Word to all the shallow

It is not too late to change. The damage isn’t irreparable but it will take time and it will be hard. We have grown used to constant interruption and wonder why we cannot focus any more. Stop fooling yourself into thinking that it is the new way of the world and realize creativity or leadership will never come from shallow thoughts or effort.

When was the last time you solved a problem and not Google? What was your last truly inspired idea?

You probably are not consciously dividing your attention and crippled by an information overload. I know what it feels like. This not only prevents you from being your professional best, but also from being simply happier. You should take charge.

Unilever CEO on the future of capitalism

Stunning article by Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman in McKinsey Quarterly detailing his vision of the future for both Unilever and businesses/capitalism. The article didn’t trigger me from the start, but as soon as he connects his analysis to Unilever’s behaviour I was hooked. The following sentence was responsible:

We actually had a ten-year period of no growth, and that forces you to make your numbers or you’re under pressure from your shareholders.

He then continues to connect shareholder pressure to short term thinking and the negative influence this has / had on a [his] company’s capital base. Their decision to change connected his views of the future to him leading the company, because by redefining themselves he was able to embed both sustainable and economic targets in Unilever’s core. He took an 8 percent hit in share price, but is now convinced that he successfully ‘removed enormous shackles from our organization’.

Very ambitious words and an article well-worth reading yourself. So GO! 

Rumour: YouTube acquiring game streaming service Twitch

Variety and The Wall Street Journal both report on Google/YouTube’s supposed acquisition of game streaming service Twitch. While Variety tells us the deal is done for $1 billion, The Wall Street Journal just reports Google’s intentions. Twitch would extend on YouTube’s large game audience, while Google’s ad sales will probably be more able to capitalize on the value of Twitch’s hardcore viewers. Before we start talking about the insanity of paying $1 billion, please consider that Twitch represented 1,35% of all downstream bandwidth in the US and according to Qwilt, Twitch has a 43,6% market share in streaming video. And it’s growing quickly.

Fun fact: Google’s share price increased by 1,6% when I write this, representing $5,6 billion of added value for its shareholders. Seems a positive response to me?

What makes this rumoured deal interesting to me is the apparent value of a smaller but hardcore gaming audience. For someone who has no experience or affinity with competitive or multi player gaming, it seems astounding that people spend 15 hours a week watching someone else play a video game. But for two generations of gamers, this is the most natural thing in the world. It just took technology a while to catch up with demand. And its not limited to South-Korea, Japan and China any more. Gamers from all continents travel to watch major tournaments and games. And in numbers that are far bigger than all but the most popular sports. Twitch facilitates this trend, but combines it with something that everyone is familiar with, being a fan.

To most people, it is obvious that people are fans of big musicians or movie stars. But when you favourite pastime is not music but games, doesn’t it make sense that the best or coolest gamers become your idols? Twitch allows people to actually join their idols while they practice, play matches or just hang out, and the get to interact! By combining the demand for watching major games and tournaments with people following or being fans of their idols, Twitch has stumbled (the original company was different) on what seemed a niche, but now turns out to be a major popular movement. Google has recognized this demand before, by acquiring stakes in major YouTube gaming channels for example.

It remains to be seen if the rumours are true, but I’m convinced that Twitch is a great opportunity to get in on something that others still call a niche.

Looking past your own limitations

Personally, I think that one of the main benefits of hiring outside advisers or consultants to help solve a problem is the fact that they will dedicate time to think about a solution. While they are not limited by your understanding of the market. Your experience, or mine for that matter, makes us rejects certain ideas or insights out of hand, while they might eventually lead to the actual solution! And this all works swimmingly up until the point where they have to sell you their solution.

I have to keep this in mind whenever we talk to clients and it is essential when presenting my thinking.

Govern yourself, be your own master

While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.

- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

When I read this and think about it in a general sense, part of me thinks of tyranny and oppression and my mind immediately rallies in protest. Many people are obviously not sufficiently educated, motivated or safe to consider rising up against their ‘masters’. This quote might imply that this is a conscious choice. Which I believe it isn’t.

But it did resonate with me on a very personal level. It tells me to not let outside forces overly influence the most important decisions to be made. It motivates me to take control and decide on my own direction. I have been on this road for quite some time,  to stop watching TV and limit my news intake to the bare minimum were my first steps, but this quote made it all more connected. But since all ‘mastering’ is something you simply work on but never achieve, there’s probably still plenty of steps to take.

What does this mean to you?

Facebook’s downfall; a new perspective

I’ve talked about it earlier but a recent article on Forbes offered me a surprising insight on Facebook’s future. In an article titled What’s Wrong With Facebook’s Business Model And Innovation Strategy? author Panos Mourdoukoutas connects Aristotle’s teachings to Facebook’s current predicament. I suspect he had this idea before, but Facebook’s $ 19 billion dollar acquisition of messaging app WhatsApp confirmed his thinking. His view? Facebook’s audience is leaving because the social network is not focused on the right group of people.

According to Aristotle, “friendship is a rare spiritual intimacy that can only be shared among a handful of people.” We can usually count our true/real friends on one hand. All others are classified as utility relationships or pseudo-friendships, relationships that will fade away as soon as the utility runs out. Facebook is a way to connect with these social connections and now, a couple of years along, quite a few of these relationships are fading. But we’re still connected on Facebook as ‘friends’.

According to Mourdoukoutas, this is the reason Facebook is stagnating and why users are leaving. His conclusion is backed by a recent Stanford study but his reasoning is different.

Facebook bought WhatsApp for just this reason; on WhatsApp we communicate (semi-)privately with a select group of friends and contacts. More general contact with our outer circle – or utility friendships – is possible through platforms like Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter. These are all less-personal, more public platforms as opposed to Facebook which is generally seen as a  100% personal platform.

He does conclude that the move is a good one for the company in the short term, but he concludes that the tactic of paying a hefty premium for any startup that challenges its position will not hold. He makes an example out of Cisco who did just that at the peak of the bubble and kept diluting shares of current stockholders. Breakthrough innovation should be nurtured inside a company and cannot be bought.

I thought this solid reasoning to predict why Facebook will fade away in a few years. The fact remains that it will join friendster, myspace, dutch hyves and many other used-to-be-hip platform in the ghetto of the internet at some point. 2017 is as good a prediction as any.

What do you think? Do you expect Facebook to be as prominent in 3 years as it is now?