Archive for September, 2010

Values that matter

Posted: September 21, 2010 in Company culture, Motivation
Tags: , ,

My good friend Rasmus is heading up a small digital media company, Contentcube, in Copenhagen. They are by no measure a big company, but that’s actually part of the charm in what I’m about to tell you.

Recently I asked Rasmus what really differentiates them from other similar companies. The answer had nothing to do with superior skills (although I can tell it’s there in abundance) or bleeding edge technologies. Instead he said that they always do what they say they’ll do – and in their business it translates into ”on time and on budget – always”. A pretty simple differentiator and yet it’s where most competitors fail (trust me, I know) and guess what: Failure to stay on time and on budget is the number one frustration factor for customers. It’s what pushes customers away.

So how do they do it? What makes them better than anyone else? To answer that question let me tell you how they recently celebrated a successful year. Rather than just paying out big bonuses or throwing a party, they decided to relocate the whole company to Berlin for the entire month of August (which you have the privilege of being able to do if you’re a digital media company). Why did they do that? Well, for starters Berlin, to Copenhageners, is the quintessentially cool place to go if you want edge, inspiration and spot new trends. And by moving everyone for a whole month they created that good old holiday camp atmosphere, which, in a new and unique way, brought people together and created strong bonds. When I recently mentioned this to Guy Kawasaki he said, “What a great story”.

But how do they do it on a daily basis? Well, this post was inspired by a conversation I had with Rasmus yesterday. He’d been collecting good customer stories for a while and had realized that magic would arise whenever a customer was impressed by something a Contentcube employee had done. Right down to the little things such as suggesting small improvements which the customer hadn’t expected or finishing tasks or jobs early. It’s not unlike the Zappos core value of always aiming to wow their customers – and it’s the exact opposite of the commonplace “just good enough” attitude you find in so many companies. Always aiming to impress customers, walk the extra mile, try harder and wow customers, inspires employees to be proud of and passionate about what they do. And pride and passion are the cornerstones of a great company.

Contentcube now has “aim to impress customers” as one of their key targets – and it’s something they’ve started measuring. Thumbs up for that and good luck to Rasmus and his team moving forward!

For more inspiration about measuring what makes life worthwhile, check out this Chip Conley TED talk:

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In this past week I was fortunate enough to play a key role in the launch of DSB Labs – an open data community by the Danish Railways. For a while I have been following and been mesmerized by the open data movement, right across initiatives such as Tim Berners-Lee’s (TBL) Linked Data, Tim O’Reilly’s (TOR) Gov 2.0 and Barack Obama’s data.gov. I like TBL’s analogy of data being the unhidden goldmine no one can see on the surface, but whose potential is profound – and I totally agreed with TOR’s mantra to redefine government’s role to that of “government as a platform” as opposed to a vending machine of ready-made citizen services.

When you look at data in that light, all of a sudden the release of locked and proprietary data becomes one of the biggest untapped potentials in the world today. A cause worth fighting for. With DSB Labs we’re obviously focusing on the daily needs of commuters and travellers, but if we move beyond travel, open data has already proven to be an excellent crowdsourcing aggregator. During last year’s Haiti earthquake open data helped the relief efforts in a very real way, when GeoEye allowed the open source community to use its satellite data to allow people all over the world to edit the Open Street Map and thereby greatly facilitate efforts on the ground. Impressive – and that’s just the beginning.

My vision is to see all non-confidential data – commercial and public alike – released worldwide to allow all creatives, developers, nerds, visionaries, well, frankly, all citizens to offer their angle on data, because – in the words of Jacob Bøtter (see video below) – the data owners don’t have all the answers.

I had the pleasure of interviewing and filming some of Denmark’s open data protagonists last week and ended up producing this video for DSB Labs. A subtitled version will follow.

Thanks to the following visionaries for making DSB Labs possible and/or for making themselves available for the video: Henrik Jessen, Ronni Egeriis Persson, Kim Jonasen, Kristian Stangerup, Nursel Yildirim, Anne Mette Koch, Rasmus Viemose, Simon Bønløkke, Jacob Bøtter, Søren Rindal Nielsen, Tore Vesterby, Klaus Silberbauer