We help organizations to create value by working with large online crowds and communities. 

Art + Analytics for Blue Man Group

We are excited to be working with the Blue Man Group along with our friends from Neutron and Good Day Monsters. Our role: Research and test ways to add a digital layer to Blueman Group experiences while giving them the type of feedback they are used to in real world interactions. We focused on simply ways to bring fans together [you’ll have to wait for more information as these ideas are currently in development].

For McDonald’s – a fictional team comes alive

Dreaming in Mono is a story produced by McDonald’s in the Nordics about one man’s dream to prove that one ski (monoski) is better than two. Mutopo focused on enabling people (customers, employees) to participate in the story beyond the hour-long show from Facebook and Twitter to live Speed Milkshake Drinking events, Team Monoski gear and sponsorship partners. Learn more about Dreaming in Mono.

Helping a few create global events for many

We co-produced the debut 2010 event; the next Social Media week takes place from Sept 19-23rd in Berlin, London, New York, Sao Paulo, San Francisco and Toronto. Events are selected by local organizers in coordination with the communities in their cities – together they define the sponsorship structure (all events are free) and the appropriate format for the event.

Andrea Nhuch Abrahamson

Andrea loves creating products and selling them – from research and concept to branding and launches. Developing products for L’Oreal (Redken) and Shiseido (NARS) infused her with a whole new set of high standards and passion that she carries over to Mutopo. Prior to Redken, Andrea worked at StarMedia, Sundari and a few advertising agencies. Her experience also includes sales, media planning, buying and account management. She holds a Masters in Cosmetics and Fragrance from FIT. Andrea was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Today she lives in New York with her husband Shaun and sons Max & Oli. On Twitter:@thenhuch.


We teach classes at universities like the Wharton School and New York University. We also participate in custom executive education and private events for US and global Fortune 100.

Beyond classes and workshops, we regularly present at conferences in areas ranging from marketing to smarter cities – wherever organizations are finding new ways to work with crowds and communities.

Justin Levinson

Justin graduated from the University of Rochester with a computer science degree and relocated to New York for a consulting job doing IT and business transformations.  Past clients have included Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Pfizer, Avon, the City of New York, Chase, AIG, and Goldman Sachs.  After five years, he came to Mutopo seeking new challenges in the product development and open innovation spaces.  Justin lives and bikes in New York City.

New Work

Mutopo Re:Working Conference will explore how social technologies are changing work on February 24 2012 in New York City. Following are some thoughts on the main themes, highlighting the work of many organizations who will discuss their experiences at the conference.

New Work

At the table next to me, three people huddle excitedly around an unseen iPad screen. A little further away, a gentleman nods vigorously to the invisible person on the other end of his call. And here I sit, trying to organize my thoughts as I gaze at those working around me.

The scene describes many of our workspaces, but I am sitting outside on a beautiful day, at Cafe Octavio, a coffee shop in Sao Paulo. Now this could be a Brazilian thing, but I’ve had this experience in other cities like Berlin, New York and Cape Town.

New Work Spaces

Coffee shops may be the easiest way to notice shifting work spaces. Since Daniel Pink’s Free Agent Nation, free agents have moved between their garages, home offices and coffee shops and now into a growing list of co-working spaces. Many of the spaces provide much more than a desk and antidote to working alone, filling our rolls that used to be the domain of employers, from training resources to new business – just look at Grind Spaces or General Assembly. And its no longer just free agents who are working in new spaces, when offices are designed to keep employees working at home.

Some of the other important workspaces are harder to see – one has to sit alongside the people at home, in coffee shops and co-working spaces to peer into the world displayed on their laptop and ipad screens. You’ll see the familiar places we go online like Facebook and Twitter alongside our e-mail as conversations alongside a variety of tools from inside the enterprise. You’ll also see new general collaboration spaces like Google Docs, Microsoft Sharepoint and 37Signals Basecamp. And you will also find more specialized spaces for specific activities like R&D (Innocentive or Brightidea) or Marketing (Victors and Spoils or Shout).  Like the co-working spaces, many of these places are about much more than connecting with people you know, but finding new people to collaborate with. Or in some cases to hire new people for projects that might last hours or months (oDesk or workmarket).

Employee, Partner, Customer or All of the Above?

But aren’t most of these changes happening for self employed or part time workers? Perhaps. But a look at global workforce numbers from the Economist suggest that only 40% of us workers are full time employees, with 31% now self employed and 22% employed part time (whether or not they want full time jobs, is a different question).

But these employment numbers are only part of the picture. Over the last 10 years strategies that have looked beyond full time employees have yielded big results, even for core value-creating activities like research and development. Organizations like P&G have looked beyond the edge of their organizations to people and organizations outside. Today their open innovation process yields at least 50% of their innovation and at least one new billion dollar brand. Similarly LEGO Group’s turnaround in the last decade has led the company management to another group beyond employees. LEGO now considers the LEGO community of fans as a core asset alongside the plastic bricks.

And this is not just happening across the boundaries of traditional organizations. Inside larger organizations, people are finding that job descriptions are great for what you do most of the time, but miss opportunities for you to contribute in other ways. Cemex, for example is able to tap into more than 50 thousand employees to tackle some of the organizations most important problems. It is no wonder that LinkedIn wants to get beyond traditional resume representation of what we can do to add tags to represent our other skills.

The successes at these large global organizations have tracked a rise of a range of models to enable organizations to access talent on demand. In the most traditional cases, where outsourcing used to happen via large firms, now organizations can hire individuals or small teams directly via oDesk, Sortfolio or workmarket. Less conventional models enable tasks to be efficiently assigned and completed by “crowds” where those assigning the tasks might never know who performed them – from general tasks on Amazon Mechanical Turk to specialized science challenges on Innocentive.

Beyond the concept of crowds, is a more connected intimate idea of collective or community, sometimes supporting one another and sometimes competing in functional areas like marketing or innovation or in industry verticals from consumer products (Quirky) to automotive (LocalMotors). Beyond the focus on specific types of work, is a focus on providing support once only available to full time employees like insurance or assuring payment – just take a look at Freelancers Union. These new organizational forms are relatively young, but finding new ways to achieve what used to be the sole domain and part of the reason to join (often very large) organizations with full time employees.

The Other C-Level Leadership

These new relationships, shifting roles and changes in scale of connections are demanding new leadership skills. Many of the early changes began with software companies who used new technologies to work closely with stakeholders to define, build and test products from open source servers to iPhones. At the core is a constant struggle to set directions, gather feedback and align interests across groups of people with different incentives and different levels of participation.

Organizations are learning to work with people whose relationships may blur the lines between traditional customers and employees as they contribute in areas from R&D to customer support and marketing. And then there is also the question of scale – it is one thing to manage an organization of 10,000 people but then how do you manage another 10,000 stakeholders who are increasingly involved across a range of organizational activities (never mind the millions of fans). Here is a good example – a new type of mobile operator with fewer than 30 employees that relies heavily on working with customers to deliver their service – aptly named Giffgaff which means “mutual giving” in Scottish.

At the messy intersection of traditional organizations and communities is the emerging role of community management. For some, this is similar to account management – understanding and reconciling the needs of those inside and outside the organization. For others its more akin to customer service, managing lots of lightweight interactions from basic support to more elaborate client needs. These different interpretations, fit a range of responsibilities from helping groups achieve specialized tasks (like responding to a creative brief or engineering challenge) to seeking insights and feedback on Facebook. Whatever it is – it is hard and valuable, but you’d be hard pressed to find classes about it in management schools – no wonder there is now a Community Manager Appreciation Day.

From Connecting to Collaborating and Evaluating

“I think the last 5 years have been about connecting all these people. The next 5 years are going to be about all the crazy things you can do now that all those people are connected,” Zuckerberg commented earlier this year. More than any single organization, Facebook has helped to usher in a new era in connectedness, yet they are already looking at what these connections might enable.

Fortunately, we can go back two decades to get a glimpse of what might be ahead.

Linus Torvold’s transformation of the software development process was enabled in large part by low cost, loose ties to his users. He began using one of the Internet’s first collaboration platforms, email. Only a decade back you could see how organizations like LEGO and P&G have worked with partners and customers. Or you could see how Skype, Craigslist and Zipcar have enlisted customers to help with everything from sharing bandwidth resources, editing posts and bringing down the cost of getting access to a car.

The “crazy things” we can do are multiplying. It’s not just how we are working together, but going further to understand how different people are contributing. Today, Klout Scores are enabling us to study interactions to understand how effectively people (and brands) influence one another. Mozilla is studying contributions in the collaboration process to understand when members of their community might be losing interesting in building their open source wares. Jovoto observes online interactions to uncover leading creative talent for marketing and product development, while Trada evaluates search marketing prowess to match their marketing clients with the best performing marketers. CrowdTwist analyzes individual actions online to understand, far beyond purchases, who are the most valuable customers by understanding what these people do for brands. Our contributions as workers, freelancers, customers and friends can be constantly evaluated as we go about our usual business enabling ranking (and ultimately pricing).

The focus used to be on what was given up by moving people out of the same room or workspace. But as we see the benefits from online collaboration and evaluation, the same might soon be asked about what is given up when work takes place offline.

Results So Far?

The impact of New Work is felt across functional areas and industries. Some measure their ability to get new ideas (and eventually new businesses) from non-employees. Others look to communities as a core asset for research, support, promotion or infrastructure for a telecommunications company. Contributions might be measured in earned media or savings resulting from human-resources-on-demand. Or success might be seen by the self employed who can earn similar income and benefits without the organizations that offer full time employment (through organizations like Freelancers Union).

Overall there is a sense that through new connections, we are getting more, even if the metrics are not always clear. As Andrew McAfee puts it (of MIT Center for Digital Business), “I have never spoken to an executive or a manager who says, ‘I just long for the days when we collaborated in the old style, and e-mail was all we had, and nobody had a voice. Man, that was so fantastic. Let’s please go back there.’”

On February 24 2012 in NYC we will explore these New Work themes with many of the organizations reference here. Learn more at reworking.co.


From Social Media to Social Production in 2012 Elections

Picture: Gaming Revolution design by Sean Mort on Threadless (vote to bring it back).  

In his 2008 election campaign, President Obama showed what can be achieved with Social Media. As if commanded by Joe Jaffe, he joined the conversation from initiating to responding, from simple status updates to slick videos. The influence on Social Media Marketing has been so profound that the Obama Campaign might be a leading cause of Wind Tunnel Marketing in Social Media Marketing – – strikingly similar tactics used across to boost conversation and “fan count”, the new metric to stand alongside the “website hits” of yesterweb.

Looking a little closer at 2008, there were signs this wasn’t only about Social Media, but Social Production. In particular, within the race for the Democratic nomination in Texas, Obama hinted at what happens when you get beyond conversation and build a new type of “Outside Organization”.

Yes, Obama was using Facebook, Twitter and e-mail to build awareness and recruit volunteers, but he was using tools like his MyBO website to co-ordinate volunteers and enable them to co-operate.  As Technology Review described “In Texas, MyBO also gave the Obama team the instant capacity to wage fully networked campaign warfare.” As the head of the Clinton campaign conceded when they understood what was being organized on MyBO:

“I remember saying, ‘Game, match–it’s over.”

Social Production lessons for the 2012 Election
On June 1 2011, Techcrunch reported that the CTO of Threadless would be joining the 2012 Obama campaign. We believe this represents a shift to Social Production – building the tools and organization necessary to enable large groups of people to work with and on behalf of the Obama campaign, in the same way that Threadless has learned to work with their community to create, market and sell happiness-making t-shirts.

Threadless is no Social Media slouch with over 1.6 million Twitter followers or 300,000 Facebook fans. However much of the value creation is being done by a only a few thousand people (based on our estimates from the 6% of “addicts” according to Quantcast) using a custom platform, not Facebook or Twitter.

How do you build an organization that can depend on people that are not fulltime employees to generate a big chunk of the value that your organization creates? Threadless knows and they are joined by a small number of organizations who have figured this out.

From getting fans to creating value with fans
In a recent report, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) described the shifting focus from conversation to generating value across the organization – Re-envisioning customer value – Opening the floodgates of new potential. They highlight a number of successes across different functional business areas:

+ New Products: Today P&G get 50% of innovation from outside the organization

+ Product Development: Intuit works with 25,000 to get ongoing feedback

+ Service and Support: British mobile phone company, GiffGaff has its customers responding to 50% 99% of the support questions – more on that below.

At Mutopo we’ve been calling this the “lumpy donut” – the changing roles of people outside the organization through the product lifecycle. Paid employees remain at the core, but increasingly people outside the organization expend effort to create value and change the economics of value creation.

Building new organizations using Social Production
GiffGaff provides an important example of what happens as organizations shift focus from Social Media to Social Production. The Giffgaff tag line:

“the mobile network run by you”.
Building on the EIU report, the The Realtime Report says:
“The company’s customer support community has over 200,000 100,000 users and delivers three million 5.5 million page views per month as of June 2011. At least 50 99% of queries are answered by other customers and 95% are answered in less than one hour.  The average response time on the companies Help boards is less than a minute and a half. “
Good luck getting that type of support from any company, let alone most mobile operators. But Giffgaff doesn’t stop there. Like P&G, Intuit and Threadless they are getting ideas from their “outside organization”. And they are revisiting the affiliate model enabling people to be paid when the resell Giffgaff services, so they are changing the economics of distribution and sales, too.
In short Giffgaff is changing how value is created and therefore the economics of mobile services. 

How might Obama use Social Production in 2012?
Creating  conversation is one thing – designing organizations is something else altogether, but as the EIU examples show, Obama has many options to change how campaigns are organized and operated. From collecting better intelligence to focusing volunteers on critical geographies, we expect to see his campaign build on the experience in Texas in 2008.

In a likely close election campaign where votes in specific geographies really matter, changing the economics of these essential efforts will shift the game, enabling Obama to use resources more efficiently, with more agility than his opponents. While we cant predict the outcome of the election, we expect this to cause some WTFness among traditional campaign organizers.

Unfortunately we will have to wait a while to see how the Obama campaign will use Social Production. At a minimum the t-shirts will be awesome and in the meanwhile we can look forward to some masterful Social Media as Obama begins tweeting again from @barackobama.


How Crowdsourcing Can Change The World

On May 23, 2011, we were fortunate to share the Mutopo perspective on Crowdsourcing and Social Production at ESPM, Brazil’s leading marketing and advertising school.

ESPM Social Production & Crowdsourcing Session

Long Term Agile: 5 Lessons from the Nissan GTR


At the heart of innovation is a critical contradiction.

As MIT Medialab’s incoming director, Joichi Ito puts it: How can you balance the need for long term perspective with the need for short term agility?

My favorite models for innovation are start-ups. I have been fortunate to work with some great ones – the best ones begin with a hypothesis and embark on a frantic search for a new way to do something. Conversely, larger organizations usually become brittle – they optimize around a business model, processes etc and in the process, they lose their agility.

The tricky business of innovation requires the combination of the agile mode of a start-up, with the longer term perspective of more mature organizations. The key is tapping into the Outside Organization – the people outside your organization that can offer new questions, perspective, ideas and skills.

While I like to ponder ideas in a variety of settings, piloting a Nissan GTR for a few fast laps around the Las Vegas Speedway clarified the issues quite nicely.

Prospective Customers > Existing Customers (For Long Term Agile)

“Ha, you are driving the cheater car?”, Dave mocked.

Dave was my instructor for my race track adventure behind the wheel of a Ferrari Scuderia. The Ferrari is frighteningly fast (somehow even when it’s parked). Dave’s mocking laughter was directed at the Nissan GTR, the other car I planned to drive later in the day. The GTR looks less seriously fast race machine and more stylized homage to Japanese battle robots.

Dave is a pro. For him oads of sensors and software helping to bend the laws of physics to your will, is well cheating. On the other hand, I believe I may be Nissan’s perfect customer – I want all the help I can get to go fast – if it comes in the form of a robot car, so much the better.

Long Term Agile Lesson 1: spend some time ignoring your customers and talking to your prospective customers.

Try Some Harder Metrics

Below is the simple match-up. You have to hand it to the Scuderia on the traditional power/weight ratio and wind cheating form. However, “Physics Manipulation” is not entirely clear since it’s not well measured until “real world” track driving.
GTR Scuderia
Price $85,000 (all options) $286,000 (starting)
Weight 3,800 lbs 3,000 lbs
HP 523hp 508hp
Power/Weight .14 hp/lb .17 hp/lb
Physics Manipulation Total* Partial

*see below for qualitative explanation.

Long Term Agile Lesson 2: People usually measure what is easy or accumulated over some consensus over the years. This will deceive you. Measure some of the hard stuff, even if it requires real world testing.

Find Your Inspiration Outside
It seems pretty clear these cars should be in a different class, from the power/weight ratio alone. In a wind tunnel I cannot see how this might be much of a contest, either.

However, as was proved on Top Gear Power laps, their performance is almost inseparable (http://www.bbc.co.uk/topgear/show/powerlaps.shtml). Ferrari relies on a trusted strategy of power-to-weight ratio – keep innovating on materials to make things lighter and keep the machine balanced via mid-engined approach.

The GTR is not so much a car but rather robot minion – the “Playstation Car”, as it is known to the instructors, felt like it was helping me to go fast, because it was. The car is designed to use all four wheels to get your round corners despite some dodgy balance and power-to-weight numbers. Its a marvel of sensors, actuators and feedback loops.

While Ferrari looks to the pureness of F1 for inspiration, Nissan went outside to gamers and robots to draw its inspiration.

Long Term Agile Lesson 3: Get thee farther away for inspiration. Even if you are smart, inspired and creative, you need to make sure your ideas have sex with different ideas if you are hoping for a very different outcome.

There is Always More Deep Skill Outside
Ferrari adheres to a core set of design ideals and skills from within. It gets the job done, beautifully and will win awards, even when performance is not perfect (for design, for example). But it’s horribly inefficient – from the original price tag to the ongoing maintenance to ensure the best performance (for some this will be a successful outcome in the form of “exclusivity”).

But when it is matched by something less than one third the cost, well it seems silly and misguided.

The GTR is a triumph of a different philosophy. Yes supercars should be mid engined and expensive. And yes, they need to shed pounds to compete. Or do they? Maybe some clever sensors, actuators and algorithms can cheat physics? This seems to work in well in other areas ranging from aerospace to house cleaning robots. Why not work with these people – they help us build the industrial robots that build cars anyway.

Long Term Agile Lesson 4: selective ingnorance can help to shed assumptions but you will still need to find deep expertise from other fields if you are to bring a new approach to market.

Deliberately Fund and Support Long Term Agility
Nissan did not put it’s business at risk to learn and find new approaches, but they did allocate budget to a program that made them smarter and ultimately yielded an awesome outcome – the GTR.

Searching for incremental weight advantage is a costly, competitive business involving F-1 and aerospace research, but turning their attention to less well researched areas to like all wheel drive vehicle dynamics and different assembly approaches let Nissan develop new leadership capabilities.

Long Term Agile Lesson 5: someone has to approve a research budget – not enough to bet the company, but enough to put together unique teams to make something and see what it can do.

In the GTR, Nissan found an approach to reconcile Agile with the Long Term. They invested in a search for new approaches, within the constraints of a long term company viability. I think they demonstrate that large organizations need not ossify, but need to ensure that they allocate some resources to finding and working with their Outside Organizations.

Oh yeah, if you were wondering what it’s like to drive a Nissan GTR in ways that would be illegal on public roads, this was my experience – literally left me unable to speak.


Collaboration with the Competition


It’s tempting to think of the world as a zero-sum game.  The typical RFP process doesn’t lead you to believe otherwise: battle your competition over a client until there’s one man standing.  Any projects your opponents get is one less piece of the pie for you.

This is total fiction.

In Enchantment, Guy Kawasaki talks about eaters and bakers.  Eaters see a pie and want to get as big a piece as possible, but bakers help make more, bigger, increasingly delicious pies.  And the best way to start thinking like a baker is to re-examine your relationships with your competitors.

Making the Lists

Think about what kind of projects you really don’t want to do.  Projects that are too big, or too small, or have too many lawyers.  Clients that have good concepts and secure funding but are in an industry you don’t like to work in. Figure out what kind of work you’re passionate about and want to be doing.

Come up with this list and stick to it.   Having a clear idea of your core competencies and niche is a much more compelling story than being mercenaries who work on any project with a big enough budget.

Doing unto others

So what happens to leftover projects? Say a great lead comes across your desk, but it’s in an industry you don’t really like and you’re super busy with four other clients right now.  Think of this as a re-gifting opportunity.  Call up one of your competitors and give them the referral.

This may sound crazy.  It is a little crazy.  People will question your motivations.  Maybe your sanity.  But there are two good reasons to pass work along to your competition.

1.  Clients talk.

If a client has a good experience with, say, a collaboration consulting company, they’ll talk about it.  They may talk about the specific partner they used, but a good experience with anyone in the industry is good for everyone else in the industry.  And the reverse is true, of course: one project gone sour will taint that client’s view of the industry as a whole.  As clients share more and more positive anecdotes, more projects will start to crop up.

And by passing along leads for projects you couldn’t (or didn’t want to) do the project in the first place to someone better geared to take the work on, you’re creating better experiences for the client and giving them more positive stories to tell.  The company logos may be different, but you and your competition are really working towards the same goal: delivering client value.

2.  You get what you give.

I’m not advocating helping others solely to get help in return: that’s disingenuous, and ultimately transparent.  Think of it more as a by-product, whether or not you use Guy Kawasaki’s ‘I’m sure you’d do the same for me’ line.  When you send work you can’t do well to others, you’ll start to find yourself pulled into their projects as well.So get out there and make some pies.

Nobody vs. Somebody

In his new book Enchantment, Guy Kawasaki makes the assertion that Nobody is the new Somebody. Not too long ago the internet was a playground ruled by somebodies, some argue that it still is. The internet’s power structure has shifted against the Sombodies of the web – influence peddlers like the New York Times, Forbes, CNN. In its place, the collective Nobody has risen to assume a greater voice online. These paramount content providers allow less contingency for nobodies to spread information and promote outside interests. The somebodies deem information ‘news worthy’ then utilize  their social status to spread the information quickly.
The nobodies have created a community of user generated content. People who want to tweet about where the KimChi food truck is, post memes about cats, blog about street art and things of that manner.
What we’re really talking about here is influence. These nobodies are gaining klout. Influence is sometimes misunderstood by marketers as a person or brand who has a high number of followers on Twitter, RSS feed subscribers and Facebook page likes, but influence comes from brand experience and trust.  Having one hundred strangers re-tweet a brand name or an article they’ll never read doesn’t create the same kind of influence or produce tangible outcomes. 

The nobodies have community leaders who have a greater chance of creating an impact on individuals because the content is relevant. Take the example of a new mom, she might be more likely to trust content on a ‘mommy blog’ rather than the Pampers website because she knows she can trust information created by someone who is like her. Marketers can gain a lot more than influence by courting the small groups where trust is implicit.

Essentially the nobodies are acting like the old somebodies but on a smaller scale. If mainstream media finds a way to compete with user-generated content that creates tangibility could they could transform the power of the nobodies?

We know that the nobodies can create buzz, communities and promote, but we also know that nobodies are unpredictable.

Grit is good, anonymity is better


There are certain online sites which tend to evoke in people a feeling of the true nature – or the DNA – of the internet.  Chatroulette was one of these and 4chan is another. Usually what people mean by  ‘the DNA of the internet’ is unbridled raw expression which is often tainted by porn or other social vulgarity. Using this criteria the public bathroom wall has functioned in much the same way as the internet.

The Marketing Sandbox


Games used to be about consoles and phones and farm-related status updates on Facebook. But games have already moved into other areas that impact our purchases of everything from airline tickets to 1950s era office chairs on eBay.

The idea of a game layer for the world, seems very plausible. In fact if the game layer involves using mechanisms to cause new behavior, the game layer is most definitely already here – its just that most marketers aren’t thinking of themselves as game designers, yet.

Loyalty versus Deals deathmatch

Groupon has fast become the king of deals. It uses a simple combination of game mechanics to create irresistible offers:

+ the qualified “free lunch”: get 50% off! (but only if 100 people agree to the deal)

+ communal gameplay: only 53/100 have agreed so far, get your friends!

+ countdown: hurry, only 2 days and 1 hour left!

It’s JUST these game mechanics and an e-mail list (and a massive sales team) that keep Groupon running. SCVNGR believes they have a counter-measure to discounts to induce loyalty using a different set of mechanics around leveling up, fittingly called, “Level Up”.

Marketers are game designers

Groupon and SCVNGR are just the latest to take advantage of game mechanics. At the core, game mechanics are nothing new: they’re about understanding individual and group behavior and creating systems to get specific outcomes as a result of these insights.

Marketers should feel right at home, right?

Actually, marketers already design much more complex games. They get to draw on libraries of game mechanics from how people might respond to a story, to A/B tested copywriting in e-mail. Loyalty systems keep me from switching to a cheaper ticker because now I get special treatment in security lines. Social media added a host of new mechanics to cause behavior in people that causes other behavior in other people, so complexity has gone up again.

No wonder marketers get the feeling they may be missing opportunities – how could one possibly choose the right mix of approaches to changing behavior to get an optimal result?

How do I know it will work?

At the end of Seth’s session, 3,000 people frantically gestured to one another and began trading pieces of colored paper. It looked a little like the trading floor behind a TV announcer explaining a sharp equities sell-off.

The objective – work together to win a game, by organizing ourselves to create patterns using different colored cardboard sheets. There were a few rules, a clock, and a clear objective.

At the outset, if you had polled the room, my guess is most people would have voted against  a successful outcome. Yes, after 60 seconds, were were done. #epicwin

More experiments, fewer attempts to plan

Too often I encounter the following.

“We want to do something innovative”

[insert untested idea that might cause desired behavior here]

“How well will this work?”

“I’m not sure, but we have a way to test it”

“Oh, what else do you have?”

Seth could have tried to model and analyze what might have happened when 3,000 played a new game. But it was cheaper and more conclusive to simply run the game on a small scale as an experiment.  Real-world evidence trumps survey data every time.

Developers have been using this strategy for years, working and playing in sandboxes: places designed to test ideas and understand what works.

Maybe its time for a marketing sandbox?

[If you want to learn more about the SCVNGR panel at SXSW, we liked the thoughts from The Guardian and Made by Many.

Top Image: SCVNGR founder Seth Priebatsch doing behavior hacks on 3,000 of us at his SXSW keynote. ]

Epic Winning at SXSW


I love it. But will it work?

Heading into SXSW, many people are asking themselves this question of their new products, panels or parties.

So, using my very special mix of trend analysis, chatter analysis and witchdoctory, some prognostications for Epic Winning at SXSW.

1. Holler Gram

Remember backchannel? Now there is something new for presenters to contend with and a new way for session attendees to join in. Actually its likely also something that barkeeps, Austin TSA officials and a host of other people will come to know in short order.

The smart folks at Made by Many have created a physical messaging platform.

This is just genius because it is going to enable a bunch of new experiences in a simple elegant way. It’s an instant classic example of what we call scaffolding – the stuff organizations can make to enable others make.

2. Groupme

Ah the joy of social networking reduced to the core. Thank you Groupme. I can finally fill in the massive continuum between public and private without trying to understand Facebook privacy settings. Plus there are some fun power-ranger-esque features like a single button that instantly summons everyone in the group.

While I suspect many people don’t want to bother setting up a new Social Network, Groupme makes it so easy, it will be hard to not to.


3. GroupGram

In the spirit of good ideas having sex (combine the top 2 with MIT’s Flyfire), a new concept (possibly ready by the end of SXSW?). The idea is simple – enable screens to be networked together to create much bigger screens by defining groups.

Any takers?


Misunderestimating Communities

Building a better Tomorrowland

We wish you a happy, healthy 2020.

So there’s lots to do in 2011, to make this happen.

This was brought sharply into focus on our holiday trip to Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

The centerpiece of Tomorrowland is mini-speedway of fun to drive, CO2 spewing cars. This contrasts with the rather slow, not-particularly-funly-named, environmentally responsible, Peoplemover.

Shouldn’t we be asking for sustainability and fun? Maybe some Tesla-inspired electrics on the Tomorrowland circuit?

But there was hope in Tomorrowland – just ask Mike Wazowski (with one eye). For years Monsters Inc. was using “scream fuel”, when it turns out that fuel sourced from laughs provides a far more efficient source (along with much much better monster-human relations).

We know the Monsters Inc. experience is not unique – we just have to ask the right questions and challenge assumptions.

We’ve been inspired by the abundant creativity and talent we’ve seen in 2010 from participants in Social Production challenges we’ve helped create, like The Betacup and Life Edited.

Hope you’ll join us in building a better Tomorrowland in 2011. Cheers!

[photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/expressmonorail/]

Design > sell > fund VS Fund > design > sell

Almost a year ago we tried to get the betacup started on Kickstarter, with mixed success. We came up with a pitch to sell people on something we were going to design. In other words, we
wanted to pitch an idea to raise funds to create a design.

Fund -> Design -> Sell

Turned out it was not the best idea approach for Kickstarter, but Kickstarter is very useful for another approach.

Design something, then sell it, to raise funds, or simply:

Design -> Sell -> Fund

Kickstarter has suddenly made it possible to pitch new designs (or other creative work) for sale and fundraising. The process works so well that we found some of our favorite products on Kickstarter this year (they’re also mutopo holiday gifts this year).