Be the disruptor, not the disrupted

Here is a great story from one of pioneers of the IT industry, Andy Grove, former Chairman and CEO of Intel. It comes from his book Only the Paranoid Survive and is well worth retelling.

In a discussion with then Chief Executive Gordon Moore, he asked what would happen if the board kicked them out and started anew. They agreed that a new CEO would no doubt leave the past behind and detach them from their memories.

So Grove and Moore decided there and then to do that themselves. They left the business of chips behind, moving into microprocessors and thereby set the stage for the next generation of the Intel business.

It was, and remains, a lesson in management: leave the past behind, don’t let a single line of business define you and be the disruptor, not the disrupted.

Using technology to drive the best marketing of all – Word of Mouth

There is some interesting research and debate around technology facilitating word of mouth marketing. I have always believed that nothing competes with shaking hands, making eye contact and building relationships, but Facebook and other social platforms are adding something else by creating conversations and driving engagement.

Brands are constantly seeking ‘likes’ and ‘recommendations’ from users and marketers are always looking to find those individuals who can spread the word very quickly because they are well connected – we call these people the ‘one-percenters’, yawners or sneezers!

The fact is, you tell one person something in the office, they will typically share it with one or two others. If you tell them on Facebook, it is likely that you tell an average of 140-150 others.

While word of mouth is more commonly understood in face-to-face contact, it is more about recognising what drives people to talk about things, then applying appropriate tools and platforms to create that engagement. British Telecom famously ran a series of adverts for their broadband service where Adam met Jane and after years of uncertainty they got married. BT cleverly tied the TV ads into email invitations and a Facebook page that encouraged the public to vote for the wedding dress, wedding car and music for the couple’s first dance. 500,000 people voted. That is some success.

Heinz have done it brilliantly with their ‘Get Well Soon’ can of soup that can be personalised and sent to an unwell acquaintance via Facebook, and my favourite of all is Blendtec, a blender company with more than 150 million views on YouTube taking requests from followers (in the thousands) to blend anything and everything. An ordinary product doing extraordinary things, creating buzz, conversation and deeper engagement.

Word of mouth is ultimately people talking about cool things, brands, events, products and stories that have raised levels of interest, regardless of tools or tech – just as I am doing now.


The CompTIA Annual Member Conference (#amm11) and Colloquium event are both over. Some enlightening sessions and excellent networking for a solid 2 days. Highlights of my presentation can be found at:

My main takeaway – technology drives communities. Whilst Facebook is great and accounts for 4-5% of all the time we spend online, less obvious communities like Ravelry is what it is all about for me. Specialised groups, in this case with an interest in knitting and crocheting, bring like-minded people together. Don’t understimate the power of the knitters – there are 1.2 million members to this community. That is technology’s true power.

Connecting Points

How many connectors/sneezers/influencers know about your product? These individuals act as hubs in successful networks and get the word out faster than any means. You are much wiser being connected to a handful of these people that hundreds of random individuals. Also, conventional hierarchies may begin to change and companies led or guided by these freelance influencers. Who can you “employ?”