Saturday, January 1

Part 3 - ZaidLearn's Blue Ocean Strategy for 2011

“Blogging is a way to make myself smarter.” - Chris Anderson

So, could we simplify BOS (tools), and make consultants irrelevant in the innovation process?

Impossible! Or that is as likely as making competition irrelevant. No doubt there are exceptional consultants out there, and we often do need to hire consultants do improve our processes, products and services. But do we need to outsource everything to consultants? For example, if we were renovating our University library to meet the learning needs of the 21st century, one could consider, or rather should perhaps hire an Interior Designer (that has experience in this area) to assist in making a wiser decision, and share potential pitfalls for this and that.

What about outsourcing branding, marketing, project management, strategic planning, risk management, programme auditing, innovation, etc.? It really depends, but from my experience working with especially consultants from the corporate consultancy providers (that have got the projects sometimes beyond comprehension) over the last 10 years in three Universities, I would argue besides helping us populate templates, and producing nice looking reports, it has been one disappointment after another.

One reason could be that big corporate consultancy providers (e.g. Ernst & Young, KPMG, Price Waterhouse & Coopers and Deloitte) use their best and most experienced consultants to work on the big dollar projects in the corporate sector, and then sends their young inexperienced staff to work on smaller projects (in the education sector, which brings in less bucks!). For whatever reason, most of the teams that I have worked with over the years are young and intelligent, but totally lack deep knowledge and experience in Higher Education, and are even weak in their core job, which is to facilitate the process to collaborate, populate, collect and synthesize all the great ideas conceptualized. From my experience over the years I feel short-changed, frustrated, and wonder if the money could have been spent more wisely.

In short, my advice would be to hire consultants if needed, but make sure they have the experience (in education) besides the talent to EXECUTE. Also, profile the team assigned to the project, besides the corporate consultancy providers themselves, which are always impressive.


“…The reason that we were very excited about the phone, beyond that fact that we all hated our phones, was that we didn't see anyone else who could make that kind of contribution. None of the handset manufacturers really are strong in software.“
Steve Jobs

The BOS tools could be very useful to discover insights and explore beyond industry boundaries, but not necessary the best tools to discover and innovate. Breakthrough innovations and inventions, I would argue usually don't happen using consultants, tools and templates. For example, BOS was used in the process of conceptualizing the Nintendo Wii (according to my knowledge). Perhaps so, but was it BOS that brought about the innovative Wii joystick, or the ingredients that made up the Wii console? The real magic of Nintendo innovations (over the years) are the brilliant people behind them.

In short, although the strategic move (BOS) is important, you can't run away from hiring brilliant people, or having exceptional leaders/facilitators if you want to have success that is sustainable over years. And more importantly, brilliant people often work best in a working environment that lets them loose to innovate, beyond too many tools to test every new idea to its molecular details.

“Steve Jobs hires really smart people, and he lets them loose—but on a leash, since he overlooks it all with an extremely demanding eye. If you’re seeing visions of the “Great Eye” from J.R.R. Tolkien’s books, then you probably wouldn’t be too far off.” - Source

What do you mean by 'Brilliant People'? Not sure. Can't think of one description to universally describe what that means. They are for sure driven and passionate about what they are doing, but the rest is for you to table out (smart, process/results driven, creative/critical/innovate thinkers, positive, wise, intelligent, hardworking, knowledgeable, experienced, etc.) according to your needs in whatever industry you are in.


"I'm actually as proud of many of the things we haven't done as the things we have done…” – Steve Jobs

Looking back at ZaidLearn (blogging) since it started in 2007, I have noticed that my blog posts are increasingly (on the average) getting longer and fewer:
  • 2007 - 247 posts (started July/118 posts from previous site)
  • 2008 - 69 posts
  • 2009 - 41 posts
  • 2010 - 22 posts
  • 2011 - 12 posts

Based on this trend, ZaidLearn might cease to exist by 2012. Ironically, as I am increasingly getting less time to blog (3 kids, work, family, swimming, etc.), my blog posts are getting longer, and that probably explains why I am not posting that often anymore.

"In my opinion, your rambling at the beginning of the post may have discouraged some readers from getting to the meat of your argument. You have GREAT ideas, but sometimes you bury them." - Clayton Wright (by e-mail)

Great insights from a great (online) friend! Looking back, I obviously see that my ramblings have increased significantly over the years. Yes, I sometimes like to annoy, provoke, irritate, and speak in riddles that sometimes even confuses me, myself and I.

Actually, already in 2008 a person wrote...

"Hello! I read your blog regularly, and really like it. However, the lack of consistent text formatting (making a word orange and big, for example) makes it almost impossible for me to read. Just for when I read it in the future, why is it formatted this way?" - Avi Levin (By e-mail)

At that time I was experimenting with mashing-up different font sizes and colors, and it seriously caused headaches to several readers. Now, I still experiment with colors to highlight the learning juice and for better read scan-ability (green = positive, red = negative, purple, uppercase headings, etc.) through my ramblings, but have toned down my extreme font creativity to make it more reader friendly...I hope!

Another reader complained that he needed to buy new glasses to keep up with ZaidLearn's long posts. So, what do (or did) people like about ZaidLearn? Based on substantial feedback over the years, ZaidLearn became known for its juicy resources, awesome lists, useful tips, great ideas, funny graphics, and whole lot of fun.

So, what if I amplified what people liked about ZaidLearn, and rambled less, or practice the...

80% (Learning Juice) -20% (Rambling) Principle

...instead of the current 80% (rambling) - 20% (learning juice) principle practiced at ZaidLearn. Deal!

But still, it does not solve my problem of having less time to blog and my unexplainable habit of writing longer and longer ramblings (getting older?). Having scrutinized the best Edublogs on the planet, and looked across typical Edu-boundaries (e.g. TechCrunch) I realize that there is no silver bullet trend for success, except that the best (or most viewed blogs) provide great content (tailored to their target audience), and usually post often (daily) in small chunks (learning nuggets = less than 500 words).

For example, TechCrunch (10+ million unique monthly visitors) can post anywhere from 10 to 30 blog posts a day from their team of bloggers. In one day, TechCrunch can post more blog posts than I have posted this whole year. WOW!

I have experimented over the last year sharing learning nuggets through Twitter, but I probably need 140 words rather 140 characters to share great resources, and add a few tips with some spice. I did launch ZaidSwoosh in 2009, which focuses on short and juicy learning nuggets, but realized soon that I couldn't manage both effectively due to my other commitments.

To cut this round of rambling short, I love blogging discoveries and ideas, because sharing inspires me to learn (faster and deeper about whatever I am learning). I need to find time and rediscover my joy of blogging and sharing more frequently (2 or more learning nuggets a week). I realize that every working day I will probably have at least 30 minutes to blog (without noise) before work starts, meaning you can expect from ZaidLearn in 2011:

More of less, but less of more!

But based on scrutinizing the most viewed blogs on the planet, readers increasingly seem to crave for granular juicy learning nuggets rather than long ramblings. My new recipe for 2011, I hope will rediscover my passion for blogging frequently, and transform ZaidLearn to become the juiciest learning blog on the planet.

For those of you who enjoyed my long ramblings in the past, you can look forward to it 6-12 times during 2011 (if time permits).

Yes, I need to think like a kid again, breakdown any destructive rules of habit (that blocks me from sharing), rediscover my passion to blog, and hopefully inspire a magical 2011.

Happy New Year! The flow of learning juice is about to start :)


Gordon Lockhart said...

Happy New Year Zaid! I think you have it about right - only fine tuning necessary for a unique blog with far-reaching influence. As an ancient academic I did find it all a bit 'over the top' when I first discovered ZaidLearn, but your eclectic mix of "juicy resources, awesome lists, useful tips, great ideas, funny graphics, and whole lot of fun" compares well with many other edublogs and is certainly more interesting and entertaining than some. Yes, maybe less rambling and "More of less, but less of more" would be better but don't force it - being yourself seems to be a key part of your success!

It's always difficult to gauge the real impact of postings among readers - eg. there seem to be so many new posts popping up with long lists of links under catchy titles like '101 FREE courses!' that I suspect many people hit only to bookmark and then forget about. So I hope you will continue to update your 'old' lists as a permanent reference.

Regards, Gordon
iBerry - The Academic Porthole

Unknown said...

Dear Gordon Lockhart,

thanks for the great advice, support (big brother), and wisdom. Yes, I will try not to force anything anything, update juicy lists, be myself, etc. Couldn't agree more... I owe you a big thanks for all great inspirational feedback and advice you have given me that last couple of years :)

Finally, I believe also many educators are kind of fed up with endless 100+ lists and want juicier ones that are filtered and tailores a bit more... Who really has time or urge to check all the links... So this year I suppose being boutique and unique is more exciting than being big and long... Time will tell :)

Just trying to find a blogging formula that inspires me to share learning juice frequently without too many rules :)

Thanks again and Happy New Year and wish you the very best in 2011 with life and all your wonderful projects...

Buddy Zaid