Are you Pulling or Pushing? My Review of The Power of Pull

After reading the Shift Index (Big Shift) I was curious what the book ‘The Power of Pull’ would bring. I was hoping for a more practical story than the Shift Index. I was also hoping for examples on how to move from Push to Pull.

I’m not sure if I got what I was looking for. And I’m not sure why either. Is it because I read the Shift Index before reading this book? Is it because I’m already in the Pull area for some time (at least I think I am…)? Or is it because I’ve read lots of books and blogs about the same topic (like the books The Cluetrain Manifesto, Wikinomics and Macrowikinomcs)? (After writing this interview I went through the reviews on Amazon. Lots of different reviews there: from very positive to very negative.)

What is this book about? Let me give you the author’s short summary on p. 2:
“Pull” is the common dynamic they see under several success stories. Pull is “the ability to draw out people and resources as needed to address opportunities and challenges. Pull give us unprecedented access to what we need, when we need it, even if we’re not quite sure that “it” is. Pull allows us to harness and unleash the forces of attraction, influence, and serendipity. Using pull, we can create the conditions by which individuals, teams, and even institutions can achieve their potential in less time and with more impact than has ever been possible. The power of pull provides a key to how all of us – individually and collectively – can turn challenge and stress into opportunity and reward as digital technology remakes our lives.
There are two challenges in this time: making sense of the changes around us, and making progress in an increasingly unfamiliar world.

The book starts with describing where we came from: the push era. Push operated, and still operates, on one key assumption: that it is possible to predict demand. (p. 34, also refer to list on page 37) Control is the essence of push. (p. 49)

So how do we (move to) pull? “Pull starts by exploring three increasingly powerful levels of pull – access, attract, and achieve.” (p. 6) The first part of the book explains what these levels are. The last part of the book wants to help you implement them in your life, institutions and the world. Every chapter is closed with a set of very good questions to assess yourself, institutions (you work for) and the world. The questions are maybe the best part of the book to me. I found them very valuable and confrontational.

Pull is about flexible access. The ability to fluidly find and get to the people and resources when and where we need them. The authors stress the fact they don’t point to digital networks in the first place. Pull platforms can also by physical networks. Why is access important? “Access will become increasingly necessary as competition intensifies and disruptions become more frequent. It used to be that we could rely on “stocks” of knowledge – what we know at any point in time – but these stocks are diminishing in value more rapidly than ever before.” (p. 11) We need to make sure we tap into knowledge flows, as chapter 2 says. Interestingly these flows relate to tacit knowledge, therefore connecting to (lots of) people is essential.

But access is becoming increasingly less important. We’re often at loss what to search for and what questions to ask. “Our success in finding new information and sources increasingly depends upon serendipity…” (p. 13) Interestingly the authors stress serendipity can be organized (to a certain extent). (Also refer to page 90 and on.) For serendipity to happen we need amplifiers and filters. (p. 97) And we have to pay attention to environments (physical and digital location), practices (be passionate, attract (sustained) attention, beginner’s mind), and preparedness (be open to encounters, deep listening, relationship-building skills). Serendipity can be shaped by the people you talk to, the conferences you go to and the sites you pay attention to. We have to look at the edge of our areas of interest. “Edges are places that become fertile ground for innovation because they spawn significant new unmet needs and unexploited capabilities and attract people who are risk takers.” (p. 16)

But even accessing and attracting have little value unless they are coupled with a third set of practices that focus on driving performance rapidly to new levels. These practices involve participation in something they call “creation spaces” – environments that integrate teams in a broader learning ecology so that the performance improvement accelerates as more people join. (p. 18 and from p. 140 and on the authors give insight into how to design creation spaces)

Second part of the book starts with how we can work on the power of pull in our personal lives. The reason to start with individuals is mentioned in the book: the locus on power and change is inexorably shifting to individuals (p. 241) Lots of management books describe how organizations should/could change. This leaves the reader thinking: OK, how am I going to do this by myself?

The steps to move from push to pull in your personal life are:
  • Pursue your passion (develop a deep understanding of who you are)
  • Find a good location where your passion can be fulfilled (geography matters)
  • Use social tools that create and capture value from knowledge flows
  • Maximize return on attention (don’t narrow your information sources to soon, be aware that we live in a world of information overload and knowledge scarcity) 
I like the way the book talks about small steps. The book doesn’t talk about taking a big leap, but taking small steps and slowly move to pull. In the words of the authors: Shaping strategies show has small moves smartly made can have an impact far beyond the initial resources and effort invested. (p. 29) Even the authors stress we are still at the beginning of the Big Shift. (p. 45 and 148)

I enjoyed reading the book, although I skimmed through larger parts of it. There lots of repetition in the book. In my review I tried to cluster topics together. I think this book would have been better with more visuals. This book contains one diagram, which isn’t a very helpful diagram. For instance I wouldn’t hang it up on a wall. It’s not self-explanatory. Furthermore the diagram shows one arrow going up exponentially in one direction with a spiral in it. Aren’t there also larger feedback/learning loop going (all the way) back when we find out we followed the wrong passions, lived in the wrong place, etc.? Moving to pull can never be a single shot; it’s more like trying (and learning) over and over again. Right? (Or is that what page 163 says?)

I like the focus on individuals/you first in this book. I/You can start right away and don’t have to wait for institutions to move.

As I said, I loved the questions at the end of the chapters, they’re very good. I wonder if more could have been done with them to help readers drill down and move to action. I think the questions really help you and your company define where you are on the push-pull spectrum.

Bonus: A extensive part of this book is about organizing for serendipity. Ana Silva gave a very insightful talk about this topic some time ago.

Will Everything be Free? – My Review of Free

So, I’m on a roll now. As promised I would share my review of several books. This is the next one: Free by Chris Anderson. An article in Wired about Free triggered me to read this book. Free is a big deal nowadays. Many products and services are offered for free. And people are making lots of money charging nothing. “Not nothing for everything, but nothing for enough…” (p. 3)

Free has always been around a long time, but it’s changing. The internet seems to be doing something interesting to what we pay for things. “Somewhere in the transition from atoms to bits, a phenomenon that we thought we understood was transformed. “Free” became Free.” (p. 4) This book is about this phenomenon.

Chapter 1-3 dive into the fascinating history of free. And the different kinds of free: direct cross-subsidies, three-party market, freemium and nonmonetary markets. (p. 23) Free started out as a marketing method. Now free is an entirely new economic model. (p. 12) The old free was based on the economics of atoms, now it’s based on bits. When something becomes software it inevitably becomes free, in costs and often in price as well.

Interestingly Anderson shows how humans are wired for scarcity. We focus on the things that are scarce, e.g. time and money. While there’s abundance of lots of resources now. We have to get used to that. And work with abundance. “When abundance drives the costs of something to the floor, value shifts to adjacent levels…” (p. 52, 131) And: “… the highest profit margins are usually found where gray matter has been added to things.” (p. 54, also refer to ch. 13 and 15) So knowledge is added, ideas are shared. Why are ideas so interesting and important in this context? Let me share two interesting quotes from the book:

Ideas are the ultimate abundance commodity, which propagates at zero marginal costs. Once created, ideas want to spread far and wide, enriching everything they touch. (p. 83)

Information is how money flows; aside from the cash in your wallet, that’s what money is – just bits. Information is how we communicate, as every call is turned into data the moment the words leave our lips.” (p. 92) “Information wants to be free.” (p. 95, ch. 6) This means: “Commodity information (everybody gets the same version) wants to be free. Customized information (you get something unique and meaningful to you) wants to be expensive. (…) Abundant information wants to be free. Scarce information wants to be expensive. (p. 97)
So, information is abundant now. Where’s the value now? Anderson quotes Herbert Simon on this:
In an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention. (p. 180, relate to this blogpost for more about information and attention.)
The rise of “freeconomics” is being driven by the underlying technologies of the digital age. Computer processing power halves in price every two years, the price of bandwidth and storage is dropping even faster. The internet combines all three. (p. 13, also refer to ch. 5) Google is mentioned as a company that makes more money as the costs of information falls. (p. 125)

Chapter 4 is about the psychology of free. It’s about the excitement we experience when something is free. But free also makes us think the quality must me less than with a paid product/service. And do you care about something you get for free?

What are the free rules? The ten underlying principles of free or abundance thinking are (p. 241):
  1. If it’s digital, sooner or later it’s going to be free.
  2. Atoms would like to be free, too, but they’re not so pushy about it.
  3. You can’t stop Free.
  4. You can make money from Free.
  5. Redefine your market.
  6. Round down.
  7. Sooner or later you will compete with Free.
  8. Embrace waste.
  9. Free makes other things more valuable.
  10. Manage for abundance, not scarcity. 
I enjoyed reading this book. The visual examples of free throughout the book explaining how free is/can be applied in different markets are insightful.

I’m not an economist. I read these books because they take me to the edge, challenging me to think and reassess what I’m doing. A big question for me and my work is: How far does free go for a consultant? For instance, I love to share what I know about certain topics. I’d happily go to a company, share my knowledge and leave without asking money for my vision/advice. When do you stop giving/sharing for free? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Bonus: I’ve collected some links about ‘free’ here. Hope this helps.

The Tipping Point – My Review

I read ‘TheTipping Point’ a long time ago. Then I wrote a short, boring blogpost telling you I read it. Recently I thought: I’m going to write a longer book review about Malcolm Gladwell’s book. In this way I can remember its contents more easily and, if you haven’t read it, inspire you to read it.

‘The Tipping Point’ was my first Gladwell book. I wanted to read it because of my interest in social media and social networking (- later his take on the effect of social media in revolutions was highly debated…). The book is not about social media and social networking (tools). It’s about the underlying concepts of social media and networking. And, as I’ve said before, those concepts are important to understand.

What is the book about? The subtitle of the book is: ‘How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference’. In his own words: “The Tipping Point is the biography of an idea, and the idea is very simple. … Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do.” (p 7)
There are lots of lists in this book, elements of what a Tipping Point is, what cause change and epidemics, etc. I’ll do my best and summarize the book for you below.

Gladwell starts out with looking at epidemics. He looks at epidemic to understand how change happens. But how does we describe an epidemic? He lists three characteristics:
“…  – one, contagiousness; two, the fact that little causes can have big effects; and three, that change happens not gradually but at one dramatic moment …”. “One of the three, the third trait – the idea that epidemics can rise or fall in one dramatic moment – is the most important, because it is the principle that makes sense of the first two and that permits the greatest insight into why modern change happens the way it does. The name given to that one dramatic moment in an epidemic when everything can change all at once is the Tipping Point.”(p 9)

Change agents
But what causes change? He mentions three agents of change and will extend them throughout the book. They are the Law of the Few, the Stickiness Factor, and the Power of Context. (p 19)
With the Law of the Few he means that “a handful of exceptional people” ( p 21) do the majority of the work when it comes to epidemics. (p 19) The Stickiness Factor says that there are specific ways of making a contagious message memorable; there are relatively simple changes in the presentation and structuring of information that can make a big difference in how much of an impact it makes. (p 25) And the Power of Context says that human beings are a lot more sensitive to their environment than they may seem. (p 29)
A big question in Gladwell’s book is: “People pass on all kinds of information to each other all the time. But it’s only in the rare instance that such an exchange ignites a word-of-mouth epidemic. … Why is it that some ideas and trends and messages “tip” and others don’t?” (p 32)

Change roles
The answer is that the success of any kind of social epidemic is dependent on the involvement of people with special roles. (p 33) “I call then Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen.” (p34) Even though research has shown that we are only six degrees apart, research also finds that not all degrees are equal. (p 36)
Connectors are people with a special gift for bringing the world together. (p 38) They have to know lots of kinds of people. (p 46) They span many different worlds. (p 49) (Granovetter’s work about strong and weak ties is also mentioned here.) A maven is one who accumulates knowledge. (And this person can also be a Connector.) (p 60) But they are not passive collectors of information, they want to tell you about it too. (p 62) Mavens want to help for no other reason than they want to help. This turns out to be an awfully effective way of getting someone’s attention. (p 67)  A maven is not a persuader. Mavens are really information brokers, sharing and trading what they know. (p 69)
Mavens are data banks. They provide the message. Connectors are social glue: they spread it. “But there is also a select group of people – Salesmen – with the skills to persuade us when we are unconvinced of what we are hearing, and they are as critical to the tipping of word-of-mouth epidemics as the other two groups.” (p 70)

How does persuasion work? There’s not an easy answer to that question. Here are some elements of persuasion: 1. Little things can make as much of a difference as big things. 2. Non-verbal cues are as or more important than verbal cues. 3. Persuasion works in ways that we do not appreciate.

Context and stickiness
So, we’ve seen that in epidemics, the messenger matters: messengers are what make something spread. But now this book also stressed that the content of the message matters too. And the specific quality that a message needs to be successful is the quality of “stickiness”.” (p 92) And stickiness is hard in this information age. (p 99) There’s too much information to pay attention to.
The Law of the Few says that there are exceptional people out there who are capable of starting epidemics. All you have to do is find them. The lesson of stickiness is the same. There is a simple way to package information that, under the right circumstances, can make it irresistible. All you have to do is find it. (p 132, also refer to the book Made to Stick for a more detailed approach to stickiness)
Stickiness is needed to spark epidemics. When is an idea sticky? When it’s memorable and moves us to action. (p 139) (Stickiness relates to the messenger, contagiousness to the messenger. - p 234)
But this doesn’t mean a sticky idea will work in all contexts… Epidemics are sensitive to the conditions and circumstances of the times and places in which the occur. (p 138) “The essence of the Power of Context is that the same thing is true for certain kinds of environments – that in ways that we don’t necessarily appreciate, our inner states are the result of our outer circumstances”. (p 152)

In sum
At the end of the book, I think this paragraph sums up the book’s main thrust:
“Epidemics are, at their root, about this very process of transformation. When we are trying to make an idea or attitude or product tip, we’re trying to change our audience in some small yet critical respect: we’re trying to infect them, sweep them up in our epidemic, convert them from hostility to acceptance. That can be done through the influence of special kinds of people, people with extraordinary personal connection. That’s the Law of the Few. It can be done by changing the context of communication, by making a message so memorable that it sticks in someone’s mind and compels them to action. That is the Stickiness Factor. But we need to remember that small changes in context can be just as important in tipping epidemics, even though that fact appears to violate some of our most deeply held assumptions about human nature.” (p 166)
(Note: Gladwell also mentions the Dunbar number in the context of social channel capacity. (p. 177- 179) “The figure of 150 seems to represent the maximum number of individuals with whom we can have a genuinely social relationship, the kind of relationship that goes with knowing who they are and how they relate to us.”)

Evaluation and questions
I really enjoyed reading this book. I’m wondering what type of role I play: Maven, Connector or Salesmen. What do you think you are? And what role do I play according to you?

Some things in this book are easy to apply. The Dunbar number 150 for instance. Acknowledging I can keep up with that number of people helps a lot. Other things are harder to apply. For instance, making an idea sticky. Maybe I should read ‘Made to Stick’ to learn more about stickiness. In any way Gladwell’s book does push you to experiment with stickiness, instead of just sending out ideas and hoping for the best.

This book has a clear link with social media, social networking, communities without talking about the tools. As I’ve said before I think it’s important to understand underlying concepts of social media. We’re so focused on the hottest tools, we forget to ponder about what makes them run.

If non-verbal cues are so important to make a message spread, what does this mean for digital communication? More communication via video (like Skype)? Are emoticons enough in textual communication?

Because of information abundance we have a stickiness/attention problem. Could we say: In the past we had a spread problem? The networks weren’t as extensive and fast as with the internet. And now we have a stickiness problem? The networks are fast and extensive, but there’s lots of information to filter.

Have you read The Tipping Point? If you have please let me know what you thought of this book (or point to your review). And I’d love to hear your thoughts about my questions/remarks about the book.

An extra present for you: A list of 12 mind-blowing concepts from Gladwell's book.

Why is Intranet so Easy?

Recently I blogged about why intranet is so hard. This struck a cord, it seems, because it received several good comments!
At the end of that post I promised to write about the easiness of intranets as well. My post about intranets being hard didn't want to imply it's impossible or frustrating to develop, implement and maintain an intranet. The fact that it's hard intrigues me and keeps me interested in intranet.

However, intranet can also be easy I think. I'll explain why here. I'm really curious if you agree/disagree.

Intranet deployment is usually a complex exercise. Lots and lots of requirements from different people and roles are collected. And these are squeezed into one overall intranet concept. Then building and deployment begins.

But what is an intranet? It's a collection of webpages, containing content, linked together. Sometimes added with a couple of web applications, like a people finder. Yes, the Digital Workplace.
So, why don't we just give that the functionality to create internal webpages, content and links to employees and get out of the way? Maybe with the exception of a central newspage.
The employees will publish information they find useful to capture and share with others. They'll link content, pages and people. They'll read the information they want to read. They'll decide what news is. They know what information they need to get their work done. Etc.

I take this approach because lots of intranet research shows employees only visit a couple of pages. Namely the newspage, the people finder and the daily menu of the internal restaurant. The actual intranet is small.

Subsequently the role of the intranet team is not to implement and maintain the intranet. Their role is to nuture, cultivate and maybe structure the intranet, like Jane McConnell says in this good blogpost. And, together with IT, offer intranet functionality and build web applications when needed (i.e. it is requested for by employees and can't be built by them). And fulfilling these roles is the hard part. :-)

What do you think of this approach? Is it too easy?

Are Millenials Really that Different? - My Review of Grown Up Digital

Are millennial really that different? Do they play, learn, communicate, work and create differently than their parents? Are they smarter or dumber? More or less social? And if so, what should we know about them? More importantly, what should management and companies know about them, because they are the future.
Lots has been written about the so called millennials or Generation Y. I've been following the news and research on them. When Don Tapscott wrote a book about being 'grown up digital' I thought I'd read it. At that time I was becoming more skeptical about the stories about Gen Y. In daily practice I was seeing older colleagues quickly picking up new ways of working, while young colleagues were very reluctant to use new media.

Technically I'm not a millennial. I don't belong to the 'Net Generation'. The generation that has been "bathed in bits". According to Tapscott someone's part of the Net Generation when you're born between 1977 and 1997.

Eight norms
The outline of the book is built around 8 characteristics of the typical Net Gener that differentiate them from their boomer parents. These are:
  • They prize freedom and freedom of choice
  • They want to customize things, make them their own
  • They're natural collaborators, who enjoy conversation, not a lecture
  • They scrutinize you and your organization
  • They insist on integrity, openness
  • They want to have fun
  • Speed is normal
  • Innovation is part of life.
Did you know?
There's lots of interesting information in this book. The data underlying this book is also shared broadly in colorful(!) tables and diagrams. For instance:

  • did you know the center of the world is Asia, when you look at the Millennial population?
  • did you know research is showing the Net Generation's brain is different from other generations (ch. 4)?
  • did you know Gen Y is the smartest generation every (IQ scores are on the rise and they have better social skills)? (p. 110)
  • did you know family is a big deal to them and they stay home longer?

What should companies do?
This book also addresses what companies and institutions should do to meet Millennials needs and norms. Performance feedback, for instance, is extremely important. It increases their loyalty (to a career path, not an employer). Learning should be seen as something you do all your life, not just in school. Companies should decentralize their decision making and embrace new technologies that link employees in teams around the world. Young employees want to add value, make a difference, challenge the status quo, and understand how their work contributes to organizational success. Companies should define policies on using tech in companies to encourage sharing (in the right way). Also relating to Tapscott's biggest concern about Gen. Y: privacy. (p 294, 304) He finds millennials really need help with understanding privacy and how being too open about certain things can thwart their future goals.

The bottom line of the book is: "if you understand the Net Generation, you will understand the future. You will also understand how our institutions and society need to change today." I definitely think that non-Millennial managers and leaders should read this book.

Some interesting quotes
Tapscott shared and interesitng quotes I'd like to share with you (both from page 292):
Samuel Johnson: "Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
Rob Cross: "[Who] you know has a significant impact on what you come to know, because relationships are critical for obtaining information, solving problems, and learning how to do your work."
And two of his own:

"It's all about word of mouth - but the word traveled at the speed of atoms, not bits." (p. 274)
"General online activity - hunting for information, reading, and responding - is far from mindless." (p. 290)

Good food for thought!

Only the rich?
One thing that struck me in the book was the fact that Tapscott points to many Net Geners who seem to have everything they want (including his own kids). I was wondering if this story about millennials also applies to the less-privileged youth. Can they also be characterized in the same way? In other words: is the difference between the boomers and the net generation their access to technology or is it more philosophically-oriented?

I enjoyed reading this book. The book is well-balanced and convincing. Tapscott addressed the concerns about the new generation, but also underlines their potential. I loved the layout of the book and the use of color (in the diagrams). All-in-all a book I'd recommend you to read.

UPDATE: Here's an interesting different perspective.

How to Become Successful - My Review of Outliers

Malcolm Gladwell is a great story writer. I've enjoyed reading three of his books: The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers. (I'll review the first two later on.) I like the way he delves into topics that intrigue many of us and comes up with an answer you wouldn't expect.

Outliers is also such a book. In this book Gladwell wants to understand what success is. It's about men and women who do things that are out of the ordinary. They are 'outliers'. The book wants to show there is something wrong with the way we make sense of success. It's not (only) about personal qualities (passion, talent, hard work). Or what a successful person is like. It also depends on where and when a person grew up. In fact: "It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn't." (p.19)

Succes, Time & System
Gladwell shows that our notion it is the best and the brightest who effortlessly rise to the top is much to simplistic. Success also has to do with what sociologists call "accumulative advantage". He uses the example and data of professional hockey players. Some start out a little bit better than the rest. But this small difference leads to a larger difference based on the amount of time they practiced. And older hockey players have more time than younger ones. They basically lived longer. The other point is: selecting players at a certain point in the year, doesn't help either. The players with birth dates near the cut-off date have more chance of getting through that younger ones. They lived longer and had more time to practice. This applies to school exams as well. Basically the system has a large role in deciding who is or isn't successful.

Success & Practice
In the next chapter Gladwell points to research which tried to but couldn't find "any "naturals"; people that floated effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of the time. Nor could they find any people who worked harder than everyone else, yet just didn't have what it takes to break the top ranks. (p.39) Practice is essential. How much practice is needed? "Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness." (p.41) "Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing you do that makes you good." (p.42) 10.000 hours is a lot of time. You need to be in a special situation to get the time to practice that much. You have to be lucky. You don't only have to have talent, you have to be given the opportunity. (p.76)

Success & Family
Another interesting point Gladwell makes is about IQ. Research shows that the relationship between success and IQ only works up to a point. "Once someone has reached an IQ of somewhere around 120, having additional IQ points doesn't seem to translate into any measurable real-world advantage." (p.79) So, other factors like imagination become more important. And practical intelligence. General and practical intelligence are orthogonal. "The presence of one doesn't imply the presence of the other." (p.101) We learn practical intelligence from our families. We get this or don't get this from the way we are raised. The way our life is structured. And what the context of our life is. E.g. is it surrounded with books?

Succes & Location
So, the first part of this book says: "when and where you are born, what your parents did for a living, and what the circumstances of your upbringing were make a significant difference in how well you do in the world." (p.175) The second part of the book is about if traditions and attitudes we inherit play the same role. And this seems to be the case. "Our ability to succeed at what we do is powerfully bound up with where we're from...". (p.209)

Success & Attitude
Success is also an attitude. "Success is a function of persistence and doggedness and the willingness to work hard for twenty-two minutes to make sense of something that most people would give up on after thirty seconds." (p246)

Gladwell's own summary of the book:
... success follows a predictable course. It is not the brightest who succeed. ... Nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It is, rather, a gift. Outliers are those that have been given an opportunities - and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them. (p.267)
Questions about Success
BusinessWeek also ran a short review of the book with a couple of questions. The biggest question I have about the book is: How does this all apply in the ever-changing world we are in? Books like The Power of Pull and Macrowikinomics seem to imply that we can only learn fast enough in networks. As soon as we think we know something, our knowledge will be outdated. Outliers says you need to spend 10.000 hours on a subject to master it. How do these two approaches relate? Should we focus on core skills, like logic and writing? Any ideas?

Did you read this book? And did you like it? Please leave a comment and/or point to your review.

Macrowikinomics, Rebooting Business and the World - My Review

A while back I read Wikinomics, by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams. I really enjoyed it. So when they published a new book, Macrowikinomics. Rebooting Business and the World, I was curious, bought and read it.

The book Wikinomics was about the power of mass collaboration for business. But this new model of collaboration goes beyond a business or technology trend. It's a "more encompassing societal shift". So, this new book wants to show how wikinomics and its core principles can be applied to society and all of its institutions.

What are the wikinomics principles? The 6 principles summarized for you with a quote.
  1. Collaboration - "... the collective knowledge, capability, and resources embodied within broad horizontal networks of participants can accomplish much more than one organization or one individual can acting alone. Of course, hierarchies won't disappear from the economy in the foreseeable future. Nor are we likely to see large top-down bureaucracies erased from the societal landscape either. But new forms of bottom-up collaboration now rival the hierarchical organization in its capacity to create information-based products and services and, in some cases, to solve the critical challenges facing the world." (p.27)
  2. Openness - "The world is becoming more transparent: from customers with unprecedented information about the true value of products and services to employees with access to previously unthinkable knowledge about their firm's strategy, management, and challenges." (p.28)
  3. Sharing - Openness is about communication of pertinent information to stakeholders of firms, government, and other organizations. Sharing is about the releasing or handing over of assets. (p.29)
  4. Integrity - "The bottom line is that in an age of transparency all organizations need integrity as part of their DNA. ... These three values - honesty, consideration, and accountability - together with transparency are the foundation of trust and integrity." (p.33)
  5. Interdependence - "In an age when everything and everyone is interconnected through networks of glass and air, no one, no business, organization, government agency, country, or society, is an island."
What is it applied to?
This book applies these principles to the following areas:
  • Media (newspapers, music, TV and film)
  • Health care
  • University (education, learning) and Science
  • Energy and Environment
  • Financial Service Industry
  • Government
  • Justice
  • Transportation
I didn't read all of the book. There were some sections that didn't interest me at the moment. But I must say I enjoyed reading the book. The authors apply the wikinomics principles convincingly to 'the world'. And provide lots of example of companies, institutions and people leading the way. On the other hand they also check what progress has been made since Wikinomics was published. And they're honest to say progress can be seen, but is also slow. They write: "... though most people recognize that problems get solved more quickly when governments, businesses, nonprofits, and citizens work together, there is still a dearth of understanding about how to make partnerships across sectors work at the pace of wikinomics." (p.19)

On the other hand they make a case to support there core thesis that the direction described in this book is the only way forward for a company, institution and even an individual to succeed in this new world. There core thesis can be summarized with this quote: "Successful companies today have open and porous boundaries and compete by reaching outside their walls to harness external knowledge, resources, and capabilities. ... a new kind of collaborative enterprise - one that is constantly shaping and reshaping clusters of knowledge and capability to compete on a global basis." p.63

To me a very important thing to understand is the importance of information in all this. It's meaning, availability, share-ability and abundance. In this context I love the quote on page 76.: "It's more infostructure than infrastructure." The information is key, not the infrastructure.

How to get started?
But how do we proceed? How can a person, company or institution contribute to the new world, this new way of working and living?
Towards the end of the book Tapscott and Williams share six rules, or ways of working, that successful individuals and groups follow to enable wikinomics in their organizations and sectors. Let me quote them here for you:
"1. Instead of creating something and guarding it agressively, as most organizations do, turn your thing (be it a good or service) into a platform where others can self-organize and create new value. In other words, don't just be a creator, be a curator too.
2. In order to collaborate, you're going to need to share some intellectual property and get your IP lawyers on board. So think about what parts of your business activities could benefit from being released, and what parts you'll keep inside.
3. To control your future in this volatile world, you also need to start with a paradoxically different attitude. You need to let go. Encourage people to organize themselves to help you solve problems and come up with new ideas.
4. Of course, even self-organization needs prodding, and the requisite leadership in any large-scale collaboration usually comes from a small group of enthusiasts in the vanguard. So strengthen that vanguard and spur them on by providing incentives, recognizing excellence, and promoting talented individuals to positions of leadership.
5. Broadening and deepening the culture of collaboration in your organization is essential to making a lasting change in the way you create value. Transcend the old-style hierarchy and instead create a dynamic meritocracy where ideas and information can flow freely through the organization.
6. Empower the Net Generation, as today's young people are the first to grow up with an innate understanding of the digital world and its possibilities. Collaboration comes naturally to them, and wise leaders can leverage this by empowering young people to help lead the process of reinvention." (p.343-344)
Of course these six rules are still high-level. We'll have to detail them in practice, together. But one of the great things of this movement is: we don't have to sit back and wait for it to come. We can start now (or maybe you've already started years ago). By using social media for instance. Sharing our knowledge one tweet or blog at a time, encourage others and the companies/institutions we work for to open up, etc.

Have you read this book? Did you enjoy reading it? Please share your thoughts or review in the comments section!

Why is Intranet so Hard?

Why is intranet so hard to get right? It's one of the things I keep wondering about. Especially after reading the Global Intranet Trend reports, following discussions on LinkedIn groups and listening to talks at conferences. There definitely is progress in intranet deployment, but the steps are small.
I'd like to share my thoughts on why intranet is hard. As in all (my) blogposts I don't not claim to have all the answers and reasons. I'd love to hear from you why you think intranet is hard (or maybe I'm getting it all wrong: intranet is easy).

With 'get right' I mean having an intranet that really fits the needs and processes of a company, truly supports employee in their daily work, etc. It's an intranet with which the company is happy. It's a business critical 'tool'.

Reason 1: People and technology
To me the most important reason why it's hard to get intranet right is: people and technology don't fit. An organization is made up of people, hopefully focused on working towards shared goals. In human interaction all kinds of important and subtle things count. They're hard to grasp and fit into rules and processes, but they're there. More and more we try to support people with technology. This is great. But people are not electronic and/or digital, they're human. Technology isn't. Connecting people to technology is hard (if not impossible). Although the 'social space' has moved technology in the right (human) direction. Intranet is technology (for the larger part). For that reason I think it never fits the organization (people) perfectly, making it hard for people to be happy with it.

Reason 2: Business and intranet
Another reason is that many intranets seem to have no relation with the core of the business. 'We need a space to share news, information and communicate.' Great. But what does that have to do with the core of the business? Relating news, information and communication to the core of the business is hard. To me it's obvious. The importance of information and communications flows is crucial to all successful companies. However, lots of decision makers don't see this. They say: making products/services and delivering them is our core. Relating this statement to the intranet is essential for a successful intranet. And it's hard for many to actually do it. Most intranets are out there in splendid isolation. It doesn't relate to or impact the core of the business.

Reason 3: Information and 'information'
Informing and communicating are often reasons to set up an intranet. One thing I think we tend to overlook is the difference between the concept of 'information' that IT is selling and the real concept of 'information'. This difference also makes it hard for an intranet to get it right. On most intranets information is published by an owner, has little relation to other information or people, has no context and doesn't evolve in meaning over time. Real information comes from a person with time (history) and location, it has meaning because there is context, it changes over time, etc. Intranet usually doesn't take the real concept of 'information' into account.

Reason 4: Intranet context
'We need a central place to share news and information.' This is a top reason for an intranet. This statement is almost always done by a central organization, like the Communications department. So they set up and roll out an intranet (after doing some user research). But if we didn't have an intranet, would employees still get there news and information? And how would they do that? They would and mostly via email.
The context of the intranet, the tools that are already there or are popping up for news and information sharing give the intranet a hard time. 'Why is a central space better than my own toolset? I get work done anyway.'

Reason 5: Intranet evolution
Relating to Reason 1, people and companies change all the time. New markets are targeted, new people join the company, others leave, etc. But most intranets stay the same as when they were released. As if the company hasn't changed over the years. Most intranets can't change, because they are digital and don't support real stuff going on in the organization. And they don't need to change because they don't relate to the core of the business.

Reason 6: Intranet itself
Relating to Reason 4: the intranet is conceived centrally, so it's also designed centrally. 'They' decide what information you need to get your work done. 'They' decide what navigation is best. Etc. Furthermore, because it's the central information and communication hub, everything gets stuffed into the intranet even if it doesn't fit well. E.g. process descriptions are published on the intranet, while everyone know they're outdated as soon as they've been published.

Comments welcomed
I'm curious what you think of this list. Do you (dis)agree with my list? Are there elements you'd add? Please feel free to comment on this post. Let's see if we can come up with a complete list!

Shortly, I'll also write a blogpost why intranet easy. Keep in touch! (UPDATE: Here's the link to that post.)

Enterprise 2.0 Research

There's not too much fundamental research on Enterprise 2.0. Deloitte recently published interesting research done on enterprise 2.0 implementations and their return-on-investment. In the EU research has also done as well. Study is being done for the European Commission and it was carried out by Tech4i2, IDC and Headshift. What was the goal of the study?
Goals of the study
  • To provide a clear definition of Enterprise 2.0 is, describe the market and the positioning of EU industry, also in comparison with US and Asia;
  • To analyze the take-up of Enterprise 2.0, the organizational requirements, and the role on the transition to a knowledge based low-carbon economy;
  • To collect evidence on its macro-economic impact, as a market opportunity for the European Software industry and as a productivity tool for European business;
  • To identify and analyse both the direct and contextual challenges, including the need for Next Generation Access and the legal barriers;
  • To analyse and propose possible policy actions to overcome the challenges and grasp the opportunities.
The first part of their study has been published (a while ago). I didn't read the whole (lengthy!) report, but read parts of it. There's lots of interesting stuff in there.
Part of the research was about defining the difference between traditional enterprise software and the new social software. The research says the "openness by default" approach is the real new part.
They also write about the size of the e2.0 market, comparing the US with the EU. The market is considerably bigger in the US. And Europe is 2/3 years behind the US market. Europe is ahead of Asia though.
In Europe, the e2.0 deployments are much slower, through pilot initiatives, compared to the US.
Privacy is a key issue when rolling out e2.0 solutions. As is lack of understanding and cultural resistance by employees and management.
Some time ago I blogged about social media and cultural. In short I said: social media deployment can change culture, culture change doesn't always have to precede social media deployment. This study gives interesting results in this context. It proves that my statement was correct. It says:
Prerequisites to a successful adoption of E20 solutions is the existence of a collaborative and collegiate culture, where innovation is rewarded. It is difficult to reap the rewards from investment if the culture is not there and there is no top management endorsement. However, there is also evidence that the adoption of E20 tools generate cultural change by encouraging  collaboration and reducing silos effect: for example, the Intellipedia case showed how wiki were able to foster a more open and collaborative approach by the US intelligence agencies  (McAfee, 2009).
The research also stressed the value of e2.0 tools in organizations is not always easy to measure. This does not imply that there's no value in using them.
To close off the insights from the report, it also underlines the importance of understanding community dynamics and network effects that guarantee the success of e2.0 initiatives. Students and employees should be trained in these aspects of modern work.

The report closes by saying "next steps" will revolve around "the definition of policy options with regard to E20, based on the findings here presented." These results have also been published (and are open to revision and discussion).

My Cluetrain Manifesto Notes

It's been years ago since I read 'The Cluetrain Manifesto'. I think I maybe only read parts of it, back in 2001 or so. After leaving Oce I didn't have a copy of The Cluetrain anymore, so I decided to buy my own copy and read through it from beginnning to end. Now there's a 10th anniversary edition making it even more interesting to do so.

Man, what a ride it was. This book is just great. And amazing for the fact they captured what is going on right now so well. This book is a must-read for a social media enthusiasts. But also for all who just started using social media and are trying to understand if this social-thing is a hype or a trend.

I'm not going to summarize the book for you. But I wanted to share some nuggets with you. If you haven't read the book, I hope this will trigger you to go and do so. Please let me know if you do!

  • Start here and read through the 95 theses! If you like these and want to know more, read the book.
  • "... everything that happens in the marketplace falls into three categories: transaction, conversation, and relationship. In our First World business culture, transaction mattered most, conversation less, and relationship least. Worse, we conceive and justify everything in transactional terms. Nothing happens more than price and "the bottom line". By looking at the market through the prism of transaction, or even conversation, we miss the importance of relationship. We also don't see how relationship has a value all its own: one that transcends, even as it improves, the other two." (p.12)
  • "... most of the ones I come up with [that apply The Cluetrain well] are essentially small businesses, with simple organizational underpinnings and a scale made manageable by an intrinsic limit on the number of company participants in the conversation." (p.33)
  • "The internet was a force of disintermediation. ... The internet was disintermediating the sedimentary layers of increasing nonhumanity." (p.53)
  • "Indeed, conversation requires a broad base of agreement from which we then discuss relatively minor differences. Conversation isn't usually about finding the truth. It's a social activity and a way of building social relationships." (p.62)
  • "Whether in the marketplace or at work, people do have genuine, serious concerns. And we have something else: knowledge. Not the sort of boring, abstract knowledge that "Knowledge Management" wants to manage. No. The real thing. We have knowledge of what we do and how we do it - our craft - and it drives our voices; it's what we most like to talk about." (p.80)
  • "Markets are conversations. Trade routes pave the storylines. Across the millenia in between, the human voice is the music we have always listened for, and still best understand." (p.82)
  • "We don't know what the web is for but we've adopted it faster than any technology since fire." (p.115)
  • "People talk to each other. In open, straightforward conversations. Inside and outside organizations. The inside and outside conversations are connecting. We have no choice but to participate in them." (p.123)
  • "Companies can't stop customers from speaking up, and can't stop employees from talking to customers. Their only choice is to start encouraging employees to talk to customers - and empowering them to act on what they hear." (p.144)
  • "The long silence - the industrial interruption of the human conversation - is coming to an end." (p.154)
  • "Here's some advice on entering the conversation: loosen up. Lighten up. And shut up for a while. Listen for a change." (p.173)
  • "We're all learning to talk anew. We're all going to get it right and get it wrong." (p.183)
  • "The web, in short, has led every wired person in your organization to expect direct connections not only to information but also to the truth spoken in human voices. And they expect to be able to find what they need and do what they need without any further help from people who dress better than they do." (p.188)
  • "Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy. Hyperlinks subvert Fort Business. Business is conversation." (p.230)
  • "Via intranets, workers are already speaking among themselves. Via the internet, markets are already speaking among themselves. The convergence of these two conversations is not only necessary, but inevitable." (p.236)
  • ""Follow the money" may still apply, but to find the money in the first place, follow the conversation." (p.248)
Well, those are my highlights! Hope they help. What part(s) of The Cluetrain did you like most?

More Structure in Knowledge Work

A while back Thomas Davenport wrote an interesting McKinsey report 'Rethinking knowledge work: A strategic approach'. It's a thought-provoking piece. It goes against the trend to say knowledge workers should be left alone, they're smart and know what to do. Davenport says we should provide more structure to knowledge work. Providing knowledge workers "well-defined context of tasks and deliverables".
It's time for companies to develop a strategy for knowledge work - one that not only provides a clearer view of the types of information that workers need to do their jobs but also recognizes that the application of technology across the organization must vary considerably, according to the task different knowledge workers perform.
Davenport clearly also looks at the down-side of the free-access model for knowledge work. Are all knowledge workers really up to their task? Davenport clearly says 'no'. There are different levels of knowledge work that we should be open to. He relates to the case-management systems. "Case management can create value whenever some degree of structure or process can be imposed upon information-intensive work. Until recently, structured-provision approaches have been applied mostly to lower-level information tasks that are repetitive, predictable, and thus easier to automate."

I think Davenport is onto something here. What I see is that the IT would like to automate everything in heavy ERP-like tools. Everything is a process, everything can be structured, everything is digital, they seem to say. We know this drives knowledge workers crazy. What are they to do when they run into an exception? What happens when the process changes?

So, there's room between free-access tools to support knowledge work and tools that manufacturing-esk processes. I think the IT Flower shows this well. So, Davenport is wondering: where are the tools that support transactional work? Work that is not completely structured or unstructured. He says "the greatest potential for productivity improvements involve bringing more structured knowledge to workplaces and processes". And: "The key issue ... is to decide which aspects of the relevant process could benefit from more structured technologies and processes and which should be left largely untouched."

I'm not sure if "the greatest potential" is there. I think there's also huge potential in getting knowledge workers to use social tools in the organization. And use them productively. But there definitely is potential here. There's not only potential here for certain types of work, like someone working on files in the government as opposed to a PhD researcher. There's also potential for the knowledge worker who's work consists of different types of tasks. More and less structured work. The big productivity gain is helping knowledge workers switch between these tasks, I think.

What are your thoughts on Davenport's ideas? How does it relate to your daily practice?

Safe to Fail, Blog to Fail

Learning is an interesting topic. It's one of the main reasons I blog. Failing is also an interesting topic. I've blogged about it before. And I wondered: Is failure also one of the reasons I blog. I think so. Blogging helps me fail. I write things down, get things wrong, get corrected by comments, etc. I'm learning!

Not too long ago Harvard Business Review published an interesting article about failure. It was written by Amy Edmondson and is titled 'Strategies For Learning From Failure' (April 2011). I'm not going to summarize the article for you (this time). But it's pack with great insights and learning points. For instance it explains how we are programmed to think that all failure is bad, what different types of failure there are (good and bad ones), how organizations can embrace failure and how leaders can build a safe environment for failure.

I found the last point most interesting. I think embracing failure is a personal decision. In this case you are the leader. But leaders can also get others to open up and fail more safely. This article give a couple of steps to create this environment, I'd like to list them here:
  • employees must learn to understand the different kinds of failure that can be expected and why openness and collaboration are important for surfacing and learning from them
  • reward those that come forward with bad news, questions or mistakes.
  • be open about what you don't know
  • promote intelligent experiments, ask for employees to detect and analyze failures
  • employees feel paradoxically safer when leaders are clear about what acts are blameworthy and there must be consequences
What do you do to embrace failure? I relate blogging to failure. Does that make sense to you?

    Social Business Transformation: Why?

    CapGemini is a company positioning itself as a social business expert. Recently they published a whitepaper about social business: 'Social Business Transformation. How customers change your enterprise DNA'. It was written by Rick Mans and Joel van Gogh.

    The whitepaper is an interesting read. However, I left me with one big question. Why? In the management summary and in chapter 1 I read lots of things I agree with. But I think people will ask 'why?' after reading the paper. Why is this transformation to social business necessary? Why are customers interacting in different ways with businesses? Why are their expectations changing? Is social really a "new" way of interacting? And why is the decision process changing? Is it really?

    I think this report would have been better if these answers were answered. I understand this first chapter, as the whole whitepaper, have to be "brief" as it says. But I'm also convinced the underlying concepts of social business (and social media) have to be understood to successfully communicate to businesses why transformation is necessary. Or, even better, becoming who they actually are.