Rethinking Work is a Social Contagion

It’s about that time again. We’re prepping for our annual year-end board meeting coming up in a couple weeks. Last year, our first year in business, I bought a copy of REWORK – the brilliant startup book by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson – for each of our partners and told them to read it before the meeting. As I sat down to write my first column for the Huffington Post in this new section, “ReWork: Rethinking Work and Well-being,” I thought about that coincidence. The six of us who launched the business weren’t really sure what we wanted to do specifically when we started. We just knew we all shared the same values and that we knew a lot of other people around the world who did too. REWORK, the book, gives you permission to ignore the experts, listen to your heart, make mistakes, and adjust your business strategy as you map to the market opportunity. We followed a lot of advice in that book, such as not having investors, not getting bogged down in a lot of tedious (and most likely wrong) strategic planning, and ensuring that we focused on our point of view and our beliefs vs. discrete products and services. The book’s guidance was fundamental to the success we experienced this year. I highly recommend it for all startups. As we prepare to reconvene this year, I’m happy to report we had a great year, and can actually afford to meet in a fancy Conference Center.

It seems everyone is rethinking what it means to work these days. Our company’s mission centers on questioning everything about the soullessness that engulfs enterprise culture and the enterprise worker today. The popularity of our message has enabled us to connect with people all over the world who are looking thoughtfully into what it means to work in the 21st century. One of my favorite finds is an ex-McKinsey consultant, Frederic Laloux, who confided to me after decades of high-end engagements, “I just couldn’t work for these toxic companies anymore.” Laloux left his job and spent three years researching and writing “Reinventing Organizations,” a book that joyously unravels and recasts everything he was trained to do as a leading management consultant. His book has become so popular, he tells me he’s had to hire an assistant to manage his inbound email. The time is ripe for a revolutionary change in business, and we need many more Laloux’s to come forward with big ideas.

Similarly, we find today’s new workforce generation starting out skipping the tedious, soul-sucking work of the corporate elite. My daughter graduated at the top of her NYU class in ‘13. Not one of her close friends in her top academic circles chose investment banking, MBA school, or an entry-level job with a corporate icon or management consulting firm. They’ve all chosen NGOs and nonprofits, including my daughter. The best example I discovered recently within this cohort is the three young founders of Bayes Impact: Andrew Jiang, Paul Duan, and Eric Liu. All three have highly accomplished technology skillsets and backgrounds very much in demand. The three chose to forego Silicon Valley’s vapid seduction of personal wealth creation and channel their superpowers into creating social change. At 26, Executive Director and Co-founder Jiang tells me, “If most people’s plans are to start a company, be successful, and then do the thing they want to do… well, we just skipped those first two.” As a nonprofit, Bayes Impact focuses on serving the “ignored spaces” of social change like poverty, criminal justice, education, and global health with world-class data science solutions. As Jiang says, “A couple of individuals can entirely transform a space.”

For every old-world Enron and every new-world Uber, with their questionable ethics and management practices, there are new voices and new companies out to break with the tradition of greed, exploitation, and burnout. Rethinking work and well-being is taking root within professional ranks everywhere – and it couldn’t come a moment too soon.

Mad Men and the UNIX Wars

Unix Wars

I’ve been cleaning out my closets and finding some real gems.  I came across my old ad portfolio a few days ago.

With all the increasing tension between transparency and privacy and the role of Internet freedoms, it’s hard to believe there was once a time not too long ago that computers didn’t “talk” to each other.  So-called “closed systems” enabled large manufacturers to secure unfair advantage in the market for hardware, software, and services.  Entire walled garden ecosystems surrounded the largest technology vendors in the world.  The UNIX operating system changed all that.  I remember when the  “UNIX Wars” cropped up when I was working with AT&T on the company’s (ill-fated) foray into the computer market.  I was the liaison between the client, our account team, and our creatives at Ogilvy & Mather to explain the significance of UNIX to, well, the world. (Lucky me!)  I recall we had about a million dollar media budget (in ’88 dollars) to brand AT&T’s special version of UNIX: System V.

These were the days pre-Internet where influence and power had to be levied with massive spend.  AT&T could afford it at the time.  We ran this 1988 full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the Washington Post to flex muscle in the negotiations AT&T was having with its ecosystem and to position it against its rivals.  There’s a great narrative for all you deeply geeky readers on what happened behind the scenes by Christopher Kelty in his book, “Two Bigs – The Cultural Significance of Free Software.”

I’m an avid Mad Men fan.  As I watch the series, I wonder if it will approach the period of time I was in advertising (the 80s). When I joined the advertising world, computer advertising was the #3 spending category.  IBM launched the PC in 1981 and it created a bonanza of new media spend for large agencies, as well as publishing media empires that seized the opportunity to track the industry and attract the newly minted print dollars.

Who remembers the thump of PC Magazine in its heyday?


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“I just want to say one word to you. Just one word…” Elastics

nickMy daughter is graduating college next week, and I’ve been thinking about all the advice this next generation will get from relatives and friends.  In the 60s, Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate) received well-intentioned advice from Mr. McGuire, a family friend, to pursue the plastics industry.  Plastics and U.S. manufacturing conjure up an image of the industrial age economy we once knew.  Well, 45 years later, all that has changed.  Plastic is out and “elastic” is in.

I caught up with my former colleague Nick Vitalari yesterday at the third annual Austin IT Symposium.  Nick and Hadyn Shaughnessey who covers innovation for Forbes wrote, The Elastic Enterprise: the New Manifesto for Business Revolution.  The book is well-researched with conclusions drawn from over 80 interviews with leading companies practicing open, elastic strategies. Essentially, the books lays out how enterprises will have to re-conceive “how we scale and operate businesses in the 21st Century.”  Based on five core “dynamics,”  the book simplifies and makes crystal clear how large enterprises will need to transform.  The book is a quick read, highly accessible and chock full of great examples. Pick it up for a flight or download it to your favorite e-reader.

The Symposium agenda was centered around the issues CIOs need to understand to embrace the Elastic Enterprise. A special thanks to my friend Keri Pearlson and the Austin SIM chapter for an invite to the event.

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Social Business Summit Series 2012 – Last Event NYC

360 degree views of Manhattan from the Tribeca Rooftop.

Dachis Group will be concluding its 2012 Social Business Summit (SBS) Series with a final event scheduled for September 12 in New York City.  The series is designed to educate, inspire, and otherwise evangelize the good news about Social Business worldwide.  Sponsored by IBM, the series provides a series of leading practitioners and thought leaders who provide unique views on their experiences and insights on where the social phenomenon is today and where it is headed.  The day will feature in-depth TED-style talks that will cover how the social phenomenon is changing the landscape for commerce worldwide.  Special emphasis will be placed on the growing role big data and social analytics play in providing the measurement needed for brands to compete in an increasingly open marketplace.

The NYC event will be held at the popular trendy Three Sixty° at Tribeca Rooftop.  Speakers include longtime friend of Dachis Group, Daniel Debow, VP  Salesforce Rypple; as well as Perry Hewitt, Harvard University, Chief Digital Officer; Social Business Council member  Tiffany LaBanca, News Corporation Senior Vice President, Internal Communications; and Melva Benoit, Fox Broadcasting Company and MundoFox, Senior VP, Analytics Innovation Research and Strategy.  Of course, an  Armada of Dachis Group luminaries including Jeff Dachis, Erik Huddleston, Dave Gray, Dion Hinchcliffe, and Lee Bryant will be presenting as well, along with IBM’s Matt Collins, Vice President Marketing, Collaboration Solutions and Social Business.

If you’ve not made it to one of the prior SBS events, get your request in.  Other events have overbooked early, and we expect the Manhattan event to sell out early.  These events are a nice combination of formal presentation and informal casual conversation and mingling among social business friends and fans.  Hope to see you there.

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Social Maturity at Scale: From Evangelism to Execution

It takes a village to raise a tectonic shift in the way companies communicate and operate at scale.  No, it will take a network of connected villages.  And it will take  over a decade to get past the early adoption phase for social business transformation inside large enterprises.  A few threads and blog posts are prompting me to write a few thoughts on where we are in the evolution of social business maturity.  The one that most notably hit home for me was Luis Suarez’s Willy Loman, Death of a SocBiz/E20 Evangelist post this week: Dear Social Business Evangelist Where Art Thou?

We discussed Luis’s post internally in the  Council, and it falls on the heels of another conversation we had recently regarding the perception that internal social business transformation is failing or has failed in many companies.

This poll is very informal, and granted, we have a survey bias in that  all Council members are working hard to bring social transformation to their enterprises.  Yet, there are ZERO failures reported and even the 25% of the members who indicated they feel they’re way behind are not “giving up.”  All our members recognize this is a long haul and are putting in place the mechanisms to realize a fully-integrated social business in thought and deed.


Some Council member comments:

“If this is failure, I couldn’t handle success.”

“On the other side of the hype curve is a plateau, not a canyon.”

“No. Not at all. Do we have 100% adoption in the company and every single employee conducting every single work activity in a social way? No.   Have we changed the way a significant number of people in the company (let’s say somewhere between 30% and 50%) look to solve their problems, voice the opinions, raise ideas to places they could have rarely reached before?  Yep. Have we impacted employee engagement scores in a positive way?  Yep.  Is the cost vs. the benefit so prohibitive that is gives execs pause to consider the ROI more closely?  Not even remotely. They are bought in to the value. Are execs sharing openly and daily? Nope.  Some are trying though…some better than others.       Are execs supportive of the conversation taking place and willing to jump in occasionally when the attention level and criticality warrant doing so?  Yep. Can I keep up with the demand of people requesting consulting about ideas on how to leverage “social” in their business areas in ways we never even considered?  Barely.”

“+1 to [Council member] in his comment about changing “measure” to “observe”. I would ask the naysayers if they’ve ever heard about Lean. Social tools and their usage patterns are allowing us to collaborate more effectively and to make work visible so it can be improved. Activities. Connections. Flowpaths. Improvement. These are the four “rules in use”. On a factory floor, improvement comes from the ability to see how activities interconnect to get parts out the door. I would argue that a fundamental, basic problem with knowledge work as most people do it is that it went underground with desktop productivity and email. It is completely invisible. With the use of social tools and their integration into the flow of “real business transactions” (such as Chatter, etc…) – that’s how we make the work visible so we can improve it. That’s where I see value in companies like mine; It is certainly not in, ‘hey ya’ll, we have a blog, documentation wiki, and micro-sharing activity stream so now we’ll be more profitable.'”

“Without our [social software platform], there is simply no way that our corporate culture would have had the major shift it has in the last four years. And that shift has allowed [Council company] to completely transform our business from [a dying model to a thriving one].”

“+1 to [Council member’s] ten-year adoption, as I always see it as our long journey towards a high mountain range. After nearly 2 years of ground works, I consider we are just passing the first base-camp – the “awareness” camp.  We start to see some paths leading us toward the 2nd camp, but not the whole path to the end.. not yet. Yes, we haven’t reached the end and we are not able to measure where we are, but we know we are in progress – step-by-step.”

“This is no different than adoption of a new technology that changes the way we work dramatically, and how we communicate.  I bet that the history of email adoption in the past is no different, and had the same resistance.  Changing the way we communicate, which has been done for decades, and people who have lived for decades in that mode in not going to happen overnight.   When people come to work, they want to be productive, and want to understand how communicating in a different manner will achieve their end goals.  I believe this is at least a 5 year journey… I have worked at multiple companies, and when the top leadership makes a direction change, or wants to align multiple fragmented divisions together, that change takes 5 years or more since it is about changing the culture, how people work with each other, and they want to align themselves to the new strategy.  Also, people changes are made to enable faster traction.  In the social journey, if we don’t give the same importance, have top leadership backing, and put the right people in the right place, the journey will be slow, and organic.  I am a strong believer and proponent of this social journey, and I see success down the line!

In short, the era of evangelism is over and we should all be rejoicing that the suits are showing up.  One of our members said, “I’m sending the suits.”   At the core of the transformation, however, is the ideals that innovator/disrupters like Luis Suarez and many more of my e20 friends have championed from the beginning: transparency, collaboration/sharing, authenticity, and even trust.  Trust may be the most difficult challenge for the 21st century enterprise, and I sometimes wonder if all companies can succeed here.  (See this exceptional post on “Relational Trust” by Peter Stoyko that explains this elegantly.)  But, at the end of the day, the planks of humanizing the enterprise will succeed, along with the commercial interest all profit-oriented enterprises have in generating returns for their stakeholders.

The directive for all evangelists has moved from enlightenment to engagement.  The drive to deliver social engagement at scale is the next crusade.  I’m interested to see the role that gamification companies such as Badgeville and Bunchball will bring to the social business sector, as well as innovative metrics and dashboards that are being developed such as Moxie Software is creating for its clients  that measure and report on business outcomes vs. platform activity.  As the customer marketing (heretofore social media/SCRM) data begins to pour through the pipes in the firewall, the ability to measure and make sense of that social engagement will be even more profound.  The development team here at Dachis Group is building a formidable arsenal of tools and services to measure this kind of engagement at scale, as well.  (Sign up!)  We are still in the early stages of the transformation that so many of us predicted and, to some degree, made happen.  The challenge for every company is to stop trying to homogenize the market and rather celebrate the diversity of approaches that exist to succeeding with social business.  Each enterprise has its unique opportunity to succeed in this space, and it still takes the courage and creativity of the Intrapreneur to identify these opportunities, spur adoption of these new principles, and ferret out the next one.  So, the evangelist’s job has become more serious and less pious.  And that only means we are succeeding and growing, in real business terms. Everybody take a bow. And put on your suit.  This is happening.

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CES show for the Enterprise launches with CITE – Be there!

Get Connected at CITE in San Francisco (March 4-7, 2012).

The onslaught of new devices and ease of use for circumventing a large company’s boring IT environment, has been gaining traction in every corner of the knowledge worker universe.  Finally, a new conference has cropped up to take a look at these issues (and opportunities) exclusively for the Enterprise.  As such, I’m pleased to announce I’ve joined the Advisory Board of the Consumerization of IT Conference (COIT), an IDG Enterprise event.  I’m still learning my way around, but I’m 100% excited about the content of this program.

Of course, my friend and colleague Dion Hinchcliffe has been writing and speaking on the consumerization of IT for years now.  Dion will be kicking off the keynote for the event and running a pre-conference workshop.  Dion is particularly passionate about this topic, so I’m excited to hear what he has to say.  There will be magical visualizations!

Highlights of the event include four simultaneous tracks on Corporate Tablet Devices, Mobile and Apps Applications Strategies, Infrastructure in the Consumerized Enterprise, and Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT).  There is also discussion of a novel main stage event – a joint CMO and CIO fireside chat to discuss the different perspectives and needs represented from both Marketing and IT.  It’s about time someone got these two together!  From a Council perspective, we’re interested in recruiting new members who also share a passion for these enabling technologies in the context of a growing and maturing social business.  The Council will also be organizing industry-topic Special Interest Groups (SIGs) to focus on many of these new technology developments and platforms.

Several of our members are planning to attend, and some will be participating on panels and presenting case studies.  These areas are widely discussed within the Council today, so I look forward to hearing what we all can learn as a group as we integrate with a larger, forward-thinking technology community.  If you’re interested in attending the conference, we can offer a 20% discount on the registration price.  Use the promo code: FREEF for the discount on the registration sign-up form.

And one more thing… we will be screening the much-discussed film, “Connected” in the evening of March 5.  I’ve been dying to see this film.

If you’re a geek and gadget lover, or hater even, you need to get your Enterprise self to this show.  See you there!