Research

Hi Everyone, 
 
Our all-hands call is scheduled for next Thursday – I’m looking forward to speaking with all of you. John Kottcamp has created a SharePoint folder with all of the thought leadership the company has produced over the last few months. In addition to the whitepapers, I hope you took a moment to review the Tahzoo Studios Creative Showcase.
 
One of the things I enjoy most about Tahzoo is the diversity of intellect within the company. We have many different mental models – engineering, creative, administrative, and analytical to name a few – this brings me great joy. I get to talk with all of you and see the world from a slightly different perspective. If we respect one another and bring our collective talents to our clients’ business problems, there isn’t anything we can’t accomplish. 

About 10 years ago, I started following the research of the Santa Fe Institute. The following is an excerpt from the mission statement of the institute: 
 
Searching for Order in the Complexity of Evolving Worlds 
 
Our researchers endeavor to understand and unify the underlying, shared patterns in complex physical, biological, social, cultural, technological, and even possible astrobiological worlds. Our global research network of scholars spans borders, departments, and disciplines, unifying curious minds steeped in rigorous logical, mathematical, and computational reasoning. As we reveal the unseen mechanisms and processes that shape these evolving worlds, we seek to use this understanding to promote the well-being of humankind and of life on earth. 

 
One of the things that struck me when I started following their research is the importance of multidisciplinary research. For those of you who don’t know, multidisciplinary research is the combination of disciplines to solve various problems. As I began thinking about creating Tahzoo and what I wanted our company to be, it was clear to me that “making millions of people, a little happier every day” was going to require a combination of expertise and talent. As I’ve said many times we are agents of change. To help our clients change, we need to bring it all together for them so that we can deliver the best experience possible for each customer.   
 
I always have and always will see Tahzoo as a company of talented but different people who work together to make a difference. We have made a lot of progress over the last eight years, but we need to continue to evolve. During our all-hands call, I am going to outline the Tahzoo transformation to a fully integrated customer experience agency.   
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Digital Innovation

I spoke this week at the Digital Innovation Summit in Utrecht. It was a wonderful event with over 100 attendees, including customers, prospects, and partners. My speech focused on the experience economy and how the quality and shareability of experience is a hallmark of good marketing. In the experience economy, it’s not about how much you have but how good you have it!

There are many examples of companies like Uber and Airbnb that are not only delivering exceptional technology-enabled solutions, they are also leveraging underutilized assets in innovative ways. My charge to the marketers in the audience was that they need to focus on individualized experiences and brand interactions that can be easily shared.

On my blog www.letsgobegreat.com there is a short paper that I wrote if you’re interested in having a more detailed overview of my hypothesis. I continue to focus on more public speaking engagements, building our social network, and providing more thought leadership around the experience economy and digital marketing. We are building the marketing engine across the company with a particular emphasis on partner outreach and geographically authentic experiences.

Thanks to Jen Adamski-Torres for getting up at the crack of dawn to live tweet some sketches that linked to my speech. Check them out on Twitter if you are interested.

Inspiring Innovation

For any new company to succeed there has to be innovation—often a lot of it. Apple. Amazon. Uber. Facebook. The examples are easy to come by. The message is pretty simple: to stand out, you have to do things differently than those who went before.

That’s why we talk a lot about innovation here at Tahzoo. We are not in the game of operational efficiency, or of trimming expenses to preserve razor-thin margins of profit, nor of selling volumes upon volumes of widgets. We are in the marketplace of ideas. Our clients turn to us for our ability to think differently than the herd of consultants out there. We must, therefore, place the highest value on innovation to assure that we always stand head and shoulders above the competition.

Marketplace of Ideas

I write this as I am preparing to visit The Netherlands next week for Innovation Day. It’s both timely to look at three of my favorite innovators and the lessons we might draw from their experiences that can inform our thinking about our own innovative spirit. You see, I believe that innovation is not a matter of fleeting inspiration, but rather a skill that can be learned, practiced, and, most importantly, improved over time. Like taking up a musical instrument, all that is needed to innovate is the right attitude and the receptivity to change ourselves.

The first lesson of innovation is effort. In this, there can be no greater role model than Thomas Edison. The man held at least 1,093 patents when he died—including, as you know, the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, motion pictures, and many more. Think about that for a moment. He “held” 1,093 patents, but there were surely numerous ideas the at didn’t pan out. He certainly knew more than his share of failure through all that. This is a lesson in believing in an idea so strongly that one is willing to soldier on in pursuit of the dream, never relenting, never giving up.

Believe in your ideas

Speaking of dreaming, that brings me to another of my favorite inventors, Nikola Tesla, who, it was said, often dreamed of his inventions before he set to inventing them. Tesla bragged of his ability to perform realistic “dream experiments” while fully awake.

This is a lesson in vision. Innovation often requires one to be able to imagine an ideal state or a solution to a, particularly vexing problem in order to make that vision a reality. Interestingly enough, Tesla was such a good dreamer that many of his most interesting and ambitious ideas never came to fruition during his life because they were too ahead of their time. He imagined television and cellphones long before they ever became everyday things. He also dreamed of a way to power electrical devices without wires that are still a largely unrealized ideal today. So, take it from Tesla, if you’re going to dream, dream big!

Lastly, innovation requires perspective. No one but Albert Einstein himself is our role model here. He conceived of his mind-boggling “Theory of Relativity,” while working as a humble patent clerk reviewing closed-loop train switching patterns. Einstein’s breakthrough was in his ability to apply to learn from one field to another—of shifting perspective. It’s interesting to me that the lessons of perspective that Einstein imparts are in some ways a distillation of Relativity itself, which held that our perception of time is relative to the speed of light. That is: perception changes as perspective changes.

So, there you have it: innovation in a nutshell. It takes effort. It takes vision. And, it takes perspective. If we all apply these lessons to as many aspects of our personal and our professional lives, we cannot help but develop innovative ways to see and do great things.

Three Ways to Bring Out Innovation in Employees

threeways

I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of maintaining Tahzoo’s unique culture through this expansion and the integration of Tahzoo Europe. This has led me to take a step back and look at what makes Tahzoo special, and it’s clear that our employees truly are our greatest assets. The ‘Zoo team is comprised of happy, smart, interesting people who are inspired by change and are driven to constantly improve and innovate.

As a CEO, or as a team leader, how can you foster a culture of innovation especially among a growing, global team? I’ve worked at a wide variety of organizations and in several different roles – from retail to sales – before founding Tahzoo (you can learn more about that transition in my Fast Company article here). Along the way, I’ve seen various tactics for driving innovation and I have worked hard to build a positive culture at Tahzoo. Here are three tips you can follow to drive innovation in your organization:

  1. Encourage creativity. At the most pioneering companies, a culture of creativity is an integral part of the corporate DNA. We hire employees based on their character first, and we follow the mantra of “shoes optional” from the top down. This helps encourage a culture where creativity and innovation are valued.
  2. Solicit feedback. It’s also important to ensure that all employees feel that their opinion is valued – you never know where the next great idea will come from! We support this inclusive culture through a weekly survey that employees at all levels complete – offering their constructive and honest feedback on what’s working, and what’s not.
  3. Make time for innovation. In today’s business world, there are distractions in every direction, all the time—from alerts on mobile phones, to constant meetings and invitations to touch base. I recently wrote an article for Entrepreneur magazine where I discussed a tactic that has been particularly valuable in driving innovation at Tahzoo: one hyper-focused meeting per week. Each week, I hold a two-hour meeting with the global senior team to talk through ideas mapped back to our higher-level goals. This helps eliminate distractions and creates a space for innovative thinking – vastly increasing alignment, productivity and motivation across our global team.

By following these three tips, you can help instill and maintain a culture of innovation. I’m looking forward to continued innovation from our stellar – and growing – Tahzoo team!

Tahzoo’s Center of Excellence

I hope you all had a good couple of days to contemplate the new organizational structure that was discussed in the town halls this week. I have received feedback from a number of you and there are a few areas where I wanted to provide additional clarification, today I’ll cover off on the Centers of Excellence (COE) concept. It’s important to remember that an org chart is a tool that we use in order to organize ourselves around our clients’ needs. It is the quality of the service to the client that is the guiding principle and goal to be achieved during this process. During the last week, there was a lot of discussion about the COE and how they fit into our model. When we think about the Digital Transformation business and the Project business, we need to have the ability to deliver a quality work product. So, we needed a concept that supports both types of engagements. Without sacrificing our expertise and ensuring that we have a method for capturing and perpetuating best practices throughout the company.  

What the Center Of Excellence are NOT: 

  • A big resource pool 
  • A substitute for good consulting 
  • A series of organizational stove pipes 

The primary focus of the COE is to ensure that we provide the highest quality of work to our clients in a standardized and efficient way. This will allow us to teach and train developers and ANY and EVERY level the patterns and best practices of technology. Much like a great restaurant, the food that is delivered (or the work that we provide our clients) needs to be of a consistently high quality that makes you want to come back for more. The COE is a structure that ensures that everyone knows what they need to do and when they need to do it, to be the basis for a successfully executed implementation. As an engineer, it is important that you have exposure to Best Practices and the ‘Tahzoo way’ of doing things so that you can learn new technologies and stay current in the marketplace. Because the vast majority of our implementations require integration with a variety of 3rd party systems it’s also important that we are consistent in the way that we write code and plan for inoperability. The COE model also provides additional career paths for individuals who aspire to take management and leadership roles within Tahzoo. Our engineering excellence and prowess should always be the strength of our company. There are a lot of companies with great ideas, but very few who can execute at scale and even fewer who can execute at scale and with the ambition that Tahzoo brings to our clients. 

In the 21st century, the collage of marketing systems and applications needs to be rationalized and integrated in order for our clients to be able to deliver differentiated customer experience at scale. As we do more implementations, we need to perfect our craft in terms of the implementations but also the integrations, the best practices and lessons learned will be developed and curated in the context of the COE. As we add additional members to the team, they should benefit from the lessons learned from both successes and challenges on projects. As a technical consultant, you should feel confident that you won’t be left alone to figure it out, you will have a team of people who have the commitment and experience to help you be better at your craft.  

The engagement models for the COE will change based on the type of project or the line of business supporting the customer. For example, in the Digital Transformation Business, you may be assigned to an account team for an extended amount of time, whereas in the ALM business you may be assigned to resolve or remediate an issue. Regardless of which model is used for the engagement, the principles still apply which is that we need engineering excellent and the COE is the primary construct to ensure that the quality of our work is the core experience of working with Tahzoo.  

I am working on a FAQ about the new organization that I’ll send out in my Desk of Brad next week, if you have any questions that you’d like added to the FAQ, please send them to me. 

Let’s go be great!

Brad

Go to market chaos

Team Tahzoo, 

Another week in one place, well kinda. I headed up to New York to join Derick PriceGabi Macy, Matthias Vanhollebeke, and Chad Van Lier at the aDAM SYNC! Event on Wednesday. I was able to meet folks from aDAM and see first-hand what a great partner they are for us. As a silver sponsor we were able to present our vision for leveraging DAM for the management and distribution of content to improve the customer experience.  We received a front stage spotlight where Derick gave a presentation on how to Avoid Go to Market Chaos (I just stood on stage while Derick did all the work). We received a lot of positive feedback from an engaged 120+ person audience.