social media

Customer Experience: We Want To Be Adored

this post originally appeared in CMSWire

Customer Experience Management: We want to be adored.

Customer Experience Management is the latest impossible to define, understand or implement concept coming at the enterprise. We think it might have something to do with Marketing or Customer Support or Metrics. It is owned by the CMO or maybe the COO or IT or Sales. Oh – it’s a corporate-wide initiative. We love those. We have maturity models, so it must be important, and tantalizingly, some organizations are very successful with it.

But what is it? And how do we get a grip on this swirl of a (dare I say wicked?) problem? How do we organize our thoughts and our actions around it to reach that green light at the end of the dock, the customer experience that customers love.

1. Aspire

You want to be wanted and valued. You want people to want to associate with you. You want people to think of you as an example. You want them to enjoy your company, so to speak. Because the most financially successful companies are the ones that are cherished. It is more than that, of course. You want to be cherished because, other than a few poikiotherms on the financial strategy team, the people in your organization would rather be great than not.

Interestingly, customers (alternatively known as “users”, or more colloquially, “people”) also want to be cherished. They want to be valued, they want to be accommodated, and they want to get at least fair value out of their investments of time, energy and money.

If you want this kind of emotional response from your customer, you have to convey a dedication to purpose and sense of values that make your brand and your brand experiences meaningful. You have to aspire to be great.

I am proposing a model of CXM that is based on three key principals: Meaning, Value and Accommodation. These principles set up a pattern for thinking about your work that will help your organization make the many small moves on the many, many fronts that will lead to success.

2. Meaning, Value and Accommodation

Research in the 1990’s showed (not surprisingly) that, for consumer brands, the more positively people feel about the brand, the more financially successful the business is. In the newly social world, this is increasingly important. In the case of complex B2B and B2G companies, it is critical. This is why “no one ever got fired for choosing IBM” or Microsoft, for that matter. Malcom Gladwell dubbed this effect “Blink”, Simon Sinek calls it the Golden Circle. This is perhaps even more important when you are not selling to an individual, but to a team – as is normally the case in B2B and B2C sales. That emotional connection is one of the few shared “truths” of that entire team. This kind of truth makes your brand a very, very good investment.

But what does it mean to invest in your brand in the context of customer experience? It means three things: 1) Meaning 2) value and 3) accommodation – not always in that order.

What do we mean by meaning? A meaning or a purpose is the notion that your brand and your organization stands for something beyond a simple product or service. That there are values and aspirations you strive to embody and enable. Apple means design, power, cool, simplicity. Buick is the rebirth of Detroit. Levis is about the American experience. Disney is about family friendly entertainment. Zappos is about perfect customer service.

In most cases your aspiration or your meaning comes from a sense of where you’d like to go, and how you’d like to get there. In B2B business, it includes a sense of expertise, leadership and empowerment: expertise in the subject area, leadership in terms of helping customers understand how to move forward, and empowerment in terms of how the technology quality.

Everything you do can embody your meaning. Your website and its contents, your social media presence, your customer service process, your billboards and your billing. Look at each as an opportunity to be meaningful.

Value – as in any commercial transaction, the buyer should feel as though they are getting good value for the time and/or money they are investing. The measure of this varies widely, but the concept is simple.

Accommodation – here’s the key to great customer experience. How easy, comfortable and accommodating is your product, website, customer service, etc? Ease of use, convenience and a sense of being catered to – of being valued is critical at every stage of the relationship. Do your customers feel as though they are held hostage? Many banks, airlines and cable companies are held in this sort of contempt. To earn devoted customers and fans, make sure your product is a delight to use, and all of the other associated assets – your website, billing and customer service are equally

3. Know your customer

To truly be valuable and accommodating, you need to know and love your customers. There are several ways you must “know” your customers.
a. Intimately understand the market and people involved. Who are these people? What do they do with their time? How do they make decisions? What do they care about? Engage them in conversation – either through social media or IRL (in real life).
b. As much feedback as you can gather about how they feel about you and your products. from surveys, conversations, sentiment analysis and more.
c. Consistent and accessible customer information so that whenever anyone is talking or otherwise communicating with a customer, they know all they should about that customer’s history and relationship with the company.

d. Know your customer experience map
If you want to create a great experience you need to be aware of how your customers needs change at various point in your relationship. As you develop the design and content for each interaction, think through who’s coming to it, at what stage of their relationship, and with what goal in mind. Customer experience maps will vary from business to business, but will have this general shape. Consider your map a cheat-sheet for understanding the impact of each interaction, and what you want that impact to be. In general, you’ll be trying to move them up the slope to a closer relationship. What does this person need from you to move forward?

4. Build high quality experiences
Products, websites, self-service portals, customer communications, customer support, must all reach for excellence in their meaning value and accommodation. That means that they must do the right things, convey the right message, and do it in the most easy to use way possible. They must each demonstrate a careful consideration of the users needs and preferences.

5. Ensure a cohesive and coordinated experience for every customer at every stage.
If you’re a company of any size, it is not that easy for an individual know or recall every bit of what you have out there at any time. This is where the principles of meaning, value, and accommodation really come in. If everyone on the team is deeply attuned to purpose and message; and the marketing ops, service ops and creative teams have shared resources, capabilities, and access, a beautifully consistent and emergent whole can arise. Ensure that everyone understands the customer experience map (and the customer) and takes it into account as they plan and execute.
You may not have perfectly strict, choreographed consistency (or you might, if that’s your thing)– but that has its upside. It allows for learning and evolution.

6. One Ring to Rule Them All: Your Team

Every word, experience or image you exchange with a customer is created and delivered by your team. Your team is the driver of your customer experience. Interestingly, there are all kinds of interesting data about how employee engagement is a great predictor of customer satisfaction, and then of revenue, and even growth.

This – in addition to the fact that we all would prefer purposeful, engaging, self-actualized work to mind-numbing, conforming mediocrity – not to mention the limitless and breathtaking potential for invention and re-imagination that such engaged people have – is the best argument for investing in your team. Hire good people. Talk to them a lot. And give them fantastic tools for communication, collaboration and the execution of their work. Make certain they are meaningful, valuable, and a pleasure to use. (We also like a good dental plan and coffee.)

The Tempkin Group recently delivered a report that shows that companies with more engaged employees have better customer satisfaction as well as higher revenues.

Aberdeen also recently published  research (underwritten by my employer, OpenText) showing that great CXM makes a very big difference indeed, especially, (but not surprisingly), in customer retention.

In conclusion.
Roll up your sleeves, there’s work to do. Forrester says excellence here is yet rare. But focus that work on earning the respect and affection of the people who matter – our customers and ourselves. Enjoy how it feels and what it produces. Be adored.

The best is yet to come.

Five Essential Components of a Social Campaign

I don’t normally do “how to” posts.  But lately I have a problem – people keep asking me to “tweet this” or “promote” something. And in general I’m happy to do that. BUT.

I can’t help if what you want to promote socially is not inherently social to begin with. So what makes something social? Four things. There’s a dizzying array of superlative talent interpreting and expanding each of these items, but you must have all four in some form. Two out of three wont’ work. Each is an opportunity for you to think through what you’re doing and make it important to someone. Anything left out and you’re letting potential relationships slide right past you.

So here it is. The five crucial components to any meaningful social marketing campaign.

1. Something to talk about.
I can’t talk about something that’s essentially a slogan or tag line. Its not conversational. So please – give me something to say. Are you changing the world? DO you have an interesting point of view? Have you don’t something with someone that was notable? Give us a topic of conversation. If you’re unsure about how to create a topic of conversation, the best way to start is to either a) talk about someone else (like a customer) or b) ask a question (what’s important to you?). Imagine yourself in a social situation – would you talk about it? Because that’s what social media is – a social situation.

2. A destination.
If I hear about this out there in the face-tube-twit-blogosphere, and I’m interested, where am I going to go to find out more? You need a destination that aggregates all of the content that you are distributing and tells your whole story in a cohesive, meaningful way. When I get to your destination, my first reaction should be “wow” not “what?” Your destination is probably a website. It should be obvious how this web site relates to the conversation, and how to go further in the discussion. Does your destination tell a clear story?

3. A way to engage.
Your destination must provide a way to engage – to ask a question, share a comment, thought or link, try something, do something. This is often called a “call to action.” But if you have a “call to action” with no action available other than “buy now” or “have someone call me” then you aren’t trying to engage people, you’re just pitching them. Many people aren’t ready to buy on their first visit – and few want a sales person to call them (do you?) so there needs to be another choice for those who are somewhere else along the relationship path.

4. A way to stay engaged – or build an ongoing relationship.
Give me a way or reason to stay in touch, or let me give you a way to get in touch with me. Subscribe to the blog, sign up for updates or a newsletter or a series of events. Let me learn about upcoming events. Give me a way to keep track of you, and to participate in an ongoing fashion. Otherwise I might forget about you. A blog makes this easy – especially with a big SUBSCRIBE HERE button on top.

5. A way to tell others about it. You have to have the Tweet, In Share, Like, and very importantly email buttons on there. Don’t forget. Don’t forget that especially in a B2B setting, your goal isn’t to educate and win over the person in front of you – its to give that person what he or she needs to educate and win over the next person they talk to. Make sure your message is clear and your assets are sharable.

In someways this may be what “pull” boils down to or what “inbound” marketing actually means. Create interest or meaning, create a place for that meaning, a way to express what it means to them, a way to act on that meaning and a way to sustain and share that meaning.

10 Extraordinary things.

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This is a list of links to talks, videos, slides, infographics and blog posts that have raised the bar for marketing, or fundamentally impacted my thinking. These are precious to me, and I hope that something here will move you as it did me.

1. This is the most beautiful, and most important talk I’ve seen on business and marketing this year. Michelle Holiday on Life and Business.

2. Mark Fidelman is very smart and has superb visual design skills. Here he channels his frustration at a bad airline experience, and his social business savvy into a nicely presented and critical bit of research showing that employee satisfaction is a major predictor of customer satisfaction.

3. An economist describes why we can’t build a toaster and why that’s a good thing. New concept: Person Bytes as measure of national capability.

4. One of my more popular blog posts was translated into French! My Enlightenment 2.0 article in French. It was a big deal for me. The original English can be read here.

5. You have seen or read a parade of things that claim to tell you how to be more creative. This is the only one I’ve ever seen that resonated with me as truthful. Creative discipline.

6. In the face of unspeakable misery, an ingenious solution, and an advertisement. Will I start drinking carbonated beverages?

7. Nike gave us a most incredible example of what social media and mobile can do for people – and marketing.

8. David Brooks, The New Humanism. Honestly, I haven’t read enough of Brooks’ work to even take a stand on his politics, though I understand that they may not resonate with my own. Nevertheless, this piece is outstanding for its beauty, insight and sumptuous new vocabulary words.

9. Chrysler completely reset the bar for advertising at the Super Bowl. While everyone else was hocking day-glo colored chips with fart humor, Chrysler elegantly tapped the angst, spirit and aspiration, of one of the hardest hit parts of the American economy . Stunning.

10. Happy Rambles – sends me an email at 8pm each night. So just before bedtime, I have the chance to ask myself, my kids, my dinner guests – what are you grateful for today? Thank you, Happy Rambles, for the habit of gratitude and the pleasure of reviewing our year through this filter.

Making Sense: The Next iPhone will be a Tricorder

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This article originally appeared in CMSWire

This past summer, I took a cab from SFO to downtown SF. I pulled out my credit card to pay the tab, and the cabbie hands me his iPhone – with a little thing stuck in the earphone jack. It was a tiny little credit card swiper. Moments later I read the email receipt of this transaction on my iPhone. This was significant because a taxi driver in D.C. a few weeks earlier had told me how expensive it is to have a traditional card reader in his cab, so I’d better have $50 cash if I want to get to the suburbs. Then, on the airplane, flipping through that catalogue that no one ever buys from, I saw a blood pressure cuff for iPhone. Its also available at Walgreens which qualifies it as mainstream for me. Just yesterday the FDA approved a Blood Glucose monitor for the i-devices. A little Google time shows me that there are also body-weight scales, projectors, and high-end microphones available. Not to mention pedometers. Actually, lets do mention pedometers. Nike mapped data from runners in London over a 15 day period. Early starts, late starts, distance runners, sprinters, neighborhoods. Its inspiring, cool, social, big data and beautiful. It is action as art. I love Nike.

But my swooning over data-aggregation-and-visualization-to push-sneakers is not the point I’m trying to make here. I joked on twitter a few months ago that the iPhone 6 would be a tricorder. Since I’ve only watched the William Shatner Star Trek (in syndication), and I don’t know the Whoopie Goldburg-and-beyond lingo, I don’t really know if you “millenials” will get what I mean by that, so I’ll explain. McCoy – he was the tech-enabled country doctor and Captain Kirk’s wing-man. He had this thingamabobber that looked like (and probably was) a tape recorder (remember those?) turned on its side. When he encountered a sick or injured person or Styrofoam rock-creature, he waved this thingy, and was able to learn everything about it. What it was made of, body temperature, heart rate, how it felt about its parents, etc. Great theatre.

Extra sensory perception.

We are all (and by “all”, I mean me, and probably you, and the people who are like us) now walking around with these devices that bring the power of the interwebz to our current context. It started (for me) by being able to walk through a dark parking lot with a cell phone in hand so that I wasn’t afraid, because my friends, family, and police were literally in my hand. A decade or so later, sightseeing in London, I was able to find out the history behind the statue and this “Cromwell” figure I was staring at. Now I can not only view my banking but make transactions with my phone (not the browser, the phone). And join a community of runners who run when and how I do. Now my phone is not just a source of information and communication it is a sensor. I can sense my environment – where I am and how fast I’m moving. I can sense information through QR codes (yeah, I know they’re still bombing, but that’s a different topic). I can sense financial info through a little doo-hicky. I can sense my blood pressure and glucose. I’m guessing the next great thing will be a thermometer to check your child’s fever and send it to the pediatrician. Perhaps I can sense how many people are in line at Starbucks before I detour there. In Paris, I could “sense” how far I was from a metro station or Notre Dame (though not without some glitches). And, critically, I could record and share it all with my family in real time. I may never need to send another postcard again. My phone is becoming a tricorder. I bet the military or MIT is working on a spectrophotometer – something that you can wave around and detect the presence of airborne chemicals or agents. Our generation’s coal-mine canary. Or perhaps cheap, portable night vision for every smart-phone owner?

Its not the internet of things, its the internet of senses.

Let me draw a different arc. In the beginning, human-kind spent their time searching for food, water and shelter. We were at the mercy of our environment. Fire, electricity, engineering and chemistry helped us master our environment. Communications helped us transcend and connect environments (we’re still evolving there, but still). We do not exactly control our environment, but we control its impact on us (within certain limitations). We are now taking what William Gibson called our “Constantly-improving, communal, prosthetic memory” and giving ourselves the ability to sense, record, share and compare what is happening right now, in our own personal context. We have built extra-sensory perception. My daughter asked me how many senses we have – she was thinking of the big five, vision, taste, etc. But our phones (which were once about talking ) are giving us a personal sense of location, speed, density, momentum, chemistry and what else? How many senses do we have now? As we stumble through our business transformations from mobile to social to cloud to big data, we arrive at the shore of sensing.

Business Sense?

Is there a business of Sense? You tell me. But I’d pay a buck ninety-nine if I could wave my phone next to my kids ear and pediatrician McCoy could diagnose her ear infection without having to bundle her up and take her to the office and then the pharmacy. I bet my insurance company would even spot me the dough. Field MRI? Traffic de-congestion? Food freshness ? The consumer market may be ready to buy as much as we can deliver. And the enterprise too. We talk about crowdsourcing – now think crowd-sensing. What could it mean for our comfort, convenience, medical care, food safety? What if the organization as organism grows literal eyes and ears as the workforce forms its nervous system? How will we tumble apace with this cascade of possibility? How will markets, organizations and humans change?

The market will absorb lots of new tech for a while – the field is very wide open. But how quickly will we generate meaning? The social media frontier may be tamed (or taming) but the sensing frontier is just beginning.

How will organizations take advantage? Ahead of the game right now are the UPS-type guys in the field with scanners, and the Starbucks folks who know what coffee beverage I chose (and probably who I drank it with) this morning. Look for hints there. Tricky issues of price/cost and bandwidth I leave for others to tackle. But while I hold off spending $75 a month for my 12 year old to have the world in his pocket, I’m not sure I’ll be able to say no when my 7 year old hits middle school. Must it cost that much? The carriers will play a pivotal role here.

The real McCoy?

So as i walk down the street now able to sense if the street vendors have the flu, the only thing missing from my tricorder will be the ee-ooowooo sound, I hope to channel some of Dr. McCoy’s folksy intuition and wisdom (“Dammit, Jim, he’s just a boy!”). I wonder, though, will my innate senses atrophy? Will my ability to read a map, never particularly acute to begin with, wither entirely away? Progress is change, change is a tradeoff. Tom Wujec’s TED talk gives a flavor of this kind of tradeoff by looking at how we told time 500 years ago. In the 16th century, the 1% checked time on an an Astrolabe – an insanely complex device that requires a good bit of training, astronomy and agility. Now time is a trivial matter. We’ve learned a lot as a society, but we’ve forgotten a lot as individuals. Will the “Watson”-enabled doctor (or CEO, or mom for that matter) retain the ability to research and ask important questions and question their results?
Our society has always had a deep and ever growing pool of wisdom – though it spent a few years out of fashion, its definitely the new black. Art, design and philosophy are re-surging as essential tools of society and business. Are they building new wisdom as we trade some older wisdoms for our new techno-senses?

The best is yet to come.

The amazing speaker series – Part One – Simon Sinek

This speaker series has been amazing. Not just for the people who’ve spoken, or even the remarkable gatherings of people who’ve come, or the generosity and insight of the dozen or so bloggers who’ve written about it. This speaker series was amazing because it has taught me more, and introduced me to more people than any other thing I’ve done in my professional life. I’ll write another post properly sharing the lessons and the blog posts, but here I want to focus on the great talks we’ve seen so far:

Simon Sinek was first in Manhattan. We chose Simon to kick off because his message was so acutely aligned with what we were trying to embody and pass on – that purpose matters – to you, your team, your market, your partners, your investors. His talk was also interesting because he took the brave step of stepping away from his standard talk, and opened up about a wide range of topics. Here’s an excerpt. Enjoy his light-hearted but kinda serious link between good business and world peace, and the fact that while Microsoft worries about Apple, Apple probably spends very little time worrying about Microsoft:

Next: I’ll talk aout Michael Edson’s thoughtful view of our recent past, and our immediate present. .

And there’s still time to RSVP to the last event in this phase of the series: Andrew McAfee talks about his new book, Race Against the Machine. Boston, Nov 1: Sign up to attend this free breakfast seminar in person or the live video stream.

Could E2.0 really mean Enlightenment 2.0?

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This is a cross-post of my current article in CMSWire. I hope you enjoy it.

Social Business doesn’t mean what you think it does. And neither does E2.0

“Social Business” is not about technology, or about “corporate culture”. It is a sociopolitical historical shift that is bigger, broader and much more fascinating.

A new perspective is changing how we think about society, politics, interpersonal relationships, science, government and business. New approaches are emerging. Learning and self-expression are exploding. Values are changing. Leadership is changing. The economy is changing. Change itself is changing – it is accelerating and becoming the norm.

Business structures founded on command and control, automation and process are giving way to structures that are less hierarchical and more dynamic, designed to engage people’s hearts and minds to make a difference in the world. Business models of the past – some of which focused on exploiting resources – human, resource, financial or legal – are beginning to fail as we reach the limits of their sustainability (Umair Haque’s New Capitalist Manifesto is a very well written and brilliant description of these forces). The new successful businesses and governments are building, not destroying. Creating durable value that is greater than the cost (financial, societal, environmental and otherwise) of the resources they consume.

In the past most business value was derived from controlling land, resources or intellectual property (processes, technologies and patents). A “Social Business” is one that derives most of its value from the hearts and minds of people who work there and the people who buy from them. A social business’s first priority is not structure or process, but the aspiration and approach that engages those hearts and minds.

If the industrial revolution’s idea of a great business was one in which every role, process and activity was well defined and controlled by management, social business is one in which every employee and customer are aligned around a common purpose.

There are 2 shifts in thinking that are driving the move to “Social Business”

1. From Command and Control to Network Management.

We have maxed out what we can do with Command and Control organizations, and we’re learning to manage networks of capable people instead.
Social Businesses are beginning to recognize that we’ve fully milked the mechanistic, reductionist concepts that lead to command and control, and to go forward, we need a new model.

Let me put that into English – Since the dawn of civilization, most organizations – governments, military and businesses – have operated in a command and control fashion. Why? First, this was the only way to communicate at scale, and second, people lacked, or were thought to lack the competence and/or the will to operate independently toward the leaderships goals. The communication problem is rapidly disappearing (though it lingers), and higher levels of education generally have profoundly reduced the need for command and control, while the complexity of the world and need for speed have diminished its effectiveness.

Stuff is changing so fast that the rigid mechanistic structures are simply failing. It has actually become harder to be productive in a big organization – economies of scale are reversing themselves in command and control environments. And in these new organizations that are networks of capable individuals who have great communications tools, leadership emerges as more important than command structure. even if most people have never heard of John Holland and Complexity Theory (I’ve recently been reminded how obscure they still are).

Hierarchy, process and automation are returning to their proper place – as tools that support human efficiency and capability. Rather than the 20th century model of people existing to keep the processes running, we are now flipping it around so that processes exist to support us. Processes and automation amplify human capability. Importantly, there is another profound amplifier of human capability – and that is other humans! The focus on collaboration fueled by radically improved communication and the internet that William Gibson deliciously described as our “increasingly efficient, communal, prosthetic memory” is dramatically changing how we think about organizational structure, efficiency, learning and innovation – even if most people have never heard of Complexity Theory.

2. Business needs people and people need respect.

To do good work, people must constantly be scanning their environment, understanding and inventing solutions to problems. Command and control is not the best way to encourage or benefit from this – particularly as the organization grows large. Consumers (constituents, clients etc), similarly, are tired of being taken for granted, and also wish to be respected as the ultimate judges of your organization’s value. The same increase in talent, education and capability that makes networked organizations possible, means that the people themselves have thought beyond their occupation as a means to survival. They want more from it, and want to offer more to it.

Hence, your organization is now in the business of earning and maintaining the respect of your market and your team. Your team is useless to you if it is not well respected, and your market will simply walk away if it thinks you are trying to trick, cajole or manipulate it. Daniel Pink’s research shows that people, in order to be truly motivated in their work, require autonomy, mastery and purpose. Simon Sinek goes on to show how purpose is also key to market success. The common thread here is respect. Respect the purpose of your organization, respect the capabilities of your workforce, respect the attention and value of your customers.

Command and Control doesn’t allow for that kind of engagement. A strictly hierarchical organization struggles to engage and consider each of its employees. Executives miss many, many opportunities for insight and problem solving because they don’t know how or don’t value the contribution of their corps. Similarly, a company that is not maximizing the amount of engagement between its employees and the people they serve are walking away from the real value potential they have – which is to understand an audience, and share their perspective with it.

Social Business is one that recognizes that their mission is engaging hearts and minds to achieve excellence. Social Business is about respecting people.

Geeking out on the riff, or what E2.0 really stands for

Social Business is a reflection of a larger societal shift. Its tempting to draw analogies between what is happening now and the Enlightenment, which began transforming Europe in the mid 17th century and ran straight into the the 18th. The Enlightenment changed how we westerners thought. We went from norms of feudalism and mythology to democracy, rationalism and reductionism.
It brought us both democracy and the industrial revolution. Woah. It took a century or so, but it was a radical rewrite of how we think about who we are and how we live.
It was hastened on its way by the invention of the printing press, Newtonian math and science, Liberalism, and a number of philosopher scientists who were later excommunicated.

The enlightenment was characterized by an intellectual elite that saw the opportunity for a better world. It gave us the tools to re-explore the world from a rational, reductionist perspective using scientific principles – predictable consequences of any action – to transform everything from navigation to technology and society itself. It was hastened on its way by the invention of the printing press, Newtonian math and science, Liberalism, and the work of philosopher scientists who were frequently excommunicated.

Rationalism lead to a massive diffusion and expansion of scientific knowledge, math and technology. in this mindset, the perfect system, the perfect business structure, was one where every variable was known, every detail calculated. Whether consciously or un, we tried to model our organizations after these ideals. When every variable was known, we would have complete control. Henry Ford capitalized (so to speak) on this principle with his famous assembly lines. Things became fast and consistent – a fundamental enabler of the industrial revolution and mass production which allowed for the creation of an educated middle class. [This TED talk which looks at how the invention of the washing machine lead to the modern concept of parenting, seems at first blush silly and then absolutely profound. Imagine if women in developing countries didn’t have to carry water – but I digress (and you should too – the TED talk and water stats are worth seeing).]

Enlightenment 2.0, which we could argue is what’s happening now, has been catalyzed by quantum mechanics (you really can’t know it all, sister), complexity theory, and social media technologies, is leading us from the age of reason to the age of – emergence (?!?) – where we will start to understand that while we cannot predict or control what will happen, we can surf it. It is enriched by humanist thinking and a general increase in the global standard of living that allows people to care about determining their lives, rather than simply surviving. We are again seeing the rise of the polyglot polymath- the person who knows some science, some philosophy, some business, some politics and is taking control of producing their ideas. (Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson are as well known for their contributions to science and technology as to politics). This is a time when we are again inventing, acting, doing as well as learning. This will change the way we think and act as dramatically as the first Age of Enlightenment, though it may take as long to unfold. It takes a while to re-wire the human psyche.

Human behavior is one of the most non-deterministic, irreducible forces we deal with in day to day life. The Enlightenment respected that, at the same time as it created the paradoxes of command and control and mechanistic views of the world. We’re now able to come back and reevaluate the role of human complexity in society. Enlightenment 2.0 is causing Enterprise 2.0 to embrace complexity and human behavior.

A Social Business is a business that respects and profits from the complexity and unlimited potential of people.

The best is yet to come.

Wicked Teams for Wicked Problems

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Earlier this week, CMSWire published a well-edited version of this article. What follows is the unexpurgated, much longer version. Pick your poison.

What are Wicked Problems?

Some problems are such complex, entangled, multifaceted hairballs that we cannot approach them alone. They change and morph as quickly as our ability to understand them. They are known to academics as “wicked problems”, and we need a new way to take them on.
The challenges of modern enterprises are wicked: How do we compete? What should our next product do? How do we structure? Traditional divide and conquer, top-down organizational structures are a mismatch for these types of problems.
So, how to address these wicked problems then? The fog is beginning to clear on the answer: work as teams, collapse the boundary between learning and doing, embrace the rapid pace of change.

All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned from a Video on How to Build a Raft

If you are a member of my GenX cohort, you will remember the PBS show, ZOOM. It would occasionally do feature segments on kids who’d done really cool things. Like building a raft from scratch. It was clear to me even at 8 or 10 years old that these kids were doing something special: -that is they were doing something.
This skill – to simply “do” – despite a lack of resources or formal expertise – is a key part of succeeding in wicked environments. This is the skill of Benjamin Frankin, the California 49ers, Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea, Thomas Edison, and Johnny Appleseed – this willingness to simply give it a go, learn from the flops and keep on going. It is the skill that brought us from the Age of Enlightenment into the Industrial Age. As we continue to stare down the intractable “Wicked Problems” of the 20th and 21st centuries, we need to mainstream this skill to catapult us from the Information Age into the Transformation Age.

Wicked Problems are Wicked Important

In 1973, Horst Rittel, and Melvin Webber were professors at UC Berkeley (Science of Design and City Planning respectively), and they published a paper that is getting some renewed attention. They give an overview of wicked problems in public policy:
Policy problems cannot be definitively described. Moreover, in a pluralistic
society there is nothing like the undisputable public good; there is no objective definition of equity;
policies that respond to social problems cannot be meaningfully correct or false; and it makes no
sense to talk about “optinaal solutions” to social probIems unless severe qualifications are imposed
first. Even worse, there are no “solutions” in the sense of definitive and objective answers.
Dr Tom Ritchie, a consultant on such problems, has written this succinct review of of wicked problems and says this:
“They are messy, devious, and reactive, i.e. they fight back when you try to “resolve” them.”
Wicked Problems are entangled issues and problems where no definitive or objective analysis of the root causes or ultimate solution is possible. These are problems where the number of people involved can make the problem worse. It’s the herding cats problem. Each tug at the issue changes the problems so that it evolves even as we try to fix it. The most obvious examples of such problems are world poverty or obesity.
Wicked problems are different from very hard problems. Putting a rocket on the moon is a very hard problem, but it’s not wicked, because the goal is pretty straightforward; it’s just really hard. DARPA’s red balloon challenge was very difficult, but not wicked (though the solution was wicked cool, and yes, I’m from Brockton). Righting a troubled economy — that’s wicked.
Not all wicked problems are as profound as the economy, energy crisis or hunger. The challenge at the core of nearly all business and government is around these problems. How to structure a business unit, how to design and build a product, how to build value in a dynamic and competitive market (how to defeat terrorism and stabilize Pakistan also classifies); these are wicked problems too.

Enterprises are rife with wicked problems

Why do we care that these problems are wicked? Because the inability to deal with wicked problems can be the undoing of an organization — keeping it forever stagnant, or worse, spiraling downward. These are the problems that can be so pervasive we barely dare try to solve them, or heroically throw ourselves against time and time again to little avail. They do not respond well to divide and conquer solutions. What they do respond to, are heterogeneous teams of people who transcend conflicting agendas, and target their coordinated expertise — and ability to learn and discover — on the problem.
Most organizations are hierarchical and inherently designed for divide and conquer. This patter is optimal for finding algebraic solutions to the kinds of traditional problems that organizations were designed to solve. The problem is that core issues of strategy, positioning, product development, solution development, marketing are not divide and conquer problems. They require holistic approaches. They are never solved, they only get better or worse.
Businesses that handle these problems well, have tucked away a very good team somewhere in their leadership or in some other very influential role that is addressing the problems collaboratively. John Seely Brown’s (Co-Chair of the Deloitte Center for the Edge, and former PARC Chief Scientist) describes these team as “marinating together in the problem space”. Without these teams and their diversity of perspective, you lack the intensity and pace required to make progress on wicked problems. (Have you noticed the recent uptick in use of the vulgar term for a failure? It has the word “cluster” in it. I’m sure this is an instinctive knowledge that the entanglement of issues is the real issue).
Three themes to note regarding wicked problems..

1. Change is part of the challenge. These problems are not static – they morph and wiggle away from any attempt to pin them down.
2. People are a source of, and the solution to, complexity. The more people, the more complexity, the more ability to comprehend and understand them. It’s confusing, but while an uncoordinated crowd of people makes things complex and wicked, a coordinated team is required to make progress (so approach matters).
3. The concept of the social network is changing our approach to problem solving. There are some wicked cool thinking emerging around groups, teams, learning and change which could revolutionize the approach to solving wicked problems.

The Age of Constant Disruption and Actionability

Our reality is getting disrupted. Often. Have you watched this speech that John Seely Brown gave as a closing keynote at the 2010 New Media Consortium? It is an hour long and every minute is fascinating (except for the first few, while he gets warmed up). Brown explains that we’ve entered a revolutionary age where we will never again have a status quo to maintain, and that radical new concepts of “extreme learning” will be the dominant way that people excel.

This age is every bit as radical as the French and American revolutions that introduced the notion of democracy to the world. This revolution is far beyond the political, however. It features technology, economics, sociology and culture. Brown suggests that the revolutionary period that we’re in will mean that the pace of change — radical change — will, for the duration of our and our children’s lifetimes, be so intense that we will never again live in a predictable world.
Brown goes on to talk about how some people make incredible progress in these up-heaved times through intense learning and doing.
What we need to do right now to solve hard problems is to team with other smart (passionate) people, “marinate in the problem space” together and progress — not simply by applying expertise and effort, but by vigorous application of our creativity to find new ideas, possibilities and connections that we can leverage and mash up (if you will) into new solutions that we try, test and discard as we find the next.
Brown offers terrifically entertaining examples of this, including how a cohort of boys became world champion extreme surfers. He focuses on working together with others and doing, as studying. It’s a great talk.
When I first started watching Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig’s TED talk several years ago, I was unimpressed with the “laws stifle creativity” theme he begins with.
But within minutes, I embraced his notion that what we need to do is actually encourage people to use existing work as the basis for new work and to re-purpose things in novel new ways. That this was the ultimate creative process. He proved to me that until we put the means of production (that is tools with which we can make things real – at least in the realm of media) into every school child’s hands (and their parents too), we are profoundly inhibiting our cultural, economic, personal and global progress.
In his recent review of “The Social Network” he makes a similar point when he argues that what was disappointing in the film was that it failed to highlight the difference between being brilliant and converting that into action. The ability to do this as never before is what made Facebook, and what can make the next great innovation.
So what we have here is this: a wildly unpredictable world and an infinite toolkit with which to explore and manipulate it.

You Can Do Anything With a Decent Team and a Laptop

Chess is not actually a wicked problem. The end state is well defined, but it has certain wicked characteristics (infinite problem/solution space). Individual chess moves have a wicked flavor to them. Chess is an iteration of think, act and think again — which should, perhaps be the new motto of work (hopefully replacing my alma mater’s “grandescunt aucta labore” which I always thought was a near miss).
A few months ago, Andrew MacAfee wrote about what Kasparov had learned about how to win at chess. It used to be that individual genius reigned supreme. Then in the 1990s, computers broke that barrier. Now in the aughts, it seems the way to beat both the computers and the savants is by working collaboratively with a team of decent (not necessarily stellar) players supported by decent technology and good process.
From McAfee’s piece:
The overall winner was a team that contained neither the best human players nor the biggest and fastest computers. Instead, it consisted of “a pair of amateur American chess players using three computers at the same time. Their skill at manipulating and “coaching” their computers to look very deeply into positions effectively counteracted the superior chess understanding of their grandmaster opponents and the greater computational power of other participants.”
Let me say that again. A team with a bit of sense and technology can consistently outperform a genius and the world’s most powerful computer in working through a wicked(ish) problem. For real! Take that back to the executive team.
Enterprise 2.0 Is an Approach to Wicked Problems
We are to rising to the challenge of Wicked Problems by getting better at dealing with change and working as teams. We will be changing our divide and conquer mentality to marinate together in the problem space and to work jointly with our hands to produce tangible results that we can jointly examine, and manipulate into its next evolution.
Great teams are found in many organizations, but these are the exception and not the norm. Increasingly, great teams, enabled by sensible processes and good technology will be the engines of progress.
For those who consider Enterprise 2.0 to be just a strategy or a tool-set or a marketing plan, I say this – Enterprise 2.0 is but the first step of a profoundly more interesting and effective way to do business (or government). It is an extreme, full-impact sport that touches everything we do as an organization – who we work with and how, what we work on and why. The technology we work with too.
Our wicked challenges require the diversity and experience of teams – as well as their ability to tap into and integrate new ideas and information. Our solutions will be tried and transient – keeping pace with the challenges they are meant to solve.

If you see these trends like I do, you’ll help us learn how to do these things better:

1. We need to work as teams – not a set of people with similar job titles, but real, collaborative, mission-focused, process-oriented, esprit de corp, i’ll-cover-your-backside-and-I-know-you’ve-got-mine teams.
2. Work is learning is doing – we need people who DO as much as people who cogitate. Our society has lost most of its DO, but we’re getting it back, and we need to accelerate the rise of the Do-er . (all hail the Makers Fair and this Father and son Team Homemade Spacecraft on Vimeo).
3. Change is the norm – we must start to learn and work in a way that is extremely agile, deeply and broadly informed. Normal isn’t normal anymore.