innovative technology

Isn’t the Handshake the Most Important Part of a Business Relationship?

Business Relationships

I was reading through one of my favourite business magazines last week when I happened upon an ad from GoToMeeting.  The headline read, “The Only Thing Missing is a Handshake”.  Now, I get the point that they are making as they promote video conferencing as an “extraordinarily powerful way to collaborate face to face in high-definition video”.  I get it.  I am a brand builder. I embrace new technology with zest as it helps to facilitate the relationships that underpin brand. In fact, I am a big fan of GoToMeeting as it enables me to have more frequent collaboration with people spread far afield.

But, the headline also nagged at me about what has been lost in business today, the handshake.  It used to mean something.  It was the signal of agreement of between people — seller and buyer.  And I believe that its importance is belong lost on the new generation of business leaders.  Business is about people, not pixels.  It’s about developing products and services that delight the people who consume them.  As a brand builder, I have always stressed human interaction within my companies.  I believe in regular internal meetings and maximum allowable intervals between face-to-face meetings with our clients.

I am also a big believer in Tony Hsieh of Zappos’ zeal for the notion of serendipity; the idea of the “happy accident” that comes about as a result of human interaction.

So, by all means, embrace technology, but remember, the simplest and most extraordinarily powerful tool in business is the shake of a hand.

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Sleight of Handset


As an advocate of innovation and an early adopter of all things technology, I am thrilled that my mobile phone can let me book a restaurant reservation, GPS me to a destination, take crystal-clear high definition photographs, check the stock listings, return e-mails and update my Twitter account.  I am not thrilled that it drops calls and distorts voices, especially when I’m talking to a client.

In the early years of brick-sized cell phones, pocket sized cell phones and flip phones that were small enough for dogs to swallow, we tended to forgive phone call quality in the name of amazing convenience.  But now, when I can even program my PVR from another country with my mobile phone, I am losing my patience.  In their furiously innovative stampede to add new functions to mobile phones, the telecom sector has distracted us from the appliance’s main purpose, which is having a clear conversation with another human being.

If I have an important phone call scheduled, my default device is a land line.  Such is the importance of nuance, tone of voice and even pauses, that a mobile phone just isn’t reliable or present enough to be sure that I’ve heard everything I need to hear.  What does this have to do with innovation?  Well, I guess innovation is also about getting things right.  The auto makers have done it with diesel engines.  Microsoft seems to have done it with control-alt-delete-free operating systems.  Now, in a personal appeal, I am asking telecoms to do the same thing with mobile voice communication.

I harken back to those wonderful Verizon commercials where a guy with a cell phone would find remote locations and ask, ‘Can you hear me now?’  A decade later, I shouldn’t have to ask the same question.  If you want a clear competitive advantage, cell phone companies, make a better telephone.

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Shopping With The Good Wife Beats Going to The Mall


Curl up, watch your favorite TV show … and buy something

The age-old marketing tactic of product placement is fast achieving a new level of sophistication. It has moved from mere placement to “see it-want it-buy it” – and never miss a minute of your favorite show. This is simple-adaptive innovation at its best. It is the marrying of digital technology to what has been around for over a century. The earliest product mentions were in books (Jules Verne’s novel, Around the World in Eighty Days (1873), and then later in films like The Lost World (1925), in which a Corona Typewriter appeared. Today, there is seldom a leading lady or a CSI detective who isn’t on a brand name computer, parked next to a bottle of Absolut Vodka and wearing Oakley sunglasses. But now, it’s becoming more than placement.

Ever watch The Good Wife? Even if you don’t like the show, you have to admit the office furniture is to-die-for. And you can buy it. Well, not all of it, yet. But that sumptuous, leather chair in Will’s office … it’s yours for $1,995 (US). CBS, creator of The Good Wife, has gone into a licensing deal to feature furniture that’s available to buy. This isn’t completely new. Mad Men has a line of retro-furniture available for purchase. And apparently NBC will be featuring products for purchase on their hit, Downtown Abbey. But what will be new–coming soon to a show in your living room–is the breakthrough disruptive innovation that all this incremental innovation leads to: The day viewers will be able to click and buy directly from the TV show.

What could be more conducive to shopping and fulfilling customers’ insatiable thirst for instant gratification then the combination of their favorite show, beautifully replete with their favorite products, and available with a pause and a click?

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