From Cluetrain to Wirearchy

In 1999 we had the Cluetrain Manifesto, with its 95 theses à la Gutenberg; the first ten being:

  1. Markets are conversations.
  2. Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
  3. Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.
  4. Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.
  5. People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice.
  6. The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.
  7. Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.
  8. In both internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.
  9. These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge.
  10. As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.

Many business executives do not realise the underlying reason of the Cluetrain Manifesto, and continue to build defensive walls between the company and their customers. They even use military terminology when referring to their markets. Get real folks, the customer is your lifeblood, and now has the tools to figure things out with or without you. Take thesis 7 – today we have more than just hyperlinks; we have peer-to-peer and Voice over IP to connect with anyone, anytime. Jon Husband, with his Wirearchy perspective, has developed his own 2005 manifesto on a similar theme [updated link]:

#1 Customers, employees and other stakeholders are all interconnected, and have access to most, if not all the information that everyone else has.
#2 The organization chart usually reflects power and politics in the organization … more often than not, customers and employees find work-arounds to create the experiences that delight.
#3 People interconnected by the Internet and software have ways of speaking to each other – and so they do that – all day long.
#4 Champion-and-Channel replaces Command-and-Control.
#5 Conversations are where information is shared, knowledge is created and are the basis for getting the right things done.
#6 Trust, Transparency and Authenticity are the glue that holds it all together.
#7 The Workplace of the Future will be more diverse – in terms of demographics, values, gender, race and language.
#8 New, integrated and sophisticated technologies are being developed and implemented – and the knowledge workers of tomorrow will be more interconnected than ever.
#9 We’re All In This Together
#10 There’s No Going Back to “Normal” – Permanent Whitewater is the New Normal.

Here are some ways that I can think of to develop a new company, based on Jon’s principles. You see, I always have to make things concrete – it’s in my nature 😉

  • Build the company with an open connection to your customers, whether with the two-way web (e.g. blogs) or with a physical presence.
  • Develop your organisation chart based upon your customers needs, not your own. When I lived in Germany, what I found unique was that the bank tellers were the most senior people in the bank. Bank employees were not allowed to interact with customers until they knew how the entire system functioned. This meant excellent customer service.
  • Have all of your marketing material written by someone who can write in plain language. Maybe even pay your best customers to write it for you. In this way, it will reflect the customer, not you.

Please feel free to add your own …

2 Responses to “From Cluetrain to Wirearchy”

  1. Anonymous

    Thanks …
    harold, for noticing and mentioning .. and for grounding some of those "principles" in basic and practical ways. That’s what is most necessary for all of us.

    love the german example .. one of my first non-lifeguard, non-blue collar go-fer jobs was as a bank teller for the TD Bank in southern Ontario in 1977 … it weren’t like that there, no sirree ! Altho’ in smalltown southern Ontario, the bank tellers did know everybody and were often the real information hubs .. and of course the face of the bank’s general customer service.


  2. Trisha Liu

    How funny. Thank you to Mark @Britz for retweeting this yesterday for me to find. Not only are the recaps of Cluetrain and Wirearchy wonderful and always worth a refresher, but your last two bullets figured into my day today.

    * _Love_ the story about the German bank tellers. I have just started a new job. Since it is so new, people want to know what I was doing before. My previous role was community manager, and before that it was customer advocate. The best experience I gained from being a customer advocate was understanding the end-to-end customer experience, from confirmation of order > how to login > where to download > how to open a support case > where to find patches > how to renew support. I quickly learned that very few people in the company understood the full experience and how all the piece were connected. This shocked me!!! And made me a bit snotty – I wanted more people to care. This experience was invaluable to me; I’ve become a stickler for understanding the customer experience.

    * Today I tweeted, “Writing is hard. More specifically, sense-making is hard.” I was working on my company’s “What we believe” list of statements. Working to make them reflect our human-ness, to make them conversational, plain talk. Resisting the the pull to turn it into marketing speak and “Here’s why we’re great”. (We *are* great, but that is for a different document).

    It is so great to have validation that my commitment to plain language, to conversation, is the way to go. And I feel grateful to have a CEO who says, “Work on that [messaging] if it is fun, but don’t spend too much time on it. Our customers will tell us what we are.”

    Deciding to join my new company was a very big leap for me. I did it mainly because of how drawn I am to the people in the team, and beliefs the company and our services are founded on. I love these reminders that I made a good choice.

    As true today as it was eight years ago… thank you.


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