Depression is Normal, But The Stigma Shouldn’t Be

I’ve made no secret of my depression, or my ADD, or my imposter syndrome, or my fight with my inner critic and the self doubt that I face regularly. I share and am open about it for one simple reason – it’s a part of the human condition that need not be stigmatized. That we can no longer afford to stigmatize. That we all must learn to overcome, whether for our own good, or for our family, friends, or coworkers.

Depression hurts, everyone. But it is a normal part of the human condition.

While we should all learn to understand and accept it, depression shouldn’t be normalized as persistent as it is soul crushing. It causes unnecessary harm to everyone who suffers through it, and those who surround them. I know firsthand what it has done to myself, my wife, my startups, and indeed the world over the years. So much personal and social value has been lost and so many opportunities have been missed, while I have been mired in that fog of darkness. In that cold, dark, lonely, fear filled nighttime of the soul.

When we have the knowledge, the science, and now the awareness to improve the lives of so many as well as the richness of society as a whole, why don’t we do better? Why don’t we solve the mental health crisis once and for all, for everyone, individually and collectively?

The first ‘why’ is the stigma, which is why I’ve been open about it for so long. I had conversation with ADHD Coach Pete Quily at Northern Voice in 2007, and his insights and encouragement showed me the need and helped me connect it as one small but mighty aspect of  my life purpose — to heal, unify and orchestrate a #betterworld. In whatever way, small or large that I can.

While fighting my own depression and other personal demons I have… ugh, what a terrible word. Our “demons.” How we exaggerate them and eviscerate our own godliness. Language is so important but even I misuse it frequently, even when sharing deep life long learnings that are part of every one of my days.

These aren’t demons. They’re not even challenges. They are things that happened, or often things that didn’t happen. Things for which I associated negative emotion and through the experience of which I made incorrect assumptions based on that negative feeling and mindset. You see, we each get to choose what events, words, deeds and misdeeds MEAN to us. This is at the core of Buddhism – mindfulness, presence, prayer (setting intention as well as manifesting through the “power” of your God) and most especially, psychology and psychiatry in treating depression.

This is where the Serenity Prayer really hits a home run as a global, cross religious truism:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.

What a powerful sentiment. Amazing truly. In many ways, it is reminiscent of a core set of operating system instructions for our interactions with each other and ourselves. Just as with the golden rule:

Do unto other’s as you would have them do unto you.

Regardless of your beliefs or religion or culture, participants in a civil, harmonious society know these sorts of statements to be true.  Maybe we should transcend the boundaries of the concept of civil society and strive for a “harmonious society?” Might that be possible, that we could strive for something even greater than civilization? Given what we have attained so far, it might not be such a bad idea to strive for an even higher model of interaction for society.

The point here is depression is normal. We need to be able to talk about it, and empathize with those going through it. We need to improve how we facilitate people discovering their own solutions. We need improve the distribution and acceptance of all evidence based solutions that produce real results. IMHO, we need to urgently work together to get beyond this tremendously costly societal challenge whether we want to sustain civilization or transcend it in the creation of a Harmonious Society.

If the internet has been declared a fundamental human right by the UN, access to knowledge and all forms of healthcare, especially mental health care in all its approached, should also be foundational rights for all humanity. Literally, this is for the good of society. This is for your best interests as well as mine. It’s not a hand out, it’s a hand up. In today’s interconnected, interdependent society, if everyone is better off, I am better off, not lesser for it.

But perhaps I am getting ahead of myself, so let’s start simple. We all must accept and appreciate that depression is a normal part of the human condition.

If you care about someone or something, or if you want to create something – art, a startup, a movement, a family, anything really, you will face struggles. You will be challenged. You will need to overcome adversity. You will have to learn from others and figure things out on your own.

You will lose. You will make mistakes. You will have people say mean things to you. You will face acts of God. You will be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Bad people may do bad things to you. You will feel mad about it. You will feel sad about it. You will undoubtedly face a moment where it will be easier to escape or wallow in the darkness then to face it, then bouncing back – learning more and taking the next action you need to take in setting your mind, and the world right in the face of it.

The thing is, as I’ve found, you not only get to choose what it means to you, you get to choose what to do about it.

With love, knowledge, care, and the support of friends, family and society, I see a day where no one need dwell in depression excessively. Where depression is normal, but suffering alone in it is not. Indeed there are lessons that come from depression too as you may have found in some of my thoughts in this post today. So it will still arise and persist, it just needn’t persist for long. For all these reasons and so many others, this is why I have found so much personal freedom and liberation and power in “The Four Agreements“.

Be impeccable with your word
Don’t make assumptions
Don’t take things personally
Always do your best
 — Paraphrasing Don Miguel Ruiz

We’ve got a long way to go towards a fully harmonious society. Maybe 50, maybe 100 years, or maybe never. Or maybe something really bad happens and our leaders, and our society as a whole, wake up and start taking right actions and following the principles of the eightfold path and the teachings of their own gods. Maybe then, we can all be better off in a #betterworld.

But let’s start simple, let’s accept that depression is a normal part of the human condition, but stigmatizing it isn’t and should not be any longer. More so, let us all commit to do whatever we can to help more people find a path through it so they can get the most of life for themselves and for the betterment of each and every one of us.

Let's lift each other up, out of depression and into a better society.

 — Please comment and share this post if anything here strikes a chord for you. If this post is interesting to you, you might be interested in my work on The Noble Pursuit, or on what we have started to do with Rysing Tyde. —

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The State of Social Media. (A Conversation in Austin)

iweozs30yz1rcfmw7jk2_400x400When we started to advance Social Media as an industry or field of practice back in 2006, I had the highest hopes for our future. I saw social media as an opportunity to not only bring people together, but to bring people from different backgrounds together. Just as Howard Rgeingold had explained in his book Virtual Community, but instead of being in the fringes, it would be at the core of society. I also saw social media as the force for organizational transformation, bringing transparency and openness to companies and governments alike with societal change forcing a new wave of change management.

Unfortunately, as Shel Israel explained to me many many moons ago, we tend to overestimate change in the short term and underestimate it over the long term.

As social media has evolved, SMC is also facing change. While many cities have found a way to persist, others have become a bit more quiet. Perhaps remaining as a strong online community as Austin has done without a lot of in person events, or just folding altogether. This is actually normal and healthy. Change is a constant and is required for any community in order to remain relevant and valuable to its members.

The question becomes what do we need? What do we want? What are we willing to do to have it?

While I’m not seeking to get involved in the organizational structure discussion, I am interested in getting more engaged with the community here in Austin now that I will be down here regularly over the months ahead. So I want to talk to some other folks who care about what’s going on in social media today – to share experiences, insights and yes, miseries too. While social is now pervasive as a medium, it’s less then optimal as a profession.

In recent weeks I’ve spoken to way too many people who are struggling, who are undervalued by management and who still don’t have an easy+valid way of proving their ROI. So while social is amazing in so many ways, it’s not yet widely honored for its true potential which means it’s not getting the investment it deserves which means it’s not getting honored for its value… Ugh.

So this isn’t going to be a pity party. Not in the least. It is going to be whatever we want to make it together as a round table conversation with whoever shows up. I’ll start with deeper remarks on the subject to kick things off, talking about the why’s and whatnots as I see it, then open up for questions and ongoing group conversation.

So what is the State of Social Media from your perspective? Share in the comments and if you are in Austin, come join us next Tuesday at 630pm at the Ants Eye View offices in North Austin.

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Calling on Karma: Please Help Me Find a New Job

Chris HeuerAs I’ve long said, “Karma works, it just doesn’t pay on demand.” So while I am reluctant to make any demands, I am not averse to asking for you to help me find a great team, inside a great company doing epic work. A role where I can be who I am, contribute all I have and be a catalyst for exponential value creation.

So what do I want to do?

Given my inter-disciplinary background and cross-industry experience, trying to answer this question is the biggest reason I have waited until now to post this request for your help. After making the decision that I was unable to continue personally funding development on Will Someone and Alynd shortly after SxSW, I’ve been doing a lot of market research and soul searching. I’ve been reviewing where the market is headed and how that intersects with my skills, but I haven’t been able to nail it down to one particular job or even one industry. I’d even be open to moving, though that will involve a longer conversation given our strong ties here in Silicon Valley and love for my home of San Francisco.

At the moment, I’m most excited about augmented reality/vr and its potential impact on collaboration, as well as advancing how it is used in social interactions. It’s also why I am advising Spiritual VR (another combination of several of my interests and talents).  But I’m equally excited about the advancements in cognitive computing, AI and more natural user interfaces. In fact, I have a few visions for products in my head that keep popping up, such as an Augmented Reality collaboration experience that integrates shared white boards, voice based AI assistance and dynamically generated action lists. (If you want to hear more, I’d be happy to share it).

What I know with certainty is that I want to join a strong team where I can hang my hat for a while instead of just passing through on assignment. I could be a team leader or a team player. I could join an existing team or help stand up a new one. I’d be open to a funded early startup, but most likely will end up at a more mature high growth organization, maybe running an innovation lab for someone in the valley? The right opportunity is most likely in the technology sector, is a strategic role and will leverage my public speaking/evangelism talents as I continue to endeavour to advance the field, help organizations transform and invent the future.

I would love to take on the role of Customer Experience Architect, which I spoke about extensively in my IBM sponsored BLAB series CXDNow this past fall and in this talk “Experience Design and Your Customer’s Journey“. There just aren’t that many job openings for such a position/role that I’ve seen. Experience Design is more common now thankfully, but I am looking at it in a much more strategic way – perhaps for a broader portfolio of products. In that I have managed several software products to launch as well as numerous digital marketing projects, it seems that product marketing may be the best focus for me but I am not limited to this direction by any means. If you know me, you know I can do pretty much anything.

Over the past 20 years I have developed quite a body of work around what I’ve called holistic business strategy. This truly defines my brand, but is not widely understood as it is more then a 30,000 foot view of the business, it is a 30,000 light year view of a company and its position in the broader market, and society, it serves. Within this space, I’ve developed personalized marketing frameworks, software and programs, particularly around engagement strategy. More recently, I’ve expanded on this with the recognition that it is a whole new school of thought I am developing – something which I now call “Ecosystem Thinking” and have previously discussed as a key aspect of “The Adaptive Economy“. It’s a combination of design thinking, systems thinking and platform strategy benefitting from network effects. This leads to some interesting senior level opportunities working with software platforms seeking to build a stronger developer and customer community.

Please Help Me Start Some Conversations

I am already talking to a few great companies about some interesting roles that fit my background very well. What I really need to do now though is start increasing the volume of conversations I am having about joining a new team. If you think you might know of the right opportunity for me (and for them), please do make the introduction. Whether it’s product marketing, social media, social business, augmented reality, innovation, developer programs or digital transformation, I’m likely interested.

In the mean time, I am still doing consulting through AdHocnium right now, if you do just need some short term assistance while I am in the midst of this search, and I still have room for one more startup to advise.

One more thing… (an acquihire?)

Part of the reason this has been so long in the making is that I know I was on the right path with Alynd and am now even learning to code so I can build one of the next components in my broader vision for the future of work. It’s hard for me to quit something so important, but financial reality is what it is. To this end, I’m also open to an acquihire with the right company so that I might contribute my time as well as all the intellectual property we’ve developed over the past three years. Given the current lack of interested in acquihire’s, this seems less likely, but I am putting it out there in case any of my Alynd/Will Someone competitors might be interested in making a compelling offer… I wrote about my perspective on this last week in my blog post “Microsoft + Linkedin: A Linkedin Killer’s View“.

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Microsoft + Linkedin: A Linkedin Killer Builder’s View

Linkedin + Microsoft OpportunityThere is a lot of talk since yesterday about the Microsoft acquisition of Linkedin, about how it makes sense, about how it doesn’t and about many of the obvious opportunities for merging their products and customer bases. I have a different take which I’d like to share with you.

Until recently, I was building what several leading analysts, academics and corporate executives called a “Linkedin Killer”. Ultimately, it may one day still be just that, or perhaps it is a view of the bigger picture of what might come from the $26 Billion acquisition.

While my company building efforts with Alynd and then Will Someone were not a success, I did, once again, identify a need, add fuel to a trend and build forward looking products that are exemplars from the future of work. While the stories and marketing position you read on those web sites may not make it obvious that my goal was to kill Linkedin, I assure you the bigger story of how it all could work together, while ambitious, was just that. After endeavoring tirelessly for three years, I am now in the process of closing the company and seeking a team where I might contribute my experience and perhaps even the IP I’ve been developing.

How Could We Kill Linkedin?

First, the evolution of the market is already killing it slowly as many others have reported. Resumes are becoming an artifact of our past. In the world where people use their time and talents for multiple types of work/gigs every day, each valued differently, what value is a prior job title that is given out differently at different organizations with different meanings? It’s only really a proxy as it is, an imperfect one at that by every measure.

So reputation is now replacing resumes, particularly given the opportunity to create verifiable digital audit trails of our actual work with others. We can now easily embed a reputations building function using blockchain like technology into the existing systems we use. This is why I created Alynd originally, to not only improve how we collaborate with each other in a more agile manner, but also to capture data I would not otherwise be able to get out of other systems that would reflect a true measure of someone’s capability, integrity and reliability.

I believe this is where Microsoft has a real opportunity as they now have both sides of that puzzle, and while Windows Live ID from Microsoft is being used, there is no reputational or other identity component to it outside of work teams and XBox Live (IMHO, pls correct me if I am wrong here).

The Bigger Microsoft Opportunity

Since you are a high performance worker, a great collaborator and a person of integrity who kicks as at their job, imagine the following scenario.  Through Outlook or Office 365, MS has date time stamped record of your emails, your document edits, your calendar appointments and more. It knows who you are really connected to, who you go to for answering difficult questions and who you actually work with regularly. It also now has Artificial Intelligence that can infer an awful lot about things like how often you deliver your work on time, provided needed expertise to a colleague, covered for a coworker who dropped the ball and even what expertise you have published among other insights.

So what if, since you were a person of high integrity, you opted into a program which would show your high character and professional capabilities on your professional MS Linkedin profile?  What if your profile had an indicator that showed you delivered 95% of your work on time or early? Or you only rescheduled 10% of your meetings? Or you were the go to person for everyone in your organization with an email marketing question?

What if you were, as an independent contractor, or as someone looking for a new job, able to offer your time/talent through a global market place to other amazing people who were doing really great projects? Would that be interesting to you? A digital labor market of only the best people, of only the people who have the highest integrity, the greatest talents and as you might guess, get the highest rates as a result.

All of that and more is possible. That is what I have been working towards with Alynd first, then Will Someone and now as a personal project where I am learning to code with IBM Bluemix, for a simpler version of the reputation platform Relyable.

Of course, whether or not the market would accept it and use it is the key question. Still, there are hundreds of variants of this concept that could be simplified and made to work on the way towards this bigger vision, all of which could be beneficial to all participants in the 3 sided marketplaces out there like UpWork and Fiverr. But each one of them is a strategy that would serve to co-create greater value and turn Linkedin into the premiere default business talent directory for the gig economy. Something it does not do now, but which Jeff Weiner recently spoke about as part of their 3 prong approach to the future. (Can’t find the link to that speech, do you have it?)

Specifically, what sort of features might this entail?

I should first point out that any social network could build a team to pursue this opportunity as persistent digital identity is the core necessity. So this is a concept I had thought of taking to Jack Dorsey at Twitter as much as bringing it to Google and Facebook. But a Llinkedinin/Microsoft collaboration makes it so much easier to execute on at scale given the assets they have and positions they hold in the market.

Some of the core features I expect to see would be:

  • An aggregated labor market where people are able to offer their services, integrated with a calendar and supported by AI to fill in any openings to maximize your income potential
  • A single login for multiple email accounts into multiple systems with a multi faceted reputational identity
  • An aggregated evidence based reputation system using all the data from your collaboration systems/email, simple contracts and performance feedback
  • A “simple contract” built on blockchain to enable gig based payments on demand when work is completed/delivered and reviewed.An artificially intelligent assistant prioritizing, scheduling and alerting you (Cortana ++)
  • An organized view of all your published media as well as other media appearances as related to your talents and marketable skills built dynamically
  • Learning paths to guide engaged talent to their best possible selves (already have most of this, but with the new data can find out what other experts used to learn and grow as the basis for dynamically improving over time)
  • Micro mentorship opportunities to help connect and guide others in your profession towards professional growth (from groups to guilds)
  • An integrated folksonomy across apps to ease organization and retrieval from different contexts
  • So much more I won’t share today but will be glad to talk about soon…

What now? What next?

I for one am very interested in seeing what comes next, but for now I expect they have a lot of cultural integration and politicking to figure out. So we may not see anything big for a while, but I expect to see some interesting things quickly given how Linkedin re-architected their platform a few years ago. I hope so at least as this is a chance to fulfill the vision I have been chasing for years… to build out the next generation socioeconomic infrastructure for a more efficient, higher integrity labor market. One in which there will be drastic decreases in wasted efforts and never before seen improvements to the efficiency of shared value creation. If it works as I see it, there will be huge increases in health and happiness too as we move to drive out the worst aspects of working together today.

If they don’t do this, it would be a real shame. Or perhaps you see it as an opportunity, in which case, please reach out to me to talk personally about the other ways we might be able to manifest this and my broader vision. While I am looking for my next opportunity due to the financial reality I face today, I remain excited about this vision and know it will eventually come to be, so it might as well be us building it.

What do you think about these ideas for Linkedin + Microsoft? Too far fetched? Would you opt in?

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Welcome to the Adaptive Economy

#Reorg Everything: My Talentnet Keynote

Reorg EverythingWhat is the Adaptive Economy? Why do we need to #Reorg? What should be our focus? Here’s the premise as I outlined in my keynote at Talentnet

The pace of change isn’t just fast, it’s accelerating. So many things are changing that we can no longer look at a single facet as we did at the dawn of digital and then networked computing. It’s not just the gig economy, the collaborative economy, the on demand economy or the green economy in isolation, it’s all of that and more, requiring a more holistic approach. As Darwin taught us long ago, in this fast changing world, it’s the quickest to adapt that survives.

Fundamentally we must first accept that the market is no longer a battlefield. It’s an ecosystem. Leading and winning in an economy that is oriented around creating the greatest amount of shared value is very different from one in which you are seeking to capture the most amount of profit for the organization and its shareholders. This is why I propose we need to #Reorg everything and serve the market.

How do we do it? By adopting new mindsets, methods and measures, most especially in my view of embracing some form of self management. This requires you to focus on creating alignment across the ecosystem, developing greater agility and creating a culture of accountability. We must also become more proactive and predictive.

The enemy we face today in organization’s, besides fear of change itself, is three fold – budgets, bonuses and bozos. In the real time transparent world in which we live, we need to go beyond the sort of budgeting which requires us to accurately predict future market dynamics.Being more agile enables you to adapt to the market’s needs more easily. With a culture of accountability, you will increase trust such that you will also empower more people to make spending decisions across the organization. This has been proven out and more thoroughly developed through Morningstar and several other participants of the Beyond Budgeting Round Table.

For those with the courage to move towards more of an ecosystem based strategy and operating model, there is a massive opportunity to lead the market and seize the lion’s share of the profits to be had. The more trusted a company becomes, the lower the cost of sales, the higher the likelihood of becoming the employer of choice and the higher the switching costs for partners and customers alike.

So much more to come on this in the weeks/months ahead. I’ve been running towards this future through my software company and it’s latest product Will Someone, a community collaboration tool. I’m furthering that development while going more public with the insights I’ve developed to help build a better future for all, by design.

You can hear more about the Adaptive Economy in this audio + slide deck from my keynote presentation, #Reorg Everything. I presented this for the first time on Friday March 11, 2016 in Austin TX as the keynote for the Talentnet conference in the offices of HomeAway.

We are building on this even further now, taking the work that went into this keynote and starting to write a book on the Adaptive Economy. If you are interested in contributing, have questions or want to talk about it more, please let me know in the comments.

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Winning The Future: A #Badgeless SxSW 2016 Recap

Winning the Future
While I have often gone to Austin for SxSW over the past 9 years to speak about the future with thought leaders from around the world, speaking on the future was literally my purpose this year. While I was #Badgeless again, I was also speaking at two different unofficial events, the W2O Pre-Commerce Summit and Talentnet. While I was ‘working’ constantly from when I arrived on Wednesday through Friday evening, I was still able to get a great sense of the festival itself, how it’s changed and what it’s future looks like — more on that later, or skip down if you are looking for my perspective on SxSW itself.

The Future of… 

I’m finally getting comfortable with being called a futurist instead of giggling at the titular comedy of the role. I’ve definitely put my 10,000+ hours into inventing the future over the course of my life, maybe even 100,000+ hours. Even back in High School I tried to get my manager at Wendy’s to add onion rings to the menu after I cooked some up using ingredients we had on hand.

I could have simply focused on writing and speaking about the future, but I have just as often taken a run at manifesting my visions as a serial entrepreneur and now a social entrepreneur. While I have been early to market often, every single concept has later proven itself valid – from local content networks, to conversational intelligence, to human powered search, to customer experience design, to content marketing, to information appliances, to reinventing comments and more recently to reimagining work.

At the W2O Group’s Pre Commerce Summit, I participated in a panel, literally titled “The future of…”  My role was to focus on organizations and society, which is what I’ve been researching for the last several years. While a few of my comments were apparently controversial, such as my prediction that 50MM jobs will be gone forever within 5 years due to automation, AI and robotics, many were inspiring. When asked what I suggested the audience due to prepare for the future, I took the conversation into a very human direction – to love, self love specifically. You really need to listen/watch…

Facilitated by Mike Edelhart, I was joined by Julie Borlaug of the Borlaug Institute and Kush Parikh, CEO of PayByPhone. I was really blown away by all the great work Julie is doing to end hunger around the world, and more impressed by her practical yet forward thinking approach to this important work. If we were to see more people like her working towards social good, I think most of our problems would be solved by now.

You can view video of the panel here at the 1 hr 28 minute 30 second mark. From the feedback it was one of the better panels of the day.

A full recap of the pre-commerce Summit was posted by my good friend Lionel Menchaca.

#Reorg Everything: My Talentnet Keynote

Reorg EverythingWhat is the Adaptive Economy? Why do we need to #Reorg? What should be our focus? Here’s the premise…

The pace of change isn’t just fast, it’s accelerating. So many things are changing that we can no longer look at a single facet as we did at the dawn of digital and then networked computing. It’s not just the gig economy, the collaborative economy, the on demand economy or the green economy in isolation, it’s all of that and more, requiring a more holistic approach. As Darwin taught us long ago, in this fast changing world, it’s the quickest to adapt that survives.

Fundamentally we must first accept that the market is no longer a battlefield. It’s an ecosystem. Leading and winning in an economy that is oriented around creating the greatest amount of shared value is very different from one in which you are seeking to capture the most amount of profit for the organization and its shareholders. This is why I propose we need to #Reorg everything and serve the market.

How do we do it? By adopting new mindsets, methods and measures, most especially in my view of embracing some form of self management. This requires you to focus on creating alignment across the ecosystem, developing greater agility and creating a culture of accountability. We must also become more proactive and predictive.

The enemy we face today in organization’s, besides fear of change itself, is three fold – budgets, bonuses and bozos. In the real time transparent world in which we live, we need to go beyond the sort of budgeting which requires us to accurately predict future market dynamics.Being more agile enables you to adapt to the market’s needs more easily. With a culture of accountability, you will increase trust such that you will also empower more people to make spending decisions across the organization. This has been proven out and more thoroughly developed through Morningstar and several other participants of the Beyond Budgeting Round Table.

For those with the courage to move towards more of an ecosystem based strategy and operating model, there is a massive opportunity to lead the market and seize the lion’s share of the profits to be had. The more trusted a company becomes, the lower the cost of sales, the higher the likelihood of becoming the employer of choice and the higher the switching costs for partners and customers alike.

So much more to come on this in the weeks/months ahead. I’ve been running towards this future through my software company and it’s latest product Will Someone, a community collaboration tool. I’m furthering that development while going more public with the insights I’ve developed to help build a better future for all, by design.

You can hear more about the Adaptive Economy in this audio + slide deck from my keynote presentation, #Reorg Everything. I presented this for the first time on Friday March 11, 2016 in Austin TX as the keynote for the Talentnet conference in the offices of HomeAway.

We are building on this even further now, taking the work that went into this keynote and starting to write a book on the Adaptive Economy. If you are interested in contributing, have questions or want to talk about it more, please let me know in the comments.

Unofficial SxSW: #Badgeless #FTW

Wherever you went, Obama and Trump were the topics of the day.  Which I’ve been trying to avoid recently. From talking to Lord Chadlington at the W2O Pre Commerce Summit, I discovered that most voters seem to break for the winning candidate in the final 48 hours. So I realized I want to invest my time this election cycle in getting out the vote. All of this talk between here and now is important, but to make the maximum impact, I am changing my focus and I hope you join me.

There were many conversations like this that mattered deeply. Talking with Kyle Ellicot about Wearable IoT World and their new efforts in Asia while hanging out at one of the best venues of SxSW hosted by Heather Meeker Haas and her team at Zendesk; hearing more about the plans for Techfugees from Mike Butcher; getting judged as unworthy for my super casual weekend in Austin style (t-shirt/shorts) twice; hearing more about Anne Greenberg’s ideas in VR; learning about some of the Digital Transformation work my former Deloitte Digital colleagues are doing; pitching a new idea to solve some big problems; and so many more amazing people and projects that can’t all be reflected here.

The big story out of SxSW as you have heard elsewhere is VR everywhere. From Robert Scoble announcing he’s leaving Rackspace to be an EIR at Upload VR to VR experiences seemingly in every major brand activation. One of my favorite unofficial events of this year was the New York Times VR Event programming, where I was able to pick up their Google Cardboard viewers and finally experience journalism in VR. It was truly life changing. In watching their story on the refugee crisis, and standing in the middle of a UN food drop, I felt the future. The amount of empathy you can create by immersing someone virtually into someone else’s shoes is massive.

In fact, when I returned home, I shared that refugee food drop with my Mother in law who was visiting, who was equally blown away. Trouble being, she isn[t going to put the cardboard together and get in a swivel chair to make the most of the 360 degrees, so it’s still a bit too much friction for current fidelity. When Kristie tried it out, she got nauseous…

As I explained often at SxSW, despite these current challenges, I see a huge future for Augmented Reality, beyond the entertainment and experiential potential of Virtual Reality. To get all buzzy, I believe there is a huge opportunity in crafting contextualized collaboration in Augmented Reality with cognitive assistance. Or in other words, Immersive Collaboration. What does it mean? That’s a vision of the future for another day…

SxSW: The Festival & It’s Future

Obviously, having the Obama’s speak at SxSW this year was a big win for the organizers. Even still, people were talking about whether it jumped the shark or not. I think it’s constantly changing and as long as it attracts great people, which it will continue to do for the foreseeable future, it will continue to thrive.

Just prior to SxSW 2016 I spoke about this to a report reporter for this article for AdWeek. While she reflected my quote accurately, it was missing some context. I had also told her that like any event or place or time, your experience is dependent on what you make of it, who you spend time with and what you choose to focus on. What makes it worth while for me is that hundreds of friends and other visionary leaders from around the world fly into Austin for the conference or to be there #Badgeless like me. Unfortunately, until the SxSW leadership makes the conference content more accessible, I am choosing to go #Badgeless and enjoy the city of Austin fully.

What could SxSW do to earn my conference registration fee? Maybe they’d get it with reserved session seating (IMax does it here in SF and most/all theaters in London do it). Maybe they could just sell less tickets and/or shrink the diameter of the geography upon which their venues are spread. I go for the diversity of topics being covered (and the music, the BBQ and again, the people!).

This year I noticed that many of the parties and other events were not as crowded and the lines weren’t as long. I have to attribute this to a density of brand activations, both official and unofficial. There was just so much going on at every time slot you couldn’t possibly get to all of it. I tried a couple of times and was generally unsuccessful each time I tried.

This is where Scott Beale’s early advice to me about getting the most from SxSW still rings true. “Wherever you are be there. Make the most of it. You could be anywhere else, but you are where you are until you are ready to go somewhere else.”

There was also a noticeable changing of the guard, with a whole new generation of SxSW participants on the scene and many of my peers now staying home – some with ‘real jobs’ and some with new babies. I made a few new friends, and deepened some existing relationships. More importantly, I was able to get some validation on my work and now have a few new projects and prospects moving forward.

Conclusion

It seems one of the most surprising things people found with my vision of the future is how human centric it is. Many were taken aback when the key advice I gave to the W2O Group event was to practice more self love, to not tolerate bozos and to fully embrace diversity.  As I discussed the coming destruction of millions of jobs, people were really taken aback when I suggested that the job of the future might just be that of “Citizen”.

It’s clear from the state of the Presidential race here in the U.S. that we are at a major inflection point in history, with the soul of our country and indeed of the world on the whole at stake. It’s one of the reasons I was personally getting so agitated on Facebook and becoming such an ardent supporter of Bernie Sanders, but even he doesn’t fully grasp how we can support the rise of conscious capitalism and move us to a more prosperous future for all people.

I should point out here that I don’t have all the answers either, I do know we have the means if we have the will. I do know that we can let go of what has been to embrace what can be. I am also an ardent believer in finding that whatever we dream we can achieve, so therefore asking the question is it realistic will always result in the answer yes, in time.

Many thought I was pessimistic and peddling doom and gloom when I talked about the fundamental changing nature of work and looming job destruction. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. I am at my heart and in practice an optimist. I believe our future is quite bright, but I also am able to see the curve in the road ahead and want to make sure we prepare for it. Because of the Internet it is a distinct possibility that we will solve many of our collective social challenges.  But also because of the internet, we face some stiff competition. Particularly from entrenched interests and the powerful few who manipulate the system for personal benefit unfettered by a broader concern for their fellow man.

I know deep down in my soul that change happens in an instant despite the glacial pace at which we observe it. Humans can literally do anything we want to do, so why not make the world work as it could for the benefit of all instead of just a few? I know that I am best off when others around me are better off. I know that working together we can make a #BetterWorld intentionally, by design.

The first challenge is one of belief. The second is one of communicating the vision. The third is activating enough people to support new behaviors and beliefs. This is what I have been working on for all my life, but particularly over the last 3 years, first with Alynd and more recently with Will Someone. This is why we are beginning to build out the Rysing Tyde as a community organization to lift all people to their greatest potential in this Adaptive Economy, in this world where work is based on gigs instead of traditional employment.

Winning the future isn’t going to be easy, but as a species, humanity can not only survive, it can truly thrive if we only find our way past our conditioning and socialization to see what can be instead of staying focused on what is. The road ahead is going to be bumpy for most of us, but for those with the courage to make the big shift today, there is a tremendous opportunity at hand.

Chris Heuer is a futurist, a serial entrepreneur and a community organizer. He consults with startups and large organizations that want to behave like startups on strategy, marketing and product development. If you’d like Chris to help your organization navigate its journey into the future, contact him today.

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The Near and Distant Future of IBM Connect 2016

Opportunity from OGS
Over the past few weeks I’ve been reflecting on my experience from IBM Connect 2016, working to synthesize what I saw, what I think about what IBM presented and how I believe it impacts our future. The conference on the whole was well done, with some changes from years past, a new venue, a new format for some of the sessions and of course some new themes for this new era. While the origins of Connect were based in the ideology of Social Business and attached to the annual Lotusphere conference (i.e. collaboration centric), this theme today is part of a broader one around digital transformation, with more of an emphasis on how technology is enabling businesses to do things differently. In some ways new and in some ways more efficiently and in some ways just better.

My original definition of Social Business was bringing a holistic approach to unifying our thinking about internal and external operations, thinking about the interplay between collaboration and marketing. To this extent there was an emphasis on creating and enabling ‘moments’ – something we have been working on for a while in the Customer Experience Design world and which my friend Brian Solis wrote about deeply in his exceptional new book, X. While I saw these sessions listed in the program, I unfortunately did not make it to any of them so I can’t comment much on that here.  For a bit of fun I did go to a session offered by the IBM Design team which was a workshop on design thinking. Even that session was focused on employees rather than customers. They also had a great design and innovation lab setup where I got to speak directly to the product managers and designers behind the new products being showcased this year and yet to be announces products that may come in the future.

For those of you who know me and my work, you may recall my post on Social Business is Dead, or perhaps the one from my last Connect conference two years ago, Social Business isn’t Dead, It’s just _______ (hint, it’s largely Marketing though the concept is much deeper and more meaningful for those in the know). Regardless of the label or the meme you place on this era, the bottom line is that the pace of change in the market and the world is not only fast, it’s accelerating. As Darwin long ago said, it’s not just survival of the fittest, but about who is the quickest to adapt to a changing environment. This is the truth facing our world, our market and your company’s competitive position in it. Unfortunately, most larger organizations are not endowed with the sort of agility they need to thrive or perhaps even survive under these market conditions. But all hope is not lost here, in fact, it is in my view an even greater opportunity today then at the birth of the internet era for forward thinking organizations with courageous leadership to become market leaders.

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This tone was set early in the opening general session with Jason Silva touting the wonders of science and the potential we have to solve some of the most perplexing problems the world faces today. It was rounded out perfectly in the closing session with Erik Wahl igniting the crowd’s sense of possibility and the inherent power they each have to create, to be beautiful, to be courageous and to make a difference. I’m not using this hyerpbole lightly here. It was truly a great kickoff and close to wrap up a very solid conference. One I hope that IBM continues to host separately from its other conferences and expands upon in new ways.

While some may feel righteous in criticizing the conference for not showing enough of a vision of the future, it is important to remember that this is first and foremost a sales and educational conference, not a peek into a far flung future where every organization is self managing, relying heavily on independent contractors and surrounded with augmented reality. The main focus of IBM Connect this year was backing up Ginny Rometty’s push forward into Cognitive Computing and demonstrating what that concept means in more tangible terms. In this regards, as someone who helped lead strategy on the global deployment of a large Enterprise Social Network, I was very encouraged by what I saw from their Project Toscana.

IBMConnect-Toscana

I wouldn’t quite call Project Toscana a dashboard view of your work, but that is the closest metaphor we have today. In my view it is more of a smart command center that integrates all forms of communications, updates and insights into a more efficiently actionable context. While we were only shown early demos and I didn’t see actual product, I’ve been told by my close friends at IBM that they are indeed using early alpha versions of these products and even have mobile versions in their hands. From what I understand about software development from my own entrepreneurial life, nothing in what they have provided is beyond the realm of possibility so I trust this will be more widely deployed and available in the not too distant future.

What is exponentially more valuable about their approach to collaboration is the deep empathy of the design thinking that is at the core of the new offering. What do I mean by this? Well, not only is the information displayed in contextual clusters of relevant information and urgency of actions required, but Watson is parsing through the information deluge to simplify what I think of as administrative/computing minutiae in dozens of ways which cumulatively add up multiple work weeks of regained productivity for every employee. This is in many ways closely associated with some of the things I have been working on with my Alynd software, though I didn’t quite see what I have been trying to build yet, so I am still optimistic about my chances, though they are getting closer.

How does it enable people to regain so much ‘wasted’ time? How often do you receive a request for the latest version of some document and not quite recall where it is stored? Not only does the software recognize it as a document request, now, using Watson, Project Toscana auto suggests several documents you may wish to include in your reply. This alone would save me, as someone who is not the most organized with my numerous digital files across multiple projects, at least a couple hours per week. Another example is auto suggest replies and auto suggest actions, like approving a request for time off, or for a budget increase.  IBM calls this cognitive collaboration where my friend and colleague Alan Lepofsky refers to this as assisted collaboration (read his excellent recap post on Connect here). Whatever you call it, it is IMHO, finally delivering on the original promises of IT to deliver exponential productivity gains. More importantly, it enables your smartest employees to focus on contributing their real value to the company and not spending their time searching around their computers or reading through poorly worded overly long emails.

Perhaps even one day it will take a long post like this one I just wrote and boil it down to a more concise version enabling you to get a personalized version that emphasize the things you are most interested in learning instead of having to read it all the way through!

While IBM Connect did a great job of demonstrating the art of the possible over the next year, I would love it if IBM would invest in painting a picture of a more mid term future, of what collaboration and marketing will look like in 5-10 years with new organizational structures and the extensions of current trends. If you could see what I’ve been shown, you would be seriously impressed with the great work going on in their research labs being developed by great engineers that never get the benefit of a business focused narrative beyond explaining their functions and features. To this extent I want to propose to my friends at IBM that we invest in producing a video series on the future of work more in the spirit of Corning’s A Day Made of Glass videos. I know the futurists who really have a vision for a #NewWayToWork who would make the perfect team to produce it…

After returning home I joined fellow IBM Futurists Brian Moran and Dion Hinchcliffe for a recap show on Blab which I’ve been slowly working to edit down into component pieces. It’s truly a terrific conversation covering the conference itself, cognitive collaboration, privacy and so much more. If you have any questions about what I saw at the conference, or would like to share your thoughts, please do so in the comments below.

I’ve really been searching for some criticism or constructive feedback to provide, but I have to stretch. I’m not an unadulterated fan boy by any means, but I sincerely believe their long term approach to restructuring their products and their teams, especially now with the placement of Inhi Cho Shu as General Manager of Collaboration Solutions, looks like it is starting to pay off. Of course this hasn’t shown itself well in the financials yet, and I am not a market analyst per se, but I believe it will. They are hiring the right people (like friends Neville Hobson, Julio Fernandez, Alex de Carvalho, Andy Jankowski and others), bringing the right approach with their all star Design team and listening to the market (and people like me). That said, it is still hard to navigate the company to get things done and they still haven’t shaken off the perception of pitching vaporware and lacking details on product announcements, but they are making progress.

My bottom line is that I have found IBM to be full of smart people who care passionately about what they do and are striving to do the right things despite having the weight of a large company structure and an organizational culture that inhibits expedient progress in an increasingly fast moving market. For now, I’m happy to continue my relationship with them and hold onto the hope that my insights will positively influence their direction and the better outcomes we need in the market to advance society towards the #betterworld I have long envisioned.

Want to talk more? Come talk to me next week in Las Vegas while I am there for IBM Interconnect.

Disclosure: I am an IBM Futurist. One of the few who are participants in both their #NewWayToWork and #NewWayToEngage programs. They don’t pay me for this, but they do pay for my travel, take me out to nice dinners and feature me as an expert/futurist in their online media in exchange for my honest unfettered opinions and insights. They did pay to sponsor my Customer Experience podcast series, CXDNow. I also formerly represented Deloitte Consulting on the IBM Social Business Council. This has provided me a level of access to what they are dong today and what they are developing in their research labs.

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Beyond Social Listening and Influencer Marketing, Leveraging Social Intelligence

There were so many rich gems from this conversation with Marshall Kirkpatrick of Little Bird on last week’s CXDNow, that I’ve rewritten the headline almost 10x and have struggled with how to best synthesize our one hour show for you. Marshall and his team are rightly excited about “Contextualized Segmentation”, I am personally a fan of “Market Engagement Optimization” which I’ve been thinking about for a few years and “Holistic Business Strategy” which I have been touting for over 15 years. But after listening to this whole conversation a second time and reviewing my notes, I think what best encompasses what Little Bird does, especially as it impacts our ability to design great customer experiences, social intelligence is the clear winner.

Why? While Marshall shares that the first thing most people do with Little Bird is to find who are the influencers a company should talk to about a new product launch, as they start to understand the capabilities more fully, they quickly are able to create value across their entire business strategy. From marketing, to recruiting, to trend watching, to content curation and especially for learning from the market to inform their product strategies, Little Bird is able to best identify the truly influential people and the conversations that really matter to your market.

How do they do this? As you will learn in this episode, their key metric is based on the relationships and connections between those who are regularly engaged in conversations about key aspects of your market. It’s not only about who has the most ‘potential reach’, but about how many other connections a given influencer has within a given network. Going further, Little Bird helps you to see the clusters of the types of influencers engaged in the conversation – are they high volume self promoters or are they true influencers? What potential sub-communities exist? And now with the latest release, what are the phrases and language being used within those sub-communities that may be salient but not obvious.

I think the reason I am biased towards thinking of Little Bird as a Social Intelligence tool is best summarized by this quote from Marshall in the podcast when I asked him what is different about his product. He said his best customers are “Leveraging influencers not just for what they will tell the world about you, but for what they will tell you about the world.”

This post only scratches on the applicable insights we uncover in this conversation. To get the most from it, find yourself an hour on your commute or in the evening and listen to our conversation between Marshall Kirkpatrick, Dave Gray and myself as soon as you can.

Sponsored by XPLANE:

XPLANE is a strategic design consultancy focused on addressing complex challenges on the inside of organizations. We leverage visual thinking, people-centered design, and co-creation to design solutions that accelerate the way our clients envision, explain, and realize their goals.

About CXDNow:

CXDNow is back for season 2 of our series focused on understanding and successfully executing on customer experience design so that your organization may better serve, and ultimately win your market. In season 1, we focused on the fundamentals of CX Design through conversations with CX leaders such as Brian Solis, Risto Lahdesmaki and Tom Illmensee among others. As we move into 2016, we will be bringing you stories from more leaders around who will share their deep insights and practical advice in pursuit of advancing the field for the benefit of all.

If you are interested in being a guest on the show or sponsoring us, please contact us.

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#CXDNow – Understanding and Engaging Your Market in Conversations that Matter

CXDNow with Chris Heuer, Dave Gray and guest Marshall Kirkpatrick
It is clear that we all need to better understand what our market is talking about and who are the people influencing our market so we can design better products and share our value with potential customers. But how do we figure out where to start? How do we sort through all of the noise to find the people and conversations that matter most to our organization? How do we optimize our engagement for maximum impact with limited resources?

In the first episode of 2016, Chris Heuer is joined by co-host Dave Gray of XPlane to talk with Marshall Kirkpatrick of Little Bird to dive into a conversation about the contextual segmentation and analysis of a company’s market to effectively engage in influencer marketing. In this conversation, we’ll look at graphs of Twitter friends around companies and markets, analyze their connections for opportunities, and talk about how you can combine data analysis at scale with authentic communication and creativity in your work.

We will also answer your questions! So join us on Blab this Friday January 29, 2016 at 10am PST for an in-depth conversations into the influencer’s role in customer experience design and how we can better engage them to improve the experiences we are providing and increase awareness of what you have to offer the market.

Guest: Marshall Kirkpatrick

Marshall Kirkpatrick is a co-founder of Little Bird, a social media marketing and research technology that does contextual segmentation analysis of target markets, online audiences, and company stakeholders, using social graph analysis.  In this episode of CXDNow, Marshall talks with Chris Heuer and XPlane’s Dave Gray about how you can use knowledge about the different contextual segments relevant to a company to optimize your work, in marketing or design, for maximum relevance, efficiency, and impact.  

Sponsored by XPLANE:

XPLANE is a strategic design consultancy focused on addressing complex challenges on the inside of organizations. We leverage visual thinking, people-centered design, and co-creation to design solutions that accelerate the way our clients envision, explain, and realize their goals.

About CXDNow:

CXDNow is back for season 2 of our series focused on understanding and successfully executing on customer experience design so that your organization may better serve, and ultimately win your market. In season 1, we focused on the fundamentals of CX Design through conversations with CX leaders such as Brian Solis, Risto Lahdesmaki and Tom Illmensee among others. As we move into 2016, we will be bringing you stories from more leaders around who will share their deep insights and practical advice in pursuit of advancing the field for the benefit of all.

If you are interested in being a guest on the show or sponsoring us, please contact us.

 

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#CXDNow – What’s needed, what’s next?

CXDNow with Tobias Rose
The time for customer experience design is now! In this final episode of our premiere web series CXDNow, host Chris Heuer interviews Tobias Rose, writer, designer and entrepreneur. Tobias has led a fascinating life, from his early professional life in the wine industry to a chance meeting with a monk who asked for his help with a reservoir for their village that lead to his career as a CX Designer. In the first episode we learn of Tobias’ origin story. How his trip to Cambodia resulted in a nonprofit that forever changed a small village and the people who live there. It’s a fascinating tale of one designers realization of the importance of empathy in all we do. Through his story you will see all of the key characteristics that are necessary for someone who wants to be a leading customer experience designer.

It a longer format part two, Tobias is joined by Sarah Grzybowski from IBM’s Journey Designer team to discuss the future of CX design, what we need and what we see coming next. We get some sneak peaks into the IBM Journey Designer product and its future as a management dashboard to optimize the customer experience across their journey.  It’s clear as we discuss in this episode, that technology is only part of the solution. What’s really needed is a greater depth of empathy across the entire business landscape, so that we finally embrace radical customer centricity instead of merely paying it lip service.

In this our last episode of the series one for fall/winter 2015 we were able to touch upon many of the key pieces of advice that everyone needs to be a great CX designer. We will be posting some more recaps of this content and different educational snippets over the course of the next several weeks. Join us again in January 2016 for our next series and a further exploration of customer experience design now. Thank you so much for joining us and special thanks to IBM Commerce and the Journey Designer team for their support of the series.

 

Need help creating design moving customer experiences? IBM Journey Designer enables you and your team to collaboratively visualize journeys, set shared marketing goals, and create and refine tailored experiences for dozens of priority segments. Learn more on this blog post or try it at no cost at ibm.com/journey-designer.


Tobias Rose Interview – From Global Change Maker to CX Designer

Tobias Rose & Sarah Grzybowski – What’s Needed, What’s Next

SPONSORED BY IBM JOURNEY DESIGNERIBM Commerce Blog logo

For more about the #CXDNow series, why I am doing it and where we are headed, read this background post.

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