Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Groundswell - Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff

Subtitled: "winning in a world transformed by social technologies" it was published in April of 2008 by Harvard Business Press. It is a transformative book that truly enlightens those of us struggling to apply the "buzz" of blogging and social networking to existing business practices.

Early in the book the authors make a very essential point about the nature of these hot new technologies: the technology is secondary. It's the relationships between people and how they come together, shift, and create a "groundswell" that gives this movement it's power. Hence the title of the book. Li and Bernoff make an excellent case for why it's important to tap into this phenomenon. But rather than trying to control, direct or guide what is happening on blogs, forums and websites, it's a matter of figuring out what role to play that benefits both the consumers and the company. It's about engaging the people who do business with you and allowing them to help you grow your business.

Their case studies are fascinating and informative. Using the data gathered through their years of research at Forrester Research, they have compiled both convincing empirical data and engaging anecdotal examples to make their points. They also created a chart that helps to clarify the different types of online consumers and how they behave in specific circumstances. They've divided adults online into the following profiles according to their behavior: Creators, Critics, Collectors, Joiners, Spectators and Inactives. There are different levels of engagement among these groups that affect how they interact with any website online.

The book is amazing in it's ability to break down this complex and somewhat mysterious new world into concepts that are easily grasped. But understanding consumer behavior and being able to apply that knowledge in designing a consumer experience clients will be drawn to are two different things. I believe nearly everyone can grasp the concepts, but I believe it will be an enormous hurdle for many businesses to let go of top-down, push-out, advertising-based initiatives in favor of something that is developed, owned and managed essentially by consumers.

It's a "must read" in my opinion. I think the world is already at a point where consumers wield a great deal of influence because of blogs, forums and the ability to self publish. Companies in the 21st century ignore that kind of power and influence at their own peril.

Friday, August 01, 2008

The House of Mondavi - Julia Flynn Siler

Subtitled: "The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty." I just loved this book! I had read several reviews about it that all raved about what a great book it is and I bought it for "airplane reading" on a cross country flight to Seattle. I was hooked from the beginning. It is absolutely the page turner the critics claim that it is.

I don't know where to begin. It is engaging, well researched, authentic, objective and multi-faceted in representing the varying viewpoints of all the players in this big drama. It is a case study of family, business, passion, loyalty, conflict and creating something of enduring value. The Mondavi family did in fact affect the growth and appreciation of wine in America. The history of their family history in the Napa Valley is fascinating and very personal.

I enjoyed every minute of this book and the impressions of it linger with me still. I think I've mentioned it to everyone I've spoken to in the last week. It is both a triumph and a tragedy, and it has particular significance to anyone who has ever worked for a family owned business. The complex relationships of not just the family members, but those who love and are loyal to those family members, is something unique. It had particular meaning to me.

I highly recommend this book.