A post from our Timeline (October 2011) we thought you might enjoy reading:
What We Can Learn About Party Throwing and Going From Facebook
So, I threw a party last week. It started out as me just wanting to hang out with my buddies. But then they wanted to invite some of their friends, and, well, you know how that goes. So, I decided, screw it – I’ll just make it an open party, and let whoever invite whomever.
Things started well. Actually, things were going very well. I didn’t really mind that there were so many people there, in different rooms, using my stuff for their own needs. They used my phone, brought in their own music, videos and games. Most of them just abused my bandwidth to tell people in other towns that they were at my party doing whatever it was they were doing.
I didn’t mind. You know what bummed me out though? When people started criticizing the décor. The nerve, I thought.
I guess it’s the same way Facebook probably feels after the f8 announcement about some of their user interface (UI)/algorithm updates (news feed, priority, ticker, timeline, subscribe, but this is not a post about that). It’s not like the Netflix pricing/Qwikster debacle – those are paid services, and obviously worthy of the furor. It’s not even in the arguable grey area of branding, like when Gap and Tropicana re-badged, inspiring vitriol.
No. We are not Facebook’s customers. We don’t pay for anything. So we waive the right to exercise consumer demand. If you don’t like it, leave.
You’re not going to, though, right?
And that’s exactly why they can experiment – because of the importance they have come to play in, well, nearly everything. Because if it truly doesn’t work, if they start to Myspace, and advertisers and advertising (read, their real customers) start to hurt, you can bet they’ll revert to that simple, clean, “status updatey” look and feel that we all grew up on. Because there will always be an ad model that will work regardless of the front end.
Actually, their innovations are, in fact, voted for by the consumer (kinda). Social media and the inconceivable amount of content that has been uploaded have been gathering for long enough now that it is legitimately beginning to represent the digital time capsule that we always talk about. Timeline makes perfect sense. The rise in start-ups like memolane.com suggest it. But the decline of start-ups like memolane.com based on Facebook going after its idea confirms it.
Which gets me to what I think we, as marketers, can learn from this.
It’s an oft-cited comment that Myspace, er, “Myspaced” because they didn’t innovate. But it was more about not planning to innovate. In the book The Game Changer: How Every Leader Can Drive Everyday Innovation, authors A.G. Lafley and Ram Charan point out: “The company that builds a culture of innovation is on the path to growth. The company that fails to innovate is on the road to obsolescence. The U.S. domestic automakers and major companies such as Firestone, Sony, and Kodak all used to be industry leaders, even dominators. But they all fell behind as their challengers innovated them into second place (or worse).”
Planned instability is at the heart of innovation. But we fear instability – unstable people, unstable markets, unstable tables at restaurants – when instead we should plan around the fresh thinking that instability can bring.
There is an oft-cited anecdote (yes, there are methodology gaps) about a study done by a factory manager who would raise the lighting intensity by 10% and see productivity rise. Raised again, again productivity would rise. Lowered by 10%, again productivity would rise.
A better example still is the fundamental design of a jet fighter. Did you know that all jet fighters are designed to be “aerodynamically unstable”?
Andy Janning, AVP/training/quality, FORUM CU, describes: “What engineers essentially did was build just the right amount of crazy into their jet so it could do crazy things when it was in its element. All it needed was a control system strong and supple enough to keep it flying, and a pilot brave enough to take the whole nutty mix into the wild blue yonder.”
In order for those things to not spiral out of control and result in a multi-million dollar tragedy every time they do the job they were built for, the pilot has to continually make micro-adjustments, hence, assuring he/she stays in constant touch with the vehicle they are in command of.
Stability doesn’t let you maneuver. Yup, you’re reliable. But you might just be boring and forgettable too. Your paradigm is about predictability.
Strap yourself into the cockpit of an F-16, however, and your life changes. Quickly.
So the question isn’t as throwaway as “how can we be craaa-zzz—iiieeerrrr?” It’s actually how, as idea engineers, can we live a life, as speaker Dan Thurmon demonstrates, off balance yet on purpose?
Me? I’m gonna walk home a different way every day this week. I’m gonna move seats every three months, so I get exposed to a broad range of people.
I might even quit Facebook.