It’s like Christmas came early

Having momentarily forgotten Obama’s win, it made me smile when I saw this headline on my way home last night, just outside Piccadilly Circus tube station.

At last, a leader we all want to follow, who appears to have the world’s interests at heart and has worked hard to build an online audience. Now it’ll be interesting to see how he uses that constituency in decision-making.

Good luck, Barack!


36 hours in Berlin

Sitting bleary-eyed in the Web 2.0 Expo Europe auditorium at the Berlin Congress Centre, listening to JP Rangaswami talk about how Web 2.0 is changing the way we communicate at work.

Yesterday, I got up at 3.10am to get a taxi to Luton Airport to then spend an hour tired and disorientated, standing in lines and being officiated with hundreds of other tired and disorientated adults and children. It was a real-life enactment of a Brueghel painting.

Once I got on the Easyjet flight to Berlin, things improved slightly, partly because of a particularly cheerful and polite air steward but mostly because I got some sleep.

When I actually arrived in Berlin, things improved tenfold, because this is a great city, everything is nicely designed, well-organised and people are helpful. True, there is graffiti everywhere but it is colourful and generally un-threatening.

Yesterday I interviewed Gina Poole from IBM and Stowe Boyd. Both great, very interesting people. One a maverick from the outside, the other a maverick from within.

Then went out for Chinese with Lloyd Davis, Ian Forrester and a few others, before heading off to the official Expo party at groovy Week-End, which was like a designer squat-party, on the 12th floor of a former East Berlin housing block. Great views over towards sprawling Alexanderplatz and the wide, ostentatious Karl Marx Alle.

Sadly I only got to spend about ten minutes with my hosts, developer Sean Treadway (SoundCloud) and his partner Dorit Weber. I was lucky enough to get to stay in their spacious apartment on the edge of Friedrichshain, a former working-class district of East Berlin, now being gentrified. The streets there have a nice energy about them with little bars humming techno, and some cool murals.

JP keeps referring to William Gibson’s quote about the future being here but not evenly distributed. How very true. We are living in information-rich times. In the past, says JP, nobody bothered to set early video cameras because it was such a hassle to set them, and certainly nobody bothered to tag their videos. Today, you get information about everything – the type of camera, the time, the place etc. And then, it’s not just the ability to post the video online and have a persistent record but you can share it with the community, so that record gets enriched.

Sharing a work conversation, for example, and moving it around becomes valuable today, JP is saying. Embedding that within your workflow becomes immensely valuable: “it’s a malleable object you can do beautiful things with – that’s the future and it’s today”.

I’m looking forward to speaking to JP later today, and also Tariq Krim. I’m sure both of them will come up with some insightful stuff about how Web 2.0 is influencing the way we do business.

Then at 2 ish it’s off back to Berlin airport. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to get a peek at the Brandenburg Gate before I go.


Social Media Maven

I’m gutted to say that I’d never heard of JP Rangaswami before July, but then there was Euan Semple up on stage interviewing him at 2gether08 so he clearly must be someone pretty special.

Funnily enough, I’d never heard of The Cluetrain Manifesto either until June (and me going to business school and everything), so seeing JP up on stage being asked about the Cluetrain Manifesto was a kind of double whammy. Needless to say, I took copious notes, which I then managed to delete. I did keep hold of the snaps though.

JP is Managing Director, Service Design for BT Design at BT. I agree, that title is a little scary and not immediately descriptive. Probably the three most important things you need to know about JP is that (1) named him one of the world’s top ten CIOs in 2007, that (2) he loves to blog and that (3) he had nouse enough to get out of investment banking (he was CIO, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein) at a Very Good Time.

JP’s blog has been running for two and a half years and just this week features topics as diverse as sleeping out with the homeless for a night in London and the progress of a 26 year old Colombian, Camilo Villegas, in international golf.

I’m hoping to catch JP speak again in a couple of weeks, this time at the Web 2.0 Expo Europe (I’ll be sure to use autosave). His theme is Web 2.0 versus the Watercooler and he’ll be looking at how the ways in which we communicate at work are changing.

The strand is strategy and business models, so I imagine JP will focus more on cultural and managerial approaches than allow himself to get too bogged down in specific (BT branded) technologies. Let’s hope so. I’ll be there on the sidelines cheering him on.


Start-up showcase at Web 2.0 Expo Europe

If you’re a start-up company and have either just launched or have a new product or service you’d like to promote, Web 2.0 Expo Europe are running a special event for you.

There’s more information and an application form right here on the Web 2.0 Expo Europe website.

Deadline is next Friday 10 October so if you’re interested, better get those skates on!


Berlin plans taking shape

It’s going to be a tight turnaround (flying out first thing Wednesday 22 October; back evening of Thursday 23) but I’m looking forward to my Berlin trip next month.

First, I’ve never been to the eastern side of Germany, and getting excited about actually setting foot in the city of Cabaret, the Wall, Christiane F. (yes, I’m that old) and banging German techno. Apparently, my family have also got relatives there, but not sure if I’m going to locate them in time. Who knows, maybe we’ll actually bump into each other at the Kaffee Burger?

Second, the schedule for Web 2.0 Expo Europe, taking place from 21 – 23 October, is filling out nicely. I’m looking forward to whole heap of sessions, starting with Stowe Boyd’s Better Media Plumbing for the Social Web on Wednesday morning. Lorna Li at Salesforce recommended Stowe as someone I should speak to re Leadership 2.0 so I’m hoping to catch him after the talk.

Also, it’s great to see that my friends Suw Charman-Anderson and Alberto Nardeli will be giving keynotes. Alberto will be Changing the World for the Better Using Web 2.0. How could anyone resist? The topic of Suw’s talk is still tbc but, knowing Suw, it’ll be delivered clearly, intelligently and with passion.

Finally, I’m thrilled to be able to hook up with the dozens of other European bloggers on Web 2.0 Europe’s blogging programme. Hopefully something social can be sorted out for the Wednesday night – my one night in town. If anyone reading this will be in Berlin and fancies doing something that evening, let me know!

By the way, if you don’t have a ticket for the Web 2.0 Expo Europe, but are thinking about going, readers of this blog get a 35% discount – just sign up using ‘webeu08gr53’ as your discount code. Maybe see you there?


Good vibes/ bad vibes

Just back from Web 2.0 Expo New York via a long weekend in Derbyshire (yes, it was lovely and didn’t rain, thank you) and looking at my pile of interviews to write up, photos to edit, facts to check and general heaps of admin to sort out. Feeling a bit swamped.

Already needing to think about interviews to line up for Web 2.0 Expo Europe. My fave on the list so far has to be Netvibes founder, Tariq Krim.

Netvibes sits on my bookmarks toolbar between iknowhow and Twitter so you can see how important it is to me. To be honest I’ve never had another RSS reader so I can’t rate Netvibes comparatively, but I’ve used it for a few years now and it’s as simple and no-fuss as they come.

As for Tariq, not only is he someone who seems to ‘get’ the potential of Web 2.0, speaking regularly on ‘creative destruction’ and other stuff, he’s also done a truly ‘leadership 2.0’ thing by ceding management of his Netvibes baby to COO, Freddy Mini, a few months back.

So, that’s the good news. Hopefully Tariq will be around for interview. If he says ‘yes’ that’ll brighten my day. And give me more time to get back to that daunting pile of other stuff that needs to be done.


Supporting my London buddies…

Digital Mission is a programme run by London-based digital community, Chinwag, on behalf of UK Trade & Investment.

The mission has enabled 21 of the UK’s fastest-growing digital SMEs to visit the Web 2.0 Expo New York, with the aim of helping them access international markets, and build partnerships.

This hand-picked selection of the UK’s best digital talent, including iknowhow’s friends at Headshift and UnLtdWorld, has just touched down in the Big Apple.

I’m looking forward to hanging out with them, drinking warm beer and eating Marmite.

If you’re in New York and would like to meet these companies, Chinwag are putting on some special events.

Hopefully see you at one of them!


Berlin 2.0 too

Hot off the press, just heard from Suw Charman that I’ll also be blogging from the Web 2.0 Expo Europe which takes place 21-23 October in Berlin.

Only a month later than the Web 2.0 New York, it’ll be interesting to see the differences between the conversations been had among the delegates, as well as what’s been said from the podium. Looking forward to getting the European angle on things.

Now, if only I could work out a way to get to Tokyo…?


USA today

Yay, I made it! My long-planned US trip is finally a reality. After a parched ten hour Virgin Atlantic flight it was great to see family friend Judy waiting outside San Francisco airport in her green Lexus, ready to whisk me off to sunny Los Altos.

And yes, the sun does shine here. After six weeks of cloud/rain in England, that in itself is quite a shock.

There’s even a swimming pool, which I’m ashamed to say I haven’t used yet; been busy with interviews and the like.

Day one, yesterday, paid a visit to the Socialtext offices in downtown Palo Alto. Had a lovely chat with founder, Ross Mayfield who was wearing shorts! Yes! Shorts! In September! Whatever next?! Watch this space for write-up.

Then on to San Francisco for a nice glass of Napa Valley white (it’s a tough life) and cheese from the Cowgirl Creamery with Lorna Li from Salesforce. We went to the Wine Merchant at One Ferry Building. It’s great there – lots of organic stuff, a bit like London’s Borough Market.

Both Ross and Lorna were beaming with optimism despite the general economic outlook, so good to see us UK Panglosses are not alone (and, possibly, not even Panglosses).

Today, it’s lunch with Chanel Realegeno, an entrepreneurship student at California State University, who’s kindly driving down all the way from Chico to give me her take on leadership 2.0.

Then, this afternoon, I’ve got my hard-earned ticket to the Googleplex – and an interview with Director of Products (Enterprise Division), Matthew Glotzbach, at 3.30. Chrome, mash-ups, global domination…where do I start?! What am I even doing writing this?! Should be researching, goddammit!

Monday morning I’m having a cuppa with Craig Newmark – a leader 2.0 exemplified. He’ll be talking customer satisfaction, personal values…and why he decided to hand over his Craigslist baby to someone else.

Monday afternoon it’s goodbye sunny California and hello sunny New York (you can see I’m suffering, but I checked the five day forecasts and they all look ridiculously yellow). Yes, I’ll be heading back east for the Web 2.0 Expo. Meeting Tim O’Reilly, Jeremy Maritz, Lee White and the fabulously-named Shwen Gwee, among others.

This is all great research for the book. I’m really looking forward to hearing what these people think of the future of business leadership, and the impact of Web 2.0. Promise to report back here as soon as I get the chance.


In search of Leadership 2.0

Update (November 2009): Monkeys with Typewriters – the end result of my Leadership 2.0 project, is available now.

Thank you to everyone who’s shown an interest in the book I’ve been working on. The book, due to be published by Triarchy Press in Autumn 2009, will be based on interviews with 50 leading practitioners and thinkers in the Web 2.0/ social media space.

You can see it taking shape right here on the blog as the interviews are written up.

When people ask what the book’s actually about, it’s a slightly different answer every time. In Search of Leadership 2.0 is the working title (plenty of wise people have advised me not to use ‘2.0’ but it’s useful for now in that everyone seems to understand, or at least have a feel for, what this meme means).

The outline is changing and morphing a bit, too, but I’m posting my original proposal here (submitted August 2007) so you can get a flavour for where I’m going:

Title: In Search of Leadership 2.0


As the world wide web matures and moves towards a more participative model, so 21st century businesses are realising that ego-centric, command-and-control type structures no longer apply in a diversified, global marketplace. In the new knowledge economy, the leader who can most effectively harness the combined wisdom of his workforce will win. Collaboration and sharing will replace petty feifdoms and “jobsworth” mentalities. Welcome to Leadership 2.0.

This book will build on the seminal work of thinkers such as Senge, de Geus and Fairtlough by exploring how the forces that make up today’s online revolution can also be harnessed for successful business. Each chapter will take an aspect of Web 2.0 and describe a parallel practice in leadership, using case studies and insightful quotes from leading practitioners to illustrate its point.


1. Introduction

2. The Business With A Mind Of Its Own Collective intelligence can be harnessed to achieve an innovative, highly-charged creative environment (Senge called it “metanoia”). How can business structures change to encourage such creativity?

3. The Power Of A Common Interest Online communities have been shown to prosper if the unifying cause is appropriate; corporate loyalty is the same. How can businesses tap into genuine passions to motivate staff?

4. I Didn’t Know You Knew That! Wikis are web pages edited by the users; successful intranets and other forms of knowledge management ensure that no-one’s knowledge goes to waste. What are the latest innovations?

5. Making The Private Public Blogs and online profiles open up the personal to public scrutiny, but also aid our understanding of each other; the “duvet days” policy adopted by some companies acknowledges that employees are more than just corporate animals. What are the pros and cons?

6. Who’ll be Number One in 2020? Web 2.0’s Long Tail shows us that its important not to just concentrate on creating the big “hits” – the little ones can be just as successful. How far can businesses accommodate this?

7. Facilitating Workplace Democracy Tagging and social bookmarking are creating new hierarchies of language online; it’s been argued that participation equals power but can folksonomies really change businesses for the better?

8. Open Source Business Open Source and Creative Commons have been intrinsic to the success of Web 2.0 – but seem counter-intuitive in business. What models have been proven to work?

9. Conclusion The “Leadership 2.0” way of doing things

If you’ve any comments/thoughts, please let me know – all feedback appreciated!