Microsoft we’re on the right path. The addition of Nokia Devices & Services into the DnS family will add tremendous scale, talent and opportunity for our future.

And it will probably add a tremendously enjoyable turf war that is not likely to make any products better.

You are all in great hands with Stephen and already we’ve shared a lot with him and his LT from Nokia regarding all of the fantastic people, teams and products in DnS. I also know many of you are looking forward to welcoming the Nokia team and working more closely with them.

By which is meant, “I know none of you are really thrilled about an entirely new team merging with yours, but you should probably start coping now.”

Do you think Steve Jobs wants to be a se…

Do you think Steve Jobs wants to be a serial entrepreneur? Bill Gates? Warren Buffet? Larry Ellison? All these guys put big stakes in their life’s work. Companies that they built from scratch, that they’ll champion until they can champion them no more. Sure, they may have hobby companies on the side, but for each of them, there’s one defining business, one spectacular legacy to leave behind when they’re gone.

DHH, Signal vs. Noise: “Not for sale”

Gary Hamel on managing what he terms the…

Gary Hamel on managing what he terms the “Facebook generation” (I’m abridging the list to remove his explanations, so you would do well to read the whole article):

I compiled a list of 12 work-relevant characteristics of online life. These are the post-bureaucratic realities that tomorrow’s employees will use as yardsticks in determining whether your company is “with it” or “past it.”

[…]

  1. All ideas compete on an equal footing.
  2. Contribution counts for more than credentials.
  3. Hierarchies are natural, not prescribed.
  4. Leaders serve rather than preside.
  5. Tasks are chosen, not assigned.
  6. Groups are self-defining and -organizing.
  7. Resources get attracted, not allocated.
  8. Power comes from sharing information, not hoarding it.
  9. Opinions compound and decisions are peer-reviewed.
  10. Users can veto most policy decisions.
  11. Intrinsic rewards matter most.
  12. Hackers are heroes.

[…]

These features of Web-based life are written into the social DNA of Generation F—and mostly missing from the managerial DNA of the average Fortune 500 company. Yeah, there are a lot of kids looking for jobs right now, but few of them will ever feel at home in cubicleland.

The generation gap between the Boomers and Generation Y/Me/F/whatever-you-want-to-call-them is going to be a big battleground in the business world over the next few years, if it hasn’t already begun. These are two groups with vastly different expectations of what it means to be part of something.

I’ll Repeat It: “Worry about Your Customers”

Booksquare on Amazon’s purchase of Lexcycle two days ago:

Right now, it’s time for the publishing industry to step up to the plate. Stop worrying about fake issues like text-to-speech and start worrying about your customers. You may not be able to stop the settlement you negotiated and you cannot stop Amazon from acquiring better technology. But you can demand that your books be sold in the most consumer-friendly manner possible. Take the initiative to be a leader in the future of books — recall that your competition is changing rapidly — and you’ll be a leader in the future of reading.

[…]

The Lexcycle sale is great news for the hard-working team that developed this incredible application, against so many odds. It’s not so great news for everybody else. Consumers are slowly being locked into a single vendor. Publishers are being backed into Amazon’s corner. Yet, yet, yet, I ask again: where are the publishing initiatives, the fresh thinking, to protect the free market?

There’s more at the original article.

The greatest strength of the Kindle format isn’t the reading device or even the book format, but the ease with which you can purchase and download a book. Stanza was a worthy attempt at a competitor.

Like Drinking, Be Reponsible when Using Social Media

Chris Brogan on company presence management:

Let’s say you build a pretty decent stream of conversations on Facebook. Maybe it’s your junior comms person and they’re just drumming up excitement for a new product that the people want. Everything’s going great, and there’s an active group, and people feel like they’re being treated like humans. Know who comes next?

Marketing. In some companies, they come crashing down from the hills like angry Mongol raiders, set on converting people from interested community members into hot leads to purchase. They start asking to push materials down the community channel. They ask for lists. They push for opt-ins for email marketing.

Is it the right move? Not as listed above. Not if that’s not how you set the presence up to begin with. It will feel like horrid bait and switch. People will flock away pretty darned fast if you switch them over into convert mode. They’ll also hate you if you just pull up stakes and run after the product is launched. If they’ve committed to talking with you at those points of presence, they want you there for the long term.

Be wary of this. Think further out than a single campaign. If you set up the direct line, you have to be willing to answer it for more than the short term.

I don’t always agree with Brogan (or even the rest of the article), but on this I think he’s spot-on.

The most important thing for you to do with social media and interactions is to talk with your customers and to listen to them. Give them the “direct line,” as Brogan says elsewhere in the article, and then embrace that method of communications. It shouldn’t be a single point of contact for all your customers, but instead a network of people who are invested in their work who are passionate about serving people and connecting with the people on the other side of their work.

Be the Cannonballer

There are some people who go through their entire lives waiting and watching to see what everyone else does. They predicate their actions on the success of others.

Does a venture look like a risky bet? Wait for everyone else to try it and then see what they’re saying afterwards.

Hit upon a new technique? Stand by and let someone else implement it first, then see if it was worth it.

Does the water appear cold? Nudge your friends into going in there first, then only go in yourself when it appears they’re not freezing.

Sometimes, the risk is worth it. Sometimes, you need to be the first one in there. You can’t always depend on everyone else to set the trends, because the trend-setters often enjoy success. Many times, they’re the ones who get to direct what’s going on—the ones who get to really lead.

Maybe this time, you have to be the one jumping into the cold water first. Make some waves and do a cannonball.

Who Has Control?

For decades, the overriding construct of good marketing and public relations was that you had to tightly control the message your company was broadcasting to the world. Commercials, press releases, and other materials were carefully meted, checked, and rechecked to make sure everything was “on message”.

In the 00’s (the “aughts,” if you’re wondering how to pronounce that), we like to call these things “talking points.” Even though we are still in an environment where the method by which we share information is changing on a frequent basis, companies still like to make sure that everyone is toeing the line. After all, you want to make sure that everything is portrayed in the most positive light possible, right?

The problem with this approach is that in this post-Cluetrain, post-information-revolution age, control is an illusion.

Companies don’t have control anymore.

The control has passed to the consumers. To the rank-and-file. Your company might try to stay on-message, but look at the statistics. People don’t trust “official” communication now. They see it as too closely managed, too dishonest and impersonal. They want to hear from someone they trust.

Your customers have already taken the conversation to places you possibly haven’t thought. Are they on Facebook? Twitter? A forum somewhere? Email lists of their colleagues? You’re not going to reach them by elbowing in on their turf with an impersonal, robotic corporate mouthpiece and a few posts somewhere. They don’t want subversion; they don’t want to be crushed. They might even be avoiding you.

They want you to participate. And they want you to participate—as in you, the person who is reading this. Not your company. Not some official place for them to gather information. They want to hear from people on the inside, from people very much like them. They want to “get to know you” and to build a relationship of trust.

Sometimes, they want to lavish praise on you. Sometimes, they want to dump on you. They want to share their opinions, and they want honest, personal responses and discussion. The reward for your participation in this conversation is that you earn a measure of trust and can then share with them things that interest you—and those are very likely the things you are working on. (At least, they should be, or you should find a different job.)

They’re in the driver’s seat now.

What are you going to do about it?

Once Again, It Comes Down to Value

Electronic Cottage reports that there’s a small-scale user revolt boycotting Kindle titles that are priced higher than the new release and/or bestseller $9.99 price point:

Now, Amazon has many books over the $9.99 price it promised for new releases when Kindle was first launched. That price was a major selling point to convince buyers that the large investment in a Kindle would pay off over time. The price also acknowledged the obvious: a Kindle edition is less valuable than a hardcover; although you cannot pass along your Kindle edition to friends, you are at least paying a significant amount less than the hardcover price. Unfortunately, short-sighted publishers feel they are losing dollars instead of realizing that a $9.99 Kindle sale doesn’t usurp a hardcover sale. It is a brand new entity. A plus. Pure gravy.

Kindle owners have organized a boycott of Kindle editions over $9.99. The uprising is ably helped by Amazon’s own online tools: the 9.99boycott community and a boycott discussion forum. Cleverly, the boycotters are using the Amazon tags feature to tag books over $9.99 with the 9.99boycott tag. Boy, if I were a publisher or author, I sure wouldn’t want to see my books listed at the top of the tag’s “Popular Products” under the boycott tag.

Interesting that part of the article here is that Amazon has provided customers with all the tools they need to create an uprising within their own service. Pay attention to the number of books the author says he purchased at the lower $9.99 price point. Like iPhone applications, there appears to already be a price ceiling forming with the Kindle.

I don’t think this is what Amazon was going for, nor do I think they promised everyone $9.99 books, but (again) like the App Store, the customer base is showing what they’re willing to pay.

(Via Tools of Change for Publishing.)

It’s Not About Cost; It’s About Value

The Macalope says it’s go time with Microsoft:

[…] This is not about price. This is about making “safe” choices. For years enterprises have chosen—and let themselves get locked into—Windows because, yes, no one got fired for buying Microsoft.

But these companies also bought Microsoft because, like AIG, Microsoft simply seemed “too big to fail” and Apple did not. Well, that’s as may be, but there’s “fail as a company” and then there’s “fail to deliver”—and Microsoft has certainly failed to deliver.

So, congratulations, enterprises! You’re left holding the bag for an outdated desktop operating system bundled with a costly and uncertain path forward!

Seriously, if it were solely about price and choice, every company in the world would be running Linux.

Have We Learned From “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”?

Seth Godin:

A newspaper that only had a few dozen employees would be doing great today. But they have hundreds or thousands of employees because that was an appropriate scale twenty years ago. When I started my first web combany fifteen years ago, the idea that you could be successful with six or ten employees was crazy, but today many of the most successful companies have not many more than that. That’s 15,000 fewer employees than eBay has.

It’s tempting to get bigger. But is bigger better? In many cases, it’s worse, particularly when you can leverage reliable systems that are cheaper and faster and more stable in the outside world. If you can make your product better by assembling it yourself, you should. But if that action makes it worse, why do it?

Is your organization too big? Too small? Just right?