Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Open -an essential attitude for successful people

Skills are important - don't get me wrong. Experience too. But Attitudes - they shape how effective we are at using both.
It seems to me the key attitudes to have in fluid-state, experiment-led environments where Design Thinking and Lean Start-up are shaping the future, are to be;

1. Curious. You  retain that child-like sense of no-holds-barred imagination that makes 'What If?' lead to 'Wow!' Adventurous thinking (ideally in a culture where the safety nets overcome the fear).
2. Optimistic. You have the belief that things can be better. The combination with curiosity makes you the kind of person for whom 'good enough', rarely is. Optimists see opportunity where others see barriers.
3. Collaborative - The need for continuous innovation in today's organisations mean we must strive to connect and reconnect both with ideas and with people. The ability to organise adhoc supports this attitude. Silos do not.
4. Open: You have to be prepared to be open with others, to build the relationships of trust the quality of your collaborations will depend on.

Google research recently found (after years of research and heaps of data analysis) the consistent point of differentiation between high and low performing teams was the equality of their communications (every one gets to speak about the same amount) which was likely an outcome of their ability to empathise.
There is more to the collaborative mindset than a desire to share; to succeed in teams it requires genuine social connection - care about those you are collaborating with. And, to connect like that, requires an openness that does not come easy to all.
Given the rate at which we may move from team to team, this openness becomes a key attitude to hold, too.
For thoughts on how you can create the right environment for teams who care about each other, it's worth looking at how Google turned data into a call for emotion - here.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Digital is not a destination

I see a lot of talk about the journey to digital transformation as if its some kind of destination.
Becoming digital is not the end point. In many ways it's a launch pad to becoming a business prepared to engage in an increasingly digitized world.
There are some basic essentials with anything digital - understanding the technology requirements, the role of the data ( where you are going to get it from, store it, what it's going to inform, how you are going to draw insights from it) - the architectures required to bring business, hardware and software together, the layers of integration demanded; The people and the processes; the skills and the new ways of working, etc
But all you will achieve is the same but faster and cheaper (ideally) if becoming digital is your end game.
Becoming a different kind of business is where you should be headed; one which places customers in a different role; and one in which the business itself sees itself playing a different role. Setting this new goal, this new destination, is your first essential step. The roadmap comes second.
Digital is the way we connect ourselves; it reveals to us a connectedness which requires us to open and think differently about our role in the world. Does our presence in the life of customers offer us unique opportunities to understand behaviour; does that understanding reveal new business opportunities - does it reveal new benefits for society?
Uber is valued so high because it set out to value data first. It figured that by being a peer-supplied taxi service it would get lots of data about moving people and things. It is this data which they see as their long term business - delivering what ever you need where-ever you need it when-ever you need it.
That *may* reduce the carbon footprint of vehicle deliveries in the long run. It *may* reduce your costs or benefit your convenience. Soon they are going to have to be explicit about this every time your data is shared with them.
Be sure that businesses must  begin to think holistically about this - about having the best interests of their customers at heart and being able to demonstrate this. Without this they will not be allowed to take advantage of the new bounties data is offering.
Digital Transformation has always been a journey, not an end in itself. The end remains becoming an Open Business.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Is Capital approaching its own Singularity?

Strange times - and so a second post on the economic-societal discontinuity we find ourselves amid.

Strange times when the politicians find themselves out of control (most parliamentarians in the UK wanted to remain in Europe, for example, most 'reasoned analysis of the promises of Donald Trump would have him sidelined by the US Presidential campaign process - and still he comes...).

Strange times - when lies become the gold-standard for political currency and we find ourselves evaluating who to trust in a post truth world?

Who and what to blame?

Spare a moment to consider The Singularity - not of computer technology - but of Capital.

Markets are meant to be the single most effective tool we have for distributing resources. The idea was that resource ends up where people have greatest need for it - supply scurrying to meet demand.

And in pursuit of this perfect market dynamic we have relentlessly handed control of the market to capital. The Bank of England has been out of political control for decades, the free market is almost universally saluted as a paragon of doing the right thing.

But rather than become the ultimate distributor against need, the market has become the single greatest machine of growing capital for capital's sake. It creates volume very efficiently - it has failed to match this with an evolution in distributive capacity. Indeed - it has proven it can't be trusted to do so.

It puts the payouts in the hands of fewer and fewer who simply use their gains to gather more and more, er gains (see what I mean, for its own sake?). What is the point of any individual having more than 10 million dollars in the bank? I'm not saying its morally wrong, or reprehensible, but in a world where millions starve you may have thought that a free (frictionless) market would have the capability to correct itself if its purpose is the efficient distribution of resources.

The reality is it isn't - never has been - at least not as far as 'most people' are concerned. In the past we placed more controls on it. And the wealth to poverty gap was a much smaller one. We had progressive taxation. Now the rich pay a lower % of personal income than the poor.  How does that help distribute resource efficiently? Freedom to choose to spend on what you choose is the argument of the defenders of the rights of capital over the rights of people.

So maybe - just as the predicted point at which computers make cleverer computers than themselves and go into a cycle building ever cleverer machines until they are wiser than all human thought, maybe capital has reached or is rapidly approaching its own singularity - the point at which it generates more and more capital in an unstoppable cycle and without a moment's thought for the humans it was once meant to serve.

In the technological singularity the arrival of the super intelligence (best guesses around 25-30 years from now) heralds the end of the Human Era.

"...the new superintelligence would continue to upgrade itself and would advance technologically at an incomprehensible rate." It would make of us what it chose.

Perhaps capital has escaped its moorings and is cycling in a wilder and wilder vortex of self-gratification, sucking up everything in its path, hoovering it into an ever reducing pool of power-wielding pockets, until at last there is nothing left to own, buy or sell, the pile implodes and, big bang style, redistributes its content thinly and more evenly across the world's markets...

What can save us from the Singularity of Capital. Perhaps a return to the basic trust on which capital was built in the first place - the promises it made (on its bank notes being backed by real values), genuine trust?

Perhaps by winding back and taking a different turn. I'm thinking how Co-operatives emerged to defend against the early excesses of capital against the man in the street.

Perhaps by understanding that aggregation of wealth beyond need has a cost for the rest of the world we inhabit.

I'd like to think the revolution of the web still has the power to bring to fruition a world in which we are valued as much for what we share as for what we accrue.

I just hope that world can find its feet before Capital reaches its singularity.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Immigration is not your enemy - bad handling of the impact is

I rarely comment on global politics on this blog - but the UK's vote to leave the European Union - marginal though it may be - prompts me to try to rebalance how the mainstream media is characterizing this event.
TV and press reporting is consistently telling us that the key reason behind the Brexit vote were concerns about immigration.
The concerns about immigration that people had were NOT about immigration itself, but about the impact of it on their lives. These are different and distinct things over which there are separate controls and separate controllers.
Freedom of Movement does mean people can come to the UK to work. In good times the net flow will be inbound. All these people arrive, work - and pay taxes.
The local government - in our case the UK - then decides how to spend that cash.
The decisions our government has made in how to deal with the impact of immigration are pretty much (barring a few language issues) exactly those they would have to deal with if we had a zero immigration policy but the native population boomed. New schools, additional hospital beds, ensuring there are job opportunities for all, infrastructure is kept up to pace..
. Freedom of movement means more people can come to help service those who are already here, if you have shortages in, say, science and maths teachers...
The Remain campaign was led by a PM and Chancellor who were themselves responsible for the inadequate response to the impact of a growing population. That was not a reality they could dare to confront in the campaign. But it's one Labour should of.
But from now on in it's essential that the opposition is heard - that immigration (and freedom of movement) is not the enemy - bad handling of the impact is.
Those responsible sit on local councils (having much to do with resourcing on the ground) and central government (having everything to do with providing enough for local councils to do something positive with).
We've punished the wrong institution for entirely the wrong reason.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Knock knock - who's there? Your customer experience

John Lewis is no longer the exemplar in UK customer service. Amazon has stolen its place at the top of the list. It is precisely JL's inability to replicate its in store customer experience online which is costing it so dear.

See the top 50 here

In store they can control. Online, they lose control of the last few yards - the delivery. Tesco, it seems, has understood this - investing in training for its delivery van folk. They seem on the whole a cheery bunch (at least where I live), happy to be doing their job and representing the brand with real concern. They have understood where the human touch of brand interaction actually happens in an online transaction - on the doorstep.

Compare and contrast to a John Lewis delivery. Some great - some not. None controlled by the brand. The click and collect system seem to melt down at Christmas (a camera I went to pick up in store never arrived. Hours spent on the phone resulted in it finally being delivered to me at home. That came with a promise of a £20 goodwill refund. Checked my credit card statement only today (nearly a month later) and the refund never was made. Another phone call today should have remedied that - fingers crossed).

Some fragile deliveries have been slung over garden gates.

JL aren't alone in getting the less-the-perfect service from the delivery outfits they employ. But given the very high value they place on service they have to ask themselves if the gap in control of the customer experience they have opened up is too great.

Consistent customer experience has to drive through the entire journey. The last touch-point you can afford to scrimp on is the one where the customer physically interacts with the brand. Often, and increasingly, that's the delivery person.

Is Amazon perfect? No but more of its deliveries go right than anyone else's I try - and that is my experience of the brand and therefore the one I share with my peers.


The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?