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The Visual Organization

Marketing Podcast with Phil Simon

Visual thinking is one of the more recent trends in business that has now reached into every arena. Organizations are rushing to become more visual. You need look no farther than the popularity of sites like Pinterest and Instagram to realize that people are inherently drawn to pictures.

Data Visualization

photo credit: GDS Infographics via photopin cc

Marketers have long realized that power of images to help illustrate a point, simplify a concept and evoke an emotion.

Online surfers, particularly younger online surfers, have grown accustomed to scanning pages and sites to quickly assess, in a sea of data, if something merits a more focused bit of attention.

A growing use of this visual trend is the visualization of data. Fueled by massive internal and external data sets organizations are turning to visual aids to help make and communicate meaning through pictures over spreadsheets.

The use of Infographics, as they are often called, loosely created an entire marketing asset category as organizations rushed to create poster-like graphics that tell a story and hopefully go viral.

Today, data visualization has grown up to the point that it’s no longer simply a trendy way to create marketing graphics. Data visualization techniques and data driven organizations are starting to use visualization as a leadership and management tool. (To be fair many organizations have done this for years, it’s just much more accessible in some of the new ways to analyze and communicate.)

As data journalist David McCandless said in this TED talk: “By visualizing information, we turn it into a landscape that you can explore with your eyes, a sort of information map. And when you’re lost in information, an information map is kind of useful.”

My guest for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Phil Simon. Simon has written six books on management including his most recent – The Visual Organization: Data Visualization, Big Data, and the Quest for Better Decisions.

As we discuss in this interview Amazon is, of course, the poster child for its use of data as a decision making tool. In many cases Amazon can offer next or same day shipping because they have a pretty good idea of who is going to order what and when.

Simon is also quick to point out that “a company with a dysfunctional culture and no sense of innovation can’t save itself via dataviz.” Like many new things that’s a key point. This is a tool and it’s what you do with it that matters.

Many organizations will use new data visualization tools to create pretty dashboards and little else.

Simon points to an example of how Netflix uses data visualization to ask and answer questions. Instead of saying I bet people often do X when then do X, they simply ask as many seemingly odd and random questions of the data and make discoveries that help drive their business in ways that no competitor can.

And that I think is the essence of this new era of visual data – data doesn’t simply replace intuition, it helps make intuition smarter. If you’re open to asking questions and becoming a data scientist you’ll discover things you can’t imagine from numbers on a page.

Here are some data visualization tools worth checking out –  Visual.ly, Many Eyes, iCharts, and one from LinkedIn Labs that allows you to view your world connections.

4 Infusing Your Business With Platform Thinking

Marketing podcast with Phil Simon (Click to play or right click and “Save As” to download – Subscribe now via iTunes or subscribe via other RSS device (Google Listen)

Iman Mosaad via Flickr CC

I’ve been talking about this idea of a business platform for some time now. The notion is that your business can be so much more than a group of products and services. Truly great businesses are now viewed not only as a group of products and services, but also as a place where people can go to work to build things they are passionate about.

And, they are a places where an entire community can participate in building things they are passionate about and get more of what they need from the platform regardless of what the business was originally created to do.

So the thinking goes like this – How can I get more of what I want out of life through this business, how can I attract people that share that purpose and want to bring more of themselves to working on the company, and how can I build an opportunity that allows other strategic partners or community members to build onto this platform in order to get more of what they need.

This thinking will either inspire and excite you, expand your view of what your business is or scare you to death, but in my mind this is the greatest opportunity to build a fully alive business that exists today.

For this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast I visited with Phil Simon, author of The Age of the Platform: How Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google Have Redefined Business

I think it can be very instructional to look at how these very obvious examples of platforms got there and how, in some ways, this same thinking and approach can apply to the smallest of firms.

If you create a free eBook that’s packed with lots of great information and offer it to several strategic partners to cobrand and send around to their clients, you’re using platform thinking. If you create a blog in your town and and invite a handful of complimentary business professionals to contribute their expertise for the benefit of both reader and the group of bloggers, in a small way, you’re creating a platform.

That’s the kind of thinking that I believe holds one of the most powerful opportunities for a business of any size to differentiate, attract committed staff and build a loyal community.