Feb. 23rd, 2010

jofish22: (Default)
I just sent this in an email to some very good students I'm working with at the Stanford d.school, Peking University, and the Central Academy of Art + Design in Beijing. They had written to me about some early research they've done on families and long distance relationships, and had talked at the end of their document about their plans to identify business opportunities for Nokia. I felt it was a little bit early for that.

I thought some of you might appreciate it.

Two, very related, comments.

First, I’d encourage you to think not so much in terms of “market spaces” or “product opportunities” or whatnot, but more about trying to understand what the behaviors and values and ways in which we can help people express themselves in the ways that they want are. In many ways, that’s just a change in wording and not in what you’re doing, but we want to be open to a whole bunch of ideas. As soon as you start to use business-specific language like “market” or “opportunity map” or whatnot, you run the risk of shutting down options before they’re started: you start thinking “Oh, Nokia is a phone company, so we should only think about things that fit within that kind of company.” It means that you might miss, I don’t know, setting up plants that are synchronized across different time zones so that they grow together in different people’s houses, or goldfish that respond to changes in their tanks that are in some way linked to the distant activity of your loved one, or just both people in a couple deciding to have soup on the same night so they feel they’re doing something together or teenagers sneaking downstairs after lights out to talk to their girlfriend on the phone in the kitchen. So don’t shut down the things you’re thinking about.

In a second, related, note, get wilder about your inspirations. Interviews and empathy with consumers are good. But what about movies, books, plays, poetry? We’re talking about love here! We already have people in Nokia who analyze markets, and I’m sure they do a good job of it. But you are a widely mixed group at some of the most elite institutions in the world and you have the freedom to do something really, really exciting. Tell me about lovers playing World of Warcraft games played at a distance! Let’s get you finding families who build family histories by exchanging photo albums back and forth. I want to hear about people on Skype laughing till they wet themselves, and crying themselves to sleep because they miss the love of their life, and the wonderful feeling of being met at the airport by someone you haven’t seen for six months but have talked to every single night. I’ve had people tell me about how seeing the ultrasound picture of their first child was one of the most moving and amazing moments in their life, like all of a sudden it was real and they were going to have a real live human baby and it was theirs. Is that on an opportunity map? I’m not sure, and I’m not sure it’s useful, yet, for it to be there. Sure, if at the end, the very end, you want to prioritize and identify areas of maximum opportunity for Nokia then that’s great, but do it at the end once you’ve gone out and found or built or expressed some really exciting, crazy, awesome behaviors or designs or ideas or concepts that will blow everyone’s minds when I tell people.

A glorious and wonderful Year of the Tiger to all of you.


February 2010

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