Thursday, December 19, 2013

10 Principles of Open Business half price until December 31

In the last few weeks I've been putting the final touches to The 10 Principles of Open Business - re-reading for final changes, selecting back cover quotes etc. 
I'm pleased to say it should be going to print any day now - ready for its launch date: Jan 28, 2014. (Feb 28 in the US. 
I've heard from a number of bloggers  offering to review - which is very kind and copies will go out to a handful in the New Year. 
In the meantime you can, until December 31, 2013, order your copy at 50% off*.
UPDATE: This offer is NOT meant to be available on books which are not yet published but in the case of The 10 Principles the publishers have agreed to offer the discount in advance of publication.

  • To get yours email 

  • Mark your email for the attention of Vince
  • Make sure you tell him its The 10 Principles of Open Business you'd like to buy.
  • Vince will email you back offering the option of a form for you to complete or a phone call (during office hours) to take your order.
  • You must quote FESTIVE 13 for the 50% discount to be applied.
  • If you email before December 31 Palgrave Macmillan will honour the deal - even if your call to place the order happens in the first week of January.
My apologies to those of you who have tried to purchase this from the PM website and found the discount code did not work - we now know why.

*The discounted price is available to individuals only. This offer is not available to trade and library customers. Orders must be placed direct with Palgrave Macmillan

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Brands can't live on a promise

Performance is essential in social media. Nothing moves in a peer-to-peer environment unless a behaviour is impacted.

No matter what you may say your brand is - through deeply-thought positioning, emotionally charged TV advertising or carefully crafted copy, what your brand actually is, is what other people say it is.

And what other people say it is, is what people experience it is: How it performs and how they say it performs.

Image via
That's the message you'll find in Chapter 10 - Trust, in my forthcoming book (Palgrave-Macmillan, January 2014) -The 10 Principles of Open Business.

It's the same position arrived at by Google and Brian Solis in their work on The Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) and - more recently - Brian's Ultimate Moment of Truth (UMOT).

ZMOT asserts we start our path to purchase in our perception of the expression of experience of others in our social circle. We hear good things. We hear bad things. We act accordingly.

Our own research (at The Social Partners) supports the idea that social media (which can almost wholly be defined as the expression of shared experience by our peers and people like us, as viewed from a variety of individual perspectives ) is THE place we turn to for evidence of performance: Advertising makes the promise, social delivers the truth.

Brian's UMOT is a neat expression of a concept I have been applying to my own work in social media strategy:  Building trust through performance at the level of the one-to-one relationship.

Since the brand is what people say it is, having experienced it, how do we encourage people to express their joy? What we do know is that people don't express their meh! So-so performance, mediocrity, blandness - of these we have nothing to report to our peers through social. The technical barrier remains that little bit too high. We don't tweet 'coffee in Starbucks was, you know, ok '. We do tweet 'awesome service in Starbucks today' or 'Starbucks was super sucky this morning'.

We go to the effort to report the out-of-the-ordinary, not (yet) the ordinary.

Brian's response is to encourage expression (reporting the out-of-the-ordinary) we must engage them - by which he means do something to make them love you (and that is most assuredly NOT clicking the Like button or browsing over your centre-out messaging content).

My own work in relationship marketing suggests similar (indeed the whole concept of Open Business shared in The 10 Principles of Open Business is about taking customer engagement to a whole new level by making partners of customers in everything you do).

Engagement, Brian argues, is about emotion.

Again, agreed. And here's the thing to guard against: Social Media is not good at broadcasting emotion - just as it can't broadcast trust.
Emotion resides in the individual and in their interaction with their peers.  Winding up a John Lewis Christmas TV ad and setting it off among your targets won't do the job.

You have to provide the out-of-the-ordinary. You have to build trust in your performance, You have to build the relationships, one person at a time.

This may sound expensive but we are already finding methodologies to track the effectiveness of this over-
delivery, of how far and for how long the emotional impact of feeling a little bit of love resonates.
My belief - one for which I am busy gathering evidence (and there are many anecdotal examples) is that being 'insanely great', as Steve Jobs put it, pays massive dividends.

At the end of the day since the aggregate output of what other people say is what your brand is, then this is where you should be focusing your  brand budget.

All the rest is just a promise.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Twitter: Where investors can have their cake and eat it

Image courtesy:
Things I wish I'd done... registered for the Twitter IPO. I took interest far too late. By the time I was ready to put my money where my mouth was I discovered I needed to jump through some hurdles (filling forms, sending them to a postal address etc) to be allowed to trade in US shares.
Oh well. Yesterday (before the float) I thought they'd rise about 15-20% on day one (I was guestimating they'd hit $30 to anyone who'd listen).
As it happens twitter went ballistic - up 93% on the day. I expect a lot of profit taking over the next few days as the market takes stock of that.
For the record - I warned against investing in the Facebook IPO at the time.
Personal investors in Twitter would be wise taking enough profit to cover what they've paid - and perhaps leaving the rest in for the journey. Essentially you get to have your cake and eat it too.
And it looks like it's going to be some journey - there are more than 200 new jobs being advertised by Twitter on right now - more than a dozen in London. From what I recall of the size of the London office, they're going to have to find new premises. Scale that around the world and you can see this is going to be an exciting few months for twitter.
It's rather wonderful that a company that describes itself as operating at the 'extreme of the open wing of the open party' is finding a very significant place in the world.
For why I think Twitter is worth its IPO asking price (and a little bit more right now) take a look at the post I wrote here.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Customer collaboration shifting from products to business strategy

There are still those who think the customer is a thing to be done to. Then there are also those who think that if a customer is to be listened to at all it is only to take part in a vote on stuff you've already decided to make or do.

And there are others still who are Open Business enough to consider allowing customers to shape products and services. This is the staple of the open door social media offers to business.

But business strategy? Surely that's one step beyond.

No. Not for a vast chunk of CEOs at the  highest performing businesses.

IBM's Customer Activated Enterprize report reveals that: "More than half of CxOs expect to open up their enterprises – bringing down barriers to extend collaboration inside and outside. 

Their most radical shift may be a new view on what it means to collaborate with customers."

The report is the result of interviews with  4,000 CEOs, CMOs, CFOs, CIOs a similar leaders from 70 countries and across 20 industries.  It reveals 60 per cent of CEOs plan to directly engage their customers and proactively apply what they learn to set their business agendas in the next three to five years.

Already 43 percent of CEOs include customers in the development of business strategies. 

And it's not just any old companies. IBM says there is a key correlation between the companies that succeed and their levels of external collaboration. Outperforming companies are 54 percent more likely to collaborate extensively with customers.

IBM's own story of collaboration features in my book, The 10 Principles of Open Business, available for pre-order today.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Video: How Open Business is shaping the 21st Century Org

If you couldn't make it in person, and were tied up while it was broadcast, yesterday's panel 'Open Business - 21st Century Organisations' is now archived and ready to watch at your leisure.
I do a short intro and then fire the questions at a stellar line-up:

Mark Earls (Author of  Herd: How to Change Mass Behaviour by Harnessing Our True Nature, I'll Have What She's Having, and Welcome to the Creative Age – Bananas, Business and the Death of Marketing). Mark is also winner of an Emerald Insights Award and a significant contributor to the chapter on Purpose in The 10 Principles of Open Business,
Andrew Hill: Associate Editor and Management Editor of the Financial Times.
Dave Coplin (Author of business bestseller “Business Reimagined: Why work isn’t working and what you can do about it” also joins us. He is Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft & The Envisioners).
Chris Hirst, CEO of Grey (London) Since his appointment as CEO in Jan 2010 Grey London has been the fastest growing large agency in London driven through significant new business success, strong organic growth and acquisition. Grey (London)'s success is built on Open Culture.
Dorothy Mead (Commerce innovator. Head of Marketing at Blur Group)

I've also been urging people to take a look at the result of latest research commissioned by The Social Partners (where I work). The video below has founder Ivan Palmer taking us through them.
Highly recommended particularly if you're ready to start making your social marketing something ROI can really be comfortable with.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

If you can't be at our Open Business panel - watch here live

I'm hoping I will see many of the regular readers of this blog at one or more of the events I'm involved with for Social Media Week London - kicking off on Monday (September 23).
For details of all The Social Partners events (all at The Johnson Building, 77 Hatton Garden, London) follow this link
On it you'll find descriptions of each of our events along with availability. And if you find a sell-out (and there aren't many seats left for any of the events now) you'll note a little video camera icon against the events on Monday. That's because they will all be live-streamed.
These include my panel on Open Business with its all-star line-up (I'm not kidding, go take a look) and the premier of the results of in-depth research on the impact of social and digital on WOM and emerging behaviours,'Big Conversationalists'.
So if you can't be there in person, join us by the flickering light of your PC.

You can watch the Open Business Panel right here:

Monday, September 16, 2013

The final cover for The 10 Principles of Open Business (probably)

Got a new update of the cover of the book today, after a final round of feedback to the designer (via the publisher).
It's considerably cleaner than previous iterations (some of which I'll share below)
Version 4: Cleaner and brighter?
I'd be delighted to hear what you think of it - and particularly if you think we've ended up with the right version.

Version 3: Lighter background

Version 2 - with some 'web' turquoise
Version 1: Neon Night

Friday, September 06, 2013

10 Principles of Open Business in top 1 per cent on Amazon already

I was so taken by surprise by the Amazon ranking for the 10 Principles of Open Business that I had to take a screen grab.
I know these things can vary wildy but with a ranking of sub 50,000 that places it in (at least) Amazon's highest 1 per cent of performers (given that there are at least 5 million books on sale on Amazon by most estimates. If you know of a more accurate figure I'd be delighted to hear from you.)
Since it's not actually out until early next year and there's been zero marketing for it I've got to say a huge thank you to all of you who may have made an advance purchase already to make that happen.
A couple of other quick updates about the book - we're in the midst of getting a few tweaks done to the front cover (see previous post) which will make the background closer to pure white and reduce the range of pallete. Should clean it up a little.
The other thing is the updated 'blurb' and contents list is ready to roll and should start propogating across the publishers' site (Pagrave-Macmillan) and shortly after on Amazon, soon.
The price is now going to be officially £19.99. Right now (as of lunch time on September 6, 2013) you can pre-order it for £14.10 on Amazon. So, er, pile in. No one seems to know why or for how long or how much discount Amazon will apply. I'm enjoying this journey of discovery.
Other good news for the book comes in the form of some very kind supporting words from some amazing people which are likely to adorn the back cover.
So far I've been lucky enough to receive the following for use on the book (these are but snippets):

  • The concept of (an) open business isn't a fad, it's a long-term business philosophy to connect with connected customers and employees and ultimately survive Digital Darwinism - Brian Solis
  •  ...You'd be mad not to take the ideas in this book seriously - Euan Semple
  • Cushman is an inspiring guide… this is a book that anyone concerned with the future of their organization and their career should read. - Stephen Waddington
I'm hoping Chris Brogan will be coming back to me with his thoughts this week and Seth Godin is currently giving it a read with a view to offering his take, too. And you have no idea how much I appreciate each and every comment.

By the way - there are still places left to attend the Social Media Week London panel on Open Business which I'm chairing. I'm hosting a great line-up of folk. See here for more.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sneak preview: 10 Principles of Open Business cover design

You'll need to visit Amazon to look inside...
Here's a first look at the final draft of the cover of The 10 Principles of Open Business.

Hope you like it. I'm interested in hearing all feedback though, of course.

The book is already available to pre-order on Amazon.
It may take a few days before the cover will be added there.
It is officially released on January 28 in the UK and a month later in the US.

We're running a panel on Open Business as part of Social Media Week (London) next month.

For more on that - and to book your place - please see here.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

SMW London: Open Business and the Future of Community

Fire up your diaries - Social Media Week London looms and with it three events I'm taking part in - and more that I'd like to recommend.

First, I'm chairing a panel on Open Business (which given the forthcoming book makes a lot of sense).

On the panel (which starts at 1pm on Monday, September 23 at The Johnson Building, Hatton Garden, London) are:
Mark Earls (Author of  Herd: How to Change Mass Behaviour by Harnessing Our True Nature, I'll Have What She's Having, and Welcome to the Creative Age – Bananas, Business and the Death of Marketing). Mark is also winner of an Emerald Insights Award and a significant contributor to the chapter on Purpose in The 10 Principles of Open Business,.
Dave Coplin (Author of business bestseller “Business Reimagined: Why work isn’t working and what you can do about it” also joins us. He is Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft & The Envisioners).
Grey (London) CEO Chris Hirst will be there, too (Since his appointment as CEO in Jan 2010 Grey London has been the fastest large agency in London driven through significant new business success, strong organic growth and acquisition. In addition to the core business, comprises four business units: GreyPossible, The Social Partners, Dialogue and GreyWorks. Grey (London) is built on Open Culture.
The line-up is completed by Dorothy Mead (Commerce innovator. Head of Marketing at Blur Group) and Stuart Harrison (The Open Data Institute). Grey (London), Blur Group and The Open Data Institute all feature in the book, I'm pleased to say.

UPDATE delighted to say Andrew Hill, Management and Associate Editor at the FT will also be joining this panel.

If you'd like to join us, follow this link. Entry is free.

I'm also joining two panels on The Future of Community which are on at 3.30pm on Tuesday September 24 and 1pm on the 25th. Both are at The Johnson Building on Hatten Garden.

To find out more about them and other events organised by The Social Partners for Social Media Week London, click here.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Why are so many culling their follow counts?

I thought it time to trim out the deadwood among those I follow on twitter today:: Those who have stopped tweeting, or who have shifted channel, or turned out not to be the interesting folk I thought they may be initially, etc.
image via
In the process I spotted a disturbing trend. Using one of the many twitter management tools I found several people who I follow and quite regularly engage with, who don't follow me.
I'm not talking about the 'too much attention to cope with' folk, the @stephenfrys  or @bbcbreakingnews of this world (for example), I'm talking more the moderately interesting or those who may have done a lot of conference speaking, or (heaven forfend, and trust me, I'm aware of the risk in every word of this, those who have puiblished a book). It's not that they aren't simply following me back (quelle domage), it's that they appear to be following almost nobody.
I mean if you are following sub 500 and your follower level is closer to 50,000, well something seems to have gone wrong there.
For a start, that doesn't happen organically. You take the decision to cull.
Some may do it for ego and aesthetic reasons - look at the ratio on that!
Most would wrap this in the reason of 'signal versus noise'.
Which is just so much bs unless you happen to be using twitter 24/7 and have text alerts pinging on your phone each time you get an @message. I need back up in case I miss the thing that's important to me being tweeted or retweeted. 3000 folk gives me that cover. Always has so far.
It also gives me diversity. If I don't open up to outliers, how will I see the extreme moments that often have the most impact on our world (the Black Swans for those of an Anti-fragile bent).
I've always tried to follow back pretty much everyone who follows me. But even  in this I have started to hit a limit. Mine is around 3000. If I start following more than that I go seeking to clear out some deadwood - the folk who are not, or hardly ever, contributing to my time line.
And this is where I find it odd that folk with big follower numbers to feed (for surely their's is a broadcaster-audience relationship) feel that they can learn enough about their world from following less than 500 folk to provide a credible curation.
I salute their ability to select. I salute their trust in those they choose. I salute the trust their audiences confer on them.
But I can't help thinking they are helping to accelerate Twitter towards being the place where broadcast and self-promotion dominates rather than a place where adhoc communities of purpose form to get things done (which remains its promise).
Culling those you follow is - in extremis - like limiting your view to that from a prison cell. Why volunteer for that?
I would be delighted to hear from people who have taken this radical approach (culling those they follow) to reduce their exposure to noise or for whatever reason they have, and how it'
s working for them.
But until I hear a very good case I'm going to stick with the theory that one extra node on your network doubles its value: and that this 2n proposition can only happen if the connection between nodes is two-way.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

It is done! My book is complete - and here's 20 per cent off

Last night, just before midnight, I hit a major milestone. I sent the manuscript for The 10 Principles of Open Business to the publishers.

We're still finalising the cover - though there is a draft in circulation. When I get an update I'll share it here to get your views. The preface is still to be done - but we've set a word count. Matt Atkinson, the CMO at Tesco PLC is planning to oblige. But that's pretty much all that's left.

I completed the last part of the last chapter late last night - after finally bagging an interview with Alan Rusbridger, the editor in chief at The Guardian, on the theme of open data and open journalism.

So, like all deadlines (mine was to deliver 60,000 words by July 31) there was a rush to the end. But the job got done.

Working on that chapter last night - which encompasses Open Data (with an interview with the CEO of Sir Tim Berners-Lee's Open Data Institute, Open Government (with an interview with Tom Watson MP) and Open Journalism (with Alan) allowed me to finish on a real high.

I'm really happy with the result.

It's been a long journey - not least the journey to formulating and formalising the 10 Principles in the first place - but also the actual process of writing the book.

Writing a compelling synopsis won us three keen potential publishers in the summer of 2012. At the time Jamie Burke (with whom I founded 90:10 Group where the principles were forged in the white heat of direct experience) and I were to be co-authors. Thanks to their enthusiasm and very complete international marketing plan for the book, we went with Palgrave Macmillan.

Our paths have taken us in different directions since. Jamie has founded a new business based on the principles and that left him with pretty much zero spare time.

I have stayed in consultancy - with The Social Partners - and have had to use pretty much every day off, weekend, evening, train and plane journey in between to write, arrange, interview, transcribe, edit, seek permissions, chase, herd cats etc.

Now that it's done I can reflect on how lucky I've been: Lucky to meet and connect with amazing people over many years as the ideas behind the principles were shared, challenged and gelled; lucky to be granted access to so many brilliant and usually extremely busy people; lucky to have worked with both colleagues and clients with imagination and belief; lucky to have so many great connections prepared to take a look at early drafts for me.

I really hope I've done you all justice.

The book is due out in January next year in the UK and February in the US.

I will be chairing a panel on Open Business during Social Media Week London in September with some of the contributors on the panel, so please keep an eye out for that.

And for a limited period there is a 20% discount available on the book if you use the following link (note the blurb you will find there is a little out of date. For a full and up to date contents list go here:

To get the discount, go here: and quote "WORLDPALGRAVE20"

Second Update: I've just tested this myself and it worked (Aug 1, 4pm BST)

UPDATE: One kind early adopter has reported this route is failing for them. I have raised with the publisher and hope for a very swift resolution.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Expectation and reality

I spoke with my publisher this morning about (among other things) the cover of my next book: The 10 Principles of Open Business.
I've seen a draft cover - which I had no input into - and in the next day or two I'm going to share it with you for your thoughts.

But before we get to that, I wonder what your pre-conceptions might be? The book's full title is The 10 Principles of Open Business - Building Success in Today's Open Economy.

What would expect the cover to look like, what kinds of colours, fonts, imagery. What wouldn't you expect, what should it avoid?

I'd be really pleased to hear any thoughts formed before you see even a draft. (Post them below or tweet them @davidcushman #10OBCover or email the address found on the full-web version of my blog.

Many thanks

Sunday, July 21, 2013

My new book available for pre-order now

My new book, The 10 Principles of Open Business (Building Success in Today's Open Economy) is almost complete.

I finished off the final chapter today. I have one extra piece I'd like to add should Alan Rusbridger (Editor in Chief at The Guardian) find himself with the spare moment he's been seeking for months, in time for my July 31 deadline. I know Alan is keen to be included - we have a chapter on Open Data which suits his story very well. (UPDATE: Alan did indeed make the final deadline I'm pleased to say).

The preface is yet to be written - which Matt Atkinson, the CMO at Tesco PLC has kindly agreed to do.

It has taken pretty much all of my spare time for the last nine months or more. But, I am excited to say, it's almost there, does what I set out to achieve and is now available for pre-order on Amazon, I believe the launch date in the UK is the end of January 2014 with the US launch following toward the end of February.

The first edition is hardback. There is a small discount to be had from ordering in advance which I urge you to take advantage of (Update: No longer available as of August 19, 2013, but you will find other discounts available on this blog)..

When I last looked on Amazon the cover hadn't been added yet, and the about the author part was a bit out of date (which I'm in the process of getting updated).

So what is the book about? The 10 Principles of Open Business, of course.

Here's the draft contents list:

i Starting from a different place
ii Defining Open Business and its Benefits
iii Tesco PLC – An Open Business
The Principles
Chapter 1: Purpose
Chapter 2: Open Capital
Chapter 3: The Networked Organisation
Chapter 4. Sharability
Chapter 5. Connectedness
Chapter 6. Open Innovation
Chapter 7. Open Data
Chaper 8. Transparency
Chapter 9. Open Data (Open Journalism and Open Government)
Chapter 10. Trust
Summary and Next Steps
About the author


It includes interviews with examplars including MP and former defence and cabinet minister Tom Watson, the CMO of Tesco PLC Matt Atkinson, Mark 'Herdmeister' Earls, the FT's Associate Editor Andrew Hill, The Guardian's Editor in Chief Alan Rusbridger, CEO of GrowVC Jouko Ahveneinen, CEO of NearDesk Tom Ball, CEO of Blur Group Phillip Letts, Collaboration Strategist at Fluor Jeff Hester, IBM VP Carol Smillic, CEO of giffgaff Mike Fairman, CEO of the Open Data Institute Gavin Starks, CEO of Fairphone Bas Van Abel, CEO of Paperight Arthur Atwell, CEO of Anglia Regional Co-op John Chillcott, President of Avis Budget Group EMEA Larry De Shon and SVP Gina Bruzzichesi, CEO of Grey (London) Chris Hirst and Founder of The Social Partners (yep, my lot) Ivan Palmer.

Each makes a fabulous contribution to shaping the story of the book.

In the coming weeks I'll be able to share a little more.

In the meantime, my apologies for prolonged absence from blogging. I am now back.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Big Data: 98 per cent as good as gut feel

The Human Face of Big Data.Via Brian's Books
Not so long ago I was given a demonstration of a very clever bit of kit to analyse big data. By gathering evidence about your expressed preferences shared through social media it could make predictions about the preferences you don't articulate.

Scary clever.

The person presenting proudly told us how their analysis had identified the right kind of music to attract the target market to a new energy drink.
Let's say they picked Artist X as the ideal brand amabassador.

Funnily enough, Artist X was exactly the person the product's brand manager had come up with from their own 'analysis'. I'm sure they had some evidence. Some charts with brand positions. Some brand truths. All that malarky. But they had much more. They had stuff no one had written down, no one could easily define. They had what they felt.

And where was all this processed? In the 'gut' of the brand manager - someone living and breathing and believing the brand.

The vendors of the clever big data cruncher marvelled at how Artist X could be proven to be a 98% fit with the requirements of the brand.

I fear they may be wrong.

I suspect the brand manager was 100% right and that the dimensions of data captured by the tool has gaps - gaps that only guts can currently fill.

You process big data every day - with staggering accuracy. When you drive a car or walk along a crowded street you are processing huge amounts of information and making decisions on it. In real time. If only big data could do that? It's getting better. Our weather forecasts are one example. But it's not 100%. There's still room for your gut - and it's important room.

One final example. When I started out as a local newspaper man, my first sub-editing job was to go through what were called the village columns. We'd call it user generated content today. Reports from local correspondents of village fetes, whist-drives, bowls matches, bring and buys, church services - that kind of micro-local news. It was mostly hand-written (semi-scrawled) and often on unlined paper. And it was my task to correct, amend, headline, and guestimate. I'd mark it all up with instructions for the guys who would set the pages (using ems and picas, font names and point sizes).

And then I'd have to estimate how much I needed to cut or add, what depth I should set images to (for example) to fill the number of pages I had been allocated, accounting for the adverts booked on them. It was a task that was not unlike estimating the number of individual straws in a decent sized haystack.
Yet, within a few weeks, I could mark up all that separate, different-looking, miscellaneous copy and have the output fit within 5 or 6cms of the final column each week. All done without the aid of any big data analysis.

Big data has a hugely important role for organisations (and for governments) moving forward. Who controls it and to what ends it is used will occupy us for years to come. But throughout that process let's not forget the extra value that something human adds.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Don't let Prism wreck the network - it belongs to you

The row over the ultimate data hoover that is Prism (catch up here with a quick guide of what it is and how legal or otherwise it may be) is, as usual, being characterised as a two-sided affair with battle lines drawn.
On one side we have our Governments - those who would protect us from whatever it is we are expected to live in terror of right now.
On the other are those who feel invaded and violated - that their data is the representation of their sovereign self - the protectors of our privacy.
Now, I'm not too concerned about the privacy thing.
I wrote in 2010:
"Privacy seeks to obscure truth. Often to an individual's personal benefit. Perhaps we are just going to have to get used to living in a state of truth - with the wider - by necessity less personal - benefits that may offer." (... the impact of an information revolution on privacy)
I've long argued that privacy is a relatively new and less-than-normal state for humankind. It's something that emerged when we started sleeping in separate rooms away from the cattle - around about the invention of the fireplace and chimney (read Bill Bryson At Home - A short History of Private Life - for more on that. It's a concept that is only some 500-600 years old. Culturally significant but in no way some kind of human need or even desire.
And I'm not big on kow-towing to terror either. Neither argument does it for me.
What I'm really concerned about in the Prism affair is that the fear of sharing it could generate could deliver a blow to the self-organising, open future we are on course for.
To self organise (the single biggest disruption to the centrally-organised status quo) we must express our meta data. That is, we must share what we think, as widely with each other, as often as possible. This is ultimately how we find each other at time of greatest need - how we find people who are seeking to solve the same problem as we are - right now.
One extra node on your network doubles its value - as I'm keen on repeating. We add each other through discovery.
So, if there's any conspiracy theory at play here that could cause us a collective problem, it's the one that's making you think twice about sharing, the one making you consider disconnecting and stopping sharing.
The centre would love that.
Stand firm. The network needs you.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Crowd ready to disrupt the law

In the Autumn of last year I got my first look at a project called Lawbit. In fact I spent a few days consulting to founder Clive Rich on how best to social market it.

I'm delighted to say Clive has turned to Open Capital (crowd funding) to accelerate the project now.

To my mind its one of the most effective ways of marketing a start-up.  Everyone who contributes becomes an advocate. Everyone becomes a part of Clive's team.

I'll let Clive make the pitch himself. He's excellent at the art of persuasion. In fact he's just published The Yes Book (you'll find it on Amazon)...

As you may know, I recently launched LawBit - - an online legal service which provides "simple contracts for small companies". On its launch date in December it was identified by David Cameron as an up and coming service to watch in London’s Tech City. You can read more about LawBit and watch a short introduction video here;

There are 4.5 million small companies in the UK alone, spending £10 billion per year on legal services, so this is not a small target. LawBit is also scalable internationally. Although there are other online legal offerings, none has LawBit's combination of plain English documents, affordability and functionality. 

LawBit has currently raised £210,000 for the development of marketing and additional client features and is seeking a further £150,000 on crowd funding platform “Crowdcube” to close this round - Crowdcube is a very successful fully regulated investment platform which enables non-professional investors to invest in companies in return for shares. Investments range from a few hundred pounds to some thousands – no amount is too small or too big. 

LawBit’s pitch is now available on Crowdcube here; and I wanted to ask if you would be prepared to pass this note on to anybody who you think might be interested in investing. Of course if you are interested in investing yourself via Crowdcube I would be absolutely delighted for you to be a shareholder and please let me know if you want to discuss the proposition. 

You may also be interested in trying out our initial offering to the first 2,000 customers – access to all LawBit contracts and tools for a year for a subscription of just £79. You can find out more about that here;

If you are interested in signing up for this offer, it would help our marketing endeavours and reporting if you followed the link here

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Concepts Are King

The phrase 'Content is King' has a long history. Its origination is usually ascribed to one Bill Gates from a 1996 article. Smart dude.

But I suspect it goes back rather longer. Those of us with a traditional media background always knew it was the content people bought our stuff for, for example.

Then there was the build - that not Content, but Conversation is King. Cory Doctorow memorably put it that "Conversation is King... Content is just something to talk about."

Content is pointless without conversation. Conversation needs 'something to talk about'.
Neither is king. It's the interaction of people and ideas that drives us to action. The web has lowered the barrier for millions to interact with ideas.

And no one is describing what they are interacting with as 'content'. In fact 'content' has some rather unhelpful connotations in the context of what the web is best at enabling - ie adhoc self-forming groups of purpose.

Content implies constraint; An idea boxed and kept within - a thing inside with limitations.
This isn't how people behave with ideas. We take, shape, add, delete, remodel - hack ideas in our every interaction. And the web is a splendid evolutionary environment for them.

So I'm going to suggest Concepts Are King is a better 'catch-all' for what is really important in connecting folk. I can take your boxed up piece of content and share it, of course. That's old-style viral. Pass it on unmolestered. Don't expect evolution.

Or I can connect with and play with a concept. We can.

And in so doing we add value - not mere distribution.

Image attribution: By Enoch Lau (Own work (photo)) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, April 12, 2013

Thatcher's legacy? Getting away with it is not a strategy

Had the Labour Government that preceded Margaret Thatcher’s first election win had access to accurate data they would never have needed to go cap in hand to the IMF, to devalue the pound and accept swingeing cuts demanded of them for getting the loan. They were operating on a false premise – that the economy was in a far more parlous state than it actually was. This miscalculation changed the way Britain was governed

Mrs Thatcher was lucky. She got away with it.

Had a few more Argentine bombs been correctly fused, a few more Exocet missiles supplied, a few less brave men acted a little less heroicly, The US been less generous with its clandestine support, Britain would have slumped to ignoble defeat in The Falklands. It was very touch and go.

Mrs Thatcher was lucky. She got away with it.

Had the technology and the will to access and surface Britain’s biggest ever bag of gold – black gold from the North Sea – not coincided with her Premiership  she would not have been able to tilt the electoral playing field with the massive privatisation share price give-away that the oil funded, or the cut-price transfer of council housing to private ownership that followed.

Many got lucky, cashed in, took the money and ran. And thought they’d got away with it.

But far from her dream of giving more people a stake in a capitalist economy, she’d succeeded only in creating a society ever more fixated on and dominated by consumerism. Mrs T thought we aspired to prudent stewardship through ownership - but what she actually created were the conditions for rampant consumerism.

Still she believed she was right – and kept ploughing on with unpopular cut after unpopular policy because..? She kept on getting away with it.

What did we learn? Belief is important. But in the end it won’t out run the truth.

Getting away with it is not a strategy. Lucky generals don’t always win.

Gather the evidence. Act on the data.
Make a better fit with reality.

I'm a big believer in belief - but never at the cost of reality.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

BT holds its hands up and pays out credits

In my previous post I shared how I felt BT had got their CRM badly wrong - making an offer to current customers it then appeared reneged on. You can read the whole sorry saga here.

The very encouraging news is that after making my feelings known via twitter and blog, BT admitted it had got it wrong, said sorry, and has been brilliant at putting things right.

And for this we should heap praise. I publish this today to thank them for that - and to make sure others who received the same misleading mail-shot are empowered to benefit as I have.

Here's what BT had to say:
Having now looked into this matter in detail, I can confirm that we had two different direct mailings (DM) for Essential Extra [The extra channels and HD deal the letters promoted]. One of which was aimed at customers on our “free Vision Essential for one year” offer, and the other at customer paying the standard £5 a month for their Vision Essential subscription. 
We had an error on our mailing system that meant the latter group of customers were incorrectly sent the DM containing the claims “from just £2 more a month” and “£2 extra on top of your current TV subscription”. 
We appreciate that the overall impression of this mailing was therefore misleading for customers who are not currently paying for their Vision subscription. Please accept this letter as a sincere apology for our mistake. 
It is of the upmost importance to BT that we are clear and honest with our customers and to ensure that they are not misled by either marketing or customer service communications. We are in the process of reviewing how we target marketing communications to ensure that errors like this don’t happen again. 
We will of course honour this price point and arrange a bill credit of £60 should you sign up for Essential Extra (this being the difference of £5 per month, over the 12 month minimum term). You will therefore pay just £2 more a month, as was stated in the mailing you received. 
If you would like to go ahead with Essential Extra please let me know and I can place the order and arrange the credit for you. I hope you find this satisfactory but if you require any more help or information, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

And I have done - and the customer service team have been excellent at making sure everything has happened as it should have done.

Neil O'Shea and Colleen McElhatton from the BT Social Media Team deserve particular praise.So well done BT - it's great to hear you are reviewing how you target.

Other companies would do well to take note - getting your CRM wrong can not only annoy customers - it can end up adding hefty costs.

I've no idea how many more people will now be able to claim a £60 credit - but I'm guessing it'll be rather more than a handful.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Hello BT! The cost of decent CRM versus the CPA of customers

As requested by @BTCare via twitter... I've used their email contact form to expand on the complaint I've made via phone and tweets.
I had to resort to my PC to do this because the link supplied by BTCare for me to detail all of this didn't open properly on an iPad or iPhone. Think about that for a moment BT. If it had, I wouldn't have written the following on a PC - so almost certainly wouldn't have bothered blogging it. Oh dear. Lesson learned?

Anyway - quick bit of background. I upgraded my broadband to 30+ meg last year and, as part of the deal, got a BT Vision Box. My Freeview recorder had just packed up so I thought, why not? Even though it didn't deliver Freeview HD (which the receiver on my TV does, it's an internet TV with IPlayer and all that good stuff). BT Vision was included in the deal. Services (usually £5 a month) free for year one.

I was told HD was coming soon. Fair enough... I'd sit it out. Then I got a letter offering me a load of new channels... and HD - for an extra £2. I liked the look of the extra channels so rang and tried to get the deal.

Not available for me (so why send it to me?) - I'd have to take out a new contract and pay £7 a month more than I currently do.


So... Here's what I sent them. (I like to blog these things for the record since I absolutely hate email 'forms' which have an alarming tendency to crash and leave the consumer with no record of the email being sent) 

I'm annoyed.
I received a letter offering to upgrade my BT Vision service (which is part of a broadband deal I changed to in the latter part of last year).
The letter offered new channels + upgrading terrestrial channels to HD (which I can get free through my TV's freeview receiver anyway).
I was told when taking out the contract HD would be following soon (I could therefore bear losing it via your box in the meantime). As you will be aware, running additional receivers through the same tv is complex so it's an either or decision.
Now it appears that my 'free' year one provision of BT Vision must terminate if I want HD and a new contract at £7 a month begun.
Issues 1: Either my first year was free or it wasn't.
Issue 2: Either the upgrade is £2 or it isn't.
Issue 3. I don't believe your CRM is so poor that you can't differentiate between your offerings to customers.
I called BT Vision and have now initiated a complaint.
This is your error, you shouldn't contact consumers on a one year free intro deal with an offer of a £2 upgrade if it actually isn't available.
You also shouldn't be charging for HD for terrestrial channels with a straight face - since that is available via freeview and similar set set boxes at no charge.
My expectations: Now you've got yourselves into this mess you should honour the offer you have made - I find the package (including HD) reasonable at £2 a month and will pay that.
And you should do so not just for me, you should do so for everyone you have made the offer to who is in a similar position. Your error - you fix it.
Failing this I will happily go back to freeview, acquire my broadband at exactly the same speed through rival suppliers and consider terminating my lengthy and costly and almost never used landline service.
I hope you will regard my long and valuable custom (MUST BE 25 YEAR PLUS BTW) somewhat higher than the continued (no change to your budgets) £5 a month discount you include in our current contract. 
What exactly is your cost per acquisition of a customer? 
I look forward to hearing your response within 48 hours.
My enquiry reference number: 130323-006027

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:

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The web disintermediates. Retail is mediation.

Image courtesy The Drum
Retail is mediation.
Where-ever there is mediation there will be disruption. This is not just the lesson of an economic downturn - it is the structural reality of the networked world - of an Open Economy.
I write as I hear about Blockbuster hitting the great DVD eject button, just a day after HMV called in the receivers. Comet came crashing down just before Christmas, Jessops last week.
The analysts tell similar stories about HMV and Blockbuster - what they both trade in was more easily and cheaply available online.
The same is true of Comet and Jessops. Just because you can't download a washing machine (give it time as 3D printing ramps up) doesn't mean the web doesn't offer an easier trading environment.
So. The High Street is full of fail.
Except it isn't. Apple has the highest value retail floorspace in the world.
Reasons: 1 Products people really want.
We will happily swop good product for ease of trading. Think of Marks & Spencers in its heyday. It was incredibly difficult to trade with. Out of stock in the food stores by a Saturday lunch time and refusing to take credit cards. The products made this acceptable.
Reasons 2 An understanding that the experience is as important as the product.
Apple's stores re-invented the shopping experience. Or perhaps they just learned from a quality car show room. They elevated the products, put them in their best light and let you test drive them (ask a car dealer how much more likely someone is to buy if you can get their butt on the drivers' seat).

If you have products worth celebrating and provide the setting for experiencing those products then you have  an opportunity. You have earned the right to be the mediator.

If you don't then expect users to find ways around you, to go more and more directly.
If you are in the middle, unless you are adding value, they want you out of the way.

They are on a journey in pursuit of connection with the makers - something the blandness of the supermarket experience makes attempts to layer on (pictures of farmers on packaging spring to mind) but would much rather massage out. The web disintermediates - and retail is mediation.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Welcome to the Open Business mission

I was delighted to discover that Luis Suarez (@elsua on twitter) long time social blogger, famed for his attempts to banish email and for his KM work with IBM, has committed 100% to the Open Business cause.
His blogpost yesterday comes at the end of a series on social business/enterprise and concludes that it's time to move on, to lose the 'social' and to celebrate the Open.
Luis Suarez: Inspiring Open Business
I remember when back in the day, nearly 10 years ago, when I first started blogging, both internally and externally (Nearly 8 years ago for the latter), one of the themes I decided to go for as its own category was Social Computing, then Social Networking. From there onwards Enterprise 2.0, followed by the Social Enterprise and, lately, Social Business. That was all part of what I felt was the evolution of social networking in a corporate environment. Well, as of today, and while I move on shifting my focus into that where to next … I have created a couple of new categories. One of them is just a renaming activity from a previous one. The other is an entirely new category that I will be using to post articles on that particular topic from here onwards. It will also mean how, after 6 years, I’m starting to sense it’s time to move on from those fully loaded monikers of Social Enterprise or Social Business, since, you know, they eventually mean something completely different altogether and it’s probably a good thing to move on anyway.
That’s why Social Enterprise / Social Business from here onwards, for yours truly, are going to beOpen Business, following further up the superb piece of work that David Cushman did in setting up the stage of what Open Business is all about during the course of last few months. You may want to go ahead and start reading “The 10 Principles of Open Business“, or “Introducing Open Business“, or perhaps check out the Open Business Council to find out more about it and you will see how for a good number of years this blog has been permeating through plenty of the vision David shared across with that new concept of how businesses should operate. I know it’s not new, for sure, I mean, openness has been there all along, but if you read further into the principles that David shared across about this topic you would see how we still need to do plenty of work about it. And that’s essentially what I am planning on doing from here onwards.
I'm flattered that my work on Open Business (with Jamie Burke) has inspired you Luis. Inspiring Open is core to how I work.

If anyone would like to catch up on the 10 Principles of Open Business (a book on which is coming soon), start here.

But please also go and take a look at Luis' blogpost, and those leading up to it - join in shaping what Open Business can become.

I wonder if he can inspire IBM to make the leap from social to open business, too...

Monday, January 07, 2013

The dash from convergence and how the web can save us if we choose

I wonder if the proliferation of devices we are experiencing give us a hint about what will happen to the web?
A few years back – when the first smart phones were making inroads, when the first all-you-can-eat mobile data deals were laid before a hungry audience, then it seemed to make perfect sense that convergence would arrive via the device.

Hell, I have a phone that can take picture, tell the time, calculate, run my diary... open documents, access my email, access the internet, play games and music, play video, show broadcast tv etc etc. Why wouldn’t we think one device could do it all?

And here I am packing a few items for some days away on business and finding it essential that I load up with a laptop, ipad, kindle fire AND iphone (4S)...
Little sign of convergence here. And I’ve never given up on wearing a watch either.

But platforms? Despite the vast variety of opportunity, there are only ever a handful of giants. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, for example

All start off with relatively focused aims. But over time they bloat – copying the ideas of others, assuming that the battle is on for the one social home we will become and remain loyal to.

But the more they bloat, the more we see the value in the specific, the more we spill out into those with greater focus on specific needs – the Pinterests, Instagrams, 4Squares of this world – and the thousands more behind them in the long tail.

I wonder if, given just a little more bloating from the big boys, we may rediscover the self-forming-group value of the web – that we need less direction and guidelines from those who would be our internet, and more purpose from ourselves to make our connectedness count.

The dash from convergence in devices may be yet another indicator that we are more comfortable with complexity than the reductionists would have us believe, that we value niche over lowest common denominator in a very powerful way.

And that’s a good thing – because it’s a much better match with the infinite variety of adhoc self-forming groups the web is built to enable.

The web is our salvation from the bland, from the mass, from the uniform. If we want it to be.

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?