Archive for December, 2008

Carlos is a Great Snowflake

December 12, 2008

Been meaning to post this since I first heard it a few months ago on an XM (satellite radio) “Artist Confidential” interview with Carlos Santana.  I’ve long been an admirer of the man, not just the musician, and two things he said stood out to me in the interview:

“Rather than going for the light at the end of the tunnel, BE the light in the tunnel”

and when asked about being a famous personality he responded:

“Its more fun to be a person than a personality”

Now THAT is my kind of snowflake!

Snowflakes as you’ve never seen them before

December 11, 2008

The piece in the New Scientist is not really about the Snowflake Effect, but the pictures of the snowflakes are too nice not to mention them here…

Journeys are Tough to Copy

December 10, 2008

One more suggestion on the topic of being copied and how to avoid it by being unique, like a snowflake.  Think of yourself, your work, your life as a journey rather than a destination.  A bit cliché perhaps but quite relevant here in that it is pretty difficult to copy something that is constantly changing and moving.

In the case of individuals such as ourselves, or for organizations, businesses, etc. what I think this means is that you are constantly finding new ways of pursuing you passion, your fundamental value proposition.  We certainly do this by developing solutions to problems we are working on, which are the “destinations” in this case.  These are good things, accomplishments and valuable.  However they will almost certainly want to have a finite time limit to them simply because the conditions and context that make these solutions “just right” will be changing and therefore so too do the solutions need to change. 

Furthermore it is these solutions or destinations which are the easiest to copy and so if they are constantly changing or going away, the concern for copying goes away as well.  Similarly, while these solutions are the elements of value at any given time, the true value proposition we have to offer is the steady supply of such solutions, which is the “journey” in this case.

Because it is largely people we are discussing being “copied” here, the only things others could really copy are the specific outputs  or “content” from you; captured versions of your writings, illustrations, audio, video, photos, etc.  Whereas your value is that you are constantly coming up with more of this unique output, that is increasingly relevant, increasingly new, different and valuable.  Hence it is YOU and the journey you are on which is the real value to others and this is impossible to copy.

I’ve always been a “journey person” so perhaps I’m overly biased or only see things this way?  What are your experiences?

Custom Chocolate Anyone?

December 9, 2008

Not quite at the level of individually personalized but on the road to getting there, read more in the BoingBoing article “TCHO chocolate is just outta beta!” about this company what has been using customer feedback to design and create new flavors of their chocolate.

They’ve written previously about this interesting company as well if you’d like more:

BBtv – TCHO, part 1: chocolate origins. – Boing Boing

Food is a GREAT area for the Snowflake Effect and getting things “just right” for each of us.  What other examples are YOU seeing and tasting?

Snowflaked Jeans

December 7, 2008

The name couldn’t be clearer: makeyourownjeans.com

Get custom made, pre-washed Jeans made exclusively for you and delivered to your door-step!
We make them to fit your needs, your measurements, your special requirements.

Maybe I should order one with a snowflake logo on the pockets…

Ideo to go

December 6, 2008

Ideo to goThe folks at Ideo have a nice Snowflake feature on their side: they call it Ideo to go. You tell them a few things about yourself and they generate a document snowflaked for you.

Me? I am:

  • a jack-of-all-trades
  • based in Europe
  • interested in education.

In my case, the result was a bit less convincing: I am not sure how the case study on the bank of America relates to me specifically.

However, I think the idea is one we could all run with: what would you need to know about your reader/student/client/customer/<insert whatever applies> to snowflake her experience and how would you go about doing that?

Food for thought…

Good Luck Trying to Copy a Snowflake!

December 5, 2008

In a previous posting I had mentioned a favorite quote from Jerry Garcia that;

“You do not merely want to be considered just the best of the best. You want to be considered the only ones who do what you do.”

I brought this up in a recent conversation with a business colleague in a discussion about his concerns that others were trying to compete or eliminate him by copying what he was doing.  This lead to a long conversation about how to not only be competitive but also to be true to yourself and a great frustration to those who may want to copy your work.  He said he found it to be extremely valuable and clarifying for him and so I thought I’d share the basic idea with you here.

The great thing about using the Snowflake Effect to guide your work is that you focus on being just what Jerry was referring to, the only one who does what you do.  This is NOT about being different for the sake of being different, this is about being true to yourself, your calling, your passion.  If you do that, you’ll be unique by design and essentially impossible to copy because your pursuit of your passion and getting to “just right” is a constantly evolving and changing process.

Something I’ve learned in practicing this for most of my life is that to you it all seems like a continuum and in that context it seems “the same” and there is not much change in that you are still following the same dreams, visions and values you always have.  However to everyone else, you will often be seen as constantly changing because you are trying many different things and different paths towards that end state you have in mind. 

In my past work on what I called “perfecting the irrelevant” I noted how it seems to be very common for people, organizations and business to confuse their actions, that which they do, with their value proposition, the true and lasting value of your actions.  I often cite examples such the case of ice delivery companies, none of which made it into the refrigeration business because they thought they were in the ice delivery business (what they actually did, their actions) when in fact they were in the “keeping things cold” or food preservation business. (their value proposition)  The trick is to have clarity and understanding of what your true value proposition is, as a person, and organization, or business and then be as innovative and creative as possible in ways to deliver on that value proposition.  Done successfully you are simultaneously very focused yet to most others you seem to be constantly changing and thus very difficult to copy.

Most recently Erik Duval, my favorite snowflake of all, has experienced an intriguing new form of “flattery” where someone has been copying his blog postings by literally cut and pasting them with no reference to their original source and thus appearing to be the content of this other blogger.  Unfortunately not a rare occurrence these days and very easy to do.  However I think we are now in an era where there is an inverse correlation of ease of copying with value.  In Erik’s case, ALL this other blogger is able to do is copy some of Erik’s content.  He certainly can’t copy Erik!  Erik is a snowflake and just about everything he does is similarly unique and different, yet very focused on a consistent vision and value proposition of (my interpretation only) assisting the world to be a better place through faster, better, deeper, learning. 

Good luck trying to copy that!  You might just as well try to copy an actual snowflake.

Mashups in Miami Beach

December 2, 2008

I’m in Miami today finishing up my most recent set of business trips around the planet and catching my flight back to El Salvador.  I had the great fortune of spending last night and this morning with a business colleague who lives on the waterfront of the always interesting Miami Beach area.  Thanks Eric!

For me Miami is one of those grand cities of the world that exemplify uniqueness in that there is little connection to the country they are in as they are a truly unique set of cultures, architecture, experiences and people.  As with cities such as Istanbul, NYC, Paris I find that you need to forget what country they are in and rather enjoy and try to learn from them as a unique world in themselves.  As so we did just that as we walked around the South Beach area, enjoyed some local food, people watching, architecture and the pulse of life. 

In the process I ran into what struck me as an interesting example of how to combine customization with standardization.  In this case it came in the form of a Publix supermarket which is part of a chain of supermarkets, mostly food, that is very popular in the Southeastern USA.  As best as I can tell, Publix is popular with those who shop there because the reputation they have built up for consistent quality, large selection of mid to high end food items and the overall design and ambience of their stores.  What I’ve picked up on in my visits to several of these stores in the past few years and talking with friends and others who shop there is that they have built up a very loyal following of customers who love to shop there and seek out these stores wherever they are.  That’s the “standards” part of the equation, delivering on the expectation that you will have a consistently good experience in any one of their stores.  However this particular store is located in a very affluent and “stylish” residential marina area on the waterfront of Miami Beach and so there were significant concerns by those living in the neighborhood and those looking to move there, that this store would be very out of place architecturally and at odds with the feel of the neighborhood which is filed with condos, waterfront walkways, parks, etc. 

The solution that Keene Construction came up with was to take a very standard building and Publix layout store and wrap it in a very unique exterior that fit well into the neighborhood.  As you can perhaps make out in the photo above the exterior is very striking, based on a nautical theme with the suggestive shapes of boat hulls, sails and decks.  Yet when I passed through the exterior doors I walked into a very familiar and standard Publix supermarket.  When that’s what you are looking for I thought it was a great mashup of the best of both customization and standardization.  From the outside the store is a delightful part or the ambience of the area and both fits in and stands out at the same time adding value rather than subtracting.

It was also interesting to read some of the comments on this store on Yelp, the community review site, by those who shop at this store.  Interestingly some of the comments were from people living nearby and others were from those visiting the area from far and wide.

This is just the latest example of the growing importance of design I’ve run into and am learning from, on how to mix opposite ends of spectrums such as old/new, standard/custom, consistent/unique.  It has left asking my usual question of “What is this trying to teach me?” and so I’m pondering how we could abstract from the lessons here and apply this type of mashup to things beyond architecture, stores, etc.? How could we apply this to human interactions, to software development, to content development?

The goal as I see it is how we can use the concept of mashups to create solutions that are not a compromise trending towards mediocrity but rather the creation of unique combinations of the best aspects of otherwise opposing ends of these spectrums that are truly greater than the sum of their parts which trends towards the Snowflake Effect of getting it all “just right”. *

*  Just the right things, for just the right people, at just the right time, in just the right place, in just the right context, etc.

Good reads!

December 1, 2008

From Goodreads:

Have you ever wanted a better way to:

  • See what your friends are reading.
  • Keep track of what you’ve read and what you’d like to read.
  • Get great book recommendations from people you know.
  • Answer book trivia and collect your favorite quotes.
Seems like this is quite an active site. There should be more obvious ways to get the books you read into the system though. How about scanning the bar code, like Librarything does (I think)? Or how about a way to feed photos of your library and have it OCR/do-whatever-number-of-smart-tricks-is-required to recognize the book you own? Or integration in social sites like iRead?
For me, amazon still works best, because there is no overhead in keeping it up-to-date about what I have bought. One of the reasons that I know it works for me is that it often suggest books to me that I have bought through other means. And yes, amazon has a nice ‘i own it’ button to let it know about that…
In any case, snowflaked reading recommendations are always welcome! Maybe you’d like to add some of yours?