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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Yahoo Wins

Well, they win a battle anyway, but a big one in my opinion. Not too long ago I wrote a post about delicious. One of the things I mentioned was that based on how their tagging works, delicious would change the foundation of search and the big search engines (Yahoo!, Google and M$N) would end up paying for access to their databases of tagged links. Well, Yahoo decided not only did they want access to that information, but that they wanted to own it exclusively. It was announced on Friday that delicious was purchased by Yahoo!. It'll be very interesting to see how this relationship evolves and how Yahoo! uses delicious and all those socially tagged links to their advantage.

Congrats to Fred Wilson and Union Square Ventures (both are blogs I love to read and learn a ton from) on a great investment in delicious, and to the whole delicious team on such a great product.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Where Good Ideas Go To Die

It amazes me at how successful a business can be at turning a profit and how unsuccessful it can be at harvesting ideas. I'm not talking about any particular business here, I'm talking about a lot of them. You know them well, you worked (or work there) or know someone close to you who has. They are small business and large business, privately owned or publicly traded. Every year the business posts a profit. Sometimes more, sometimes less usually depending on the economy within their marketplace and/or the economy as a whole. But when you talk to the people inside these organizations they see areas where their companies could do so much more. I'm not talking about executive staff or high-level managers here, not PhD's or MBA's, I'm talking about middle-managers and the folks they work hand-in-hand with who actually do the work that makes the money on a daily basis. They often see things the people at the top never see. They see how the company could do things more efficiently, how they could trim off some fat, how they could bring in more staff in certain areas and the list of ideas goes on and on. Sometimes, if a business is lucky to have extremely intelligent individuals, they get great ideas about new markets to venture into, new policies to develop, new products to manufacture or departmental restructuring that would increase productivity. The unfortunate truth is most of these ideas go unheard, unrecognized and unused. Either that or they get shared and then someone in management takes credit for the idea if it turns out to be a success. The sad reality is that some of the most successful companies in our country are places where good ideas go to die.

Here's how to tell if your organization is a place, or is on its way to becoming a place, where good ideas go to die:

5. The staff works 9-5 with no passion about the work that they do.

4. Ideas from executives and upper-level managers are the only ideas heard and acted on because that's what they get paid for.

3. Executives and upper-level management spend their time meddling in how people do their every day jobs.

2. Customer service people have been noticing that even the best customers have been complaining more and more about the service they've been getting or the quality of the products they've been buying.

1. The best (hardest) workers never seem stick around for long.

There is hope though. If you aren't headed there yet and want to make sure you never do, if you see some of the signs and want to address it now or even if you've been there for so long you're not sure you can turn it around it can be done, here's what you should do:
  • Find someone among the ranks of your employees that most everyone trusts and respects. Have them meet with people and find out where changes need to be made. Then commit yourself, and your management team, to making those changes and report back to your staff on specifically how and when you intend to see those changes through.
  • Buy everyone lunch. Have pizza and salad brought in to the office. Then go hang out with them. Ask them about their significant others, their kids and their hobbies. Spend time getting to know your staff and actually show that you care by spending time with them and remembering the things that they tell you.
  • Have a place where employees can submit their ideas. Spend time investigating and collaborating on those ideas and determine if anything of value can be accomplished. If an idea translates into some level of success for the company publicly recognize and reward the employee for their contribution.
There are so many other things that can be done, but those are just a handful and they're not that hard to do. The important thing is to find value at every level of the organization. It might take some hard work to do that, but any company can be a place where good ideas thrive.