It’s been a big political week, and I’ve certainly had politics on the brain myself. As I’ve been reflecting on our current political situation, it strikes me that President Obama is making a classic first-time CEO mistake.
Very simply put: he’s trying to do too much. He lacks focus, prioritization and discipline – the key elements of successful execution and the fundamental traits of outstanding CEOs.
This trend started immediately upon his taking office and it continues. And though I was initially troubled by Obama’s approach, I bit my tongue thinking maybe the notion that many were purporting of this being a ‘reboot moment’ held water.
I was wrong. There is no such thing as a unique time that allows you to take on everything at once. A good CEO’s most important skills, in addition to fielding the best team available, are relentless focus on and prioritization of the most important issues at hand.
We need to start with the economy, and specifically job creation. Our manufacturing economy for all intents and purposes is dead. We don’t make anything anymore. China has officially kicked our ass, and if we don’t step up they’re going to keep kicking it.
Government must invest to create jobs and she must do so in ways that spur private sector advancement in the areas that matter most. This can and should include infrastructure projects, clean energy, health care initiatives and technology advancement. But we can’t try and fix the entirety of these areas in one fell swoop.
Only once we have begun to make a dent in the devastating economic issues that face us can we then turn to an aggressive policy agenda to remake some of our more formidable institutions. The best time to tackle tough issues is when things are going well, not when somewhere between 10% and 20% of the populous is out of work.
The President, for all his intelligence, good intention and natural ability to lead, is making rookie mistakes.
It’s been drilled into my brain for all the years I’ve been working with consumer businesses that changing consumer behavior is the hardest thing to do. The story goes: consumer habits are very tough to change and to even have a shot of pulling it off, it’s going to be incredibly expensive.
For this reason, most products and services end up being evolutionary rather than revolutionary. But changing consumer behavior is exactly how you build great, lasting, iconic products and companies.
Apple and the iPad are perfect examples of this. Many far technologically smarter and savvier than me have panned the iPad, and many of their points are correct. But I believe that people struggle with these innovations mostly because they look and act differently than the things they already know and trust (like a laptop or an iPhone in this case).
Remember how people reacted before the iPhone first came out? It’s worth .
David Pogue said it best:
Like the iPhone, the iPad is really a vessel, a tool, a 1.5-pound sack of potential. It may become many things. It may change an industry or two, or it may not. It may introduce a new category — something between phone and laptop — or it may not. And anyone who claims to know what will happen will wind up looking like a fool.
So at the risk of looking like a fool, my bet is that Apple is creating a new category of device with the iPad that will fundamentally change the way consumers think of “computers” and their use cases. I am already drooling at the mere thought of being able to ditch my clunky Crestron hardware for an IP-based system with my iPad + flexible software as command central.
The iPad is literally in the first inning – so much will change over the coming months and years, making the device better and more user friendly. Apple may not get it exactly right with V1, but they will eventually. And everyone else will try and mimic it. I for one am eager to get my hands on one.
I’ve historically liked to think about journalism in two broad categories – I tend to use the handles “creative” and “service” for the two types. These are not necessarily the appropriate technical terms, but I believe they help frame the relevant issues and discussion.
Creative journalism as I refer to it includes the world of opinion/editorial, breaking news stories and in-depth reporting difficult for the amateur to do. This side of journalism is undergoing a significant ®evolution – breaking stories has become increasingly competitive and drowned out, what can be truly classified as in-depth reporting has shrunk, old voices have been quieted (LA Times) and new voices have arisen (Gawker, the blogosphere in general) and there has been a fundamental splintering of contributing voices and consuming audiences – but the value of these voices as a whole remains and will. Pundits, commentators and brands will persist.
Service journalism on the other hand is that massive swath of journalism that provides the consumer with general news and information as well as vertical-specific news and information offerings.
The general news business (in addition of course to the issues on the classified side) has been eaten alive by the proliferation of sources, professional and amateur, and the speed at which they can gather and broadly communicate info. Outside of what’s left of breaking news and in-depth reporting, the gathering and delivery of news has been fundamentally commoditized. While the content may not always be “professional” (whatever that means), it’s certainly good enough and almost always beats to the punch.
It is the world of vertical-specific media offerings though that I believe will increasingly feel the heat. While there will be editorial properties that flourish as valuable niche offerings in this area (NYMag), this category of news and information will be increasingly usurped by what I’ve been lately thinking about as the “social activity economy.”
The first battle of this war was fought on the UGC front. Sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor and others replaced the traditional service journalist with users. This was a profound shift in the source and economic model for utilitarian content. But it was just the beginning.
More and more, this world of UGC is moving closer towards mapping user action and intention and linking it to the social graph (), influence graph () or site-specific graph to provide valuable context.
In other words, we’re now getting data on what people do vs. what they say. And we know who these people are and how they matter to us given their public profiles.
Sites like Foursquare in local and GDGT in technology are providing implied content via your friends or influencers actions and desires.
Blippy takes this concept even further, where purchases of those you choose to follow serve as the basis of your content consumption experience. Imagine users feeling comfortable sharing their purchase behavior just a few years ago? And over time, this sharing of personal information will become even more seamless.
Coupled with data as to the quality of the consumption experience and context as to the provider of that data, you have magic.
This is a world where where action forms the basis of content, community provides context and data lives in the center.
At their core, actions speak much louder than any standalone words – professional or personal – can ever speak.