Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sheep, dogs, horses, inkling market

Introducing Inkling cloning!

Creating a market in Inkling already takes very little time but who wants to get a repetitive injury if they have to create the same market for 10 different sales regions, or launch the exact same market about a performance metric on the 1st of each month?

We've now given administrators and market makers the ability to clone any market. When you see a market you want to replicate, you hover over it and get its contextual menu, choose "create replica" and you're dropped in to the market details where you can change the end date, make any other adjustments, and publish it. For some markets that have many stocks, this can be a huge time saver.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Reports page now available

Inkling marketplace admins now have access to a reports page listing the reports available to them.  These are all comma separated files (csv) that can easily be opened with Excel.  As an admin you'll see a "reports" link on the top right corner of your page: 

Picture 3-1

Which should bring up a reports page resembling this guy:

Picture 4

Thursday, January 15, 2009

If you cannot measure it....

John Wanamaker, the famous retailer once quipped "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." For many years, it was a quote that marketers could rely on if their campaigns were unsuccessful or if they were unable to show a direct link between marketing expenditures and sales. As we all know, the days of not being able to measure the effectiveness of a media campaign have essentially disappeared over the last 5 to 10 years. Those days are so long gone, that the mantra is just the obvious as evidenced by an event I recently attended.

The Executives' Club of Chicago sponsored a breakfast entitled: "Accountable Marketing: What to Measure and How to Measure It" which featured Chief Marketing Officers from three of Chicago's largest companies, Aon, Walgreens and CDW. One of the panelists, Philip Clement, Global Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for Aon Service Corporation, started the breakfast off with his mantra "If you cannot measure it, don't do it." While perhaps not quite with the same emphasis, the other panelists echoed Clement.

The other theme that came through loud and clear is that the days of setting a marketing plan, putting it in motion and then waiting to see what happens are also long gone. The Chief Marketing Officers of all three companies emphasized the imperative to test new things, learn from what is tried and then modify and refine. The CMO from Walgreens explained that early in the 2008 Christmas season, as Walgreens started to see how poor retail sales were, the company's top managers got together in the room and totally revamped the company's marketing plans for the next sixty days. They put together a plan, almost on a day-by-day basis, looking to see what was working and what was not. As a result of the company's efforts, its year-end sales were better than the average retailer.

As I listened to the panelists, it was obvious that prediction markets could play a key role in executing a company's marketing plans. Since marketing activities can now be measured with accuracy, they can also be asked about in a prediction market. For example, a company might launch a marketing effort that is expected to generate sales of $4 for every dollar spent on the campaign. At the same time the campaign is launched, the company should start a prediction market that asks its salespeople, marketing professionals and customer service representatives about the campaign and the level of new sales that will be generated. With the help of a prediction market, well before all the money has been spent, the marketing executive can consider making changes or even evaluate discontinuing an effort if the prediction market starts to show results far less than the 4:1 goal. Alternatively, if the market predicts better than anticipated results, the executive can consider extending or expanding the effort because of its likely success.

With marketing dollars such a scarce resource these days, it obviously makes sense for a Chief Marketing Officer to closely scrutinize every dollar spent. Usually that process takes place before a campaign is launched and after all the money has been spent. Prediction markets are a great way to re-evaluate plans mid-course and take the necessary steps to help ensure that a greater percentage of a company's campaigns are successful.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Enterprise 2.0 Predictions for 2009

Given the business we're in I hesitate to highlight an individual's prediction for 2009, but I thought last year's predictions for Enterprise 2.0 by a ZDNet contributor was an insightful write-up and this year's is worth a read as well:

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Here's to the Crazy Ones

I was clearing some space on my hard drive this evening and ran across an old Apple video that I had saved. It was the very first commercial from their "Think Different" campaign: "Here's to the Crazy Ones." I watched it once again and decided it was just too inspiring to meet the fate of the trash can. And while not nearly on the same level as Henson, Ghandi, and Picasso, the video reminded me a little why we got in to this business in the first place.

During the latter half of last week I was on the west coast doing a workshop for a new client and dropping in on a few of our existing ones. 

Because our clients are all over the world we have lots of phone calls but don't actually meet with them that often in person. When we do, I walk away, without fail, more energized than ever because I realize every person we work with has gone somewhere out on the proverbial limb, whether it's just a few inches because of strong executive support or right on the edge because they are running markets and acting for the good of the company, not to just play it safe and collect their paychecks each month. 

Companies come in all shapes and sizes and one corporate culture can be vastly different from another. But all companies have problems to some degree with corporate politics and information spin which can have a negative impact on business processes like financial forecasting, project management, and risk mitigation...All the things we talk about where prediction markets can have a positive impact. 

So here's to the rebels of corporate life who don't quite fit the mold and are introducing prediction markets and other tools inside their organizations to promote reality-based decision making. Much respect.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Great Prioritization Debate of 2009 Coming to a Company Near You...

As people have returned from the long Holiday break, we have been hearing more and more from our friends, delivery partners, and clients about the grand "prioritization" process that is happening at their companies. With a gloomy economic outlook the desire is always to look inward: what should we be focusing on? What are our highest priorities? Which projects are worth doing now and which should be shelved? What's a luxury and what's a must-have?

Using a prediction market to ask these questions is valuable for a couple reasons:
  • As opposed to the executives hunkering down for several days in a meeting room and arbitrarily deciding what projects should move forward and what should get cut, this is a credible process everyone has been involved in. No employee can say later they weren't asked for their input.

  • Ad hoc prioritization exercises kill internal morale and productivity, plain and simple. I've personally been the victim of and participated in these meetings. As onlookers we all sat around gossiping about what was going to get cut, what would get saved, and looked for any piece of information that would give us a clue as to what was going on in the meeting room. When one of our bosses would walk out there would be intense, hushed discussion. "Did she look stressed? Pissed?" And participating in these exercises as a manager wasn't much better. Much of the talk was arbitrary horse jockeying and was rarely based on reality. The loudest talker or the person with the highest position always preserved their projects regardless of merit. Not to mention it took days to get through and no one got any work done.
Running a market to go through this exercise is simple. Figure out a verifiable metric you are going to measure projects against and ask about each. For example one of our clients is running a market like this:

Q: Which of these research projects will be included in a product design by the end of 2009?

Possible AnswerCurrent Probability
Project 150% Chance
Project 250% Chance
Project 350% Chance
Project 450% Chance

After a couple weeks they saw something like this in the market:

Possible AnswerCurrent Probability
Project 15% Chance
Project 285% Chance
Project 340% Chance
Project 465% Chance

This was great input to the decision makers. People didn't feel very confident Project 1 was going to make it while people felt very confident Project 2 would. Projects 3 and 4 are close to even odds so maybe they are given additional resources to increase their odds, or shelved. Regardless, the decision points are now being discussed based on how the projects will affect the business, not on whose pet project it is.

Even better, as the year continues this market is continuing to run and managers are watching how probabilities change based on their actions, say if they decided to put more resources in to Project 4, do people now think it has a higher chance of making it in to a product design?

Using Inkling to prioritize projects doesn't remove or hijack the decision making responsibility managers have but it focuses the discussion on business value of projects and makes everyone feel like they have skin in the game about the decisions being made, which is crucial at a time when it's easy to just sit around and talk about how bad everything is and get nothing done in the meantime.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Easier to access market management

A couple months ago we added hover menus to our "management" market listings. Those are the markets listed when you click "manage markets". You see that link when you are an admin or your Inkling marketplace allows users to make their own.

The hover menus allow us to hide some of the repetitiveness of the user interface. There's a lot of things you can do with a market these days (edit/cash out/suspend/trader performance/delete/etc.), and a couple more coming real soon. All of those actions translate into some kind of link or button to make it happen. So instead of having 5 or 6 buttons on every row listing a market, the hover menu keeps each row more concise and easier to read.

Last night we consolidated our market listings. So now if you are an admin managing a bunch of markets or a regular user who created a few markets, whenever you find your market in a list (search, the different sorts, the home tab, etc.), you'll have the manage menu available to you on those markets you are managing.

Picture 1

This gets rid of the unfortunate use case where you need to search for a market and then cash it out. Before you would have needed to search for the market, click the market name to get to it's market page, then click edit to get into the management listings containing the market, and then you'd have had your cash-out button available to you.

With last night's change, it's just search for your market and then right there in those listings are your management functions. Fewer clicks. Less pain.

We've also iterated on the look and feel of the menu. Now it is higher contrast with the rest of the page so it's easier to spot.

It's also inline with the top of the row it belongs to (before it was lined up with the middle of the row). This makes it easier to anchor to a specific market in a list. So if the market is right at the top of the page, now half of the menu isn't going to be hidden by the browser's frame (i.e. outside the viewport).

We also are keenly aware that these management functions also need to be much more integrated with a normal market page. So when you are viewing a market, you can edit and cash out things right from that page rather than having to jump back out to a list of markets to get to this menu. We'll have this improved very soon.

Hope everyone had a relaxing holiday and is already enjoying 2009.

Friday, January 02, 2009

New corporate home page

Last night to kick of the new year, we launched a new version of our corporate home page (  We are very proud of how it turned out.  

Apart from getting an aesthetic redesign there are some elements of the new content that really stand out.  

We've been in business over 3 years now, and have seen millions of trades made, and tens of thousands of markets created in thousands of different marketplaces powered by Inkling.  Through all of this we've seen quite a few different scenarios of how prediction markets are used publicly and privately including what works and what doesn't.  

So we've listed 8 case studies.  These summarize how 8 of our clients are using Inkling, some examples of the questions they are asking, and benefits they've seen.  We hope these help spark even more ideas how Inkling can be used in various industries and for all sorts of different decisions. We'll continue to post these from time to time.

We've also added a "Do prediction markets work?" section that mentions our study on the accuracy of Inkling we did in 2008 and had posted about on our blog.   This is obviously the most important question to ask about Inkling.  Unfortunately, how to measure the accuracy of prediction markets is still something often misunderstood.  So this section of our website discusses that question with evidence drawn from our business.  

Hope you like the new website and are enjoying the holiday and any remaining vacation!