Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The monkey in the machine

Here's another chance to see the marvellous Mark Earls (@herdmeister) present at the RSA on how things spread - how that social sharing thing happens (much less rational than we like to believe of ourselves).
I'm a big fan of Mark's book Herd. And no doubt I will be of the signed copy of his new book I'll Have What She's Having - when it arrives... (hint).

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Friday, January 20, 2012

There is no insight button

I really worry about the turn-key, one-size-fits-all tech and tool solutions for social media being churned out by software and SAAS vendors for baffled brands and companies right now.

For example, this from a press release I saw on Thursday January 19:
“[Brand X’s] enterprise marketing technology allows global brands and agencies to easily activate social audiences and impact consumer actions on all major social media ecosystems simultaneously.”

My  translation: With one button you can broadcast at anyone fool enough to have followed you so far. If they happen to have stayed around since you bought them, that is.

Job done then?

What worries me is that hassled execs will take the magic bullet being offered – we all like to make ‘life simplifying’ decisions. It’s very seductive to sign up for a one-stop solution because it’s easier than understanding what they really need to. It’s unlikely to be more cost-effective though.

As I wrote previously for a piece with Ninety10 Group CEOJamie Burke (note and disclosure, we co-founded that international business consultancy together.)

Business as usual wants a set of turn-key tools to make everything all right. But the future isn't about tools. It is about behaviours - understanding changes, learning from them and responding to meet those changed needs.

Business as usual wants ever-more efficient ways to exploit customers. But the most efficient way of meeting need is delivered by a shift in mind-set not in technologies; a shift that thinks of customers as your partner in producing what matters to both of you.

Business as usual wants to exploit channels to deliver messages. Click to deploy. But the future resides in better understanding why people would want to share 'your message' - getting to grips with the idea that marketing isn't done to people, it is done with people.

A tool or set of tools won't - of themselves - deliver the change you need to shift out of business as usual. And unless you take the holistic view, unless you go through the culture shift, the organisational change that is required, the tools will lead you back to square one.

As Ninety10group Head of Innovation Steffen Huck points out “There is no ‘insight’ button on any dashboard.

There is no ‘Cultural Change’ button, either.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Your freedom to share needs you!

Watch this. 13 or so minutes which will explain all this SOPA stuff and why it really DOES MATTER TO YOU.
Get ready for more of this. As the speaker Clay Shirky (Here Comes Everybody, Cognitive Surplus) says, this is just the latest battle in a war WE have to win.
Good luck everybody.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Google's skyscraper?

There is a fascinating theory (from Barclays Capital) that where-ever there is a boom in skyscraper building you can be sure rapid economic collapse will follow.
This measurable proposition echoes one of Parkinson's Laws (for which I am indebted to @jobucks on Twitter.) which states that when companies start building monuments to themselves, their precipitous decline is just around the corner.

How is the new Apple HQ coming along, I wonder?
Perhaps this trend has been repeated through history. Perhaps that's why the phrase 'pride comes before a fall' is so well used - and often so accurate.

And then I think about Google Plus. Is it an essential reconfiguration of google's business model? Or one helluva showboat?
Time will tell.
In any event I'm going to be watching what Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook build for themselves with renewed interest.
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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Why no one wants to be in your club

I used to belong to a fund-raising organisation which always seemed to struggle for members.
Every now and again there would be much gnashing of teeth as members wailed and failed to comprehend why so few others would join us.

We'd always end up blaming society ("no one wants to join organisations these days", "people are more selfish than they used to be", "there's no sense of community" etc etc.)

No. Sorry. These are excuses.

There's nothing broken about our desire to join with one another. The web shows given the right conditions groups will form. And scale. Even today.

Those conditions:
1. Give people something interesting to do together.
That's straight out of the Herdmeister playbook. If your group isn't gathering numbers it's either not offering interesting enough stuff, or good enough ways for those who would wish to, to join in.
2. Discover and invite people to whom the group will matter.
If you aren't doing this - if you've just built it and expect them to come - you're going to end up disappointed.

Of course when one of the right folk finds your group, they will invite others of like mind. But you must also think about ways in which newbies can arrive together. Walking into a pub with a group of mates is a much nicer experience than walking in alone.
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Thursday, January 05, 2012

The web: More than an enabler of rights

Vint Cerf’s assertion that the internet should not be considered a human right troubles me.

It  troubles me because it seems to be on the wrong side of fiddling with semantics – I don’t really care if the web is only an enabler (Vint’s point) – it’s such an effective, inclusive, far-reaching, all-engaging enabler that those excluded from it are as cut off from what matters to them as those cut off from air or water.

Access to clean air, clean water – these are human rights. And always have been.

But if the authorities only make that available to you in oxygen tanks in central London and bottled water at your local depot (and both at a price) you’d be right to assert that the weakness of the enabling of these rights so limits them as to make them invalid.

To argue that one can distinguish the enabling of a right from the right itself offers too many get-out clauses to those who would control from the centre.

"You're perfectly free to protest. Just not in public."

Our social connection to others – freedom of expression and assembly, are just as fundamental to our well-being as humans as other rights; to our ability to be human. The internet enables this on a species-wide scale. No other form of tech has enabled this. This is different.

To be cut off from this is different. It is to be cut off from a species-wide reassembling of the way we live that billions of others are taking advantage of. You have a right to be part of this.

And while the technology used to enable this should not matter, the reality is that it does. Indeed in the case of the Arab Spring it could be argued that the use of the ‘enabler’ (the social  tools and tech of mobile phones and social networks supported by the internet) led to the assertion of new human rights where previously they had not be allowed any form of expression. The Arab Spring is not where this ends. It is merely showing which way the wind is blowing - to a self-organised future in which participation is everything.

There is little point in saying we all have the right to participate and then expecting some to do this by sending a letter in the post.

When authorities attempt to control the enabler that the web is, they are actually restricting the right. They know this. It is why they do it.

Let’s not give them any wriggle room.
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Wednesday, January 04, 2012

IBM's evolution of business - expert views

Here's the fifth in the series of videos provided by IBM on the future of 'Social Business'. I'm delighted that this time around they've included at least some reference to OPEN business and to my role not only as a 'thought leader' (ie blogger) but also as a practitioner (Co-Founder of the Ninety10 Group)

You can see the previously released versions here, at least those featuring my contributions.

Just to reiterate - I'm very keen on making the distinction betweeen 'Social' Business and 'Open' Business for positive reasons. This from a previous post on the subject:
"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... 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. "

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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?