What, exactly, is the purpose of business? An answer post-Drucker

Paternoster Square
Peter Drucker asserted that the purpose of business is to create and keep a customer. He was right at the time in offering previously inward-looking firms a more appropriate beacon. His dictum is, however, wrong for our time.

The assertion is insufficient in sustainability terms; ie, being concerned with the health and resilience of living systems such as organizations, society and the environment. A customer-centric outlook is too simplistic, simply failing to recognise complexity, and therefore at threat from business that has progressed beyond Drucker's heuristic. Continue reading

Different kinds of privacy, empowerment and autonomy – centralized versus decentralized

qs-watch[Originally posted to the hi:project blog.]

In an article in the Guardian last week, Professor Alex 'Sandy' Pentland mooted the potential for Google to cleave in two, with one part dedicated to providing a regulated bank-like service for data. Pentland directs the MIT Human Dynamics Lab and co-leads both the Big Data and the Personal Data and Privacy initiatives of the World Economic Forum, and I'm surprised how often his name crops up in my hi:project related research, yet I find it difficult to reconcile his observation here with his fluency in the power of decentralized networks:

Social physics strongly suggest that the [Adam Smith’s] invisible hand is more due to trust, cooperation and robustness properties of the person-to-person network of exchanges than it is due to any magic in the workings of the market. If we want to have a fair, stable society, we need to look to the network of exchanges between people, and not to market competition.

Pentland continues under the heading: How can we move from a market-centric to a human-centric society? Continue reading

Technology trends relevant to change management

when change becomes routine – PostShift

I have been invited to talk about tech trends relevant to change management at this evening's London meeting of the Change Management Institute.

I'm keeping most excellent company alongside Karolina Lewandowska, Change and Transformation Manager at Google UK, and Faith Forster, Founder and CEO Pinipa.

The image here is taken from an excellent blog post by Lee Bryant of PostShift – The Quantified Organisation: can change become routine?

Here's my stack:

The quantified self, the quantified organization, and the organized self

quantified org self

The diagram here portrays where I'm going with this post, so let's dive in.

The quantified self

The current Wikipedia entry for quantified self (QS) describes it as "a movement to incorporate technology into data acquisition on aspects of a person's daily life in terms of inputs (e.g. food consumed, quality of surrounding air), states (e.g. mood, arousal, blood oxygen levels), and performance (mental and physical)."

And it doesn't stop at mere data acquisition of course; as the strapline for a major QS community puts it, we're looking at self knowledge through numbers. Adriana Lukas, founder and organiser at London Quantified Self Group, proselytizes self-managed QS, a future in which “expertise is supplied rather than outsourced”, where each of us acquires “agency as sense-maker”.

That's certainly a powerful and possibly quite natural vision, and one I wholeheartedly embrace. Yet it's also counter to the branded data siloes many a purveyor of QS gadgetry would, it seems, have one locked into. Adriana employs a turn of phrase, which may well be riffing off Doc Searls:

We can’t treat individuals as data cows to be milked for the data bucket.

The quantified organization

Lee Bryant, founder of PostShift, describes their take on 'quantified organization':

... a framework of organisational health measures, informed by theory and company goals, that can guide ongoing change in an agile, iterative way and assess the success or failure of change actions against a desired future operating state.

Continue reading

Why I’ve decided to stop curating a Flipboard magazine

goodbye flipboard magazine

I have curated a Flipboard magazine for 16 months with the super title: Social Business Design magazine – Purpose & policy, openness & agility, structure & culture, communication & trust. Organizing to create more value for all faster than otherwise.

Trips off the tongue.

The service dutifully informs me that of all the stuff I read I have considered 913 articles worthy of inclusion in my niche 'publication', attracting 73 followers and 670 viewers.

I first posted about this sort of stuff ten years ago, and posted my likes and dislikes of Flipboard a year ago, so I've given this some thought. And Flipboard ...

It's over.

It's not me. It's you.

I enjoy sharing, but sharing is insufficient. You need to understand that curation is about community and shared knowledge. Yet there is no community.

Who are these followers and viewers? I've no idea... it seems I must carry on my altruistic curation absent social feedback. Can we comment on what we find? No. We can share and discuss the curated content with our other communities on other social platforms, but not with this specific group of people coalesced around Social Business Design Magazine. Quite weird. Makes Flipboard start to look like a step worth skipping.

But what about Flipboard as knowledge repository? Perhaps each of us can enjoy the utility of my Flipboard magazine in isolation.

But alas, no. For those unfamiliar with Flipboard you may find this quite odd, but there is no way to search back through the corpus I've assembled here. Zero. It really is incredibly frustrating. And whether intentional or otherwise, I can find no way to export the collection to a service or format that makes it searchable.

Flipboard fail

How odd to be told there are no results for "socioveillance" when I know for definite that this content is flipped to my Flipboard magazine.

So that's it, we're done. This is the last item of content I will curate to my Flipboard magazine. Just to let followers know. Because I'm sociable like that.

The hi:project, social business and Flat Army

Dan Pontefract Flat Army and the hi:project
I help organisations work better, so how on Earth is that connected to the hi:project? Given I dedicate not a small fraction of my time to this non-profit endeavour, I'm asked on occasion to explain how the two are related.

The 'HI' of the hi:project stands for human interface. It's our way of describing the technology we think should and will largely supplant the user interface, the UI. Here's how I've begun to explain it of late ...

When we approach digital, we have a natural propensity to digitize the pre-digital; after all, that is all we know. That's how we ended up sticking an 'e' in front of mail for example, and went from having desktops, files and folders to, well, desktops, files and folders.

Yet digital has unprecedented qualities – it just takes us a while to discover and exploit them. It's only with the passing of decades for example that organisations can now explore alternatives to email. And filing stuff looks increasingly anachronistic with the power of near-instant search at our fingertips.

In the same way, the UI is attached to the digital machine / service today because pre-digital physical machines had a physical interface. Continue reading

An open letter to Paul Polman, Unilever – from Enterprise 2.0 Summit, London

Enterprise 2 Summit - British Academy London

I'm at the Enterprise 2.0 Summit at the British Academy in London today, courtesy of Kongress Media and Agile Elephant. In conversation with Lee Bryant, Matt Partovi, David Terrar, Damian CorbetCéline Schillinger, Johan Lange, Janet Parkinson and Anne McCrossan, a common theme is emerging – we need such events as this, and the deep and wide potential of Enterprise 2.0, to extend beyond the inevitable echo chamber of today's eager community.

With this in mind, I have penned an open letter to Paul Polman and everyone with an interest in Unilever's success, if only because I love the company's vision, believe it is important in our world, and feel that the stuff we champion in the e2.0 / socbiz / futureofwork communities will be critical in its pursuit.

The letter is embedded below and it's also available as a PDF: Open letter to Paul Polman, Unilever.

[Photo credit: British Academy Facebook page.]