Posts Categorized: Wirearchy

Big Consulting Companies Jumping on Bandwagon 2.0

It looks like social media (wikis, blogs & social networking) are going the way of e-learning and knowledge management (KM). That means big companies charging big fees for cookie-cutter solutions. Jon Husband reports on this phenomenon for 2008 and advises Caveat emptor: Big firms either 1) develop standardized methodologies and practices (their business models depend… Read more »

Blogs at the core of KM & Collaboration

I’m helping to create a collaborative work and learning space for a group of executives and this is part of the introduction to the site: Blogs: The main communication tool is your blog, which each participant has registered in his or her name. Think of your blog as a professional journal, where you can record… Read more »

Critical thinking means questioning one’s assumptions

Jon Husband wonders if the real gap in our society is critical thinking, especially in the case of North Americans being duped into thinking that we are in the midst of a long emergency and that we are at war with terror (at war with a concept?). A far greater emergency is what we are… Read more »

What business are you in?

From Tom Haskins, are two views of business today. Exhibit A: “There are firewalls and silos to stay inside of. There are lines of authority to conform to and procedures to execute. There are consequences for stepping out of line, going around someone or finding loopholes in the policies. There are scripts for handling phone… Read more »

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. Each of his principles is further explained on his site:

#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 …

Decentralization

Both Jon Husband and Rob Paterson have referred to Terry Heaton’s post, "Decentralized Power is THE Issue of the Millenium". For instance, the success of e-Bay is based on the fact that individuals now have the power to manage their sales on an international level, with minimal hassle and cost. e-Bay has removed the middle-man, charges a nomimal fee per user – and makes a lot of money. This is the real "disintermediation" that was discussed thoughout the 1990’s. The media industries (music, news, movies, etc) are fighting a rearguard action against decentralization (AKA fragmentation), but unless someone shuts down the internet, decentralization will continue.

Decentralization is a real opportunity for small, flexible, creative businesses. Unfortunately there is no sure-fire way to capitalize on this situation. The best advice that I’ve found comes from Dave Pollard’s Natural Enterprise articles. I’m working with clients and partners to take advantage of the situation as Jon Husband describes:

We are beginning to loosen and cast off the shackles of outmoded structures, and more often than not are struggling mightily with the opportunities and responsibilities this new set of conditions offers us.

I am seeing a greater willingness of small companies to network and conduct projects based on individual trust. Several times this year I have done work on only a handshake. Some of my partners have worked in large corporations and are not willing, or able, to go back. We are trying to create more sustainable decentralized business models and stay firmly rooted in our own communities. It is getting easier to do this. Small businesses have the means to compete with multinationals, but we haven’t figured out all of the details – yet.

With this opportunity we have responsibilities as well. Jon, Rob and Dave are using their blogs to inform the rest of us, for free – thank you. Let’s continue the conversation. If you are a small company, interested in a new way of doing business, then join in the conversations. You don’t have to blog, but you could add your comments.

 

Blogs and the Laws of Media

According to McLuhan’s Laws of Media, every technology (in the broad sense of the word) that we use has precisely four effects on us – to extend, to retrieve, to obsolesce and to reverse. According to Federman and deKerckhove, the retrieves quadrant can be the most revealling. It can provide us with some insight on possible effect of new technologies. John Husband makes this observation about what weblogs retrieve:

Much in the same way that email revived the lost art of letter writing, Blogs are reviving the lost art of civilized civic dialogue – of argument, of well reasoned thought and response.

As Federman and deKerckhove state in their book, "McLuhan for Managers":

For a manager who is considering how the next innovation will affect his or her staff or target market, studying the precedent can be particularly revealing. The RETRIEVES quadrant directly furnishes the lessons and experiences of history.

McLuhan’s laws of media can be used as a lens that can help us to make business and organisational decisions regarding new technologies.