Apple won’t sue Google and Cook is a better manager than Jobs. Which is bad.

Of course Apple won’t sue Google!   Getting a positive verdict when fighting a foreign company in a US court is one thing.   Going up against Google is quite another.  Even without the closet of Motorola patents, Google wouldn’t lose.   It would be like going up against the water utility company; they just leave you to die of thirst while you wait for the verdict.   And even if you win, you will always worry what they might put in your water…

And Tim Cook, unlike Steve Jobs, is a good manager.   He doesn’t take chances like that.   He doesn’t believe in hocus pocus quack medicine.  He has made Apple a much more “normal” company.   After almost two decades of irrationality, he finally gave out dividends.   He actually talks to investors.   After a decade of forcing slave labor in China he finally decided to look like he is doing something about it.    Employees in the US no longer live with the fear of a Jobs’ attack on them; they actually have time to drink coffee now.

There is more formal organisational structure; without Jobs, other people actually get some real responsibilities.   Around 53% of the employees who reference “MBA” on their Linked in profile have been at Apple (non retail)  less than 22 months.  After a lifetime of closed garden design …hey, OK, he can’t change everything all at once!   There might be a few chinks in the armour but it is still a secretive company.  Only problem is, we are less and less interested in their secrets anymore.

Apple is based on the wow factor.   Tim Cook will make the best of disappointments like the iPhone 4s.   The company will of course not remain as succesful as it has been in the past years.   But it will not fall down all of a sudden.   He is milking the brand carefully.   But making it a “normal” company is obviously a very…unApple thing to do.   Normal companies don’t perform like Apple did under Jobs.

So don’t hold your breath.   Some people say “let’s wait and see the new product launches before we decide”.   I don’t think you need to wait for anything.   It won’t be a spectacular success.   And it won’t be a spectacular failure either.

Normal.   Heck, they might even start giving away more than 1$ a year to charity…



Purple rain, Obama and Jesus Christ

The sky is purple.”   As you create the mental image of a deep purple colored sky, you might walk across to an open window.   You will see a blue (or grey!) sky.   The mental image is shattered and replaced by reality.   Congratulations, your brain is working.  Or, to put it more accurately, the part of your brain that checks other parts of your brain is doing its job.   When you dream you might be able to fly, lift airplanes or be a millionaire; when you wake up it all goes away.

Modern brain research has shown us that a charismatic person can temporarily take that ability away from us.   Much like our defences are softened when we sleep, we allow a gifted speaker to put thoughts in our heads without examining them.  If you are good at presentations or sales pitches you may have had one of these moments:  the audience is taking it all in, it is going great and then someone reacts.  “Hey, wait a minute…”   He has noticed that he was getting carried away and is trying to snap out of it before you close the deal.   (Charismatic Leadership: An Exploratory Investigation of the Techniques of influence – George A. Sparks)

In terms of brain activity is much like hypnosis.   A state whereby you are more susceptible to suggestion.    Cult leaders often use it to achieve a mass dellusion.   Marshall Applewhite managed to get 39 people to commit the largest ever mass suicide in the U.S.  Max Weber considered charismatic leadership as a phenomenon attached to an age where people believed that the leader was uniquely connected to the supreme being.  Before the “legal-rational” age.  (Three Seasons of Charismatic Leadership – Tamás Czövek & Carl E. Armerding)   Research has moved forward since then and the leader-follower interaction (LMEX theory) has provided a good framework for more multi faceted thinking on the topic.    It also produced simple “to do” lists such as setting an example, challenging the status quo, visioneering, providing moral support and empowerment of followers.   (Social Construction of Charismatic Leadership – Timothy P. McMahon)

The image of a fearless leader running ahead in “battle” (whatever business, political or athletic battle that may be) is almost hard wired into or brains.   Yet, as we head into the information age, the evidence mounts that it is baggage we need to leave behind.   In an age of Wikipedia and collective intelligence, can we really assume that a single person can interpret reality for us?   What we probably need are people that can help create the right context for solving problems as a group.    Indeed even the leadership process needs to constantly justify its existence.   Much like an electronic forum.   We occasionally need administrators.   We always need contributors.   We seldom need leaders.

So a word of advice to budding political, business or religious leaders: the game has changed.   If you are going to rely on those few which are still looking for a magic button saviour, you will soon be out of business.   We need leaders, but they need us more than ever.

A good overview of how management thinking has evolved on this topic is in “Charismatic Leadership in Organizations” –  Jay A. Conger, Rabindra N. Kanungo



Communicational lessons from the Greek crisis

As you watch the television coverage of riots in the center of Athens, you might find it useful to ponder for a minute on the situation.  Not for the conspiracy theories or the endless economic analysis we are all tired of.   From a practical point of view the items which might appear in your country too sometime in the future:

1. What to do with millions of unemployed people?   That’s a lot of time and energy available from a lot of people.   If it doesn’t get channeled into something, some is more than likely to end up in riots.   If religion was the opium of the people in bygone times, soap operas later, what is taking up the slack now?

2. Who is the enemy?   Again, if the bad guys are not defined, everyone is up for the part.   Many modern economic crises featured politicians’ focusing on some “other” to blame.   Used sparingly in politics or business, this strategy can in fact be useful to help foster social solidarity towards a common goal.

3. Everyone’s an expert.  Social media and the internet have dislocated any traditional way of controlling the agenda.   Government inaction makes it even easier for a minor event on Twitter or Facebook to grow disproportionately to its true impact.   The only way to stay ahead in the internet age is to run faster than everyone else.   All the time.



Business Communication

Why TV companies should give away reputation monitoring

The field of reputation monitoring seems to be on fire.  By all accounts a hot, hot, hot category to watch.  The reason is simple: most businesses don’t really know what is happening online and they are scared.  So they pay for a company to make sense of the millions of interactions going on globally around their brands.  They monitor products, staff, competitors, slogans, IP… in fact they let the reputation monitoring experts tell them what they should be monitoring!  This is about the same as asking your army’s general what new weapons he needs.  Expect a long, complex and detailed list of very expensive stuff.

Don’t get me wrong.  You do need to monitor what is going on online. And with the right partner you might even learn a lot about the field.  But it is extremely important not to lose track of the real world of influence.  Which, for most businesses, is not yet completely online.   Traditional media like TV, radio and print exert massive influence.  Heck I have waged fax mailing campaigns that blow the socks of anything online!   The fact that they don’t provide metrics as easy to produce as the online stuff shouldn’t marginalise them.

It does of course in a twisted Catch 22 scenario:  online metrics are easier, so we spend more time with them, so we disregard older media, so ad spend decreases.  The solution is pretty much what Google did with their Analytics.  TV companies should buy monitoring systems and give them away to customers!  In Greece for example there is a truly excellent company, which offers not only solid technology for speech and content recognition, but intelligence in it’s analysis.  And social media is included, so you can get an overall and balanced view.  (If I was the TV company buying Qualia I would tweak the algorythms a bit I think…)

It is all about interface.  If I get you looking at my monitor of information I control what you think.