Kindled Meme

– exploring the purpose of connection


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Yahoo’s workplace pivot – Distance is bad

Marissa Mayer has caused a disturbance this week with the comments about making her workforce come into the office.

In a digital world where we are always on and always connected, the idea of locking someone to a desk seems backwards and not in keeping with a company trying to create itself a new future. When trying to balance up the value behind the Yahoo CEO’s moves, seeing Donald Trump backing these moves confirms the action is more aligned to industrial thinking than the digital era.

You would expect in our social age with a glut of collaboration and communication tools that we don’t need to be in the same location to do great work. The 37 Signals guys are spread all over the world and anyone who works for a tech company pretty much expects to be remote. We’ve got Hangouts and Skype for a focused ‘synchronous’ exchange and circles, yammer and email for all the other bits. There are plenty of ways to be ‘glued’ these days.

The bigger question here is what has Mayer found that needs fixing – not the choice of action.

We know we do our best work when fully engaged when we’ve got great colleagues, great products to work with and customers that are believers in what we do. That can happen whether we’re in the same office or virtually – its about having a purpose to what we do. So whats missing at Yahoo?

What’s missing in the mindset to makes it a creative and collaborative environment – a place that’s action-oriented and start banging out products ad services that people need, want and want to talk about. What have Yahoo got in their ‘unwritten rules of the game’ that is blocking the CEO’s progress – when she is putting a stake in the ground I wonder what it is that she is trying to stamp out. And what happened to the trust – the T-word that is at the centre of all collaborative work – whether near or far.

When looking into collaborative climate in organisations one piece of research that my professor on Knowledge Management pointed me towards captures the core of what is needed to be effective. These guys – Sveiby and Simons – set down a number of key dimensions to being collaborative and having people pull together.

Older is better – connecting the right people to act requires social networks within organisations that junior staffers don’t yet have

Power is knowledge – junior ranking staff do not have the influencing skills to shape their environment

Big is Better – SME’s are not as good as large firms as finding and distributing knowledge within the company

Distance is bad – initiatives that bring us closer should be profitable investments

Private is better – Public institutions are simply not as effective at knowledge sharing as private companies

Social networks, influence, sharing knowledge, proximity and effective connection of resources – at a macro level all these themes resonate with the wider digital and social environment we live within today. The goals of a collaborative climate resonate with the best digital behaviours of the social media savvy. We live in collaborative times.

And yet “Distance is Bad” does not sit so easily. And when Mayer brings her staffers back to HQ this is what she is eliminating. Surely technology has bridged this gap – is distance really a blocker these days. Trust is built through micro-interactions, project sharing is effective through Yammer conversations and the water cooler conversations are now replaced by instagram ‘likes’ and twittersphere downtime.

The Sveiby research was conducted 10 years ago – but has our Social Era technology blown away that point?

Or is it the case that you can only do great collaborative work when a group of folk are ‘connected’? Joined by a leader, a purpose or a vision – and maybe supported by common geography.

Are we getting distracted by the ‘What’ and ‘How’ of Marissa Mayers actions and not yet know the ‘why’? There has got to be a reason behind her choice. What is missing in Yahoo right now that needs recalibrating before the trust and climate come back.

And thinking laterally…. if I had the chance to be in an office with Marissa Mayer I would be taking it – wouldn’t you?

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Strategic questions – rethinking winning

I spent today talking strategy with a guy who lives and breaths it – intent on using it to push through a lasting change to the way his company serves its community. And so a post by Roger Martin on the HBR blog today came at me at a useful time.

Roger says that strategy is making of an integrated set of choices – positioning the firm in its industry so as to create sustainable advantage relative to competition and deliver superior financial returns. He encourages people to answer 5 simple questions in a strategy – and he makes a separation between building budgets and delivery plans (which most people confuse as strategy) from the informed clarity of a strategy that sets direction for a period ahead.

Rogers questions are familiar – its the ‘Traditional Strategy’ view – about resources and winning – which Nilofer Merchant has declared as dead.

Nilofer questions whether this self-serving view of strategy is still valid in todays world and looks rationally at the role of collaboration and communities and their co-dependence. This coupling of organisations is know to drive innovation and offer all kinds of benefits as part of a business model – and a strategy is more about a company being ‘coupled’ than about the firm winning alone.

I like Nilofer’s contrarian views and in many cases agree with her – Ive seen the impact and opportunity in innovation partnerships in the UK  – people working as complements to each other can be a real asset and open up opportunities well beyond the capabilities of a single firm competing solely upon its own resources.

Yet, if a firm is resource-rich its theory of business will be grounded in making the most of what its got and controlling all that you need internally – removing ambiguity, being planful and  being in control. The guy I was meeting with today was within a multinational bank – you can be sure he has resources.

I recently found this video by Clay Shirky talking about the communites in the software industry – a great speaker –  he talks about how value is created in loosely-coupled but strongly aligned open-source communities. If you like control and your own resources this doesn’t compute. He makes fun of guys at AT&T who didnt get the open philosophy – about how you can be ‘porous’ to external value.

“They didn’t care that they had seen it work in practice becasue they already knew it wouldn’t work in theory”

It depends how you see the world – and its a strategic choice as to how you leverage partners, customers, suppliers and your own staff. Getting intimate, listening and learning, and acting in close-step with external groups around your business is not for everyone – but the evidence is there that it pays off.

Roger’s article says Strategy is about answering 5 questions – and hurrah – you should  be able to do that on less than 5 pages. Not because strategy is light weight – but because the choices it captures are built upon solid thinking, research and market insights.

When you have the facts to hand – the killer choices you should make become much clearer.

Rogers 5 questions are these:

What is our winning aspiration

Where will we play

How will we win

What capabilities need to be in place;

What management systems must be instituted

When I think of Rogers focus on winning I think of the anecdotes from Prussian military strategy that my MBA taught. Its pretty clear its about winning – with stories of fools that get it wrong.

Rogers questions are not the same questions that my Prof challenged us to ask – but then there is no one dominant way to do strategy. No one model that is correct – we accept all have strengths and weaknesses. All though, are good at framing an inquiry amongst teams and offer a common language make sense of our worlds and structure our choices.

And when I think of Nilofers perspective of how strategy needs to change, I think of new business models with the Key Partners and emerging social business channels that are shaping the world today. Both need engagement, shared beliefs and some degree of trust to make them work.

We still need to win but we will be doing it through others – sharing risk and co-building value. When I look at the ‘TS’ perspective – about the resource-based view of strategy – about finance, IP, assets that you have as the basis of a plan- these are all still valid – but relational capacity is about to become so much more important – culture, attitude and collaborative beliefs that underpin our reputation as good people to do business with.

For my part I believe that traditional strategy is still valid we just have to rethink how we define winning – keeping our eyes on creating and unlocking value and less focus on spilling our competitors blood on the streets.

For a bit of cheeky fun – check out Nilofer Merchants obituary to traditional strategy below.

And this is the link to Roger Martins Blog that started off my reflection.

Nilofer-Obituary-for-traditional-strategy


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37Signals Rework – Are you Hip or Hip-Replacement?

I am reading Rework now – it arrived at my home on 24th December and I was more excited by it than the rest of my ‘scheduled’ christmas presents. It doesn’t disappoint.

Its by the guys from 37Signals – doing tech with a vision and big thoughts. Their blog is here – RSS it.

I have had it on the list for some time after reading this:

Real-World people are filled with pessimism and despair. They expect fresh concepts to fail. They assume society isn’t ready for or capable of change. Even worse, they want to drag others down into their tomb. If you’re hopeful and ambitious, they’ll try to convince you your ideas are impossible. They’ll say you’re wasting your time. Don’t believe them. That world may be real for them, but it doesn’t mean you have to live in it.”

It struck a chord. Because often people have a predominantly – and resiliently persistent – gloomy view on business and human nature.

Sometimes a good book at bedtime is whats needed – especially one that reinforces some aspirations.

I do however live in two worlds – a connected, human, entrepreneurial community online and IRL – and here I find Rework to be of the same mindset. And on the other hand, a world is outside the front door – doesn’t do social, fears for its future and is suspicious of the current zeitgeist.

I try to avoid too much contact with the later – but at the same time the latter group are more than likely to be your consumers and clients.

I wonder if the latest business skill is to be a rework-er without making the non-rework-ers feel unsettled?

I stumbled on Elains Blog today – talking about Rework and I liked this – just because its fun

I find two approaches to business – one is hip and the other is hip replacement.  Chris Brogan – hip.  Donald Trump -hip replacement. Guy Kawasaki – hip.  Jack Welch – hip replacement.  Jason and David, co-founders of the remarkably successful 37 Signals (and if you don’t know the company, watch those stairs) definitely fall into the hip category.

I can hear them say now “Yeah, but Hip doesn’t pay the bills, Sonny”

Have you read Rework yet?

(Warning to the academics – its perilously full of opinion – you’ll hate it)


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Can BigCo be Social? Grant Thornton hope so

Grant Thornton have just done a good thing. They’ve messaged out to their staff that Social Media is something that they approve of and they have backed it up with a public video, here.

” Social Media at work is not only permitted and acceptable  – its expected and desirable”

GT are the auditors and conservers of the business world, so this is a big break-though and a shift that moves perceptions of Social Media from being time-wasting and a distracting activity to one that will grow the business.

Its no longer a thing that the MarCom guys do but one where the voice of the employees is actually a complement to the brand.

Screen Shot 2013-01-08 at 10.09.20

GT are slow to have got to this point but I can imagine the journey and mind-shifting that has gone on internally to get there. Hats off to someone internally – thats effective influence and change.

Yet its not that they have pulled the cork out of a bottle of fizz and there is going to be 140-character chaos – they have given out some guidelines – they keep the guidance clear and the don’t peddle fear.

Respect confidentiality, respect copyright – “Please don’t use our logo – it implies you are our spokesman – you are probably not..”

All sensible.

They recognise that the voice of employees attracts other talent into GT.

We know “Like seeks like”. If GT is a diverse, innovative, visionary, action-focused place to be – the digital voice of the staff will show this and attract people with similar mindsets.

Will it stick?

Change is good but its always reinforced by some evidence and reflection.

I hope they blog 12 months down the road to say what they found/learnt/would-do-different – lots of their corporate clients would like to read that learning.

But will this stick? Is the risk of letting staff tweet and tumblr greater than the reward?

And will the noise of social distract from the focus and delivery that a corporate expects from its staff?

You are paying most of these guys in day rates – do you want to see Instagram pic’s of the expensive lunches they will bill you for at the end of the quarter? Or is sharing and connecting something we expect from talent – and we don’t begrudge them a meal

If you’d like to read about the impact Digital can have on a corporate career – I would recommend this from MIT Sloan and CapGemini

This is the Video from Grant Thornton on YouTube.

Thanks to @socialCube for sharing the Grant Thornton news and thanks to @sinclar300584 for sharing the CapGemini report, both via twitter.


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Connecting – the colony of humans

All over the world things are changing with a speed that is terrifying and exhilarating – a better synergy between design and business – design and social change – design and entrepreneurship – they can help us come up with more creative solutions.

The next big, exciting, fun thing – to have a huge positive impact on peoples lives.

All this intensive connectivity – there is a super organism building up – in which humans are no longer top of the food chain

This idea that we would all actually be connected? Well its actually happening – and its more fair to say it has already happened – and we are still acting in some ways like everyone is not connected.

A world where that human layer is so critical. The new layer where there is a powerful secondary effect – an emergent power – that is purely delivered through good interactions

There is something bigger – which is the the colony of humans connected in this way – it is a ‘thing’ and it has behaviours and it has responses and reactions. What is different is those reactions responses and collective actions… they happen fast and they happen in visible ways.

You can see it …now. People waking up to this idea that they are powerful and can connect with one another.

The behaviour can become more and more collective as the signals become more and more explicit. We are part of something bigger – many of us are not yet aware of how we are part of something bigger and we are not entirely just our own ‘selves’ anymore.

Connecting.