All Moo-ed up

My new full-size business cards from Moo cleverly arrived in the post this morning. Just in time for tonight’s Moo party.

Not only could I design them single-handed, they actually look – and feel – quite beautiful. The ideas man (thanks to Black and Blum) is perched on the ikh office window sill, but he could be soaking up the sun at a funky urban festival.

This was meant to be a summer series, but I’m liking the pics, so I might well hang on to them. There are five different versions – if you’re really lucky you get to collect the set.

Yay! as they say.

Leadership 2.0

How do you manage Enterprise 2.0?

It’s 8pm on a balmy Thursday evening and area around St.Paul’s is deserted. Forty minutes ago, the Standard Chartered Great City Race went by but the crowds have now vanished, and the roads are still closed. I fight off any nagging doubts about what I’m doing here.

At the door of the BT Centre on Newgate Street, the security guard informs me, deadpan, that registration is closed.

Then, bizarrely, he hands me three boxes of name badges and asks me to identify mine. Within seconds, I’m Jane Henry from SpinVox (sorry, Jane). I’m allowed to step down the stairs deep into the basement, where it’s a relief to find a party going on.

Today I had to drive a sick friend down to Devon and back (11 hour round trip), so I’ve missed the main event, a Mashup panel debate on the current thinking around Enterprise 2.0, but I get the lowdown from Cimex director, Denise Turner, and event organiser, Emma Jell, who tells me I can watch the whole thing back online. Yay!

Enterprise 2.0 is, basically, social media for intranets. I’m interested because it looks at the hard technologies that support the softer skillset (‘Leadership 2.0’) I’m exploring for my book. Having said that, Enterprise 2.0 is, itself, just another concept, rather than a definitive set of tools.

Here’s a summary of interesting points from the event:

Jonathan Robinson (COO, NetBenefit): A few years ago, Phones 4U CEO, John Caudwell decided to ban all internal email in the workplace. There are also concerns about social networking (Facebook, Bebo etc) at work. A recent paper in The Architects’ Journal spoke about users freeing themselves from constraints of IT and the bar to knowledge management being lowered etc. Essentially, managers are worried about three things:

  • Time-wasting
  • Confidentiality
  • Control

Nigel Green (Executive Enterprise Architect, Capgemini UK): My job is to look at how we can apply web 2.0 technologies to the enterprise. I’m mentioning RFID first and not wikis and blogs. There’s a lot of stuff out there which, from a CIO’s point of view, is mind-boggling. We need to make sense of those typically web 2.0 terms which get thrown up all the time: the ‘long tail’, prosumerism, mashups, unbundled everything. We need to simplify the language we use.

JP Rangaswami (Managing Director, Service Design for BT Design): ‘Enterprise 1.0’ is sitting in a meeting surreptiously looking at your Blackberry under the table; ‘Enterprise 2.0’ is sitting in a cafe where everyone is on their laptops and everyone is chatting. The central epithet of 2.0 is its ‘write-ability’. We are social beings. There are three key things to consider in the uptake of Enterprise 2.0:

  • Generation ‘M’ [what JP calls the ‘Millennial’ generation – also known as Generation ‘Y’] are already adopting this stuff.
  • To grow as a company, you’re going to have to learn to share confidential information (otherwise you’re simply going round in circles).
  • The nature of expertise has changed: the cost of ‘cleaning up’ is lessened; many of us can correct mistakes more easily (Linus’s Law).

Enterprise 2.0 is not about a technology, it’s about a culture. People like sharing; it’s only enterprises that screw it up. We’ve had social networks in enterprises for a very long time (Bloomberg has had one for 15 years).

Ajit Jaokar – Founder, Futuretext: Blogging is not about talking ‘at’ somebody, you’re trying to create a conversation. So you don’t have to come out with something that is ‘perfect’, you release it – imperfect – into the discussion. [This ties in very much with what Russell Davies was saying at 2gether08].

Jonathan Robinson: Enterprise 2.0 is not tied up in a technology, it’s a way of working.

Simon Wardley (consultant): IT is shifting from a product-focus to a service-focus. The commodatisation of lots of services is leading to acceleration of innovation. When you bring web 2.0 into the enterprise, that’s what it’s all about – accelerating innovation. We’re seeing far more participation and collaboration and network effects in the workplace.

Jonathan Robinson: I’m seeing a lot of dictonomies here, eg: management versus emergent.

There were questions, but unfortunately the sound quality of the video was so bad, I’m not even going to try and interpret them – lots of food for thought from the speakers, though. This is helping to form my ideas around Leadership 2.0 – Enterprise 2.0 is all very well, but how do you actually manage it, and how do you make it happen?


The Un-company

Maybe we have hit an era of constructive deconstructivism, where ‘0’ is celebrated as a something? With all those digital ones and zeros around, maybe it’s no surprise.

A time of ‘everything you know is wrong’, where we all need The Haitian to come and do a little ‘reprogramming’.

With organisations like Steve Moore’s Policy Un-plugged and Cliff Prior’s Un-limited, and Brian Winston preaching about Unknown Unknowns, is it time to launch Un-KnowHow?


Heroes don’t like to get their feet wet

Despite quite possibly the wettest July day ever, around 40 sturdy souls came along to Cass Creatives’ Fifth Birthday Heroes of the Revolution.

Big thanks to our fantastic panellists:

The digital heroes nominated by the panel included: Lovefilm, HBO, IFC, C4 Education, Alex Tew of Million Dollar Home Page, Ben Keane and Mark James of Tribe Wanted, Last fm, SoundCloud, Tunecall (to be launched) and, apparently…Soulja Boy (who was, it was reluctantly agreed by everyone, as successful as he might be irritating).

There was plenty of talk around the nature of creativity and the fact that anyone can get their creative work out there these days, no need for gatekeepers.

We still do drafts of our work (music, writing etc), but we do them online, in public. Then we correct them – and our communities correct them – as we go along. (This blog is just one such example.)

It strikes me that the same is true for entrepreneurs. Who was it who said if you’ve got a mobile phone in Africa, you’ve got a business? Well the same is true everywhere.

Today, anyone with an idea and the right amount of willpower can be an entrepreneur. Absolutely no cash needed to get things going. You put your idea online and bingo, if it’s truly ‘good’ (ie, what the market wants at the time, as Helen Keegan succinctly puts it), then there’s no real reason why the idea shouldn’t take off.

As Russell Davies said (below), business doesn’t have to separate strategy from execution any more.

And as with so many other sectors, the business world itself seems to be splitting into a billion tiny atoms to accommodate these changes.

What will the businesses of the future look like?

One audience member pointed out that the brave new start-ups of today could very easily become the News Corps of tomorrow. I can see his point – but somehow I’m hoping for something different.


Cass Creatives this week

Hopefully you’ve already read about Wednesday’s big debate + fifth birthday party and are planning to come along.

If not, you can see further details here.

We’ll be revisiting our scenarios for entertainment 2010 (written in 2003) – and assessing just how far off the mark we were.

We’ll also be choosing our digital heroes of the past five years.

Michael Nutley of New Media Age will be asking everyone for their opinions.

If you’d like to join in the fun, please have a read of the scenarios and see what you think.


Kaos theory

Based in the Netherlands, Kaospilots is an ‘entrepreneurial education programme’ for people trying to do something different in the social space.

The K-pilots are one of a handful of companies (eg, On Your Feet, Steps and Imprology) who are encouraging corporate innovation through shouty, noisy, touchy-feely or generally what you might call ‘active’ workshops, heavily influenced by theatre and improv techniques.

The thing is, I got chucked out of drama at school for being too ostentatious. Well, I presume that was what it was. Something along those lines anyway. Mr.Fagan, our drama teacher, really couldn’t stand the sight of me (I guess there was only room for one Violet Elizabeth Bott in that relationship).

As a way of easing childhood pain, and generally feeling a bit better about myself, I’ve written ‘drama’ under the ‘I got top marks for…’ section on my 2gether08 name badge. This also doubles as a kind of weak joke but, essentially, it’s because Mr.Fagan is no longer present and I feel I can get away with it.

Bizarrely enough, first person I meet on walking into the Kaospilots workshop is Lawrence O’Connor – someone who I haven’t seen properly for 20 years and certainly without doubt one of my school class-mates who actually DID get top marks for drama (leads in our school plays generally went to him when they weren’t being allocated to Cyril Nri).

To give a flavour of Kaospilots’ ‘different’ approach, we’re all asked to start the session off by ‘checking in’ with our own personal ‘mating call’ (name and company is so last century).

The best I can manage is a kind of camp, Leslie-Phillips style ‘Well, hellooow’. Lawrence comes up with something much more accomplished. Unfortunately, there were 40 people in the room so I’m unable to list everyone’s individual mating call, although I’m sure if I could it would do wonders for my eyeball rating.

The workshop takes place in the hot and sticky attic above the main theatre of this old re-styled school-house. The peaked roof is made of corrugated iron, which acts as an efficient solar panel while, for some reason, all but one of the tiny windows has been painted firmly shut.

The space is getting cooler as people leave, but it’s still not ideal the environment for overly physical workshops.

After a detailed talk by someone from Universal Music (I’m not really taking notes on this but he is emphasing his company’s willingness to listen to ‘small people with big ideas’), we are all gathered in the middle of the attic to perform a real-time example of the power law equation. Starting with just one brave soloist, within five minutes we have fifty people singing “I have seen the Muffin Man”.

The trouble with these kind of innovative/interactive sessions is that the activities themselves are so all-consuming that the important presentations in between kind of lose their traction. There is a kind of disconnect. It is easy to see this session as one of hyper-ventilation, veering from one activity to the other – fun in it’s own way – rather than actually learning anything concrete.

But then maybe that’s the point?

Leadership 2.0

Save the cheerleader…

Amidst all the problem-solving talk around world poverty, hunger and global warming, there is a recurrent (though admittedly smaller) theme of the role of business and the changing nature of business organisations.

There’s a sense that business – private business – is a key part of the solution. That this is where the change will come.

Like a pattern of fractals opening out, there’s the idea that if private business can re-define itself, the greater world, the bigger picture, will also benefit (how’s that for an incentive)?!

If business just focused on the small detail of getting its own house in order, of creating effective internal communications, of treating employees like people, of generally ‘doing things right’, then maybe greater change can occur.

So how do we go about creating this positive ripple-effect?

I’ve been a fan of Umair Haque ever since I heard him at a Chinwag event earlier this year. Umair has a book out soon which I presume will be around his current theme of ‘Constructive Capitalism’ (all to do with ‘hacking’ the industrial economy and changing our ‘business DNA’).

Umair believes we’re at the beginning of an economic enlightenment. Here are some of his key points:

  • We didn’t have much creative destruction until about 1800 and the start of the Industrial Revolution. Since then, there’s been incremental growth until today, where we’re seeing an explosion.
  • The costs of this trade-off aren’t sustainable. Poverty levels in Africa are rising, shanty towns in Brazil are growing, obesity in western countries is at an all-time high.
  • Social capital – the percentage of people who trust each other and then go onto spread this goodwill to others in the community – has gone down.
  • These are all costs of creative destruction.
  • Do the benefits of creation really outweigh the costs of destruction?
  • Industrial era economic thinking has reached a stalemate because what we gain in one area (eg, financial, intellectual), we lose in another (eg, human, natural resources).
  • The only sustainable value is authentic value. If we build firms around that kind of ideal, then they will compete to minimize the costs of production.
  • The four forces of constructive capitalism are co-production, co-creation, co-value (sharing the benefits – generousity!) and co-management (co-ordination). (I’m hoping to chat more to Umair about co-management and explore this whole topic more fully).
  • The original point behind the setting up of institutions (circa 1800) was that we’d be insulated from the outside world. This is no longer the solution. It’s time to re-think, re-design and reconnect.
  • Markets, networks and communities can organize resources more efficiently than firms.
  • These models are popping up in ‘weird spaces’ – eg, in Open Source and also in large multinationals like Walmart, Starbucks and Google.
  • Google is a cross between a network and a market. It’s not beholden to its shareholders. Google has been set up to insulate itself against its public shareholders (but not necessarily the public at large).
  • People can’t be co-erced any more. The only thing that can motivate people is ideals.
  • Managing the world’s energy, hunger, thirst, health, education, finance and freedom – these will be the growth industries of the next ten years.
  • He’s not anti-capitalist: capitalism is the greatest poverty reduction method we have – but the way that capitalism operates is changing.
  • The problem is that, from the charity point of view, we don’t like to think we can make money out of these things; from the business point of view, we don’t tend to think that these things are profitable. But capitalism will solve this thing on its own.
  • Umair spent a lot of time working at the World Bank, but the World Bank is not flexible or fast enough to make the right sort of difference.
  • The change will come from private companies – although the institutions themselves have to change. We will need a very different type of firm, a very different kind of governance – and that’s the change that’s starting to happen.

There are arguments against this kind of gentle ‘renaissance’ – a voice at the back of Umair’s session argues that we need something ‘massively disruptive’ for the capitalist model to change at all.

Nico Macdonald (Spy) feels that Umair is jumping on a fashionable bandwagon of not believing in progress any more, and that there is a disconnect with the historical body of work critique-ing capitalism (from Marx onwards).

In fact Umair and Nico are locked in deep discussion for some time after the session has officially ended. Shame there wasn’t a live feed!


Are you performing, publishing or just watching?

On the same panel as Russell Davies, Channel 4’s Matt Locke talks about social media spaces.

All our existing communications policies, he says, are based on the idea of having to ask permission to publish and there being a difference between the public and private realm.

Well, that separation doesn’t really exist any more.

And the implicit set of assumptions about how we communicate is now obsolete.

Instead of two spaces, public and private, there is now just public, although this can be broken down into six different layers. See Matt’s definitions here.

The most important thing to consider in all this is the use of our data. We may have become search-literate, but we’re not at all data-literate. We’re essentially trading our data to get better services, but we’re not fully aware of how this is happening.

We’re only just at the beginning of creating a whole new public space, with a new set of epithets.


Who’s afraid of the big idea?

We have a fear of being seen as stupid – and it’s stifling creativity.

This is how advertising guru (he’d hate that), Russell Davies would have it.

At the opening session on day two of 2gether08, Russell (who runs the apparently fab – I haven’t been – Interesting conferences) talked about “Interesting for a change”.

Here are some key points:

  • People are interesting, messages are boring
  • Focus on people, not messages
  • Depth, humour, subtlety, irony, anger, romance, drama, involvement
  • Little actions (eg: putting ‘thank you’ notes on people’s bikes at Fruitstock) are what matter
  • Don’t spend time and energy worrying about the next ‘big idea’ – it may never happen!
  • Be happy to be a contributor, no need for any big, ‘engaged’ effort
  • Instead of writing a list, just go and DO something.
  • We don’t have to separate strategy and execution any more – we can combine them.

Russell recommended Ze Frank’s talk on ‘brain crack’ as the best description of organisational use of ideas he’s seen. All that focus on big ideas simply stifles innovation, apparently.

Can we have ‘contributing managers’ like we get ‘contributing editors’, then?


2gether 4ever!

There’s a bit of a buzz in the air, an ethereal something, a sense of surreal occasion. The organisers call it a festival and with the Glastonbury weekend only just gone, there seems to be overspill from Somerset to Shoreditch of certain festival-esque possibilities: serendipity, revelation, maybe transformation (if you’re lucky).

The crazy weather helps: sudden downpours cutting through bright blue skies and brilliant sunshine.

No-one’s brought wellies, but there are sideshows, music and tents. There is even a baby crawling around on the grass, in rompers. As if by magic, someone appears with tubs of chocolate ice-cream on the roof. Later, random crates of ginger beer appear.

At the heart of this new media love-in is Steve Moore, standing head and shoulders above everyone else, grinning from ear to ear, booming instructions in his clipped, rhotic Belfast accent.

We’re in the grounds of The Rochelle School, a refurbished Victorian school-house in East London for two days of talks, workshops, brainstorming and networking. The idea behind the festival, 2gether08 (backed by Channel 4 and others – see the full list), is to explore how digital media can solve big, global, problems.

The school is next to Arnold Circus, where the rubble of Dickensian slums lies buried under a grassy knoll. Renaissance and regeneration are common words here so it’s no surprise the demolished slums come up frequently as a metaphor.

There seems to be a genuine desire to listen, learn, talk and collaborate. Maybe because it’s nice not to be talking about target audiences, ratings and eyeballs for once.

Sometimes you feel you’re part of a zeitgeist-y moment, and what’s nice about 2gether08 is that you know the conversations, enthusiasm and sentiments will continue way beyond the festival boundaries.