Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Value Gap

What is the difference between what a someone can do without you and what they can do with you?

That difference is the value you bring. That is your "Value Gap".

If you are trying to decide what you are selling, or how you are going to convince someone of your point of view, figure this out. Everything else will follow.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Has the Web Removed the Value You Get Paid For?

Here is more thinking from Clay Shirley's book Here Comes Everybody.

The web removes barriers which created transaction costs in accomplishing many different tasks. When these transaction costs go away, business models that generate their value by overcoming these costs no longer have value.

For newspapers, the barriers were owning a printing press, hiring and managing writers, controlling the distribution and selling the ads. The web allows anyone, anywhere, to do these things at little or no cost. Newspapers are struggling because one of the main sources of their value has gone away.

This ability of ours to change our actions as barriers are removed is not limited to just the web. I think it is important to realize this. This is a fundamental fact of human nature. 

Here are some barriers other technologies have removed and how we have responded to their removal.

After we had trains and cars and airplanes most folks who wanted to "Go West" quit walking from coast to coast and adopted a newer method of transportation.

When most people had telephones my Grandmother stopped walking the three blocks to her sister's house to ask a single question and just called her on the phone. In my generation we never even experienced the visit to avoid a phone call.

When my kids could text message me and avoid my asking them questions or making them stay on the phone, they quit calling. (The ungrateful rats.)

For your job or business, what barriers does the web remove that have historically been a value you added?

1 - Time restrictions. The web can let you provide information and services 24/7. You can not be physically present 24/7 but you can provide access to interaction your customers need to do with you 24/7 online.

2 - Distance barriers. The phone did this, but it charged for long distance. The web not only does not charge for long distance, it allows more types of communication than just voice on the phone.

3 - The ability to get forms or documentation - even signed documentation. The web allows you to provide rights based access to almost anything you currently make folks come to your office, wait for a fax or, wait for the mail to receive.

Monday, September 22, 2008

My Son and Joe Gibbs

My son got his pilot's license when he graduated high school a couple of years ago. Since then he flies as often as he can afford to rent a plane and get the time away from his college studies.

This past week he had been flying and after landing was talking with a mechanic at the airport. Some guy came up to them and asked where the helicopter pad was. My son didn't know, but the mechanic gave directions.

Then the guy asked my son what he is doing. When he hears he has just been flying, he asks a few more questions and then goes on over to the helicopter pad.

The mechanic turns to my son and says "I guess you are not a NASCAR fan. Do you know who that was?".

My son says he figured it was just some other pilot.

The mechanic tells him it was Joe Gibbs. My son asks who that is.

What I like about this is that Joe Gibbs has been a public figure for a long time and yet he is clearly just interested in things and a social kind of guy. He certainly didn't take the time to talk to my son because he thought he had been recognized by a fan.

What I like about my son in this little story is that he didn't care who the person was - except he does love to talk to other pilots. He has learned that people are all just people and that is enough.

Of course I realize that if this had been just another person I would not be writing this entry. I guess we are all just people and that is enough, but adding fame to the story makes a better story.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Built on Dreams

Joe Plumeri, Chairman and CEO of Willis said in his talk Tuesday at the eInsurance Symposium in Dallas that almost everyone in the insurance business is in denial about the monumental changes in that industry. He wasn't talking about the financial markets. He was talking about new business models and new communications tools.

He challenged everyone saying:

"Don't be an industry built on memories. Be an industry built on dreams."

One of the great barriers to changing your business is competence. It is a common saying that the good is the enemy of the great.

Here is a link to a good article in Fast Company on this topic.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Single Data Standard

For as many years as I can remember the insurance industry has had a dream - a goal - of having a single data standard for all insurance information. It seems every publication and every convention or conference pushes this dream. I want to argue that the dream is making everyday worse and worse for the insurance industry. I believe that the dream of a single unifying data standard is creating harm by encouraging the industry to deny reality and as such fail to move forward.

My second favorite episode of the TV show X-Files was the one where Mulder found a genie and was granted three wishes. He wished for world peace and was instantly the only person left alive on Earth. The Genie smiled and commented the only way for humans to not have disagreements was for there to be only one human. (My favorite X-Files episode was the one where the villain got away through an exploding chicken house and Mulder - covered with chicken shit - told Sculley he was pooped.)

If you accept the premise - which is the current cold, hard truth - that there is no single data standard, how can the sharing of information be made more efficient? Certainly there are answers of things which can be done but do not include changing to a single data standard.

By holding out for the dream of perfection this industry is avoiding making any progress at all. Why not find ways to make things 60% better instead of taking no action unless it is the dream of making them 100% better?

What do you think could be done?

Friday, September 19, 2008

MicroSoft Technology vs. Business Model

I had the wonderful experience of attending the eInsurance Symposium in Dallas earlier this week. Bill Hartnett, Microsoft's U.S. Insurance Industry Solutions Director, gave a talk in which he highlighted the SilverLight product they have developed.

I have to admit I was blown away by the technology of the service. It was a very good visual presentation of information integrated with a wide variety of useful web services. I thought "This could really have an impact". Then I recalled Bill's opening remarks.

Bill started the talk by asking "How many of you were here when I spoke last year?". I few hands went up and his next comment was something close to "Good, then I won't be repeating myself too much.". At this point a light should have gone off - repeating yourself a year later would seem to be saying not much has changed in the past twelve months.

Next, it became clear to me that Microsoft is selling this product to insurance companies to push out. This makes sense when you recall that Microsoft sells operating systems to PC manufacturers who then push the product out.

This business model was reinforced later when Bill talked about Microsoft Sync in Ford's new cars. Again, Microsoft sells to Ford who pushes this out to their customers.

I honestly can not tell you if Microsoft has sold any users on SilverLight. I also have to admit that Microsoft is extremely profitable and as such it is hard to seriously criticize their business model.

Nonetheless, I left feeling like SilverLight was never going to be a major factor in the insurance space simply because of the model.

Here is the model I would think about. Offer the SilverLight service free to anyone who buys insurance services. Allow these users to invite insurance providers to accept a data pass of information from the buyer in order to provide the buyer with an proposal on their account. Require the insurance providers to pay to be able to accept the data and respond.

This model ends up making the same party pay for the service - the insurance company - but it allows customers to push the product into the company instead of having the service pushed onto them.

I could be way off base here. This is just a different distribution model, but I think it would make all the difference in the speed or even the "if" of any adoption of the service.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Even I will admit this is funny. Bill Gates and Seinfled...


Thursday, September 11, 2008

You Want A Piece of America? Well Here I Am.

9-11, 9/11, Sept 11

Last night I watched Tom Friedman on Charlie Rose. He put in words what I have been feeling for years. He said..

"To me 9-11 is the day between 9-10 and 9-12. I am not about an America defined by 9-11. I am about an America defined by the 4th of July"

How about you?

I am sick and tired of USA standing for the United States of Afraid. I want the United States of Aspirations.

Every time I take off my shoes to go through airport security I know we have lost. Next week I am going to the airport. I am going barefoot. That way I will not be surrendering by taking off my shoes for security.

I am not interested in or inspired by a government who wants to take away my freedom in the name of my security.

I dream of being great, not of being safely hidden behind armed guards.

I have always thought that our President - George Bush - had the chance to be remembered as our greatest President, to be put on Mt Rushmore, if on 9-11 he had stood up immediately and with fire in his eyes and smoke coming out his nose said...

"You want a piece of America? Well here I am. Come get me!"

Instead he sat there looking inept. Then he disappearred to a "secure and undisclosed location". He took this whole country with him.

Today I have had enough.

I will not give my life to or for a country that provides me a safe place to hide and be afraid.

I will give my life to and for a country that offers the American Dream of the 4th of July.

My America is where dreams come true.

My America is where you can become great.

My Amercia is not a hiding place.

Join me.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Google's Official Blog Post on Chrome

Here is the official Google Blog post on Chrome...

Here is the link to the now famous cartoon...

Google Chrome and the Power of Free

Google released Chrome today. Here is a good overview from the Alley Insider...

For the bigger picture it is pretty clear that Google's business model is the real problem for its competitors. How can Microsoft give Windows and Office, etc away for free?

Can you make Free your business model? Has a competitor already done this to you?

More on this in a post soon.