Saturday, January 31, 2009

Information rich and attention poor

“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention”
Herbert Simon
Quoted by Hal Varian in McKinsey Quarterly

Friday, January 30, 2009

A note on "branded" email

In Spring 2008 my classmates Alexandra Levich, Jenny Xu and Thang Troung Minh and I carried out an independent study on social networks. The study was supervised by Professor Rashi Glazer, our marketing professor at the Haas School of Business.

The goal of our study was to identify and validate the value proposition of online social networking. Our overarching question was What is the social networks' value proposition and how is it perceived by consumers?. Apart from the explicit, several focus groups unveiled interesting implicit behaviors of online social network users.

the explicit and the implicit

One of these behaviors consisted in that a given user employed's messaging system to communicate with the same recipient he has just emailed one minute ago. This modality of "branded" email struck us. Beyond pure use, and despite a clunkier usability than regular email, there seemed to be a lot of hidden meaning.

From an elements-of-communication perspective, it seems that context plays an important role. Facebook, as the context in which this communication happens, has managed to create a new interaction space with its own rules.

In its form of "branded" messaging, the content of a facebook message can potentially be the same as in a traditional email. The channel itself, although clunkier, is technically similar to that of email. Nevertheless a facebook message serves different purposes, and can have different recipients than those of conventional email. Your friends tell you certain things over facebook and other things over email. People who would not email you, contact you via facebook messages. Maybe it is perceived as less intrusive?. Regarding time, my view is that facebook messaging is also perceived as more asynchronous, i.e. less aggressive, than email.

From a marketing point of view this case constitutes a great example of differentiation. Differentiation enabled by the facebook brand and the context it creates, but driven by user behavior. Fascinating.

Inovalatino. Innovation "en español"

I am currently collaborating with inovalatino, a Spanish-speaking blog on Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Technology. The blog brings together the perspectives of a core group of MBA students (MIT and Haas) from Mexico and Spain. Our idea is to promote innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit amongst Spanish-speakers and specifically in our communities of origin, Latin America and Spain.

If you hablas español and you want to participate, let me know. We would love to have you on board.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Same stones. Different cathedrals

The transition from Renaissance to the Baroque period was a time of crisis. Art went through a deep transformation, let alone spirituality and culture in general. Mannerism, one step beyond Renaissance but not Baroque yet, questioned the function of the main ingredients of architecture. For example, columns and arches, traditionally utilized to support other elements, were used as mere decorative components in the grand scheme of a facade. Nevertheless architects used the same old stones, combined differently to produce a completely innovative result.

Nothing new under the sun. Hal Varian, Chief Economist at Google and my Technology Strategy professor, in an interview for McKinsey Quarterly refers to “combinatorial innovation”. Nowadays innovators can combine different and unlimited components made of bits - Internet, software, etc - to achieve stunning results. In his opinion this flexible innovation will keep on providing significant productivity gains in the coming years.
Hal Varian, Professor at Haas and Google's Chief Economist

Interestingly, in the interview he also points at what he considers the future of education. In a world with unlimited information the most valuable skills will be those related with extracting value from data. Understanding information, drawing conclusions and being able to present them in a compelling way so knowledge can be successfully applied.