The (Big) Friday Round-Up

Last Updated Jun 20, 2008 12:30 PM EDT

Web 2.0: Lessons in ROI from Threadless

Plenty of businesses still don't see where Web 2.0 delivers a return on investment, says David Tebbut at SmallBizPod.

Inc's profile of Threadless, the online community-led T-shirt retailer whose 2006 profit was an estimated $6m, could offer some insight.

"Our brand is a fun boys' and girls' club," says co-founder Jake Nickell.

Says the article: "Eventually, Threadless-like communities could form around industries as diverse as semi-conductors, auto parts and toys."

How Threadless excels

  • Research and design is conducted in an open source way, via "innovation commons".
  • Customers freely share ideas and receive payment and kudos for winning designs.
  • Trust is a core competency.
  • It asks a lot of its customers, but it reciprocates -- there's a story about Nickell and CEO Jeffrey Kalmikoff leaving a high-powered dinner to meet up with a Threadless customer.
  • It has inbuilt growth potential. Naked & Angry, a promising spin-off, will sell user-designed bags, wallets and dinner services. Threadless is expanding into prints and posters.
  • It knows where the brand value lies. It turned down offers from Urban Outfitters and Target.com because the retailers couldn't tell the Threadless story in their shops.
  • Its employees are true believers -- 75 per cent of the company's 50 employees were community members before being hired.
  • There are toys in the office, but most people end up working.
Potential hurdles
  • Core fans may not applaud the company's expansion.
  • It has painted itself into a cool corner.
  • Minority stakeholder Insight Venture Partners could start pushing for faster growth.
  • Is there an IP issue bubbling under?
More on Web 2.0 from Andrew McAfee How it can help you alleviate information overload.
  1. Collaborative tools such as wikis and spreadsheets save time and email exchanges.
  2. They are good for project management, as long as everyone partakes.
  3. You can keep in touch will your friends and colleagues in your time, not theirs.
Smart people, though, fall prey to "attention vultures" and the likes of social networks and Twitter are yet more of the same, says Tony Wright.

And in what seems a backwards move, Beirut has opened the Facebook Pub. Quoted in Lebanon's Daily Star, an employee explains: "The whole idea is that people come here to meet one another and see their friends." Novel concept.

Employment
We now have the right to request time off for training, as Personnel Today reports. Whether we get it is another matter.

Snakes and Ladders offers four options for anyone who loses out to a rival for a promotion.

  1. Grimace and bear it
  2. Undermine your new boss until you get the sack
  3. Throw 'a proper wobbly' and quit
  4. Leave gracefully and get yourself a job of at least equal standing.
Here's option five -- or 4.5, depending on your manager's response. Ask for feedback and find out why you lost out to someone else.

If you truly expected to get the job, but didn't, wouldn't it be good to find out why? Even if you still send out your CV, it would surely improve your interview chances for a similar role elsewhere.

Caught napping at work? Join the club. Sleepy staff are costing companies $100bn in lost productivity, says CNN. (Check out Rick Broida's timely advice on power-napping at BNET.)

Sadly, racial discrimination is still an issue in recruitment and retention, says Consultant News. It is less clear in pointing out that the research was conducted within the civil service.


Marketing
Booming budget hotel chain Travelodge is to start infusing its rooms with comforting scents, says Will Pavia in The Times. In a strange survey, it was discovered that most guests (in Birmingham) wanted to smell the sea (perhaps because that's as far as you can get from it in the UK), freshly cut grass or baby powder. Predictably, nine per cent of women wanted a room smelling like chocolate.

"Travellers may soon be smothered in a complicated mix that reminds them of nothing so much as a newly mown football pitch in the sea, with grace notes of chocolate and baby lotion."

Joking aside, scents can be an invaluable marketing tool. Neuromarketing explains how they work on our subconscious.


Strategic thinking

Top executives don't have to compromise with an either/or option when it comes to decision-making. Instead, they can become 'integrative thinkers', taking the best bits of several ideas and combining them to deliver a distinctive new model.

This is the upshot of Management Issues's Q&A with Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and author of 'The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking'.

The book came out a while ago, but the message is particularly applicable to the current economic climate, says Martin.

He interviewed a number of well known leaders and found at least 80 per cent of these successful execs practised 'integrative thinking'.

Given the choice between A or B, conventional thinkers will see it as their job to weigh up which is better. But integrative thinkers will seek out -- or create -- an alternative model if the two choices on offer are unsatisfactory.

In credit crunch terms, if you accept the status quo, your choice of options is to hope the economy picks up or to accept that we're heading into a deep recession and hunker down for the storm. Says Martin: "One is unrealistic, head-in-the-sand behaviour. The other is Chicken Little."

Instead, integrative thinkers may see the current credit crunch as an opportunity to become creative in their decision-making, or to identify opportunities for an eventual upturn.

In this respect, Martin's idea picks up on aspects of Shell's scenario planning, made famous by Arie de Geus, where planners create a range of strategies based on several different outcomes. Starting with: 'what if X happens?', it's a handy long-term planning tool and a good risk-management mitigator.

For executives and managers, his message is this: analysis and evaluation of the 'correct' option may not be the best way to go.

If the choices available suit your needs, great. But why buy off-the-peg when you can afford bespoke?