The problem with being a ‘thinker’


I was thinking about drug testing at work the other day and came to the conclusion that if I was running a large company I would use drug screening to hire certain substance abusers… I don’t want them to operate heavy machinery but my thinking is if you stick everyone with a degree and a suit in the same room you’re going to get similar ideas and opinions.

None of them want to give you their more crazy ideas because they are scared of looking like the guy in the picture… if their idea fails, or is too whacky they become prime targets for the next staff cut.

Because most staff will avoid doing anything that exposes themselves to friendly/enemy fire most fly just under the company radar as this is the safest place to be if you want to keep your job

The person with the whacky idea that just might change an industry might not come forward because they don’t want to appear to appear to be smarter than their manager, and if the idea fails then they know who’s going to take the blame and it won’t be their manager or the boss.

smallknife.gifBut get a drug user hopped up on goofballs just before the meeting and he/she just doesn’t care about these things. While everyone is sitting around talking about creating the new knife block, our drug user starts ranting about the movie ‘Kill Bill’ and babbles on about a knife block that is shaped like a human with knives stuck through the body!

I was thinking about all of this when visiting Jake who created surfume (a perfume for surfers). I’m not saying Jake was on drugs when he thought about the idea, but Billabong, Rip Curl,and Quicksilver all could have created Surfume but none of them did.

Who wants to be the Billabong employee and say to the boss… ‘you know, we make surfer fashion, why don’t we make surfer fragrances?’… when you know your manager is going to tell you that Billabong makes clothes and wetsuits not perfume!

So it’s left to crazy guys like Jake to create a new niche market product and I’m willing to bet that a company like Billabong will come along and buy him out.

We see it all the time, big companies buying out small innovative companies simply because the small guys dared to dream!

Published in: on December 24, 2005 at 3:49 pm Comments (1)

Custom covers for Ikea Furniture… brilliant

Very often in business we look down the wrong end of the telescope. Someone in the furniture business would see Ikea as a competitor, but if they were willing to look at their business and Ikea’s business in another way they could become partners – probably unwitting partners.

Ikea has sold more than twenty million sofas in Europe in the past five years, the mind-boggling logistics of this means they can only offer a small range of colours or patterns. I’m willing to bet that a HUGE percentage of these ikea sofa owners would love to change the colour or pattern of their sofa about now. Enter a company called Bemz.

These guys simply make sofa, chair and cushion covers for Ikea furniture… that’s it. Their business doesn’t need retail outlets because the customers already have the furniture… all the customer has to do is choose a pattern or colour they like… it’s that easy.

So Bemz as formed a symbiotic partnership with Ikea… and Ikea probably doesn’t know about it. But both stand to benefit from each other’s success. Ikea might sell more sofas because customers know they can go to Bemz to get patterns or colours that match their decor. Bemz wins simply because of Ikeas market share in the industry.

Sometimes there’s no need to re-invent the wheel… just make the wheel prettier or work better will also bring great success.

Check it out at Bemz.

Published in: on December 20, 2005 at 7:20 pm Comments (6)

Web sites Vs Web Business

It’s been a while since my last post so I better explain what’s been going on. Since my blog post about the Life Art coffin featured on the TV show Dragons’ Den, I have been working for the Dragons’ General Manager setting up web businesses for the companies the Dragons invested in.

The problem is we’ve been working on an incredibly tight deadline as we try to get new sites up and ready for future shows… plus make over old sites that simply sucked. We’re talking three sites in just over one week… shopping carts, admin sections, art the works! So my friend and code guru, Murray, and I have been burning the midnight oil.

There are some interesting products on the show. So let me show you the sites we’ve developed and the lessons we’ve learned on the way.

Published in: on December 18, 2005 at 9:19 pm Comments (3)

Don’t hit the target market dead centre

Big companies aren’t usually the first to create niche markets. It’s small companies that carve a niche and then – sometimes- become big companies, or get bought out by big companies.

It’s not that big companies don’t have wild and crazy people with great ideas… it’s often because a any great idea gets the edges rubbed off it by various managers, departments, lawyers and rules, to turn the idea into something that will appeal to as many people as possible. Big mistake… because that’s exactly what the competition is doing too.

A small company or individual has fewer management to please so their ideas can go anywhere. This diagram explains it better:

A small company or individual can turn a crazy idea into a business reality because, in most cases, they don’t need million dollar sales to satisfy shareholders, managers, wage bills, corporate offices etc. This allows a small organisation to target a small segment of the market: Customers who LOVE their product.

Small companies can afford to have people HATE their product or service. If you want the average version then they will send you to Walmart. Niche market, often means you buy it online or have to do some work to find it.

Big companies don’t want anyone to hate their product and targetting the niche few who will love it is not as economically viable as making a product that everyone can afford and use. (Except if you’re Apple… those ipods weren’t cheap and Apple didn’t care. Because they were selling to people who LOVED the idea of a $300+ music box)

So if you want to make a Bike Helmet you could follow the designs of the thousands of models that look the same and are average (safety in numbers), or you can make something like below:

Do you think boingboing would blog about the helmet on the right? No, and that’s the reason why noginsox are selling the helmets on the LEFT (and other cool designs) by the truck load at the moment.

Some crazy person got it in their heads to create a bike helmet that looked like a bald head with nails hammered into it… fantastic.

Forget aerodynamics, cooling, sun protection… these products are FUN.

We always rate businesses by market share, cash flow, profitability… I think FUN is just as important as all of these things.

Published in: on December 9, 2005 at 5:47 pm Comments (3)

The NEW music business model… people actually pay for free stuff!

Boingboing were quick to tell us all about Jane Siberry’s amazing new online music store where people can hear and download her music for free, or pay. The choice is left to the consumer.

So you can listen to a song like:
Calling All Angels…
and if you like it, you can buy it… (and ‘yes’, Jane gave me permission to stream this song, all I had to do was ask).

Now hang on to your hats folks, it’s what boingboing didn’t tell us that is even more amazing about Jane’s new online music store…

I was listening to some samples and was scrolling through the price options for her album ‘Shushan’ (one option was a price of $0, a gift from jane) and the most amazing thing appeared below the list:

50% of people PAID for the album at a standard price of $11.11. That’s amazing… but there’s more…

Published in: on December 5, 2005 at 12:15 am Comments (55)

The Talent Myth

For years I have been coaching jobseekers to focus on their talent and not their skills and experience. Talent is the reason why some people are stars at their jobs while others are just ok… and you can’t train or teach talent. But I was reading an essay by Malcom Gladwell, when these few sentences grabbed my attention:

They were there looking for people who had the talent to think outside the box. It never occurred to them that, if everyone had to think outside the box, maybe it was the box that needed fixing.

He’s talking about Enron, Arthur Anderson, Worldcom etc… big companies that hired and financially rewarded young MBAs to become stars by pushing them to think outside of the box. And while they were doing this, the whole place fell apart.

I’m summarising Malcolm’s essay dramatically here but he made a case that creating a talented organisation is far better than relying on a plethora of talented people. In other words, an extraordinary busines can make ordinary people achieve extraordinary things. We often assume that people make organisations smart… often it’s the other way around.

Published in: on December 1, 2005 at 12:41 am Comments (0)