Thursday, May 26, 2011

Flipboard Fanatic

I am a Flipboard Fanatic.  

Flipboard is a free app for the iPad that aggregates your Facebook, Twitter and Google Reader feeds into fast, fun and easy-to-navigate electronic magazine. If your work or hobbies involve research, this app will change your life.

Back in February, I posted The Blogosphere and Twitterverse which advocated letting your friends on Facebook and Twitter find information for you. By following the right people, you can discover interesting trends and identify opportunities before they reach the mainstream news.  On the other hand, following a Twitter timeline filled with cryptic comments on indiscernible links is a tedious task.

Flipboard exposes your Twitter content by opening each link and displaying a few paragraphs of each article in attractive magazine style pages with four or five article per page. Photo links are also opened and the photos are interspersed with the articles on each page.  Touching any article opens up the full article and the option to open the original source.

Flipboard also makes it easy to join the conversation. You can like, comment and share content on Facebook or Tweet, reTweet or quote Tweets on Twitter. Since the app aggregates content from your Facebook, Twitter and Google Reader feeds, it is a great way to share content discovered in one stream with your friends in another.

Although this post reads a little like advertising copy for Flipboard, I have no association with the company.  I am just a big fan.

What are your experiences with Flipboard?  What iPad app have you found to be life changing?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

iPad 2 is Just Right

I like to read while I travel. But a couple of books and a stack of magazines add a lot of weight and bulk to my briefcase.  My quest to lighten my briefcase by reading on an electronic device reminds me of the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

My first laptop computer was created by adding an LCD screen to the top of an Apple 2C and my current laptop is a 13” Macbook Pro. While the processing performance, storage and connectivity have improved tremendously over the last 2 decades, the reading experience hasn’t changed much. A laptop is still too big, too cumbersome, takes too long to boot and requires charging too often to be a comfortable replacement for a book or magazine.

When I replaced my Palm Treo with an iPhone, I was hopeful that it could serve as a nice e-reader.  I installed the Kindle app, several news site apps and a good RSS reader. My iPhone has warded off boredom and helped me stay productive many times when I have found myself waiting without anything else to read.  But the screen is just too small for reading efficiently or enjoyably.

Now I have an iPad 2 and it is just right.  It is small enough to carry and hold comfortably with a screen large enough to read quickly.  It boots up instantly and holds a charge all day. With Kindle for books, Flipboard for news and several magazine subscription apps, I find little need for printed material.

The quality of the reading experience on the iPad and other tablet devices is certain to accelerate the trends away from printed newspapers, magazines and books.  

What are your experiences with tablets or e-readers?  Have they changed your consumption of printed publications?
Apple iPad 2 MC979LL/A Tablet (16GB, Wifi, White) NEWEST MODELApple iPad 2 MC916LL/A Tablet (64GB, Wifi, Black) NEWEST MODEL

Sunday, May 15, 2011

First Convertible Solution

An internal operational process can be a great source of business model innovation. My company, Convertible Solutions, was formed this way.

When Inter-State Studio and Publishing shifted to digital photo printing for our school portraits, we gained the ability to personalize and enhance the images in ways that our customers had not imagined. We needed a way to deliver a proof envelope and order form that would feature each child’s portrait personalized with their autograph and a selection of bright, attractive graphic themes.

Since completed envelopes wouldn’t transport or print well on our digital press, we developed a process to preconvert the proof stock with scores, perforations and cohesives already in place so the stock could run flat through the press and be folded into an order envelope afterwards. The process worked great, reduced waste and boosted sales. We were delighted!

Although we had developed a unique process, the problem it solved was not unique to us. An unmet customer need is the perfect recipe for a successful business model so we formed Convertible Solutions to help digital printers create complex marketing pieces for short run and variable data printing.

In October of last year, Mohawk Fine Papers introduced their line of Panoramic papers which utilize Convertible Solution’s TRU-Flat technology for premium photo book creation. The Panoramic papers have cohesives on the back so a printer can simply print the book pages on one side of the sheet, fold the sheets image inward, stack them into a book and seal them together with some pressure. The binding process is so simple that any printer can implement it and the books are beautiful with images streaming seamlessly across the center of each two page spread.

If Inter-State had kept these processes for our own use only, they would have only helped us grow our school photography business.  By opening them up to the rest of the world, we developed a completely new business opportunity, contributed to the growth of the digital printing industry and still grew our school photography business.

What internal operational processes have you developed which could be turned into new business opportunities?

Mohawk Panoramic Paper uses Convertible Solution's TRU-Flat binding method to bind beautiful lay-flat photo books.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Looking Forward

Creativity projects forward.  People are going to experience the results of your creative efforts at some point in the near or distant future.  Never the past.  

Designing a new business model, writing a successful book, producing an award winning motion picture, developing an investment strategy or creating anything that will be relevant when it is finished, requires some skill in forecasting the future.

To look forward accurately, you must first learn to look backward.  What has already happened has set the stage for what will happen. Your knowledge of history, understanding of human nature and analysis of trends are the stage where you will imagine the events of tomorrow and beyond.

Game developer and futurist Jane McGonigal explains: “to develop foresight, you need to practice hindsight. Technologies, cultures, and climates may change, but our basic human desires-- to survive, to care for our families, and to lead happy purposeful lives--remain the same. To understand the future, you have to look back at least twice as far as you’re looking ahead.”

As you look backward, one of the easiest forecasting methods assumes that anything that hasn’t changed much, won’t change much and that things which are changing will continue to change. In many cases, this is a good assumption, but it is important to understand that most change is either cyclical or linear.

Cyclical change has a repeating pattern.  If it is spring, you can be confident people will soon start wearing lighter clothes just like they did last year.  If it is Friday, the restaurants will be busy tonight like they were last week. If the economy is recovering from a recession, most stocks will increase in value just like they did in the last business cycle.

Linear changes move in the same general direction for long periods of time. Most demographic changes are linear because they are based on patterns of human behavior that have developed over decades and can’t be easily changed.  Immigration and reproduction rates make it certain that the percentage of the U.S. population that are hispanic is growing and will continue to grow.  The birthrate and improvements in life expectancy will also increase the average age of the U.S. population.

Studying the patterns of change and the interaction of cyclical and linear changes can provide a great deal of insight into the future.  What leading indicators do you follow to help you understand what will happen next?

Flash Foresight: How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible
Flash Foresight Contains Seven Specific Prediction Triggers