Punk dogs and purple cows

Purple Cow

I got excited today. The supermarket had restocked my new favourite beer. I know; simple pleasures.

So what’s the story? Isn’t it just water, hops, malt and yeast? Yes and no..

The lads at Brewdog in Scotland understand Seth Godin’s purple cow; finding a way to stand out, to be the purple cow in a field of monochrome Holsteins.

Brewdog stand out through both product and marketing.

Their Punk IPA has an almost ridiculous amount of hops in it. It slaps you in the face when you try it. Masses of bitterness and a grapefruity finish. Delicious. Not unlike Thornbridge Jaipur.

Then comes the marketing. Check out the bottle label.

 

BrewDog2
This is not a lowest common denominator beer.
This is an assertive beer.
We don’t care if you don’t like it.

The website is littered with swearing and jabs at, “the corporate beer whores crazy for power and world domination.”

It’s a bit much for some but that’s the point. “We don’t care if you don’t like it” is a refreshing stance in an industry dominated by high-volume, appeal-to-the-masses brands.

When your product becomes a commodity, you have nothing left to compete on except price. As Seth says, the problem with the race to the bottom is that you might win.

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So Brewdog have chosen to say “no thank you” to a large part of their potential market. Or have they? Maybe it was never their market anyway. These guys aren’t institutional shareholders of BigBrewingCo plc trying to squeeze an extra 0.5% profit. They are Martin and James, two guys in their twenties who are really into craft beer.

In focusing on others who love craft beer and mocking the rest they strengthen the identity and loyalty of their fans. Sound familiar?

I convinced the wife to stop into their Glasgow bar one evening last September as we were passing.  If Willy Wonka did beer!  Silly names, innovative mixtures, and spot-on execution: from the oak-aged 18.2% Tokyo stout to the 1.1% Nanny State.

The barman had exceptional product knowledge, talked us through loads of free samples, and was a genuine enthusiast. And we weren’t beaten up for being English.

Now that’s a purple cow.

Purple Cow

 

The creativity conundrum

Creative and creativity are loaded and misused terms.  If you had asked me six months ago what they meant I would have quoted Alice from Dilbert:

I’ve come a long way in my understanding since then. However, the science is still immature and a number of questions remain incompletely answered: Who has it? Can it be developed? How can organisations use it to innovate and compete? And what exactly does it mean? Continue reading The creativity conundrum

Biased? Me?!

Like most people, I like to think of myself as fairly rational. I’m not biased. Am I?

It turns out that there are lots of ways in which my thinking habits introduce bias into my decisions and judgements.  And yours.  I’m fascinated by these cognitive (aka thinking) biases and I’ve been keeping notes since discovering the concept on the Henley MBA. It’s both amazing and scary how they can distort our thinking.

Fortunately, I’ve found that learning about cognitive biases can help me recognise the common traps and so make better decisions.  In his book, A Whole New Mind, Dan Pink refers to this as equipoise: the ability to have the serenity to read the biases and failures in your own mind.

Continue reading Biased? Me?!

R&D: Rip off and Duplicate?

Our China visit in May challenged my ideas about what innovation really is.

Previously, I had lofty ideals of Edisoneque inventions. Men in white coats. Labs. Eureka moments. Products.

In China I learnt that innovation can be softer: an idea, a process, a business model. A variation rather than a big bang.

A Chinese company we visited with a Groupon business model even went so far as to to say that moving from one deal a day to multi-deals was an innovation for them.

This got me thinking. Who really innovates? I scurried back to my Henley MBA study guide on strategic innovation.

“innovation = invention + realisation of value”

So does Apple innovate? Is adding a touch-screen to an iPod innovation? What about if you then stick a smart phone inside? Or double the size and remove the phone?

Apple didn’t invent the components, these came from it’s suppliers. In fact, 26% of the component cost of the iPhone4 is supplied by Samsung (Economist graphic).

What Apple have done is take these individual inventions and configure them cleverly to realise value. $347 billion of value (Economist).  Invention + realisation of value = innovation.

The value creation machine doesn’t care what we call this. Evolution or revolution. Step change or incremental. We can get hung up on inventing game changers when applying an existing invention to a new context or business model would generate ample value.

I like this. As manufacturing is commoditized and IP rights difficult to defend the search for value must surely shift towards combining ideas / inventions / products / process in new ways.

I see an analogy with music; there are no new notes left to be invented but there are plenty of beautiful new unique combinations of notes still to come.

Defining leadership

Tonight the streets are filled with love.

These are the first words I heard from the radio alarm on Tuesday morning. Those seven simple words filled me with awe.

I had never heard of Crown Prince Haakon. I have no idea what sort of man he is. But his words spoke to me deeply.

The streets weren’t filled with anger or hatred. Not vengeance. Not negativity.

Love. Resilience. Humility. Defiance. Dare I say forgiveness?

What a colossal reframe of the situation! What a powerful perspective. What a bold statement to make.

We look to leaders in times of crisis to help us make sense of a situation. To provide guidance and reassurance. Leaders simplify things.

I was taken by Crown Prince Haakon’s reframe because it said so much in so few words. It also chimes well with the Jim Collins school of thought that the best leaders encapsulate humility and a quiet but steely determination, which resonates with me.

It wasn’t just Crown Prince Haakon. Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said, “Evil can kill a person, but it cannot kill a people.”

Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang said, “We will punish the guilty. The punishment will be more generosity, more tolerance, more democracy,”

Wow. What amazing courage and resolve.

Tonight the streets are filled with love

I have seen dozens definitions of leadership over the last fortnight but those seven words say it all.