lunes, 26 de diciembre de 2011

Presentaciones Zen

Cualquier persona puede cambiar el mundo con una idea, si sabe comunicarla y ejecutarla.
Tener una buena idea y ser incapaces de explicarla en los momentos claves es imperdonable: por esto entrenamos a nuestros jovenes empresarios para hacer “elevator pitches” de 2 minutos, mientras Steve Jobs decía que si necesitas una presentación en Power Point para explicar un concepto, significa que no tienes ni idea de lo que hablas.
Todos nos hemos aburrido frente a presentaciones infumables, llenas de “Bullet points” y recargadas de información que distrae, difumina el mensaje esencial: he probado verguenza ajena y he estado a punto de dormirme muchas veces en mi vida profesional.
Nancy Duarte es bajo mi punto de vista la mejor “arquitecta” de presentaciones y comunicación que conozco: ella y su marido han creado Duarte Design y sus dos  libros (Resonate y Slideology) son una inversión necesaria y muy rentable para ser mejores presentadores y enganchar a nuestra audience.

Metanse en su blog y vean esta conferencia que tuvo en Tedx, simplemente memorable.
Otro Guru de la comunicación es Garr Reynolds: sus libros y blog son un antidoto infalible contra una muerte segura por “power point bullets”.
Os invito a visitar su blog, Presentation Zen, que está muy en sintonía con los preceptos de Nancy.

Para empezar os sugiero que veáis la conferencia de Garr en el espacio Google Authors

Sus dos libros (Presentation Zen y Presentation Zen: Design) son super recomendables.

Finalmente, los más puristas adoran al profesor Edward Tufte:
Aquí va su libro “The Visual display of quantitative information”. 

Para los geeks del “presentation design”, un Link muy técnico:

Gracias a Ramiro y a Luis por recopilar tanta información sobre el tema.

domingo, 25 de diciembre de 2011

On buying something for the first time

In the last century, three (3) things have changed the way we consume today:

  1. Henry Ford introduction of mass industrial production with all its successive improvements;
  2. Mass Marketing introduction by advertising agencies and creative gurus (if you follow the TV serial “Mad Men”, Don Draper is a good example);
  3. The fact that people started buying things FOR THE FIRST TIME (before, people bought things just because his/her father, grandfather, grand-grandfather bougth the same, as today does one third or 2 billion people of the World).

In this great post and in its related video, Seth Godin explains this new magic of the XXI century marketing.

On buying something for the first time

There are only three kinds of sales:
  • Buying a refill, another unit of a service or product you've already purchased before
  • Switching to a new model/brand/style
  • Buying something for the first time
Here's an overlooked truth: until quite recently, buying something for the first time was a very rare and almost revolutionary act. In fact, more than a billion people on Earth don't do this as a matter of course. The standard is to only purchase the seeds, fuel or shelter that your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents did. That's the way it's always been.
Take a minute to think about what it means for someone in poverty (which until recently was almost everyone) to buy something for the first time. The combination of risk and initiative can be paralyzing. One of the little-known transitions of the industrial revolution was the notion that companies and individuals could set out to discover and buy stuff that they didn't know about until just recently.
You see a box or a store window or a product on the web and you start imagining how cool it would be to open the box, own the product, use it, engage with it and benefit from it. A product you've never purchased before. That's new behavior. Until a hundred years ago, that sort of imagining was rare indeed, just about anywhere in the world.
If you are trying to grow your coaching practice or b2b saas business or widget shop, understand that you are almost certainly pushing against a significant barrier: most people hesitate before buying something for the first time. If you're trying to develop trade in the underprivileged world, understand that teaching people to buy anything for the first time is a revolutionary concept.
Campbell's soup is almost never bought for the first time. It is a replacement purchase. No one switches to Campbell's either. They buy it because their mom did.
The first iPhone, on the other hand, was a first time product for just about everyone who bought it... most of the people on line that first day were buying their first smartphone. Worth noting that a few years later, many millions have made the switch--we don't make first-time purchases lightly.
And most of what gets sold to us each day at work or at home are switching products. "Ours is just like the one you already use, but cheaper/better/faster/cooler."
The potent mix of fear of loss, desire for gain and curiousity fuel the appeal of buying for the first time. But it's magic, it's not science, and it doesn't often happen on schedule.
Here's a six-minute video presentation I did on this for the Acumen Fund. Sorry about the video glitch near the beginning--part of the magic of being on stage is that I wasn't even aware of being projected upon...

A letter to eurozone

Marvin Zonis is much more than a master or a friend: Marvin is a constant source of wisdom and inspiration, from the humility of probably the best expert in geopolitics in the Anglosaxon world.

Emeritus Professor at the University of Chicago, I had the privilege of having Marvin as a teacher in GSMP 2008, in some memorable classes with a lot of discussion and controversy, as usual when love and passion are in between. 

He owns a farmhouse in Italy, in the región of Umbria, what says everything about his good tastes (well, Tuscany would be even better :)).

In his web MARVIN ZONIS.COM you will find all his data, publications, classes etc. and a way to suscribe to his newsletters: please find attached his last one. 

The letter reports the doomy vision of the scholar Terence D. Murphy about Europe and its future.

Even though I am the Chief Optimistic Officer, it is my obligation to share this with you guys.

by Terence D. Murphy

Dear Marvin,

Ever since we started working together, since the second unification of Germany, I remained the optimist concerning Europe's economic and monetary union.

Recently, optimism has turned from doubt to dismay. Trained as a historian, I
argued that the second unification of Germany and the weight of history pushed Germany and France towards a closer union, that long-term economic and political trends fostered deeper European integration. And it worked for a
generation. Then came the unfolding. Lehman's Brothers bankruptcy spread
contagion. Europe became infected. The weak fell. Greece headed for default.

The pieces are still falling. And there's nobody in sight to pick them up. Not even the ECB.

This week's Economist has a bleak forecast for the eurozone. Unfortunately, I
don't think there's anything that can be done to stop the blaze. Save the
domestic banks and a few patriots, only the ECB is buying euro denominated
sovereign bonds. And the more the ECB buys, the more banks off-load their

The tragic mistake was the Greek hair cut.

Rather than salvation for the Greeks, it was the beginning of the end for Italy. Rather than helping Greece, it infected the European Financial Stability Facility. The EFSF cannot even borrow the money that government's promise to back.

Could it be that the call for the recapitalization of banks re-enforces the message that the Greek haircut is the model for the future?

You're going to need more money, because the next haircut is going to Italy.
Should the lending strike continue, Italy will never be able to raise
the 30 billion needed by the end of January.

With the failure of the German auction, I think we have reached a point of no
return. And it seems as if the German central bankers are in total denial. Jens
Weidmann, Bundesbank President, believes the buyers' strike is a passing

I believe his recent intervention before German industrialists resembles the affirmation of faith of a young man before his elders.

Very Protestant manifestation of a fundamental psychic flaw: affirm your faith, regardless of the consequences. Luther's : "On this, I take my stand" comes to mind.

Merkel's call for austerity and budgetary discipline, much like IMF
injunctions to debtors of the 90s, slows growth, increases the deficit and piles on more debt. A vicious cycle. Her call for a closer fiscal union requires changes in the Lisbon Treaty.

Perhaps even in the German Constitution. Again, her appeal to law and the sanctity of treaties is a perfect cover to explain the German veto over
the compromises proposed by the EU commission, France, et al.

I love her call for restraint at this moment of crisis. It's like a home-owner planting olive trees in the olives to munch on back garden as her home burns down.

Actually, that's a good image. Let the house (the European Union) burn, we (Germany) will build something more suitable (for Germany). In the end, we'll have a new and better house. And olives to munch on.


Terence Murphy is a Professor at The American University of Paris. He can be reached at

sábado, 24 de diciembre de 2011

Innovation in higher education

The attached article is of great interest for understanding our future student pains and keep an eye on the importance of "on-line-blended education" to keep innovation high and costs low: data refer to the US but I suspect there could be a lot of similarities with the European environment.

Merry Xmas!

Innovation in Higher Education

A glance at the latest US employment figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals sharp differences in unemployment rates by educational attainment: college degree or higher: 4.3%; associate degree or some college: 8.2%; high school graduates, no college: 9.6%; and no high school diploma: 14.3%.

Moreover, while the overall unemployment rate remains over 9 percent, a recent McKinsey report found that employers are having trouble filling specific positions because they could not find applicants with the right skills.

The report projects that if economic conditions improve, there will be a shortage of 1.5 million workers with college degrees by 2020, but a surplus of almost 6 million of workers with no high school degree. It also projects a continuing shortage of workers with technical and health care skills not necessarily requiring a college degree.

Just about every such study points to a similar trend: for the foreseeable future, the US economy will need better educated workers with specific skill requirements.

Workers without a post-secondary education face a contracting set of job opportunities. Those with higher educational attainments will be in the best position to obtain good jobs with good pay.

Thus, we need to significantly increase the number of students receiving post-secondary education. However, our colleges and universities, the very institutions to which the country should turn to help us address these increased educational demands, are facing problems of their own.

Tuition costs have risen much faster than the rate of inflation and keep going up, thus making it harder for them to serve the students most in need of their services. Many educational institutions are facing financial difficulties.

The financial crisis has been aggravating the situation, at both public and private institutions. Government education budgets are under huge pressure at all levels, - local, state and national.

Incremental steps will not make much of a dent on the problem.

We need to look at higher education through the lens of disruptive innovation, argues a report published last February, - Disrupting College: How Disruptive Innovation Can Deliver Quality and Affordability to Postsecondary Education.

The report is written by Clayton Christensen, Michael Horn, Louis Caldera and Louis Soares.

Harvard Business School professor Clay Christensen is one of the world's foremost experts in strategy and innovation. In his seminal book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, Professor Christensen articulated his theory of disruptive innovation.

It is nicely summarized in the Disrupting College report:

“Disruptive innovation is the process by which a sector that has previously served only a limited few because its products and services were complicated, expensive, and inaccessible, is transformed into one whose products and services are simple, affordable, and convenient and serves many no matter their wealth or expertise.

The new innovation does so by redefining quality in a simple and often disparaged application at first and then gradually improves such that it takes more and more market share over time as it becomes able to tackle more complicated problems.”

Before examining how disruptive innovation might apply to higher education, one needs to first articulate the key problems with the present system:

“Our country’s dominant higher education policies have focused on expanding access for more than half a century - allowing more students to afford higher education.

Yet changing circumstances mandate that we shift the focus of higher education policy away from how to enable more students to afford higher education to how we can make a quality postsecondary education affordable.

The challenge before the country also mandates a new definition of quality from the perspective of students - so that the education is valuable to them and that through it they improve their lives and thus improve the country’s fortunes, too. And if a postsecondary education is fundamentally affordable - meaning lower in cost, not just price - this will also answer the question of how to extend access by enabling students to afford a higher education.”

Why are the costs of higher education so high? According to Christensen et al, traditional colleges and universities combine three distinct objectives.

The first is research or knowledge creation.

Second is teaching or knowledge proliferation.

And third is to help prepare young high school graduates for their working lives and careers as well as to transition into independent adulthood.

In addition, quality in universities has been measured primarily by being excellent in every field of research and instruction, so they can attract top faculty and students.

Universities are thus highly complex institutions with very high costs, many of those costs going to the overhead administrative functions needed to coordinate their various missions and responsibilities.

This model worked well when universities served a relatively small, selective student population. Their high costs were subsidized by philanthropic donations and government funds.

But, as costs keep mounting and government support is getting reduced, this model may no longer work except for the small number of elite universities with large endowments and very large numbers of applicants who are willing to pay whatever it costs and from which they can be highly selective.

The model does not work at all if the primary objective becomes to provide an affordable, quality post-secondary education to a much larger number of students, and give them the appropriate skills for our increasingly demanding job market.

We need a new, disruptive model. Disruptive innovations are based on two main ingredients.

The first is a disruptive technology enabler.

This changes the rules of the game by providing a reasonably priced, good-enough service to people who could not previously afford it, and which is easily scalable to serve many more people and flexible enough to keep improving over time.

According to Christensen et al:

“Online learning appears to be this technology enabler for higher education. It is for the first time disrupting higher education - and indeed helps explain much of the rapid growth in the up-start for-profit higher education sector over the last 10 years, even as many colleges and universities have struggled financially and had to cut back.

Roughly 10 percent of students in 2003 took at least one online course. That fraction grew to 25 percent in 2008, was nearly 30 percent in the fall of 2009, and we project it will be 50 percent in 2014.”

The second major ingredient for a disruptive innovation is a business model innovation.

The key here is focus. To significantly lower costs and serve many more students, online learning should be focused on two key objectives: teaching and learning, - not research, - and highly structured programs targeted at job and career preparation.

“The historical strategy of trying to be great at everything and mimic institutions such as Harvard is not a viable strategy going forward,” observe the authors. Instead of optimizing their structure around their research capabilities, an institution wishing to offer students an affordable education must be structured to optimize the flow of students through the university.

Can such an institution offer a quality education?

It depends how you define quality, which is always the case in the early stages of a disruptive innovation.

The more prestigious traditional universities are generally those that do the best research and attract the best students. By that measure, low cost universities don’t compare since their faculties do little publishable research.

In reality, attending a prestige, research oriented university is primarily important for those students who will themselves go on to careers in research or academia, or who aspire to get the kinds of jobs for which it helps to have a degree from an elite university.

But, that is a relatively small percentage of students attending college today, let alone those not able to afford a post-secondary education at all, who would likely be the main beneficiaries of the innovations discussed in Disrupting College.

More than anything, such students want to improve their skills so they can get a better job now and have an overall better career in the future.

They are generally older, and are often not able to attend college full time because they have to work. A large percentage come from racial minorities who have been underrepresented in traditional universities.

Attending a prestigious university was never in the cards for such students, but hopefully now, they will be able to get a decent post-secondary education whenever they are ready for it.

Disruptive innovations sometimes completely replace the older version of a product or service, e.g., transistors versus vacuum tubes. But other times, they give rise to a new market segment that does not replace an older one but co-exists with it, e.g., smartphones versus PCs and tablets.

Usually two major factors determine whether the older version gets replaced or co-exists. Can the new innovation eventually perform all the functions of the older version but do so at a significantly lower price? And, can the older version reinvent itself by embracing some of the key innovations of the new product or service?

Traditional research oriented universities address a very different market segment from the one being addressed by the newer online universities optimized to provide a low cost, structured education.

“[Research] institutions of higher education remain vital - indeed those that focus on research as well as those that train people for the academy will still be critically important for the country’s future.

Most of America’s elite colleges and universities will continue to fulfill this job. But we should no longer force those institutions that are focused on teaching and learning to compete on the same metrics and play by the same rules.

Pushing these institutions to adopt a mission of knowledge creation has created institutions that have two conflated value propositions and business models - and added significant overhead costs.

We need institutions focused solely on knowledge proliferation - and need to regard those that do a good job on this dimension as being of high quality at what they were meant to do.”

However, as is always the case with disruptive innovations, the new technologies and business models should be embraced by traditional universities to help address some of the serious financial problems they are going through.

This is particularly true for those institutions not quite at the elite level who are most vulnerable to competition from the fast growing online universities.

Disrupting College is an excellent report whose provocative ideas could help address two major societal problems. First is to help us make a dent in our jobs crisis.

Better educated workers will be in a better position to obtain good jobs with good pay. An affordable post-secondary education will hopefully bring such good jobs and pay within the reach of many more workers.

And, at the same time, US higher education is facing complex challenges. Online learning might just be the kind of disruptive innovation that helps existing universities rethink many of their old assumptions and reinvent higher education. Let us all hope so.

viernes, 23 de diciembre de 2011

8 reasons why SMEs and entrepreneurs need to innovate

In our enterprises we foster and reward failures when trying to make something different, taking risks and we discourage mediocre successes.

Life and companies success are based on a positive attitude: in Silicon Valley there is an event called "Failed" where people go and share why they spoiled their business; it is a great exercise of humility making us really greater.

Please let me share this article by an influent entrepreneur I know and respect, Kamal Hassan.

8 Reasons Why SMEs and Entrepreneurs Need To Innovate

Posted on November 27, 2011 by Kamal Hassan

I was honored to participate as a mentor and master of ceremonies at the first Startup Weekend Dubai. I met many entrepreneurs there, all of them with energy, enthusiasm and an idea for starting a business. Most of the ideas were innovative, or could be with a little work.

My experience in the technology sector has shown that innovation is a driving factor for many tech-based startups. In other areas that attract SMEs – service industries, handmade goods, small scale manufacturing, etc. – innovation is usually less common.

Why don’t SMEs and entrepreneurs naturally adopt an innovative mindset? For one, innovation is often associated with expensive and large-scale projects (especially in the Middle East).

It’s also thought of as R&D (Research and Development), which many small businesses don’t have the resources to undertake. Then there’s also the fact that many entrepreneurs simply want to be their own boss – they latch onto the first idea that intrigues them, or they do what they know or simply enter the family business.

As an entrepreneur myself and an innovation strategist and practitioner, I have seen how innovative thinking can make a big difference in any size business, in any industry. There are many ways that innovation can help SMEs, startups and entrepreneurs – here are just a few:

#1 – Avoiding the “falafel shop” syndrome

Too many entrepreneurs see a successful business and try to copy it (in the Middle East it’s falafel shops – in the tech industry, at least lately, it’s daily deal websites). The new business may change a few small things – the menu, the prices, the décor — but their offering is really no different from the competition. An innovative business provides unique value that customers can’t get elsewhere. It’s not just about differentiating your business with marketing or slogans. It’s about taking a chance on a different type of business than everyone else.

#2 – An innovative mindset makes you more agile

Innovative thinkers are open minded, tend to try new approaches and are not afraid to fail. These traits also make you more agile, and better able to respond to changing market conditions. Innovative thinkers are also more creative problem solvers. When everyone in your company is trained to think creatively, it enables you to respond more quickly and efficiently to customer, supplier and internal issues.

#3 – Innovation tools keep you focused

You probably know at least five people who say they are entrepreneurs or want to start their own business. But there is more to being your own boss than just following your dreams and filling out the paperwork. Remember, it’s not really about you, but about your potential customers. There are many innovation tools that can help you offer unique value or solve a problem for customers. These tools will make your offerings more focused, and your team more focused on a clear goal.

#4 – The competition is not who you think it is

Industry lines are blurring as companies seek new ways to offer value. This makes it hard to recognize the competition, and also means there is more competition than ever. Instead of starting out by comparing yourself to your industry peers, spend time uncovering the real needs of the market you are trying to serve.

What are their pain points? How do they solve their problems, and how could you help them do it better? This up-front work may take your business in a completely different direction than you were headed (and it also works for existing companies that are struggling).

#5 – Disruptive ideas get funded

If you’re looking for venture capital or other funding for your startup – or even hoping to sell your small business to a larger company – having an innovative product or service is one of the most important criteria for even getting your foot in the door. Even better is a disruptive innovation that changes the market landscape. Investors are looking for unique offerings and business models that are likely to score big in the near future (based on customer insights and market trends). Of course other factors matter, such as your profitability and management, but if your idea is innovative, an investor will know how to make it profitable and manage the business well.

#6 – The best publicity is free

SMEs don’t often have a big marketing or public relations budget (and most startups spend too much on marketing and PR, leaving other functions hurting). However, with the rise of social media websites, your business can get free marketing and publicity. If you have an innovative business model or innovative offerings, your efforts here could pay off big as other people freely share information about your company. It’s called going “viral” and the innovators rule this space.

#7 – Your resources are limited

As an SME or startup, you probably have limited resources, especially when it comes to people. Using an approach like open innovation or crowdsourcing, you can tap into the creativity and expertise of people outside your company. These could be customers, suppliers, partners, or even people who have never heard of your company. Their ideas and problem-solving skills can help you innovate your offerings – and you’ll get free publicity, too.

#8 – You owe it to yourself

Starting and running a business is a lot of hard work (believe me, I know). You have probably invested a lot of time, money, sweat and tears in making your business work. You want it to be successful for a long time. The trick is to always offer something that people want, at a price they can afford and that sustains your business. Innovation can help you reinvent your offerings, or even your business, as customer needs change. By staying innovative, you keep your customers coming back and attract new ones – and you get the satisfaction of running a successful business.


Special events like Startup Weekend Dubai have their place in the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem, and I plan to continue supporting events like this. But it’s important that entrepreneurs and small business owners understand that everyday innovation is not only possible, it’s essential for their continued success.