Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Faceoff. Is it time to become anti-social?

Here's one trend forecast I've gotten wrong three years running. But now I'll ask this again: is it time for people to faceoff?

Thinking back to the mid-'90s when we were all still wearing our internet training wheels, we got some quick, back-of-the-envelope instructions about the do's and dont's to be safer in cyberspace: keep things to a minimum, don't openly share your phone number, keep travel plans secure, keep financial transactions very secure, and don't ever, ever place photos of your kids on the 'net.

So, what have we been up to lately? We've been giving every HR manager, burglar, and pedophile a fantastic head start in life. They know who you are well before you walk in the door, or before they walk in your door. They know your home layout, where the new LED TV is, and how much you had to drink the night before.

A few weeks back, one Facebook friend of mine posted info about an upcoming trip to Hawaii. The dates were the set, the tickets were in hand. There were geo-coded pictures of them getting in the taxi, boarding the plane at the airport, arriving at their fancy hotel. Two weeks in paradise. The only missing info was where to find the spare key to the garage, and the alarm code.

A very entertaining website entitled "Please Rob Me" tried to get the message across several years ago. The site compiled open feeds from social networks to create an efficient list of out-of-towners. Unfortunately, from what I see, the message hasn't gotten across.

All this info we share is non-biodegradable. You might think it is, and that's smooth trick. It's out there for good, and could cost you a job interview, or a lot, lot more. It's time for the I.V. dopamine trigger we call social networking to come face-to-face with reason.

Now if you excuse me, I'll be out of town for the next two weeks. (And to my kind friend who volunteered to water my plants while I'm gone, I left the key under the doormat.)

Thanks to Facebook friend R.M. for sharing this video.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

For Nokia, the gloves come off. But now they don't have to. How does egocentrism affect product plans?

When the first iPhone was unveiled back in January 2007, I was working for Nokia out of "Nokia House," the company's beautiful bay-side crystal headquarters located in Espoo, Finland. A few days after Apple's announcement, I happened to have lunch with one particularly sharp Nokia vice president. Just like most water-cooler talk in the building that week, the iPhone became the topic of our lunch-time conversation. While I (like most of the other grunts in the building at the time) insisted the product would be a game changer for the smartphone business, that particular Nokia VP was rather dismissive of Apple's entry into the segment. His key argument against the iPhone's potential market success was the all-touch form factor. After all, he said, the device couldn't even be used with gloves on.

Wouldn't work with gloves on! I thought that was unique rationalization, but I then began to hear the same argument from some other top Nokia executives. While this might sound like bizarre thinking, you have to realize that these executives come from the land of the frost, not too far from the North Pole. Winters often start in October and can end in April. If you live in an environment where you might need to wear gloves outdoors half the year, it's not strange to want a smartphone you could answer without stripping down a bit.

So, yesterday Nokia (CNET story) unveiled two new smartphones, the Lumia 920 and the Lumia 820, which could indeed be used with gloves on. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time a mainstream smartphone vendor touted gloves-on usage as a feature. I doubt any California-based handset company would ever have thought to make this a key-selling point.

After working in foresighting for many years and seeing many good products and features get canceled for strange or no reasons, I have often wondered how much egocentrism can contaminate product and feature planning. Egocentrism is the very natural result of projecting one's own experiences and environment to a general level. It's gut instinct gone very wrong, and as we see in industry over and over again, egocentrism can lead to some extremely painful and expensive lessons.

I've said many times that there is no such thing as a technology disruption, that is, rarely does a new technology come along and change the playing field in a very short amount of time. For the most part, competitors who do their foresighting homework have access to the same information and the same or very similar technology developments as the so-called disruptor companies. No, there are no technology disruptions, only bad judgement calls and strange decision making.

It's good to learn from your own mistakes. It's even better to learn from the mistakes of others. Welcome common sense in your decision making, but beware the potential deceptions of egocentrism.

Don't let your company get left out in the cold.

Does your view of the world fit across the globe?