Google on collaboration – a new study

Google collaboration report June 2015
First published to Gigaom Research.

Our customers often tell us that encouraging and enabling collaboration has dramatically improved their business. We decided to dig a little deeper by conducting some original cross-industry research that measures the power of workplace collaboration in concrete terms.

This is how Google introduces the findings of its recent survey of senior staff and C-suite executives at 258 North American companies across a wide range of business sectors and sizes. (PDF of full report.) The primary conclusion is presented up front:

… collaboration has a significant impact on business innovation, performance, culture and even the bottom line.

This is quite right and quite wrong. Collaboration is at once driven and the driver; it is both a cause and an effect. As is culture come to that. Effectively, Google must grapple with two distinct appreciations of business among its customers and prospects.

Simply complex

If there’s one thing that differentiates organization this century from the last it’s that we may now acknowledge complexity and do something about it. We increasingly have the technologies to help navigate complexity. Choosing to do so offers competitive advantage for the time being; there will soon come a time when failing to do so renders an organization unresponsive, fragile and, consequently, bust. (Note that complexity and complication are different things.) Continue reading

Work IT: bring-you-and-your-own-everything


First published to Gigaom Research.

Cast your mind back a decade or more. Did you request specific hardware from your company’s IT team? If so, you started a trend that continues to play out to this day, and will continue to its logical and exciting conclusion.

You may or may not have been successful in your request given IT’s historic intransigence, but nowadays many of us expect to rock up to work with the laptop and tablet and smartphone of our choosing – often our own – and expect the IT team’s full accommodation.

We’re also bringing our own applications. Non-IT staff have adopted software-as-a-service without necessarily going through their IT colleagues. Yammer, Trello and Slack for example. Perhaps Google Docs crept in without organization-wide adoption of Google for Work. Meeting schedulers. Note-takers. Expense trackers. Skype. Dropbox. Instagram. The list is as long as the kind of things you need to get done.

It’s useful to think of this in terms of Enterprise IT and Work IT. The enterprise owns Enterprise IT whereas the worker owns Work IT. In simple terms, Enterprise IT is focused on the organization, Work IT on organizing. Enterprise IT is top-down with the starting position of locking everything down, whereas Work IT is bottom-up, thriving by facilitating sharing and openness. Continue reading

Toward a social compact for digital privacy and security

toward a social compact for digital privacy and security, Global Commission on Internet Governance
Updated 16th September, embedding the videos of the session below.

The Global Commission on Internet Governance ( was established in January 2014 to articulate and advance a strategic vision for the future of Internet governance. With work commencing in May 2014, the two-year project is conducting and supporting independent research on Internet-related dimensions of global public policy, culminating in an official commission report.

toward a social compact - Global Commission on Internet GovernanceThe Commission published a statement 15th April 2015 for the Global Conference on Cyberspace meeting in The Hague. It calls on the global community to build a new social compact between citizens and their elected representatives, the judiciary, law enforcement and intelligence agencies, business, civil society and the Internet technical community, with the goal of restoring trust and enhancing confidence in the Internet.

I have been invited to discuss this statement with Dame Professor Wendy Hall and Sir David Omand at a Web Science Institute event this afternoon.

The core elements advocated in building the new social compact are:

  1. Privacy and personal data protection as a fundamental human right
  2. The necessity and proportionality of surveillance
  3. Legal transparency and redress for unlawful surveillance
  4. Safeguarding online data and consumer awareness
  5. Big data and trust
  6. Strengthening private communications
  7. No back doors to private data
  8. Public awareness of good cyber-security practices
  9. Mutual assistance to curtail transborder cyber threats.

Here is the brief slidestack framing my contribution today:


Dame Professor Wendy Hall introduces session (1min 32sec)

Sir David Omand (12min 45sec)

Me (9min 35sec)

Marketing and PR and the General Data Protection Regulation

EU citizens

My main character in Attenzi – a social business story, the CEO Eli Appel, has this to say over lunch with his chairman:

Good business is about cooperative and interdependent relationships, always has been, yet the humanity was lost when organizations scaled way up during the 20th Century. We want to make those relationships more human again, but the answer can’t be to scale it all back down. We have to scale something else up.

He adds:

... No business can really get to be social in a meaningful and valuable way simply by indulging in social media or by slapping apps onto social devices or by subscribing to a social enterprise network.

Eli is referring here to the visceral difference between 'doing' social (bolted on) and 'being' social (built in), and you know which one you're on the receiving end of in any given situation right? Continue reading

Talking garbage and the purpose of business


The third in a series on the topic of the purpose of business. Follows:

  1. What, exactly, is the purpose of business? An answer post-Drucker
  2. Debating the purpose of business

Business exists to establish and drive mutual value creation. Steve Denning challenged this statement, preferring Drucker's assertion that the purpose of business is to create and keep a customer. I responded, and he has challenged my response:

we may be talking about different things: theoretical purpose of a firm and how to run it

"satisfying all the stakeholders" isn't a viable heuristic to run a firm. See Making Management as Simple as Frisbee

“satisfying all the stakeholders” was tried in mid20thC. It led to Garbage Can firms.

[tweet tweet tweet]


Steve refers to "garbage can firms" in his Forbes article, Is The Tyranny Of Shareholder Value Finally Ending?, an eloquent take down of prioritizing the pursuit of shareholder value. When it comes to garbage it quotes a trio of academics – Cohen, March and Olsen – who in 1972 explained: Continue reading

Debating the purpose of business

Hogwarts potions

The second in a series on the topic of the purpose of business:

  1. What, exactly, is the purpose of business? An answer post-Drucker
  2. Debating the purpose of business
  3. Talking garbage and the purpose of business

Steve Denning published an article to the Drucker Forum last week, How The Internet Is Forcing The Humanization Of Work, an argument founded on Drucker's assertion that the purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.

Steve found my post on the purpose of business post-Drucker via a thread with Kenneth Mikkelsen and tweeted his comments. His first quotes my re-definition of the purpose of business:

[The] Problem with "establish and drive mutual value creation" is that it doesn't tell me what anyone has to do.

and then:

"Delight customers" as the goal is crystal clear as to what everyone has to do.

and lastly:

Since power has shifted from seller to buyer, "delighting customers" sets priorities right, for firm to survive

I share Steve's optimism that we may be on the cusp of the potential to possibly humanize work (can my optimism be more tentative?!), but I cannot subscribe to his rationale. Continue reading

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

Paternoster Square

The first post in what turned out to be a series of three on the topic of the purpose of business:

  1. What, exactly, is the purpose of business? An answer post-Drucker
  2. Debating the purpose of business
  3. Talking garbage and the purpose of business


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