Archive for April, 2015

Big Bell Dogma in my backyard

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

Over the years, I’ve probably driven by or through Chanute, Kansas hundreds of times. Little did I know that it would become a key case of Big Bell Dogma. Apparently, the town wants to offer it’s 9,000 residents modern Internet service by building a fiber network. AT&T offers DSL which it thinks citizens should be happy with, even if their DSL costs 40% more than the gigabit service the city would offer, so the company has brought it’s mighty regulatory machine to bear to make every attempt to halt this dangerous technology progress and protect the citizens of Kansas. Read the story here.

Market-Value-Model Matrix

Monday, April 13th, 2015

Last week I had a mentoring session with a startup that was wrestling with a couple of critical questions. First, they had identified six potential target markets. Second, they were wrestling with which of several different business models to pursue (sell the product, sell a subscription, sell customer data, or some hybrid/variant). After asking lots of questions, I thought it might be helpful to understand how these issues played against each other, and also how each one played against the new value proposition that they were bringing into the market (they have a handful of dimensions in which their product is an order of magnitude better than the traditional existing solution).

In many ways, I was reintroducing some of the tools that we regularly used in Strategy Labs at TeleChoice a dozen years ago, but with a new twist. I started by drawing on the (whiteboard) wall a matrix/spreadsheet with each row being one of the values where they’ve introduced an order of magnitude improvement (e.g. portability), and each column being one of the proposed target markets. We then went row by row and I asked which of the target markets would most highly value that improvement. In that cell, I wrote a “1” and then in the second most aligned market, I wrote a “2” etc. until we had completed the force ranking for that value. We then moved to the next row and repeated the process. At the end, we summed it up and the lowest scoring target market was the one that was best aligned with the revolutionary aspects of their product.

Although everyone agreed that it was imperfect because it was off the top of our heads, we agreed that it was the basis for now “getting out of the building” and validating what we thought the most aligned markets actually did value. (And everyone seemed confident that the well aligned markets really were rising to the top.) The beauty of this approach is that it not only gets us to the “right” answer quickly, but it helps us understand why it is “right” in a way that we can then make additional good decisions – such as where to focus development, what to emphasize in sales and marketing for each target market, etc.

The energy in the room was contagious as the founding team found themselves able to move off of indecision with a clear path to greater focus in an environment that requires efficient execution. My instructions to them were to now repeat the same process two more times – once matching values with business models and another time matching business models with target markets. (In reality, there are 6 combinations possible – switching the rows and columns since you always force rank across the rows, but you can usually pick which you focus on based on where your indecision lies.)

At the end, the team wanted to know what I called this tool. I was stumped because I honestly had never used it like this before. It’s an adaptation of what we used to call the TeleFilter, but it’s a totally different structure with a different goal. For lack of a better name, I’ll call it the Market-Value-Model Matrix (yes, I am trained as an engineer…).

Maybe this could help you with a hard decision you face, or maybe I can help you identify a different type of tool that will fit your unique situation. Drop me a note at if you think I could help!

The Apple Watch

Friday, April 10th, 2015

The big news this week is that pre-orders started for the Apple Watch and it immediately sold out. Of course, we don’t know how many watches Apple is producing, but clearly interest is high in this wearable device.

Last week I was asked to teach a class on Innovation at Blue Valley CAPS. At the end of the class, we had a good discussion on a variety of topics. One of the students asked about the Apple Watch. My take on it was that the constraints on the watch that limit the target market to owners of the latest iPhone (and the pricing) will keep it from becoming incredibly common. But the hype will drive innovation across the wearables space.

He then asked what function/feature/capability of fitness watches will have the most significant impact on our lives. I told him that, in my opinion, the beautiful thing is that we can’t possibly know. Although Fitbit, Pebble, and others have provided APIs for developers, the Apple Watch will be the first wearable that will attract a broad developer movement. The apps that we can imagine today are not the ones that some unconstrained innovator will envision and deliver that will truly be game-changing. And it’s those apps that will drive change across the entire wearables ecosystem, not just Apple.

This should be fun!