Who Owns Who?

President Trump has recently created a(nother) media stir by expressing his concern about the selling power of the on-line retail giant we call Amazon. While personal opinions about this matter will vary, it signals a quiet but important industry trend – the consolidation of companies. We cannot assume that a business’s name is synonymous with ownership.

For example, did you know that Amazon owns IMDB, Twitch and Whole Foods? Or that eBay owns Craigslist and StubHub? Or that Apple owns Shazam (yes, that’s why ‘OK Google’ can’t tell you song titles like Siri can!). The chart below is one helpful way to understand the complex web of brand ownership

While you may (or may not) find this chart interesting, it contains an important lesson. In an increasingly connected society we need to do our homework. If you are selective about who you do business with, you need to spend time researching who owns who!

Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com


Chart Source


The Seven Stages of Innovation

In the past I have spoken about the process of innovation (see Hot or Not and Hype Cycles). These posts utilized the Gartner model to show how a product or idea progresses through several stages before it moves from an idea into a useful product (see chart below). This model provides a means to understand the technical stages innovation undertakes. However, what about the human side of innovation? How do we as people impact the innovation process? How do we respond to it?

Figure 1: The Gartner Hype Cycle

Figure 1: The Gartner Hype Cycle

Morgan Housel recently outlined the different stages people go through when we adopt a new innovation. He outlines seven steps which big breakthroughs typically follow:

  1. First, no one’s heard of you.
  2. Then they’ve heard of you but think you’re nuts.
  3. Then they understand your product, but think it has no opportunity.
  4. Then they view your product as a toy.
  5. Then they see it as an amazing toy.
  6. Then they start using it.
  7. Then they couldn’t imagine life without it.

To illustrate this Housel showed that some of the greatest innovations of the last century – the telephone, the automobile and flight – were all unheralded and criticized widely at the genesis of their innovation cycle. However, over time these steps have come to fruition and we now view all of this list as things we cannot do without.

While these seven steps focus on products, I believe they also apply to ideas. As leaders, we need to anticipate that new ideas will result in skepticism and opposition. After all, “we’ve never done it that way before”. However, this model shows that successful ideas will require determination, perseverance and communication.

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, provides a perfect summary:

“Invention requires a long-term willingness to be misunderstood. You do something that you genuinely believe in, that you have conviction about, but for a long period of time, well-meaning people may criticize that effort … if you really have conviction that they’re not right, you need to have that long-term willingness to be misunderstood. It’s a key part of invention”.

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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

Source: Morgan Housel

Trend Watch: Rate the Rater

Word-of-mouth can determine whether businesses thrive and die! When people share their good (or not-so-good) stories, an organizations’ reputation quickly spreads. While word-of-mouth still occurs over cups of coffee and through our friends and associates, it has also become a huge on-line business. Organizations like Yelp, Amazon ratings, Angie’s List or RateMyProfessor.com are all common ways that we research products, businesses or people. As a result, they are also a modern use the word-of-mouth phenomenon.

However, on-line sources and ratings are still susceptible to misuse. Can you recall the last time you read a rating that sounded rehearsed or was the only five star review amidst a slew of one star ratings? Conversely, businesses have also used this system to attack competitors with negative ratings as an unethical way of eliminating competition. Since many organizations live and die by these ratings, an entire industry of fake ratings or ratings-for-pay has emerged.

While this challenge will never be fully eliminated, there is a recent trend which provides hope. The solution is simple – rate-the-rater! In traditional rating systems, you buy a product from Amazon. After the transaction is complete you are given the opportunity to rate-the-seller! In a rate-the-rater system, the business also gets to rate you, the purchaser!

This is not new and has already been used effectively with some organizations. For example, our AirBnB Coachella guests rated us after their stay in our home (a five star rating system). However, as hosts we were also given the opportunity to rate these same AirBnB guests. Uber uses a similar system and drivers are able to rate their customers. This allows other drivers to determine the quality of their potential fare. In turn, this helps balance a system that, historically, has favored the purchaser!

A rate-the-rater system creates accountability as we can no longer offer scathing reviews without some level of consequence. It is a unique application of The Golden Rule – treating others as you want to be treated. When rating becomes a two-way process, an amazing change occurs in what you say. While I will still leave a negative review, my language changes when I know that the company will potentially also be reviewing me. This limits my rants or inflammatory language.

This change also reminds us that privacy is something that no longer exists (see The Death of Privacy). It also teaches us that our on-line ratings are one more thing that we must manage in our on-line lives. Potential employers are already reviewing our Facebook, Instagram and other social media pages to assess our character. I expect that your on-line rating will be yet another aspect of this within the next five years.

As usual, this trend has both upsides and downsides. However, no matter what your personal views are, this shift will occur. So I encourage you to begin managing your on-line ratings like this trend has already happened. Because it has! Rate-the-rater is here to stay!

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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

Psychic Salary: What Gets You Up in the Morning?

Once a year, Amazon employees get an interesting opportunity.  They are offered cash to quit working at their company. The first offer is worth $2,000. Each successive year it increases by $1,000 up to a maximum of $5,000. This creative idea began at Zappos, a company known for their innovative approach to organizational culture.

So why do organizations pay employees to leave? The premise is a simple one, “unhappy people make for unhappy companies” (Harvard Business Review). We have all worked with Poisonous Peter (or Petra). They can suck the life out of the best job. As Jeff Bezoes, CEO and founder of Amazon states, “Great companies are great precisely because they stand for something special, different, distinctive. That means, almost by definition, that they are not for everybody. It takes a certain personality type to thrive…if there isn’t the right fit, it makes perfect sense to quit” (Harvard Business Review). Paying employees to leave can serve the purpose of weeding the organizational garden.

But there may be an even more important reason. Pay-to-leave incentives make employees regularly review a very critical question – what gets you up in the morning? Because work is personal, we need to be motivated to perform our best. The pay-to-leave offer makes employees re-examine their motivation each year.

At a recent event hosted by the Coachella Valley Small Business Development Center we heard an example of this concept. Jennifer Di Francesco serves as the Spa & Sports Club Director for Toscana Country Club, a prestigious country club in our region. Each spring Jennifer has an interesting challenge. Due to a high population of seasonal residents who winter in the desert, she has to lay off almost all of her staff for five months during the slow season. Despite this challenge, she notes that almost every staff member chooses to return.

While she does not offer pay-to-leave incentives, her unique situation provides a different version of this concept. Instead of pay-to-leave, her employees are faced with a decision of pay-to-stay. Similar to the Amazon model, it makes her employees examine what is important. Jennifer believes that an employee’s decision to return is rooted in the value of their ‘psychic salary’, an idea promoted by Holly Steil in her book Neon Signs of Service. Psychic salary refers to the amount of non-financial value that an employee derives from their job. She realizes that there are more reasons than just money that keep employees happy. Similar to Amazon, Toscana Club employees must re-examine what gets them up in the morning on an annual basis.

Wise employers figure out what contributes to their employee’s psychic salary and intentionally build it. Jennifer notes that club prestige and a healthy work environment are two things which help her foster this. For your team, it may be the location of your business, the boss they work for, scheduling flexibility or organizational culture.

Research by the Gallup organization reveals that only 30% of Americans say they are engaged at work (Why We Hate Work: Issues of Engagement). This means that most of us are not creating the psychic salary that employees need to feel engaged. Peter Drucker summarized it well; “culture eats strategy for lunch”. If we fail to make our employees examine their motives, salary doesn’t matter.

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Jeff Suderman is a strategist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational Future-Readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

Bill Taylor (April 14, 2014). Why Amazon is copying Zappos and paying employees to quit. Retrieved from Harvard Business Review.