Kindled Meme

– exploring the purpose of connection


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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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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.


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Tim Cook’s liberal use of the C-Word #collaboration

Tim Cook’s Apple is unquestionably the dominant technology firm on the planet today and whilst they hold a position of considerable power in the consumer market place, Apple couldn’t do it without a collaborative culture internally and without calling upon the expertise of other firms in their supply chain and ecosystem.

Apple is a formidable force but its success has always been built in collaboration with others – the iTunes world is a mesh of partnerships and the products themselves draw on a selection of select external partnerships. When people muse over the details of Samsung being a supplier to Apple as well as a competitor they miss the point – Apple can’t have all the smart people and smart technology in-house – they have always work pragmatically in partnership.

This belief in collaboration was communicated clearly as the world gained an insight into Tim Cooks view of the company and how it was shaping up one year on without Steve, and this “collaborative DNA” came through in his Bloomberg interview last week.

There have been some heads rolling at Apple lately. How did he see the shake down and personal changes?

“The key in the change that you’re referencing is my deep belief that collaboration is essential for innovation—and I didn’t just start believing that. I’ve always believed that. It’s always been a core belief at Apple. Steve very deeply believed this.”

Despite being very much part of the IPhone promo-video Steve Forstall took a bullet last month and the stars of Apple had to realign. As people speculated if the change was down to the muted response to the iPhone5’s non-too-radical feature set or the crashing disappointment of the maps fiasco – Tim is now framing the change in terms of a culture of collaboration.

“You have to be an A-plus at collaboration. And so the changes that we made get us to a whole new level of collaboration. We’ve got services all in one place, and the guy that’s running that has incredible skills in services, has an incredible track record, and I’m confident will do fantastic things.”

Collaboration is a mindset and a competence – but you also need to be values aligned with the guys you are working with. Like rowers in a boat – there needs to be unity, and clearly Tim has found that affinity with Brit, Jony Ive.

“I love Jony. He’s an incredible guy, and I have a massive amount of respect for him. What bonds us? We both love Apple. We both want Apple to do great things. We both subscribe to the same principles. We believe in the simple, not the complex. We believe in collaboration. We both view Apple as here to make the best products in the world. So our values are the same.”

The Jobs era was legendary –part inspired genius, part tyrant – very much in control and having the last word. But you do get a sense of changes under Tim Cook – acting as a connector of the talent rather than the master.

“Whether there’s something that I think I know really well or I don’t know at all…I always enlist other people, because the people around the table are phenomenal people. And I’ve always found even when I thought I knew the most that there was something more that could be added and make it even better.”

But what is it in the water in Cupertino… or have these guys mastered some kind of process?

“Creativity is not a process, right? It’s people who care enough to keep thinking about something until they find the simplest way to do it. They keep thinking about something until they find the best way to do it. It’s caring enough to call the person who works over in this other area, because you think the two of you can do something fantastic that hasn’t been thought of before. It’s providing an environment where that feeds off each other and grows.

“Creativity and innovation are something you can’t flowchart out. Some things you can, and we do, and we’re very disciplined in those areas. But creativity isn’t one of those. A lot of companies have innovation departments, and this is always a sign that something is wrong when you have a VP of innovation or something.”

The full transcript of Tim Cooks excellent Bloomberg interview can be found here.


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Innovation jibber-jabber – is it useful?

Ive been wrapping up my dissertation this week and been reflecting on the use of language –  and especially academic language in the innovation field.

There’s lots of research out there on innovation but is tucked away inside EBSCO and ProQuest and not everyone can get access to it, and when they do get access to it it’s written in a way that many people in business would find incomprehensible – full of jargon.

A classic one in the world of innovation is the term ‘absorptive capacity’ – what on earth does this mean?

It’s all about when you work with other people, how you absorb their knowledge, see the significance in what you find and then transform it into some kind of meaning that you can take back into your own firm and see it used. Seeing it ‘used’ means seeing it applied to build some kind of value – a commercial offering. People get romantic about innovation but it’s only innovation if it’s got use and has a commercial or societal outcome.

But in a world thats becoming collaborative, it’s not just about sucking in other people’s knowledge but also sharing your own knowledge, and so the academics come up with another term  -‘desorptive capacity’ – the skill of communicating what you have so others can take it on board. It all makes good sense but the terms in themselves are obscure.

Easterby-Smith puts this in a much clearer way he says: “Good teachers make good learners, and good learners make good teachers”

People who can communicate a message, build a connection, amplify ideas and initiate some action. And it’s the action that is really important in absorptive capacity – compelling people to crack on and get things done and make things happen.

I had a conversation at Henley recently and heard about a guy from McKinsey who had recently started at Apple. The guy was a high performer and in McKinsey had been “The Man”. But when he initiated his first project at Apple, pulling together various experts from around the business, he became aware he was sat in a room with people who really didn’t need him – who were more than competent, understanding the significance and more than willing to crack on and get things done. He was asking “what am I doing here these guys are way more capable than I am?”

He ran his first meeting and people understood what was needed of them and what the vision was the project – even as he packed up his notes from the session he started seeing e-mails flying around as people left the room, picked up their actions and started to make things happen. This is a bit of absorptive capacity which is really key – when people really know how to get their shit together.

It’s not the process, it is not in a procedure, it’s in the culture – its in ‘the way things are done around here’. Apple might be a big company but from this guys experience it hasn’t forgotten what was that made it great in the early years. From my own research I can see there are many small companies in the UK which are just as focused and practical – with the need for speed and action coded into their DNA.

But does the term ‘absorptive capacity’ really help people in the real world understand what it is that researchers are finding inside these great companies?

It’s been great having the ‘obligation’ to be a researcher for a few months –  jabbering away about tacit and codified knowledge and social ties and relational capital – but now I have got to transform that learning in a way that means something to other people – through a language that’s accessible. This stuff is great but its only useful if it gets used.

You know what I mean?