Pick our brains on-demand

Some of our customers are already using this retainer-on-demand consulting format but most companies still contact us too early or too late to work on innovation projects. 

Too late, when they have thought through many points already and have engaged resources, they contact us to legitimize their approach or they hire us on a too narrow scope. 

Too early, when the initiator doesn’t have the power to put into action, doesn’t have the resources or the back up. So it becomes a very short mission/discussion to help the client have the next steps clear to sell internally.

All in all if we decided to share about our on-demand format of consulting, is to ensure our clients (and potential ones) can use us to the best of our potential of value creation. Innovation is motion, so as co-pilots it is key that we are present at the right time to support and more often the case trigger the shift.

How does it work?

For an annual fee (payable in quarterly or monthly installments if necessary), you have access to our brains. It usually takes the form of regular « coaching » or consulting sessions, attending board meetings, sharing analysis of certain markets or trends, challenging new projects to fine tune them or giving a short keynote to a team. 

We agree on the pace and reasonable use of our time. More involved and time consuming projects (designing and delivering a training or mentoring programme, writing a specific new white paper on a key topic) that may arise are invoiced separately. 

You will have a preferred consultant as your main point of contact myself (people related transformation and issues) or Philippe (on innovation and strategy). And you also have access to the other one depending on what you are going through at the moment. This flexibility allows you to address the issue quickly and coherently.

Why would on-demand consulting work for you?

Well it might not work for everyone that’s for sure, but you may recognize yourself in some of these cases:

  • You have understood that although the quick win innovation project seems attractive it may not bring the deep and meaningful transformation you are seeking for your organisation. You want to take a holistic approach, be supported by external points of view and engage in sustainable evolution of your company culture (processes, behaviors, values) and business model. Innovation copilots challenge you to consider both business and culture in synergy, bring extra years of experience and wide vision to inform your decision-making, and are accessible “on-demand” so can intervene when time is critical or even ahead.
  • You are a pioneer in your company, and as such you feel the pain: loneliness, weight of processes and pressure of results. Fortunately you have managed to convince top management it is worth it so you have some time and some budget, whilst feeling the pressure to deliver “something”. Innovation copilots act as your sounding board and extra brainpower, help you engage better with your ecosystem, and stir you in the most innovative directions.
  • You have recently engaged in new ways of working, using new methods or tools, it all seems to be on track. However, your wiser self knows not to rest on your laurels, and with rapidly changing environments, technologies and markets you need to stay on the ball. You do not necessarily want to engage in yet another transformation using a big army consulting firm. Yet you wish to ensure that you will be ready and help your organisation get ready when time comes to adapt again. Innovation copilots challenge you to stay alert, help you consider a wide variety of scenarios and give you this extra edge – avoiding the late realization brought on by Gartner that your industry has shifted.

Why not recruit us?

Please do not recruit us as employees. We would lose our sharpness. We need to be external, be open to other industries, have the time to reflect on far-fetched scenarios, and have the right distance to internal politics – involved as strategic partners who know this game (but have no stake in it). We want to be close enough to you so we can have these honest and sometimes challenging conversations and yet be far enough so we bring something new and different. 

This “pick our brains on-demand” service has tickled your interest? Then drop us a line we’d be happy to discuss over a (no engagement) coffee ;o)

Hema Market, the Full ‘Digital is Over’ Experience

For the last ten years I’ve been in China at least once a year. As such, there is no way I consider myself an expert with deep understanding of this market. No, what I have now is a long string of snapshots, flowing together in an accelerated vision of how this market is evolving.

Since 2016 (a bit more actually), I’ve been pushing this simple concept: Digital is over! Being back in Shanghai right now, is among many things a perfect opportunity to check how far digital has been integrated in the every day life of this massive consumer market.

Remember, last year when I was especially impressed by how Alibaba and Starbucks did partner up to build flagships vision of the future of retail? By now this snapshot has consolidated into a full-fledged retail operating system (IT, big data platform, social web marketing, and supply chain all rolled into one “as a Service” retail mainframe) for every corner shop in China.

That’s the reason why, this year I was really excited to understand on site what Alibaba was now doing with Hema Market.

Understand that: in term of market innovation, Hema is probably the end-game. Imagine a typical supermarket with everything you need to produce a meal for the family (including live fish and shellfish) with a chinese-level interest amounting to thousands of people a day flowing in. Imagine a level of service where digital is fully integrated: you can order online and get products delivered. You can order online in-shop and get products delivered. You can order online, get in shop and pick your products. You can… You can select and buy your shrimps in-shop and ask them to be sautéed so that you can lunch and finish your grocery shopping later.

Shop for groceries, get them prepared in a dish by the store’s chefs and have your meal on site…

This is the wet dream of most US or European supermarket businesses. Delivering a seamless physical and online experience, where customers can of course check themselves out, and staff mostly add value by assisting the in-store customer experience. Needless to say that if you really want to pay with cash (or god-forbid a plastic payment card) you can. But what’s the point when everyone has a mobile with Alipay?

Hema Market - Digital is Over - Innovation Copilots
How long now, before the option of using a plastic card or dirty paper disappears?

Bottom-line, we now have the reality of full digital integration in retail that works at scale in a culture where customers are difficult to satisfy and manage (to say that they don’t really trust brands would be an epic understatement), and with fresh food (which is a supply-chain nightmare of proportion that people selling running shoes wouldn’t even start to understand).

Hema Market - Digital is Over - Innovation Copilots - Customer Experience
You think your customers are tough? Imagine you’d have to manage this kind of customer experience on a daily basis… : )

And what did strike me this year while I was cruising one of Shanghai’s largest Hema market would you ask?

Nothing.

Nothing was remarkable.

Nothing did stand out as a ‘AHA’ moment. Nothing was worth taking a picture of to illustrate some kind of fantastic customer experience breakthrough. And it took me a few hours after getting out of the store to be hit by the seismic proportion of “there was nothing worth seeing anymore”.

The only thing is that one of the largest economies of the planet has now fully digested digital at street-level.

Digital is over? Hell, yes. Here we are, at full scale, at full speed. And here I am, quite the apologist of this new reality, giving keynotes on ‘invisible technology’, caught by surprise by the plain ordinariness, the triteness of it all. To echo Gil Scott-Heron: the revolution was not televised. It was certainly not broadcasted at the CES Las Vegas or invented with VR goggles and blockchain.

Now many questions remain for the rest of us who are not in the chinese B2C market. How does it translate for Northern Europe that is already “very digital” (whatever it means) but not with WeChat or Alipay? How long before Apple recently challenged on the US stock market goes full steam ahead with Apple Pay? How long before the ripple effects catch up with you? Is real estate, banking, or fashion the next market to be entirely rewritten as casually digital next year?

But essentially, what is your 2020 plan?

3 Tips for Business Blog Writing

Beyond the usual and excellent writing tips you can find in books and online, there is the hurdle of overcoming your own writing blocks. So here are 3 (sometime counter-intuitive) insights to help you write your business blog.

1. Do not write for an audience

I know this goes against all good marketing advice, which say “you should know your audience”, “you should speak their language”, etc. Etc. You know that already. 

But somehow too much empathy leads to self-censorship. And writing is about self-expression, so you see the problem here. If you overthink about who is going to read you, then you might be tempted to be less authentic in favour of adapting to your imagined audience (that’s for all the people pleasers) or you might over judge what you write (that’s for the less confident ones) or you might even freeze for fear of judgement, or consequence on your social image (that might be for the overly self-conscious).  

Writing a blog, and even a business one, is about having an authentic point of view and sharing who you are, your experience, thoughts, perspectives. It is not about being popular (no, really). Having positive business impact from the blog is a great side effect but should not be the goal for fear of losing in authenticity. Because your voice is in the end what the audience, “your audience” is looking for. 

With Philippe, for the blog writing, we gave ourselves three editorial guidelines that suited our corporate and personal identities, and we know it may attract some and deter others from reading us. That’s ok. Let your audience find you.

2. This is a conversation

The issue when we write, and especially in business, is that we want to sound clever, expert-like, be professional, it may after all not be a hobby but your only marketing strategy for getting business. 

However, you are not a professional writer, you are not a journalist, and you are probably not a researcher (you might have been in the past), and you are certainly not writing a PhD thesis… It is a blog, be it in the business sphere, at the end of the day it is just a blog. 

And sure enough, if you approach it like a huge writing exercise, like a thesis or your memoirs, your legacy, aiming to be a bestseller… Well then the pressure is on. And so much pressure is not good at all for stimulating your creative juices. 

So instead see your business blog as a conversation you are initiating with people on a subject that you find interesting. Share an experience, a tool or a point of view to engage with others. Don’t try to be THE expert, it might either stop you (if you have legitimacy issues) or make you sound arrogant (if you are over confident). No-one wants to speak to or engage with the overly-smarty pants. 

You can still have an assertive point of view, and then be ready to be challenged. “Be opposable” says Philippe, which is one of our editorial guidelines. Don’t try to be a guru.

3. Build your writing trigger habits

You might have many things to share but cant’ always find inspiration or the the triggers to spark your motivation to sit down and write. It took me some time to find mine, and I’m still honing it. 

For people like Philippe who are avid readers, there might be already so many triggers in their daily routine: reading of articles in newspapers, specialist or generic blogs, on various unrelated subjects, from different sources etc. From observing Philippe’s routine, I can see how his daily habits nourish and stimulate his writing, and the result is that he writes a lot. He even has a huge backlog of articles he wants to write. He might still complain that writing is hard, but all in all he has been very prolific. 

Me, I’m not so much a reader, I read but a pale amount in comparison to a true reader like Philippe. However, I have found that I am stimulated by contacts with people, by my observation of the world. I need to directly experience things, then I get inspired.  I like case studies, I like discussions, I like to reflect back on what I have heard or observed, I need to have my hands in the mud, to play with things and learn how they work. 

So, last year I experimented with doing interviews. And it worked, I found the whole process of doing interviews a great source of inspiration for writing… It is still a lot of work, between the search for people I find interesting and want to know better, contacting them, the logistics of it, the retranscription, the analysis, the writing etc. It takes time and sweat but I did it with JOY.

So my advice is find your own source of stimulation for writing, these aha moments when your brain goes “I have understood something, I have a clear point of view on something that I’d like to share”. Maybe it is a daily walk in nature, or an evening journaling about your day, maybe it’s reading companies’ stories, or discussing with experts. And then incorporate these types of activities or moments in your routine. This will increase your level of inspiration and the words will write themselves.

Be self-centered…

This article was sparked by a conversation with myself (I’m not crazy I just question myself a lot) on why I did not write as much as Philippe did (accepting vulnerability in the process) and how I could share more (solution-orientation). So I did not write it for a specific audience but to remind myself of these insights and I am not pretending to solve all business blog writing problems. 

In conclusion to overcome your business blog writing block: know yourself, be more self-centered and share it anyway you like.

Microsoft understands what being an OS in 2020 means (maybe)

I was discussing a few weeks ago how Alibaba is swiftly becoming the default operating system of retail stores in China. Reframing your perception from what was an e-commerce platform 10 years ago, to something with much deeper and global strategic intent is challenging. It is very interesting to see that Microsoft (as a traditional PC operating system and cloud platform) is moving in the same direction in the US.

It might seem easier to understand as well. Going from one type of OS to another one presents indisputable challenges, but makes sense product-wise. I won’t dispute that. But if you end up thinking that Microsoft could be in better strategic position to do that you’d be dead wrong.

Being an operating system is not about running computers anymore, even if you include mobile phones and tablets as ‘computers’ by 2019 standards. It’s also not only about running more distributed hardware such as TVs, connected devices, fridges or cars. The 2020 to 2030 battlefield that is shaping up is running ‘everything’. This is the prize that the GAFAs and BATXs are now seeking: being the last remaining OS for everything we do from sharing the pics of our babies, to ordering pizzas or shopping for fresh vegetables, or even healthcare.

It is thrilling that Microsoft seems to seriously get in this game now. But fighting off Amazon or Alibaba, which are on top of their game at not only digital operations (cloud, payment, big data) but also physical operations (supply chain), will be quite a tall order.

Happy new year, and buckle up because 2020 will be interesting!

Apple is Doomed (Again!)

Every six months or so, we have another warning that Apple is doomed. Well doomed or not, wiping off $74.6 billion in valuation on a trade day is unprecedented in the history of business. So yes, let’s pause a moment on that.

It is now obvious (in hindsight’s what’s not?) that the iPhone both reached a plateau in term of units penetration, but also price point. Don’t expect to see in 2019 +30% growth in iPhone penetration in US or EU compounded by unit’s price reaching 2,000 USD / EUR.

Tim COOK more then ever is clearly happy to point out that moving forward as a service platform leveraging their user base is the next step. It will just have to “accelerate”:

Our non-iPhone businesses have less exposure to emerging markets, and the vast majority of Services revenue is related to the size of the installed base, not current period sales. Services generated over $10.8 billion in revenue during the quarter, growing to a new quarterly record in every geographic segment, and we are on track to achieve our goal of doubling the size of this business from 2016 to 2020. Our results in China include a new record for Services revenue, and our installed base of devices grew over the last year.

Tim COOK, Jan. 2018

In 2014, I was already making the case that Apple didn’t sell ‘products’ anymore and that they were going in AaaS mode (Apple as a Service). I was a tad optimistic at the time. What I underestimated like everyone else, was how Apple would manage to maintain sky-high prices for five consecutive generations of iPhones world-wide (China included).

This strategy is now a good news / bad news scenario for Apple.

Good news is that they have in their DNA this history of bending the music industry to their will, allowing the market to consume music not through plastic CDs anymore, but through 0.99 cents digital bites. They were also masterful at burying everyone in the mobile industry for more then 10 years by making the iOS development platform and the App Store, the most profitable in the market (remember that with only 10-20% of market penetration in mobile phones, they still harvest 90% of the profits in the market).

Bad news? Their DNA is more on the hardware than the service side. Just consider how ridiculously powerful the iPad has become, while iOS still lags behind at delivering best-in class tools and softwares. Or consider how unsatisfying iCloud has been since its inception.

But most importantly, some of their most powerful service bricks such as Apple Pay have been very slowly ramped up worldwide (a handful of EU countries and banks can use the service with no obvious reason to why). Ironically enough, Apple Pay should be the perfect counter-measure to Apple’s Wechat problem in China! (Furthermore, if you read me, you know that the payment brick is for me one of the most critical in digital service businesses.)

So, if you want a new year’s prediction for 2019 I would say that: to know if Apple is doomed, monitor where Apple Pay, it will be the biggest tell to know how fast they will escape the hardware zone.

EDIT – Jan. 5, 2019

Is Apple starting to get out of the comfy zone and dive back in the arena, telling customers (and competitors) what is their added value? Saying that to the CES crowd, while still not attending this non-sensical event where people try to market connected microwaves ovens with 8K screen, is quite something. Exciting times.

EDIT – Jan. 6, 2019

And now Apple starts to untighten it’s control on iTunes to let it be used on Samsung TVs. Not that shocking given that iTunes has been already available on Windows for quite a long time now, but possibly a slippery slope. Let’s see where this goes from there.