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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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?