Archive for the ‘books’ Category

New Management Paradigm Is Tribal

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Yesterday I got a bit ahead of myself by reviewing Seth Godin’s new book Linchpin without having read it. I did read the 60-page preview sent to European readers, but the fact that I think the book lacks some meat makes sense given that my American cousins are being treated to an extra 240 pages, so until we Euros get the full package let’s talk Tribes.

There are few books that will get the skeptic in me excited, and it seems even fewer as I get older, but in Tribes Godin did the trick! Of all his books it is the most relevant to my main area of interest – crowdsourcing. To put it in a nutshell this book inspires you to lead, not manage, and explains that by building a tribe you are creating more value than via a typical top-down approach.

It’s a book of ideas, including the one that you should believe in what you do, and try to create change around those beliefs. You do this by inciting a movement, and providing the structure that enables your tribe to communicate and advance your believe. These are what I consider to be some of the underlying principles behind building a solid crowdsourcing platform.

The book explains that technology, and the emergence of the social graph, are facilitating the conversion of groups into tribes, and making it easier than ever to be a leader. These tools are giving individuals more power than ever before, and there is a real opportunity for those who can reach a mindset where, ‘the safest thing you can do feels risky and the riskiest thing that you can do is play it safe’

Beyond the presentation of ideas, Godin goes on to give you practical advice on how to build a tribe:

  • Publish a manifesto
  • Make it easy for your followers to connect with you
  • Make it easy for your followers to connect with one another
  • Realize that money is not the point of a movement
  • Track your progress

He briefly discusses each, and goes on to explain the guiding principles of forming a tribe, but this is no nuts and bolts guide on how to become are leader. That is a problem for many senior managers – they  know that they gotta change, but they need more than a philosophy. I think that this is where platforms specifically set up to help companies and managers build tribes come into play. Of course, there are big ones like Twitter, but I think we will start to see company-specific technologies. I have a few ideas on this that I will flesh out in future posts.

So where do I stand on Godin’s Tribes? It’s an exciting, and inspiring read. Digest it and build a tribe of your own!

Is Godin’s Linchpin any good?

Monday, January 4th, 2010

Seth Godin

[note: This review is based on the electronic excerpt that was distributed to international readers. Once I get a full physical copy it will be revised. The actual book is five times longer than the document I reviewed. i.e. this post can't fully answer the question in the title.]

Today marketing’s philosopher Seth Godin shipped his new book Linchpin, and it is quite a departure. Godin has always been one to rally the troops, but this reads more like a self-help book than sharp marketing analysis. As the author says, ‘My goal is to persuade you that there is an opportunity available to you, a chance to significantly change your life for the better.’ The basic premise of the book is that the post-industrial paradigm is totally broken, and this means we should stand up and change the way we behave in the workplace, whether as employees or entrepreneurs.

I feel like Godin is taking advantage of the fact that we are in a recession to make his point. Whilst he is correct in stating that job growth is flat and that we are in a negative wage cycle, he does not highlight the fact the economy is cyclical and we have seen this many times before. Instead he paints the current economic situation as evidence that in the face of competition and technology the Fortune 500 way of doing business no longer works. It’s a bit of a stretch if you ask me. When Charles Leadbeater estimates that crowdsourcing will disrupt 20 percent of the developed economies I think it is a more realistic assessment, and thus the other points in his book We-Think carry more weight.

But I can’t fault Godin’s motives as he just wants his readers to seize the opportunities that the current changes are creating. I’ll give him a pass for using that basic sales tactic of instilling fear to create a need. I don’t think you can go wrong by following his mantra, ‘The bargain is gone, and it’s not worth whining about and it’s not effective to complain. There’s a new bargain now, one that leverages talent and creativity and art more than it rewards obedience.”

The title of the book comes from the idea that it is the individual in the organization who collects, connects, and nurtures relationships who is indispensable. The author opines that these linchpins are the essential building blocks of tomorrow’s high-value organizations. Is there anything really new is stating the importance of relationships in business? I don’t see this as an insight – am I missing the point? If so please be linchpin-like, connect to me and let me know what I am missing.

When Godin states that ‘The only way to get what you’re worth is to stand out, to exert emotional labor, to be seen as indispensable, and to produce interactions that organizations and people care deeply about’ he is going back to ideas that he has put forward many times before. In his book Tribes he shared the lessons he learned at Spinnaker where at the age of 24 he got company-wide buy-in by publishing an internal newsletter reporting on how his products were progressing. I guess there is no harm making such a valuable point again, but for me it is another reason why I consider Linchpin a refresher for Godinites rather than something new they can sink their teeth into.

When I read “The law of linchpin leverage” I really felt like I was being drawn into Tony Robbins territory. The law states that “The more value you create in your job, the fewer clock minutes of labor you actually spend creating that value.” The point that Godin is trying to make is that in order to be a linchpin you only have to be a dynamic innovator for a small percentage of the total time you are working, but it may be misinterpreted as the idea that you can achieve more by doing less.

I agree with the premise that you need to be fearless, but not reckless, and I am fascinated by the idea that we are all artists. Godin writes, ‘You can be an artist who works with oil paints or marble, sure. But there are artists who work with numbers, business models, and customer conversations. Art is about intent and communication, not substances.” He defines art as a personal gift that changes the recipient, and I agree that thinking about our roles in this way is a great way to facilitate becoming linchpins.

Overall I think that this would be an exciting and inspiring book to readers unfamiliar with Godin, but for those that have read him before, then shame on you if you aren’t already following the advice in Linchpin!

What do we think?

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Charles Leadbeater’s book We-Think (2008) didn’t really get me excited about crowdsourcing, but it did help me analyze it in a structured fashion. It’s a book that takes a look at large-scale, shared creativity, and examines why it is happening, how it works, and the long-term impact it may have. One thing that comes across clearly is that it is a well-researched book, and in the spirit of the open-source movement you can access the primary research via the writer’s web site.

Leadbeater starts out by taking us through what he considers the three essential ingredients of successful We-Think: participation, recognition and collaboration. The most important point he makes is that the mass of individual contributions need to be organized for any sort of productive output. In my opinion it is advances in the technologies that can structure and filter massive inputs that will truly advance crowdsourcing, and see it become a standard tool in many businesses.

In the next chapter ‘The roots of We-Think’ Leadbeater identifies the geek, the academic, the hippie and the peasant as the key groups that have formed the hybrid culture of We-Think. Whilst these might be the origins, I think the mix we have today has become radically more complex, as an entire generation from all backgrounds is taking mass collaboration in their stride.

Leadbeater’s view is that a good core around which a community can form is critical. He sees the crowdmanage process as one where smart individuals have a creative conversation and then invite others to contribute. It is difficult to disagree with his statement that groups ‘with larger sets of diverse tools and skills are at an advantage if they can combine effectively to take on complex tasks.’

At first I thought Leadbeater has it wrong when he says that ‘Blogging is high on participation, low on collaboration,’ but after reflection on the point I would have to agree. The sort of collaboration that leads to significant production does not often emerge from blogs. Leadbeater is explicit about the five conditions he considers necessary for advanced We-Think:

  1. A small core creates something and invites further discussion
  2. The project must motivate contributors/be exciting
  3. Tools should be distributed, experimentation cheap, and feedback fast
  4. Product should benefit from extensive peer review
  5. Tasks should be broken down into modules around which small teams can form, and there must be clear rules for fitting the modules together

These are excellent points to bear in mind for people developing crowdsourcing and crowdfunding platforms.

In his chapter “The We-Think Business” Leadbeater exposes the flaws in the standard management approach, and opines that wikinomics will change the way we work, consume, innovate, lead and own production. Well that would mean that it’s going to change just about everything, and I’d have to say he is spot on there. Later in the text Leadbeater is brave enough to quantify the impact of crowdsourcing, and estimates that it will disrupt 20 percent of the developed economies. That’s a bit of a thumb suck on his part, but it’s nice to see someone making a projection rather than talking in evangelistic general terms. He goes on to look at science, engineering and public service, and gives some specific examples of the direction that he thinks things are going in. I am very interested to see how participative consumption develops over the next few years.

The penultimate chapter “For Better or Worse?” examines the impact of this disruption on society. I found it stone cold boring, but I have to admit that it is important to consider these factors, and not just focus on the nuts and bolts of the changes that are taking place.

Overall this is a very thoughtful book that got me thinking on a deeper level about certain aspects of crowdsourcing. Rather than just talk about what is happening today, Leadbeater puts some brainpower into thinking about how the innovation process is changing, and the impact that will have on all aspects of society.

Have you read it? What did you think?

Crowdsourcing Books

Friday, December 25th, 2009

Hope you are all having a great Christmas day. I didn’t get any books as gifts this year, which is unusual, but when it comes to crowdsourcing books I already have quite a few.

Over the coming weeks I will discuss some of the texts that have influenced my thinking, and look how the ideas they present tally with the real-life examples that are emerging.

I find that a lot of the books drag, and are a bit turgid. Also, the ‘case studies’ tend to lack sufficient detail to make them useful templates. That’s all for today – it’s time for the next round of turkey.