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Genomförande är allt

thomas-kelley-74096-unsplash

Hade ett uppstartsmöte med en grupp nyligen. En grupp jag ska facilitera och träffa ett, förhoppningsvis bra, tag. Huvudtemat alla sökt sig till är i runda slängar digitalisering och digital affärsutveckling. Mycket nytt att hantera och guida en organisation igenom. Men där var ett tydligt behov av att bara höra perspektiv och andra synvinklar på liknande frågor från liknande roller. Det kan säkert utvecklas till att bli själva huvudfrågan, vem vet. Ett stöd liksom.

Träffade en gammal kollega. Hen gick en kurs. Handlade om “det nya” inom marknadsföring. Jovisst, något nytt och förhoppningsvis utvecklande, men mest behov av bekräftelse på att hen vet och kan. Behövda ha den.

På SVT skrev Staffan Laestadius som är professor inom industriell ekonomi om detta med att fixa klimatutmaningen. Han ser inte mycket till chans att göra det inom befintlig politisk struktur och system. Han förespråkar krigsekonomi (han har forskat på området). Då jäklar. Att inte bara kraftsamla utan också utföra inom ett litet tidsfönster på 10 år kräver en krigsekonomis tydliga investeringar och prioriteringar. Att skapa de projekt som tydligt visar att nu händer det (man måste ju dock säga att Musk, Bezos och Branson väl gör lite av det där va? Bara det att herrarna givit upp på jorden och vår förmåga att använda teknikutvecklingen till att vända utvecklingen, och istället redan skaffat postnummer på månen).

Modellen här intill, som visar på en ledningsgrupps utveckling över 8 månader är ett annat exempel på ett tema. Det betyder mycket för hur man klarar att möta utmaningar och agera. Det är händelser som liksom blev en hög tankesmulor och skapade ett litet kluster. Kanske sammanfattas de som kraft att agera, och vikten att hitta den. Inte så enkelt som man tror (och för övrigt helt avgörande för en framgångsrik strategi. Hur många såna har inte skapats för att senare obducerats och postumt identifierats som en orealistisk men väldigt välformulerad och inställsam bön…).

Vad kan vi? Vad har vi för folk ombord? Frågor alla företag som måste få något gjort har ställt sig. Men frågor som: är vi kraftfulla? Hur agerar vi starkare än vår summa? Hur bygger vi upp den styrkan vi behöver? Det är ovana frågor för en ledning men ta mig sjutton inte så dumma. Frågor som låter annorlunda är bra, för det behövs nya tankar överallt idag (att hitta nya frågor borde du aktivt jobba med). Kraften att agera kommer en stor grupp människor inte hitta i vad de kan och vet, för detta är övergående och skvalpar runt i ett hav av otydlighet och föränderlighet. Då måste kraften komma någon annan stans ifrån. Det tycks mig fortfarande inte jobbas så värst mycket med detta.

Tid väl använd

Jag är en nöjd deltagare av Dobermans designkonferens Frontiers of Design som gick av stapeln i Stockholm i slutet av Augusti 2018. Till Frontiers-konceptet (om jag får kalla det så) hör också en film, Frontiers of Design Film, där ett antal framstående personer inom det breda fältet design säger sitt om dess framtid. Jag fick möjligheten att se denna film på plats. Underhållande, en del tankar går igång och vacker.

En av de intervjuade personerna är Lisa Kay Solomon, från Singularity University. En person jag blev intresserad av och kollade upp. Detta ledde mig till ett TEDx-snack hon gjort ett tag tillbaka. Det låter som om hon konkretiserat och strukturerat upp mina egna tankar sedan länge, angående en viktig konkurrensfördel som vissa företag(skulturer) har/kommer att ha. Och den är väldigt mycket enklare än bäst AI-forskare, störst moln eller grymmast designers. Det handlar om respekt och förståelse för tid. En sund kritik av, samt smartheten att applicera en designers mentalitet på, möten.

Nu har jag inte en bred studie kring alla företags syn på och sätt att hantera tid, effektivitet och möten till mitt förfogande. Men min erfarenhet är, med all respekt för att många försöker, att det inte står så bra till. 

Vi har många gruppledare, team-ansvariga och personer som på andra sätt spelar en avgörande roll för hur många fler medarbetare överhuvud taget kan vara smarta och effektiva. Hur många av dessa reflekterar över hur de genomför alla dessa (för många möten är det) aktiviteter på ett allt annat än slentriant sätt? Den frågan lämnar jag där. Men jag vet vad jag själv tror.

working concretely with culture and behaviors

A while back I posted this list (below) from McKinsey showing a ranked order of challenges with regards to meeting digital priorities. Now, I’d like to add to that an initiative from colleagues of mine (with whom I also collaborate on the project) that seeks to spread solutions for how to deal with this situation.

Culture for a digital age - McKinsey Quarterly, July 2017

The initiative I’m referring to is a Kickstarter Campaign for a series of books that’s a part of a collaborative project called The Book of Collaboration. A project that is more than a book.

The need for working human-oriented

The basic premise for the project is quite depressing: Only 15% of employees are engaged… How about that for starting point when really needing to change, transform, build and all those things we need right now…

Now to the solutions. The project is based on 5 key pillars that help you ask better questions with regards to the diagram above and most business challenges. They help you work with what you can affect and not just the outcomes. If you look at the above items, they are the equivalent of lagging indicators, whereas the 5 pillars help you work with leading indicators that can actually be affected. Kind of like happiness correlating to innovation output. Just looking at output won’t help you affect or control it. Ok.

  • Reinforcing a human-oriented culture and building trust
  • Applying a growth mindset, unlearning, and learning in new ways
  • Creating effective teams and collaborating for real
  • Making everyone leaders and focusing on growing facilitation skills
  • Re-inventing leadership and organizations – with engagement as core

Leaders: mind your toolbox

If you’re a typical leader it’s unusual to you, you don’t immediately have tools that come to mind and you might think it’s fluff. If you’re an interested, great future leader, you understand the need to include this in your toolbox and catalogue of methods. I’m basing this on my day-to-day work from within, and not looking in from the outside. It’s not even debatable and it’s easy to see.

The good thing with this diagram is that the number one item – culture and behavior – indicates the realization of a human-oriented focus as a prerequisite. The challenge is still how this is done, but that’s a better problem to have. And that’s the aim of the project, so go back it if you’re smart.

Do you ask the right questions (for building with culture in mind)?

Kevin Kelly has written many good books and said many wise things with regards to digitalization, technology and constant change. Often very technology focused and visionary but always touching on culture. After all, he is somewhat of a futurologist. With his last book The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future (which I haven’t read, only pod-heard about and from) he goes into how great leaders ask really good questions. Although it’s in relation to AI and super powers that help provide answers, it’s relevant far beyond that. It really resonates well with me.

Given how digital transformation, as the figure below, from McKinsey Quarterly shows, has shifted from the more technical and concrete aspects and focus areas, to a much more abstract one – namely culture – so must our questions. Question is: have they?

Culture for a digital age - McKinsey Quarterly, July 2017

Have you asked who (or what focus) needs to be onboard besides the, so far, frequent and apparently obvious head of digital, chief technical officer, innovation officer, digital director, chief data strategist, data guru, chief head of atomic big data machine learning robot executive master etc and so on?

Have you as someone responsible for transformation work, leader or in other capacities, developed the powerful questions behind the questions? Have you developed or stumbled upon ways of understanding and approaching the problem behind the problem (and opportunity within the opportunity)?

misstag och lärdomar – en podcast

Misstag har det länge snackats om. Ord och utryck som fail fast och fail forward har inte sällan använts väl flyktigt och utan någon riktig substans. Förhoppningsvis låter inte FM (Fredric Marcus, Creuna) och jag som två ytliga signalförstärkare av detta, utan att vi når lite djupare. Det var i alla fall vår intention.

Misstag, och framför allt misstagets positiva effekt lärdomen är helt avgörande. Mer så än någonsin tidigare. Det går för fort för att veta. Vi måste förhålla oss till okunskap och komplexitet med hjälp av misstag och lärdomar. Denna förmåga är bland det viktigaste ett företag kan träna på idag. Det är definitivt kopplat till digitaliseringen och den tekniska utvecklingen med alla effekter på samhället som det för med sig, men det handlar inte om teknik utan om företagskultur och ledarskap. Detta är en aspekt som faller inom ramen för det vi på Co:LabX lägger mycket tid på, nämligen innovationskraft, förmågan att arbeta på nya sätt och i det stora förändra ett företag. Lyssna vetja. Hoppas något intressant landar. Tack till DIK – Det kreativa facket för inbjudan.

the fallacy of thinking about doing

Theory and knowledge isn’t real. That’s why we always look for empirical evidence. It’s also why you would never qualify as a car mechanic having only read about engines. You need to get a feel for things. You need to practice doing. Doing the actual behavior we’re studying, trying to fix or do more of. Don’t really know what to think about this:

When I ask him how he knows what he knows about these new platforms, he says, “I’m not active on social media; I am a student of it,” and waves an arm at a wall of his office covered in dozens of color printouts of pie charts, tables, line graphs full of digital metrics—proprietary information that he asked remain off the record. “I spend a lot of time thinking about the trends that are reshaping our industry. I spend a lot of time talking to people on the front line of those trends,” he tells me, “and a big part of my job is making sense of that.”

– Arthur Gregg Sulzberger of NY Times, in Wired

Why cut off some of your senses? Thinking about doing things does not provide sufficient understanding of the doings studied. The most bewildering part of this is why on earth, given there’s no cost associated with it (only learnings and benefits), would you not throw yourself out there to feel what it is we’re dealing with? Beats me.

competitive advantage – how we work

I’ve experienced it, you’ve experienced it. Everyone has. To some extent, we know what’s not working for us, but often we don’t act on it. Some times, in many organisations (if I extrapolate on my own and colleagues’ experiences) it’s even hard to get acceptance when fixing the problem.

The problem of working effectively. With concentration. Focused.

I believe that industries in which you live by people, their minds, creativity and collaboration – how we work is going to be the primary competitive advantage. It’s organizational culture of course. Orgs can get really good people. Many of them can. Some are more attractive and have more traction (HR and employer branding being more and more important). But over all, they get good people.

Is it better to have 50% better people or an organization in which people can be 50% more effective and just work better?

I’ve touched on it before in another post. I keep coming back to it.

Digital strategy deconstructed: key considerations, part. 1

In a previous post about a digital marketing lab in Singapore, I realized I should probably structure and share some of my thinking and learnings having discussed, presented, debated, consulted on, workshopped around and taught digital strategy.

So, the reason for this first of a few posts is for a number of reasons:

1) Deconstructing a couple of slides used in workshops and talks, in order to structure what I believe is often overlooked and missed. It’s good for myself to do it.
2) If we’ve had a workshop together or if you listened to a presentation I gave – Hello! Here are some things we touched on if you feel like a refresh or if there was a language/speed problem. You should have the full presentation already.
3) Basically, why not share it beyond rooms of people.

So here goes number 1.

The first, and most important, thing to reflect on when approaching digital strategy

the blogpost Can you invent something new if your words are old, Deborah Mills-Scofield highlights the power words have over us. She’s a consultant in innovation. But not only in innovation is that important. It goes for politics, pedagogy, and our dear subject digital strategy.


Part 1 touches on slide 2-4

Because – what do we think when we think digital? Words and definitions, knowingly or not, frames and maybe even dictates, how we think. And how we think, well, that very much guides what we do and don’t do. As Kevin Spacey put it, TV is simply episodically punctuated video streams. From that, what can you (and disruptors did) imagine?

Add to that, you’ll be in a room of people, perhaps from different parts of and organisation with different agendas, ambitions and painpoints. This further necessitates a discussion around, and a common view on, what it is we’re digging into.

– So, what would you say digital strategy is (yes, that’s how rudimentary my question is)? Take 3 minutes and try to articulate it concretely. Write it down if it helps.
Silence, looks, twisting in the chair. A few smiles. More looks.
– Would you care to go first?
– Hrm, well. It’s about how we communicate with the different target groups in different channels and social networks.
– OK, good. And what did you write down?
– Well, I don’t know. I wrote that it’s basically everywhere around us. It’s everything today.
– Wow, that’s quite all encompassing and massive. Personally I can nod to that. You?
– Actually, I would say that it’s our future business. Our business strategy.
– OK.

A typical conversation about the word digital and digital strategy. Often taken for granted as self explanatory and clear. Not so clear anymore.

Some people implicitly are talking about communication and channels, while others seem to understand it as something that’s basically everything. While some are very clear about the fact that it’s the future business strategy. Digital definitely affect communication and the communication landscape, but maybe that’s communication strategy that just happen to be hightly “digital” today? And surely we can agree that “digital” is effecting more or less every aspect of society today, and hence is everywhere. As a consequence it has to be taken into account when thinking about ones (future) business model, revenue models and business strategy. It’s all obviously correct, but until the whole room realises this, and recognizes the complexity (but also opportunity) in this observation, getting constructive and solution focused is useless.

The reality in which we strategise is networked. Networked is a very useful word as opposed to digital because it more clearly stresses the fundamental shift, change and impact (probably not the originator, but the guy I associate with stressing the benefit of using networked is Mark Comerford, @markmedia) in a way that we can feel and see as we mention it. If I’m in a store shopping and I’m all connected – is there brick and mortar vs e-commerce? Yes. Is there offline vs. online? No. From a networked perspective, that dichotomy is flawed and reframing this makes all the difference.

This is why the great variety in response to digital strategy is so natural. We see it from different angles. It’s like the proverbial elephant and the blind men. PR people see one thing, service design folks another and e-commerce managers yet another, and so on. The solution to this is to discuss ones business and reality from a networked perspective. This way, you’ll see the integrated and holistic nature of digital strategy.

These two activities are my suggestion for a start.

  • Mind the words you use (in general) in this case digital strategy specifically. Dig deeper into what we take for granted (I’ll touch on that again from another perspective). Understand the lens through which you see the concept, and understand what you don’t see.
  • Approach the project as strategic thinking in a networked world. That means departments, stakeholders, business units and even the business model itself, will reveal those clear connections and the need/power in approaching everything as an integrated totality. This can come across as massive and frustrating, but it’s also where the true power of a digital strategy lies.

More on that in the next post. Thoughts and comments are more than welcome.

Hiring people, managing people, protecting people

It’s always interesting to hear how Google think and does things. I guess anybody in a business where smart and creative people matter – which is in increasingly so as we move beyond the need for mere knowledge workers – would be wise to listen and reflect.

Another management issue with regards to people being able to think up brilliant stuff and producing wonderful ideas, products and services, is that of time, focus and effectiveness. I’m increasingly sure that handling constant interruption, time theft and other sources and reasons responsible for disturbing our cognitive abilities, bandwidth for thinking – basically our time to focus and get things done. One at the time. I really love this piece about his students and multi-tasking, by the brilliant Clay Shirky. He recognises the fact that what the situation calls for, is really protecting people from what they don’t realise. That is a key responsibility and future (present) competitive advantage.

Why I Just Asked My Students To Put Their Laptops Away…

Meaning based brand development

For quite a while, I’ve been using Ford as an example of a brand that’s redefined itself (or rather refocused) from car manufacturer to what they refer to as a mobility brand. I think it makes all the difference.

What they did early on was team up with ZipCar on US campuses, getting young drivers (note; drivers, not car owners) to get into Ford cars. Stats on that car selling challenge here. Now, of course the meaning with owning a car is transportation and mobility (not taking into account the, to be honest, not so small addition of signalling something about you as a person, which I think sits equally much in what you choose to drive and not just what you own). Hence a new business model. You may come from manufacturing and selling Ford cars, but that’s not necessarily the business for ever after. If Ford viewed their meaning market like Avis do (Avis bought ZipCar), they’d step past the competition by way of a business focused on getting people transportation – whether that’s a BMW, Volvo, Ford or whatever car brand. Potentially pretty drastic from a scaled up business model perspective .

Envisioning freely what Ford could be doing and what the larger meaning market could be, and what offers and services fit in, you touch on selecting models and vehicles. So I’m always thinking why not be able to buy the sporty one – but get 5 free rentals a year for when the family needs a larger vehicle for soccer games or something like that. You know, bake that in as the augmented product. Relieving difficult choices, in a way. Because it’s not about buying a car, it’s about transportation, mobility – even family logistics, when you think about it.

So now I found this similar offer/service/nudge from BMW to make the decision of buying the i3 easier. Good one.

The exercise of thinking Product (category) vs. Meaning (value of the (bigger/multiple) market(s)) is one that I stress every brand and organisation to do in a recurring manner. It sits in the project/process/challenge of figuring out the digital strategy, mind you. It’s because technology and digital, if we allow ourselves to refer to it as loosely as that, is driving societal changes. That means what you do, who you are and how you do things – can, and will, drastically change. Meaning your basic existence is the topic. That’s a cultural question, not a technical one. And that, dear reader, is the most importan distinction to be made when getting an organisation of not-so-tech-interested people to start pulling in the same direction. To feel ownership in a question that they, hence, understand and grasp (culture and meaning as opposed to that “digital stuff”).

I use meaning* and not purpose. I might seem like semantics but I think the two are distinctively different. With brands defining their purpose, I think often we see an inside/out perspective still lurking there. It’s our purpose (for us) vs. the meaning (for users). Meaning is about the new markets (and business ideas, models and revenue models) that can be identified and that may not resemble anything your used to from before (scary). The value they provide and generate. Purpose is centered too much around a statement about the brand and doesn’t get “verbified” as well.

Have you phrased, framed and begun the cultural transformation that is the result of technological change yet?

* I am aware that if you are looking at the word meaning in the context of brands and consumption, we also have another definition in the consumer culture research discipline. I use meaning markets more in a business development sense, where function/utility takes precedence over the development of signaling powers of brands, although the two are intertwined.

A Ted Talk where Bill Ford Jr shares some thinking on the future of transportation and mobility (2011).