Category Archives: Insight

Technology will not save the world. People with vision will.

Implicit in any proclamation that technology will solve big problems (in the world or in our businesses) is that first a human being, or group of us, will conceive, organize, develop and then use technology to solve that big problem.   When technologists and alpha-geeks leave this piece out we are leaving out what is so hard about solving problems.   Human factors of visionary leadership and innovation are ground zero for solving big problems.  So is a richer, more complex way of seeing the world.  Missing this piece accounts for why Web 2.0 often fails inside the enterprise and why the highways aren’t filled with electric cars.

As Web meets World connecting the promise of technology to the innovative capacity of human beings is the transformative act of our times.  Unlocking that creativity from current constraint-based, status quo thinking in business and politics is the challenge of the 21st century.

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Pirates and Poohbahs Unite!

Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend a Forrester round table on the future of the Social Web put together by Jeremiah Owyang and hosted by SAP (thanks to both for an incredible job).  It stimulated a lot of thinking I have been doing about change – the next few posts are inspired by the rich conversations that took place there:

When talking about bringing social technologies into business I think it is helpful to address both the “bottom up”  and and the “top down” ways that it occurs.

I think of it in terms of Pirates (with a nod to Matt Mason) and Poohbahs (with a nod to Gilbert and Sullivan).

Pirates push change at the margins – Often the ones making the changes inside the organization are the Pirates – agitators for a new order.  People who operate at the margins, across borders, challenge business norms, and bring new ideas into being.  Pirates can come from every business unit: IT, Marketing, R&D, HR etc.    Pirates can sometimes even be in leadership (Poohbah) positions (Scott Cook of Intuit, Shari Ballard of Best Buy, Bob Lutz at GM).   Pirates push change at the margins.   However at some point leadership needs to get engaged to move from margin to core business.  From small payoffs to big payoffs.

Poohbahs push change from the core. Poohbahs set the vision and goals to be met .  They exemplify the cultural traits they want to see in the organization.   Poohbahs can create safe haven for their pirates (a.k.a. sponsorship and championing a cause).   Most importantly Poohbahs can help drive education around new ways of doing business – the what, why and how of social technologies.  After all, a company that speaks the same language and shares the same vision is unbeatable

False Logic of the Holy Pilot: Since social technologies are essentially bottom-up and built upon the participation of the lowest common denominator of an organization; customers or employees, the argument goes that the rollout of these technologies should be bottom up and organic;  “Let the employees (or customers) play with the tools and you will have a wildfire on your hands….”  I say think small and you stay small.

Pilots are sometimes a good start.  Often it is a necessary start before making the case to the Poohbahs.  But it is not a roadmap to transforming your business – often I have seen it become an excuse to underfund an initiative.  If you want to harness the power of social technologies to transform business get ready to tackle the harder stuff – leadership, change and culture.  This requires both Pirates and Poohbahs.

If you look at what is happening at Best Buy, Intuit, Proctor and Gamble (very different industries),  the Poohbahs are driving these changes – creating a safe haven (indeed a culture!)  where pirates can thrive.

Pirates and Poohbahs Unite!!

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Filed under Change, Insight, Social Media, strategy, Web 2.0

Twitter from Wachovia; save our ship

I stumbled on the Wachovia Twitter page.   It is strange to read these little tweets from a sinking ship in real time.

On Sept. 18 we hear that all is well at Wachovia:

CEO Bob Steel posts on wachovia.com, reaffirms company is strong, stable, well capitalized, check it out here: http://tinyurl.com/3s7kg7

Then the rollercoaster begins… and you have to feel sorry for any shareholding Followers of Wachovia.

These near-real time blasts relate another fascinating aspect of Twitter that my friend Steve Nelson at Clear Ink blogged on.  While it may prove to have historical reference value (as blogs and other internet content have) Twitter is a real-time news river and this makes it a far more effective tool for searching on current (I mean NOW) events.  Here is Steve on that point;

On Sunday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that an economic stabilization bill had been written and was available at financialservices.house.gov. I tried going there for about 10 minutes, but the servers were swamped.

So I went to Twitter search, and merely searched for “bill”. The immediate results included several comments about the bill, and at least two links to download it from non-swamped servers. This tells me a couple things: I trusted in the critical mass of contributions to Twitter that I would find what I wanted – and sure enough, it was there. It also shows the power of searching the immediate NOW.

A Google search for “bill” includes a 5-hour old news link, imdb’s of movies like “Bill” and “Kill Bill” and wikipedia entries on Bill Gates and Bill Clinton. But for the moment I was searching for “bill” on Twitter, there was only one “bill” that mattered most.

This is how Twitter brings together the massive amounts of information being fed it NOW with what I am searching for NOW. This is just one way Twitter works, if you know how to use it

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