Gus Hansen is maybe the nr1 poker player in the world. But it should not take Gus Hansen to know the first rule of poker: don’t give away the cards you are holding. Keep people guessing instead. Hence the expression poker face. Even better, mislead your opponents to think that you are holding something other to force a wrong decision from their part. This could read like a business book tip. Trick your competition and so on. But when it comes to eBusiness then this is exactly the opposite of what you should be doing. Better lay all your cards on the table and pray for someone to have a look and share an opinion.
To prove my point, let’s take the case of start-ups. Say that it is the year 2005, Facebook does not yet exist and you find yourself in a coffee place and your friend mentions that he is thinking of building a site where visitors could subscribe to create their personal page displaying their picture and a very brief bio. Would you realize they would be talking about the biggest internet phenomenon to date? Would you even grant it as a good idea to start with? Would you feel envy that you did not think of it first? Would you wish he would get you involved? Would you actually expect that person to go ahead and build it in the end? Say there is also another person following the conversation. Would you expect, following this discussion, that few months later there would be two competing Facebook-like sites in the market, your friend’s and the third person’s listening in? What if your friend would go around town and mention that idea to everyone he met? Would you then expect to get a number of Facebook-like sites emerging triggered by your friend pitching idea left and right?
Hell no. One thing is certain to happen, your friend would get great feedback and build on his idea listening to comments and criticism. For example, some person might mention that it would be cool to allow for users to invite friends and get alerts for whenever their friend does anything to his profile. This idea would be gold. Even if 200 Facebook-like sites launched that year, this insight would set it apart. Another person might propose to allow users to upload pictures. Would people really be willing to upload pictures of their personal moments to the wide public? Can you know the answer to this? How could you unless you asked around and got feedback. If all humans had my taste in cuisine, there would only be Italian restaurants and chocolate ice-cream. Tough to predict what people will like and do. Some feedack will be gold, some will be crap, some will just need to be processed. For example, the comment about privacy is valid and could lead you to coming up with limiting access to profiles based on whether they are friends or not. If you don’t do this, you will most certainly get the product wrong and leave room for the next person with a similar idea to capture it. And be certain out of the international online population, that person won’t be too long.
You might be thinking that all this argumentation stands for start-ups and new ideas. How does it apply to running businesses that are already out there? You will be amazed at how much eBusinessmen prefer to keep in the shadows. How many eCommerce businesses share mistakes they have done with social media? Or best practices? How many of them still don’t know how much is right when it comes to investing in Facebook? Quora? Are they even aware of this opportunity? What about mCommerce? Are they correct to not have invested in this or did they waste their money developing a mobile friendly website? Are they really as SE optimized as they should? Are they leveraging email marketing as they should? Are they even segmenting their userbase or is everyone receiving the same email? Still that same message are they doing A-B testing? Is it worth it? Whoever does it won’t admit to it. The rest are to find out about this whole thing on their own.
In the past, a store would open in the high street and would compete with the rest. Now the high street has expanded to include the whole world. The best practice would be for businessmen to group in teams, share all their cards and try to beat the enemies at the gate to make sure they are ahead in the global game as much as possible.
The reason I am making this point is because I am tired of reading articles or going to presentations where businessmen get on stage with the sole intent to sell their company and its products. They don’t aim in sharing the knowledge, letting you in in any secret. This is bad practice that will drag the whole ecosystem behind. Some other group of businesses will outgrow you and you will be left behind. The other alternative is that your ecosystem will outgrow the rest and gradually expand its borders. This is something to aim for.
So you have an idea, you have a good practice or a bad practice to share. Then just share it. Discuss it. Be open about it. It will only benefit everyone around you in the long term. Yourself included.