Sunday, February 17, 2013

Seeking interview subjects for our next book

Do you know of a business or organisation benefiting from the application of one or more of the 10 Principles of Open Business?
I'm looking for interview subjects to include in the book Jamie Burke and I are co-authoring on those principles (we have a delivery date of July 31 with publication early 2014).
To take part, please download, complete and return the questionnaire you'll find here ( or embedded below). Given our deadlines we're looking for responses as soon as you are able. A huge thank you to every one of you giving up your time to help in this - together we can change businesses and organisations for the better.

The questionnaire includes both a synopsis of the book and more definitions of the Principles.

As a reminder The 10 Principles are:

1. Purpose:
7. Open Data
8. Transparency
9. Member-Led
10. Trust

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Tesco must trust us if they want us to trust them

Tesco is right to start the communications rolling in the aftermath of Britain's horsemeat-in-beef-products scandal. Emails to every customer (that they have emails for - which is a lot, thanks to Clubcard) about the value of trust, promises made about rigorous testing (the stuff we had trusted they were doing anyway) and a commitment to a new website to share progress and outcomes is all great.

But the more exciting, and both business changing and business winning, idea contained in Tesco's new commitments is in the pledge to 'open up our supply chain'.

This not only brings them the benefits of applying some of the 10 Principles of Open Business, it also goes some way to enabling customers to get closer to the wizard, rather than the curtain - in other words, the source of the brand.

And IF they are wise and consistent in the application of Open Business, if they truly wish to become customer-led, then co-creating the fix to this problem with those for whom it is intended will become second nature.

That's the part I see missing from the Tesco plan right now. It feels like the customer is being treated as a receiver of outcome rather than a key stakeholder in the decision making process. CEO Phillip Clarke has told us what he is doing for us, but he hasn't asked us what we think the solutions are, what we think will rebuild trust.

Getting closer to the source is a critical part of that. Being part of steering how that is done is another.

Tesco must first learn to trust us if it wants us to trust it.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Customers want to get closer to the wizard, not the curtain

Image via
The kerfufle over horse meat being passed off as beef in a variety of processed foods in the UK will prove yet another driver towards market authenticity for consumers whose trust in the centre (media, politics, show biz heroes) is being eroded on a daily basis.
While brands try every trick to get closer to their customers (who doesn't want to be 'customer-centric'?), customers are demanding a closer relationship with the wizard behind the curtain of the brand.
They want to get ever closer to the source and are finding ways around the middle men to have their own more direct relationship with that source. I recently suggested the decline of the High Street could be traced to this, at least in part.

A brand is an illusion created by the source, the interpretation of the receiver and the interaction between the two and other receivers.

So what happens when you take the authenticity of the source away? It looks like Findus is about to find out. Because it has revealed it uses third party suppliers in a buck-passing exercise which I doubt will find favour with the British public. They've pulled back the curtain and revealed... nothing is there. The source is long gone.

Some brands exist as arbiters of quality - curators. M&S is a good example. Distributed source - in which the curtain is everything.
But most brand illusions are at risk of disappearing as consumers become more and more savvy about pulling back the curtain and more and more demanding about having a direct relationship with what is behind.

Which takes us back to horse meat. Worries about what enters your food chain should have been quoshed by brands we can rely on (alongside governance regimes we expect to protect us). Both have failed us.
Fixing this requires radical action. As radical as the action that saw the beginnings of the co-operative movement in the dark days of the industrial revolution.

The co-op was founded, fundamentally, to give the working people of Britain a source of food they could rely upon to be unadulterated. In these times flour was often cut with chalk, for example - beer watered down., and much worse that would make horse meat in your lasagne look heaven sent. Yes there were political motivations - but food safety was paramount.

You could trust your co-operative for this as much because the customers were often the same people who grew the food, who processed the food and sold the food. At the very least they would have known people involved. They were local.

Today the co-op owns more farm land in the UK than anyone else. One simple (but big) way to reconnect and to rebuild that trust would be to place its 'out of town' stores on those farms and build farming and processing experiences around them.

It would be one clear example of a brand lifting the curtain, allowing its customers to get closer to its source.

Our trust in one another needs to be rebuilt. And that starts at the source.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Farewell 90:10 hello The Social Partners

I've never learned so much as I have learned in the last four years of my life. When Jamie Burke and I founded 90:10 Group we made it our business to drive transformation in organisations with the power of the new connectedness the social web had revealed.

We had to develop the market, create new terms of reference and rules of engagement, new job roles, new products and services, new ways of pitching for business, new ways of delivering the results.

And not just once. Constant reinvention and adaptation was the only response to a fast shifting landscape.
We grew fast. From 2 to 50+ employees in three years. Offices in the UK (we had to move three times in less than three years as the business expanded), France, Germany, Spain, Holland - and eventually into the Middle East in three cities. We were able to do so because we attracted £3.5m of revenue in consulting fees with clients from Tesco to Bupa, First Capital Connect to Citrix, Honda to Mastercard.

For more about the story of the business and Jamie's learnings from it, see Jamie's post here.

After a spectacular journey - more of the mission to the moon, than the roller coaster variety - I decided in September last year it was time for me to consider new roles. My tenure as Co-Founder and MD had lasted longer than any single role I have held as far as I can recall - a testament to the regular but inspiring challenges we faced and the continued stimulation that delivered.

I took a series of consulting gigs, developing social media strategy for two start-ups and one blue chip (I'm still working with the blue chip) between then and mid January this year. This gave me the space to think about what I value and the kind of people I want to work with.

That process ended when I reconnected with Ivan Palmer (who I have known for some many years), at The Social Partners. I'm settling in there now as Strategy Partner in Hatton Garden, London and the more I learn about the team and the scale of their ambition the more I am sure I have made the right decision.
Of course, we face daily challenges - but we do so armed with a collective wealth of experience and range of skills to which I can now add. If you'd like to add yours we do currently have vacancies.

The spirit of 90:10 continues through Open Business. 

Jamie and I (with contributions from many other 90:10 colleagues) developed The 10 Principles of Open Business through working at the chalk face of the social business and marketing space. We have codified and made this available to share. Read Jamie's blog for more on how we are making the IP available for all. Palgrave-Macmillan will be publishing our co-authored book on the subject in early 2014 (I have a July 2013 deadline for delivery). If your company has been an exemplar of any of the principles, I'd like to interview you for the book. Perhaps you can suggest someone I should speak to?

Finally, Jamie is continuing with 90:10 but taking it in a new direction. Rather than consulting to other businesses, his focus is shifting to creating start-ups based on The 10 Principles. Of course I wish him and the board every success with that. We remain very good friends.

I still believe there is much good and valuable work to be done with existing organisations, helping them learn from the world as it it to make them a better fit with it and a greater success in it. That's what's led me to The Social Partners.

And if you'd like to contact me there the easiest way is by email:

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?