Archive for category Future of Work

Introducing Ecosystem Thinking

 Ecosystem Thinking = Systems Design + Design Thinking + Holistic Strategy
It seems everywhere I go, everyone is talking about the importance, value and nature of the ecosystem.  It’s especially poignant as I am once again in the middle of one of the most active technology ecosystems in the world, working as a mentor again this week in Google’s Launchpad Accelerator program. In fact, the broader purpose of the program is to cultivate a startup ecosystem globally that engages all key stakeholders in this important sector of the economy.

While I won’t be getting too deep into the Google Launchpad case study today, it is relevant as I sit here in the midst of it, how perfectly it epitomizes what I have been talking about for a very long time. In the room around me right now are many representative stakeholders of the startup ecosystem. Several early stage and growth stage startups, numerous mentors like myself donating there time to help others, Google employees who run the program, Google employees who are here to contribute their domain expertise, a couple of VC partners, several academics and several AI experts.

There are a few foundational aspects to Ecosystem Thinking in my view, but none more paramount then the concept of convening participants for cultivating mutual benefit. The fact that Google does this without any strings attached to the startups, mentors and others beyond that important lesson from philosophers Bill & Ted, “Be Excellent to Each Other”, is literally the icing on the cake.

It is a strategy that many traditional business leaders would consider folly. But this level of openness, of good will and positive intent is the magic that  magnifies the value. No one needs to be here. Even the Googlers are here by choice. Everyone is getting what they need and contributing what they have. We are in it together.

This is another foundational tenet that will be harder for old school companies to support, despite its necessity. The program is designed for the interactions/relationships between participants to provide reciprocity for everyone. As Rachel Happe of Community Roundtable often reminds me, the most important ROI of a community is for people to feel as if they got more out then they put in.

Of course, this is what we learned from bringing Social Media Club to the world. It was also key to my work at Deloitte Digital in the development of the Engagement Curve. A realization that the proverbial lever for creating value and finding market success was the depth and breath of REAL Relationships the company formed with key stakeholders while serving the market. REAL being an acronym for Reciprocal Empathetic Authentic and Long lasting. This is indeed what I feel uniquely here as a part of this Google Launchpad ecosystem, and part of the inspiration for finally writing this today. That sense of belonging, the feeling of being in the right place, with the right people and being valued by the people here as much as I value them. My hope in writing this book on Ecosystem Thinking is to convince hundreds of world leaders from Global 2000 C-Suites to embrace this mindset, but I know that reading about it is no substitute for feeling what I am experiencing right now.

OK, so that is a practical introduction to what I mean by Ecosystem Thinking and some key aspects of it, but what is the key theory? what does it mean?

The Heart of Ecosystem Thinking

Ecosystem Thinking is based on the hypothesis that leaders who optimize their organization’s strategy and operations around the co-creation of shared value will be the biggest winners in their respective markets. This requires leaders to transcend their short term thinking for a more balanced approach to long and short term, with an expanded understanding of who the key stakeholders are. It’s no longer just the investors and shareholders, companies today need to serve the market, not just the stock market. So we accomplish our goals by thinking differently, a mix of systems design, design thinking and holistic strategy, supported by a natural sciences approach to growth and vitality.

Tactically speaking, we have a lot more to share on this, but first and foremost, the work supporting Ecosystem Thinking as I have come to regard it is based on applying experience design and journey mapping to all stakeholder relationships, not merely customers. This means employees, partners, local community leaders, families of employees, alumni and countless others. In our complex world, the only way to engender and earn the trust of so many people simultaneously is to do this intentionally, to come from a position of openness and empathy. A strong ecosystem won’t happen accidentally as it is not human nature to deal with the complexity that this entails.

You see, another foundational belief of ecosystem thinking is that everything matters. So in a world where we strive for simplicity, we often run from this level of complexity, but it is what is required to succesfully compete in today’s world. There are not many people who can contextualize such a wide set of data and disciplines thoroughly to strategically understand and lead an ecosystem, but this is indeed the sort of person that is needed in a role of Ecosystem Architect. I believe they share many character/personality traits in common with community managers, such as genuine concern and the sort of expert relationship management of connecting the right people, and proverbial dots. They also, like myself, typically will have an inter-disciplinary background and as a result, are likely to have a ‘non-traditional’ resume. But I am getting ahead of myself here, so lets wrap this up for now instead.

So What?

In today’s connected society, marked by a near real time market and increasingly higher customer expectations, getting things right is the price of admission in many markets. While we need to understand the sharing economy, the gig economy, the collaborative economy and the virtual economy and how all these evolving aspects of our broader socioeconomic framework impacts our organization, I believe it is the inter-connectedness of all people, information and resources that is truly paramount.

This is why I believe that Ecosystem Thinking will be essential for all organizations, or at least for those companies who are or aspire to be market leaders at scale. In order to enjoy the trust and support of a large market, adopting an ecosystem mindset, and cultivating as many REAL Relationships as possible is a necessity. This is across all aspects of the business – from talent recruitment, to supply chain management, to investments and of course to customer engagement.

To lead an organization that leads a given market is to lead an ecosystem. So studying how this is done well and constantly working to improve is the ultimate key to success. It is also, as we will discuss in the book and over the months ahead, how we reduce costs, increase quality and optimize profitability over the long term.

Are you ready to join this journey? Are you ready to lead an ecosystem?

BRACE Yourself.

HELP Others.

EACH Moment Matters.

This is the mantra of Ecosystem Architects and the change agents who will lead this emerging set of strategies and tactics. Are you ready? Let’s get to work.

Side Note: I’ve been working on this for so long but have been waiting to write and share this introduction till I managed to mold the thoughts into a more linear narrative. After receiving some great validation this week talking to other mentors here at the Google Launchpad AI/Machine Learning event in NYC, I realized I just need to write and refne it all later.

I’ve done a lot of work on this from my early startups to building the platform for the Palm Economy to building a global community of industry professionals. I’ve done a lot of thinking. I’ve spoken to hundreds of experts and practitioners. I was even reminded by my former counselor and mentor Matt Law that Deloitte has a partner focused on Ecosystems now – their report on Ecosystems is here. What’s written above isn’t the full story, it’s not complete, it’s not neat and it’s not ready for prime time. It is ready for constructive criticism, your insights, and your stories.

So this is the official beginning of the book which I’ve been developing across my whole life. To help more people see the world of business, and society more broadly, through the holistic lens with which I have been blessed/cursed. To share models, strategies and tactics that will provide valuable sense making. And ultimately, as the book is currently framed, to provide global business leaders with an understanding of the new mindsets, methods and measures required for optimizing business results in the modern economy.

Thank you for joining us on this journey.

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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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A Week of Progress, Hope and Friendship in DC

Washington DC
What an awesome week in DC. As an IBM Futurist (influencer, amplifier, thinker, whatever), they often invite me to attend various conferences and events to learn, to ‘report’ via social media and to help stimulate conversations with the participants who are usually IBMers, customers and potential customers. This trip was part of the #NewWayToWork tour they are producing, so they pay for the travel expenses and I get to just be myself and speak my mind. They ask for some pics and tweets, which I would do anyway, and they promote my work in support of the broader social media amplification of the brand and their forward thinking positions. More on the event this week in a little bit, as I want to recap what made it so awesome for me and my projects personally.

The New Way to Work event was just one of several highlights as I made the most of the travel opportunity to talk to more people about my community collaboration software, Will Someone. I was also working to line up some strategic consulting gigs, to fuel more development of the software, to host a kickoff BrainJam for We Are the Solution and spent time catching up with old friends and making new ones.

I started the week off by diving into the great community that Nicole Patrice has formed over the years, including her colleague Ross Buntrock, who was gracious enough to let me stay on his couch for the one night not covered by IBM. They are working on something that is simply stellar, but nothing to share about it just yet. I got to catch up with Cyrus Radfar who was in town from SF, out on the road like me meeting people to help grow his company, Kapuno. Then we had this sumptuous fall meal that Nicole prepared and great conversation for hours over some great wine with a bunch of folks in town for a Nature Conservancy event, many of whom are an integral part of the Summit community.

I’ve started privately sharing information on the first major project we are working to undertake surrounding We Are The Solution, the non-profit community organization we have recently launched. I was particularly inspired and found great hope in talking to Wayne Price, the original Summit documentarian, who is just an awesome human being, who just happens to live in the East Bay, not too far from my home. Then I got into a great conversation with Margot Machol about her upcoming book where she interviewed something like 60 entrepreneurs and their mothers. Apparently, they all share what I was fortunate to have, a mother who instilled a deep belief that we could do anything. I think she’s going to be doing some cool things hopefully with Blab now that I introduced her to the concept, but still lots to discuss ahead of the book launch.

Before heading off the next morning to a meeting with my old friend, advisor and hopefully soon to be team mate, Thomas Vander Wal, Nicole, Ross and Rick were gracious enough to listen to my vision for Will Someone and the broader ecosystem we are building. Thomas and I reviewed our nextgen plans for Will Someone, caught up on life, other work and our usual reminiscing about what we tried to create in 1999 around conversational intelligence with Conversal. After our conversation, I had a chance to go have lunch with one of my fraternity brothers and finally eat at the new Exchange, our old college bar.

Rushing from there back to the hotel and being stymied by a few administrative snafus, I finally got into my room in time to interview Doug Foulds as part of my new #CXDNow series on Customer Experience Design. This is something they are paying me for, sponsoring the show, so I was a bit anxious before the show and a bit more when we kept hitting some technical challenges during the show, but as usual, it worked out great. 

With only a few moments rest, I took care of some other work and took an Uber into Georgetown for a super high quality entrepreneur networking event. Tons of smart people, quick chat with Nicole to introduce her to someone working on cool related tech, a connection for one of my Wearable World mentorees and a great conversation with several other startup founders. I was hoping to go down to Fatoush to relive the late night mumchie quashing Fatoush Gyro, but apparently, its closed now, so I just ate some Kebobs and headed home to get some work done and get some rest.

New Way to Work DC - Chris Heuer and Mark Babbit in Marketing Track

I woke up refreshed to head to the US Institute of Peace for the IBM New Way to Work Event. At the last minute the day before, they asked myself and Mark Babbit to participate in a fireside chat format event on the marketing track. Really grateful for having a chance to spend more time with him, he’s wise, smart, cool and just a great guy to hang around. Apparently we did a pretty good job, you can see a pic of us and the graphic recording that was made of our discussion below. When people were leaving, they were apparently quite impressed and amazed at how rich the workshop was. That it wasn’t just a typical sales pitch, but instead a real conversation with inspiration, solid strategy and even tactical advice. Several remarked that they were kind of bummed about how tough things had gotten but were feeling energized and inspired to go back to work and create change. #GoalAccomplished

After the event, we had a great lunch with Mark and Adriana Zegarelli where I learned how organizations thrive by going “Beyond Budgeting” from our other lunch mate Steve Player, Steve is a super smart guy who is also a fan of the work of Doug Kirkpatrick and the Self Management Institute. I then headed to a couple of meetings with my friends at the US State Department down the street to catch up and talk digital diplomacy. It turns out that the Gov2Gov event that Lovisa Williams and I hosted in 2009 with Dominick Campbell and our ‘special friends’ in the Canadian Embassy over in London inspired a thing of its own, the Digital Diplomacy Coalition. So cool. I so often think I’ve accomplished nothing in my life so far, but this week I was reminded of all the ways I really have made a contribution to the world which really has me psyched for all the great stuff to come. After catching up with Lovisa, I was able to reconnect again with Archana Poddar who also works at the State Department and get her insights on a few projects I am developing. Awesome people working to make government better.

From here I ran into the evening, first with a stop for happy hour Oysters at the Old Ebbits Grill with Mark Babbitt, then for a quick catchup at The Hamilton with my old boss from the US Mint (wrote a bit about her and my time there recently), and finally to catch up with another one of my fraternity brothers, Andrew Keenan to talk life, politics, beers and social activism. Afterwards, I stopped by my favorite DC restaurant, Zaytinya, shhh don’t tell anyone how great it is. Then off to the hotel to get all the video editing for #CXDNow now and publish the blog post.

With only a few hours sleep, I headed off to Busboys and Poets to host the first BrainJam for We Are The Solution. Almost 10 years ago, we held one of the first BrainJams in DC. We had several people cancel, but with the 5 of us who were there, including Todd Tweedy who was at the first one, it actually worked out quite well, with everyone getting something meaningful. There is amazing power in our focus question – “What are you trying to accomplish? How can I help?” It proved itself in DC, and I can’t wait to see more of them happening in DC, across the country and even around the world.

Special thanks to Todd and Audience Machine for sponsoring breakfast. Kathy Chamberlain for letting us know about all the other great things already happening in DC that is similar, including the Social Enterprise DC group. Ricardo Abella for participating and sharing his story. Special thanks to Alexandra Long, who was at the IBM event the day before and gave me inspiration to keep going, to let me know that my stories and insights were making a difference. Even greater still, for her volunteering to help create the Journey Map for We Are The Solution that we are building as one of the practical how to segments of the #CXDNow series.

Towards the end, Nicole Patrice was able to join us and serve as a living breathing human example of the sort of impact we had previously with Social Media Club by inspiring people all over the country to convene their tribes, to embrace our mantra, “If you get it, share it”. Hearing her tell everyone about her experience traveling around the country and connecting with local SMC chapters, was a big part of my realization that while what I hoped to create didn’t fully manifest, what SMC produce was not only meaningful, but a beautiful expression of my original intent.

By the time I had finished sharing a full demo of what we built with Alynd, she had already introduced to me to three of her Summit friends. From Busboys and Poets, I headed over to Teaism for lunch with my dear friend and former coworker Sacha Cohen. After getting back to the hotel, I ended up connecting with one of Nicole’s suggested contact’s, Tyler Kellogg, who traveled across country helping people in a similar spirit of what I have been striving towards, but in human to human contact at a very personal level. You can hear more of his inspiring story here from his TEDx talk in Greenville.

So then it was off to the airport and onto the plane where I wrote up the highlights of this crazy week in DC, the epicenter once again for a massive change in my life. A week where I have truly lived my true purpose for this life, a life that is much more important then my experience of it, but which is also just pretty amazing, filled with amazing friends, crazy big dreams of a better world and the sort of hope that we can be the change we want to see, and ultimately see that change manifest in the world.

The time is now. You too can make a difference. So what’s stopping you?

Over the coming weeks, perhaps you can join us as we host more BrainJams in support of We Are The Solution. Check out these dates and if you can, come help us help you to make the world the best it can be, because while WE face many challenges, we are the solution to it all. If you are interested in helping, simply comment here or head over to the web site and subscribe to our Newsletter and we will invite you into our Slack group.

  • San Francisco – October 22, 2015
  • London, UK – October 30, 2015
  • Dublin, Ireland – November 5, 2015 (during Web Summit)
  • Bilbao, Spain – November 18, 2015 (during EEC)

 

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Preparing for the Future, We Must Understand our Present

Seeing more clearly, our future through the lens of the present...As part of the IBM Futurist programs, #NewWayToWork and #NewWayToEngage, I’ve received great access to some of the brightest folks around IBM. To talk with them, learn from them and become friends with them. Is IBM perfect, no, of course not, no one is. People have bad days, some people have bad attitudes and some are just bad ass! Everyone is different, which is why I appreciate the chance to meet so many different people in my life’s journey.

But truly, one of the best parts of being in both programs, is the access to other futurists, many of whom were already friends, some of which have become my friends.  Next week, I get a chance to get together with them again as part of TED at IBM, as well as with other soon to be friends whom I not only never met, but in some cases never even heard of before this event. People who give me hope, who inspire me, who have ideas that will make mine better and with whom I hope to reciprocate in appreciation of their gift.

In preparation for next week’s event, they asked many of us to answer a bunch of questions about the world today and what’s really important to us. This is important, because to understand the world in which we live (and the organizations in which we work), we must make visible and understand our common and disparate values. What we each hold dear, or even sacrosanct. The answers below, while simple in some cases and maybe obvious in another, also tells a bit about the story of that person. At least if you actually know them it does in a more meaningful way.  See for yourself and scroll past it to see a personal addition, a photo of the only personal item I would take with me on a long term space mission.

 

So what is the one thing I would bring with me? Did you read it in the presentation or just skip? No matter, it is this note my mom left for me one night when I flew home after living away in Philadelphia for a couple years. If you are interested in learning more about my mother, just ask my fraternity brothers about the time she stayed in the frat house and how she touched their lives. Or you can read it from her own words in this book she wrote on her life with Cerebral Palsy.

From across the whole of my life, it’s the most precious thing in, other then my wife Kristie, but she’s a great human, not a great thing 🙂 Anyway, just felt like sharing as I am feeling overwhelmingly grateful at this moment for an amazing week in DC and looking forward to another great week ahead back in San Francisco, with my friends, old and new, as we look to the future together.

My Mom's note I carry with me everywhere.

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The Slow Rise of the Customer Experience Designer & Architect #CXDNow

The Slow Rise of the Customer Experience Designer & Architect aka, “Why Chris Heuer is focusing on CX and the role of Holistic Strategy”
In 1999, the full impact of the nascent digital revolution was just finally being realized. The vision of the future I first saw 5 years previously, when I launched my first “dotcom” and interactive agency, was starting to become reality. With a new baseline for the status quo, everyone was beginning to have visions of what might come next – mobile, interactive tv and ubiquitous networked computing. Through my position as the Chief of eBusiness at the United States Mint, I began to connect with the Fast Company community more deeply after being a reader from issue #2. It was then that I discovered “The Experience Economy” and began to really think differently about marketing and engagement.

At the time, filling the marketing funnel was focused on advertising, a bit about PR, and increasingly about being an interactive lean forward experience instead of a lean back media experience. I had some marketing experience, some ad sales experience and a lot of common sense, which was still considered unconventional wisdom by most. I had also learned of the power of “Virtual Community” from Howard Rheingold’s fantastic book that introduced me to the power of ‘social media’ in the form of human connection through computer mediated communications. All of these experiences and visions of our future coalesced that year when I was charged with the marketing and growth of numismatics through electronic channels. I thought, “how the heck can I grow the market for coin collecting?”

There were a few obvious things, like reaching out to children and those interested in history. I tried to develop communities on the various portals, but could never convince the marketing boss to let us try to partner with Lycos or Yahoo. In fact, I even failed to get an online advertising budget, even though we had Kermit the frog as our official ‘Spokesfrog’. The old guard was standing firm on this stuff, and it was my first real experience in trying (and failing) at corporate change management. We had some wins though, so it was a great experience overall, especially working with Michele Bartram who was (and still is) a pioneering leader who knew a bit more about how to play this silly game called office politics.

But for myself personally and professionally, it was a pivotal moment. In asking that question about how to grow the market, it lead me to thinking differently about the nature of the market itself. It’s when I developed what I then called the customer experience lifecycle, or what is now more commonly known as the customer journey. Not thinking about a particular segment, but thinking about how the whole world related to our products and the market as a whole.  Thinking about how we could change people’s behaviors in a positive way towards our offering and ultimately, buy more products and spread word of mouth. By figuring out what knowledge they needed to have and what experiences depending on the stage of the relationship, we could provide them value beyond the product and ensure that they were connected to more people like themselves. In so doing, we could develop loyalty and reinforce their interest in coin collecting to potentially maintain it as a life long hobby.

Customer Experience LIfecycle v.5

Simultaneously, we were seeing the rise of CRM, moving beyond list management and into the era of relationships. Unfortunately, as with most early movements, there was a lot more lip service to the idea of relationships, and early CRM was mostly focused on managing order history and tracking customer support. They spoke loftily of getting a 360 degree view of the customer, of combining Claritas demographic data to develop new insights that would feed the communications strategies and messaging content. All the while not realizing that fully embracing these principles would require that we provide customers a 360 degree view of the company first. Or as Patricia Seybold would say with Customers.com, “Provide your customers with all the information that they need to purchase and enjoy your products or services.” I knew then, as we all do now, that embracing such a concept would transform the market and society as a whole. To actually care about customers, what a concept!

So I started working on advancing a concept I called, “Holistic Business Strategy“, thinking more about the whole of the business then any of its siloed parts. Years later, I saw similar thinking in what Robert Scoble called “the contextualizers,” people who could put aspects of the business in context to develop greater understanding of both strategies and operations to improve the bottom line. But at the time, holistic was more closely associated with hippies, crystals and ayurveda than serious business. In fact, despite my article from 2011, “The Time has come for Holistic Business Strategy,” the time has still not come – at least not fully. Instead, the concept has arisen in the form of Customer Experience, Journey Mapping and Design Thinking using an ‘outside in’ approach. Same thinking, same impetus, similar executions, different language.

While my concept of the customer experience lifecycle was not leveraged by the US Mint in the way that I had hoped, I was able to convince the COO of Palm, Alan Kessler, when we were both speaking at PC Expo in 2000. That lead to a multi-year relationship with Palm, where I worked with a stellar web team, the majority of whom I still stay in contact with today. During that time I became friends and worked closely with Rick Wootten, who had a similar understanding of a modern approach to marketing and a similar desire to get beyond interruption based advertising. We saw greater power in the development of content that would help people move along their journeys and build closer relationships with the company and its products.

After a long courtship, I secured a contract to not only help Palm build a platform for the Palm Economy, but to also develop a next generation content management system that would in essence be driven by the strategic principles inherent in what I had then come to call “The Customer Strategy.”

This is why I was excited to see a demo of the future looking Customer Journey Designer product from IBM back in May 2015, at the IBM Amplify conference in San Diego where I was invited as a #NewWayToEngage influencer. To see the vision of a journey mapping product that not only served the purpose of enabling people from across a company to better collaborate in service of their customers needs, but also to serve as a dashboard to monitor execution and optimize spending in near real time. It was, as Olivier Blanchard wrote “the marketing management solution we have all dreamed of.”

Naturally, I was beyond excited and sought to learn more. It is then that I discovered that the product was still in development and hopefully would begin with availability in the fall. So when the influencer program managers reached out to me to meet with the product management team in early September, I jumped at the chance. For all the conference invites and travel IBM provides through the program, the main compensation is the access and the extra promotion of my independent work and words. Given that they were going to pay me for a few hours of consulting to share some of these experiences and insights I have developed over the past 16 years, I was particularly excited. Not only to see something I have been thinking about come to life, but to in some small way contribute to it, to be a part of it. Well, that’s just cool.

It was then that I saw the first demo of the Journey Designer product, which is now available for free to everyone, and had a chance to discuss the vision for the product strategy and road map with Doug Foulds and his team. As he told me during that call, “we have humble beginnings in front of us, and are looking for practitioners to go on this journey with us.” This reinforced what I’ve come to learn over the last several years through my relationship and interactions with them, this isn’t your father’s IBM. The nature of business is fundamentally transforming to a broader appreciation for the true nature of the ecosystem in which it operates and an understanding of the symbiotic relationship between companies, employees, customers, partners, and even competitors.

After that call, I huddled with some of the #NewWayToWork team and we discussed possible ways I might be able to work with them beyond simple advisory calls. Amy Tennison of IBM and Courtney Smith Kramer of PureMatter are not only smart people who I respect, they have also become good friends over the past couple of years through which I have been engaged in the program. So when Courtney suggested there might be sponsorship dollars available to more deeply explore this topic and share my insights with everyone through my blog, I realized that the time had come to actually share some of this story and to help ‘advance the field’ more broadly.

As with social media 10 years ago, I see Customer Experience Design as having it’s zeitgeist moment. Not only is this new Journey Designer product from IBM being released now, but my dear friend and colleague Brian Solis is launching his new book, “X – The Experience When Business Meets Design.” So as we went on the journey together to expand the proper use of social media by people around the world, so to are we serving to empower this next wave of business transformation with insights and inspiration. As I said to Courtney, “the time for Customer Experience Design is NOW!”. This is how I landed on the show being called #CXDNow.

Personally I am incredibly optimistic about where are going with this latest advancement to market engagement. Where it starts today with the IBM Journey Designer is as a simple design tool that enables people from across the company and their agencies to collaborate in real time on the development of a customer journey map. To lay out all the different phases of the customer journey and all the different touch points, campaigns and experiences that any customer might have across an omni-channel landscape. While it sounds simple, as you may have heard in my conversation with Brian Solis yesterday, the coordination of these activities requires a certain type of collaborative culture, and is often only happening in companies who have already undergone a digital transformation or modernized their culture for our current market. Although I can’t reveal where it goes from here due to the NDA I have signed with them, I can tell you that I hope to be a part of that journey in many ways, not only as a creator of sponsored media or a member of their influencer program, but as a user and perhaps one day, more.

Over the course of the next six weeks with #CXDNow, we will cover the gamut of topics that you need to know in order to leverage the power of Customer Experience Design. From the basics to the future. Together we will not only cover educational material, but we will also see how the principles are put into practice as I seek the advice of leading practitioners who we have invited as guests. Beginning on Wednesday at noon PST with an interview of IBM Journey Designer Product Manager Doug Foulds, we will more closely examine the current need for their product and understand the broader benefits of journey mapping for your customer experience.

This is an exciting time. For me, it’s been 16 years in the making. Not only do we have all the amazing insights Brian Solis has packed into his Book “X,” and the lessons learned from the IBM Journey Designer team, but by using Blab to record our shows, I will also have the opportunity to share more of the work I have been doing and have yet to publish. Perhaps more importantly, we will also get a chance to learn from you, so that we may accelerate and amplify the rise of the customer experience designer and architect for our mutual benefit, together. In so doing, we have a chance to go beyond paying lip service to customer centricity, and finally embrace what I call “radical customer empathy.”

Join us, with #CXDNow.

Disclosure: While IBM is sponsoring the #CXDNow series, the contents and opinions are purely my own. As a #NewWayToEngage and #NewWayToWork Futurist, IBM includes me in events like the upcoming #NWTW Tour and the #TEDatIBM event, amplifying my independent comments without directly influencing what I say in any way.

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It’s Time for a Forward Thinking Conversation. It’s time for a #ReOrg

Time for a new conversation. Time for a #ReOrgWe live in an amazing time. A time where we are able to not only stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before us, but also where we can be lifted by our peers and give them a boost too.

When we started to broaden the conversation around social media back in 2006, we engaged in a dialog around the principles and practices which we hoped a more social future might bring us over many months. We debated what the proper language should be. We stood our ground. We compromised. We read the writing on the wall and acquiesced when it was clear that something other then our position was winning the day.

The majority of the people who participated in the early social revolution joined not for their egos or their popularity, they joined to make a difference out of a deep seated set of beliefs. They engaged with each other because they believed the power to create change was in our hands. That the difference making we needed in the world was within each of us, and that it was our responsibility to do something with it. We did unconferences, BarCamps, Social Media Camps and Social Media Breakfasts. We joined clubs, we recast societal beliefs about what was possible and we shared too much information about ourselves!

We learned the power of the tools to organize ourselves in support of our causes by building relationships and sharing. We learned that it wasn’t about the number of people who showed up, we learned it was about who showed up and the fact that we cared about similar things, we cared about making the future better, we cared about fixing what was broken with marketing and we cared about advancing similar values. We learned that our words mattered, and that those words transformed by a # could become something, a hashtag, that enabled us to connect with our tribes and our interests.

As I look back now, we had so much right in those early days. It really was about the distribution of power. Which is why I am disappointed that our original intention of fixing our broken systems and transforming the world through social technology has only sprouted as a small seedling of true change inside organizations instead of becoming a fast growing oak. Though surprising, it makes sense that many of the early social media evangelists have moved to other fields and areas of focus, some completely eschewing any professional relationship to social media.  I am certainly not alone in abandoning a previously deep association with social media in search of a new fire to light the revolution. That list is too long to mention, though perhaps you might want to chime in here yourself in the comments to share why you have or haven’t.

What I can tell you from our more recent history is that many of us who saw social as a catalyst for a fundamental transformation to the market and the pillars of society moved into social business. Many are still fighting that fight today, and despite my belief that Social Business is Dead, I applaud these modern Don Quixote’s for continuing the fight, for not giving up and for continuing to create positive change every day. They are indeed the true believers, and while some of them may be unhappy with me for dampening the embers of the smoldering fire instead of pouring on more fuel, I am grateful for their persistence and their valor.

As I said then and as I believe more than ever today, the principles aren’t wrong or misdirected. However, in the war of words that is central to the battle for the soul of our organizations, fighting under the banner of social business is a losing proposition – the modern equivalent to knowledge management. It’s just not winning the hearts, minds and slices of the budgetary pie necessary for our shared vision to become reality as quickly as we need the change to be the reality.

Unfortunately I have come to feel the same way about the “Future of Work” discussion and movement, despite the fact that it is the direction where my social business cohorts have headed. It’s hard to talk about the future of something when you haven’t created a shared vision upon the present that is emerging and what distinctions must be embraced and elevated.

What can we do about it?

So when I look back on how we won the broader debate that launched the social media movement and the wider industry at large, I am now asking you to join me once again in a collective effort for mutual benefit. I am asking for you to take what we have learned, to cash in our social capital and to invest our reputations, our hearts, and our minds into a conversation about what is next. A conversation about what needs to change, about what matters most, about what we want it to be and about how we describe it to others. A conversation about where we are at and where we are going. Perhaps more importantly, I ask you to join me in a conversation about how we prove the value in a measurable and tangible way beyond the ‘duh’ that supported the social media sales pitch.

It’s time for us all to come together and invest ourselves into reimagining and reorganizing our resources and structural models for managing organizations and creating value. It’s time for us to work together to orchestrate a resurgence of visionary innovation that inspires both change agents and this great millennial generation into standing up and speaking out for a better way. To stand against the folly and ignorance inherent in many organizational hierarchies. To join a conversation that will illuminate the dark corners of our work worlds into which our leaders do not currently see, a conversation that will highlight what works and what doesn’t. To stand with the courage of your beliefs again and speak truth to power.

Our institutions are failing us. Education is too expensive, making access to knowledge harder and turning wisdom into a scare resource. Government is  stagnant and putrid, using fear to destroy the common interests that bind us and dividing us in a way that surely signals a Jeffersonian ‘fall’. Our corporations appeal less and less to just about everyone – including their customers, their employees and even their leaders. Many who have achieved some station in life are resting in that space and opting out of the fight, tired of the perennial struggle between doing what’s right and what’s politically expedient. While a wider swath of humanity is self actualizing and realizing their ability to live a life on purpose and not accepting less than what they truly deserve, the system is still working against them on many levels.

Why? Now that’s a better question – because we know better, but too many of us accept it as “just the way things are”. I don’t think we can afford that way of thinking any longer. I’ve spent my life tilting at the windmills, as I know many of you have. If we can’t knock down the broken windmill with our lances of inspiration, I say it’s time for us to build our trojan horse. It’s time for us to come together once again and develop a collective vision for our future and a common language that will define and support that vision. It’s time for a bigger conversation.

There is room for each of us to have a unique take and a unique contribution for which we deserve to earn respect, recognition and incomes. But without working together towards our common vision and connecting the dots in a way that simplifies the inherent complexity of our shared vision for organizational leaders, the institutions themselves may just fail completely before we ever get a chance to save it.

While failure is often a prerequisite of exponential breakthroughs, we need not accept this as a fait accompli. We already recognize many of the challenges and the looming failures, so why not begin to work towards saving us all from the unnecessary pains and waste seems to be an inevitability. We already have a vision of the future of work. We have a vision for what a social business looks like. We have an understanding of how we need to reimagine our organizations to create shared value. We know what is necessary to unleash the fullest potential of the human spirit. So let’s set about doing that now, and doing that together in conversation that advances our field and inspires others to think differently and act differently.

So what are the words that will serve as our campfire around which we will gather for camaraderie and warmth? What is the language of the movement that encapsulates the multiple distinctions and insights that collectively are driving us towards a future free of today’s most commonly accepted defects? I don’t think it’s social business, I don’t think its future of work. I’m open to other suggestions, but for now I’d like to start this conversation focused on what I have consistently heard as the most fundamental change we must realize – a change in organizational structure and governance. A re-imagination of what an organization looks like and a rethinking of what we mean by work.

While we may not yet have adequate language for what we envision, I submit for your consideration that we are talking about a widespread #ReOrg. The reorganization of our mindsets, methods and measures about the organization, about our relationships to them as humans and about the fundamental practice of management as the underlying operating system that governs its behaviors. It’s time to create a more holistic view of how we create value, and especially with a focus on how we can optimize our ability to create shared value that benefits society as a whole instead of just those who have won the war for control.

Yes, it’s time for a #ReOrg. Are you ready? Let’s talk about it.

Join the conversation and add your voice. But don’t just add your voice, engage with others. For every post or insight shared, comment on or engage several others around their point of view. Keep your minds and hearts open. There is no single answer, but I do believe that we have collectively learned enough about what works and what doesn’t for us to discover the shared vision we have that is underlying our individual efforts. So let’s bring that into the light of day and collectively nurture our #ReOrg.

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Building Our Future: A Blueprint for Leading in a Connected Society

Note: This post outlines our plan for a video project / documentary we are producing while in Austin next week.

Building Our Future: A Blueprint for Leading in a Connected SoceityMany of you, like myself, have spent the past several years, or decades perhaps, focused on inventing and building our future. Through our own personal experiences, challenges and insights we’ve made decisions about where we wanted to invest our time and energy and what outcomes we wanted to produce. For some, it has been a movement. For others, a family. For others, building a business to solve both small and large problems. For others, its been about manifesting a vision of something never before imagined possible. And for others still, it’s simply been about getting by in an increasingly fast paced, overly complicated and increasingly connected world.

While we are on one hand still fighting poverty, injustice and inequality, we are truly standing at the dawn of an even more incredible future then we might have even imagined just a few years ago. In fact, my Alynd Co-Founder Rawn Shah made the point during our Work Hackers Salon the other night that the Renaissance could be considered a failure due to the limited participation it produced in the upside of the prosperity and knowledge it generated. His point was, can you imagine what we are capable of within our connected society today, where we have access to each other and so many enabling technologies? Indeed, a new age of enlightenment is already underway, but the era ahead of us can be even more spectacular then we can even imagine.

This is why I want to bring people together in painting a picture of what we want our tomorrow to look like and sharing our blueprints for how to build it. The real challenge is, how do we look past how things are and begin to make them how they should be? Can we transform large slow moving conservative organizations or are they beyond hope? With a sense of unease coming from a perception that both corporations and governments are failing humanity, and a market that is seemingly unfair and out of balance, how can we break free from what we have always known to create a better tomorrow? What are the most important things for us to understand? Where should we invest our most precious and limited resource, our time?

So next week in Austin, we will connect and have conversations with the many great people who are leading us towards this future. We will seek to discover more about their own noble pursuits and see if we can determine how we can each find the courage that it takes to lead others into this future with us. While George Bernard Shaw famously said “all progress depends on the unreasonable man”, Building Our Future is not a solitary act, but the collective actions of millions spread around the globe. In the connected society of today, perhaps he would have said “all progress depends on the connected man’s ability to gather others for collective action.”

This is post is an introduction into the idea behind “Building Our Future”, to bring together leading futurists, entrepreneurs, executives, influencers and those who are on the front lines, leading us into a better tomorrow within our deeply connected society. There are of course, many worthy areas for discussion, but we’ve identified a few key topics that we believe to be the macro-trends around which our collective future is being built.

So next week in Austin, from Friday March 7 through Monday March 10, 2014, we are gathering the leaders and the tribes who are already in town for that big interactive conference. We will be hosting round tables on each of these topics (links to come shortly) and interviewing leaders with visions of the future and stories of transformations to share. You can request an interview time slot using this form – be sure to explain what topic you want to address and a little more on your story. For the round tables, we will be using the same format we did for the Social Media Clubhouse in Austin in 2010 – in short, a handful of featured speakers/guests and other subject matter experts in the audience to lob in questions and participate on a more limited basis.

We are still seeking sponsors/investors in this project. Our goal is to collect as much footage as possible while in Austin from conversations with the people who are building our future, so that we might be able to create a long form video/documentary that we can release in a few months. We have different sponsorship levels available from $2,500 to $25,000. Only $10,000 gets you a co-producer credit, a small one hour meet up on Saturday or Sunday and a room at the Echo Studio, which is being held at a beautiful bed and breakfast just off of South Congress about a mile from the convention center.

More info to come on the bigger story behind this idea shortly, but if you have any questions, please feel free to email echostudio@adhocnium.com

Many thanks to Sponsors Echo, Ancestry, Alynd and many other in-kind sponsors for their support of this effort. [disclosures: long time friends with Echo, for who I am producing this event; my wife works at Ancestry.com and Alynd is my new startup we are previewing next Sunday, so it is still just a family affair, though that will change shortly with your help]

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