April 2011

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Almost two years ago to the day, I wrote a poste entitled, The Death of Flip.

In this post I predicted that the imminent launch of the new iPhone (complete with video capture functionality) would make the single-purpose Flip obsolete (working from the premise that the best camera is the camera you have with you):

This is bad news for Flip.

Just as the still camera in the iPhone eliminated the need for people to carry a second camera for casual pictures, the video function will do the same.

We own several Flip cameras currently, and I can pretty much guarantee that once the new iPhone with the video function is released, our Flips will be relegated to the same junk box where our other still cameras and video cameras have gone to die (it’s perched in the basement upon — not kidding — a VHS player).

As an aside, Flip could have at least forestalled their demise by not having such an utter crap UI for their video management tool. Of course, Apple has that covered pretty well.

Well, two years (and a massive acquisition by Cisco) later, and it was reported today that Flip is indeed by killed off by Cisco:

[Cisco] said it will close down its Flip business and support FlipShare customers and partners with a transition plan. Cisco will take up to $300 million in one-time charges in its third and fourth quarters as part of the plan.

The message here — as I try to tattoo in my students’ minds at this point every semester — is that businesses have two choices: innovate or die.

Entrepreneurship is creative destruction, and the world is littered with the near-forgotten corpses of once-innovative firms (e.g. Flip) that, due to a lack of innovation/poor management, have been relegated to a footnote as other companies pass them by.

This is not limited to products; entire industries/institutions can be and are destroyed (I read recently that the firm that supplies most of the gumball machines to stores is suffering mightily).

Some areas I believe are perilously close to going the way of Flip if they don’t innovate soon:

    The traditional music business
    The traditional film business
    The traditional book business
    Higher Education
    The Banking business
    Cable TV

All of the above institutions have enjoyed a robust moat around them that kept competition away. However, tech, lack of innovation, complacency, etc. are, slowly, but surely, allowing competitive innovators to encroach. Once the gap is breeched, the change will be violent and sudden.

The tie that binds those in the above list is that nimbler and more customer-centric firms are creating value propositions — via innovative approaches — that will offer substitutes to customers who are all too eager for a better alternative.

Just think, it wasn’t even ten years ago when a typical Saturday might involve: a drive to the local Tower records to pick up a CD, prior to making a stop at the Borders to grab a hardback book, and, on the way home, a stop off at Blockbuster to rent a movie for the evening.

The music business is indeed a canary in a coal mine; what is your firm learning from its mistakes?

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One of my favorite moments is when a good cook expectantly asks, “Are you hungry?”

You can tell from their face that they hope the response will be, “Why, yes, I am hungry.”

An affirmative response acts as an invitation for a cook to do what they do: attempt to satisfy another’s need with their talent/passion.

A meal is a success when both the cook and the person for whom she has cooked end the meal happy.

Looking at the empty plate, the satisfied cook smiles; looking at the cook, the satisfied eater smiles.

Both had completely different roles in this relationship, but both had their needs met, and they share at least one thing in common: both are smiling.

This is different from the clichéd “win/win” relationship; this is a relationship of individual values amplified by symbiosis.

These are the types of relationships we should look for in our work and in our life.


A recipe

The Sadly Neglected Soft Boiled Egg

We neglect the perfection of the soft-boiled egg for no good reason that I can discern. There’s no easier way to cook an egg, and, it results in a far more satisfying outcome than any alternative I can think off.

Here’s how to do it right:

With a spoon gently place two eggs into a just-simmering small pan of water for four minutes.

Take the eggs out and run them under cold water just long enough so that they’re cool enough to handle.

Place in an egg cup (or some reasonable facsimile (shot glass)) and, using a serrated knife (more narrow, the better), saw the top of the egg off (it’s easier than it sounds).

Add some salt and pepper.

Serve with good toast.

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