Doers & Talkers: Cultivating Innovation

via XKCD

A few years ago, I wrote a post called Doers and Talkers where I profiled two types of people in the technology space: Those who have ideas and are visionaries (or talkers) and those who implement those ideas on behalf of others (the doers).

I looked back at that post and realized that, while correct, it was a bit simplistic. In fact, in a world filled with shades of grey, there are more than just doers and talkers.

In review, talkers tend to be the ideas people. They have great ideas, whether in technology, business or just life in general. They see big pictures and tend to have lofty goals. They think quick and often take steps to see their visions implemented, often times without thinking about ramifications and potential pitfalls.

Talkers benefit from irrational thinking. They look at the impossible and, in their own minds, they don’t think it’s impossible. They see limitations as challenges and tend to think that road blocks are only minor inconveniences.

via XKCD
via xkcd

via xkcd

These are the CEOs and founders of the world. These are the people like Steve Jobs of Apple who say, “Phones shouldn’t be this limiting. I should be able to use my natural senses and behaviors to make the phone do what I expect it to do.” Thus, the iPhone was invented with a touch screen interface and technologies like the accelerometer that allow manipulation of the device through natural movement.

Doers, on the other hand, tend to not allow creative thinking. In fact, they tend not to be creative people. They are analytical, engineering types that look at data and extrapolate results based on that data. Doers, in the software world, are the engineers who are handed a list of specs, a timeline and budget, and are told to go and execute.

These people thrive on structure and expectations. They like to know what’s expected and, when they know, are exceptional at delivering results. Doers abhor irrational behavior and approach problems from a perspective of frameworks and architecture. They don’t venture outside their tent posts and, by doing so, are the necessary ingredient for Talkers to see their visions executed.

There really are shades in the middle, however, that are a rare breed. It’s the people in the middle, who both have the business savvy to see big pictures and allow for some degree of dreaming, yet have a firm understanding of expectations and roadmaps that make them so valuable.

See, doers rarely engage with the talkers in providing context or realistic expectation for proposals. Doers don’t really want that role. Doers get into trouble because they don’t know how to speak the language of the talkers. They don’t have the confidence, perhaps, or the desire to take a project and drive a sense of reality into a proposal. That’s above their pay grade, in their minds.

Meanwhile, talkers have an inherent nature, generally, that precludes outside input in decisions. Therefore, they don’t ask, or perhaps even think to ask, the doers for input. They create the business plans and monetization strategies, but rarely think about the implementation. By doing so, they often overlook problems that might be incurred. Talkers are usually distant from the details of the project and so, they tend to miss the detailed tactical decision making process that is employed by the doer.

Finding that personality who has the business understanding to see a 50,000 foot view, interface with management to guide a decisions in a productive manner and who also has the background and understanding to talk to the doers and collect their input is a rare, but important breed. These people should be hired immediately. Create a position if necessary but don’t let them escape.

These types of personalities tend to be excellent product managers and, in a technical environment, can really steer a product in a productive direction.

For what it’s worth, Google has instituted, for many years now, 20% time. This is the policy that states that every Google employee, regardless of role or position, is allowed 20% of their work week to work on any project that they want to. Allowing the doers, talkers and that happy middle the opportunity to be creative, to be structured and to foster ideas, has resulted in many Google Labs projects.

Notably, some of the best Google products used today, have come out of 20% time projects: Gmail, Google News and Google Reader. Additionally, many features (such as keyboard shortcuts in a variety of Google products) have also been added to existing Google products as a result of 20% time. There is even a blind engineer who created Google’s Accessible Search product.

While doers are important, and talkers are important, finding a way to foster open communication and understanding between them is essential for innovation.

Doing the Most Good Means Smart Economics

There’s an old saying that goes something along the lines of, “When life gets good, throw a party” and that seems to be a mentality that translates to business today. Mainly the web business, if we’re talking about literal parties. No good web conference, un-conference or social-media laden city goes without parties of some sort. Here in DC, we have TechCocktail, the Twin Tech parties, etc. Anything to get people together and drink a little bit over business cards.

In the more figurative sense, we have people like Geoff Livingston, who suggest that social causes is a great place to drop your money. And to a degree, he is right. Whenever there is a crossover between means and opportunity, then action is mandated.

The lack of means, at this time when companies are trying to pipeline enough business and extend runway to survive 18 months, and employees are losing their job because the company can’t pipeline those funds, creates a situation where business owners need to take stock of options.

While social causes are always good, the return on investment is a giant question mark. Social causes can create huge bang, attract all kinds of positive publicity, vibe and reputations as Geoff suggests. Or it could simply have no effect at all, and thousands of dollars could be squandered on social cause.

Unless of course, social cause is the ultimate goal, smart operatives are looking at their economic scenario and becoming as efficient as possible. That means, investing in developers, or marketers. That means, hiring a high priced VP to replace 3 low-level managers to save salary cap. That means, pounding the pavement for more business even if it means having to travel a little more. These are optimizations companies go through to secure their future, when times are uncertain.

Certainly, if you have plenty of cash in hand and you’re looking for long-term investment opportunities, social causes gets you there. However, survival of the fittest dictates that sometimes you have to make the short term 3-yard scramble, over the longer 20-yard slot pass because the chance of success is greater. It’s a numbers game.

La Batalla es Digital

Parte 1 del desarrollo de los puntos del artículo “5 Cambios que Todo Ejecutivo de Medios Debe Hacer

1. La Batalla es Digital

La diferencia más importante entre la distribución tradicional de contenido (televisión, radio, cable, cine, impresos) y la distribución digital es que ya no vendemos contenido, ahora vendemos una experiencia.

Y no me refiero a que seamos expertos en la producción o venta de contenido, me refiero a la experiencia del espectador al interactuar con nuestro contenido. “Espectador” (o televidente, radioescucha o cualquier otro de esos terminos pasivos que estamos acostumbrados a darle a nuestra audiencia) ya no es un término adecuado.

El espectador es ahora un participante activo dentro de esa experiencia que queremos ofrecerle. Su función ya no es simplemente sentarse a ver televisión… ahora tiene poder de decisión (cuándo, cómo y dónde disfrutar nuestro contenido), distribución y promoción (a quién le recomienda o no nuestro contenido y con quiénes lo comparte) y hasta de producción (qué contenido adicional genera a partir de nuestro producto). Llamémosle, a falta de otro término, usuario.

Cualquier intento de controlar el contenido en dentrimento de la experiencia del usuario fracasará. No se trata de regalar el contenido o de confiar ciegamente en el uso que el usuario le dará, pero la mejor publicidad es un usuario contento, que se siente dueño de una parte de nuestro producto y lo hace suyo. Si nuestro producto es dificil de disfrutar entonces nadie lo tomará en cuenta (o lo buscarán por otras vias más convenientes que en nada benefician al productor original).

Tenemos que planificar de manera tal que todo nuestro contenido esté preparado para sobrevivir en el mundo digital:

  • Prepara todo tu contenido en formato digital:

    Planifica para tener una copia digital de alta resolución que te sirva de archivo y fuente para los demás formatos. También prepara una copia en formato Flash Video. Estos te permitirán distribuir tu video online y cuando sea necesario preparar formatos para podcasting, vodcasting y celular.

  • Convierte tus tarifas de publicidad a formato digital:

    La idea aquí es que cada televidente que migre a tu contenido online te genere al menos las mismas ganancias que si te hubiera visto por tu canal tradicional. Convierte tu tarifa tradicional a una cifra equivalente al costo de 15 segundos de publicidad por cada mil personas y usa esto como punto de partida para tu publicidad online. Recuerda que online no puedes presentar el mismo número de anunciantes por hora de programación, pero sí tienes más oportunidades de desplegar publicidad alrededor de tu contenido.

  • Amplia tu oferta de contenido:

    Mientras en los medios tradicionales sólo dispones de un tiempo finito de programación para presentar tu contenido, en el mundo online el tiempo y el espacio son ilimitados. Aprovecha esta oportunidad creando contenido alrededor de tu producto: entrevistas a los actores, detrás-de-las-cámaras, escenas borradas, versiones cortas o más largas, historias paralelas, biografías, conspiraciones, juegos, blogs – en fin, todo aquello que alimente el contenido principal y enriquezca la experiencia de los participantes.

¿Te interesa implementar estas estratégias en tu empresa? Envíame un mensaje a través del formulario de contacto (en mi página de RED66).

¿Tienes alguna duda o algo que agregar a la discusión? Usa los comentarios del blog para darnos tu opinión.