Lift11: Alexandre Bau and Birgitta Ralston, The story of a unique workplace: transplant [en]

[fr] Notes de la conférence Lift11 à Genève.

Live and India-lagged notes from the Lift11 Conference in Geneva. Might contain errors and personal opinions. Use the comments if you spot nasty errors.

Met on 02.02.2000 — immediately decided not to work together. But they’re both designers, so it was kind of difficult!

Left Paris to settle in Norway. They dreamed a huge house where they could live and work. Failed. Went back to Paris in an old van. But didn’t give up.

*steph-note: I think I’m tiring and find it difficult to take notes in the two-speaker format, though it’s nice to listen to. Check their pre-lift interview.*

Found some land, spent a lot of energy convincing a lot of officials, found an architect to draw the house. Different modules with different views on the water. Different functions for these different spaces.

How does transplant work? One company, for example, came to them for new business ideas. Engaged all the resident designers to discuss the ideas. Another one, the whole management came and worked strategically but also on their product. Information design and food. A Japanese chef came over to do the final design of her restaurant.

*steph-note: basically, having clients come in-house and working very closely with them, involving them throughout the process. Seems like a live-in office for clients too, if I understood correctly.*

Transplant allows going back and forth between ideas and concepts and prototypes etc — that requires a lot of meetings. So at transplant they have the beginning of a coach network, professionals they know and can draw in. *steph-note: the “need lots of meetings” reminds me of why I do half-day sessions with my clients to make websites with them instead of doing them for them.*

Ideal lab: engaging in social issues that have not been brought to them by a client (because they’re too high-level or ideal).

Intensive, because receiving people in their own space. Truly international organization. 80 people, 6 nationalities.

Lift11: Dorian Selz, Virtual Organizations [en]

[fr] Notes de la conférence Lift11 à Genève.

Live and India-lagged notes from the Lift11 Conference in Geneva. Might contain errors and personal opinions. Use the comments if you spot nasty errors.

The only things that evolve alone in an organisation are disorder, friction, and malperformance. (Peter)

Bio: small Swiss-German village, C64, UniGE and asking for an e-mail address in person,, and

There is no such thing as a virtual organization.

First type of organization: killing mammoths.

Modern organizations: railways. The train was the fastest means of transport. Need organization so trains don’t crash into each other. Need for structure.

(1) Zero-cost production does not exist, if you talk about physical products (for digital products, it’s nearly zero). Huge gap between reproducing physical goods and ctrl+C/ctrl+V.

(2) Rational self-interest is not always the dominating factor. (3) Cooperation is key.

Start with a simple plan. Do away with complexity.

  • best local search in Switzerland.
  • keep the essential.

Do your partners understand your business plan? That’s important. Make sure they do.

Forget command and control. Railways need it, but not all organization does. Have commonly shared values.  [photo coming]

Split the system into independant units. Anti-Titanic Strategy. Failure of one piece will not threaten all the rest. APIs between the pieces.

Project managers do more harm than good. Reduce the number of managers. Techies hire techies, managers hire managers. Less managers than managed!

Get rid of process: set goals, and get out of the way. Forget MS Office. Use a wiki *(steph-note: or shared documents online)* No more specification headaches!

Physical presence is no longer required. It can be an advantage to have people who are geographically (and time-zone) distant. Hard at the beginning, though, you need to take the team together to shape those values. Get people in shared communication tools online. *steph-note: cf. Automattic*

Partnerships and not master-servant relationships.

It’s all about the result!

Lift11: Alexander Osterwalder, The new business models [en]

[fr] Notes de la conférence Lift11 à Genève.

Live and India-lagged notes from the Lift11 Conference in Geneva. Might contain errors and personal opinions. Use the comments if you spot nasty errors.

Process of creating new businesses, and how that’s changing today. What does the process of car design have in common with creating your business? Not very much. Car design is a structured process, with crash tests before you roll. In business, it’s real life directly. Could we learn something from car design?

Dreamy: Mike is 34, MIT graduate, passionate about a business idea, masters the tools, does market research, crunch the numbers (tweak them a little), goes to find money, and builds his company with the huge pile of cash he got.

But… most business plans do not survive the first customer contact. This means we rely on real-life crashes. No crash tests.

Car design: sketching, all angles, different varieties, then prototypes. Then tests.

Could we design business models in the way we design cars? We know what the parts of a car are, but what exactly is a business model? When people try to explain business models, tower of Babel. We don’t have a common language to talk about business models => the business model canvas.

  • customer segments
  • value proposition
  • customer relationships (what kind of relationship)
  • revenue streams
  • key resources
  • key activities (what do we do?)
  • cost structure

Nine building blocks for a business model that can help us make it tangible.

Solar energy: horrendous upfront costs to put panels on a roof. Guy came up with a different business model: sell solar energy at a fixed price — target companies. Pays the upfront costs in exchange for a 5-10 year commitment to the fixed price. SunEdison.

We can sketch our business models.

Prototyping? Poster on the wall. Sketch out many different variations on the initial idea or business model. Variety! Usually we stick to ONE business model. What a shame. Each product can lead to five, ten, twenty business models. Go through them if you’re serious.

Amazing product: peepoo — portable one-use toilet, biodegradable. Not-for-profit is not what we want to do, so which sustainable business model? Free? Licensing? Cross Subsidies? Franchise? …?

Simulate the different business models. For example a fremium model for a running iPhone app. *steph-note: Alex goes through different scenarios.*

The simulation helps you see what might work.

But then, how do you test? Everything in your business model is a guess. Take it outside and test it to learn. Talk to customers (trivial). Fake ads can help you test. Then feed the results back into your business model. Only then can you think of building.

  1. an entrepreneur in the 21st century needs to be systematic about their process
  2. need to play
  3. test hypotheses before building organization

Lift11: Matthias Lüfkens, Twiplomacy [en]

[fr] Notes de la conférence Lift11 à Genève.

Live and India-lagged notes from the Lift11 Conference in Geneva. Might contain errors and personal opinions. Use the comments if you spot nasty errors.

Obama doesn’t tweet himself, but the Russian president does. He has recently split the account though, and his “personal” account is really interesting. He’s an amateur photographer, for example.

Twitter relations between Obama, Russian president and Downing street follow each other, so could send each other secret DMs — probably more secure than the traditional channels 😉

The French president has started reactivating his account, which was a little boring… Not very personal, but already a great step!

Very much used in Latin America. Nine Latin American presidents are on Twitter, and actively interconnected.

Interesting? Even if these political figures are not reading their @replies themselves, most probably their staff is monitoring them. Direct line of access.

Lift11: Ben Hammersley, Post-digital geopolitics [en]

[fr] Notes de la conférence Lift11 à Genève.

Live and India-lagged notes from the Lift11 Conference in Geneva. Might contain errors and personal opinions. Use the comments if you spot nasty errors. Note: no kilt today.

Twenty-first year of the WWW. Bizarre situation we have now: splitting of generations. *steph-note: speaker tip, do what Ben does — pause in between your sentences :-)*

Mubarak had the same look on his face than Swiss industrials who’ve just discovered the Internet, or a newspaper which has just gone bankrupt. Interesting: psychological effects, particularly amongst the group of people who are running the world, people around the age of 50 or 60, who are supposed to be creating the future, but who are already so confused by the present.

What defines a country is distance (“in the beginning was distance”). We’re “us” because we’re here, and they are “them” because they’re over here. All the rest (language, religion, culture) develops purely because of distance. Distance defined us.

Society is structured through vertical distance. He’s up there, I’m down here. Hierarchical society. We know where we are, who is above, who is below. Freud gave us an explanation and a toolkit *(steph-note: worth what it’s worth)*. Dominant intellectual framework for the industrial age.

We judge ourselves by numbers which represent fictions (ie, popularity on Twitter). We have the wrong cognitive toolkits, in the 21st century. We used to know who the ennemies were, where we stood in society and business. Networks mess that up — initially just for nerds and geeks, but after that for more and more people.

Death of distance *(steph-note: what I’ve been preaching for years regarding multilingualism online — e.g. the boundaries today are linguistic, and not country/geographic)*

=> Diaspora. Many new forms of countries — culture, interests, principles… they all collate online. Stronger interests and links with people who are geographically distance than with our neighbours. => interesting situations! Mailing-lists with guns, for example. *steph-note: literally?* Very difficult to shoot a hashtag.

Older generation brought up in a world of hierarchy (pyramids), and the younger generation a world of networks (sheets), and us in the middle. And the young ones don’t understand hierarchy, and the older ones don’t understand how a network works. “Shoot the leader and everything else will go away!”

Don’t understand that they don’t understand how to understand this stuff. They lack the intellectual framework on which to base this new form of thinking. *steph-note: did anybody say “culture shock”? Another of my incessant choruses… 😉 — exactly what many people from the West are faced with when trying to “get” India.*

Explain, don’t complain. The reason communication breaks down over these matters is people lack the cognitive toolkit for the discussion. Our primary problem is not to encourage innovation, it’s to translate *steph-note: amen — and exactly how I view my work*.

Lift11: David Galbraith, Four trends for the digital world [en]

[fr] Notes de la conférence Lift11 à Genève.

Live and India-lagged notes from the Lift11 Conference in Geneva. Might contain errors and personal opinions. Use the comments if you spot nasty errors.

First trend: people vs. celebrities

Valentino, first movie star, after 3200 years of acting. 300 people were injured at his funeral *steph-note: did I get that right?*

Networks favour the big guys. Insert cliché long tail slide here.

Digital goods: infinite supply > demand — and that’s where the long tail stops. Celebrity increases the head.

Celebrity is genetic: in MySpace, the “celebrities” are male singers — songbirds! A male thrush will sing itself to death to attract females.

Racks of servers at Twitter to deal with the Bieber load.

The celebrity effect allows the system to be gamed.

Gaga’s bandwidth bill: 10 Petabytes @ 15c/140 bits SMS rate — if she paid for her bandwidth, 10.5 trillion $

Second trend: peope vs. robots.

Robots = Google.

Google’s Achilles’ heel is it’s idealogical attachment to its algorithm.

Facebook is about people. Ask both “dear Google/Facebook, can you recommend a good sushi bar?” and compare the results. Friendship is a special relationship: un-spammable.

Here’s a trend: recommendations from friends replace algorithmic results

Third: people powered design (amateur is better than pro) — consumer vs corporate design

Consumer Internet products are better than professional ones. Because:

  • low marginal costs (digital goods are mass markets, exclusive ones are a bit crap)
  • architecture vs features (pass features to contractor)

Until recently software wasn’t designed (marketing => engineering). This is changing.

It’s not about features — cheap hifi has lots of features. It’s about design.

Even astronauts bring their own computers alongside NASA’s. The important thing is design.

Fourth: public vs. corporate networks (or why Skype is free)

5 hour video call: 0$ — compare that to the cost of a voice call through the cellphone network.

It has to do with the infrastructure. The web as wiring.

Two kinds of network, incompatible: free (internet, roads) and pay per trip (phone, rail)

But the internet runs over the telco’s network.

What video is doing to the net is increasing traffic thousandfold, but with the same road.

Messaging is overcharged and video is undercharged. Not all bits convey the same information value (video vs. SMS) but they are charged the same — so the charge per unit of information is completely unbalanced.

Something has to give: either government control (Internet runs on non-corporate networks) or 2 internets (corporate message network) or net neutrality is dead (messages prioritized over video, for example). Trend is no more all-you-can-eat data.

Lift11: Jean-Claude Biver, The importance of innovation and thinking different [en]

[fr] Notes de la conférence Lift11 à Genève.

Live and India-lagged notes from the Lift11 Conference in Geneva. Might contain errors and personal opinions. Use the comments if you spot nasty errors.

“See what people will do for a Hublot watch?” (ad with pic of a guy who got mugged and beaten up for his).

To grow, a child must innovate. From day one! With education and growing up, we close that up — which is why so many artists etc say they want to find the creativity of their childhood once again.

Difference between people who have learned something and people who innovate. Creativity and innovation are more powerful!

Jean-Claude’s company: always strive to be first, or to be unique, or to be different.

They don’t care about watches (people don’t buy them anymore anyway). Buying an expensive watch is completely stupid and irrational (above 50 CHF). So the important thing is not the watch — above 50 CHF, you don’t get better quality. Produce watches which aren’t needed for time-keeping — we look at the time on our mobiles or on the computer or on the car dashboard.

So they made a watch that was all black. Everything black! Forget that a watch is about showing the time. Imagine an all-black Big Ben… would cause so many accidents!

Conceptual innovation. Old Swiss watch-makers are turning around in their graves. The role of the watch has changed. It’s not a rational product to show what time it is anymore.

Creativity and innovation is a way of thinking. To encourage that in the company, they have nurtured an atmosphere which allows people to make mistakes. Give a bonus to people when they make mistakes! (Big mistake? Big bonus. Small mistake? Small bonus. Haha!) Then they’ll be happy to make mistakes. They become active! They start trusting themselves! Innovation brings uncertainty. It’s like a vision — it’s not reality. Take risks, be active. *steph-note: this makes me think about taking hundreds of crap photos with a digital camera for one magical one to appear.*

Our creativity is something we all had, but lost. We can find it again. No work anymore, all play. Time flies!

Story. Japanese discover football, many years ago. To be nice, FIFA gives them the World Cup to organize. Yay, football will be popular in Japan! JC’s boss says they should take a Japanese guy as an ambassador, for football. JC says “no, crazy, they’re not that good” — but goes to watch. 25 players + referees: same height, same hair… can’t identify the guy! Identify him with the number… but really didn’t manage. They insisted. Ended up saying he’d take him if he died his hair in Ferrari red. Not so crazy! They accepted. He died his hair, on from that day on, he was the only one you could see on the field… they took him as an ambassador, and was then transferred, etc… known because he was different, unique, and the first!

That’s how we’ll survive. Must be the first, unique, and different. *steph-note: echoes with some of my thoughts these last days on how what a platform does is not as important as how old it is — regarding usefulness and popularity*

Lift11: Don Tapscott, Macrowikinomics [en]

[fr] Notes de la conférence Lift11 à Genève.

Live and India-lagged notes from the Lift11 Conference in Geneva. Might contain errors and personal opinions. Use the comments if you spot nasty errors.

Upto three weeks ago, revolutions had an organization behind them mobilizing the people, managing logistics, etc.

Now, because of social media, the cost of collaboration for dissent has dropped dramatically. This is positive, but there is a historic challenge: when the old regime falls, there is no structure or organisation or party or institution ready to take over — and we need organisations. Peer produced “wiki revolutions”.

Many of our institutions are in a state of atrophy. Turning point in history. GM, financial institutions, newspapers… all these institutions are stalled, but at the same time being rebuilt around the network.

Pre-printing press, knowledge was concentrated with a few people. Printing press, democratization of knowledge. Internet: a revolution on par with that of the printing press, but very different. The printing press gave us access to recorded knowledge, whereas the internet makes us all publishers, gives us access to what is in other people’s minds: the age of networked intelligence.

Digital generation (the biggest ever) faced with a terrible world: high unemployment. Social revolution leading to an economic revolution. This crisis is creating a burning platform in all of our institutions.

Collaboration — openness — sharing — interdependence — integrity: 5 principles for innovation, wealth, and sustainability.

Need for values. *steph-note: spaced out a little here*

Don saw his book related to the Obama campaign *steph-note: damn, missed the details here*

GM: went bankrupt. New: Local Motors. Completely different model, co-creation.

Financial system: subprime crisis.

Newspapers: old model is Chicago … Times (?) — new model = Huffington Post.

Old: climate change, Copenhagen conference. New: platforms for learning and action.

“What an exciting time to be alive!”

New: WEF’s Global Redesign Initiative.

Peer-produced “Wiki Revolutions”. We’re at a turning point.

Natural analogies? flock of birds. *steph-note: shows beautiful video of huge movements of a gigantic flock of birds, with Albinoni’s Adagio playing in the background — oops, am hypnotized by the birds and the music*

Quotes St-Exupéry (“respect the past for it was once all that was humanly possible”).