Thursday, June 28, 2012

Judgment Call: Do Prepared Tweets Miss the Point of Social

I'm part of the Financial Times' Judgment Call panel - a group of business people called on from time to time for advice on the burning issues of the day for publication online and in print.
On Wednesday this week the panel consisted Don Tapscott (author Wikinomics) co-founder Vinay Gupta and myself (as Co-Founder of 90:10 Group).

You can read the column in full in the print edition of June 27, 2012 or online (nb: the FT has a metered paywall model for content).
Or you can click on the images here to see larger versions.

click image to enlarge
The Problem was framed:
"Morgan Stanley Smith Barney has announced that it will allow its financial advisers to use Twitter and Linkedin, providing they tweet from a library of pre-written messages. Does this defeat the purpose of should it be commended for embracing technology?

Here's what I had to say (which was lightly edited for publication):

They appear to be thinking of social media as little more than a way in which they can indulge in direct selling. It’s a reductionist approach to human interaction which seeks to simplify the possibilities to: buy/sell. In doing so it misses out on the customer-led insight and innovation those prepared to be more human benefit from.

Indeed, you could ask why they bother attaching humans to the Twitter accounts at all when selecting from a library could as easily be achieved by a bot – and with less room for risk via human error.

Click to image to enlarge
This crippling desire for control (also found elsewhere in the financial sector) could undermine the whole enterprise. It’s humans that people are likely to trust and buy from. This too-controlled version of humanity will provide a confusing and eerily corporate view of the collection of people inside Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.

It also carries the risk of becoming the banking world’s equivalent of Apple’s Siri – and we all know how much fun people have had trying to catch Siri out.

On the plus side at least they have a control group of 20 who are being given a freer hand to be themselves. My guess is they will out-perform their bot-like brethren.

I was also on the Judgment Call panel when Morgan Stanley first started its twitter experiment a year ago (the recent interest is in a global roll-out to 18,000 staff after a year long trial). Click here to compare.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Click the 'incorporate this group' button

"The idea of membership has gone away.  Facebook is not very good at dealing with  named groups, they’re not very good at saying, “We’ve got this book club and I’m a member and you’re not.” But membership is one of the precursors to a lot of social action. My bet is that the group pattern — the named group that can do things like open a bank account or take some kind of coordinated action in the world — is an overlooked pattern that someone is going to reinvent."
Clay Shirky in Wired

As ever - another powerful insight from Clay. This speaks to the belief that what the internet is brilliant at is enabling groups to form around what matters to them.
That lowers the cost of action. But that lowering could be further supported by formalising membership.
Imagine an 'incorporate this group' button, which, if clicked by enough members, signs them up to be part of a co-operative group working to achieve X and sharing in the benefits of its provision. It would enshrine an agreement between those members about its functions and intent.

Life may never become quite that simple, but that's the principle we're looking at here.
Clay isn't saying our desire for membership has gone away - but that our ability to make that meaningful has been neglected by the platforms we've had so far.

To enable all the value that self-forming groups can deliver, that neglect will have to end.
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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Create value as if the world exists

Do business like you know you live here...
There is a final disruption charging at full speed through the old world. It promises to be more fundamental than the disruption to the business of content creation and distribution, more disruptive even than our ability to self-organise to shape what we care about.
It is that we can self-organise to pay for it.

It is this disruption to mass, centralised blocks of capital, the switch to widely-distributed ownership and leadership that this entails, that will have the greatest long term impact on how our society is organised – on how we live our lives.

The web has been like a Big Bang to business as usual – disrupting media, marketing, customer service, new product development, the business of elections, the business of who governs us, how we are educated, how we are cared for and so much more.

But disruption of this people-power kind alone has limits. Even though we can find other people who care about the same things as we do, and in so doing lower the cost of action to achieve the shared purposes we have, long lasting and valuable change is slowed by the huge inertia of big capital.

There are those who argue big capital is just too big to be undone from the edge. But who thought the arrival of the internet would one day herald the end of big media? Today more people read Twitter each morning in the UK than read all the national newspapers put together. The power shift is almost complete in media; The content and distribution monopolies gone.

And so for big capital?

Make no mistake, big capital is holding back real change. Take Facebook. First the VCs have to get paid. Haven’t developed a business model to meet the needs of the networked world? F**you! Pay me! And so we get traditional broadcast style ads interrupting your FB time.

Then the VCs are replaced by Big Capital. Who want dividends. Fast. No time to develop a new model. You’ve caught all those fish in a barrel – let’s go spear them...

Where is the interest in long term benefit to the users? To their communities? To their society?

Clay Shirky has a nice line about news websites which are (shock!) “designed as if the web exists”.

Member-led, peer-funded partnerships offer the opportunity to create value as if the world exists. By which I mean value creation which goes beyond the back slap in the boardroom and the bottom line on the balance sheet, value creation which acknowledges that resources are finite, that people, communities, societies and ecologies are connected and matter to each other.

As I described in a recent post about Mindful Consumption, this kind of approach isn’t for a happy clappy hippy utopia, it provides a genuine competitive advantage: In a connected world where to win is to work together with ever greater numbers of people who care about the same things you do, few are going to sign up to support businesses who are damaging the ecosystem in which they exist.

Exploitation which damages our connected well-being has never been welcome. The fact is that exploitation is visible now more than it ever has been before: The web has revealed our interconnectedness like nothing in history before.

And that is a genie which is not going back in its bottle.

Change will come, big capital inertia can only slow things. And where we are frustrated, where we care most, where we see the most significant damage to our future and to that of those we care about, we will vote with not only our connectedness, our collaboration, our action – but with our personal funds.

Sure, it’ll be slow. We’ll chip away at first – Kickstarter by kickstarter. But one day big capital will wake up to find itself in the place newspapers have.

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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?