Thursday, December 22, 2011

Top 5 Posts of 2011

I've written more than 50 blogposts this year. But 5 have stood out for the attention they have received.
In case you missed them, or would like a reminder. Here's the top 5: in reverse order of popularity (as measured by views).

5. We Don't Connect To Be Marketed To:
In which I posit the outrageous suggestion that we don't form groups to be, er, marketed to. And we might be wise to try to figure out why groups do form in order to engage in a process that values all parties. More.

4. Ditch The Customer If You Want To Transform Business:
An appeal to think differently about your relationship with the people you intend to serve. Open rather the Social Business; Behaviours rather than Tools, Products rather than Messages, Partners rather than Customers. More

3. How Riots Spread - Expressed Through the Medium of Dance
My attempt to explain what was really going on when London's rioters hit the streets in the summer - and the real threat their self-organising abilities pose to traditional Government. Plus a great video. More.

2. The Two Kinds of Social Media Strategy
There are two kinds of social media 'strategy'. And they service two kinds of orgs; the ones which see social media as a channel through which to sell stuff and the ones who realise that social media offers a bigger opportunity to become an Open Business - with all the benefits that apply. There's a simpler way of putting that: There are the orgs that are prepared to change, and those who are not. More

1. 'Top Stories' Reveal Facebook's Broken Strategy
What Facebook's focus on lowest common denominator news among friends (Top Stories) reveals about their strategy - and what that's headed in the wrong direction. More 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It's time for a de-brand

Why rebrand when you can debrand?

Debrand? To remove/strip away/unlearn the accumulated clutter that has gathered around the purpose and meaning of an organisation. All the additions and paraphernalia of previous rounds of tinkering and 'rebranding'.

To unearth or reclaim its fundamental truths - the reasons it exists, the purpose, the why.

To see the wood for the trees.

And in this to rediscover what wrong it was trying to put right, what belief it holds that staff and customers could too.

And then to act in accordance.

If you think the bottom line is your bottom line... It's time for a debrand.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

10 ‘trend type things’ you really won’t care about by the end of 2012

Image courtesy:
 I've learned over the (many) years not to take predictions too seriously. Or lists. So here's mine for Christmas 2011. I offer them if only to help you learn not to take predictions, or lists, too seriously.

10 ‘trend type things’ you really won’t care about by the end of 2012

1. FourSquare
Seriously. I’ve just spent a week using it in a half-hearted manner and find myself close to the top of ‘my friends’ leader board. Checked in at London’s Kings Cross station the other night. Just me! Not saying location based won’t matter. Am saying FourSquare won’t.
2. News breaking first on Twitter.
Come on – it’s commonplace now, the battle is over. Which gives traditional media a clue about what it should do next. (Hint, relevance = news)
3. The number of voice minutes in your mobile phone package. 
Bet you already have loads more than you actually use.
4. Google+: 
There, I said it. I know lots have people have ‘joined it’ by how often do you actually go there? Add a year and think how it’ll look from there. (Buzz, Wave...Plus)
5. Big Data:
Because we’ll have started to figure out the important bit – getting the insight out.
6. Influence:
At least as a static 'you’re influential for one, you’re influential for all,' thing. Folk might finally work out that what they actually mean by that is: ‘famous’. Peer to peer distribution of trust on a moment-by-moment, context-by-context basis will become more valuable – and finally seen as such. The flock rocks. So...
7. Klout.
I’ve stopped caring already. So have you. Haven’t you?
8. Text to vote.
Who needs it? I Always said the X-Factor should be decided by who gets the most down-loads anyway.
9. Using digital as a channel to manage costs
(we’ll be participating in social to create value instead).
10. Social Business (I hope).
I hope we can talk more about Open Business instead. And if you want to know why – click here.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Maintaining a sense of wonder

I tweeted that at bedtime on Friday my just-7 daughter had asked 'How do I know this world isn't fake?'

It struck a chord with many of you. In fact I'd hazard a guess to say that it was the single most retweeted thing I've ever published (not said, mind, she said it).

And it's not the first time she has launched into the existential.  A couple of years back she hit me with both: 'if God made everything, who made God'? And on getting into numbers: 'I want to know what is the last number on the number line '

Out of the mouths of babes...

I'd like to think my daughter is spectacularly clever or oh so unique.  But the fact is most of our kids ask questions like this. A lot.

The tragedy is that as we grow up we stop.

A former philosophy professor of mine once described philosophy as 'maintaining the sense of wonder'.  It's a sense of wonder about the world we are all born with.  A sense of wonder we would all do well to try to rekindle.

Happy thinking.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Customers as partners investing in production

Image via Flickr, Garageband logo, by beoes
Here's a really simple way of thinking about the value of involving your 'customers' as partners right from the off - in an Open Business relationship: The music you buy.

The music you choose indicates the music you would have created yourself if you had the skill/time/access.

It isn't the music you would have created for yourself. It is an approximation. Just as the products and services you buy aren't those you would have created for yourself. They are an approximation.

As a 'customer' to get closer to the product you would have created yourself requires you to invest some of your skill/time/input into the the process.

As an organisation your role is to create the platform to enable your customers to invest.
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Friday, November 25, 2011

Perspectives on Social Business... can we be open?

A few weeks back I got asked in to IBM to share my thinking on 'social business'. Of course I made it very clear that I thought the term somewhat unhelpful - and that I would prefer we talk about Open Business.

I also attended in not only my capacity as a thought leader (blogger) but also as a practitioner (MD Ninety10 Ltd UK and Co-Founder Ninety10

I'm hoping we'll get a bit more of both those things in the final edit we're still due to get from the day - on the Future of Social Business.

In the meantime, take a look at the videos below. Contributions from me on both.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Collaboration vs Competition

Competition is often touted as the powerhouse of successful growth. Beat the market or sink.
The battleground/adversarial approach has even worked successfully within companies. Successive Governments have tried unleashing it on the NHS.
There was little collaborative about the way emap operated in its fastest growing years for example. That publishing company (where I spent 20 years of my career) housed several motorcycle magazines within one building. All they shared (apart from healthy contempt for each other) was a desire to beat each other. Journalists on the same titles would fight against each other to claim the glory of the best stories.
If they had to share anything it was more likely to be with a foreign title from another company altogether.
Despite what the collaboration canon tells us, from Harvard Business Review to Wikinomics, it worked. Spectacularly. For many years emap's growth made it among the most admired companies on The FTSE.
And others have either adopted the model or arrived at it independently - promoting the cut-throat over the collaborator, the I over the team, keeping over sharing.
And they think it works.
But I wonder if they kid themselves?
Success is relative. They may be doing all right but could they do so much better by adopting a more collaborative approach - aggregating and distributing best practice rather than hoarding the tricks that allow some to win as others lose.
Could collaboration allow more to shine instead of the competitive approach which results in someone in the shade for every shining light?
I do think the no-share model has a place: where it is vital that the various parts of your company have distinct cultures and generate distinct outputs then there is potentially risk in sharing.
In our emap example, if the bike mags shared their exclusives, their contacts, their leads, their way of writing, their picture choices - well they'd have all shared the same character. And it was the differences which attracted readers, allowing them to label themselves through the choices they made.
So perhaps let that be your guide? Where you want to deliver a consistent outcome (if you are all part of one brand for example) collaborate internally. if you need to be different, compete internally.
But even then collaboration can help. It can help you shape the processes you can apply to reach very different and relevant outcomes. One best-practice process can result in very different outputs providing the inputs are different
And of course you can collaborate externally too.
Just make sure you don't end up collaborating with the same folk your competitors are...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ditch the customer if you want to transform business

At FT Innovate in Londom this week much of the conversation was about the role of social media in innovation.
Martha Lane Fox advocated business leaders get themselves involved in social media in her keynote.
But it was clear that for most the best this means is the opportunity to get an ever-better understanding of the customer.
Which sounds on the face of it a very excellent thing - a step up from social as 'earned media' or attempting to use people as your choice of broadcast channel.
But there's something missing. And the missing bit is one of the three quick indicators of the difference between what gets referred to as 'social business' and what I urge you to consider instead, Open Business.
Open Businesses are purpose-led platform-thinking organisations. They use their available resources to discover people who care about the same things the org does, bringing them together to surface their concerns and working with them to support them in resolving those concerns. It means outcomes which are a better fit with the real needs of those for whom they are intended.
There's little wrong with social business and much that is good. But it rarely inspires business leaders. In fact I know a very senior business journalist who has never even heard the term.
And when I was invited in to IBM to talk about Social Business in London last week I made the point that few CEOs will feel comfortable with turning their business into a social one. The term creates unhelpful mental blocks. IBM folk reported similar concerns.
Why make life more difficult when what we all want is change for the better?
So what's the difference between Social and Open Business?
Here's three distinctions I see:

1. It's not about the tools - it is about Behaviours:
Often social business conversations focus on implementing software. Open Business urges you to think Behaviours first. What are people doing, what can and will they do? If you are starting with tools you'll likely starting in the wrong place.

2. Think less about messages and more about products. Open Business urges you to consider ways of making things with the people for whom they are intended; for the best possible fit with real need; for efficiency; for results people care about. Messages are an outcome of this process - not its purpose. Talk 'social' and all roads will lead you back to messages.

3. Ditch the customer.
No, really. Stop thinking about customers. Customers are people you intend to do things to. Open Business urges you to think about the long-suffering customer as partners to work with instead. It pushes those people deep into the production process - right to the start, to join with and be supported by the org in delivering the things all parties want - all partners want.


There are differences: Critical ones in transforming how business is done.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The cost of sharing and the risk of the wrong rewards

Some rewards really aren't good for you 
While at iStrategy in Amsterdam last week I saw a ‘top tweet’ that suggested that those fixated on the viral campaign (that stuff we were writing about in 2007) should expect to spend 20% on making the viral and 80% on promoting it.
And I thought... what business do these folk think they are in? When you’re stuck spending more on promoting the thing than you did on making it there’s a problem.
It means you haven’t made it with the people for whom it was intended in the first place.
The answer of course is to push the ‘customer’ deeper and deeper into the process until they are alongside you as a partner from the word go – a partner in making the better thing, the better outcome, that you all want. Then they’ll share it. With people who want it. Because they want to. Because it matters to them. The guts of Open Business is right there – people want to make your stuff better because it matters to them.
Your job is to have something that matters.

Reminds me of some thoughts I had about the ‘social media awards’ which break out like Swine Flu at this time of year.
They have a horrible tendency to reinforce the ‘spend 80% on promoting it’ status quo. (Image courtesy (Glen McBethlaw via Flickr)
Perhaps instead of asking how well targeted (laser, usually) the ‘campaign’ was or how great its ‘reach’ (and mine will always extend your grasp, thank you), judges could consider criteria such as: How has this project improved the lives of those involved?
Rocket science it is not, 2012 it nearly is... no, really, it is.

I will be sharing video from the Open Business Workshop Ninety10Group presented at iStrategy as soon as an edit is available, of course.
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Monday, October 03, 2011

5 ways to make better marketing, better companies

Five quick tips with which to assess your strategies in the light of the connected world: Tick the boxes and you won't go far wrong in making your marketing, innovation, engagement, and ulitmately your organisation, a better fit with the 21st Century.

1.    Have something to believe in. What else have you got?
2.    Don’t do stuff to people. Make stuff with people. That way it’ll be a better fit and matter more.
3.    We don’t connect to be marketed to. No one forms groups or resides in communities to be marketed to. Ask yourself why groups DO form.
4.    We do what the other monkeys around us do. Then post rationalise. This matters.
5.    There are powerful connections between circumstances and behaviour. Do not ignore them.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Strategies of the positive

Picture from (and linked to)
When I learned to ride motorcycles I was taught that you go where you look.
This is both a good thing and a bad thing.
It’s a good thing when where you are looking is a happy place.
It is a bad thing when what you are fixated on is a disaster waiting to happen.

Gather information, note the problem but then look elsewhere, around it, beyond it – if you want to steer around it. Keep staring at it and you’ll hit it and end up on your butt. They call it target fixation.

Keep your eyes on the positive. Focus on the beyond – that’s how individuals and organisations get to where they want to be - rather than in A&E.

We all know companies that got that wrong. Perhaps we are at risk of entire economies going the same way?

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Top Stories reveal Facebook’s broken strategy

Some quick thoughts on Facebook’s latest iteration (as revealed at F8 last night).

The moving 'stream of news' from folks you know has been pushed into the wrong place. It should be in the centre. Facebook should instead push top stories to the edge (as Twitter does with Trends).

The reason they have got this wrong is the reason Facebook is headed in the wrong direction full stop. It can’t find a way of making value without slapping ads on. It is therefore forced into thinking it is a mass media play.

When you think like that you get led by the lowest common denominator (most ‘liked’ over most relevant) that leads you to ‘top stories’ and to placing them in the centre.

Facebook is treating your ‘friends’ as one big community. You only get to choose who you share with once. It should at least be every time you share.

Twitter’s trends is another (in some ways worse) case in point. It surfaces the most shared, not the most relevant - among everyone.

Top Story is kind of ‘trends among friends’. Which is something I previously advocated twitter should do. But now I see it in the flesh and actually working, I realise how even this delivers most liked, not most relevant – even if it is ‘most liked/shared’ among your friends.

For example, when I checked in on Facebook this morning my experience of it was a top story which was a very funny video involving British chef Nigella Lawson (also available on Youtube, on the open web).

The video is entertaining. It would entertain many. But it sure ain’t relevant. Because it gets liked and shared by many of my friends (and presumably their friends) it stays on top story position.

Meanwhile, in a side-thought at the side of the page potentially more relevant stuff ticks by.

What is needed is a way in which you can select, every time, who you wish to share with. Friends may have things in common but that does not mean they share common purposes. Communities do.

And communities of purpose are much more adhoc in nature than Facebook is built for. They are much more like the way conversations develop in twitter – aggregating around a common thing for the time that thing matters to those taking part, moving on to the next as and when the need is solved or the next emerges.

Communities of purpose get together to achieve things – from answering a quick question to making a solution to shared need. Friends hang out.

And this is Facebook’s challenge. Communities of purpose have to be much more adhoc than it is built for – yet this is where the true value (making things with people rather than sending messages at them) resides.

The Top Story thing reveals how far off Facebook is from cracking this, or perhaps even understanding it. It is why, instead, they must attempt to be a media platform. Because media platforms are nice and simple for selling ads on - instead of coming up with ways of creating real value with communities.
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Thursday, September 15, 2011

We don't connect to be marketed to

Facebook's announcement that it is to enable a 'subscribe' button so you can follow interesting things and people (provided they are sharing publicly) is the latest shot in the battle for hearts and minds among the big players. 'Subscribe' is essentially Twitter's follow (or Google +'s for that matter).

So it's yet another case of Facebook being late to the party. The extra it adds is enabling you to select how much of someone's stream you want to subscribe to - giving a little control to the follower (though frankly this has varying value depending on your personal experience of the volume of content - which has always been controlled by who and what you friend or follow in any event).

But it got me thinking: Subscribe takes us back to our online social roots: You just have to love blogs and blogrolls, RSS and hypertext linking. A glorious place of freely forming communities of purpose.

All the rest; Facebook, Twitter, Google +, etc etc, all the rest are at best filters of simplicity or, at their worst, silos of data. Some sit further along to the left of that scale, some to the right. But sit on it they do, in a way that blogs and rss well, don't.

The social platforms have taken down some serious technical barriers to entry - itself a silo of some significance. My wife would never have written a blog. But she's at home and connected with facebook. This is a good thing.

But ultimately we will call time on the nannying. The tech difficulties the platforms solve for us will become problems no longer. A level of what we now call technical know-how will simply become common sense. Like being able to cross a road, most folk will grow up knowing how. They'll call it common sense rather than know-how because it will, of course, be common.

At that point we no longer need the platforms. We'll need and will have the common sense to publish, to discover those who share our needs, problems or desires. And the ability to connect in self-forming groups.

And guess what Facebook et al? We won't be doing this to be marketed to.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Open Business: Open Desk

It's not often you get something for free - but here's one bona fide occasion. As part of 90:10 Group's commitment to inspiring Open Business (I'm Co-Founder of the group and MD of the UK business) we've made a desk available at our office in Clerkenwell. It's yours complete with wifi and power when you need it. Our #OpenDesk is a small example of the open door we advocate. So come in and say hello. The few T&Cs and online booking is available below:

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Learning to love the truth (even if you don't 'like' it)

Nice deck here from my colleague Ninety10 Group CEO Jamie Burke, issued as a wake-up call to those who set out to harvest 'likes' - detailing the risk to reality that delivers.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

The tyranny of the authority of signs vs the mimicry of monkeys

When on holiday in Barcelona recently I watched an amusing example of human behaviour which illustrates our irrational reliance on authority – following its dictacts even when the evidence of our own eyes compels us to do otherwise.

In this case travellers at Barcelona Sants station were confronted with both an up and a down escalator to choose from to go down to the platform. 

An easy choice you’d think. An easy rational choice, yes.

But introduce a confusingly placed sign and it seems we will often switch off our rational thought, ignore the evidence of our own eyes, and follow the authority of the sign.

In some cases this was true even when people were coming up the ‘up’ escalator right in front of the person planning to use the same escalator to go down – leading to results that kept me amused for many moments.

I was lucky enough to have a flipcam in my pocket so recorded what unfolded. 

Perhaps what follows below also illustrates that we are more likely to be convinced by authority (represented by the sign) when we are in an agitated state (ie the folk in a hurry seem most likely to follow the orders of the signs over and above the herd instinct of following those folk who are going the right way.

This perhaps has implications for channelling behaviour in riot situations of the kind discussed on this blog in recent weeks.

I was particularly amused by the behaviour emerging towards the end of this 3min video in which it appears our herd instinct has us copying some very irrational behaviour – ie you have to try to go down the wrong escalator first before returning to try the right one. It’s what all the rest of us monkeys are doing...

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Cameron, circumstances and priests

The Parable of the Good Samaritan by Jan Wijna...Image via WikipediaOne of the points of my previous post on how riots spread is Monkey See, Monkey Do.

Or to put it less simply, we are less rational than we would like to think - we act like those around us and as allowed, persuaded, nudged or otherwise cajoled to do by the circumstances in which we find ourselves (the behaviour of other folk being a very key part of those circumstances).

Now, even our nice Mr Cameron (remember the one, when he first became Tory leader, when he seemed more interested in what is right rather than what is Right), knew that.

As HM Opposition are all of a dither to point out, Cameron himself proclaimed "there are connections between circumstances and behaviour" five years ago...

Damn right. Primed with the right conditions, given the right circumstances - you too are at great risk of behaving in a very irrational way. Once again, I point you at Mark Earl's excellent Herd for more on this.

This is really important because once we understand this is what drives behaviour, then we can start on the business of ascribing blame for that behaviour and (rather more importantly) doing something about it.

It's why I am getting increasingly annoyed at the misdirection the Government PR machine is employed in. First every talking head spouted 'criminality' to focus our attention on the outcome. Now that is being replaced by 'moral collapse'. Both make us focus on the outcome. Which is convenient because it's hard to pin the blame on the Government for outcomes. Circumstances and conditions? Now there some Governmental blame can be laid.

So, I had best demonstrate what can turn even good people bad - to act irrationally - if the conditions are set for them. I best show how it's more the context and circumstances to blame and less the moral fibre of the people concerned...

Take for example the study at Princeton Theological Seminary quoted in Malcolm Gladwell's often-bought-but-rarely-looted Tipping Point.

In the story he tells, each student priest is asked "to prepare a short talk on a given Biblical theme, then walk over to a nearby building to present it."
Along the way to the presentation each student comes across a man slumped head down, eyes closed, and clearly in some distress.
Obviously being good God-fearing folk (with no doubt all the parental support our dear leader would desire) they stop and help, don't they?

Wouldn't you?

Well. The researchers included three variables: background of the subject - whether they had entered seminary as a way of helping people or not, (2) which parable they were to prepare - several were given the Good Samaritan... and (3) a time context, saying either that they were running several minutes late and should hurry up, or that they were early and had some time to spare.

Guess what?

The only thing that impacted how likely our trainee priests were to stop and help our hapless fallen guy was how late they thought they were running.

In other words whether you were planning to help folk as a vocation, and whether or not you had just been hard at it thinking about the Good Samaritan, mattered little. Their attitudes and feelings were instantly  over-ridden by subtle clues in the environment - in this case being told whether they were running late or not.

 I can't claim to be any better than any of those flawed priests-to-be. I can't claim to be able to resist temptation to act irrationally if the conditions are right - if the circumstances so nudged me. You see, I'm human too. So is David Cameron if the stories of the Bullingdon Club are to be believed.

The good news is I do think there is something your rational selves can do to avoid those contexts.

My guess is many of us would loot in the right (wrong) circumstances. But I'm also pretty sure most of us would employ our rational moments to guide us away from those circumstances.

And that's where the Government - and others bent on behaviour modifying must focus, too.
We can rationally decide to join together with good things in mind - and we can support each other - be good monkeys to be seen and copied, too.

That's how the brooms came out - en masse - for the twitter clean up. We can use social media to find folk thinking positively, too and coordinate and cooperate with them.

Call it rational if you like...
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Monday, August 08, 2011

How riots spread - expressed through the medium of dance

Brixton Footlocker - the morning after (via linniekin, Flickr)
There are two things of significance for me about the London Riots of the last couple of nights (and as I write I hear they have extended to a third night).
The first is how they have been reported; by citizen witnesses; by journalist witnesses and finally as edited by news orgs.

Citizens have delivered a tapestry of fear, anger, concern... reality; Journalists a cooller detachment which lacks the white heat emotion of engagement; News orgs a filtered, cooled, emaciated version of 'the validated truth'.

Always ask whose truth you gaze upon. I may not be able to check or validate every citizen expression of the reality as they see it - but there must be at least as much truth in what they are sharing as in the cold, dispassionate glance of the edited news org version.

Heady, fast moving times. They require of us that we take responsibility - with crap filters on - for what we choose to pass on.

But enough of the messages, what of the behaviour?

Why have these riots happened now? How could the new tools of coordination and cooperation lead to a truly landscape-shifting revelation for those taking part?

I should say right off I'm not a fan of theft, violence, arson or even of keeping folk from a good night's sleep.

However, the group dynamics and peer-to-peer permissions and mimicry that the human behaviour of rioting demonstrate, do hold a grim fascination for me.

So, why now? Those dismissing the London Riots as one long acquisition spree by thieves fail to answer that simple question.

If greed were the key, why this summer, not last? The answer may lay in a longer term period of joblessness and hopelessness - yes the result of policy decisions.
But it also took:
  • A crowd
  • A state of agitated excitement,
  • The ability to organise.
  • Permission to act out of line (in a co-ordinated way)
These factors came together on Saturday night in Tottenham.

But they could have come together in another crowd with another cause to be excited.

What of our flock turner? Someone has to start a riot. Someone has to grant the permission to act out of line. And in so doing they grant permission to those around them to act, entirely irrationally, in a way they wouldn't ordinarily behave. It may be one person at first - and then another - then a clump join - and then the crowd joins...

This video goes some way to illustrating that - through the medium of dance...

Once permission to behave differently (and badly) was granted (we're back to the riots now) off it spread.
We do what the monkey next to us does - we are Homo Mimicus rather than Homo Sapien as Mark Earls (@herdmeister on twitter) author of Herd, puts it.

We copy - Oh so readily. Particularly if someone has prepared the ground as effectively as the economy and The Government have contrived to do. The conditions are right.

If a Government unit on behavioural economics had planned this nudge themselves, they couldn't have hoped for greater success:
Agitate folk through economic and policy means - give agitated folk a reason to gather - and then all you need is the 'dancing man' to give them a nudge.

Monkey business spread rapidly across London.
Tonight? More parts of London? More Uk cities? (Unfortunately while drafting this post I heard of outbreaks of violence in Leeds and Birmingham to add to London's third night of troubles.

Next: More European cities? MoreUS Cities?
Riotous behaviour is Herd behaviour like any other human behaviour: As hard to identify how to stop as it is to start.

Mark's book has a chapter on riots - and some tips for cops. They focus on breaking the channels of communication (in this case blackberry messenger and twitter), moving swiftly to break up crowds the moment they asssemble, and arresting anyone for even the slightest infringements (removing any hint of permission to act out of line).
And when equilibrium is restored - of course - go looking for the root causes and act on them.
In short, take away the ability to organise, the gathering of agitated folk, the permission to act out of line and once all those are dealt with, the reasons for the agitation.

In 1981 when conditions were similar it took broadcast media to spread the news.And there was no tool of on-the-go coordination - not even mobile phones.

Now everyone taking part carries with them a way of coordinating on the fly. No wonder the authorities are concerned. Trouble can now be organised, directed and refocused in a decentralised way making it exceptionally hard to deploy against for the police.

They've learned from the Arab Spring. Monkey see, monkey do. That's as much of an answer to 'why now' as anything I've seen.

The decentralised 'bad guys' are able to dissipate and reassemble too fast and in too great numbers for the police to act. There are tales this evening of shop keepers boarding themselves inside their shops, having reported mobs outside to the police, only to be told the police don't have the bodies to act.

My guess is that if we don't get a night or two of heavy rain to break the cycle the army will be on the streets by the end of week. And at that point we in the UK may feel a bit glib pointing at 'heavy-handed' responses in Arab lands.

Those at the helm in this and other countries should be less concerned about acts of theft and vandalism and rather more about what the participants are learning.

IF those intent on riotous assembly are indeed coordinating through the social tools now at our disposal, what happens after they are done with expressing anger and frustration through fire and theft?

What if they realise the true power they wield?

What if they do to The Government what they did to The News of The World?

I'd stick a cork in the chianti and get the next flight home if I were on Her Majesty's front bench.

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Monday, August 01, 2011

Size - not growth rate - matters for communities

Tokyo - by
I read all the claims about the rapid growth of google+ ‘use’ and I still feel unmoved.

Perhaps it’s for the reason that I put ‘use’ in quote marks: Google + feels very much in its nascent, gave it a try, walked off, may-be-back-if-enough-other-folk-find-it-interesting-to-remind-me-about-it-later, phase.

Which, to be fair, is how I started with Twitter. But also with a hundred other new kids on the block.

But perhaps my reticence is also because of a remarkable scaling effect which happens in communities. I say communities, it looks to me like this has only been applied to cities thus far, so bear with me...

I came across an interesting article by Marcus Du Sautoy at the weekend. This is the chap who has written and is presenting the current BBC series The Code (  – which looks at the mathematics which appear to govern, well pretty much everything.

Du Sautoy cites the work of British-born theoretical physicist Geoffrey West who used maths to discover fundamental laws governing cities. 
“ can be understood by a single magic number: 1.15. Each time the population of a city increases by 100 per cent (in other words doubles) the social and economic factors scale up by 115 per cent.

“So, if you compare a city with a population of one million people to a city of two million, then instead of the larger city having twice as many restaurants, concert halls, libraries and schools, you find instead an extra 15 per cent on top of what you’d expect. Even salaries are affected by this curious ratio...”
In other words the value of being part of a community (my derivation) grows by an extra 15% each time that community doubles in size.

And while Google+ has reached its first 10m users in a spectacularly fast period of time (16 days compared with Twitter’s 780 and Facebook’s 852) its value to the members of that community is similarly spectacularly limited by its relative lack of scale.

Let’s try the maths (not my strongest point so feel free to point out flaws and correct me:
Based on Facebook having 640m users and Twitter having 175m (Wikipedia August 1, 2011). Then the social/economic advantage conferred over Google + users is: approximately 200% greater for Twitter users and 230% greater for Facebook users.

Simply – Facebook and Twitter ought to prove at least twice as valuable to current users thanks to the scaling up of value delivered by the sheer size of community.

Growth rate has no impact on that.

So until we have a Google + with at least 100m users (and likely twice that) there’s little chance of it delivery the user experience either Twitter or Facebook can.

The dodgy maths bit:
How did I get to this? I took 10m as the base value (Google + users after 16 days). I doubled this, then doubled the outcome and doubled that (etc) until I reach the scale of Twitter and then Facebook (an approximate in the case of Twitter).

Taking ‘1’ as my base value for ‘social-economic factors’ generated, I multiplied by our magic number (1.15), for every time the base community doubled in size.
eg 10m users x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 640m (= Facebook).

Therefore social-economic factors multiply thus: 1 x 1.15 x 1.15 x 1.15 x 1.15 x1.15 x 1.15 = 2.3 (therefore a growth of 230% compared with original 10m strong community).

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Friday, July 29, 2011

The two kinds of social media 'strategy'

There are two kinds of social media 'strategy'. And they service two kinds of orgs; the ones which see social media as a channel through which to sell stuff and the ones who realise that social media offers a bigger opportunity to become an Open Business - with all the benefits that apply.

There's a simpler way of putting that: There are the orgs that are prepared to change, and those who are not.

Social Media Strategy 1. 
This requires the gathering of evidence from which to derive org/brand-specific insights. The evidence is gathered in a structured way, from all stakeholders, across operational axis - creating a living and live strategic framework for best-fit delivery of not just discovery and engagement of relevant customers and potential customers, but also of methods with which to deliver products and services with those for whom they are intended. It is the framework which keeps on giving - a platform for social media excellence to apply across the org now and into the long run.
This first kind of strategic approach is the one taken by organisations who, 'get strategy'. They appreciate that any project is far likelier to fail than succeed if the evidence and insight phases are absent. They have learned that much energy, time and cash is wasted in wild goose chases driven by ego or gut instinct.
They seek to remove risk by increasing knowledge.

Social Media 'Strategy' 2:
And then there's the other kind of 'strategy'.
These are the orgs that ask for 'a social media strategy' but mean - 'please, let's go straight to tactics'. They rely on the experience of an expert - the gut of their judgement. And as the small print always says - past performance is no guarantee of future results. The only possible outcome is a generic 'strategy' since no evidence has been gathered and no insight derived to make it an org-specific plan. And one thing I'm damn sure of in the world of the web - one size most certainly does not fit all.

Those who tend to select this approach are likely to see social media as just another channel through which to sell stuff to people. And they want to know how where and when.
This approach delivers short-term campaign-style results. It's cheaper. But, of necessity, more prone to failure.
It's quite quick and easy to get to that 'know the channel' stuff. What's harder is making the org ready to connect with its consumers in this open way. The two-way flow is typically not something they have been used to.

They have yet to establish what is required of them from their customers, what needs to change within the guidelines, governance, roles, job descriptions and so much more to make the most of the participation coming their way.
And when their rush-to-tactics delivers poor results who and what will they blame?

I'm counting the days until we collectively wise up enough not to describe that second kind as 'strategy' at all.
That's going to require some honesty from both sides.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

The march to open business is inevitable - so why aren't you acting?

A shipload of Inevitable being delivered right now...
One of the first questions we should ask ourselves when considering any strategy is the one about inevitability.

If a thing becomes inevitable – even at some distance in the future – it’s kind of dumb not to start planning for it – preparing to adapt to it.

It’s part of the risk assessment phase. There it becomes ‘how inevitable is this?
If you score its inevitability at even 50% then there is significant risk that this outcome is going to have a huge impact on the way you conduct your business, where and who with.

One macro example: Is it inevitable that Greece or a.n.other Eurozone country defaults? What percentage score are you going to give that? What level of risk does that then level at your org? What do you need to prepare to change as a result?


Now ask yourself what score you are going to give the inevitability of the voice of your customers impacting your marketplace – just as it has taken down Governments in the Arab Spring and killed Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper? Is the social media genie going back in the bottle - or is it going to continue to spread its game-changing impact through more of the media, through all kinds of government, through education, the law - and every kind of business? How inevitable is this march towards the need to be open, to engage, to make productive partners of customers and clients?

How inevitable? 50%?

It’s more isn’t it?

What level of risk does that then level at your org? What do you need to prepare to change as a result?

And isn’t it time you started?
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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Is this the Arab Spring for Media?

Thanks, then, bye... etc (image via Flickr 'world economic forum'
Are we witnessing an Arab Spring for media? Murdoch pulling out of the BSkyB deal isn't the end of this story - not by a long way.

I believe (as previously posted) it's a key moment in the shift in power relations - the end of the power of the media to tell us what to think.

There are similarities with the Church's loss of power. That came with the arrival of the mass produced book - a technology delivered by the printing press. It shifted the way information was both generated and distributed.
Now the media faces a similar loss of power - with the arrival of self-organised systems of publication and distribution - the social media.

It has allowed the edge - the all of us - to lead the way in showing the politicians the media no longer holds sway. Now they've been shown how weak the old media is, the politicians are windmilling in. And I don't think they are going to let up (and likely nor are we) until new rules of ownership are imposed. They will restrict the amount of the media anyone can own.

Which is kind of bolting the stable door after Dobbin has disappeared over the horizon - because who would want a vast chunk of something that delivers dwindling revenues and even faster dwindling power. I doubt Murdoch will have to be told.

The press has always been known as the fourth estate (at least in the UK). The other three are the Legislature (The politicians and their machinery), The Judiciary (the Judges and theirs) and The Church.
The Church's power (and along with it, wealth) disappeared with the arrival of the printing press. The Fourth Estate's is rapidly going the same way - driven by the self-organisinig edge-enabling impact arrival of the internet.

A vacuum will emerge - with all of us now charged to fill it. And that won't be easy. We have to work out collective ways of keeping the legislature in check and the judiciary under review. But we've got the tools, we've clearly got the ability - now we have to find the regular, committed inclination to fill the boots of the salaried investigations of the best of the Fourth Estate.

We'll crack it. And if we do it in a way that successfully contains checks and balances on ourselves and our influence, we may find this particular Arab Spring does away with one or two other estates along the way.
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Friday, July 08, 2011

The end of The Age of Being Told What To Do

Image via Flickr - and free to share anywhere!
The end of one of Britain's oldest newspapers marks the end of the Age of Being Told What To Do.
British politician's must be privately sighing with relief (or more likely laughing themselves dizzy). Because this spells out if not the end of the power of press barons, a very significant reduction in it.
The News of the World is one of NewsCorps. Part of the vast Murdoch media empire. It is an empire which has given the Murdochs huge power. They have used it to threaten, cajole, instal and topple Governments. They backed one party or another - and went on witch hunts and mud-slinging exercises to attack those who they did not annoint. Through this they have seeked to control how we are governed.
Successive generations of Britain's leaders have cow-towed to this power. It's been embarrassing to see them cringe before Rupert and Co.
Now politicians are waking to the realisation that Murdoch's media power has gone - and that learning has to impact every press baron remaining on the planet.
The rapid and angry response of the people took down the News of the World - destroying the brand. And that response was only able to grow, aggregate and self-organise to impressive effect because of the social tools now at our disposal - the social media. We didn't need to be told how to think, or what to do.
A community of purpose organised and created change, fast. The web lowers the cost of group forming. But the important bit is that these aren't any old groups. These are groups of people with shared purposes: Communities.
And communities lower the cost of getting things done.
No longer is the power at the centre - it is at the edge.
We, the edge, the self-organised, have achieved what Governments could not - we have brought the press barons to heel.
Of course there will be emergent clusters and clumps of influence, flocks to be turned in the peer to peer world where influence now resides. We don't all have equal influence - power if you like - all of the time. But it is us, the edge that will do the flock turning.
Messages are no longer done to us, but done by us - or at the very least with our considered consent. We will share what we choose to share - and that is the only way in which information will flow in this space. We will no longer be told what to think by a huge source of power at the centre - we will influence each other.
But before the politicians raise a glass of champagne to the demise of the media baron, they must also note that their fate remains in the hands of exactly the same forces. They may believe they are the power at the centre but unless they take rapid steps to open up to the people they represent - and relinquish the control that dominates the current model - they will go the way of the News of the World and of the press barons.

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Friday, July 01, 2011

Making Waves

I went to see Take That tonight. Take the mickey all you like but those boys can sure put on a show.
As often happens a group of people tried to start a Mexican Wave. A packed Wembley Stadium is a mighty large group of people to try to coordinate.
And sure enough this group - of enthusiastic ladies - repeatedly failed. At least they did until they reversed the direction they were trying to get the wave to go.
When they went clockwise, off it went - round and round 6,8 times.
Regular Mexican Wave watchers (among them Mark Earls, who notes the phenomena in his book Herd) will tell you this should not surprise. An anti-clockwise wave is something of a rarity. Clockwise is the way we flock (and rock, on this occasion).
When Robbie Williams came on and demanded an anti-clockwise wave from his fans, his position as influential broadcaster from the stage secured an against-the-grain success. But only for one lap.
Interesting that when we are told what to do by a sufficiently impressive and influential 'centre' we do as we're told. For one lap.
When we self-organise, from the edge, from the fans, we join in and make it happen far longer.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone so I may have to tidy it up later ;-)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What is happening to my internet?

Image representing Mark Zuckerberg as depicted...We can Haz your Internets?So while Facebook busies itself remaking the internet in the way Governments would have liked it, Google (in Google+ ) comes up with a social answer of the kind McKinsey would have arrived at had it done the math (Nova Spivak said that first, not me - so good I had to repeat it).

To be fair, Google hasn't graced me with an invite to trial Google + yet (update: theyvdid about an hour after I published this). I do worry though about all the 'friend-management' that is being referenced in news reports about it.(I'll feed back in due course).

Which makes me ask: What is happening to my internet? To your internet? To the wonderful adhoc, fuzzy-edged, self forming internet?

Why do folk keep trying to put it in a box and make it behave like it were part of the old broadcast world, of mass, of control and ownership at the centre, of take not give.

I was only half joking when I tweeted (when stories about Facebook's IPO) broke that we should all leave for a bit of a laugh - and then see how much it got valued at.

Control and ownership from the centre.

The internet The Government would have given us had we asked.

But we didn't ask did we? We just did. One task at a time. Flocking. Failing, Flailing.

Don't tell me it's time the internet grew up. It's time we removed the silos and gave it back the freedom from which it flourished.

Social networks of the Facebook kind have delivered a wonderful thing - they gave everyone and their mother access to the group-forming value of the web. Once learned though, do we still need the stabilisers on?

Don't forget folks, blogs remain the single least silo'd bit of easy-user tech available to most of us through which to self form groups.

Maybe it's time to give yourself back the freedom to self-form beyond the safety zone set and owned by Zuckerberg and co? Mark, your work here is done - the kids have grown up. Let them go.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Help break down one of the last silos of the web

Stephen Fry backs FixTheWeb
One of the least spoken about silos restricting the web is the one locking disabled people out.

No one gets to erect a public building without thinking about access for all – but websites – great and small – seldom dignify disabled folk with the same amount of thought.

Stop and consider how lucky you are for a moment; you the majority who think nothing of reading what’s on the screen, hearing it, seeing it, interacting with it through keyboard, mouse, touchpad, mobile phone, touch screen and more.

For a very large number of people getting information from the web, and engaging in the economic value generation connection brings, cannot be taken for granted.

There’s a disabled person out there right now who could help you solve your current problem, point you at something you need, join you to make something you care about happen. But they can’t because he or she is locked in a silo marked ‘no access’. For every excluded person the web ( all of us) loses an opportunity to be greater than we are. This matters... to you!

FixTheWeb is a charitable attempt to break down that silo – to connect more of us. It’s got backing from key stakeholders in the voluntary sector, support from Stephen Fry and a good stock of volunteers already wading in.

It’s doing great. But it needs to do better. And that’s where you come in.

Sure, come sign up. Offer your dev or design services of course. But fundamentally the short term requirement is cash to drive it to the next level.

So if you or your company has some cash set aside for charitable works, please consider FixTheWeb, right now. If you can’t – please pass on to someone who may be able to help.


Stephen Fry on FixTheWeb:
“We all expect a few glitches when we go on line, but when it comes to accessibility for disabled and older people, the problem is colossal. Fix the Web is doing something about it in a positive and practical way – I urge you to get involved and help get this problem fixed. This campaign gets to the very heart of the problem – it’s pure genius!”

Disclosure: David Cushman is a Trustee of Citizens Online, the charity leading FixTheWeb. For more details contact the co-ordinator.
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The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?