You might have read or heard about the Twitter brouhaha last week.
Image via CrunchBase
No, not another politician sending pictures of his undies. Twitter announced that they are going to restrict the use of their API and due to that a bunch of companies are going to have big problems. While I realize that this entire discussion might be a bit of inside baseball for you non-tech business folks, I think the decision Twitter made is instructive no matter what business you’re in.
Basically, Twitter announced a bunch of restrictions on the number of times an application can access the Twitter stream. You can read the details on Twitters developer blog but suffice it to say that anyone who makes a traditional Twitter client – Storify, Echofone, TweetBot, etc. – is going to have some issues. These folks compete with Twitter’s own app (both the regular Twitter client and TweetDeck, which they own) for ad dollars and part of what Twitter announced was the division of the Twitter world into four quadrants. One of those is “consumer engagement” and while Twitter is trying to encourage competition and business building for analytics and B2B, it wants to ” limit certain use cases that occupy the upper-right quadrant.” In other words, restrict anything that interferes with their ad-supported business model.
I understand why Twitter is doing this. After all, it’s their data (even if the users are creating the content). However, I think they’ve got it backwards. Rather than protecting themselves in a very difficult, competitive area (ad sales), maybe they should have focused their revenue efforts on the folks who are making money themselves (the analytics and other B2B guys). They’re saying they welcome development on their platform as long as it avoids their core revenue model, which is consumer experience enhanced with advertisements. In my mind, setting up a bigger toll booth in front of the folks who remarket the data for large fees makes more sense. It’s the Willie Sutton rule – go where the money is. Twitter has no competition when it comes to the folks using their data to drive their product while there is plenty of competition in the ad world – Twitter isn’t yet a “must” buy.
That sort of decision-making comes up in many businesses from time to time and I think a long look at what Twitter chose is instructive. What do you think?
If you’ve ever walked through the part of a big department store where they sell men’s shirts (and ties – remember them?), you might have noticed that there’s almost an infinite number of choices.
(Getty Images via @daylife)
At least it seems so to me. Collar styles, colors, patterns, and cuffs are all mixed up in a lot of variations. I suppose it’s the same in the dress department – an overwhelming number of possibilities. I bring this up because a project in which I’m involved has stumbled into a figurative department store. The technology is filled with possibilities. So many, in fact, that we’re at a point where we need to exclude some intriguing avenues just so we can get to the checkout with something in our carts.
Working with highly energized, very creative people has a downside. They tend to see so many possibilities – all the shirts and dresses – that they’re often running off in a hundred directions while not really advancing. To a certain extent, that sort of war gaming is critical. It’s a less formal type of decision tree analysis that many of us like to do. However, there comes a time when the branches of that tree with less potential or which don’t meet near term goals (and for new ventures that usually includes kicking off revenue pretty quickly) need to be trimmed off.
In this case, what we’re trying to do is to lay out all the possibilities, to look at the possible outcomes of making each choice, to assign values and probabilities to each branch of the tree and to make a decision based on our best guesses and whatever information we already have. In other words, buy a shirt. We’ve spent enough time trying things on and holding them up to the mirror. We need to get out of the store and get to work. And so do you!
Sometimes I’m convinced that the most successful businesses have no idea what they’re doing. Oh sure, if you asked an executive about their strategy, he or she would probably give you whatever is in their planning document verbatim, but I think that’s crap. I think they’re telling you what they believe to be the truth but in fact may only be accurate in their minds for that moment. Instead, I think the most successful companies are masters of dealing with the utter chaos of the business world and not being too anchored to any one detail of a plan. Yes, planning is important, but so is reality, and that often means dealing with something for which we had no plan. So why bother planning? Continue reading