Nowist Innovation In A New World

Nowist Innovation in a New World riffs a TED Talk by MIT Media Labs Joi Ito. Ito’s video is interesting until time code 9:12. At 9:12 NOWISM becomes a “must understand” idea. Ito’s New Rules of marketing and branding include:

Traditional “institutional rules” don’t work anymore.

  • Pull vs Push– pull resources as needed instead of stocking and pushing inventory on unsuspecting customers
  • Learning vs Education – Education is what people do to you, learning is what you do for yourself
  • Compass vs Maps – Costs and TIME required to PLAN eliminate possibility of ROI

Simple vs. Complex

Our world is complex, but what marketers need to do is simple – focus on customers, listen more than talk and curate customer content more than lecturing. You don’t need to stock everything.

Find your 80-20 Rule, know what 20% of your content, products or brands generate 80% of your engagement or profits, and just in time as much as possible. Focus on being connected and always learning.  “I don’t like the word ‘futurist’ I think we should be ‘NOWIST'”, says Ito:

Sistine Chapels vs.
Early and Ugly & Eventually Beautiful

E-commerce always happens now. Trends and research can help, but the web’s “weather” is impossible to predict with any certainty. The web’s complex entwined metrics, inputs and levers mean KNOWING is impossible.

The web is like a huge lake in a constant state of turnover:

Lake turnover is the process of a lake’s water turning over from top (epilimnion) to bottom (hypolimnion). During the summer, the epilimnion, or surface layer, is the warmest. It is heated by the sun. The deepest layer, the hypolimnion, is the coldest. The sun’s radiation does not reach this cold, dark layer.

During the fall, the warm surface water begins to cool. As water cools, it becomes more dense, causing it to sink. This dense water forces the water of the hypolimnion to rise, “turning over” the layers.

We were always out of sync with our IT team. Our hypolimnion was rising as their epilimnion fell. Some projects met in the middle, but most missed the mark. The feedback loop was too long. Changes, trims to your web sails, need to be made daily not in six months.

Web Time = NOW

There is only one “time” online – NOW. Variables as massive as web attribution (who really did what, to who and why) and the web’s weather front flocking behaviors (storms brew up and web traffic acts likes birds flying fast before a storm). As Ito shared at the beginning of his talk. We thought we could PREDICT THE FUTURE.

Not so much anymore.

The most important future is always NOW and NOW happens over and over. Create and overlay a plan on a constantly changing now and you become SEARS vs Amazon.

At a conference a couple of years ago a speaker discussed the difference between Amazon’s flexible online merchandising and price arbitrage vs. Sears slow to react “price plan”. He compared pricing on a hot item discovering Amazon changed price more than fifty times in a few days. Sears’ price remained the same.

Amazon is using a compass. Amazon knows how to arbitrage the web’s NOW for the highest return (Hell they create the idea of “infinite inventory” and “arbitrage of everything”). Sears seems to be using the old Henry Ford motto, “Any color and model you want as long as its Model T and black”. Good luck with such a plan in the web’s arbitrage of the constant NOW.

Customers As Compass

But there’s a problem. No matter how good a compass reader YOU and YOURS are your are insufficient. Just as the time to create a plan can’t be afforded by the plan’s return, no ROI, you need an army of compass readers.

We think every online marketer needs many different connections and compass readers. We’ve co-opted elemental forces to describe “compass readers” needed:

  • Strong Compass Readers – A website or brand’s 1% Contributors STRONG compass readers are close, willing to sacrifice time and share social capital in service of your brand’s movement or cause. Strong Compass Readers are brand advocates and company ambassadors in need of tools and jobs.
  • Weak Compass Readers – Often friends or friends of friends of Strong Compass Readers WEAK compass readers are further away, less engaged and harder to count on. Weak Compass Readers will surprise and support, but don’t give them jobs. Better to create “commons” areas where these advocates can find tools when and if they want to help (usually because they’ve been roped in by a friend).
  • Electromagnetic Compass Readers – Electromagnetic wait for an event or something BIG happening to come in, swell traffic numbers and then quickly deflate as they leave until the next Big Event. Short term, only willing to “join” when the mob does so making trends undeniable with all risk leveraged out Electromagnetic Compass Readers come and go with the wind.
  • Gravity Compass Readers – Gravity readers are all about the pile on. If things are going BAD Gravity Compass Readers pile on to make things worse. If things are going good gravity piles on to slow momentum and even reverse course (in drastic events such as a public quality failure like a car recall or a doubting Thomas when things are going “too good”).

Compass readers are the web’s “lie detecting amplifiers” we’ve discussed before. Compass readers are the web’s fundamental elements. Your websites will experience them all and should have plans to empower some (Strong & Weak), redirect others (Electromagnetic) and reduce the power of others (Gravity).

How do you do that? Curagami of course. We’re discovering the real power in conversations isn’t what you think. Sure direct feedback can change tactics and strategy and so save money. The real power, the ENGINE, we’ve discovered with Curagami, is the “empathy machine” you create to harness the power of the web’s elements.

Since the care and feeding of an “Empathy Machine” are my keynote talk at FedEx’s Innovation Conference next week I can easily promise more details soon.