Friday, December 28, 2007

Cell Phones and Business Model Innovation

"Cell Phones Could Be Gold Mines for Marketers" is a story about the amazing marketing potential of cell phones. With carriers able to determine where you are at any given moment, there is tremendous potential to identify what products might be of interest or what promotions might be effect. Within the next couple of years, we should see many further innovations in shopping, data management, crime solving and even traffic management tapping into the power of the cell phone data. Truly a gold mine of opportunities for innovation.

Digital Natives: How Is the Younger Generation Reshaping the Telecom and Media Landscape?

CAP Gemini has released an outstanding paper, "Digital Natives: How Is the Younger Generation Reshaping the Telecom and Media Landscape?" dealing with the powerful forces exerted by the rising generation on business and technology.

The article points out how difficult it is to guess what will succeed in the marketplace. Years ago the buzz was that video calling would take off and dominate phone communications, but customers have shied away from it, partly because of privacy concerns when calling (and fear of bad hair days). And who anticipated just how popular SMS would be? Communicating by typing text onto a tiny keyboard - that's going to be popular? But what the interface lacks is more than made up by the convenience inherent to the business model. Simple, fast communications that are good enough for what many people want - just staying in touch with a lot of people.

The lesson here is that you must learn from the market and never think you have it figured out. Explore your business model iteratively and learn from your early forays and mistakes.

This report explores some of the learnings from the marketplace that might be used to guide future business development. A key theme for the "digital natives" - those who have grown up immersed in technology, especially the bracket of 15- to 24-year-olds, is impatience. They want to get things done quickly, using multitasking and "media snacking," with community interactions playing a central role. Yeah, social networking - it has a long ways to go yet. And users need to have control over the technology, allowing it to express their originality.

Product developers need to understand these currents, develop closer ties to the rising generation and their needs, and provide experiences that can be tailored and satisfying in an increasingly impatient world. That will be a key theme in future innovations in technology.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Inventor I Always Wanted to Meet

I recently met an inventor I always had wanted to meet. He's the inventor of a fascinating business method technology, protected by a significant "business method patent" that seems to be an important asset for a major corporation based on this technology. I've always wanted to meet this inventor because I admired the patent and the concepts in the technology, one that I've frequently mentioned in giving lectures on business method patents and the importance of looking for innovation in business models.

When I met the inventor of this concept, I didn't know it at first. You see, his name isn't on the patent. In fact, he's not part of the company. But his best friend in high school and former business partner is associated with the company. And the real inventor was somehow left behind. But there are piles of legal documents from court proceedings that lasted years hinting at a tragic story that befalls many inventors. My new friend did not prevail in the end, as many lone inventors litigating against large, well-funded companies have learned. But he did learn that he should have been more careful to protect his intellectual property so that outright theft or accidental re-inventing of his wheel by someone else doesn't deprive him of what he created. Intellectual property, NDAs, documentation of meetings and correspondence, etc., are vital to protect yourself in this dog-eat-dog world.

This devastating experience - watching your invention become the basis for someone else's vast wealth. But he has rebounded and gone on to invent other great things. His story will be told more fully one day.