Archive for category Leadership

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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Guiding Principles are the First Necessity – #TEDatIBM

Imagine A Better WorldCan you imagine a world where we could have such great trust in society that you no longer cared about your privacy? While some may already feel that way today, most of us could never imagine such a world, especially given what we have experienced over the past decade. At last year’s TED at IBM event, Marie Wallace addressed the challenge we face today in a brilliant speech with a very practical, evidence based solution in her talk, “Privacy by Design”. Her talk is where my belief that we should abandon hope of any true privacy was replaced by hope that there was a vital, and indeed better way.

In light of this year’s theme for TED at IBM being “Necessity and Invention”, I thought it important to revisit her talk and illuminate this topic from a fresh perspective. When it comes to the matter of privacy, Marie’s talk grounded me in the realization that our guiding principles are the first necessity. The theme, according to the conference web site reflects our common wisdom on the subject:

“Necessity is the mother of invention—or so we have been led to believe. We cannot help but suspect that our needs to create and to shape the world around us run much deeper than simple pragmatism.”

It’s true, it’s not pragmatism that is at the root of our inspiration to invent in my view, it is our ability to be imaginative, our ability to overcome challenges we face, our desire to not only survive, but to thrive. It is something innate in our very being. It is the unique combination of a bias towards action, a sense of greater purpose and a belief in our personal ability against all risks that drives many of us to invent. To create. To struggle against ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune […] and by opposing end them’.

Unfortunately, as we have seen, particularly in the last century, absent a sense of true social responsibility, systems are designed and goods are brought to market out of a necessity that benefits a few at the expense of the many. All too often, it seems that data is being used to manipulate society broadly, and you specifically, instead of empowering us all.

Marie starts her talk with what I believe is one of the most powerful and important concepts of our modern era. It is also apparently from the Pope’s remarks last week during his US tour, a zeitgeist moment where many others are coming to this same realization. The idea that we can create a world by our own design, intentionally, not by inheritance or accident. As with the many lessons on life itself we have learned, we can choose to let it happen as it unfolds or we can direct it. So why not take an active role in shaping the world we’d like to see, and manifest it through thoughtful design. Today more than ever, this power is in our hands, not merely in the hands of a powerful few. But we must exercise it, not abdicate our rights out of a sense of helplessness. It’s a matter of intention and attention – do we want to create systems that are intentionally good for all, or to allow others to create systems that are used to manipulate us. Do we want to give attention and support to organizations and systems that are using their resources to manipulate us? I think not.

It is Marie Wallace’s central premise, that “How we approach privacy, will have the single greatest impact on [our future society].” It not only establishes the expectations of every human relative to their role in the market, but also their role in the work force. Will it continue to be based on suspicion and absent any meaningful degree of trust? Or could it instead be more trustworthy as a result? She and I agree in this case, it could be the latter, but it will take time and greater attention from us all in shaping this better future. As she said in her talk, “The reality is it doesn’t have to be like this. And I don’t think we want to live in a world where it will be like this.”

The alternative, is potentially pretty scary, to even the least educated of us on this subject, and perhaps even to the apathetic if they were to see how their data might be used to manipulate them instead of empower them. One of the examples she mentioned was relative to an organization learning from their data analytics that you had a problem with body image and this was used to sell you diet pills. Countering that approach, what if the system was open and transparent with you, and showed you the insights it generated and gave you options, not just taking advantage of your emotional state. It suggested healthier recipes, encouraged you to take a walk or to uplift your spirit and confidence. These are all possible with data analytics, but only if the controllers of the data and the insights are emboldened with positive intentions for you and society, instead of being motivated to sell you the most expensive diet pills on which they would make a profit.

Marie pointed out that even if you control your data with do not track and other mechanisms, there are still data leaks from one system to another that can provide companies with data you do not want them to have. Recently I was given a demo of a new product that did a deep personality profile on me based on my public social media presence. It developed a profile of my emotional state, and also my psychographic drivers. For many this is the holy grail of marketing, being able to tailor ads based on psychoanalysis to understand what motivates me and hit my ‘hot buttons’.

Indeed, there were a few things it suggested about my personality that were troubling, and many of which were flat our wrong because of how I have been managing my public image on Twitter proactively, and because of some recent #tweetfight I had. This is all data in the public domain, so I don’t necessarily have a problem with it, but I am concerned, as Marie is, about how others with less scrupulous intentions may use it. As a marketer, I am concerned about how a snapshot like the one it produced does not represent the whole of the person, and how even such advanced data analytics can still get it fundamentally wrong by basing such insights on a snapshot instead of the whole me and the deeper insights that would come from having a REAL Relationship with me.

Many will tell you that we need to accept all of this data is already out there and this is simply beyond our control. So the solution is to turn it off, to take ownership of our own data and to block advertising through our devices, as Apple recently enabled with the latest iOS update. But this is not a complete picture of the reality we face. As Marie points out, the current state is really a ‘privacy spaghetti’, or perhaps a ‘spaghetti monster’. We need to go to the root of the challenge and rethink our approach to this important topic from the ground up.

Which is exactly what she did in the IBM case study she shared on how they applied analytics to their vast trove of data generated from one of the oldest Enterprise Social Networks in existence. Instead of thinking of management and the employees as separate interests, she took the perspective of providing maximum value to all participants, not just the management. In taking the Privacy by Design approach, they built the foundation of their data analytics program rooted in privacy as a guiding principle that would rule all decisions and actions that followed, before writing a line of code.

In undertaking the project to better understand their employees, the IBM team embraced three core guiding principles. In my view, the pre-requisite before the invention.

  • A commitment to transparency and openness.
  • Embrace simplicity and ease of use.
  • Focus on personal empowerment.

By making these guidelines simple to understand and visible to all, they gave trust to gain trust. By giving employees actionable insights that would help them improve themselves as a principle benefit, and enabling them to choose whether or not to share those insights with others, it changed the dynamic of the relationship for the better in more ways then one. Still, management was given access to the aggregated analysis to understand the important trends, challenges and opportunities, but did not unnecessarily reveal the private details of a uniquely identifiable individual.

This resulted in a significant upside, the sort of upside that many of us have long been trying to prove to those who would choose to exploit the data instead of protecting and empowering individuals. According to Marie, “Demonstrating openness and transparency builds trust and it allows our users to engage more openly and freely with us and share more data. And more data means more value for them and for us. It’s a virtuous circle.” In short, their approach to Privacy by Design deepened their relationships with their employees. Instead of merely providing the other stakeholders with analytics, these deeper relationships provided increased engagement with interested employees that enabled the accomplishment of even more valuable outcomes.

To my original question – Can you imagine a world where we could have such great trust in society that you no longer cared about your privacy? I’d like to believe we could, by facilitating such transparency that we all knew what was available and where we had control over how it was being used. I’d like to intentionally design such a world, perhaps with you through my new community movement “We Are the Solution“. But in order to abandon my hope or interest in defending privacy, I first need greater confidence that unscrupulous people and companies who value profit above people are not able to use my data, or any data, in a manipulative way.

As you are probably keenly aware, this is not the world in which we live today. But it is a world we could design and build together if we choose to do so. As Scott Swhwaitzberg posits in “Trust me… there’s an app for that” the combination of technology and transparency can make this world a reality. But first, we need to ensure that no corporate desire trumps the guiding principles of our shared values across society. This is why the first necessity is to embrace a common set of guiding principles. This is why we must support organizations who share and operate under such values with our hands, hearts and wallets, and deny such support to those who don’t.

Watch Marie Wallace’s talk, “Privacy by Design” on YouTube, and visit the TED at IBM web site to learn more about the upcoming event.

DISCLOSURE:

Like many of you, I love the inspiration and big thinking that comes out of TED. It’s why I helped to produce BIL back in 2008 and why I spoke at BIL again in 2014. It’s a part of who I am, which is why I attend TEDx whenever I can (and hope to speak at a few next year) and why I was so grateful to be invited to TED at IBM last year and will be attending again on October 15, 2015 as their guest. This post, while not required of me in exchange for my invitation, was written as a part of the IBM New Way to Engage futurist program of which I am a part and is being promoted by IBM through that program. While they are paying to promote it in social media, the words above are completely my own, except as otherwise quoted, and do not reflect the position of IBM.

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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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Social Business Isn’t Dead, It’s ____________

Social Business Isn't Dead, It's Just MarketingHere at IBM Connect 2014 in Orlando this week I’ve had a epiphany. Or perhaps, I should say that I have actually come to face the facts I have long known to be true, yet tried to forget. Or rather, I tried to ignore the facts by imbuing my support for the bigger idea that is Social Business, with a greater aspect of my soul, and my aspiration for improving humanity. Yes, I still have aspirations for a smarter planet, a smarter workforce, a smarter city and a smarter, more informed citizenry (h/t to our friends at NPR as well as IBM there). But Social Business was barely ever alive, so it isn’t dead, it’s just a marketing slogan.


No, this does not mean that I am disavowing my claims from my earlier post, “Social Business is Dead, Long Live What’s Next”. So, if you are one of the zealots hoping I have had a change of heart, you will be disappointed by what’s written here, yet I will encourage you to read on despite our disagreement. I suspect we agree more then you may even know, yet are still clinging hopefully to the symbols of these two words and the higher meaning it portends.


What I have come to realize by listening to sessions here, talking to consultants, asking analysts and speaking to real world users of the suite of technologies IBM calls Social Business  is what many have known all along, and what few evangelists are willing to accept: Social Business isn’t a solution to a company’s problem; it is an aspiration. Hence, the need for such energetic and strong willed evangelism. As I came to realize long ago, great products aren’t sold, they are bought. Which is why advertising is the tax companies pay for incomplete or poorly designed products. (let’s leave aside solution selling from this discussion for now please, as that is different)


When I recommended to my colleagues at Deloitte Consulting, at the start of my job in early 2011, that we pursue Social Business as our focus, instead of Social Media, it was based on an assumption I had made and an understanding that social media was the realm of creative and communications agencies more then consultants. It was an assumption that I now realize was only partially correct,  which was based on an incomplete understanding of the facts I used as the basis to make that recommendation. Yes, I made that decision in large part because of the marketing muscle and might that IBM was putting behind Social Business as much as their prior success touting eBusiness, but it’s also based on what I learned from advocating and educating people about Social Media.


At the time, I argued that we needed to call it SOCIAL media and not new media, and not, as my friend and respected colleague Steve Rubel argued, to just call it media. My reason was that we needed to accentuate and call attention to what was different about it: it was social, involving people sharing, and participating in conversations in public spaces. It has taken about seven years since those arguments in my opinion to reach the point that we can actually mostly just call it media now (though I am not opposed to calling it social media), but surely that realization has been evident for many months if not longer to many of you.


Perhaps with Social Business, the cycle has accelerated and we have reached the point where extra differentiation or attention on the social aspect isn’t needed even faster then before. The one thing I keep hearing in the keynotes, in the hallways and in my discussions with leading analysts is that most of what we are talking about is just BUSINESS. It was always intended to be about the new way we should be doing business. It was abut leaving behind the exploitative ways of old to embrace more efficient, more effective and more human aspects underlying the engine of our economy.


To this end, we do need a label, a symbol or a banner to rally behind; hence, we do need to call it something. That was really the point behind my Social Business is Dead post, to seek out and perhaps discover a better phrase. But none have materialized, and no appropriate alternatives that encompass the ideals has been suggested yet, though several exist which are at least partially true. This is why I don’t mind if we keep calling it Social Business. Or, that you might call it the Postdigital Enterprise. Or, if we talk about operating in the collaborative economy. 


There are probably few things I wouldn’t want it to be called, but my mind is mostly open. It’s a big transformation for the world, and that requires a big tent where thinkers and pundits and leaders can connect the proverbial dots and go about letting people see it as they do from their perspective, calling it whatever makes the most sense to them.


Leaders, particularly in large, conservative, publicly traded companies are not ones to buy something because they’ve been told it will make them feel better, they want solutions to their problems and clear proven advantages that will help them grow profitability and market share. But still, some very smart people I have met and have known still think a social business is one that participates in social media spaces effectively with their customers, responding to tweets that might otherwise tarnish their reputation if they aren’t there fast enough. Truth is, as it has been designed, social business is much more then that – it is, as several speakers yesterday said proudly, “not something you do, but a way you are”.


As I talked with colleagues here this week after I realized Social Business isn’t dead, it’s a marketing slogan, there was some head nodding and some very light resistance – but not much. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, and while it may be off-putting to some, it is actually just a label applied to a view of how the world should operate for the benefit of everyone, where organizations work to create shared value for our society. One society, under god, with liberty, justice and equal opportunity for all.


And in that spirit of freedom, I won’t mind if my colleagues and friends keep calling it Social Business, as even I do from time to time. But I will be on the lookout for a better symbol and phrase for the foreseeable future. Because as those speakers has been saying, and as I have been hoping, its more then a set of tools, its a way of being that is different than most managers in the old world can even comprehend.


That is worthy of our efforts, and worthy of marketing dollars to help shift that change, but its also worthy of us going way beyond the marketing, the messaging and the dogfooding, to find ways to help more leaders wake up to the new world order. It requires us to convene conversations that really matter like the one I had with Rudy Karsan in the press conference after Monday’s opening general session. (will share audio shortly)


What it takes is more conversations like the one we will be hosting at our next Work Hackers Salon later in February with Charlene Li at Altimeter Group’s Hangar. If you are in the Bay Area, I hope you can make it to talk to us about the fight of our lives, the fight for defining the future of work and ensuring it has a bigger soul that will drive an even bigger wallet.

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The Employee Centric Corporation and the Birth of the Employee Agreement

Nurturing a New Idea, The Employee AgreementToday (Friday September 20, 2013) I am in New York City participating in the Work Revolution Summit. While I have many professional and personal reasons for participating, not the least of which is our new Social Business SaaS company Alynd and our desire to fix what is most broken with work, I am here focusing on one big, yet simple idea. That the shift in the balance of power we are experiencing as consumers in our relationships with brands will soon be coming to our work lives and the relationship we have with our employers.

More specifically, I believe it is time for us to go beyond the constructs of the employment agreement and begin to embrace a new vision for an employee centric corporation. A simple, yet profound movement in this direction is the creation of an employee agreement that makes plain the more important aspects of the employee-employer relationship from an employee centric point of view, instead of a liability limiting corporate perspective.

The employee agreement is designed to make visible each employee’s purpose at work, defining who they are, what they can uniquely contribute and what they expect to be doing in the time they devote to the corporate mission. This should not be written in legalese, but in easy to understand, plain English. It should be openly and transparently shared internally with other employees, and in some cases, perhaps even publicly. It should be written in such a manner so that every other employee may not only understand their purpose and motivations, but also understand their strengths and what activities they personally expect to be doing at work each and every day. If you have every participated in a team sport, this may sound familiar to you, it’s what we do to win – work together, aligned towards our common goals in mind, body and soul.

If you are an individual change agent who wants to ignite this part of the Work Revolution but don’t know where to start. Here is something you can start today, right now in fact. The concept of the employee agreement starts out as a simple post to your intranet, employee forum, social network or blog that answers the questions: Who am I? What unique value can I contribute? What is expected of me? and Why am I here?

This isn’t a new concept, it is a new call to action for doing something meaningful about it without requiring permission or systemic change. Bill Jensen, change agent and thought leader on the future of work has long called for a New Work Contract. From his perspective, he sees the new work contract as an asset revolution. Employees (aka humans) aren’t just resources to be managed, but their time, attention, and ideas are assets. With the new work contract, like all assets, employers must respect the intrinsic value of those assets and provide a proper return to their investor.

In Bill Jensen’s “Work 2.0: Ten Year Report”, he found that business is “at war with its workforce”. Executives may not feel that this is the case, but ask any cog in the machine that is a big corporation and they can not only validate this sentiment, but provide story after story from their experience that supports this finding.

It may be hard to remember, but it wasn’t always this way.

In the not too distant past, the corporation served a central and lasting role in people’s lives. At the birth of the industrial era, there were ‘company towns’ built literally to house the employee population near factories and provide for their needs. As recently as the 60’s and 70’s, there was the notion of the ‘company man’, where an employee invested their entire lives working for one company that helped them develop both personally and professionally. They looked after each other with the utmost loyalty. The employees looked forward to getting their watch and their pension plan on retirement, when they could finally relax and move to Florida. More recently, this has become less and less true, while many employees continue to hope for the best.

Over the past few decades, there has become an increasing understanding that we are each CEO’s of our own careers. In the modern world, we each need to take responsibility for our prosperity both professionally and personally. Of course, there is still professional development opportunities in many companies, where they pay for training with important skills, send key employees to conferences to learn the latest techniques of their profession, and may even put them into an executive MBA program – if they have been recognized as being ‘management material’, and are willing to exchange a few more years of their life as part of the reimbursement. Unfortunately, for the average employee, they don’t see these sorts of opportunities for growth. Instead they go through the motions of setting professional development goals when that time of year comes around, telling their managers what they think they want to hear instead of telling them what is really in their hearts and minds.

Indeed, many professionals have taken this advice to heart and left their corporate jobs in pursuit of greener pastures. During the dotcom boom, as with the “forty-niners” of America’s westward expansion, many courageous souls left comfort and security behind to pursue a chance to strike it rich. Over the past few decades, an increasing number of knowledge workers have taken their careers and their futures into their own hands to become independent consultants, to spend more time with their families, to start their own businesses, to begin early retirement, to serve their communities, or to pursue their other dreams.

In short, there has been a great migration of the best and brightest talent away from the corporation. The idea that employees might have jobs for life is now a distant memory. They have lost faith in the corporation as companies and their leaders have proven they don’t really believe ‘that people are their greatest assets.’ Worse, most leaders have created strategies and policies that prove they don’t trust their employees as far as they could throw them. This challenge is perhaps more localized to the US, but the pace of this migration is increasing as more and more talented professionals realize that many of their so-called leaders are incompetent at best and sociopaths at worst.

As corporations have demonstrated their preference for at-will employment, many of their leaders have also clearly said they care more about shareholders and their personal bonuses then they do about the well being of their employees and the markets they serve. This is natural of course, because just like Pavlov’s dog, they will act in the manner in which they are rewarded and avoid the behaviors which cause them pain. Even though competitive strategy guru Michael Porter has pointed out the need to think about prosperity over profitability and shift our focus to creating shared value, it’s not a topic that has reached many boardrooms.

Further to this point, we have read recently that many corporate leaders see people merely as a ‘cost’. To some, they are merely resources, and not recognized as human beings. For too many leaders in the elite towers of power, ‘human resources’ are fungible, easily replaced by less expensive, and less experienced, humans, thus enabling greater profitability (and ensuring their personal bonuses). While people may be equal under the law and god, they are not fungible, each is unique and each brings a unique value to the work they perform, and to the dynamics of their teams. Just ask any manager that has tried to hire a skilled replacement for one of our aforementioned workers that promoted themselves to CEO of their own career.

At the same time we have seen incredible gains in productivity over the last several years. While they are surely driven in part by technological advances and other gains in global market efficiencies, I believe that there is another driver. There is a fear among those who remain in the corporation, who have not yet realized they are their own CEO, that the proverbial axe may fall at any moment, leaving them without an income and without security for themselves and their families. They have less resources, but put in 120% effort in order to keep their jobs, and hopefully get a promotion and/or a raise, which often times simply doesn’t come. Worse, some of these individuals do not have ‘new world skills’ as they have been too busy working as cogs in the machine, sustaining the status quo, and trying to look after their loved ones, their communities and their own personal interests.

These symptoms unfortunately speak to a more fundamental unraveling of the status quo of the socioeconomic foundations of our society that is creating a future that few senior executives are able to comprehend, and to which even fewer will be able to adapt. Meanwhile, individual employees are being forced to adapt to a world of constrained resources and increased expectations. Over the past several years, their personal technology became vastly superior to that provided by their employers. So they started bringing their own devices to work, raising expectations and demands on their IT departments. Douglas Neal and John Taylor of Leading Edge Forum identified this “Consumerization of IT “as an emerging trend over a decade ago, and yet many corporations are still in reactive mode, with many treating it as if it is a foreign and unworkable concept.

Now there is not only more access to thousands of channels of entertainment, but access to more information, from media outlets, from trusted friends and from familiar strangers. All available on demand, in real time. The advancement of our connected society has been reaching into all organizations, of every size, from every sector. Still, few corporations have been quick to embrace the idea of becoming a connected company or deploying social business technologies. Even as their customers, and the dollars they provide as their wellspring of life, demand it of them.

As Dell Hell and many other examples since has shown, this demand is not one to be taken lightly. Corporations have been forced to respond, with few prepared or willing to embrace it as an opportunity, and the majority being reluctant to even consider its impact on operations beyond the use of social media as another marketing and support channel. Even still, brand managers are perplexed with their new roles in a world where they fear that the consumers control their brand, and their jobs by proxy. The truth is that this idea is a misnomer. Consumers don’t control the brand, but they do help shape it, and they have a greater degree of influence on how others perceive the brand then ever before. Ultimately, the corporation controls whether or not they are delivering on their promise and whether or not their marketing and communications efforts are an accurate reflection of the reality of the brand experience. This is what has actually changed. The market will not be deceived through false statement and exaggerated claims in a connected society. In this way, both the consumer and the corporation share control of the brand.

Fundamentally, in the market itself, we have recognized a shift in the balance of power from companies to their customers. If a company, or a disgruntled customer service representative unhappy with their employer, treats a customer poorly, or has a policy that is clearly unfair, that customer is likely to turn to Twitter or Facebook or their blog to complain. Whether they have 5 or 500 or 500,000 followers may indeed change the speed and nature of the response, but increasingly, they may actually get a response that is different than if they had called the company’s customer service line, waited on hold for 30 minutes and gotten nowhere.

While we haven’t seen this shift occur widely in the employer – employee relationship just yet, I contend we stand on that precipice. This is certainly the case in Silicon Valley, where rising salaries, benefits, flexible work schedules and seemingly outrageous perks are the norm. In fact it has gotten so ridiculous that it is nearly impossible for new companies to recruit top programmers in the valley and many are actually considering setting up development in far away cities. Of course, the developing world sees this as an opportunity, with outsourced software development being performed in Russia, China, Poland, Chile, India, Phillipines, and other far flung corners of the globe.

The war for talent is a complicated issue. The need for corporations to win this war is obvious. If you are to compete in a world where invention and intelligence are your best weapons for winning market share and earning the trust and loyalty of customers, it is a war that must be won. Hence the win at all costs approach of the largest companies in the largest markets, and the very visible way in which top talent is disproportionately rewarded.

But it’s not all about perks and cash. For an increasingly growing number of employees, it’s as much if not more about connecting with a deeper purpose in their lives. As with consumers who are making purchase decisions based on how green or socially responsible a company is, employees too are now choosing employers who are more closely aligned to their purpose and their interests. Those who realize they are the CEO’s of their own careers, but who dislike the multitudes of hats they must wear as an independent contractor, are seeking enlightened employers where they can earn a good living while living true to their purpose. Organizations who are realizing this and building organization structures and policies to attract and retain top talent are winning. Dave Gray in his book The Connected Company calls out many examples; among them well known names like Amazon, Semco, Nordstrom, SAS and Whole Foods.

While not all corporations are able to adapt fast enough to this changing world, there are some simple steps that can be taken in the right direction. An invaluable first step is recognizing the importance of purpose at work, and nurturing employees to find and connect with what matters most to them. There is no place where this reality is seen more clearly then at Zappos, where they cultivate individuality by helping employees realize as much happiness and success in their life away from work as they do at work. While many more, like my former employer Deloitte do this through sabbaticals and integrating community service opportunities via paid volunteer programs and pro-bono services, there are other simple ways this can be accomplished.

As mentioned at the onset, there is a very simple step that anyone can take right now towards bringing their purpose to the forefront of their work. It requires no permission, and should not require forgiveness. First, you must do the somewhat harder effort to get clear about what your purpose is, so you feel it as your truth as much as you can intellectualize and rationalize it. Then you merely need to share your purpose with others inside, and potentially even outside of your company. Share it on your internal employee profile, across the enterprise social network, in speeches at all hands meetings, and most especially in more intimate settings with the teams on which you work.

This is something I did personally while working at Deloitte Consulting, and it really felt incredibly liberating. While I can say that it shocked some, it also generated a great deal of trust and respect for my willingness to be transparent, and to be so clear in declaring my purpose for why I was working at the firm. I made it clear and stated plainly that I had taken the job at Deloitte for two reasons. First was a matter of urgency, I took the job to advance their social media and social business efforts because I needed the money. After several years running a non-profit community organization, it was time to find financial security, pay off my debt, and get into a position where I could once again become an entrepreneur.

But money alone was not my purpose, just a reason and an impetus. What moved me to choose Deloitte over several other options was a desire to have a front row seat to the great restructuring that would allow me to understand how large, traditional organizations were adapting to the great restructuring being forced on them by the advent of our connected society and widespread market adoption of social technologies. More importantly perhaps, was getting a chance to help them with that transition, to convince them of the necessity and opportunity. While a few scoffed at these statements and fixated on my stated financial need, those who came to know me, who heard the passion and truth in my voice, realized that it was a deep desire to be part of the change I have long sought to see in the world.

In this way I earned the respect of many, particularly the large millennial work force at Deloitte. Not only for the higher purpose I had communicated, but for my willingness to state it so clearly and openly. Regardless of what your thoughts may be on the recent millennials at work discussion, I can tell you with absolute certainty that what they and all other members of our work force want is to be told the truth. They crave someone who will shoot straight with them and not pretend that a challenge or unpleasant fact is untrue when it clearly is. They also crave leaders who can inspire and support, not managers who will nitpick and obfuscate.

I did more then declare my purpose at work though, I also declared what I did well, and what I did poorly. I made clear who I was, as a human being, as a member of the industry I helped cultivate and as an employee of the firm. It gave me back a great deal of energy I would have normally wasted, because I was able to be myself and not pretend to be what I thought others expected of me – I didn’t waste emotional energy being someone I was not. While in some cases it didn’t necessarily serve my better interests, it freed me to live my truth, to give my best and to find greater meaning everyday. It also kept me connected with that purpose on a regular basis, staying focused on why I was there everyday, enabling me to get through the rough days and really celebrate the great ones.

This experience got me thinking about the nature of the employment agreement, and how it defined the legally necessary aspects of the contract designed to protect my employer, and how little of the employment agreement was designed to serve my interests. In fact, while I negotiated a salary that was to my liking, none of the other terms of that agreement was negotiable. The rest of it, from intellectual property assignments, to sick leave and benefits, was a take or leave it proposition as it is in virtually all large corporations. Now, to be clear, Deloitte has awesome benefits (really) and there was little I would seek to be changed in that regards, so I willingly entered into the agreement with a full understanding of its terms, even the few with which I disagreed. This point is being raised relative to the general nature of the employment agreement itself rather than a complaint with the one I signed.

Ultimately, what I realized was that the shift in the balance of power, the war for talent and the coming changes to the structure of the corporation will necessitate that the employment agreement, and how we enter into it, will change too. While corporations will fight back saying they can’t efficiently manage different contracts with different terms for each of its employees, the current state of compliance by fiat will not survive as it is in the future of work. Soon, I hope, we will reach a tipping point where there is a true balance of power between the employee and employer that is more the norm then the fringe.

The employee agreement expects the employee to fully and deeply answer the questions “Who am I, why am I here and what value can I offer others with my time, experience and ideas?” By making the answer visible to others, and enabling them and their employer to enter into a truly two-way relationship, the employee will not only be better aligned with the company, but also with other employees. In this way, while they are getting their work done and contributing their unique value, they are also able to connect more directly and consciously with their purpose for entering into the agreement, increasing their level of engagement, increasing their value contributed and decreasing their emotional energy wasted.

While the idea of the  employee agreement template I suggest here is a simple one, where we collectively go from here, remains to be seen. In fact, I look forward to your thoughts and comments here so that we might together begin to redefine the employee-employer relationship. If we begin to take these small personal steps, we can all begin to better see our colleagues at work and improve our collaboration with each other. In this way, through these straight forward but powerful questions, we might not only be able to make our work more meaningful, but we might just find a better path to living our lives in alignment with our unique purpose.

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Invaluable Advisors, Off to a Great Start

In the world of startups, a great advisory board is often used to demonstrate to potential investors that you know people who will let you use their name, which in today’s market conditions, probably means you can get a better chance of getting into an incubator/accelerator and might be able to convince some other first time entrepreneurs to join your team.

For the Social Business Software company I am building, it is something entirely different, and more substantive. Yes, my advisory board consists of famous leaders you may know, or if you don’t know, you should. I began to coalesce the board around a specific set of experiences, connections and insights I was seeking to fill in areas where we couldn’t afford to hire or secure full time positions. I set out to fill these specific roles from my network who I already knew would grok the concept and be able to add instant value. It is truly a working advisory board, and thankfully it is nearly complete and moving towards its first formal meeting in the next week or so. While still in the early stages, they have each contributed some form of real value towards the concept development, identified some potential candidates for co-founders and validated the general business plan, agreeing to be part of our journey. Together we are striving to change how people work together and how organizations build more collaborative cultures. Since it’s still in the proverbial stealth mode, that’s all I will say about it for now.

Today, I want to update you and my extended network on the progress to date and acknowledge the amazing members of the advisory board. Each of them have contributed so much already — I am truly grateful for their efforts to date and for their support over the coming year as we begin to grow the company.

  • Dave Gray, formerly of Dachis Group, formerly of XPlane, currently and forever a great guy and world leading visual communicator/thinker. He also, together with a former co-founder / life long friend Thomas Vanderwal, wrote the book The Connected Company, which is a large part of a shared vision we have for destroying the current models of the org chart and enabling a more social form of doing business.
  • David Armano of Edelman Digital is someone I deeply respect with similar views on the world as Dave Gray and myself, but who has been on the front lines of transforming public relations, traditional marketing and communications strategies with some of the most innovative brands in the world. He is a creative with common sense, and his contributions on the branding, positioning and messaging has helped to point me towards a brand name that will most surely serve as a competitive advantage. I have long admired his ability to simplify the core concepts of social media and social business, enabling others embrace and execute upon it in a practical way. Now I am glad to have those insights and communications skills to help grow our new company.
  • Daniela Barbosa, now leading Business Development at First Rain, formerly of Dow Jones and always an industry leader around social, data portability and client centric solutions marketing, understands sales in this new era like few others. She is also a creative thinker, an incredible story teller and a deeply compassionate soul who represents the best in the all too often maligned function of enterprise sales, strategic alliances and business development.
  • Bill Sanders, Managing Director of Roebling Strauss is a consumate project manager with deep domain expertise in digital, event production, operations and organizational development. Bill’s addition to the board came serendipitously as we discussed other potential collaborations and he began to speak directly to the problems I am striving to solve. His vast experience with customers in our target market, managing projects and developing innovative solutions to their toughest challenges is one thing, but his operations focus is a perfect complement to my expansive vision, ensuring we focus on getting things done! I couldn’t be more excited about the value he has added to the company so far and our potential for even deeper collaboration in the months and years ahead.
  • David Sifry, serial entrepreneur, former CEO of Technorati, founder of numerous other startups, man of integrity and all around great guy provides us the knowledge and experience of having been through multiple startups. His experience and his startup connections are truly invaluable, but he is also a brother from another mother, whose personal counsel transcends the business discussion and whose smile puts everyone at ease. His drive towards a healthier lifestyle is also a personal inspiration for myself and many of our other friends across the startup ecosystem.
  • Nate Pagel, serial entrepreneur, product manager, UX leader and possessor of an incredible work ethic is pushing me forward past the occasional blank canvas problem that comes with startups and providing a greater clarity of focus to what we are building and when we are building it. Nate was an early agency guy (like me) who sold to Sapient (unlike me), is the founder of Podaddies and more recently served as the web development (product) manager at Performance Marketing Brands (who own Ebates.com among other properties).
  • David Allen, has held technology leadership positions (CTO/CIO/++) at companies such as Visa and i365 (a Seagate company). He has also been a supporter of Social Media Club and many other startups around the valley, providing an engineering perspective that looks beyond the technology to understand the underlying psychology at play in the internal operations and in the end users who the products are built to serve. I’ve been fortunate to share dreams, challenges and opportunities with David for over 8 years now, and have continuously been impressed with his counsel and friendship.

So, to state the obvious, somehow we ended up with 4 David’s. Which in my view of the world is invaluable, because it will make slaying this Goliath of a problem we face in reinventing work that much easier!

More seriously, it is one hell of an advisory board, with deep domain expertise, a deep passion for bringing about the transformation we most want to see in the world, and a deep level of personal trust I have built with each over the past 5-10 years. Most importantly, its not titular or intended to prove that I have connections (you can see that through my social media profiles). It’s intended to ensure the company makes the best decisions, has access to the best networks, is able to gain highly valuable insights, and finds its path towards growth – and exchange of sweat equity for vesting equity.

That said, while I continue to interview potential co-founders for full time roles, I still have 3 specific advisor slots I am seeking to fill.

  • An enterpreneur who has taken his company public or sold it in a major transaction
  • A senior strategy person for a global corporation
  • A senior HR leader for a global corporation

And with these final slots filled, we will have our 10 person, working advisory board, all with the sort of experience, connections and brainpower to make us as succesfull as possible. I couldn’t be happier with this great start. With their support, we will begin to move forward on our product road map, build out the team and get to work in earnest on fixing what is most broken in today’s organizations.

While we’ve only just begun, we’ve also come a long way already. I can hardly contain myself right now, but timing is everything, so when the timing is right in a couple of months I will announce the alpha sign up page and a few months after that the public beta. It’s such an exciting time, to finally be working on what truly makes my heart sing with the confidence that we will be forever changing the nature, structure and operations of organizations the world over, enabling them to empower their employees and to truly become social businesses.

Go forth and pursue your dreams, there is nothing greater in this world… except perhaps being able to do so along with some of the people you most respect in the world who have your back and share your dreams. Thanks to each of you who have joined so far, and to each of you who will be joining over the months ahead!

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Egypt: More Than the Power of the Network, It’s Also Pervasive, Simple and Cheap

Broadly I agree with Matthew Ingram in his post It’s Not Twitter or Facebook, It’s the Power of the Network, though I think the Foreign Policy columnist Evgeny Morozov he cites is missing the point. It is seemingly clear that the tools, and Social Media broadly, played a crucial role in changing the rules of the game and the perception of reality on the streets. While those I have called “Digital Utopians” are often overly engaged in puffery, not willing to see the potential negatives and overstating the importance of these tools relative to an everyday person’s perspective, there are a few other factors are at the core of this disruption, though they are perhaps more nuanced.

IMHO, it’s not just the network as Matthew credits, but the acceptance of, and understanding of its use – ie, it’s a mindset created by the pervasive and daily use of the Web and social media in aggregate (to Dave Winer’s point) – though crediting Facebook and Twitter are merely a convenient short hand reference that is illustrative of everything else. It’s a mental outlook on the world that is helping individuals to feel more empowered and hopeful for a better existence instead of beaten down by despair. This is amplified as the media gives credit to the tools (making more people see their power) and the word of mouth that such broadcasts create that changes the collective outlook.

But this wasn’t happening 15 years ago when we were originally logging on and talking about network effects. It’s only happening today because of the percentage of the world that has adopted social media as a set of communications and connection tools. It’s happening because the technology is much more simple to use at nearly zero cost (when most people have the hardware in their back pockets, and services like Twitter and Facebook don’t require credit cards or monetary exchange, that equals nearly zero cost in my book). It’s a mindset that has changed in many who are no longer feeling voiceless, powerless and unable to create change. It’s a mindset that enables people to believe that they can truly “be the change you want to see in the world.”

And it didn’t happen merely because of the network and its power, though referencing it is also a convenient short hand. It happened because the network was made easy to use and accessible by a sufficient percentage of citizens. When it is blocked, it creates a great feeling of helplessness in many, and the knowledge required to route around it to use hacker tools is a high enough barrier to prevent entry for most… but even these are becoming easier to get past. Once those ‘alternative access’ tools are inexpensive and easy to use by a greater number, it won’t be possible to effectively deploy an Internet kill switch.

And yes, it’s a network effect that helps drive it, but the tipping point, and the reason social media deserves more credit then its detractors would give, is largely because we have made many of the tools much easier to use and more widely available, not just because the network is there.

Going even deeper, it is further supported by the perception of the power that spreads as people credit many of the tools for either receiving or sending communications. So it takes on a “life of its own” relative to its importance. At the end of the day, it’s the people and the changes in perception they have of what’s possible and what is not that is really powerful.

I won’t get into the power of prayer, or the Tao of Physics too deeply here, but in closing I would just add that many believe our remote amplification of positive thoughts and well wishes does indeed create just the tiniest amount of energy that supports different outcomes. So while the fact that we are tweeting or retweeting the happenings over there is not the cause of the outcome, I suspect that we, the human network – like the trees in Avatar – are indeed contributing, if only in the slightest most infinitesimal way.

At the very least, we know anecdotally that within the sea of noise that is created, sometimes there is a needle found in the haystack that practically and actually does get help delivered where it is needed. While the network is to be credited, if it weren’t pervasive, simple to use and cheap, I wouldn’t be writing this and you wouldn’t be reading it.

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My Focus on Holistic Business Strategy

Earlier this morning, my post on “The Time Has Come for Holistic Business Strategy” has finally seen the light of day, published over on my good friend and colleague Brian Solis‘ site. Each January the last few years I have promised to start writing more and getting beyond my own internal writing challenges, and each year I have failed to live up to my own personal goal. I think this year we are finally ready to change that abysmal track record.

My internal critic is often just too powerful for me to overcome. It’s silly, but I really don’t believe I can write all that well, and the process of writing/editing is very difficult for me – often times it feels too difficult and I have just given up on it. While its true that I am much more comfortable talking with people about these concepts and visions for game-changing notions, I need to get to the point where I believe deep down in my soul that I am not only a decent writer, but a damn good one.

Over on Formspring the other day, my friend Todd Jordan asked what is my biggest plan for 2011? My answer was actually magically annointed with brevity, to “change the way business leaders think about managing their organizations and enhance their ability to create value”.

Michael Porter’s publishing of this great article on “Creating Shared Value” has really inspired me to put my nose to the grindstone and invest in advancing this big idea – that we must think about not only the whole of the business, but also the whole of society and the impacts every member of the broader ecosystem has on the other players and the ecosystem itself.

Yes, there should still be competition, as there is in the natural world it helps maintain balance. But what we have found with species like the silver carp in the fresh water rivers of North America, is that the introduction of a predatory competitor that is not naturally a part of the ecosystem, has disastorous effects on the survival of everyone and the ecosystem itself. This analogy holds true when looking at the ecosystem in terms of the market. In fact, we have seen the same sorts of results in the world of Social Media, with the prevalence of douchebags having harmed the market for social media services/consulting in a very similar manner.

Metaphors aside, I am excited to think about writing more this year on Holistic Business Strategy and working on my book project where many of these ideas will reside. “Serve the Market” is the embodiment of many of these ideas and will hopefully inspire a change in the way managers not only think about marketing, but in how they approach the very nature of business itself.

To understand more of what I am talking about here, please watch this 12 minute video of a speed keynote I gave at Webcom Montreal last year that outlines some of the higher principles at play.

Chris Heuer – Serve the Market from webcom Montreal on Vimeo.

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Memorial Day 2010 – For our right to live free

I didn’t get to visit the local military cemeteries in San Francisco this year, so I made a short tribute to those who have served for a higher purpose in service to our country and our freedom. The photos were all taken by myself over the years at the Presidio, in Washington D.C. and down at the Golden Gate National Cemetery.

Thank you for protecting our freedom, and for reminding us how precious and invaluable it is.

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