Archive for category Social Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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 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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Get Ready for Customer Experience Design Now! #CXDNow

#CXDNow Premiere - Chris Heuer Interviews Brian Solis

[Update – watch the Brian Solis interview from October 3, 2015 now]

I’d like to invite you to join me on a journey to explore the state of Customer Experience Design in a new series I am producing and hosting, #CXDNow. Sponsored in part by IBM’s new Journey Designer product, together we will endeavor to “advance the field” through conversations with subject matter experts and leading practitioners. Further, as a community of practitioners, we will collaboratively work on developing a journey map for my new community project, We Are The Solution, putting the principles into practice in real time, together.

The series kicks off this Friday October 2, 2015 at 4pm PDT with a live Blab interview featuring Brian Solis, whose upcoming book “X – The Experience When Business Meets Design” dives very deeply into this subject. Together we will set the stage for the following six episodes to explore what CXD is, why we need it and how it is done. Then next Wednesday October 7, 2015 at noon PDT, we will discuss “The Need for Customer Experience Design and Journey Maps”. During that show, I will be interviewing Doug Folds, the product manager for IBM’s new Journey Designer product and one of the sponsors of the show to discuss his plans for bringing the practice of Customer Experience Design into the mainstream as a #NewWayToEngage.

If you are a customer experience designer, a journey mapper, an omni-channel marketer, a startup founder, a product manager or just someone who is interested in understanding this important topic further, #CXDNow is where you will expand your knowledge and hone your skills. Over the course of the series we will develop a body of work for the community that examines the business case, the core concepts and the specific practices that will enable you to design great experiences that enable your customers to find success on their journey.

While CXD has been around for quite some time now (often referred to as simply #CX, a cousin to #UX), it is just now finally coming into it’s own, hence the name of the show, #CXDNow. The Intention is to not only address the current state of the field but also to impress upon the business community the urgency for adopting these practices NOW. Given the soon to be released book, “X – The Experience of Business Meets Design” from my friend and colleague Brian Solis, and the other increase in interest and focus on this subject from organizations like IBM and others, the time to better understand this subject is definitely upon us.

I first began exploring the idea of journey mapping while working as the Chief of eBusiness at the United States Mint back in 1999, where I was charged with digital marketing responsibilities for the numismatist community (aka coin collectors). It was there that I developed what I called the “Customer Experience Lifecycle” (below), which later lead to my development of the Engagement Matrix while working with Palm and ultimately the Engagement Wheel while working with the American Heart Association while serving as a Social Business leader at Deloitte Digital.

Customer Experience LIfecycle v.5

What I came to realize was that organizations needed to go beyond customer-centricity, especially given how much lip service had been paid to that idea over the years without practical change in attitude or action. Now as a result of our increasingly transparent, connected market, it’s time for radical action, it’s time to embrace greater empathy, not only for customers, but also for employees, contractors and partners. In fact, as I think of #CXDNow, I believe there are three primary pillars that need to be explored:

  1. The business value of customer empathy
  2. Design thinking applied to the overall customer experience
  3. How we work together to create greater success

While each show in the series and posts to this blog will address its own set of issues, I am, as is often the case, looking at this opportunity more holistically. At the end of the series, it is my hope that we will have produced a unique collection of insights and resources that can be utilized to bring Customer Experience Design to more organizations and more opportunities to customer experience designers as a result.

The show will take the form of a weekly conversation with leading experts on Blab.IM. If you are a customer experience designer interested in being a guest on the show, or someone working to advance the field, please complete this simple form so we may consider you as a future guest.

Through the use of the hashtag #CXDNow, we will curate a set of resources for practitioners and collectively discuss a key question each week. The media produced will be gathered into multiple blog posts for posterity and further conversation right here on ChrisHeuer.com. Templates (aka Canvases) will be produced and shared that embody the best advice from practitioners.

While I am not anticipating building another Social Media Club for CXD, the possibilities of what we can do together as a community are endless. That said, I am seeking your support and input to solve a massively important social problem through our work on the journey maps we are developing for We Are the Solution. Together, we will explore how can we build a movement of activism focused on cooperation in the development of reasonable solutions, instead of activism through opposition.

I am grateful to my friends at IBM, PureMatter and from across the Social Media Club community for the opportunity to bring together many of my diverse talents and interest in this series, and look forward to expanding awareness of the importance of Customer Experience Design as well as the skills of its diverse practitioners. So join me this Friday afternoon at 4pm PDT as I interview Brian Solis and again next Wednesday October 7, 2015 at noon PDT as we launch our journey towards #CXDNow.

To get started, the question of the week for you to consider, “Why do we need Customer Experience Design now more than ever?” Tweet your responses back to me using the hashtag #CXDNow and we will discuss them on the show.

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

SPONSORED BY IBM JOURNEY DESIGNERIBM Commerce Blog logo

 

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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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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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All I want for Christmas is a Rockstar Developer

Wells' Christmas TreeI still want peace on earth too, but in order for me to contribute to that lofty goal, what I really want, well, what I really need, is to find a lead engineer to join Alynd as a cofounder who can code in their sleep and solve complex problems with elegant poetry.  As long as I am asking Santa, I might as well ask for the stars and the moon, right? It is after all, the only thing I really want this Christmas, though I will take it as a New Year’s present too of course! Or even Valentines day if I must, but it would break my heart if we haven’t found true love by Valentines day.

Here’s the kicker, and the present that I can offer the universe to even out this very selfish, business related Christmas Wish. Up until now, my company has really been focused on finding and locating our team mates in the bay area, but the war for talent, even at the startup level, is so fierce, Bill Sanders, Rawn Shah and I have decided that we are going to build a next generation organization ourselves. So instead of centralizing everyone in the Bay Area, we will work as a virtual, distributed company. As such, I am seeking a rockstar developer / lead engineer who will be able to work from home, somewhere outside the valley from across the USA and even up in Canada.

After speaking to my friend Chris Kenton of SocialRep.com and learning how he operates his distributed development team, I was fascinated. When I read Scott Berkun’s The Year Without Pants, I was becoming a believer. When even my friends and ‘family’ asked me to fill this particular role and complete our MVP before they would invest in Alynd, I realized it was time to rethink our approach to recruiting for this position. You see, other startup friends, recruiters, venture capitalists and even our advisors have not been able to help us find someone – in fact, many are in the same situation themselves. With bay area developers asking for and getting $200k each, even those with barely any real world experience, it just makes establishing a headquarters for operation here nearly impossible. It is truly the big leagues, a near equivalent of professional sports. So unless you are the code developer equivalents of Lames, Wade and Bosh, or participating in one of the incubators, its really tough.

So we decided to look at things differently. We realized we should be ‘dogfooding’, not only with our own Alynd Software as a Service, but with the networked organizational and operational structure we see as the future of business. So recently we began to explore what that organization would look like, and it seems like the smart choice is to find team mates to join us who had a balanced, happy life already, who could contribute value to our company from wherever they were happiest. Then, as Chris Kenton does with his SocialRep team, we could get together every 4-6 weeks in person somewhere for a sort of ‘sprint’ in agile terminology.

Recently, Bill and I traveled to Tucson to do the first of what we are calling our regular “Alynements” with Rawn, working for 4 days together focused on how we were going to operate our private alpha release and early sales cycle. We talked product road map, debated the merits of different facets of our ‘big story’ and bonded a bit more too. I can’t wait to actually use our software for the next one we will be doing in February.

Hopefully, if I get my Christmas Wish (perhaps with your help if you forward this to a friend) we will be able to make someone else’s Christmas a little brighter too. So who are we looking for, besides someone awesome who lives outside the Bay Area?

Ideally the right person will have had some bad experiences working inside companies that struggled to build a positive culture and had difficulty collaborating across boundaries inside their traditional silos. They will be frustrated with the state of the current tools we have been given for collaborating and communicating as part of work, and they even realize that social technologies aren’t quite doing it right yet. Having some experience building social software, for individuals, small teams and large enterprises would be a huge plus though. Prior experience working in a startup would be a must, as is crazy proficiency with virtual team situations, as well as having a very dynamic, questing disposition. More details and a link to apply can be found over here on Social Media Jobs.com.

Given that Alynd hasn’t yet raised any money, though we are on Angels List and hoping to do so in early 2014, the right person would ideally be working the next several months largely for equity with a minimal salary to start, moving up quickly as we grow.

One thing that is essential to understand is that we really need someone who can not only manage themselves, but someone who can see problems and opportunities before they arise, and move towards them without needing us to tell them – a true self starter. In this sense, there are two ways we could go with this position, a rockstar full stack developer who can spit out code as easily as rhymes; or an engineering team leader who can build out a team while still actively contributing to the codebase. Ultimately we need both…

So it’s Christmas eve day, and while I am here with my wife’s family enjoying some rest and time together, I am still of a singly focused mind – how do we bring the vision we have for Alynd into the world? What can I do to make us successful? How can I give this great gift to the world?

Simple. I need one thing that you, my friends, colleagues and family can give me. All I want for Christmas is a Rock Star Developer. There has to be someone living in the US, who is the perfect fit. Please share this and help me find them.

And then enjoy the rest of your Christmas with your family and friends, like I am going to do for the next 36 hours. See you on Facebook in the meantime with everyone else…

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NOTE: I want to make a special request to encourage female engineers to submit their resume’s for consideration. We believe that the success of our software will ultimately require a truly diverse team, from different genders, religions, cultures and backgrounds. Why will become apparent should we interview you.

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