Euler Partners getting co-operative to build ‘tech we trust’

We help organizations work better. It’s not often however we get the opportunity to work with a blank page. In theory, a blank page should be a wondrous thing – no intertia, no existing culture, no change, just fresh thinking, fresh design, and fresh execution. I emphasise should be, although we are intent on creating something special so we’re hardly taking it easy.

The opportunity is too fascinating (and necessary) to pass up, even if it’s not a paying gig. Let me explain.

As I wrote in Attenzi (chapter 35), branding has come a long way since it originally meant burning one’s mark onto livestock to assert ownership. It’s even moving beyond its 20th Century function of quality (re)assurance. Whereas during the best part of the 20th Century quality was a differentiator, it is now a qualifier. The discerning customer can now look beyond the immediacy of the product or service they’re consuming. They can and do ask: “Do I like this company’s attitude towards the environment / sourcing / equal opportunities / etc.?” And: “What’s their wider contribution to society?”

In other words:

Pantheon, Rome

Data constipation. Data liberation. Data science.

I’m writing this post during a week of workshops focused on liberating data, getting disparate petabytes of the stuff flowing and combining to inform decision making, inspire innovation, and enhance responsiveness. Braintribe redefines how we wield enterprise data to competitive advantage.

For any reader familiar with the advantages of Gartner’s bimodal approach, we’re effectively developing the membrane between modes 1 and 2, between the safe, monolithic, legacy systems, and the agile, explorative, and dynamic business reality. In our enthusiam, a colleague commented:

I love data science!

… just the perfect provocation for a short blog post.

Morning fog in Dubai – picjumbo

How astute are smart cities? Reimagining municipal infrastructure in our digital world

Are legacy governance structures able to produce the results smart cities promise? Christina Bowen and Anish Mohammed elaborate on the future of smart cities and on how they might connect to the Blockchain and decentralized infrastructures.

Cities provide infrastructure and governance to allow millions of people within a specific geographic area to live and work within a multitude of coordinated, civilized patterns. People and things need to move in, out and within the city.  Water needs to arrive; garbage and sewage must go away.  Communications must occur at the right time and reach the right people. Energy must be delivered when and where it is needed, and in a form capable of doing the work being demanded of it.  All this must happen with the minimum possible waste and harmful effects on the environment.  And it must happen safely, at a reasonable price, and equitably.

Cities have striven to meet this challenge for centuries but the complexities that come with population size and diversity, as well as technological and economic change continue to up the ante.  As the UN World Urbanization Prospects report notes:

Over half the world’s population already lives in cities: by 2050, 66% of the world’s population are expected to live in urban areas, with nearly 90% of that increase in Asia and Africa.

Now, it appears possible that technology could serve as an opportunity as well as a challenge, making the job and outcomes of municipal design easier, not more complicated. How could this happen? What makes a city smart? How might our cities apply these new technologies in a way that increases our ability to solve today’s challenges together? And what does that mean for our everyday decisions?

Work IT: bring-you-and-your-own-everything

First published to Gigaom Research.

Cast your mind back a decade or more. Did you request specific hardware from your company’s IT team? If so, you started a trend that continues to play out to this day, and will continue to its logical and exciting conclusion.

You may or may not have been successful in your request given IT’s historic intransigence, but nowadays many of us expect to rock up to work with the laptop and tablet and smartphone of our choosing – often our own – and expect the IT team’s full accommodation.

We’re also bringing our own applications. Non-IT staff have adopted software-as-a-service without necessarily going through their IT colleagues. Yammer, Trello and Slack for example. Perhaps Google Docs crept in without organization-wide adoption of Google for Work. Meeting schedulers. Note-takers. Expense trackers. Skype. Dropbox. Instagram. The list is as long as the kind of things you need to get done.

It’s useful to think of this in terms of Enterprise IT and Work IT. The enterprise owns Enterprise IT whereas the worker owns Work IT. In simple terms, Enterprise IT is focused on the organization, Work IT on organizing. Enterprise IT is top-down with the starting position of locking everything down, whereas Work IT is bottom-up, thriving by facilitating sharing and openness.

Change management must change

Ironically, the art and science of change management hasn’t changed so much in recent times.

Earlier this year I was given 20 minutes to present relevant technology trends to a London meeting of the Change Management Institute, and this has prompted an interesting dialogue with a client in recent weeks. You might say it boils down to the maxim:

People don’t so much dislike change as being changed.

My presentation – appended here – covers the exo-brain (aka smartphone), the exo-peripheral nervous system (aka the Internet of Things), social tech, the irreversible interweaving of the analogue and digital fabric of society, the responsive and visual workplace, building information management, beacons, personal data, quantified organization, influence flows, the work graph, emergence, Web 3.0 and the hi:project.

Unsocial and social customer service

If you’re struggling to make the case for social customer service, here is an overview of the situation to spark your colleagues’ interest.

Customer service as cost-centre

Traditional management regards customer service as a cost-centre. Why? Well, a customer is only a customer when they’ve already transacted – so the revenue bit is done and dusted. Now those customers just want service, which only costs us money right?

And that’s the fundamental reason that calls-per-hour is a call centre KPI (key performance indicator).

Of course we don’t want to deliver bad service, because that might damage our reputation and future revenues. But let’s not go over the top either. What?!… you want to do “social customer service”?! No way. That sounds like it only increases costs.

However, it’s living with this traditional outlook that places one firmly on a downward spiral, and that was before the advent of social. Now the opportunity cost in the age of social just makes this spiral all the steeper.

Customer service as profit-centre

By definition, determining profit requires we attribute revenue to customer service as well as cost.

Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever

An open letter to Paul Polman, Unilever

I love Unilever’s vision. I believe it is important in our world. And I believe that the opportunities and challenges we grapple with in the e2.0 / socbiz / futureofwork / responsive org communities will be critical in its pursuit.

Earlier this month, for the Enterprise 2.0 Summit in London, I penned an open letter to Paul Polman and everyone with an interest in Unilever‘s success. The letter is embedded below and it’s also available as a PDF too: Open letter to Paul Polman, Unilever.

[Image source: Paul Polman by UK Department for International Development, CC-BY-2.0]

crab sand

Three possible explanations for strategy failure

Have you attended to strategy recently? Strategy. Strategy. Strategy. Sometimes it appears to be the most over-used word in business. From our observations, if this obsession with strategy ultimately disappoints, and perhaps that’s too frequently, then three explanations may loom large:

Planning is confused for strategy

Strategy is knowing where to play and how to win, whereas planning relates to working out how a strategy might be accomplished. If you discount all references to strategy when it’s actually planning then you might well find strategy under-represented in business discourse, and possibly alarmingly so.

Strategy ignores emergence

The deliberate strategy approach is most common, and too often exclusively so. This familiar process is constrained to a minority of select individuals in the organisation, typically of a certain seniority, who divine the way forward during some compressed timeline or event. They then instruct the rest of the organisation to make it happen.

Emergent strategy however recognises that strategy may form ‘from below’, if you want to be hierarchical about it. More accurately, it’s formed on a continuous basis from the trials and tribulations of the day-to-day business and its feel for what’s happening and about to happen in the market. Today’s fast moving, ever changing environment makes emergent strategy a requirement not a nice-to-have, and it’s a major facet of social business. Our Philip Sheldrake posted about it recently: Deliberate and emergent, by design.

Strategy isn’t executed

What good is well articulated strategy left on the shelf? When planning and execution do not do it justice? Rather, plans too often serve the status quo and / or personal agenda than strategy, and execution is frustrated by stubborn resistance to the alignment of operational capabilities with strategic demands. There are many more management texts addressing strategy (48k Amazon book results) than execution (1,100 results), more’s the pity. Why is that? Why is a job role encompassing “strategy” often valued more highly than one dedicated to execution? And how ironic given “executive” is the E in CEO.

… So, have you attended to strategy recently?

Image source.

New York

Social business and the future of organization

Our Philip Sheldrake has created a new presentation on the future of organization to help stimulate debate amongst the Future of Work and Responsive Org communities and further afield. This future is made possible by social media and related technologies, but the technologies are by no means sufficient.

Perhaps most fundamentally, the new competitiveness is facilitated by addressing the compromises we all know riddle typical hierarchical command-and-control organization structures. New forms of organization need not be superior in many significant ways; rather, they only have to be slightly better at adapting to inevitable change in order to out-perform the 20th Century laggard.

Here’s the Slideshare, with clickable hyperlinks, and the video is available on both Vimeo and YouTube.

Image source.

stowe boyd

Stowe Boyd talks about making social business happen with Philip Sheldrake

According to his profile at Gigaom Research, “Stowe describes himself as a web anthropologist, futurist, and analyst. His focus is the future of work, and the tectonic forces pushing business into an unclear and accelerating future.”

Stowe publishes an IBM sponsored series of interviews he calls Socialogy. The latest is with our Philip Sheldrake, available on Stowe’s website and reproduced here in full for your convenience.

Stowe Boyd: In a recent post (see Our goal is to become a social business but how do we get the revolution started?) you back away from a contact’s question about needing a revolution to get his company to become more social. First, you looked at the conclusion that the answer to his business’ circumstance was to become social, and instead suggested an examination of shared values. But aren’t many businesses considering a digital/social transformation in the pursuit of another round of productivity, rather than soul searching about meaning and purpose?

Philip Sheldrake: My first point emphasizes that social business is a means not an ends of itself. A delightful means. A rewarding means. A welcome means. But a means nonetheless. You may well argue that the corresponding values and principles could represent an endgame for how you’d like society to be, but from the perspective of the business man I was talking to, and indeed all of my clients, the success of that business is foremost in his mind.

And what a loaded word that is – success. It seems, particularly in the light of recent calamitous events, that more than a few people are searching for a post-capitalist reality, one that at least recognizes and attempts to make up for some of the serious flaws in free-wheeling market economies. Articulating what success looks like exactly in terms of a country or an organization or other community has exercised greater minds than mine, but I simply talk to creating value for all stakeholders faster than otherwise, and value in its fullest meaning. In words a card-carrying capitalist might recognize, we’re talking about shareholders benefiting greatly because other stakeholders benefit greatly too; a win-win rather than a win-lose.