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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 082809

From the home office in Boston, Massachusetts…

#1: Ten Great Ways to Crush Creativity http://bit.ly/FR5PJ by @PaulSloane I’ve seen many of these in my work history #innovation

#2: “The kind of mistakes you make define you. The more interesting the mistakes, the more interesting the life.” http://bit.ly/Yqs2X by @berkun

#3: WSJ: Why Multitaskers Stink at Multitasking http://bit.ly/swsd2 “If you think you’re a good multitasker, you most certainly aren’t.”

#4: Forbes: “Their passion is for what they do, not for who they work for” in The Odd Clever People Every Organization Needs http://bit.ly/iWDTs

#5: Interesting survey: “Who is the most important living management thinker?” http://www.thinkers50.com/vote My vote? Gary Hamel

#6: Is engaging customers in social media Enterprise 2.0? Or is it Enterprise Marketing 2.0? Comment on @vzrjvy‘s blog http://bit.ly/LcMQk

#7: Jakob Nielsen, guru of web design, provides his take on what makes a good tweet: http://bit.ly/1UqHIA

#8: Have you heard of this dude? @shitmydadsays tweets funny stuff his father says. Only 21 tweets, but 139k followers.

#9: The Onion – Study: 74% Of Children Tenting Out In Yard Don’t Make It Through The Night http://bit.ly/zmqkZ Need to let my little ones know

#10: Dear @SantaClaus25: my son Harrison would like Lego City for Christmas. “The whole Lego City” he says, as he watches me type this.

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Crowdsourcing Ideas: Apparently Marijuana Is All California Needs

California has several big issues that need to be tackled. Our state budget seems to perpetually be in deficit mode, with drawn-out battles for resolving the red ink. The education system, once a shining jewel in the world, now produced some of the low test scores in the country. The state infrastructure must be upgraded to handle the ever-growing population. Our prisons are sagging from overcrowding. Water sources need to be improved for the higherpopulation combined with predictable periods of drought.

So Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger established a novel approach. Let Californians weigh in with their ideas for how to fix the problems the state faces. He set up MyIdea4CA.com, where anyone can tweet their suggestions. So what does the wisdom of the crowd think will help?

Marijuana

Yes, it turns out state leadership has been missing a golden opportunity. Legalize pot, and things improve immediately! Or at least our perception of the problems mellows. Forget wisdom of the crowd. It’s buzzdom of the crowd.

Here’s a list of the most popular ideas as of Friday August 28, 2009 at 6:30 am:

MyIdea4CA.com Most Popular 082809

In the screenshot, and further down the list, there are some more serious ideas proposed. So all hope is not lost in the fumes of a big joint. But you have to admire the persistence of the “legalize dope” crowd. Multiple ideas, multiple votes, top of the leaderboard.

Reminds me of a recent New York Times story detailing  a similar effort by President Barack Obama to elicit ideas from Americans.

The White House made its first major entree into government by the people last month when it set up an online forum to ask ordinary people for their ideas on how to carry out the president’s open-government pledge. It got an earful — on legalizing marijuana, revealing U.F.O. secrets and verifying Mr. Obama’s birth certificate to prove he was really born in the United States and thus eligible to be president.

I fundamentally believe that crowdsourcing works. For instance, our stock markets are a great example of collective wisdom. They provide amazing value in terms of aggregating the opinions of large numbers of people.

Yes, crowdsourcing works. Just be mindful of the crowd from which you’re sourcing.

Could FriendFeed have crossed the chasm?

FriendFeed folds it up

FriendFeed folds it up

FriendFeed is now part of Facebook. For many of us FriendFeed users, this was quite a shock. We didn’t know exactly what FriendFeed’s future was, or how it was going to make money. But Twitter has set the current mental model of not worrying about such things. And in some ways, Amazon.com did the same in the 1990s with its grow-don’t-make-money strategy. In both cases, the companies persevered and are now enjoying mainstream success.

Rather than follow this model, FriendFeed sold itself to Facebook. Perhaps this is a case where the founders saw something we didn’t. After all, for every Twitter and Amazon, there are thousands of startups that don’t make it.

But given the heavy attention and usage of FriendFeed by the technology Early Adopter crowd, it’s worth examining this:

Could FriendFeed have crossed the chasm?

I’m referring, of course, to Geoffrey Moore’s classic and still-relevant book where he examines the challenges of moving from the Early Adopters to the Early Majority segments in the technology adoption cycle:

Crossing the Chasm

The biggest issue is that what appeals to Early Adopters doesn’t work for the Early Majority. If you’ve tracked public reaction to FriendFeed, doesn’t that sound familiar?

In Moore’s book, he counsels that companies need to establish a toehold in the Early Majority segment by focusing on a vertical niche. Let’s use that approach in examining FriendFeed’s options.

FriendFeed’s Early Majority Options

In the table below, I’ve come up with six possible use cases that might have been bases for breaking into the Early Majority. Each use case has a potential Early Majority niche noted. And each use case has one or more existing competitors listed:

FriendFeed Early Majority Options

Let’s analyze things by use case…

Company public groups: In this use case, companies set up shop on FriendFeed, with their own groups filled with content. PepsiCo set up one, called Pepsi Cooler. The idea is a stream of content produced by a team from Pepsi. If you look at the stream, it’s primarily tweets.

If FriendFeed had decided to pursue this option, it needed to create points of permanence on the page. Having just a stream of content makes it hard to establish objects that focus on your brand and let’s you run events. Creating an experience like this was something that would have given FriendFeed groups more value.

Alternatives? Companies run their websites, upgraded with social media streams of content. And Facebook has really pushed this with its pages effort. Facebook’s 200+ million members gives it a big leg up here.

This would have been a tough one to break into the Early Majority, as Facebook really owns this niche. The easy ability to stream content would have been FriendFeed’s advantage.

Collaboration spaces: Let employees work together on projects in their own private groups. Content can be streamed in certainly, but more important, people can post things directly into a collaboration space. Teams can comment on posted items to advance projects. Documents can be included in posts, letting the same version be accessed by everyone. Direct messages can be sent to one another.

In June of 2008, I wrote Using FriendFeed Rooms for Work: What’s Needed? In it, I argued that FriendFeed could be used for getting work done in teams. I saw some things I’d want there: better “stickiness” for current projects and documents. Can’t have everything fly by in a stream. Also, accept RSS feeds of document changes from Google Docs, Zoho and other cloud office productivity apps. Chris Brogan saw the potential too in a post from August 2008,  How to Use Friendfeed as a Collaborative Business Tool.

Collaborative business apps are an area of overall growth, but one that is filled with competition. Atlassian  has been delivering this for a while with its Confluence wiki, and Basecamp is a favorite small business collaboration tool. More recent entrants like SocialCast have added activity streams as part of their core functionality.

FriendFeed could have been a strong player here, but it needed a lot of focused feature development.

Social web monitoring: This is my use case. FriendFeed has a marvelous way of handling RSS feeds into separate groups, and managing people and groups into separate lists. I found these to be quite helpful for staying on top conversations and content that is getting attention. I actively monitor three groups formed specifically to be my “news tickers” on the social web. I don’t use them as communities for conversations, but as information management tools.

The real-time feature is great for this purpose. As soon as something is made available via RSS, or in Twitter’s case it’s posted, you’d see it show up in your groups. I find this to be highly valuable for jumping into conversations on Twitter, and to understand what’s buzzing now.

FriendFeed doesn’t have the powerful analytics and structure of the new premium Social CRM apps. I’d argue that for SMBs, that’s not needed. What’s needed is an ability to stay on top of topics and conversations relevant to your industry. ReadWriteWeb’s Marshall Kirkpatrick was seeing the same thing in How FriendFeed Could Become the Ultimate Social Media Tracking Service.

To my mind, this is the use case that was most promising relative to unmet need and dearth of competition. And FriendFeed had great technological advantages here in terms of its SUP work and real-time updating. Feels like an opportunity missed.

Real-time conversations: When FriendFeed made the switch to real-time updating by default, one thing users gained was the ability to see new comments on threads without constantly refreshing the page. Thaty meant you could engage others easily on the page as people posted back-and-forth.

For live events, this is pretty fun. It’s great to share a common moment this way. Be it sports, political events or technology conferences. And that’s what makes me think the real-time conversation platform would be great for online media sites. Imagine CNN.com outfitted with real-time conversations by FriendFeed. News events are constantly, and always will be, unfolding. Giving site visitors a way to converse quickly with one another would be great. Admittedly, this real-time conversation flow is something that is already present for webcasts.

The limitation for the value of real-time conversations is (i) the existence of alternatives; (ii) limited utility for most people. Twitter isn’t real-time, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s a good-enough conversation platform with a large subscriber base. Forums will do the threading work for multiple participants. And the people that got the most use out of real-time were social media A-Listers who get a lot of comments on their threads. Most people don’t get that level of interaction. So the value of real-time conversations was lost on them.

Following friends’ activities: This was the original purpose of FriendFeed: “FriendFeed is a service that makes it easy to share with friends online. It offers a fun and interactive way to discover and discuss information among friends.” Makes sense…”friend”…”feed”.

The challenge is that it is quite RSS dependent on friends’ streams. Which means people need to have content available via RSS. That’s still a slowly growing dynamic. The other issue is similar to that described above for company public groups and collaboration spaces: lack of ability to create more permanent objects on your profile. If Friends don’t RSS, they need a good way to manage content they directly post.

This really is Facebook’s game. Once they added the ability to follow RSS feeds of friends, much of the rationale for FriendFeed was lost, at least in terms of following friends. There’s still a great use case in following people that may not qualify for the traditional definition of “friends”. But you can stay on top of the likes of Craig Newmark, Robert Scoble, and others.

Personal information management: If you participate in several different social sites, you can create a diverse amount of content: tweets, Flickr photos, blog posts, YouTube videos, SlideShare presentations, etc. As you create it, you want to be able to reference it. The most obvious way to do that is to go to each site individually and search for some part of your content.

FriendFeed is marvelous for managing all the different content in one place. This is something I talked about recently in Three Reasons You Need to Be on FriendFeed *Now*. One place for all your content, with amazing search capabilities. Much better than what Twitter offers. With FriendFeed, you can actually access old tweets via search.

This use case is great, but it’s ability to penetrate the Early Majority is questionable, at least for now. It takes people who have these diverse social sites where they’re posting content. As we know from the 1-9-90 rule of participation, the number of people actively posting new content is still relatively low. But as social sites proliferate, I believe you’ll see increased numbers of people posting original content. 1-9-90 may apply to any one site, but viewed from a portfolio perspective, the ratio will be higher for the general population.

Am I missing something?

Those are the use cases that come to my mind. What do you think? Did I miss some important ones? And how about the assessments I made for each of the use cases? On target?

My own thought is that FriendFeed had a great opportunity for social web monitoring. It’s an area of growing interest, and FriendFeed had the technology and raw feeds to be a big player there. More and more, the mainstream is interested in the workings of and information available on social media.

Let’s see if Facebook sees a similar opportunity.

IBM Public Policy Prediction Markets: Collective Wisdom on Education, Transportation, Energy and Healthcare

IBM Smarter CitiesIBM recently launched its Smarter Cities initiative. Part of its overall SmarterPlanet project, Smarter Cities is an effort to find solutions to the problems that will occur due to our ever-increasing population growth in urban centers around the world:

In 1900, only 13% of the world’s population lived in cities. By 2050, that number will have risen to 70%. We are adding the equivalent of seven New Yorks to the planet every year.

This unprecedented urbanization is both an emblem of our economic and societal progress—especially for the world’s emerging nations—and a huge strain on the planet’s infrastructure. It’s a challenge felt urgently by mayors, heads of economic development, school administrators, police chiefs and other civic leaders.

IBM has the smarts and global heft to be a major voice in innovating solutions for the problems that urban population growth will bring on. And of course, it doesn’t hurt that there will be government expenditures to make sure we’ve got the infrastructure ready.

IBM CEO Sam Palmisano laid out three fundamental changes to global urban areas:

  1. Our world is becoming instrumented: Sensors and devices are coming down in cost, and increasing in functionality, giving us “for the first time ever, real-time instrumentation of a wide range of the world’s systems”
  2. Our world is becoming interconnected: With the rise of devices with these sensors, “systems and objects can now ‘speak’ to one another”
  3. All things are becoming intelligent: Better sensors, increased computing power and more information from interconnection mean that “intelligence can be translated into action, making our systems, processes and infrastructures more efficient, more productive and responsive-in a word, smarter.”

The sensors thing is interesting. I’ve heard both Tim O’Reilly and Paul Saffo talk about sensors as the big area of technology growth and opportunity.

As part of this initiative, IBM (in conjunction with Spigit) is running a series of prediction markets that you can participate in. The objective is to tap the collective wisdom of people around the world. Here  are the prediction markets for which they’re seeking your perspectives:

Education

  • Which approach will be most effective in enabling better education outcome within a major city? (link)
  • In order to increase the proportion of the population completing high school by 10% over the next five years; major cities will begin transforming education in what way (link)

Transportation

  • Which company offers the best portfolio regarding Smarter Transportation? (link)
  • In a major city, what will need to be improved in order to make transportation more efficient? (link)
  • What enhancement can a major city make over the next year to be a global technology leader in public transportation? (link)
  • What transportation enhancement will a major city, like New York, need to make to relieve its traffic congestion? (link)

Utilities

  • Which of the following will be the most important to the rapid deployment and adoption of Smart Grids? (link)
  • Over the next five years, what changes should a major city first implement to reduce energy waste and use its resources efficiently? (link)
  • Which of the following will reduce household energy consumption the most within a major city like New York? (link)
  • Which of the following should be a primary objective for a major city over the next five years? (link)

Government Services

  • The current economic crisis will change plans for high priority projects in a major city in which way over the next few years? (link)
  • If you were a mayor of a major city, which method would you use to assess the needs of your city, the business community and your citizens? (link)
  • In 2011, what will be the primary method for citizens to communicate with their smarter city governments? (link)
  • What immediate step should a major city government take over the next year to emerge as a leader in e-governance? (link)

Public Safety

  • Over the next five years, what transformation will large cities make to their public safety systems to reduce the physical / personal crime rate against people, property, and infrastructure by half (50%)? (link)
  • If a large city wants to improve its overall public safety position (i.e. reducing traffic fatalities, decreasing gang violence, improving emergency response capabilities) in which public safety area (or related city sub-system) should it target investment over the next year? (link)

Healthcare

  • Which of the following sub-system improvement will be most effective in providing immediate benefit to healthcare delivery for citizens in a leading smarter city? (link)
  • Over the next five years, what will major city hospitals do to increase efficiency and deliver better quality healthcare to its citizens? (link)

Other

  • What are the top challenges large cities (i.e. populations over 5M) within emerging markets will face within the next five years? (link)
  • What region(s) will recover most quickly from the current global economic crisis? (link)

If addressing these issues is something that interests you, check out IBM’s SmarterCities Predictive Idea Markets.

Democracies Don’t Suffer Famines: Implications for Corporate Governance

In his keynote at the Spigit Customer Summit, Gary Hamel said that something that caught my attention: democracies don’t suffer famines. Hearing this, I was intrigued and did some research.

Amartya Sen, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economics, made this empirical observation:

One of the remarkable facts in the terrible history of famine is that no substantial famine has ever occurred in a country with a democratic form of government and a relatively free press.

Why? In a paper from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Sean M. Lynn-Jones puts forth two reasons:

First, in democracies governments are accountable to their populations and their leaders have electoral incentives to prevent mass starvation. The need to be reelected impels politicians to ensure that their people do not starve.

Second, the existence of a free press and the free flow of information in democracies prevents famine by serving as an early warning system on the effects of natural catastrophes such as floods and droughts that may cause food scarcities.

Isn’t that powerful? Simplifying things, I distill those two reasons into these: (i) organizational responsiveness, and (ii) distributed trend detection.

Both of which describe the realm of what Enterprise 2.0 is about, albeit without the life-and-death issue of starvation. That in itself is interesting enough. But when you try to apply those findings to companies, you realize they don’t quite mesh with today’s corporate governance models.

Corporations Aren’t Democracies

You, the reader, probably say “duh” to the observation that corporations aren’t democracies. But to consider the benefits of organizational responsiveness and distributed trend detection, it’s important to understand a crucial difference between democracies and corporations. The diagram below shows the corporate governance model:

Corporate Governance Model

In the context of making organizations more responsive, and distributing trend detection, where does that happen? It’s the employees. They’re the ones on the front line. They’re getting creative to solve issues everyday. They hear things from the market before most do. They want to make a difference and see their companies progress.

This is the equivalent of the voters in a democracy. The ones who are experiencing issues firsthand. But employees aren’t empowered to change their organizations. That’s the C-Level suite: CEO, COO, CFO, etc.

The C-Level suite lives a life of leading employees, and listening to the Board of Directors. Well listening, and leading, the Board. And the Board serves at the pleasure of shareholders.

In this model, shareholders look at company results and estimate future overall growth in revenue and profits. Fail to hit the numbers, and they put pressure on the Board. Board feels the pressure, and begin to question the C-Level suite. C-Level suite makes changes, and/or is replaced.

Notice that train of actions – it’s not the feedback from employees that drives changes. It’s a look-back at the results by shareholders. This isn’t to say that C-Level executives do not listen to employees. But the structural governance model sets the pecking order for who and what gets attention.

Bringing the Voice of the ‘Governed’ into the Enterprise Conversation

As someone who went to business school, I’m a firm believer in the accountability to shareholders governance model. Capital is scarce, and its efficient allocation across the economy is valuable for ensuring generally sufficient supplies of products and services needed by the population.

But that doesn’t mean the C-Level executives can’t change the way they manage to improve the prospects of their companies and returns for their shareholders. As has been pointed out before, companies are experiencing unprecedented levels of volatility in markets today. Sources of industry change come from multiple directions, and their speed of invasion is much faster.

Maintaining a model of listening only to their senior executives, their Board and their shareholders is becoming a risky strategy for CEOs. It means listening to people whose interests are certainly in seeing a strong, healthy company, but whose capacity to provide early trend detection and problem-solving creativity is limited. Shareholders aren’t in the trenches of your company’s operations. The Board of Directors is made up of C-Level executives from other companies, who need to worry about their own operations.

Gary Hamel discussed W.L Gore as a model of a company where employees are much more a part of the corporate governance model. From Fast Company in February this year, here’s a quick update on W.L. Gore:

Gore has spun a fortune from constantly reinventing the polymer polytetrafluoroethylene. In its 50th-anniversary year, the $2 billion-plus private company is on pace for record revenues and profits, thanks to a number of clever new products with a lot of potential.

An article in Sales and Marketing Management noted that employee teams help to hire new staff members, assist in determining each other’s pay, and pick their own leaders. Crazy eh? But note the same article says this:

An almost eerie optimism radiates through the hallways at Gore, which is best known for its Gore-Tex lining for weatherproof jackets, and which remains a private company despite its size, in order to protect its culture from outside interests.

Ouch! Here’s a company that exemplifies a governance model of innovation, encourages employee innovation and distributed market intelligence. And it has to stay private to protect this culture?

My sense is that the Enterprise 2.0 movement in general is a vanguard toward improving the way companies are managed. Being a public company, used to a top-down order of things and paying a lot of money to outside consultants to understand the market, is hard to change overnight. But companies can begin to improve the way they engage their employees and leverage their vast, distributed know-how and creativity. There is a wide spectrum of how far companies can take this. The key is to begin understanding how new approaches can work in your organization.

Enterprise 2.0 as a movement, not a technology, is quite promising for enabling companies to improve their overall strategies and operations.

Alternatively, we can continue to do things the way we always have, with a limited set of decision-makers and market intelligence gatherers. As seen with the increased rate of companies gaining and losing positions in industries, this model is becoming less reliable.

Remember, there’s a reason democracies don’t suffer famines.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 082109

From the home office at the World Track Championships in Berlin…

#1: Spigit Innovation Summit Wrapup http://bit.ly/4zIqo1 by @innovate “It’s important to have connectors on your #innovation team”

#2: Jeff Bezos on corp #innovation: For innovative ideas to bear fruit, companies need to be willing to “wait for 5-7 years” http://bit.ly/tP9vj

#3: Like this by @paulsloane – Given unlimited resources to solve something, we’d dev something expensive & over engineered http://bit.ly/Qa3tY

#4: Zopa isn’t disruptive argues @bankervision http://bit.ly/ZYela His key points: same customers, same credit scoring, same pricing as banks

#5: Gary Hamel last week: “We have a state of creative apartheid, where some are *really* creative, some aren’t. That’s BS.” #spigit09

#6: Bookmark this: 14 Reasons Why Enterprise 2.0 Projects Fail http://bit.ly/3piYNF by @dhinchcliffe #e20

#7: Bookmark this: How To Kick Start A Community – an Ongoing List http://bit.ly/641dA by @jowyang

#8: Mashable: “14% of surveyed employers disregard candidates who use friendly smiley faces in social media” http://bit.ly/1ajvd8

#9: RT @skap5 Is IMHO a necessary descriptor? Unless of course the rest of your opinions are not humble.

#10: My son starts kindergarten in a couple weeks. Then I see this: “Tutoring tots? Some kids prep for kindergarten” http://bit.ly/3htw0 No…

Gary Hamel on Enterprise 2.0 and the Post-Establishment Age

Gary Hamel photoLast week at the first-ever Spigit Customer Summit, I had a chance to listen to Gary Hamel live. He delivered the keynote for the event, “Inventing Management 2.0.” If you’re a reader of Gary’s blog or his books, you know he’s a big proponent of empowering employees and changing management paradigms. See his 25 Stretch Goals for Management in the Harvard Business Review from last February for a great overview of his thinking.

In his speech last week, he did not disappoint. In fact, he provided a distinct rationale and call to action for companies to embrace the Enterprise 2.0 movement.

Driving the Autobahn in a Model T

In his presentation, there were two distinct graphs that really drove home the point that it’s time for new ways of managing companies. I’ve put them together below:

Gary Hamel - Why Innovation in Mgt Is Needed

On the left, a conceptual chart outlines something many of us instinctively feel. The pace of change in our world is increasing. As Gary Hamel noted, year-to-year volatility in company earnings have been increasing exponentially the last 40 years. Those changes are manifestations of what we all experience. I thought he put it well when he said:

What a company did in the past is now less predictive of its future.

Business Week in 2004 ran an article that nicely demonstrated the acceleration of change. It included these points:

  • The number of Fortune 300 CEOs with six years’ tenure in that role has decreased from 57 percent in 1980 to 38 percent in 2001.
  • In 1991, the number of new household, health, beauty, food, and beverage products totaled 15,400. In 2001, that number had more than doubled to a record 32,025.
  • From 1972 to 1987, the U.S. government deleted 50 industries from its standard industrial classification. From 1987 to 1997, it deleted 500. At the same time, the government added or redefined 200 industries from 1972 to 1987, and almost 1,000 from 1987 to 1997.
  • In 1978, about 10,000 firms were failing annually, and this number had been stable since 1950. By 1986, 60,000 firms were failing annually, and by 1998 that number had risen to roughly 73,000.
  • From 1950 to 2000, variability in S&P 500 stock prices increased more than tenfold. Through the decades of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, days on which the market fluctuated by three percent or more were rare — it happened less than twice a year. For the past two years it happened almost twice a month.

On the right, the chart provides the major innovations in company management over the past 150 years. Current management systems reflect philosophies that were developed in an earlier era of greater stability. A quick primer on the different management ideas (note – cannot find information on McCollum):

Taylor: Frederick Winslow Taylor advocated: “It is only through enforced standardization of methods, enforced adoption of the best implements and working conditions, and enforced cooperation that this faster work can be assured. And the duty of enforcing the adoption of standards and enforcing this cooperation rests with management alone.”

Sloan: Former GM CEO Alfred P. Sloan revolutionized the management of corporations through numbers: “Sloan oversaw the use of rigorous financial and statistical tools to profitably manage GM’s far-flung empire.”

McGregor: MIT professor Douglas McGregor developed Theory X and Theory Y: “In Theory X, management assumes employees are inherently lazy and will avoid work if they can. In Theory Y, management assumes employees may be ambitious and self-motivated and exercise self-control.”

Deming: W. Edwards Deming was a professor and statistician credited with revolutionizing post-war Japan’s manufacturing: “Dr. W. Edwards Deming taught that by adopting appropriate principles of management, organizations can increase quality and simultaneously reduce costs (by reducing waste, rework, staff attrition and litigation while increasing customer loyalty). The key is to practice continual improvement and think of manufacturing as a system, not as bits and pieces.”

The point Gary Hamel drives home is that our business and economic environment has irrevocably shifted toward higher volatility and accelerated change. The sundering of companies from healthy industry positions to crisis mode in relatively short order demonstrates the need for updating management philosophies.

Need for Better Adaptability in the Post-Establishment Age

My own term for this is the “post-establishment age”.  In prior decades, change was slower, and companies could count on inherent advantages that helped them maintain their established positions. As Gary Hamel noted, protections came in the form of regulatory frameworks, monopolies (e.g distribution), capital access and other ways.

These protections continue to erode in our modern, WTO-governed society. The web and digitalization of content and processes are making it easier than ever for new ideas to be tested. Consumers have access to more information than ever. Social media ensures more people know about new companies and products more rapidly then ever.

Old protections are falling, while change and industry disruption is accelerating. What can modern companies do to manage in this new environment?

Gary Hamel prescribes two strategies for companies in the post-establishment age:

  • Increased organizational adaptability
  • Pushing innovation and decision-making out to employees

Adaptability is a critical strategy. It means that companies pivot as they learn new information about their markets, competitors and changes in customer behaviors. As noted in a recent Wall Street Journal article noted, companies can try more ideas faster and less expensively than ever:

Technology is transforming innovation at its core, allowing companies to test new ideas at speeds—and prices—that were unimaginable even a decade ago. They can stick features on Web sites and tell within hours how customers respond. They can see results from in-store promotions, or efforts to boost process productivity, almost as quickly.

Gary Hamel then notes that senior executives continue to have a monopoly on strategy. This essentially makes companies dependent on a handful of executives’ ability to adapt to change.

Yet employees are probably the earliest to know when something is changing. They also are faced with situations where they must come up with solutions. It is in this environment where companies will find their sources of adaptation. In an article for the Harvard Business Review, 25 Stretch Goals for Management, Gary Hamel included these two goals:

12. Share the work of setting direction. To engender commitment, the responsibility for goal setting must be distributed through a process where share of voice is a function of insight, not power.

17. Expand the scope of employee autonomy. Management systems must be redesigned to facilitate grassroots initiatives and local experimentation.

In the post-establishment age, these strategies are what distinguish leaders from those that will go through another disruption.

This Is Enterprise 2.0 Evolved

The cornerstones of Enterprise 2.0 include greater information visibility, tapping the emergent knowledge of employees and increased collaboration. Those are the foundational elements. Use them to create a company of higher adaptability and distributed innovation and decision-making.

As Gary Hamel concluded in his keynote:

“You can’t build a company that’s fit for the future unless it’s one that’s fit for human beings.”

Gary Hamel’s Hierarchy of Employee Traits for the Creative Economy

Over on the Spigit blog, I published Gary Hamel: Hierarchy of Employee Traits for the Creative Economy. It’s notes from his talk last week at the Spigit Customer Summit. The post has the full details, but I wanted to share this graphic from it:

Gary Hamel - Hierarchy of Employee Traits for the Creative Economy

The key point is this: the traits that will determine success in the Creative Economy are different than those that govern the Information Economy. They are much closer to the Enterprise 2.0 ethos than that anything we’ve seen previously. The top three traits are something that employees themselves bring to the job. As Gary Hamel says, they cannot be commanded.

Check out the post for a full description of what Gary Hamel talked about.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 081409

From the home office in Taiwan…

#1: Investigating this foreign land, Facebook, now that FriendFeed is to be folded into it. Already had FriendFeed features, so kinda familiar.

#2: Imaginatik CEO @mark_turrell & I (with Spigit) debate the merits of Enterprise 2.0 and innovation: http://bit.ly/Dd55d Good stuff

#3: Jeffrey Phillips: The directed, invitational external community model best for generating disruptive innovations #spigit09

#4: Jeffrey Phillips: Great exercise is to purposely build ‘failure projects’. Learn what can go wrong, pick up signals for innovation #spigit09

#5: Reading: Should you do only things that are “strategic”? http://bit.ly/HTQty by @bankervision Small stuff in aggregate much bigger

#6: Great list by Gary Hamel: 25 Stretch Goals for Management http://bit.ly/vd8om (found via @sniukas) #innovation #e20

#7: Microsoft’s SharePoint Thrives in the Recession http://bit.ly/17g5I2 Microsoft is getting stronger in the #e20 space

#8: What Works: The Web Way vs. The Wave Way http://bit.ly/ZYWPN by @anildash His take: Google Wave will inspire changes, not *be* the change

#9: Has seeing the time “11:11″ on a digital clock ever freaked you out? You’re apparently not alone: http://bit.ly/XrqVB

#10: Hiccups tip: Eat a teaspoon of sugar. My Dad taught me that, and it works every time. There must be a scientific explanation.

Demise of tr.im makes me realize I’d pay for bit.ly

URL shortening service tr.im announced that they will discontinue the service. Apparently, they couldn’t find a good way to make money with it:

We simply cannot find a way to justify continuing to work on it, or pay its network costs, which are not inconsequential. tr.im pushes (as I write this) a lot of redirects and URL creations per day, and this required significant development investment and server expansion to accommodate.

Seeing the various Techmeme stories about tr.im, I tweeted this:

Cannot take seriously the advice to stop using URL shorteners after tr.im’s demise. Alternative – use full URLs – is unworkable.

In a twitter conversation with Doug Cornelius, what became apparent to me was not that we should stop using URL shorteners. Rather, we need a service we can rely on. The market will converge on a single majority provider, either tinyurl or bit.ly.

As a user of bit.ly, this dawned on me: I would pay to use the service. Well, the value-added part: analytics. Here’s how I could see it working:

  1. Free: anyone can shorten any URL anytime and use it
  2. Pay: access to clicks and analytics for the shortened URL

Not everyone needs the analytics, so for them, the service is free. For me personally and professionally, it is important to understand the analytics. I would pay for those. Say $1 or $2 per month? bit.ly’s click counts were pretty lousy there for a while, but have improved dramatically the past few weeks.

If that revenue model takes hold, bit.ly gets cash to support its basic service. And it apparently has designs on larger types of data mining ahead.

Sign me up.

How many of us find our true talent? She did.

Photo credit: cyclingnews.com

Photo credit: cyclingnews.com

Over a year ago, I wrote a post here titled How Many of Us Find Our True Talent? In that post, I speculated that the vast majority of us find vocations and activities we’re good at. But we likely have talents in totally different areas that never really see the light of day:

My own theory is that each of have talents that are uniquely strong in us. For some, these talents would put them on the world stage. For most of us, they’d probably vault us to the top of a particular field. And yet I suspect that most of us never hit on those unique talents.

And here’s the exception that proves the rule. The Wall Street Journal ran an article this week, Cycling’s One-in-a-Million Story. It tells the story of Evelyn Stevens, a 26 year-old top-ranked cyclist who will be competing in the upcoming Route de France. That itself is impressive enough.

How about this: A little over a year ago, she didn’t even own a bike.

A former tennis player at Dartmouth, she was working as an associate on Wall Street. Putting in the hours needed, she barely had time to jog. Deciding she needed more exercise, she bought a bike. Pretty quickly, it was apparent she was a natural at it. The WSJ article relates how early on, with little training, she clocked a mile-and-a-half hill climb in 5 minutes and 40 – 50 seconds. Strong, trained male riders do the same climb in the low 6:00’s.

She’s now quit her investment banking job, and doesn’t actively pursue her previous sport, tennis. She’s found her true talent. As the Wall Street Journal noted:

The truth is that Ms. Stevens is one in a million: She was lucky enough to stumble into the exact pursuit she was born for.

Indeed.

Tide Basic Detergent. Is this Innovation?

Photo credit: Wall Street Journal

Photo credit: Wall Street Journal

Adam Hartung, Managing Partner of Spark Partners, a strategy and transformation consultancy, asked this question on LinkedIn:

Do you think “Tide Basic,” a less-good formulation, is an innovation? Isn’t innovation about making things better and cheaper, not just cheaper?

The genesis of the question is a story in the Wall Street Journal describing why P&G recently rolled out Tide Basic. Tide Basic “lacks some of the cleaning capabilities of the iconic brand — and costs about 20% less.” As the article notes, Tide’s historic posture is to improve the laundry detergent continuously. It gets better every year. And the price does go up as well. The decision to go down-market didn’t come easily.

Much of this is reminiscent of Clayton Christensen’s analysis of the steel industry. In that story, low-cost mini mills ultimately led to the demise of the big, integrated steel mills.

Reflecting on that, here’s how I answered Adam’s question on LinkedIn:

Conceptually, going simpler on something *could* be an innovation. Clayton Christensen’s mini steel mills were the catalyst for disrupting the steel industry in the 1970s and 80s. The innovation was decoupling the low cost, simple steel from the integrated high end. It enabled quality customers wanted at much lower prices.

A lower cost, less featured Tide sounds similar, doesn’t it? A difference here is that there’s nothing new in the manufacturing process for Tide Basic. Remove the more expensive ingredients, change packaging, sell for less. Nothing wrong with that either. It addresses the needs of a segment of the market. I consider it smart business.

A key difference between Tide Basic and the mini steel mills is that the mini mills recast the economics of the industry. At the low-end initially, then upmarket as well. Tide Basic doesn’t recast the economics of the industry. There’s still a linear relationship between the ingredients put in the detergent, and the price and performance of the detergent. The mini mills caused a fundamental shift in the pricing of steel.

That was their innovation.

How about you? What do you think?

Conceptually, going simpler on something *could* be an innovation. Clayton Christensen’s mini steel mills were the catalyst for disrupting the steel industry in the 1970s and 80s. The innovation was decoupling the low cost, simple steel from the integrated high end. It enabled quality customers wanted at much lower prices.

A lower cost, less featured Tide sounds similar, doesn’t it? A difference here is that there’s nothing new in the manufacturing process for Tide Basic. Remove the more expensive ingredients, change packaging, sell for less. Nothing wrong with that either. It addresses the needs of a segment of the market. I consider it smart business.

A key difference between Tide Basic and the mini steel mills is that the mini mills recast the economics of the industry. At the low-end initially, then upmarket as well. Tide Basic doesn’t recast the economics of the industry. There’s still a linear relationship between the ingredients put in the detergent, and the price and performance of the detergent. The mini mills caused a fundamental shift in the pricing of steel.

That was their innovation.

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