Maybe our virtual/digital future doesn’t need to be so virtual

Tableau: physical email from John Kestner on Vimeo.

As our social circle spreads across a wider geographic area, we look for ways to share experiences. Technology has reconnected us to some extent, but the interfaces are not as simple as handling physical media. My great aunt Olga loves writing letters and shuffling through photos. I, on the other hand, write emails and share photos on Flickr, and as a result, we don’t communicate nearly as much as we’d like.

Tableau is a refinished heirloom nightstand that stores and retrieves memories using a Twitter account. It acts as a bridge between users of physical and digital media, taking the best parts of both. The nightstand quietly drops photos it sees on its Twitter feed into its drawer, for the owner to discover. Images of things placed in the drawer are posted to its account as well.

Tableau is an anti-computer experience. The nightstand drawer becomes a natural interface to a complex computing task, which now fits into the flow of life.

(music: “Two Steps” by my buddy Pete Grosso)

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What might future media look like?

Media surfaces: Incidental Media from Dentsu London on Vimeo.

This is the first of two video sketches illustrating some of the ideas and principles behind Dentsu London’s communications strategy Making Future Magic


Here, media includes messages from friends and social services, like Foursquare or Twitter, and also more functional messages from companies or services like banks or airlines alongside large traditional big ‘M’ Media (like broadcast or news publishing).


The second sketch “The Journey”, looks at train travel. You can see it here


This is part of a collaboration between Dentsu London and BERG. You can read more about both films at Dentsu London’s blog and on BERG’s blog here and here


This film is under a Creative Commons 3.0 license, which means you’re free to share or use any of the ideas in it, with proper attribution to Dentsu London and BERG

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What could go better with infinity theory than Quantum Levitation

Thanks again to John Howard

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Now I know why my brain hurts!

Isn’t the universe wonderful.

From one blog post I get enlightened but then a headache.  Then on the next I get to understand why!

Thanks to Neil Perkin for this.


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Buzz Lightyear knew more than I thought

Found this on John Howard’s “Of Passing Interest” Posterous.


Like him, my brain hurts a bit, but what struck me was the fact that I laughed with joy at some of the things said about our universe based on the theories of infinity.


Maybe it’s just me!

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How to deal with Paradigm Shifts


Last week saw the death of Joe Frazier.  Unsurprisingly his funeral yesterday was attended by some of his equally acclaimed adversaries, including Mohammed Ali and George Foreman. Between the 3 of them they put some of the greatest heavyweight bouts in the history of the sport.  There was “The Thriller in Manilla between Ali and Frazier, and ‘The Rumble in the Jungle” between Ali and Foreman in Zaire in 1974.

George Foreman is a unique man in that he is equally famous as one of the greatest heavyweight boxers who has ever lived, and as the inventor of the George Foreman Grill.

Hearing of Frazier’s death,  I was reminded of both these particular bouts and strangely also  of a lecture given by Dr Mohammed El-Erian at the Oxford Martin School in November 2009, which referenced the Jungle Rumble.

Dr El-Erian is and was at the time CEO and co-CIO of PIMCO, one of the world’s largest bond investors, managing assets of nearly US$1.34 trillion.  The title of his lecture was “The End of Business as Usual” and dealt with the impact and consequences of the global credit crunch and used the now widespread phrase ’ the New Normal’ (which is distinctly different to the way it is used by The Futures Company and the Future Foundation).

He posited that we are moving from the old economic paradigm where the USA was at the core, as both the engine and as lender of last resort, to a new paradigm where the core of the global economy will be made up of several countries including the BRIC economies.  He saw getting there it as a bumpy ride, not least because in confusion and facing a paradigm shift it is human nature to hang onto the familiar old paradigm (what behavioural economics calls ‘anchoring’).

He referred to Don Sull’s book The Upside of Turbulence, to give examples of how often we react to paradigm shifts by doing more of what we have always done (a process called ‘active inertia’) with the end result being defeat and, in business terms, closure or merger.

And this is where the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ analogy comes in.Dr El-Erian uses this fight as an example of how best to react to paradigm shifts such as the ones we are now facing. Indeed recent events suggest that we are facing shifts not just confined to economics, and that indeed the scale of the shifts bot economic and cultural are are much greater than was foreseen in 2009.  He sees the key strategies for success being ones of agility and adaptability.

At the time Ali was seen as an ageing fighter past his prime and up against a powerful younger undefeated world champion.  Unsurprisingly the betting markets had George Foreman odds-on to win.  Shockingly Ali won what is still considered by many the greatest heavyweight fight ever. Subsequently lots of studies have been done into how Ali triumphed, and Dr El-Erian points to the fact that Ali’s team recognised the paradigm shift he was facing, and that adopting the same training regime as had always been used, i.e. active inertia (to support his ‘float & sting’ style) would not work.  Just being agile would not be enough; he had to be adaptable as well.  So instead, at his training camp Ali faced ex-convicts in the ring was virtually beaten up everyday.

The experts’ expectation was that as soon as the fight began. Ali would start running around the ring (‘floating like a butterfly’) eventually tire George would land a big punch – fight over.   Instead he did the opposite, he put his hands up, covered his face and went back on the ropes to absorb better the power of the blows he received.  He was beaten up badly, but when Foreman tired Ali reverted to his old style and by the end of the 14th round Foreman had had enough.

It is this combination of agility and adaptability Dr El-Erian sees as fundamental to us successfully navigating the paradigm shift we face.

Perhaps George Foreman’s shift to grills is an example of how he responded to the shift that confronted him at the end of his boxing career.

We are seeing the impacts of the economic paradigm shift all around the world and often at national and local levels, and perhaps they are greater than even Dr. El Erian foresaw in 2009.  But his call for agility and adaptability are as prescient now as then.  We need to respond as individuals, communities, societies, companies and governments.  We can already see examples of politicians and organisations entrenched in the old paradigm, as well as movements such as “Occupy” calling for radical change. In the business/marketing arena initiatives such as Alex Bogusky’s Fearless Revolution represent an attempt to create new models.  The Jury may be out on Pepsi’s Refresh initiative, but it and others like it may just point to awareness for the need to adapt and be agile enough to encourage collaboration,  and point to a brighter future.


What do you think?

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Are You Building a Social Brand or a Social Business? Brian Solis

In this post Brian Solis makes some very important distinctions between social media, social CRM,  social marketing and social business (as well as CRMgt. and CRMkting. That is not to say that each is totally distinctive, but an appreciation of the where each has come from, and therefore what objectives drive them we can see more clearly the potential for misuse and ineffectiveness.

Are You Building a Social Brand or a Social Business?

Part 8 in a series introducing my new book, The End of Business as Usual…this series serves as the book’s prequel.

Social media says so much and so very little at the same time. First, social media implies that media is just that, social. But when you study many of the best practices or test the advice dispensed through popular “top 10″ posts, you find that at the heart of notable social media successes is simply brilliant creativity and desirable incentives, not necessary authentic or genuine value or engagement.  With every Tweet or Like to win campaign, hilarious viral video, and user-generated promotional series, businesses make social media more of an oxymoron than a movement to transform two-way conversations into improved customer relationships.

According to an annual IBM study, getting closer to customers is the overwhelming top priority for CEOs. And, social media is lauded as the great facilitator for engagement and renewed business relevance. What we tend to forget however, is that social networks are merely platforms for people to connect with friends, family and peers. Businesses are not the primary beneficiary of connections, but they can certainly benefit once they realize that a Like or follow does not equate to an opt-in for marketing communiqué.

If CEOs are placing increasing importance on customer relationships, why is it that we are less aligned with the “R” in social CRM and closer in alignment to the “M,” where M stands for marketing and not management. That’s because of where social media lives within the organization today.

In IBM’s recent “From Social Media to Social CRM” report, it was revealed that social media is already siloed within marketing, marketing communication, or public relations, accounting for 52%, 45%, and 42% ownership respectively. When we think about the primary function of each of those functions, it’s clear to see why the premise of many of today’s top social media best practices are marketing driven rather than market driven.

The difference between a social brand and a social business is internal connectedness, preparedness, and collaborative approach to customer and employee engagement.

A Social Media and Social CRM Strategy are Different

As good friend Paul Greenberg noted in his book CRM at the Speed of Light, “The underlying principle for Social CRM’s success is very different from its predecessor….traditional CRM is based on an internal operational approach to manage customer relationships effectively. But Social CRM is based on the ability of a company to meet the personal agendas of [its] customers while, at the same time, meeting the objectives of [its] own business plan. It is aimed at customer engagement rather than customer management.”

At stake here is relevance among the growing base of a more connected consumer landscape. Engaging consumers from a marketing-driven approach may work for the short term, but engagement requires a holistic approach. Consumers see one brand, one company, one experience and not a series of disconnected silos experimenting in social media without a common vision, mission, or process. While businesses are building an infrastructure to support social media, governance, policies, and strategies are only as strong as the experiences they’re designed to create, the problems they’re intended to solve, and the ability to adapt to and lead consumer experiences because you can see what others don’t.


IBM studied how businesses view their foundation for social media and found that many times, the prevailing corporate culture impeded innovation and collaboration, not just with consumers, but also within. And for any change agent, that will come as no surprise. Whether they know it or not, change agents are becoming hybrid cultural anthropologists and politicians learning how to adapt the culture while rallying internal champions to bring about real change.

Here you can see the number of businesses that have defined KPIs, flexible business models, established policies, adaptive approaches to incorporating social media into business strategies, and defined governance. The blue shades on the left equates to those that strongly agree while toward the right, companies start to show that they’re not where they would like to be. According to the IBM report, only 38% are confident in the support of their company in innovation and creativity. Just 30% can comfortably say that they have strong executive sponsorship for social media. And, a measly 27% say they share insights across functions.

Once you see these numbers, it’s clear that businesses are on the right path, but we’re really just at the beginning. More importantly, one could argue that the direction of the path is questionable. Even though the businesses on the far left are established and confident, they might be operating without a holistic strategy that spans across lines of business, products, functions or across the globe.

And what of a centralized or holistic approach, defined by a common goal and reinforced through not only governance, but compliance?The effects of connected consumerism require nothing less than internal transformation and in many ways, a new outlook.


The challenges that businesses face are still relatively immature as IBM discovered. ROI, employee use of social media, and negative brand exposure lead the top three challenges companies face today. In the number four and seven spots however, we see the true threat to progress, lack of strategy and lack of support. We can not march into new territory without a unified vision. We can not lead consumer experiences if those experiences are either undefined or unsupported by the leadership organization we’re to stand behind.

When’s the last time you looked at your mission and vision statement? Can you Tweet it? Does it speak to you? The truth is that in addition to processes, businesses must rethink who or what it is to a different breed of consumer. This consumer is not just social, they’re connected across networks, devices, and they influence and are influenced differently than traditional consumers.

Mo Data, Mo Problems

What we need to do, where we need to be, how, why and to what extent is available to us today. We won’t discover these answers in the form of brand or competitive monitoring using social tools. We must capture data, interpret it, and also act upon it, now and over time, to learn and pursue relevance without forgetting our core markets and competencies.


Companies are clearly capturing data as IBM found. But as you can see, how data is analyzed, interpreted, and in turn shared across the organization is scattered. And, what happens to information (or insights) once its distributed is unclear in this study, but we can assume that it isn’t embraced and acted upon across the board.

Businesses are experimenting. Businesses are learning and adapting. But this can’t just be about social media. This must be about using disruptive technology to improve customer experiences and relationships. We can’t find comfort until we’re clearly operating outside of our comfort zones. And even then, we can’t rest until we are meeting the needs of connected consumers, where they are, how they connect, and reinforce the values, products, and services that are important to them.

Times are a changing and as a result, the foundation of business must also change. It’s a new era of business and consumerism and you play a role in defining it.


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