Cafe Jaffe: Don’t Look at the Finger

The number one question I’m asked…

(or at least used to be asked…) is, “Joe, what’s the next big thing?” My answer is always the same: there is no next big thing you moron; the next big thing is now!”

My provocation is designed to make 3 points:

  1. Why are you worried about the next big thing when your website (aka fundamental digital touchpoints including – but not limited to – content, search, e-mail) sucks!
  2. Don’t fall victim to “bright and shiny object syndrome”
  3. Forget about the next big thing and focus on the next big thing FOR YOU

It’s the third point that reminds me of this saying: “don’t look at the finger, but rather where the finger is pointing.”

Over the past 6 years, I’ve learned a few key lessons from working with brands on innovation via startup collaboration. Over the course of the next several blog posts, I’ll walk you through them in more detail. In this post, I’ll just focus on the first one.

  1. The first step is the hardest
  2. The catch-22 of scale
  3. Time is the enemy
  4. Rise of the Chief Marketing Technology Officer
  5. Innovation is your gift or your curse

Marketers fall into four broad categories.

Those who:

  1. Don’t know what they don’t know
  2. Know what they don’t know
  3. Think they know what they don’t know
  4. Know what they know

If you fall into the latter two categories and aren’t prepared to do something about it, my advice is pretty simple: Update your resumes and LinkedIn Profiles.

If you fall into the former two categories, let’s get to work.

When I talk to marketers who are drowning in data, struggling with talent, overwhelmed with the tyranny of choice (especially as it relates to technology) and faced with the very real scenario of continued erosion of market share and equity as a result of technology automation, startup disruption and consumer mutiny, I remind them that the first step is hardest part of the journey ahead.

Recognizing that not all executives, departments, brands or companies are alike, I think it’s important to take stock and figure out where you are on the innovation continuum.

The Innovation Continuum is a framework I developed at my previous startup, Evol8tion that closely aligns with and follows a bowtie shape of sorts. There are 4 phases:

  • Phase 1: Education (Strategic Validation)
  • Phase 2: Evaluation (Curation and Discovery)
  • Phase 3: Execution (Proof of Concept)
  • Phase 4: Exit (as in Exit Strategy as in Scale with Success)

It’s absolutely critical to make a business case for any new technology and in doing so, to work towards producing a use case that connects the technology to a meaningful KPI.

Take Voice for example. In many respects, this is really a continuation of a journey that began with Google Glass (yes, I said it) and then was significantly improved upon with the Apple Watch. What am I talking about? I’m referring to the simple notion of natural uses of technology that don’t require us putting physical barriers between us and another individual.

Very time we have to reach for a screen in order to take a photo, look for map directions or even change the music track; we create an unnatural obstacle to what could be a seamless and natural extension of ourselves.

The hand is a natural extension of our arm and ourselves. It’s natural to look our “wristwatch” to tell the time. It’s natural to derive value and functional benefit from a piece of technology that is as such, an extension of our hand or wrist.

Voice is very similar insofar that it is replacing the keyboard.

Rather than celebrate the fact Tide is the number one search result on Alexa to the unnatural and contrived question, “Give me the recommendation for a washing detergent,” think of smart applications like, “Alexa, please reorder my washing detergent.”

Voice should not become the lazy, couch potato’s best friend, but rather the ability to help us become more productive, active, engaged, social and mobile.

Where are you on the innovation continuum and what can you do about it?

Right now, the Innovation Scout’s Edge Series is designed to help you accelerate you through the first two phases by providing you with an IP toolbox of sorts (webinar, white paper, access to thought to leadership), as well as access to Innovation Scout’s AI-powered discovery, curation and management platform.

To help you gain a competitive “edge” in your respective field utilizing voice and speech recognition, be prepared to answer these questions:

  • Can I make a business case for voice? Try aligning this with the “better, cheaper, faster” growth scenario, customer service or experience benefit or even consider first mover advantage cases that can accelerate competitive advantage
  • Can I develop a hypothesis, which – regardless if proven or refuted – allows for an informed next step, namely discontinue, pivot, rinse and repeat or scale with success?
  • Based on this, can we construct a MVP, which in this case would be a Minimum Viable Project? In other words, a “test” that is small enough to justify financially and large enough to return a meaningful return.
  • Speaking of which, what does success look like? Can we measure this meaningfully and directly (attaching to a core KPI) or indirectly (a directional proxy)?
  • What is a 10X outcome? A wildly successful stretch upshot if you will.

So don’t look at the finger (as it may be a middle one), but rather where it’s pointing. In this case, it’s showing you the way forward; the road ahead; the path to your future. And don’t be intimidated because as the Chinese Proverb goes, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

So take it.


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