The Power of Mass Collaboration

I am more and more profoundly struck by the enormity of the opportunity to radically re-discover, re-shape, re-invent, re-new, re-act, re-approach, and re-create our corporate environments, supply chains, industries, really our business community broadly.  Companies and leaders with the courage to actively embrace this revolution will discover and expand their potentiality.  However, those that merely observe, resist or ignore it are playing a high risk gamble with their ability to sustain let alone survive the unavoidable changes that have already been set into motion.  I have illustrated all of the elements, factors, stakeholders, and drivers at play in How to Prosper From Radical Meaningful Change.

Earlier today I listened to a brilliant HBR IdeaCast featuring Don Tapscott, a provocative thought leader and coauthor of Macrowikinomics, a book I am now inspired to read.  In this interview Don provides compelling examples of companies that are embracing this revolution. I agreed with most of Don’s insights, and without question we are at a punctuation point in history.  For the purposes of this discussion, I found two topics quite powerful and extremely relevant to further our discussions on the radical change we want ensure we shape in a highly meaningful way.

The first is the need to replace the traditional command and control organizational structures with new ones designed to empower mass collaboration.  He shared the example of how Lynx Operating System has been successful by taking a non conventional approach to structural design.  This approach mirrors the principles and approach of Agile.  The business community broadly has much to learn and leverage from Agile principles and methodologies.  While they have been written in context of software development, they apply universally as best practices.  In short, it is the customer-centric practice of a highly incremental and adaptive approach with a supporting universal language, notation and processes. Notably, management takes more of a curator approach and gives the developers the autonomy and empowerment to develop solutions that are relevant.  This would require a massive shift in leadership, where trust, respect, vulnerability, transparency, and awareness become essential.

The second topic was Don’s suggestion for the news industry to be re-built as a new macro collaborative, eco-system in the form of a “network newspaper”.  Capitalizing on the massive opportunity to join forces and play on the same team.  I believe that his example is even more powerful when applied to the health care industry.  Health care globally, is starving for a new eco-system that both capitalizes and solves the enormous gaps in patient experience and an incredibly bloated cost structure.  We need a macro health network and to do this, the abundant number of diverse stakeholders within health care will need to recognize and embrace that we are all on the same side now, the side of the patient.

Our biggest challenge is not the complexity of the solutions required to solve the underlying problems, it is the attachment to traditional solutions and fear of change that are so tightly guarded in some of the highly command and control industries like heath care.    Industries like technology, by it’s very nature, have been forced to explore and develop more open, collaborative and adaptive structures and solutions and will be much faster, closer and creative in their strategies to embrace this change.

A great starting place for health care is to re-invent how we approach intellectual property.  Patient privacy in particular is not just a barrier for heath care, it has become a convenient excuse not to communicate openly with patients.  A great topic for a follow up post.

What are some other issues, not necessarily heath care focused that you think need immediate attention?

How to Prosper From Radical Meaningful Change

Putting together this prezi was ridiculous amounts of fun! Large in part to the fact that I am incredibly passionate about the content but also fueled by the brilliance of prezi.  I first discovered prezi from Tim Sanchez’s DeliverBliss post… bye-bye powerpoint! Huge kudos to Adam Somlai-Fischer, founder of prezi.

Inspired by my post last week Radical Meaningful Change, I have illustrated the fundamentals of my proposed framework intended to help you prosper in the new era of end-to-end responsibility.  Please watch and share your thoughts and ideas.

BTW I learned and built this prezi all in one day; 1 part tenacity, 3 parts prezi user experience!

Radical Meaningful Change is Needed

October’s HBR issue highlights many reoccurring themes generating momentum in the business community at large.  I’m struck and inspired by the radical change that is required to move us from the how into the doing to reinvent a new transparent, customer centric, fully responsible corporate environment and supply chain with a sexy bottom line.

I believe that you will not survive what Rosabeth Moss Kanter refers to as the “new era of end-to-end responsibility” without radically examining the 7 elements that make up your corporate environment and the corporate environment of your entire supply chain.  In It’s Time to Take Full Responsibility, Rosabeth states that “increasingly companies and leaders will be assessed not only on immediate results but also on longer-term impact, the ultimate effects their actions have on societal well-being.”  This trend is growing systemically, fueled by the Golf oil spill and a global recession resulting from a crisis in virtues and values.

Fasten your seat belts because “chains of command will be replaced by circles of influence, business fortresses by collaborative business ecosystems”.  We will see an emergence of leaders without titles and partnerships with competitors to solve social and political complex problems.  In The Transparent Supply Chain, Steve New suggests we “let customers know everything about where our products come from before they discover it first”.  It’s time to treat all of your stakeholders like valued customers including your partners and suppliers; your customer experience is only as good as the sum of it’s parts.  This is the beginning of collective ownership at it’s best.

I am developing a proposed framework to maximize potentiality to prosper through this radical meaningful change, this post is intended to introduce the motivational drivers and initiate the important  dialog that will  further shape the new ideas required to transform today’s practices.  This is part 1 of a new blog series that will explore this proposed framework, one I hope you will follow and participate in.

On a scale from 1-10 how would you rate your companies customer experience?  On that same scale how would you rate the end-to-end supply chain customer experience?

Embrace Your Skeptics!

If you are evangelizing a customer experience transformation you have undoubtedly become intimately familiar with the challenge of attaining collective buy in.  I was recently asked by a “clienteer” about how to best prepare for the anticipated skeptics he was to face while introducing a new strategic customer experience corporate initiative to his organization broadly.  He was on the right path and I don’t think I told him anything he didn’t already know but rather validated his planned, rather unconventional approach.  Historically companies have introduced new initiatives when they are fully baked, presenting what they perceive to be the perfect apple pie right out of the oven that everyone will love, eat up and then bake that same pie on their own.  Only when they present it, the most vocal skeptics start to ask “why pie?” “what is it for?” “I don’t like pie” “I prefer cherry pie” “pie is fattening” “we need cake, not pie” “why didn’t we know you were making pie” “I’m an award winning pie maker, why didn’t you ask for me help?”.  By not involving your employees in the early stages of the process and focusing on attaining collective buy in from conception, many great initiatives never get off the ground and fail due to fear based attacks mixed with some valid overlooked risks and concerns.

John P. Kotter was interviewed in HBR’s October issue on How to Save Good Ideas.  He talks about how we’ve been taught to focus on getting an idea right instead of making sure people understand and support it.  He talks about the “murky land of human nature and group dynamics” and how this colours the way people react to new ideas.  Kotter recommends embracing the naysayers and inviting them to critique your ideas and treating them with respect.  He stresses the importance to never let disagreement become personal.

I have found that this is tough and often counter intuitive for otherwise highly effective leaders that are passionate about how their idea or mission will transform their business.  This comes back to applying “naked” leadership principles, becoming comfortable with the transparency and vulnerability required to introduce ideas in the early stages of development and inviting skeptics to help influence and shape the solution.  This approach will create holistic collective ownership and mitigate having your idea killed by the crowd.

I am not suggesting you bring your idea forward when it is merely sketched on a cocktail napkin; you still need to ensure you bring forward a compelling story to support your idea.  If you are presenting to a group of Accountants as was the “clienteer” I spoke with, you probably should have a solid RIO based story, or if you are presenting to creative audience then you should ensure you have strong visual components to support your story.  Likewise if you are presenting to a highly technical audience you will want to ensure you have a conceptual framework and process roadmap to support your story.  The important take away here is to begin the dialog as early as you can and embrace your toughest skeptics, make them your biggest asset, mastering the art of winning buy-in and attaining collective ownership is a critical leadership skill.

What strategies do you use to deal with skeptics?

Making Smart Sexy Again

The fall issue of Motivated is out!  And it is exploring the theme of “fear”.  Once again it is filled with powerful insights, guidance and inspiration.  I was most struck by “Love & Leadership Go Hand in Hand” by John Hope Bryant author of Love Leadership and founder and CEO of Operations Hope.    He believes that most of our leaders lead by fear.  The reason these leaders have done so well in the past  is “feel-good, me-based, immediate gratification disease” which he calls “short-termism”.  John says “over the past twenty or so years we have made dumb sexy”.  Now he is on a mission to make “smart sexy again”.  (I heard Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back” in my head as I read this.)

Love Leadership is based on what he calls “a perfect storm”.  He explains “the first cousin to fear is short-termism, and short-term’s best friend is laziness, the roommate of laziness is greed, and the most popular word ever uttered by fear, short-termisim, laziness and greed is ‘me’.”  Also known as “what’s in it for me?”  John believes that in order to succeed over the long term the question needs to become “what do I have to give?”.  I believe the mission to make smart sexy again is further challenged by our so-called leaders that have lead through fear parenting a new young generation of mini short-termismers that are now entering the work force.  However, I do think this mission is well on it’s way, we have seen this in the re-occurring themes on HBR such as transparency, authenticity, and social responsibility.  This recent video on “The Biggest Mistake a Leader Can Make” is a good reflection of this.  John’s message reflects what we are finally seeing the business community begin to embrace, so his perspective did not enlighten me personally, it was the art in which he delivered it did that did.  He used such powerful words that I think will better reach and resonate with the unconverted.

I could not agree with him more when he says that “the current economic crisis is not about some sophisticated or complex failure of free enterprise or capitalism as we know it, but rather simple-minded failure of greed itself.”  AKA “short-termism”.  He goes on to say “this crisis is more a crisis of virtues and values, than any sort of classic economic crisis.  No doubt you’re feeling this crisis economically, but this is no different than when you have a cold; you feel or sense it when you sneeze.”  In other words, it is a symptom.

Later in the article he stresses that “everyone needs to have an enlightened self-interest in the outcome of a business transaction and it should start with a genuine understanding of the concern with what’s best for the client”.  That concern is what he calls love.

Perhaps I should update my tag line from “when meaningful change is needed” to “making smart sexy”… I’ll stick with mine as it is near and dear to my heart, but I do love and appreciate John’s mission and message.

I’m curious, do you think the word ‘love’ is too soft for the business community to embrace?

Not a Coincidence – A Leap Forward in Meaningful Solutions

My love for HBR resurfaced today when I received the September 2010 issue in the mail.  My frustration in having to wait so long after it is available online to receive it by mail was overshadowed by my delight in the content that never seems to disappoint.

The HBR cover teaser to this issue’s spotlight entices us with “Why the world needs audacious business solutions”.  I could not turn to the pages fast enough in anticipation, I was pondering if it was a coincidence that “audaciousness” was the theme in the Motivated magazine I recently discovered?  The issue of Motivated inspired a post that was deeply meaningful to me on many levels.  The first article that I read in the HBR spotlight was A New Alliance for Global Change.  Authors Bill Drayton and Valeria Budinich share how corporations and social entrepreneurs can work together to reshape industries and solve the world’s toughest problems. “By forming ‘hybrid value chains’ (HVCs) the for-profit and citizen sectors can together remake global economies and create long lasting social change”.  They explore the possibility that “if you’re not thinking about HVC collaboration, you’ll soon be guilty of strategy malpractice.”  I often write about strategies to maximize your potentiality, HVCs are a win-win proposition that can expand your potentiality exponentially.  Earlier in the summer I said It’s Time for Social Innovation, and HVC is social innovation at it’s best.  Bottom line: The time has come for for-profit companies to explore social innovative strategies and for not-for-profit companies to apply their good intentions to sound for-profit business models.

So it is a coincidence that this HBR spotlight was about the beauty of audaciousness within social innovation?  No, not at all, coincidence is accidental, this is a leap forward in meaningful solutions.

An Important Message for HBR – Their Blind Spot – Customer Support

I’m a promising contender for being HBR’s biggest fan.  I love my daily dose of HBR blogs and I am a subscriber to the magazine.  My emotional bank account and customer loyalty is about as good as you can get for HBR… at least it was.  I’m still a big fan, but they took a large withdrawal from me last week.  By no means was it the worst customer service incident, but when you hold a brand in such high regard, it also comes with high expectations.  I have nothing but great things to say about their product, IMHO they have richest and most provocative articles and discussions within the broad business publications out there.  Kudos to HBR for that! However  my experience with their customer support did not reflect the quality of their product.  They may need to read some of their own articles and blogs on customer experience.  Unfortunately this is not that uncommon, we see companies with A+ products and D- or even F support services.  Yet this falls below the radar as it is overshadowed by how well they are performing which is subject to what they are measuring.  I call these blind spots, and blind spots are dangerous even if you have a solid vehicle.

I noticed that my magazine does not seem to arrive until about 2-3 weeks after it is published online.  I find this kind of defeats the purpose of my subscription, I might as well change it to an online subscription but I really like having the actual magazine.  I contacted HBR customer support via email from their website and received an automated response that I would hear back from them within 2 days.  My initial thought was “wow, really, that long, oh well it is not urgent”.  I did hear back later that same day but they did not answer my main question, although they did answer my second question as it provided them with an opportunity to up-sell, or at least that is how I felt reading it.

Here was my question:

“Why does the issue online come out some much earlier than I receive my magazine? It is frustrating to get it weeks after it is available online. As a subscriber to I have access to the articles online as well?”

Here is the response I received from HBR:

“Thank you for contacting HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW Customer Service.

Our records indicate you’re a Print only subscriber. Unfortunately, this does not include online access. To gain online access, you will need to upgrade to a Premium subscription. We will be glad to upgrade your account. The cost of the upgrade is $50.00. To process your subscription upgrade, please contact Customer Service directly at 1.800.274.3214. If we can be of further assistance, please let us know.

We appreciate this opportunity to be of service.”

Hmmm okay, but where is the answer to my main question about why it takes so long? I responded back with:

“Please address my first question about why I get my printed copy so long after it is available online?”

HBR responded:

“Thank you for contacting HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW Customer Service.

We make every effort to assure our readers that they will receive issues at the earliest possible opportunity. Generally, we are able to get issues to readers a few days before their published cover date. However, it is not considered late until after the 15th of the cover date. If you do not receive your issue by this date, please let us know. The Online issues are available once the Print issue have been processed for mailing. We hope this information is helpful. If we can be of further assistance, please let us know.

We appreciate this opportunity to be of service.”

Also worth noting is that the fonts were different for the middle part of both emails, the open and close were an obvious cut and paste, this made it feel very impersonal adding to the growing feeling I had of them not caring about my concerns in the least.

Again, this is not the worst example of customer service by any stretch but it is a great example of how fragile customer experience and customer loyalty are.  Few promote HBR as much as I do, 90% of my posts reference them and I am an active contributor to discussions on the site. I am also responsible for numerous subscription referrals.  So getting the “live with it or spend $50 to have access to both” response without even a mention that they will pass this along for feedback was very disappointing.

Bottom line, companies can not rely on their product alone, even if it is a brilliant product, they need to measure the entire customer experience and ensure all interactions reflect their brand.  And in the case of HBR, if you are offering expertise on customer experience, you really need to employ best practices of customer experience within your own service offerings.