Archive for the ‘Enchantment’ Category

Behind the scenes of the RSA Animate

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been a huge fan of the RSA Animate series, which entails them bringing together really insightful ideas and combining them with compelling visual storytelling.

CartoonDave250 While we were working on the Business Reimagined book, we were incredibly lucky to be able to take our story to the RSA and subsequently to work with the incredibly talented folks at Cognitive Media to create an RSA Animate for our story about the future of work.

The experience was nothing short of inspirational, and there are some great lessons here, not just for compelling story telling but in how organisations (and individuals) can work together to create incredible outcomes.

While the process is pretty simple: someone gives a (hopefully interesting) talk on an important topic.  The folks at Cognitive Media take a recording of the talk and sketch out a story and film it in a creative way. Simple right?  Well, yes, but that simplicity belittles the incredible creative energy, focus and insight that goes into the creation of this material.

Andrew Park, (the owner of the “hairy arm”) obviously takes a lot of pride in his work, but more importantly, invests a lot of effort in order to get the right outcome.  What I found really incredible is how much reading he did around the subject, ensuring that the view was both well informed, but equally inclusive of other discussions in this space.

My favourite though was just how much he tried to understand the character behind the story – I know I fulfil many stereotypes, but he managed to take both a complex story and a bunch of cultural cues from listening to me, and turned them into something wonderful, humorous and insightful. As a result, the experience was just phenomenal, it reminded me of just how important it is to understand the “client” in order to deliver an outcome that both exceeds the expectations of the potential outcome and takes both the client and the audience beyond engagement into that wonderful world of “Enchantment”.

Finally, if you want further evidence of the dedication and passion that goes into one of these incredibly engaging pieces of content, then take a look at the photo below, it hit my inbox around 4am with a note from Andrew saying “nearly there now…” (Click on the image below to see the detail behind Andrew, it’s just wonderful).

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RSA Animate: Reimagining Work

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

After months of painstaking work (not by me I might add!). The RSA have launched their own animated version of a talk I gave there recently on re-imagining the way we could work.

It’s 9 minutes of your time, but I think you’ll find it more than worthwhile:

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I’ll post a bit of background on this later, but for now, sit back and enjoy!

 

Hockey Night in Banbury – How global, granular choice changes everything

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Those of you that know me will, at some point in the past, have been bored witless by me regaling stories that are essentially thinly veiled excuses for me to brag about the fact that a long time ago, I managed to wangle living in Canada for a few years.  One of the cultural highlights of my time out there was ice hockey, a sport I’ve always been intrigued by and one that is obviously pretty much right at the heart of Canadian culture much in the same way as football and rugby is here.

When you’re in Canada, there really is no escape from hockey, it’s on in every bar, played in every back yard and driveway and is a celebrated part of the national psyche.  However, outside of Canada, (a few US states and several Nordic countries) it barely exists.  If you’re lucky, you might catch a brief write up in a UK newspaper, watch a grainy highlight clip on the web or if you’re really sad, read Canadian newspapers on your favourite tablet device just to keep your hand in.  I developed a love of the sport that has long lay unrequited thanks to the dearth of coverage that exists outside of Canada, but in the last few days, everything has changed.

Last Friday, Microsoft launched NHL GameCentre on the Xbox (access is also available on other platforms and for other sports), a hub for all of the NHL activity, a single destination for every team and every game.  I’m not here to talk to you about the technology of this implementation (although it’s very impressive) but what I want you to think about is the mechanics and the principle at work.

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For an annual subscription of just $50 US dollars, I can enjoy HD broadcasts both live (albeit at stupid o’clock in the morning) and replays at a much more sensible time, so I can host my own “Hockey Night in Banbury”.  Take a step back and just think about what’s happened here.  I haven’t signed up to a local broadcast provider, I’m not selecting a package of channels, I’m picking a single, specific sport, from another continent and I’m having it curated and delivered in HD to my living room in the North Oxfordshire wilderness.

This is not just the future of entertainment, but it is also the future of pretty much every service we’ll consume and what’s crucial to understand is not just the shrinking of the globe, but also the increasingly granular nature of the choice I have.  Keeping with the entertainment theme, in the future, I’ll be able to pay for access to specific channels from _anywhere in the world_, or even just make micro payments just for the shows I want to see.  Imagine if your license fee (or cable/satellite subscription) was just an account balance that you agree to pay, but you then have the choice to use it as a pay as you go basis.  You only pay for the programmes you watch.  I’m not saying this is exactly the answer, but why shouldn’t I have this level of choice?  Even as a consumer of free TV, I still end up with a bunch of channels I’ll never watch.  It’s also pretty incredible for the content providers too.  Think about what’s just happened to the NHL, they’ve opened up their market from North America and a few Nordic countries, to the world.  That’s not a bad approach to scale.

Increasingly, this level of global and granular choice is going to come to us across all aspects of our lives, on a local, national and global level.  We’re seeing it begin to happen in education with institutions offering access to their courses regardless of the student’s location, citizens are increasingly comparing the services they receive from local governments – what happens when I can choose which local authority provides which services I consume?  For those that are less reliant on location it could make a lot of sense (both financial and common).  Equally, what does it mean for employers and employees?  For some jobs, it means I should be able to live in another country and still do the work I need to do – I know that feels like a bit of a stretch today, but I’m telling you now it’s already starting to happen – “snowbirds” have been living between Florida and Canada for years and now, we’re beginning to see “inter-annual migration” where, unlike my 5 year stay as an ex-pat in Canada, it’s just for a few months of the year, every year.  Just yesterday I was talking to someone who has decided to live throughout the year in whichever place is the most appropriate for the work he is doing at that point in time.  So just as I, on a micro level, choose to work in the library to complete a report or work in the office so I can meet colleagues, he, at a macro level chooses to live in London for the summer and LA for the Winter – understand this is a fluid arrangement, it’s not about a permanent migration.

We will continue to see more and more of this happen, everyone really needs to understand how it can work for everyone’s advantage.  But locked up in all of this is a really interesting paradox where location is becoming less relevant in one sense, and in another it’s becoming crucial.    Getting the balance right for this is going to challenge brands, advertisers and service providers (not to mention governments) for some time to come.

As for me, the wings are ready for the BBQ, the beers are in the fridge, its game on tonight!

Parliament and Internet – Visions for the Internet and Social

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

This morning, I had the enviable honour of joining Facebook, Google, and RIM on a panel discussion in front of the 6th annual Parliament and Internet conference (I had my poshest frock on and everything).

Although the guys on security stopped me from bringing my soapbox into Portcullis House with me, I did get an opportunity to talk about rural broadband, the humanisation of the web, and the arrogance of the present, I also managed to squeeze a tenuous Spiderman joke in and overall I had a lot of fun. Here’s my speech in full:

“I’d like to start by trying to confuse you with a contradiction – the technology revolution is both over and just beginning. It’s over because we’ve spent a long time getting used to technology being around and becoming part of our everyday lives and it’s just beginning because, only now that technology is so engrained in how we live, are the real opportunities being presented.

Slide25We know from our own studies and anecdotal research that in general, most people go home to better technology (faster, more recent) than they are provided with at work. People generally enjoy a rich technological experience in their personal lives, shopping on-line, enjoying entertainment, playing games and communicating with friends, but unfortunately this experience is not always mirrored in the workplace with the constraints imposed by corporate budgets, security concerns and in some cases, over-zealous IT management. To call this a missed opportunity is like saying Facebook is marginally successful.

Please understand that all of this does not discount the challenge we continue to face in this country around closing the digital divide, but it is an acknowledgement that the gap is closing thanks in no small part to the continued efforts of champions like Martha Lane Fox and her team with Race Online 2012.

Slide28That being said, we know people use technology effectively for many aspects of their lives and those of you with children will see just how pervasive technology has become. From my own experience, I watch my son with great interest as he just adapts and integrates technology and the internet into his world. For him, technology (the web, the Xbox, the mobile phone) are no different to him than the TV, books or traditional toys and he integrates all of them into his everyday life with equal enthusiasm and interest. But I want to stop short with that example, because I fear it runs the risk of reinforcing one of the great myths that actually I would rather dispel than support and that is that these technologies are perceived to only be accessible or useful to younger generations and those of us who find ourselves, well, let’s just say, on the wrong side of youth are left behind or left out. But, time and time again our research shows this to be a stupid assumption to make. Stupid because the statistics show the biggest growth of the use of new tools like social networking are actually in older generations and stupid again because we know in our own anecdotal experiences these technologies have made a big difference on how we live our lives every day. My favourite example can actually be found once a week on a Thursday evening during Question Time. If you were to open up Twitter and follow the Question Time hashtag you will witness a quiet revolution of normal everyday people getting engaged in democratic discussion about how our country is run and the current affairs that affect us all. Thanks to the wonders of the internet and social networks, that experience has been transformed from a one-way “transmission” (or as it was in my house, just me shouting at the telly) to a totally collaborative experience that engages the audience and the panel in a way only dreamed of previously.

The rise of social networking and it’s fundamental importance to the future of how a modern society can benefit from technology is a topic that is not yet well understood. We probably have ourselves to blame, but let me tell you now that social networking is not about providing an endless commentary of trivial anecdotes about my life as an individual, you know the ones I mean “just had the world’s best latte! LOL” or “overslept again, don’t tell the boss” but in many ways actually represents as big a revolution to our use of the internet as the web did when it first became mainstream. This may be a revelation to many of you, but the real value of social networking lies not just in the communications themselves, but also in the connections that are made in order for the communications to flow. With social networking, we are finally able to move from a network of machines, a cold, logical place governed by the ones and zeros of binary code to a network of people, where human intent and instinct combines with the power that the digital world has to offer.

Slide-32Social networking offers us the potential to “humanise the web”, augmenting the power that the internet’s connection and collaboration provides with a human signal that provides citizens, organisations and governments with the ability to connect and effect change on a scale never before imaginable. This year the world has witnessed incredible scenes, some good, some bad of how citizens have grabbed the power that social networks have to offer in order to effect massive change in the way in which they are governed. This year we have seen how citizens can use Facebook to organise a revolution, Twitter to orchestrate it on the day and YouTube to tell the world. Detractors may point to the ugly scenes in London and across the UK from back in the summer but the truth is that social media played as big a part in the clean up as it did on the temporary disruption in our nation’s morality.

It is said, that “on the internet, no-one knows you’re a dog” – well the truth is, today on the internet, no-one knows you’re in Dolgellau – the internet is a geographic leveller, it offers incredible opportunities that transcend geographical location, enabling global companies to be borne out of local, rural locations, where the only real constraints are those of the entrepreneurs imagination and, oh yes, available bandwidth. This is both our opportunity and our curse, we have in our midst incredible rural communities rich in talent, expertise and experience, who throughout the UK, have long been the industrial heartbeat of our nation but increasingly are struggling to remain competitive or even operative in the midst of a global marketplace in recession. If we are able to correctly crack the problem of providing sufficient connectivity to these locations, there is almost nothing to stop the next global success stories coming from places like North Wales, Cumbria or deepest, darkest Dorset.

In the future I am convinced our descendants will look at our work practices with pity, failing to comprehend why we all felt compelled to travel long distances just so we could be in the same place, at the same time as our colleagues. In these days of predominantly service and knowledge industries this feels somewhat out of sync with the capabilities of technology. What if we used these technologies more and changed our work practices creating local hubs across communities throughout the country? Not only would this have a massive economic impact in terms of reclaiming lost time, it also would have significant positive upside on both the environment and more importantly the local economies of these areas enabling small and medium businesses to flourish in support of the local workforce.

Throughout the history of our civilisation it is has often been remarked that we have sufficient technology to achieve our goals and this is actually one of the most dangerous views we face. If we had heeded that advice would we have harnessed fire, the industrial revolution, electricity, the car? Possibly not. History provides us with great examples of where this “arrogance of the present” clouds our judgement “the world will only ever need 3 or 4 computers” or even our own Bill Gates claiming “no-one will need more than 640Kb of RAM” but the truth is, it is incredibly difficult to judge the future value of any given innovation when it can only be judged by a current mindset, the current norm so to speak.

The internet and social networks offer a modern society opportunities and advances far beyond the reach of simple social connections and communication, used properly, they truly offer the potential for the combination of man and machine to become greater than the sum of their parts.

But, this development will require some effective stewardship and will present our society with complex issues that we must all face and work our way through and with that, in closing, I am reminded of that famous quote from the cultural classic that is “Spiderman, the movie” – “with great power comes great responsibility” – the internet, social networks and other associated technologies offer our society incredible opportunity and advantages and both we as technology providers and you as policy makers and legislators have a duty of care to ensure that we can live up to the opportunity – the question really is – are we up to that challenge?

Moving the Hive with Social Buzz

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

The other night I was sat watching Winnie the Pooh with my son for about the 453rd time – to be fair, I had made him watch one of the great cinema classics of our time the night before (The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension – obviously) and now it was his turn to choose.  Anyhow, while Pooh was thinking about honey, I was thinking about bees.  As they coalesced to create that comedy swarm formation that is the cliché of so many cartoons, I sat there wondering if bees actually did that in real life, and you know what?  They do.

Bee2aThe day after watching Pooh, Tigger et al bounce their way through the Hundred Acre Wood I came across a wonderful study about how honey bee colonies move around from year to year, finding the absolute best place for them to live for the coming season.  It’s the way that they make the decision about where’s the best place to live that’s really interesting and ultimately of most use to us when we think about what makes good social engagement work and how contrary the “hive” decision making process is to what you would expect, when you realise that the decision on where to move the colony to is not based on consensus and compromise, but is actually simply about quorum or critical mass.

Bee1aAs late spring approaches, the queen and about 10,000 of her subjects, set off to find a new home and re-establish the colony.  In order to do this, they leave the hive and form a swarm.  From there a much smaller group of scouts (a few hundred) head out and look around for suitable locations (NOTE: at no point do the bees _ever_ enlist the help of an estate agent which also says a lot about the incredible intelligence of the insect mind).  What the scouts are looking for are about twelve or more suitable locations for the new hive. One by one the scouts return and communicate with the swarm about what they’ve found.  (If you’re really interested in this, the way they do this is called a Waggle Dance – which, as I have now learned, is pretty incredible and not, as I previously thought, just an odd name for a rather splendid beer.) 

But the really interesting thing for us, is not only _how_ the decision gets made, but also _where_ it gets made.    You would think that each scout would return to the swarm, report back, have a long debate with the queen and her advisers, send out for pizza and beer and then decide (hey, it’s how it would work for me if I was a bee.)  Actually, it is the activity of the scouts while they are out on patrol that makes the decision which is accepted and acted upon without question by the rest of the colony.  It’s a question of quorum vs consensus really.  You would expect the hive mind to be all about consensus, i.e. “we all agree this is the right thing to do” whereas in reality it is simply the first potential new home to reach a quorum or critical mass (in this case 15 or more scouts present at one time), once this is reached, the decision is simply taken as made and the colony moves to its new home.

Bee3aBy now, you’re probably wondering what the point of all this is besides an interesting lesson in entomology, well, in my mind, what happens for the bees is actually what happens for us when we try to “activate” social media campaigns or engagement.  There’s been a lot written about the hive mind and the collective intelligence of the crowd and trust me, I am not jumping on that bandwagon (not now anyway).  What I am really trying to point out that your job in creating “buzz” (oh, the irony) is _not_ about the majority, or even the queens or the “leaders” of those colonies.  No, this is simply about establishing enough critical mass with the scouts. 

Internet users are relatively fickle beasts (you want evidence – just ask MySpace). As a result, I firmly believe your success in gaining “influence” or “reach” (however you decide to measure them) comes from engaging a series of smaller, more manageable niche audiences and exciting and enthusing them about you, your brand, your story etc.  I think this requires a bit more creative effort in the short term (to identify and create relevance with these individual swarms/niches) but over the longer term requires a hell of a lot less “muscle” (financial or otherwise) than would be required if you try move the hive en masse.

You don’t need to move the entire colony to get the volume, you just need to enchant individuals to build up that quorum – oh yeah, that and a pretty awesome waggle dance…

How to launch products using social media

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

I need to preface this email with some disclaimers:

  1. I like Guy Kawasaki – I was enchanted by his approach to technology evangelism with Apple over 20 years ago and have been following him ever since.  (For balance, I should note that other tech evangelists are also available).
  2. He’s just released a new book which he is obviously out marketing. I’ve read it and think it’s great (there’s a copy on my desk if you want to read it – it’s easy going, you can read it in a couple of hours).

enchantment-ana-b-125x125-06So with that out of the way, I saw this yesterday and thought it was interesting, it’s essentially a list of all the different ways he used social to market his new book.

Ignoring the fact this is about a book launch and instead focusing in on the principles and I take away the following:

  1. Social is more than just “social”, Twitter and FB are just means of moving the message, they are not the message itself  – without great supporting collateral they’re worthless.
  2. Social costs money.  In addition to the usual book launch publicity costs, he advises a spend of over $45k (plus whatever he sent on PPC) on what he lists as “social” activities.
  3. Know your influencers and scale up to enchant them.  Guy’s lucky, he has a pool of 22,000 bloggers engaged in his AllTop network to choose from as influencers.  The key point is he _didn’t_ choose a subset based on an arbitrary measure of influence, he just selected all of them.  Big bucks, but big pay off.
  4. Engage the peripheral audience – in addition to the “push” techniques, he also created a series of engagement experiences that “pulled” the audience to him, (e.g. photo competition, quiz etc).
  5. Empower the audience to spread your word – Guy’s final move is to create frictionless ways (badges, schtikers, wallpapers etc) for people to share their  love for his product (“love” is a bit strong but you know what I mean). 

I know there’s a lot here and we can’t all be as well placed as Guy Kawasaki in terms of being able to activate people, but I think many organisations really need to think differently about what social truly means to them.  It isn’t free, it isn’t easy, but when you get it right, it can really pay off.