Companies that have access to better quality information make more profitable decisions. This is the finding of a recent McKinsey Global Survey entitled: "How companies make good decisions".

In the world of Marketing, there are many people willing to offer advice and opinion, but how do you know what's actually worthwhile paying attention to? The answer is more about having an info-filtering and decision-making process than about knowing which guru's blog to read.

I think that The 5 Principles of Evidence Based Management (via) could serve as a useful guideline for marketers and managers operating in fast-changing environments
1. Face the hard facts, and build a culture in which people are encouraged to tell the truth, even if it is unpleasant.
2. Be committed to "fact based" decision making -- which means being committed to getting the best evidence and using it to guide actions.
3. Treat your organisation as an unfinished prototype -- encourage experimentation and learning by doing.
4. Look for the risks and drawbacks in what people recommend -- even the best medicine has side effects.
5. Avoid basing decisions on untested but strongly held beliefs, what you have done in the past, or on uncritical "benchmarking" of what winners do.

This approach also compliments the "Value Creation in a Wild Wired World" model, which favours an iterative, collaborative approach based on on-going engagement and application of  feedback and evidence.

Update: Jacques Rousseau, who convenes UCTs "Evidence Based Management" course, has just put up a blog post about the subject entitled "Teaching EBMgt: developing better managers, or educating critical thinkers?".
nvohk bannerI thought of this concept when my friend Tim emailed me about nvohk  (pronounced "envoke"), a crowdfunding and branding initiative applied to clothing.

In theory it's a great idea - 30 000 people each put forward $50 for a year's membership in nvohk inc. For their $50 they get a "founders t-shirt", get to vote on stuff like logo design and advertising decisions, get discounts on nvohk t-shirts, and split 35% of the profits between them. It works for the company because each t-shirt owner then has a vested interest in helping the brand succeed, and passing on work of its success.

Where I think the company could improve its offering is to start connecting members and create an online space, like a Ning social network, for them to discuss their investment in public with each other and the project founder, Brendan Lynch. This would increase trust and interest, and make it a bit more like the original concept, a proven success model, on which I believe it was based (probably unknowingly) - the South African Stokvel.

Stokvels, according to The Beehive, "...have been around in South Africa for many years. They are a good way for people to help motivate each other to save, and many stokvel or savings clubs are like social clubs where members also help each other in ways other than with money. Regular stokvel meetings have become a social highlight in many communities".

The internet can allow ad-hoc communities to form around virtually anything - the initial social object could be saving money, but then extend as people seek other ways to connect with and help each other. In the business case, such as with nvohk (or to quote a more familiar South African example, Verity), I believe that the investors want the project to succeed, and some of them would have at least enough interest in it to want to chat with other investors with the same interest via a convenient virtual platfrom like the official website of the project.

I think the concept of the digital stokvel has great potential to be applied to brand campaigns. Watch this space for more case studies to come.
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AuthorDave Duarte
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I find that as I have less time to spend browing the web generally, that I tend to find my news more via social filters like Muti, communities like Twitter (where people in my network recommend links directly), or by directly searching for a news on a particular topic on Google.

I thought I'd check whether my peers, also media neophytes, are accessing their news in a similar way. So I asked this question on Twitter:

"Do you more often find your "news" via 1. Social-Media, or 2. Traditional News Sites?"

Glen Meyburgh pevideoguy @daveduarte 50/50

Andrew Smith sqroot @DaveDuarte mostly Social-Media, unless I've heard a headline and I want to find out more, then I go to a news site.

Amabacha Amabacha @DaveDuarte Combo of both - Google Reader works overtime! 

Catherine Jenkin cathjenkin @DaveDuarte social media hey. it used to be traditional news sites but now, over the past say, a year, it's been more social-media dependent

robinpietersen robinpietersen @DaveDuarte 30% traditional, 60% social media and 10% word of mouth :-)

Ismail Dhorat ismaild @DaveDuarte rss, twitter and social media 

KerryHaggard KerryHaggard @DaveDuarte traditional news sites

Marcel_Perform Marcel_Perform Icon_red_lock @daveduarte what if you're trying to avoid all news? I can't on twitter! 

Simon Dingle simondingle @DaveDuarte Traditional news sites for 'news'. Social Media for opinion.

Marcel_Perform Marcel_Perform Icon_red_lock @daveduarte Trying to avoid sceptic, paranoid news-media negative propaganda that sells newspapers.Sticking to SA Rocks & SA Good News thanx 

KerryHaggard KerryHaggard @DaveDuarte - perhaps perception(NB) that traditional news sites are less biased. Also clear idea as to left, right or centre...

KerryHaggard KerryHaggard @DaveDuarte or completely up to own choice ie Google News

robinpietersen robinpietersen @DaveDuarte Hope we get to see the results sometime :-) Would be interesting...

As Jonathan Hitchcock pointed out:
Taking a survey about social media on twitter *might* possibly give you a slightly skewed result set.

The results are interesting nonetheless. How do you find your news?
Blank Bottle WinesI just recieved an interesting email from the owner of Blank Bottle Wines, Pieter H. Walser, describing some of the marketing/customer-engagement tactics they've used successfully lately.

1. Mystery wine. "I sold a few thousand bottles without telling anyone what’s in the bottle. There were 10 cases up for grabs for the closest answer. Two months later I revealed what was in the bottle. 125 people wrote back with comments, guessed the cultivar, vintage etc".

My comment: Good idea, this gives people who know their wine the opportunity to show off that knowledge by correctly guessing its characteristics. It also gives people something to discuss around the wine, which (at least in my case), would make me more likely to take it along to dinner parties.

2. BLANKbottle™ Premium white released without price: “Instead of setting its price, I decided to let my loyal clients decide. I sent out 20 cases of “Moment of Silence” without payment or price, leaving it up to them to pay me what they thought its worth! Pricing suggestions reached up to R70, and most were prepared to pay around R50/bottle. As BLANKbottle™ was created to over-deliver on quality; I set the final price at R40". i.e. He crowdsourced the price:)

My Comment: Good idea, following the same principle that RadioHead successfully applied with In Rainbows. However, I think the execution was a bit half-hearted by limiting it to only 20 of his loyal customers. Perhaps Pieter should have left the price people chose to pay open to suggestion for a few more weeks, as this would have created more buzz around his product.

As with his previous wines, “Moment of Silence” leaves you in the dark about the cultivar and year of vintage. To uncover the lineage of “Moment of Silence” or any of his other wines, you need to go to his website where you will find the full story behind your BLANKbottle.

Pieter is sending me a bottle to try, I must admit that the small incentive did encourage me to write this blog post. I'm such a sucker for freebies sometimes. Aren't most bloggers?
Web 2.0

The term "Web 2.0" is derived from a naming convention in software, where upgrades that are released in the market get numbered (like Verstion 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 etc). This seems to suggest that the software of the internet has been upgraded, which isn't entirely correct. However, the term is still useful if you look at it as a massive shift in the way the web is being used. Essentially, "Web 2.0", refers to the functionality built into websites that allows people to more easily put their own information on them, to share it with others, and collaborate with them. These websites, then, shift from being simply "websites", to being tools or "applications".

The next "version" of the web (likely to be dubbed "Web 3.0) will allow these websites to integrate with each other even more effectively and naturally - so, for example, you will be able to incorporate many of the sites you regularly visit into one website, which also synchronizes your information, friends and updates so you don't have to repeat yourself all over the place!

Social Media

Social Media, simply put, is a form of media created by people who post information (be that pictures, articles, videos, comments or votes) using Web 2.0 applications (such as blogs etc.). It is primarily driven by Amateurs, although big media companies have started integrating social media into their traditional offering too. This is part of what makes social-media special: it can incorporate other forms of media, increase it's reach into niche communities of interest that are inter-connected on social-media platforms, and enhance it's impact and effect by allowing interaction. So in social-media, the audience can become collaborators.

For this reason, the flow and process of creating Social-Media is often likened to a Conversation, which happens even if no-one actually speaks directly to any person in particular! Social Media depends on interactions between people as the discussion and integration of words, images, and sounds around a multitude of subjects and feelings builds shared-meaning around topics and experiences. For example, if a number of people who attend the same event post their own pictures, blog posts, and videos of it online, then by looking at the array of media around this event anyone will have a better understanding of it than if they just read one newspaper report on it.

Social Computing

Social computing a broader term, which incorporates Social Media. It refers specifically to the "sense-making" effect of all the interactions that are carried out by groups of people online. This is an idea that has been popularized in James Surowiecki's book, The Wisdom of Crowds. Examples of social computing in this sense include collaborative filtering(such as on Muti.co.za), online auctions, prediction markets, reputation systems, computational social choice, tagging, and verification games (A great example is Google's Image Labeler game).

A paper on Social Computing by market research company Forrester Research states:
Easy connections brought about by cheap devices, modular content, and shared computing resources are having a profound impact on our global economy and social structure. Individuals increasingly take cues from one another rather than from institutional sources like corporations, media outlets, religions, and political bodies. To thrive in an era of Social Computing, companies must abandon top-down management and communication tactics, weave communities into their products and services, use employees and partners as marketers, and become part of a living fabric of brand loyalists.

Although these applications are easy to engage with and use, they can be potentially destructive, and costly to organizations and individuals who don't have a strategy and an understanding about what they hope to achieve by engaging with other people on the web in this way.

The term "Social Computing" is often used interchangeably with the term "Web 2.0", although as the Forrester report points out:
Web 2.0 is about specific technologies (blogs, podcasts, wikis, etc) that are relatively easy to adopt and master. Social Computing is about the new relationships and power structures that will result. Think of it another way: Web 2.0 is the building of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s; Social Computing is everything that resulted next (for better or worse): suburban sprawl, energy dependency, efficient commerce, Americans’ lust for cheap and easy travel.

The following short video, produced by Prof. Michael Wesch as part of the Digital Ethnography working group at Kansas University, demonstrates these concepts well:

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AuthorDave Duarte
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Late lastnite I made a status update on Twitter saying that I was looking to name a new business venture*. It was an arbitrary musing, and I didn't really expect anyone to take notice - Twitter and Facebook status updates have become cathartic to me, they serve an end in themselves.

Within minutes, however, a guy by the name of Krikor Ohannessian, who happens to be in Lebanon, messaged me back to say that one of his hobbies is coming up with names for Web2.0 companies.

Krikor runs a site called Wikinomy which a well-respected web guy in America, Robert Scoble, introduced me to via a Facebook group invite. So there was a sense of inferred trust.

I sent Krikor more info, and this morning he sent me some brilliant suggestions, as well as one of those coveted Pownce invites. Awesome.

Anyway, it's a cool story of seamless global collaboration. And I thought I'd tell it to remind myself not to get too caught-up behind the Boerewors Cluetrain (i.e. just thinking and operating within the South African diaspora).

*ps. I'm not leaving Cerebra, as some people presumed - it's a related business.
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AuthorDave Duarte
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