A really good idea

I spend yesterday at the DLD (Digital Life Design) conference in Munich, and was struck by two things, one I found amusing and one that was just very smart:

1. In the midst of a very long dinner speech “Lessons from Iceland” — i.e. how other countries can avoid a similar economic implosion — President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson let drop this bombshell (I’m paraphrasing): banks that get too big kill creativity.

Now, he didn’t mean internal creativity — he meant creativity in general, the theory being that as they get gargantuan, banks suck up all the talent around (I can see this in a country the size of Iceland, though I’m not sure it applies to, say, China). So, for example, brilliant IT guys who might invent such fabulous companies as Groupon instead figure out better electronic banking strategies. His solution? Keep the banks small and give other industries a chance!

The audience, which was full of lots of guys like Andrew Mason, aka the guy who invented Groupon, and wanna-be Andrew Masons, found this applause-worthy, though I’m not sure I agree. If you’re the kind of person who really wants to create a company, you probably don’t want to go work for a giant bureaucracy. Still, it sounds very post-recession-era-sound-byte: when in doubt, blame the banks! Who, besides Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon, is going to argue?

2. Natalie Massenet, etail guru and founder of net-a-porter, revealed she has another incredibly obvious (in hindsight) and clever innovation up her sleeve: net-a-porter live. Everyone is all excited about her upcoming men’s site, and yes, that’s something to watch, but as far as upgrades go, this strikes me as pretty brilliant: users can now see, in real time, what other users are buying all over the world, or liking, or trying.

So, for example, you might log on and discover some woman in Tokyo has just bought that Céline bag you’ve had your eye on, or the Balmain is selling out in France, and so on. It refreshes every few seconds, 24 hours a day. Neat-o.

In other words, she has figured out a very simple way to tap directly into shoppers’ competitive urges (better get it fast before it disappears!), insecurities (what if I don’t get it? She might!) and voyeuristic tendencies. As investment/returns go, this seems light on this first, heavy on the second. Bet sales go up even more very quickly. Bet every other etail site wishes they’d thought of it.