Archives for posts with tag: Business Management Practices

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Our professional lives depend on improving the current reality of marketing. Why aren’t we acting like it?

Imagine you had to deliver a media plan coupled with a bet on your lifestyle. If the media plan works out as planned, you’ll double your net worth. If it fails, you lose everything you have.

That’ll focus you on delivering the best media plan. Ever. Suddenly the media plan becomes the most important thing in your life. Not just another task you need to check off your list.

If you had to bet your financial life on this plan, would you make the same decisions? Would you work the same way? Would you chase the latest Foursquare check-in or would you focus on delivering value without being blinded by bright, shiny objects? Would you bet your future on creative ads that nobody gets? Would you bet your family’s world on the pithy, little insights of focus groups? Would you to adhere to the wishes of your clients if you had to foreclose your house in case your campaign fails? Would clients change things if they were accountable for the results?

Or would we take our decisions more seriously? Ensure that we leave our egos at home and develop the best solution for the specific problem.

And not our childish needs.

Our professional lives depend on improving the current reality of marketing. Shouldn’t we start acting like it?

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Unless you lived on the moon, you realize the global economy is struggling because most corporations are not constructed to produce any real value. They are designed to maximize shareholder value while stakeholders are getting squeezed to improve the bottom line and introduce as many efficiencies as possible. Add to that corporate welfare, Fed and Treasury policies, regulations (or lack thereof) and you end up with a toxic mess of an ongoing banking crisis, mind-numbing landscapes of mini malls, toxicity in assets, the environment and the overall capitalistic world we are living in. And, while people are crowding the bargain bins, corporations continue to develop cheaper ways to satisfy the need for the bargain. Interestingly, when you produce a mediocre product/service (create thin value, as Umair Haque calls it), the price is all what matters. When you create real value/thick value, price becomes a tertiary consideration. Call it awesomeness, call it being amazing, call it being a linchpin.

With a few, rare exceptions, advertising has focused on creating thin value. Rather than inspiring people with marketing for products that add value, most of marketing/advertising is focused on brainwashing people into buying stuff that makes no difference. Just another item I can use and throw away/forget about effortlessly without considering the implications for the rest of the world. (Labor Conditions, Environment, Export/Import Structures)

Now, let’s look at the advertising/marketing industry. It’s not a dying industry but an industry in deep trouble. We are not considered partners, we’re just another vendor that sells questionable value. Media Buying has become a commodity, media planning to follow soon. The people we market to are busy tuning us out because they don’t feel marketing creates any real value. While we continue to communicate to people as they were still consumers, they are busy producing, communicating and building networks. We have commoditized our industry to death, starting to hop on a dangerous death spiral. Just like the whole economic system.

Advertising is just one pillar of the economic system we’re living in. Advertising can’t change the world or make it a better place. But, as part of a new economic system, advertising can be an inspiration, an artistic expression of the paradigm change. As an industry, we need to focus on the drastic changes the economic system is going through. We can safely say, the end of creating slim/thin value for profit is fast approaching. No matter how good your strategies/tactics/ideas are, unless you create real value for society with your products and services, you will fail in the long run.

My headline “Why advertising professionals need to be economic professionals” didn’t imply you need to watch Bloomberg all day, read each article in the WSJ or get a degree in economics. Most of what you read or see there is just an expression of times almost passed. All of us need to understand that our whole economic system is transforming and changing into something much more substantial, sustainable and human. Advertising is just another expression of this change. Please work, create, add value accordingly.

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Image: Courtesy of 3.media.tumblr

Most organizations refer to asset planning as resource planning. We don’t like the term, especially when it comes to humans. Human beings are assets, not resources. The essential difference between assets and resources is that resources have no value outside the business process they are used in, whereas assets have an intrinsic and potential value. Managed as resources people do what resources do: they become depleted or absent – they burn out or move to another company. Managed as assets they flourish, growing in value for themselves and from there – engaged in heart and soul – add value to the companies (and all other communities) they are part of.

What companies need more than anything in these challenging times are people who are for and are involved in their work with their hearts and souls. That level of involvement and caring is therefore the core issue and determiner of sustainable corporate success in today’s market environment. People engaged with their heart and soul are the most valuable asset any company can have.

Many companies are aware of this and try integrating “human-oriented thinking” into their corporate strategy; some even realize that appreciating people as the asset they are goes much further than being “nice” to them as a motivational incentive; it adheres to a scientific understanding of businesses as complex adaptive systems.

Types of Assets

In asset planning, these types of assets are usually involved:

  1. Money
  2. Capital Goods
  3. People
  4. Consumables
  5. Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom

It’s clear that the required amount and the available amount of each type of asset will not be equal. Because the requirements and supply of any asset are seldom, if ever, in perfect balance, asset planning usually creates the requirement for continuous planning.

Financial Planning

Making a profit was once thought to be the only legitimate objective of an enterprise. But times have changed. More and more enterprise consider profit now as a basic pillar, not the ultimate goal. For that reason, enterprises need to determine the financial conditions required to survive and implement the new plan. This requires financial modeling, measuring financial performance measures under a variety of assumed conditions and decisions to use assets.

Capital Expenditures

Given its planned pursuit of an approximation to its pie in the sky design, what new facilities and equipment will a company need? Usually, the needs are treated individually and justification to deploy assets based on estimated returns on the investment. Enterprises need to consider the fact that some investments might look poorly on a plan when considered individually but contribute to the bottom line when integrated into the overall system.

People as assets

People are e the most valuable asset a company can have. Nevertheless, they are generally used less efficiently than any other type of asset. The waste of employees’ time and competence is huge. The quality and competence of employees had increased significantly during the last decades. However, the way people are being managed and the organization of human capital has not. More often than not, humans are seen as extensions or replacements of machines.

The trend of increasing the number of people as much as possible (no matter the output required) when times are good and downsizing (no matter the output) in bad times shows how unsophisticated our approach to human asset planning is. In later parts we will offer a solution to that problem by implementing a market economy within the enterprise.

Consumables

Each organization consumes assets it uses: material, energy, services – just to name a few. These assets are supplied by either an internal or external source; most enterprises focus on supplying itself with any consumable asset to avoid interdependency. However, in this networked and globalized economy, it has become almost impossible for many companies to obtain and retain the competencies required to provide many of these assets in an economic manner, threatening their ability to compete.

Let’s just look at the media agency world: When enterprises bring advertising in-house, they often have problems attracting superior talent. As a talent, would you want to work for a huge media agency with good opportunities to advance, or would you work for an enterprise with no chances of real advancement since the rest of the enterprise is devoted to anything else but media? Specialized enterprises are able to provide specific assets at a lower cost and higher quality than most in-house divisions.

However, the relationship between suppliers and enterprises are often negotiated so as to guarantee behavior not supporting (or even fighting against) the interest of the enterprise. Let’s continue with the example of the media agency: If the enterprise reimburses the agency based on a percentage of company’s media spend, the agency will do anything to increase the media budget. No matter the effect, no matter the outcome. A whole industry of research institutes and consumer behavior studies survive because agencies need data to convince enterprises to spend more money on media. Has there ever been a real study that shows the effect of advertising on sales? In many cases, agencies are better selling to enterprises than to sell the product of the enterprise to customers. As a result, agencies become lobbyists for media, not for their customers they’re supposed to sell to. To break this vicious cycle, agencies should be compensated for increases in sales without increasing media spend and for decrease in media spend without loss of sales.

This would serve customers much better. Currently, media agencies increase their profit often at a cost to customers. (Time, Annoyance, etc.) Once enterprises preach the gospel of media spend cost reduction by sharing the benefits with all suppliers, a paradigm shift will occur.

Information

There’s a frequent misconception that implementing a KMS (Knowledge Management System) can provide all the support decision makers require. Research has shown that most KMS’ miss; they fail to fulfill the promises that were used to justify their development. For that reason, we need new assumptions about information.

Managers need less irrelevant information

All of us experience it each and every day: Information overload. Email bankruptcy. Social Media fatigue. Once we have to deal with too much information, we tend to use less information to make decisions. And we have a natural drive to know more and more about less and less. This might be the perfect approach for boutique firms but large corporations need less specialists and more generalists – T-Shaped people. For them to be successful, enterprises need KMS’ to help them filter out irrelevant information and condense relevant information appropriately.

Managers shouldn’t be burdened with knowing what information they need

The complexity of systems requires executives to manage effectively without understanding the system well. A system that can be comprehended fully doesn’t need a good manager. In return, a manager that requires each and every detail is scared and will play it safe, not advancing the system appropriately. Executives earn their pay when they possess the skill to make a decision based on enough facts not on all facts.

The information that managers need is whatever information enables them to do better with it than without it.

A Knowledge Management System shouldn’t be static, it needs to be embedded within the organization and management system as an infinite learning loop, capable of constant improvement. This  will enable executives to learn what they need or they will be stuck in the “always-asking-for-more-information-loop”.

Less communication between certain stakeholders is better

The Information Age has one gospel: More information is better. When all stakeholders are aware of what the other stakeholders are doing, this should enable stakeholders to coordinate their activities better and improve performance, correct?

No.

Various stakeholders often have different measures of performance and those are often in conflict with the various divisions. Increased communication between stakeholders might actually hurt the overall performance of the enterprise. Before opening up the flood gates of communication, the enterprise, it structure and performance measures need to be aligned with all stakeholders. Once implemented, each stakeholder communication should be evaluated and communication levels adjusted accordingly.

Managers have to understand their KMS

A Knowledge Management System has one objective: to support the enterprise and improve performance. Executives need to control the system, they need to ensure not to be controlled by the system. This requires a deep understanding of the system, its capabilities and limitations.

In summary, asset planning’s objective is to deliver useful inputs to decision making and the ability to identify and learn from mistakes to ensure improvements of pie in the sky and gap planning. This will help implementing a system that improves decision making and allows for rapid learning and adaption.

Let’s talk about that in the next part.

Previous installments can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6.

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Image: Courtesy of Minddesign

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” – Jonathan Swift

Every enterprise needs to set Big Hairy Audacious Goals. These Big Hairy Audacious Goals are your limit. It’s an idealized goal that might never be attained, it’s your Moon Landing. We will talk later how to reduce the gap between enterprise reality and pie in the sky ideal. But, forget about limits for a while. This is about expansive thinking: no borders, no limits, no boxes.

Planning for Pie in the Sky includes:

  • A clear vision of your enterprise
  • A mission statement, expressing the Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals
  • Specific features the enterprise needs to have to achieve the goals
  • A pie in the sky design of the organization

A clear vision of the enterprise

Corporate visions are usually developed by executives, not involving all stakeholders. While developing the vision by few might be more efficient, the vision needs to be shared by all stakeholders in order to be pursued effectively. Most visions define what executives want the enterprise to be in 10 years or so, often forgetting what these executives want the enterprise to be right now. I would argue, it’s imperative to develop a vision that communicates the ideal design of the organization for the here and now, assuming the organizational design will be able to handle changes (and there will be many) without actually forecasting the future. Instead, organizational designs have to incorporate contingency planning.

I have all the plastic in the world but I still carry a few bills with me all the time. I don’t forecast a cyberattack on the banking system, I don’t forecast a massive quake in LA that won’t allow me to access my account for weeks. But all these things and other scenarios are possible. And I would like to be prepared for it.

A Mission Statement, expressing the Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals

Most mission statements are borefests: platitudes of epic proportions. A real mission statement should answer the following questions:

  • Why does this enterprise exist?
  • What are the aspirations of the enterprise?
  • What does the enterprise do to succeed?
  • How will the enterprise pursue its Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals?
  • How will the enterprise serve each stakeholder?
  • What makes the enterprise unique?

While formulating the mission statement, stay away from empty sentences/words, corporate speak and anything your best friend outside of your expertise doesn’t understand.

Specific features the enterprise needs to have to achieve the goals

Whenever we develop a website, the first step is to sit down with all stakeholders to go through their wishlist: What features does each stake holder would like to have? Enterprises have to go through this exercise as well to design their ideal organization.

This can be a laundry list of thousands of items or just a minimal document that describes the structure of the enterprise, corporate culture, management style, employee expectations, high-level ideals of products/services, etc. Each ideal enterprise design is different and the features list will reflect its uniqueness.

A pie in the sky design of the organization

Imagine, your enterprise stopped to exist last night. Nothing else has changed: Technology, laws, regulations, taxes, etc. The environment and systems that surrounded the old enterprise still exist and they haven’t changed. Just your enterprise is extinct. Start designing your new enterprise.

What kind of enterprise would you design if you could start from scratch? How would you design it so the enterprise is capable of being improved continuously from within? We’re not asking you to create Utopia, a perfect enterprise. Instead, your pie in the sky design should incorporate what you want to the organization to be right now. While you discuss these ideas with stakeholders, many new ideas will evolve and creativity will flow freely. This process of collaboration is often the most important product of this step to transform your business. Enterprises need to make sure that during this step self-imposed constraints are kept to a minimum. Stakeholders should not be concerned with feasibility, budgets or implementability. Reminding them that the enterprise was destroyed last night might help limiting those constraints. Keep dreaming.

Next, we will discuss gap analysis and gap planning.

For your reference, the first parts can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.



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Image: Courtesy of 24.media.tumblr

“The conventional definition of management is getting work done through people, but real management is developing people through work.” – Agha Hasan Abedi

Humans are a very diverse species. Each one of us is unique, we all have our strengths and flaws. Surprisingly there are not many variations of basic management categories: Reactive, inactive, proactive and interactive. Let’s briefly evaluate all four of them:

Reactive Management

Run, run, run. And then run more. The reactive approach to a problem is first to identify its cause or source, then try to remove or suppress it. Being reactive implies your action begins after the fact; acting in response to a stimulus or situation, as if simply poised waiting for something to happen. We know, this is never the case. Managers usually feel reactive when they are hit by something they didn’t anticipate.

Organizations in which reactive management is dominant tend to use as their model the oldest and most stable form of organization known, the big family. Like most families, most reactive organizations function as autocratic hierarchies. Ironically, although reactive planning is authorized from the top down, the actual planning is carried out from the bottom up.

Reactive planning is always focused on getting rid of what is not wanted. The problem with that paradigm is that when one gets rid of what one does not want, often one does not get what one wants but gets what one wants even less. However, effective management focuses on getting what one wants, not getting rid of what one does not want. Reactive organizations walk into the future, facing the past, backward.

Inactive Management

We all experienced it: A crisis is unfolding before us and we don’t do anything. We might have good intentions to solve the problem but another, more important crisis is taking all of our attention. A few days later, the initial crisis resolved itself. That’s Garden Eden of inactive management. Unlike the reactivist, who tries to eliminate the cause of a problem, the inactivist settles for suppressing the symptoms. The inactive manager is always in crisis management mode. Our increasingly complex world increases the numbers and severity of crisis. That keeps the inactive manager very busy trying to prevent change. His attention is occupied keeping people busy doing nothing.

You’ll find inactive managers in organizations whose survival is independent of its performance. Many government agencies come to mind, subsidized and regulated organizations. They tend to change when somebody imposes their will on them.

Proactive Management

Proactive management implies that your response is preceding the action. Creating a solution before being requested to have one. Anticipating what is needed and having it ready. This seems like a great position to be in; however you need to know what to be ready for. You cannot anticipate everything. Proactive managers predict and prepare, that is, they attempt to predict the future, then establish the objectives they want to attain, and finally create a plan to get from where they are to where they want to be. Forecasting is a major preoccupation of proactive managers.

The proactive manager believes there are a few problems that technology can’t solve, the reactive manager tends to think they can only be solved by a softer, human approach. Unfortunately for proactive managers, as the rate of change in the environment accelerates and the environment becomes more complex, their ability to forecast accurately deteriorates. Many proactive plans are never completely implemented because errors in the forecasts on which they are based become apparent, nullifying the plan. In addition, it is very apparent that the objective of planning should not be to prepare for a future that is largely out of our control, but to control that future as much as possible by developing mechanisms/products that have the most effect on our futures.

Interactive Management

The objective of management should be to create as much of the future as is possible. Implementing an interactive management style means managers get involved with people without there being a problem or a situation. They understand what’s happening around them. The more a manager knows about the whole organizational system, the goals of each person, the more successful the organization and the manager will be. Interactive management asks executives to very involved with the system environment, thereby giving them access to a myriad of insights and knowledge. It allows an organization to maximize their resource – they don’t have to wait for events, overplan for possibilities or jump the gun.

Implementing an interactive management system doesn’t mean the organization will never be blindsided. However, when the unexpected happens, management will have a better sense of how urgent the matter is because they live and experience the priorities of the business. They will know who to deal with so the situation can be resolved with a minimum of resources and effort.

There are three major characteristics of Interactive Planning and Management: a) Interactive Management plan backward from where they want to be to where they are. b) Interactive planning, management and execution is a continuous process. The process is the goal, not the final plan. Because there is no more final plan. c) Every stakeholder  is part of the collaborative planning process. This increases the chances of successful implementations dramatically since every stakeholder has a vested interest in success.

Because the principal product of interactive management is engagement throughout the organization (Planning, Implementation and Optimization), and because it requires as many stakeholders as possible to participate, it requires a significant change in the role of management. They are no longer required to spend the majority of their time preparing plans. Instead, their role is to encourage and facilitate, educate and advise.

In Part 4, we’ll be talking about the interactive planning process in detail.

For reference, Part 1 (Systems Thinking) can be found here and Part 2 (Systems) here.

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Images: Courtesy of Music Philosophy (Mico, you rock!)

Strategic Planning was born around 100 years ago when the first cars went into mass production: The lack of product was vast and the economic landscape easy to oversee, making it easy for companies to adjust to changes immediately. Markets were slow and people believed humans can achieve anything, supported by Strategic Planning. This mechanical view of the economy and an enterprise left the role of Strategic Planning almost untouched and its importance has even grown over time.

Problem is: The world enterprises operate in has dramatically changed. In a world of saturated markets, educated people playing their consumer role rather unwillingly, globalization, terror attacks, ash clouds, etc. Strategic Planning becomes a farcical endeavor. Maneuvering an enterprise has become an illusion. But we continue to plan.

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Strategic Planning is a waste of time

Successful companies are highly flexible and adaptable in an ever-changing world and market. That’s the opposite of a plan: focusing on getting something done in a certain amount of time.

Let’s just have a look at the US government: Every year they plan on paying down the debt – and every year they face  new surprises: high unemployment rate, a Supreme Court decision, an oil spill. Immediately, all the Strategic Planning is out the door and projections have to be adjusted. Planning is not forward-looking, Planning is static and reactive.

Same is true for enterprises: The performance of a company is more often than  not influenced by factors out of their influence sphere: price of commodities change, currencies fluctuate or a banal law changes somewhere in the world and affects the performance of the enterprise – once again, projections have nothing to do with reality. This results in permanent frustration. And, companies develop the tendency to find someone to blame: Purchasing, Sales, Product.

Anyone who still hopes to control the future with numbers has no clue how markets work nowadays, doesn’t know how you can get optimal performance out of all stakeholders or just lives in a perfect world, fueled by selfish wishes and hopes.

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Executives don’t like change

The idea that executives don’t maneuver the enterprise through the stormy seas (Actually, it’s the other way around.) doesn’t fit in their MBA-fueled pipedreams of being the sole savior of this struggling ship. A myth born in the Industrial Age. In addition, executives believe they need Strategic Planning to control their employees. At its core, most managers believe their employees are lazy bums that can’t be trusted. (Honestly, without me they just wouldn’t do anything all day.) For that reason, employees need to get clear goals and constant observation.

Peter Drucker’s Management by Objectives (MBO) gave executives more fodder for their bizarre prejudice that people without objectives have no clue what to do. People wouldn’t work efficiently without planning goals. This resulted in an enterprise world gone crazy: Increase revenue by 13%, reduce costs by 12%, service has to increase their number by 10% for the next 5 years. Totally absurd. We call it: Management.

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Shift power from executives to all stakeholders

This absurdity we call management has to be replaced with a new paradigm:

  • Focus on relative goals
  • Empower your employees by trusting them 100% and allow them to react individually to demands of stakeholders
  • Focus on culture

Don’t stick to numeric goals: Would you want a NASCAR driver to win a race or plan for him to drive the race in 2 hours and 32 minutes? Foster a culture where it’s about winning not making numbers.

If a department/division/branch has problems, don’t let the executives take over. Stakeholders have to find their own way out of the mess and don’t need the savior from headquarter. This might leave the executives with less opportunities to congratulate themselves but will increase team morale dramatically. The role of leadership has to be be redefined: It’s not about controlling people. That breeds resentments. And crushes spirits.

It’s about inspiring people. Engaging them. Executives need to lead, not control.

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Redefine enterprise success

Executives have to throw away their outdated Org charts, their hierarchy thinking and the focus on their selfish goals. The new enterprise places stakeholders on the pedestal, makes humans not plans their focus. Once you place your trust in all your stakeholders and empower them, goals like shareholder value, executive salaries and bonuses will fall into place.

Enterprises need less goals, not more. Goals are overrated. Real success metrics are an organic byproduct of a real corporate identity. It shouldn’t be about corporate goals determined by a few, it should be about corporate identity lived each and every day by all stakeholders. Focusing on corporate culture will help enterprises to develop a congruent group of like-minded people. Forget the performance review. Lean on peer pressure as the guiding force.

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Strategic Planning vs Being Prepared

Strategic Planning means: Derived out of an executive vision of the future and assessment of the present, the company develops a plan that everybody has to follow blindly. Enterprises based on this belief try to manage the future.

Being Prepared means: We’re trying to be ready for any eventualities, we prepare, we’re staying intellectually fit, always question everything – never separate acting from thinking. Being prepared is an attitude. This attitude will allow companies to be successful in the future. Strategic Planning dooms them.

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Strategy has its roots in the military. Even the military doesn’t need mindless warriors anymore

The idea of Strategic Planning was based on the thought construct that there are two kinds of people: The thinkers, the directors, the controllers. And the mindless workers that do their task and don’t ask questions. Strategy is a tool to keep the doers from thinking and under tight control.

Since the markets control enterprises more efficiently than managers, what’s the value of managers hiding behind strategy decks anymore? Instead, every stakeholder has to think, adjust and do. What company still can afford to employ non-thinking people, happily entrenched in operations? That’s what automization is for.

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Perpetual Test Mode

Enterprises need to ask themselves constantly “How could I do this better?” even when everything works out fine right now. Once enterprises believe they’ve found the perfect model, they will switch into the mode “Why change anything?” And die.

Enterprises need to follow two paths:

  • Implement perpetual, incremental improvements. Why not improving a dozen of little things? Can you improve your website daily outside of the yearly refresh? Can you change the way customer service interacts with people? Are your key employees fully invested on Social Media Channels, always ready to reply? How can you move your company from good service to utter delight?
  • Think big: Some problems can’t be solved with incremental changes. They need significant innovations. How can you leap ahead of your competitors by rethinking how a problem can be solved?

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How to begin the transformation process

This is an unusual paradigm for enterprises. Everything they learned in business schools and on wooden conference tables is useless. Even more: counter-productive.

It behooves every employee to internalize this new world view. And start to develop multiple pilot projects or beta programs. A good first step would be to eliminate the yearly performance reviews and axe yearly planning.

Let’s face it: the world was not meant to be perfect and nobody can control it. We’re supposed to muddle along and work our way through challenges and problems. Once enterprises accept this fact, they have a chance to succeed in the future. Most importantly: As long as managers don’t trust all stakeholder, as long as they don’t believe people will work without control and incentives, just because they want to, as long as managers don’t change their thinking, enterprises will remain the places of outdated hierarchy, intellectual imprisonment and planned economy.

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During the dot-com bust, I interviewed for a position with a digital consulting firm. The job description sounded like a good match, the company had a good reputation and strong growth: I was excited. After speaking to the CEO for 5 minutes, I knew his company wouldn’t be my future home. Why? Because I had no idea what he was talking about. Every other word was a buzzword, he must have made up words on the fly and the sentences were so long and convoluted, I felt he was filibustering the interview.

One reason brands have problems connecting with people is their use of language. A few examples:

Dachis Group: “Social Business Design helps companies reinvent themselves into dynamic, socially calibrated organizations that gain constant value from their ecosystem of connections.”

Dell: “Increase workforce flexibility while storing data or secure servers – enabling highly centralized control over your distributed environment and aligning clients with their organizational needs.”

Ford: “Covert aerodynamic design and critical technology such as the class-exclusive PowerShift six-speed automatic and 1.6L Ti-VCT Duratec® I4 engine with twin-independent variable cam timing make it a responsive and fuel-responsible driving experience.”

I chose those 3 companies because they’re often heralded as the pioneers of Social Media and Social Business. Did you have any clue what they were talking about? I had some idea but became bored a few words in.

We have developed a lexicon of contrived gobbledygook meant to confuse people not to enlighten them. How can you claim to be social when your outward language is anti-social?

Just go to digital conferences and half the words abused have no real definition (Engagement), 1 million definitions (brand) or their meaning changes day by day (Success Metrics). We tend to use imprecise words to cloud our confusion and hide the fact our thoughts are not that well-thought-out. A refined thought doesn’t need to come in a convoluted package. Or, as Winston Churchill said: “Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words best of all.”

Amidst the corporate gibberish, brands have a unique opportunity to stand out from the masses by speaking plainly yet intelligently about the matter at hand. Not only only will you be seen as having a stronger grasp of the issues, but people will form stronger connections with companies.

In a complex world, any effort to simplify will be appreciated.

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This is my daughter. Look at her. There’s this aura of infinite possibilities – she’s ready to take on the world. Nothing will stand in her way to explore this world that’s hers. We all used to be like that. We all had this fire in our eyes. Each morning we couldn’t wait to get out of bed, ready to make this world our world. We were curious. Eager. Had so many questions. Tried things out. Fell down. Tried them again.

And then life happened to us. Or better, institutions stood in our way. Pre-school. Kindergarden. Norms. Criticism. Homework. Schedules. School. Cruel teachers. Critical teachers. Grades. Norms. The system integrated us. We integrated the system into our lives. Into our thinking. And being. We graduated. When we were lucky, we traveled for a while. Found that joyful life experience again. But now it was time to join the workforce. To fit in. To accept mediocrity. Suddenly, it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning. Weekends and vacations are the only remaining highlights. We are slowly killing off everything that made us happy and curious in the first place.

Hold on, we just got a second chance.

The Great Recession is the biggest opportunity we will encounter in our lives. The Great Recession equals major hardship for many people but it also marks the end of the corporate era. If you’re corporate drone, your job will be eliminated very soon. If you try to fit in to make it in this world, you will struggle for the rest of your life. In order to succeed, you have to become an artist.

That’s the premise of Seth Godin’s newest book “Linchpin – Are you indispensable?” We have to become more human, creative and generous to be seen as unique and irreplaceable. And, most importantly, we have to ship. Meaning, we have to produce. Not spending hours on email trafficking, Twitter scanning, blog commenting. No, shipping. Producing. Doing. We can either give in to the lizard brain, the little part of your brain that is concerned with survival and is the reason for your procrastination and all your irrational fears. Or we can create our own destiny. Our own reality. And, at the same time, change the world.

Seth Godin’s Linchpin might be the most important book you’ve read in a long time. Hopefully, it will change you and your thinking. We’ve been working with major Fortune 100 corporations for years, even decades. We understand how tough it is to implement cultural change. But, it’s necessary. Actually, it’s imperative. Would you rather help your company change or see it vanish?

Seth Godin’s Linchpin and Hugh McLeod’s Evil plans (he illustrated Linchpin because he’s one) will give you the motivation and desire to change the world. We started our company with the goal to help transform businesses and change the way we work and live. Seth Godin distilled our thoughts in a neat and exciting package. Now it’s your turn to take the ball and change the world. We hope you’re ready.

ifnotnow

We are not Social Media experts. We’re not Six Sigma pundits. And we don’t have all the answers.

In fact, we are skeptical of people who claim they know all the answers and provide them through Org Charts, Twitter pages or pie-in-the-sky strategy decks.
We are simply people across a wide range of communications and management disciplines with the unifying belief that businesses need to adapt and transform in the new reality of a post-consumption economy.

We see an incredible economic opportunity if we develop new ways to reframe problems, seize emerging opportunities and design solutions by looking behind the consumption-oriented economic model.
Just as we emerged from the dark ages to a new era of social and artistic enlightenment, we are now entering the post-industrial and post-Lehman age with the realization that the well-being of our economy should not be based on consumption alone and focus more on the human element.

For more than 100 years, businesses have focused on driving efficiencies, improving processes and increasing shareholder value. With the advent of new technologies, businesses invested billions of dollars in technology and transaction systems to reduce latency and inefficiency in value chains. “Six Sigma” is the epitome of this focus and thinking. However, the ROI on further optimizing processes for operational excellence is diminishing because of the human element. Unless you’re an Android, you can only be that productive, that efficient, that process-oriented without losing your humanity.

As Super Social Primates, our need to connect with others is deeply ingrained into our DNA. This is the reason why solitary confinement is regarded as the ultimate punishment. And babies with a loving relationship to their family have dramatically better chances to succeed. New and intuitive technologies have allowed us to connect with people in ways we could not have imagined a few years back. But we warn against the focus on technology: Too much energy and attention has been spent talking about CRM/Social Media/Networking technologies that many have missed the point: without people none of that matters.

Our thinking is based on the fundamentals of human needs and behavior. Technologies are just tools to tap into these needs, allow for connections and enable like-minded to come together. These technologies are merely the platforms for connecting and sharing. And they allow people to deliver on the normal human desire to be accepted and valued by others. By linking, commenting, discussing and sharing, individuals gain authority and influence in the social space and thereby develop and increase their own levels of esteem.

We see a lot of encouraging signs that thought leaders and innovative practitioners are trying to incorporate principles of social networking/computing into the enterprise. Some call it Enterprise 2.0, human-centered design or Social Business Design. These models assume that humans are rational primates, always acting in their best interest.

The financial meltdown and newest studies in Behavioral Economics are super-sized reminders that the human mind is continually trying to perceive things that aren’t true, and not perceiving them takes enormous effort.

Our brains evolved to suit a world much simpler than the one we now face. We tend to believe data to confirm our prejudices and ignore data contradicting them; we overvalue recent events when anticipating future possibilities; we weave single multiple events into a causal narrative; we applaud our own expertise and skills in circumstances when we’ve actually benefited from dumb luck.

In short, we had to learn that we’re predictably irrational (to borrow from Dan Ariely’s fascinating book). In ‘The Happiness Hypothesis” Jonathan Haidt compares the self to a rider on the back of an elephant. He writes:

“The image that I came up with for myself, as I marveled at my weakness, was that I was a rider on the back of an elephant. I’m holding the reins in my hands, and by pulling one way or the other I can tell the elephant to turn, to stop, or to go. I can direct things, but only when the elephant doesn’t have desires of his own. When the elephant really wants to do something, I’m no match for him.”

For the longest time, institutions have focused on the little boy while tinkering with the elephant. And we’ve optimized the little boy for the longest until we finally hit the wall. It’s time to focus our attention on the elephant and tap into its enormous potential. We don’t believe current models effectively stimulate the endless potential of human emotion and creativity.

For that reason, we propose a new model: Human Business Design.
What is Human Business Design? It is a model based in the belief that all human interactions/conversation inside and outside of your organization matter now: The way human beings are motivated to connect and create value has changed. Every business has to realize that it is a co-creative eco-system that includes its employees, partners, competitors and customers and the way they are motivated to create and realize value is the only measure of success.

Organizations need to provide a framework for their customer base (and entire ecosystem) to participate in the co-creation of meaningful value. The new paradigm is co-creation, co-operation on bigger ideas than just the motivation to consume. Each good organization has a big vision behind its products and services. And the goal has to be that all stakeholders work on this bigger vision.

This allows us to merge the left-brain efficiencies of organizations with the right-brain imagination of hyper-connected human beings, creating new value propositions nobody ever imagined.