React, respond, rebuild

This pandemic is having an immediate effect on almost every job and it's likely to have a longer-lasting impact in the years ahead. There's plenty of speculation around this topic but this article from Lynda Gratton in MIT Sloan Management Review is one of the most insightful ones I've read.

The author refers to a survey response she got from one CEO who said their mantra is "React, respond, rebuild." It reminds me of the agile approach to software development and one of the keys to both is flexibility.

She outlines three types of job categories and provides valuable prescriptive advice for each. The most challenging one is the last one, which she describes as being "non-routine and highly collaborative, with an innovation aspect" and her example is a product developer. A huge hole for this role is the serendipity that's disappeared thanks to all the work which now takes place remotely.

Those chance encounters almost never happen these days but that sounds like a business opportunity for a bright, creative technologist who can come up with a way to fill the void...


Amazon, Alexa and podcasting

When the Spotify-Joe Rogan news hit last week I wondered again about Amazon's role in podcasting. Sure, you can ask your Alexa device to play the latest edition of just about any podcast but is Amazon only looking to act as a pass-through agent, serving up streams from Apple?

If the latest rumors are any indication, the answer is no. It appears Amazon doesn't want to simply enter the podcast market...they want to totally disrupt it.

The local content angle may seem somewhat narrow at first but think about the possibilities. Amazon certainly has the resources to curate the best of the best as well as fund development of new local content while newspapers, local TV, et al, are declining. And if I'm going to Amazon for my local podcast content I'm also shifting all my non-local podcast subscriptions to their one app/service as well. All of this, btw, will be accessible through the countless Alexa devices in all our homes (and ears, as my Bluetooth earbuds are also Alexa-enabled).

The most interesting element of this Amazon podcasting story is the advertising angle. Most of the ads I hear in podcasts today are still very mainstream, trying to cast as wide a net as possible. That's why 99% of those ads don't resonate with me. Amazon, however, is loaded with data about my preferences, buying habits and more. They're uniquely positioned to serve up programmatic advertising for an audience of one: you. That doesn't exist in the podcast world today but it definitely will tomorrow.

Advertising engagement and conversions would both be exceptionally high in this environment. And if you like what you hear, buying/subscribing/opting-in to whatever the ad is promoting will be as easy as saying, "Alexa, sign me up for..."

This model makes privacy advocates cringe, of course, but it's also likely to create an entirely new ecosystem of streaming content driving significantly more revenue for plenty of parties, not just Amazon.


Disruption and free access to MITSloan Management Review

A former colleague of mine recently mentioned that her current employer, MITSloan Management Review (MMR), was offering a free 60-day pass to their entire site. I've read a number of articles since then and wanted to pass that link along to you as well.

More importantly, I also discovered that the MMR has assembled a collection of very timely articles about disruption that they're also offering as a free downloadable PDF (courtesy of Deloitte). If you click here you'll be asked to give your name and email address to Deloitte but I think you'll find the content well worth that personal info.


The Acorn Method: How Companies Get Growing Again, by Henrik Werdelin

When I first met Henrik Werdelin he was a founding partner of Prehype, a "collective of entrepreneurial people who help each other build new ventures." My employer at that time had an agreement with Prehype to help us ideate and develop a new strategy for the organization's future. I always came away from those meetings with Henrik feeling both inspired and challenged; he forced us to look at our business in a completely new way.

When I learned that Henrik recently published a book called The Acorn Method: How Companies Get Growing Again, I immediately bought the e-version and started reading. I encourage you to buy a copy as well -- you won't be disappointed.

This quote from one of the first few pages provides the main concept behind the book:

I believe mature companies are like tall trees; they grow until gravity constrains them. They may shoot up rapidly, generating tiers of new branches and reaching great heights, but eventually, new growth can no longer successfully compete for resources with older branches higher up the tree.

The Acorn Method is a very quick read and, if you're like me, you'll end up with plenty of highlighted pages and notes to follow-up on. Highly recommended.