I met many cool people and gained several insights from Altimeter's Rise of Social Commerce conference. Here's the list of 9 helpful (or at least very interesting) resources I learned about from the speakers and sidebar conversations:
Homophily - "Birds of a feather flock together." Sinan Aral gave a fascinating presentation about how to maximize word-of-mouth influence and social contagion through online networks. He's written several papers on the subject.
diapers.com and soap.com - trying to be the Zappos of household basics. Free shipping and easy shopping, but how do they compare on pricing? I did a quick test by Red Lasering items in my bathroom and comparing them to prices on soap.com. Most were also like Zappos (where you can't pay more online), but a few items that had ecoupons were cheaper, and a few more were equal in pricing. Easy navigation and well designed, but know your prices or just embrace the convenience and be willingly pay more.
Polyvore - creative community where anyone can be a stylists. The sight allows you to create your own fashion trends. "Clip + Create + Shop + Share = Polyvore"
Tree of Tenere - how the loneliest tree in the world survive for 300 years.
Making Meals and Memories - Le Crueset's engaging program to encourage customers to share the fun memories associated with their cookware. Love the viral maps at the end of each story.
shopkick - a location-based program that drives traffic to retailers and can't be faked like GPS programs. I just downloaded the app and am headed to Best Buy to collect some kickbucks.
If you attended or watched any of it on ustream, what resources and takeaways did learn?
This summer I had an amazing opportunity to to attend the Gemological Institute of America's Diamond Grading Lab followed by 4 days of hiking in southern Utah. I was truly surprised to discover that the two experience had a strong similarity between them. In both, I spend a lot of time viewing nature's beauty, and in both situations, nature's beauty had been enhanced by man.
With diamonds, that's obvious. These crystals take millions of years to form and are eye-catching in their own right, but it's when man cuts and polishes them that they become truly stunning.
Hiking in Zion National Park and then in Bryce Canyon National Park, I made the same observation. The rock formations took millions of years to form and are gorgeous all on their own, but it's man's efforts that cut in trails and create access to to these places that allow us to view them. These switchbacks were created by man:
While the revisions man made to the parks are more about accessibility and to and even larger extent preservation, both are examples of man taking something that is beautiful in it's own right and enhancing it. The challenge for any designer, whether working from scratch or improving on nature, is when to stop because there is a point of diminishing returns where edits start to detract beauty instead of enhance it. And, of course, not everyone agrees to what is actually adding beauty versus subtracting from it. Here's a quote from Lyndon Johnson that was posted at Bryce Canyon on the subject:
What examples of you seen of man enhancing nature? What examples have you seen of enhancements gone wrong?
One way to stand out in terms of customer service is to ensure associates aim to provide guests with the best ride in the park, an experience so memorable that it compares with the best ride at any amusement park. So for the last six days, I've been doing some serious research on what the best ride in the park actually means as my wife and I dragged our four children to six different theme parks: Universal Studios, Universal's Islands of Adventure, and the four Disney World parks (EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and, of course, Magic Kingdom).
So here's my complete ranking of the best ten rides from those six parks:
1. THE HULK > With the force equal to a jet taking off an aircraft carrier, the Hulk launches you up 150 feet and reaches speeds of 67 mph. With seven inversions, it feels like you spend a third of the ride up-side-down. (BEST RIDE at Islands of Adventure)
2. EXPEDITION EVEREST > The details - both waiting in line and on the ride - are incredible, and it's a fun thrill ride as you plunge backwards in the dark. (BEST RIDE at Animal Kingdom)
3. TOY STORY'S MIDWAY MANIA > You get spun around to pause in front of several large screens that depict realistic 3-D carnival games. The cannon you fire converts from throwing pies, to firing darts, to tossing rings. Engaging, fun, and competitive! (BEST RIDE at Hollywood Studios)
4. THE FORBIDDEN JOURNEY > Wow! I would love to see the behind the scenes of how the flight tansitions from video projected dragon chases to animatronic dungeons. Heck of a journey especially for Potter fans. Wash it down with a butterbeer.
5. LAUGH FLOOR AND TURTLE TALK WITH CRUSH > I know, they're not really rides. And it's two instead of one, but these shows are "ride worthy" and they are very similar. They consist of interactive video presentations. In Laugh Floor (the better of the two), monsters deliver stand-up and have amazing interactions with the audience. In Turtle Talk, Crush comes to the front of a giant aquarium and takes questions from kids. Both are worth seeing at least twice, because it's never the same show. (BEST RIDE at EPCOT and Magic Kingdom)
6. DISASTER > Christopher Walken in person! Well, actually in an unbelievably realistic projection. The live host he interacts with is hilarious, and you should volunteer when she asks for one. (BEST RIDE at Universal Studios)
7. KILIMANJARO SAFARI > Real animals close and in authentic settings. We had a young giraffe stop us by licking the front of the truck.
8. DRAGON CHALLENGE > You know what's cool? Dueling inverted roller coasters. Dueling inverted roller coasters are cool.
9. TWILIGHT ZONE TOWER OF TERROR > You leave your seat as the ride falls faster-than-gravity, and you get a brief, but grand view of the rest of the park. My son asked the bellman if he would ride with us, to which he quickly replied, "No, I always take the stairs."
10. ROCK 'N' ROLLER COASTER > Zero to sixty in 2.8 seconds and Aerosmith!
Agree or disagree? What's the best ride in the park to you?
One of my favorite classes in college, was Structural English Grammar taught by Herman Wilson. Every week we had to write a one-page observation paper about something we "observed" in language usage. One of Herman's favorite phrases was, "You could get an observation paper out that." I've adapted that idea to observe how leaders and sales professionals influence and persuade. The title of this blog is a reminder to me of Herman and his amazing talent to observe and comment.