I thought, let’s discuss a bit about Apple.
Of course, there is no point in adding yet another hit to iPhone’s current Google Quotient (187 million, and counting..). So this blog-item is not about the iPhone. But mentioning the iPhone a few times, will definitely increase the visit count of this site. Especially when we combine mentioning the iPhone (or simply Jesus Phone, if you like) with mentioning Second Life. This could be done with an announcement like ‘Second Life citizens can now buy virtual iPhones; they have to wait for several hours in a virtual queue in their favourite shopping mall after which they can exchange cool, fake phone calls with their newly acquired devices; the little 3D iPhone retails for an amazing 499 Linden Dollars‘.
Sorry about this. I promised myself never to discuss Second Life again – after summer nobody will anyway – but it was too tempting not to draw your attention to some of the practical experiences I have had with yet another Apple innovation. A few of you may recall an earlier blog-item, in which I described the new Nike+ combination of an iPod and a RFID-enabled sensor in your running shoes. I considered it to be much more than just a metaphor for applying new, fresh IT ideas to business.
Now, after using the kit myself for almost half a year, I’m more convinced than ever that Apple and Nike have created an impressive, contemporary IT showcase. It’s all there: sensor technology, an attractive user experience through a non-PC computing device, real-time monitoring and feedback (while you are running), very slick browser-based business graphics, personalised performance management, an active online community plus online store and even some real mashupable web services.
It’s nothing less than compelling material for any IT strategist that wants to demonstrate to the board room how technology enables a sense & respond business that constantly improves itself.
And I know it works too. Believe me: I’m a sad, pathetic excuse for a runner but ever since I have been using this kit I have been steadily improving (admitted, it’s still on a scale between downright lame and laughable amateur, but that’s hardly the point). Of course, I enjoyed running more because I could listen to my favourite music. But more importantly, the sensor was always in the back of my mind. I knew it was monitoring my steps, I knew that the voices of Lance Armstrong or Paula Radcliffe would praise me after breaking a personal record (Lance: ”congratulations, you just ran your fastest mile ever”) . I knew that I would be downloading the iPod data to my PC afterwards where performance scorecards would keep track of my progress against the targets I had set for myself. Run at least three times a week, run at least 80 kilometres a month: there was no escaping from the desktop widgets that confronted me with my own rise and decline, every time I looked at my OS X desktop.
If it even works for me – unmotivated, easily bored, wannabe runner – it probably does miracles for others.
And I am sure we will achieve similar results in business, now that we are starting to embed business intelligence much more into the daily operational activities of the organisation, mapping corporate performance to highly personalised, individual objectives that can be measured and monitored in real-time (we discussed this recently).
Imagine that we could even add some more Apple / Nike style spice to all of this. I am not suggesting that all employees should be wearing iPods during work, with the CEO occasionally speaking words of encouragement when an objective has been reached. But somehow, you can’t escape from the feeling that business clients would be using our applications with so much more fun if the experience would be better and more exciting.
It’s the same excitement that drives people to wait for hours to buy an iPhone.
Any creative ideas of how to infuse business with iPhones, iPods, sensors or even Nike running shoes? Or how to recreate the same excitement in very different ways? We are anxious to hear from you in the comments section.
p.s. To put things a bit more into perspective, I have to confess I am a dedicated fan of Adidas running shoes. Being a genuine Apple-inspired device, the sensor was of course based on a proprietary standard, meaning that it could only be inserted in specially designed Nike shoes. Luckily, this standard could easily be hacked: with the help of a good old Stanley knife I managed to cut a space in the sole of my Adidas shoe. The sensor fitted nicely into it. Nothing to be proud of, but if necessary I am available for other difficult tasks.