Think big, think different - and then do it

"The purpose of this design is to create a low-cost portable computer so useful that its owner misses it when it's not around – even if the owner isn't a computer freak..." This is how the vision of the Macintosh was described in an internal Apple memo in January 1980 (Source: Rolling Stone, 1984).

Funny enough, this is exactly how I felt about my Macintosh a few years later - and still do, by the way. It wouldn't have passed as a 'proper' positioning or mission statement at most companies yet it's obviously so much more precise and useful.

Key to the success is of course also the fact that the Apple team was able to actually execute against it. It was never 'just words'.

Why Steve Jobs was the model CEO

"Steve Jobs did what a CEO should: Hired and inspired great people; managed for the long term, not the quarter or the short-term stock price; made big bets and took big risks. He insisted on the highest product quality and on building things to delight and empower actual users, not intermediaries like corporate IT directors or wireless carriers. And he could sell. Man, he could sell."
(Walt Mossberg on Steve Jobs, AllThingsD Oct 5, 2011)

But there is one more thing: He was like a focus group of one, he thought like the ideal Apple customer,  only he was always two years ahead.

All that for a 1$ annual salary.

We will forever wonder what else he could have done.

What Steve Jobs and Michelangelo have in common

According to Fast Company Steve Jobs gave the following business advice to Nike a few years back when they launched the iPod/Nike collaboration: "Get rid of the crappy stuff".

"I expected a little laugh," Nike president and CEO Mark Parker says of the exchange. "But there was a pause and no laugh at the end."

Jobs' comment is akin to one of my favorites, namely Michelangelo's when he was asked how he could create a sculpture as magnificent as David. He said, “I carve away everything that isn’t David.”

(This post was originally published in April, 2010)

The core of strategy

"The core of strategy work is always the same: Discovering the critical factors in a situation and designing a way of co-ordinating and focusing actions to deal with those factors."
From Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt. No more, no less. Brilliantly put.

Choose also what not to do

Just read a brilliant article on the essentials of strategy: Ditch the To-Do list and start a Not-To-Do list. Distinguish between To Do and To Die For. We tend to forget that strategy is not only about choosing what to do, but also about choosing what not to do.

The article is written with an innovation perspective but the principle applies to all kinds of strategy. Remember what Michelango answered when asked how he could create a sculpture as magnificent as David: "I carve away everything that isn't David".

It also applies to how we approach our work in general. I've worked with a performance consultant over the years when I was at Levi's and also at Lego, and I'm still inspired by his approach.
One of his principles is that potential - interference = performance. Interference can be many things but often it's dressed as a hell-bent focus on tasks. We buzz around all day at the office busy doing tasky stuff, when what we should be focusing on is the purpose and objectives, the bigger goals.

Stephen Covey and others promote the important/urgent matrix and that's a good tool to create awareness of just how much time we spend on disproportionately time-consuming tasky stuff. But ultimately, it's the mindset that matters. Gerry, the consultant, would always challenge us to get clear on the purpose of our job and the business and whether a given task was aligned with the purpose. If it was not, bye-bye task.

It's really hard to do! It's like taking a leap into the unknown, a leap of faith. What if I don't do this task, what will happen, what might I miss, will the earth stop turning, will the sun still rise?
And it's just as hard to choose what not to do as part of a strategy. But it's among the most important choices we can make. Create a clearing so you can see the forest in there between all the trees. And start chopping.

Read the full article in Business Week here.

Vækstdagen 2011

To my Danish readers: I will be speaking at the annual Vækstdag February 10 in Copenhagen about Brand As Strategy and why Branding is dead while the Brand is very much alive. More info and registration at Vækstdagen 2011. For an immediate view on the topic, pls read the post below.

Branding is dead, long live the brand

Branding is dead, long live the brand. What do I mean by that?

All companies are building their brand(s) every day, it's inevitable. But many don't realize it and have no plan or system for it which can have dire consequences. Perhaps even worse, many think that building the brand has to do with simply raising awareness of it and spending a lot of $$ on campaigns, and much less with delivering value to the customers in a specific and consistent way.

The word 'branding' has come to mean slapping a logo and a cute name on an expensive piece of packaging and then promoting the bejesus out of it. It has come to mean something we do at the end of the product development process, when we are about to launch. It has become superficial, disconnected from the product, the company and the people behind it. This saddens me so, because when approaching the brand this way, we cannot leverage it, we cannot maximise its potential, we cannot serve customers, and we cannot create or develop a business around it.

This is why I say that 'branding' is dead. The brand, however, is very much alive, and in fact more important than ever.
But does brand really matter these days, you might ask, when more and more marketing takes place between people eg on social media networks?

Why yes. Indeed, in a me-too marketplace where everybody has access and can express themselves about any brand any time (and this openness, in my book, is a great thing), the importance of developing and managing a highly differentiated brand - which starts with delivering distinct and superior customer value consistently - is more critical than ever.

We can only do so by putting the brand at the heart of our business strategy. Apart from simplifying the complex, making objectives clear and realistic, and giving direction for everyone in the company, putting the brand at the center ensures that everyone understands the brand promise and works on delivering this to customers every day. And it helps broadening yet clearly specifying the options for business development and growth.

The brand is what people buy. The product, the promise, the experience, and the conviction behind it. Meet and exceed customers' expectations and maximise business potential by putting the brand at the heart of your business strategy.

NB. To my Danish readers: I will be talking about this at the annual Vækstdag February 10 in Copenhagen. More info at Vækstdagen 2011.

New words for 2011

This post has nothing whatsoever to do with business, strategies, brands or any of the fancy stuff this blog tends to focus on. It's simply good old fun that made me laugh a zillion times today - it's a list of new words for 2011. I can recognize myself in several of 'em, eek!

Waving your arms around and talking bollocks.

Sitting round in a group, discussing why a deadline was missed or a project failed, and who was responsible.

A manager who flies in, makes a lot of noise, craps on everything, and then leaves.

The experience of spending an entire day swimming upstream only to get screwed and die.

Single Income, Two Children, Oppressive Mortgage.

The fine art of whacking the crap out of an electronic device to get it to work again.

Entering a fast food restaurant with no intention of buying food, you're just going to the loo. If challenged by a pimply staff member, your declaration to them that you'll buy their food afterwards is known as a 'McShit with Lies'.

Someone who's clueless. From the World Wide Web error message '404 Not Found'.

The bus that arrives at the pub on Friday night while you're in the toilet after your 10th pint, and whisks away all the unattractive people so the pub is suddenly packed with stunners when you come back in.

The invisible but warm coat worn when walking home after a pub crawl at 3:00am.