The Spreadsheet Way of Knowledge: How Spreadsheets Revolutionized Business


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 30, 2023

3 min read


The Spreadsheet Way of Knowledge: How Spreadsheets Revolutionized Business

In the late 1970s, Dan Bricklin, a student at Harvard Business School, had a groundbreaking idea that would change the way businesses operate. Sitting in a classroom, Bricklin pondered how he could use computers to simplify the tedious task of recalculating financial implications. This led him to create the first electronic spreadsheet program, VisiCalc, with his MIT programmer friend, Bob Frankston. Released in 1979, VisiCalc revolutionized the way businesses kept track of their finances.

Spreadsheets not only saved time but also encouraged businesses to quantify and analyze data that was previously overlooked. The ability to create scenarios and explore hypothetical developments became a game-changer. Allen Sneider, a partner in an accounting firm, embraced this "what if" factor, allowing junior analysts to create comprehensive reports without relying on secretaries or data processing departments. The numbers generated by spreadsheets became crucial in decision-making processes.

The benefits of spreadsheets extended beyond time-saving and data analysis. They allowed individuals to run their own businesses, transforming the concept of personal productivity. However, it is important to remember that spreadsheets are just a metaphor and cannot fully capture the complexities of human behavior. While they provide valuable insight, assumptions and formulas cannot account for all aspects of human interactions.

Branding for Builders: The Power of Positioning

Branding plays a crucial role in the success of a product or company. Positioning, customer benefit, and personality are the key components of a brand. By using clear and concise language, companies can define their product or company, describe its benefits to customers, and establish its personality. The brand pyramid adds the elements of aspiration and emotion, making the brand more memorable.

Emotion is a vital aspect of branding because it helps products stand out and resonate with customers. It is important to consider both the product attributes and benefits, as well as the emotional benefits that the product brings to customers. Furthermore, companies should envision how their product can make a significant impact and "dent the universe."

A prime example of successful branding is Netflix. Over the years, Netflix evolved its non-member homepage, aligning it with the brand's growth. The company experimented with different approaches, including integrating Facebook Connect for movie recommendations from friends. Although this social approach failed, Netflix's ability to adapt and iterate contributed to its success.

Branding is not solely the responsibility of the marketing department. It requires collaboration and alignment between marketing and product teams to bring the brand to life. By applying the positioning and brand pyramid models, companies can define their brand's true north and build products that reflect their brand's essence.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Embrace the power of spreadsheets: Incorporate spreadsheet tools into your business to save time and gain valuable insights. Explore the "what if" factor and leverage scenarios to make informed decisions.
  • 2. Define your brand: Use the positioning model and brand pyramid to clearly define your product or company, its benefits, personality, and emotional impact. Keep the language simple and concise to ensure clarity.
  • 3. Collaborate for success: Foster collaboration between marketing and product teams to align the brand's positioning and product development. By working together, you can create a cohesive brand experience that resonates with customers.

In conclusion, spreadsheets have had a profound impact on businesses, revolutionizing how data is managed and analyzed. They have not only saved time but also encouraged businesses to quantify and explore new possibilities. Similarly, branding plays a crucial role in the success of products and companies. By defining a clear brand positioning and incorporating emotion, companies can create memorable experiences for their customers. It is essential to remember that spreadsheets and branding are tools that require human judgment and collaboration to achieve their full potential.

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