Future of work and the growth of populist politics

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The future of work has been an emerging issue for a long time, and now as automation disrupts traditional employment, it is safe to say that it has emerged. It is becoming increasingly urgent to find a solution for those displaced. We need new ideas and approaches to this problem. Otherwise we will see a large number of people out of the workforce for long periods, with a concomitant growth in populist politics and the destruction of the social compact.

A good example of the issue is a recent article on NPR that shows the most common job in every US state in 2014. With the prevalence of the job of ‘truck driver’ across the country there is going to be some real pain felt when autonomous trucks hit the road in the near future. Already the so-called rust belt in the US is suffering from underemployment, and it’s about to get much worse. It’s pretty clear that all these truck drivers are unlikely to become coders, so what shall we do?

Most common job in each US State

We are seeing the fight by employers to reduce wages bills means that they are adopting automation wherever it is feasible, for example: Thanks To ‘Fight For $15’ Minimum Wage, McDonald’s Unveils Job-Replacing Self-Service Kiosks Nationwide.

More entrepreneurial, approaches are appearing, but they are on a small scale. Ideas like Phil Morle’s #nextmonday initiative, where he hosted a two day workshop where former Ford employees learned how to go about turning an idea into a new business. And initiatives like code clubs for kids seek to add new digital skills to student’s portfolios.

The gig economy is growing as old-fashioned jobs with benefits are killed off by cost saving initiatives. Even in New South Wales we  see local government jobs are being taken by cheaper foreign workers.

This growth in job uncertainty will see changes in society that we remain unprepared for. It changes the nature of the social compact with which we are all familiar. In the recent past one obtained a permanent job, borrowed money to buy a house, educated your kids and life was good. Now in the more precarious gig economy, loans for housing or cars will be difficult to come by, and home prices in east coast Australia remain stubbornly high. At the same time, conservative governments are focused on austerity and are seeking to cut costs on welfare payments and to make welfare more difficult to obtain. In Australia, under the conservative government, this seems to be following the trajectory of the UK Conservative policy, and it will likely have the similar consequences as the rules get increasingly tight.

This lack of permanency in the job market will likely drive a growth in populist politics, empowering people to vote against the major parties in Australia. This phenomenon will be similar to what happened in the UK with Brexit and US with Trump, and it means that we face continued growth in minor parties in the Senate and possibly even in the House.

It is fast approaching the time for nations to consider new policy options, such as the idea of a universal basic income. But I do not think that conservative governments will support such a notion. And therefore we are in for interesting times as the old social compact disintegrates and the world of work changes forever.

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Innovation, government, and #policyhack

@kcarruthers
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Can a government really change the way it does innovation by doing a #policyhack ?

It was refreshing to hear the Turnbull government immediately turn around the depressingly negative rhetoric of the Abbott era and start talking about innovation, agility, and action. And it was a nice surprise when Wyatt Roy MP announced that he was hosting a #policyhack in associating with well-known startup incubator, BlueChilli.

What is a #policyhack ?

policyhackIn about two weeks the staff of Wyatt Roy and Blue Chilli pulled together a good quality event called #policyhack. The idea was simple:

“Ideas for policies that could grow innovative, globally competitive industries in Australia

Policy and industry experts collaborate in a one day policy hackathon.

Along with Assistant Minister for Innovation Hon. Wyatt Roy MP, BlueChilli will bring together representatives from startups, VC funds, accelerators and other components of the innovation ecosystem, with policy experts from government departments to collaborate in a one-day industry policy hackathon in Sydney, Saturday 17 October 2015.

We’ll use the hackathon methodology to nominate, select and work together in mixed teams on new government policy ideas designed to foster the growth of innovation industries including tech startups, biotech, agtech, fintech, renewables and resources.”

The judging criteria for the ideas were simple:

  1. Value proposition – Does the proposal address a clear and present problem in the innovation ecosystem, and has the problem been clearly articulated?
  2. Impact – Does the proposal contribute to making the innovation ecosystem stronger?
  3. Implementation – Is the proposal practical to implement; has the proposal identified required resources (public and private); has the proposal indicated who would be the relevant stakeholders? Is the proposal practically achievable in realistic timeframes?@kcarruthers
  4. Value for money – Has consideration been made to proposal’s potential costs?
  5. International comparisons – Has anything similar been done internationally?

Initial policy ideas for consideration on the day were crowdsourced from the public via the  OurSay online forum prior to the event.

I signed up, partly out of curiosity and partly out of a desire to see government try something a bit different to develop new policy approaches. I have had previous experience of hackathons and design jams, mostly in a tech startup or service design context, and was interested to see how well the hackathon model translated for rapid policy development. I ended up working with the always disruptive Anne Marie Elias, along with the amazing Annie Beaulieu and Cass Mao on a social innovation idea for reshaping the existing welfare model for disadvantaged communities.

Was it worth doing #policyhack ?

It was a great day. It was a place full of interesting and engaged people who were working collaboratively to change the way Australia does innovation. Lots of Federal public servants were also there. I hold out hopes that many people who participated can see the value of this kind of rapid design process for use in policy development. It was also good to get the public servants out of their Canberra eyries to meetup with real entrepreneurs and folks who are doing innovation everyday in real life. Exposing government and bureaucrats to the lean and agile approaches for getting new ideas off the ground at minimal cost and effort, that are already used successfully across the global startup community, is a benefit.

Having worked in state government and been involved in policy development over the years I can see that this is an area that is ripe for disruption. Approaches to policy development, like #policyhack, might just be part of the equation for renewal of the government’s policy development framework.

policyhack-2Building connections between Canberra types and entrepreneurial types working together with a common focus is one of the best outcomes. We need to develop more informal ways for government and public service people to continue the dialogue with the startup community. StartupAus is a good start.

But to make it real, it is up to Wyatt Roy and his ministerial colleagues and their departments to be brave and turn these ideas into reality. I await the next steps with great interest.

The whistling winds of change are possibly just about to reach Canberra, and we might all be the better for it. As my colleague, Gavin Heaton summarised it neatly: “The new MVP – minimum viable policy.”

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Design-Led Tuesdays at UNSW Michael Crouch Innovation Centre

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Have been meaning to post about Design-Led Tuesdays at UNSW for a while now.

Selena Griffith, Martin Bliemel, and I kicked off Design-Led Tuesdays as a new initiative between UNSW, ENACTUS UNSW and Social Innovation Sydney.

Tuesdays at UNSW’s Michael Crouch Innovation Centre this semester are all about design thinking for innovation. The Design-Led Tuesdays program runs for 10 weeks across Semester 2, 2015, with lunchtime and evening events.

12 to 2pm: Design for Innovation
These Tuesday ‘brown bag’ lunchtime workshops are for UNSW students and staff who want to learn and collaborate by ‘design doing’ and design tools for innovation.

ENACTUS UNSW and Social Innovation Sydney have designed a ten-week series of workshops to help you cultivate all the design tools you need to realise your innovative ideas.

The workshops will be very hands on – lots of ‘design doing’!

Places are limited to 30 people each week, so booking is essential: RSVP details here

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Call for papers: Design for Disaster Response Conference #d4dr15

d4dr15
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A colleague and I are co-chairing the Design for Disaster Response cross disciplinary conference to share research and actions around approaches to preparing for, and delivering responses to, disaster. We recently issued the following call for papers. More information will be available on the #d4dr15 conference website.

Date and Location

Date: Friday November 13, 2015

Venue: UNSW Australia Michael Crouch Innovation Centre UNSW Sydney, Australia

Conference Chairs

  • Selena Griffith UNSW Art & Design
  • Kate Carruthers UNSW School of Computer Science & Engineering

Conference Themes

The goal of this conference is to share research, actions and approaches to preparing for, and delivering responses to, disaster. The themes below are indicative but papers, posters and roundtables will be accepted on any disaster related topic.

  • Disaster Response
  • Disaster Recovery
  • Disaster Resilience
  • Humanitarian Disaster
  • Environmental Disaster
  • Medical Disaster
  • Engineering for disaster response and resilience
  • Technology for disaster response
  • Open source technology solutions for disaster response

Abstracts

Abstracts will be peer reviewed and full papers will be published in the conference proceedings. Selected papers will be double blind peer reviewed and published in full in the First Issue of The Asia Pacific Journal of Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Proposal ideas that extend beyond these thematic areas will also be considered.

Abstract Submission Process

Your abstract should be submitted via email using Word or PDF format via email to Selena Griffith by 6th September 2015
  • Your abstract (300-500 words, not including references)
  • 3 key words to help describe your paper
  • 2 references
  • A personal biography for up to three (3) presenting authors (50 words per person)
  • Email and phone contact details for all authors

Abstracts are accepted on the following conditions:

  • Papers must be presented by the authors. Proxies will not be permitted except in an emergency such as illness or misadventure.
  • The Committee reserves the right to accept or refuse any paper, symposium, workshop, or Poster.
  • The Committee reserves the right to allocate a session time or presentation type, which differs from that applied for.
  • Do not include tables, diagrams or graphs in the abstract.
PLEASE NOTE that only the first author will be advised in writing with regard to the acceptance or otherwise of the abstract submission. The first author (as given in the abstract submission) will be the main contact for correspondence about the presentation, however please also ensure that all co-authors/presenters’ email addresses are supplied.

Abstract Submission

Please send your abstract using Word or PDF format via email to Selena Griffith by 6th September 2015

Conference Timeline

  • Call for papers and posters opens August 6th 2015
  • Call for papers closes September 6th  2015
  • Notification of acceptance September 15th  2015
  • Full papers due October 30th  2015
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Mobile and social media – what it means for business

it's the future
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Mobile and social media have created a new business landscape

If you’re not already working out how to disrupt your business and your industry then you will be disrupted…

The web 2.0 revolution and social media changed the game for business. At a basic level brands discovered the notion of customer ‘conversations’. But for the most part this was not  strategic, rather it often consisted of random tactical efforts.

It is amusing to see that even in 2015 many brands are only just now discovering the notion of metrics and measuring their online activity:

“…many brands moving towards measuring audience impressions, clicks, and thinking cross-platform”

Tania Yuki , Shareablee CEO and Founder

Then we often hear statistics like this:

“…Instagram delivered these brands 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook, and 120 times more engagement per follower than Twitter.”

The real question to ask about all statistics like this is “so what?” What does that engagement translate to as business outcomes?

“There is no ROI in anything if you don’t learn how to use it.”

– Gary Vaynerchuk, Founder VaynerMedia

The simple fact is that hardly anyone is driving direct revenue from social media, and many businesses are not optimized to sell via mobile. And the big question for businesses is what is the goal for their social and mobile activity?

But now all business online presence must be mobile friendly – Google and customers will punish businesses that do not embrace this. Increasingly users are accessing digital  content via mobile devices, and this means that businesses need to ensure a good quality experience.

Social media was only phase 1

Social media was phase one of the new digital revolution, next coming is the collaborative economy and internet of things ( IoT).

The present of social is mobile. The future of mobile is IoT and wearables. and these offer huge  monetization opportunities:

Cisco [former] CEO John Chambers Values Internet of Things at $19T #CES2014

People

People, both customers and staff, now have a default position that assumes access to any resources they want. And they want it online, on demand, real-time, anywhere, and on any device they choose.

This is all part of the democratisation of communication enabled by the digital revolution. It leads to an inversion of power relationships and puts the means of production for communication in the hands of the populace.

It leads to opportunities and growth in peer-to-peer and mobile. Kevin Kelly sums it up nicely as:

“…a shift towards the individual as the centre of a network of relationships mediated and enabled by technology…”

The shift is from customer channels to a customer continuum mediated by social and mobile.

This means that businesses need to connect social media activity to purchasing activity, they need to make it work on mobile and tablet. And it must be friction-less.

Changes to team and organisation structure

In a fast moving context like this command-control management is dead. This is because the operational tempo of a digital business is not days or weeks or months; it is minutes and seconds.

To support this shift in operational tempo we need employees with skills to work in a social or collaborative context. We need team members who can deal with ambiguity and a fast pace.

To support customers who do not have patience with internal silos businesses need to move towards integrated teams. This means using ideas like DevOps and agile to support cross-functional teams to meet customer needs and deliver across organisational silos. To achieve this all parts of the business will need to bring together expertise:

  • Tech
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Operations
  • Customer service

Workforce changes mean that new ways of working will emerge, such as co-working and collaboration. These will lead to increased decentralisation of the workforce and be accompanied by much shorter change cycles.

And these changes will all lead to issues with boundaries between public and private; between personal and business. With this blurring between roles it will be increasingly difficult to establish role clarity. And this means that team members need to be able to manage through ambiguity and across functional lines.

Risk and governance

In the fast-paced world of digital business we still need to consider how to manage risk and how to enact effective governance.  Some factors to consider in this regard include:

  • Monitor your business online
  • Assign responsibility for online channels
  • Include social & mobile in digital strategy
  • Link digital strategy to marketing strategy
  • Ensure cross media planning in place
  • Develop mechanisms to track progress
  • Create and manage loosely connected networks
  • Grow a business in a networked world
  • Engage people and garner advocates for your business
  • Focus outward while protecting your brand

Top 10 checklist for digital business

  1. Digital strategy: is just part of it, includes websites, email marketing, etc.
  2. Tactical plans: For implementation of campaigns
  3. Resource plan: Social is not free, it needs people and tools
  4. Tools: Required to enable management, tracking and monitoring
  5. Metrics: Need to be decided prior to implementation to enable effective reporting
  6. ROI: Need to track investment and results
  7. Reporting: For good governance
  8. Roles & responsibilities: Defined and clear to all parties, in particular governance + cross-functional teams
  9. Cross media plan: Integration with other digital and marketing activities
  10. Risk management: Includes social media policies and procedures and crisis management process
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Startup, stay in business.

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The biggest hurdle facing most startups is to stay in business long enough to be successful. If they accomplish this then they have the chance to turn into an ‘overnight success’ after many years of hard work.

The numbers are against most new businesses. Many new businesses fail within the first three to five years. Even inside well-resourced large companies the challenges of bringing new products to market see many fail to make it.

This means that every startup sets out on a journey with the odds stacked against it. Every new startup is a triumph of optimism over evidence of other startup failures.

The real challenge for each startup is to stay in business. And sometimes hard questions must be asked to help the business survive.

The important factors in small business survival are:

  1. Focus – ability to say no to interesting opportunities that do not support the strategy
  2. Revenue – realistic sales targets with concrete and realistic plans to achieve them
  3. Cost control – ability to resist non-focused expenditure
  4. Customer focus – understand the specific market or markets and deliver what they will pay for; be ruthless with products that they don’t want
  5. Competitor analysis – know what competitors are doing and how to respond (if at all)

Focus

As Mick Liubinskas is well-known for telling entrepreneurs, startups must “focus or fail“. It is easy for a new business to find many things that it could possibly do. Often it is more important to identify the things that the business will not do (or will not do now).

One of the most important things to know is what things the business will absolutely not do. Out of scope items are more critical than in scope items, since they determine the boundaries within which the business will operate.

Survival

Everyday that the business survives and makes money is a good day. Many startups have big dreams. But if the business cannot survive to realise them then those big dreams will be crushed.

Cashflow and sales are nourishment for the business. There is a temptation to say “more capital will solve our problems”. However, this is not always the best course of action. The more investors a business has, then the more obligations one has to deliver for the investors.

Substance over style

There is a temptation for many startups to focus on external impressions and public relations at the expense of doing the hard work. That is, the hard work of setting up proper business management systems and processes to support the enterprise. While marketing and public relations are important, if the substance of the business is not well formed, the business will likely struggle to scale (or even to survive).

Leadership and management

Typically people startup a new business due to passion, and very often they do not have previous experience in leadership and management.

Business leaders undertake serious roles with obligations to shareholders, investors, customers, and staff. The fiduciary duties associated with business leadership are often not common knowledge.

Some things to do…

  • Set up sound management and operational processes and systems to support the business
  • Clearly define roles and responsibilities within the business
  • Have a clearly documented business plan together with key performance indicators to track progress
  • Set up a business support or mentor network – get advice from people with experience (and be willing to act on that advice)
  • Read up on why other businesses failed and work out how to avoid the same pitfalls
  • If in doubt, seek professional advice, and be smart enough to take it

Some useful links from the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) about running a company:

Articles on business failures

 

 

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The future of business is the future of technology

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Recently Rebecca Nash from ABC’s The Business asked me to consider the future of business over the next decade. Here’s some thoughts from that conversation.

The future of business has always been driven by developments in technology, and the digital revolution is of equivalent substance to the previous industrial revolution. This has important implications for the future of business.

Manufacturing will not die but it will change

Manufacturing used to be about employing large numbers of people in relatively low skilled jobs. However, this has been declining for many years with the introduction of robotics and automated production lines.  Automation of production lines is already highly advanced, but now we will see new approaches to how things are constructed. This trend in manufacturing employment will continue with the introduction of technologies such as 3D printing.

One  of the possibilities arising from 3D printing is enabling mass customization. A good example of this is shoe production via 3D printing, Australian startup Shoes of Prey is already using this technology. Another compelling application of 3D printing is in medical solutions like this: 3D printer gives disabled girl “magic arms” exoskeleton. Although it is important to note that the technology can be used for other purposes too for example, the ability to create a weapon.

Changed competitive landscape

The digital revolution is also leveling the playing field between competitors, and being large is less advantageous than previously. Smaller competitors can form loose coalitions that provide similar scale to a larger organization without the need for capital intensive setup.

We are likely to see a reduction in the market power of big players. Some traditional businesses will fail to scan the environment and detect shifts in the consumer environment. A good example of this is the differences in adoption of new technology and business models and its impact on the performance of competitors Kogan and Harvey Norman.

New internet

Another game changer is the internet of things – things knowing information about themselves and talking to each other, and enabling us to interact with them.  Thus metadata becomes increasingly important and enables the continued development of augmented reality applications such as those made possible by technologies such as Google Glass.

The internet of things will be enabled by wirelessly connected sensor technology. An interesting example of this is DNA tags as used by ethical Australian timber company Simmonds Lumber to help stamp out illegal logging. Yet this technology will have important ramifications for our personal privacy too – we will be asked to trade-off convenience for privacy.

Cost shifting to lower cost regions will continue – but those regions may change as economic shifts happen in the developed world.  That is, due to economic shifts, developed countries may evolve as lower labour cost regions.

Changing customer landscape

Power relations between business and consumers are shifting, and the shift is toward empowerment of consumers. This requires new attitudes and responses from business, and this requires customer insight which is provided by good data. Data will increasingly drive decision making and the making of meaning within businesses.

New approaches – loose coupling

Innovation will be powered by loosely coupled technical components that are joined up with loosely coupled business components. Even large businesses will need to find ways of being nimble and agile, to develop the ability to pivot rapidly in response to environmental changes.

Change cycles will increase in rapidity so businesses will need to constantly scan the external environment to assess and adapt.

Organizations will need to develop skills in entrepreneurship as an internal capability to drive innovation. If access to credit or capital becomes constrained then organic growth capability will be critical for business. Further, the ability to partner effectively with other organizations will also be critical to growth.

Effective use of resources becomes critical

Sustainability will continue to grow in importance, not just to save the environment. Sustainability will be important from both a cost control and environmental perspective.

Access to natural resources that we take for granted – such as water or petrochemicals – will become increasingly competitive.  And access to other resources needed to grow a business are also likely to be problematic.  A good example is access to credit.

New ways of doing traditional things like eduction and work

Schools and universities will not need to look like they do now. The need for large places enormous investments in physical infrastructure are no longer necessary to perform the task of eduction.  Online education and collaboration technologies mean that we do not necessarily need to ‘go’ to school in the way we do now.

This has implications for society and business. We currently use schools as a holding bay for children while their parents are working at the office 9-5.  If young people no longer need to attend school in a physical sense then how will their parents manage, and what impact will this have on the traditional workplace?

Also the need for workers to be physically present at an office to do their work will reduce. Better communications and presence technology means that adults will also be able to work from other locations than the traditional office. Some good examples of the evolution of co-working in Australia are Hub Melbourne, or Vibewire and Fishburners in Sydney.

This will drive changes in the ways that organisations design and define their physical footprint. It also means significant changes for currently viable business models such as building and renting commercial real estate.

Yet human beings still need interaction with others. Our young people need to interact with each other physically to evolve as human beings. Adults need to connect with each other in the work context.  We have a strong social drive and these needs still need to be met.

It is likely that localised co-working spaces will continue to evolve as solutions to this need for human contact and affiliation.  No longer will we head, lemming-like, to a corporate office in the city, instead we will head to the local co-working space where we can connect virtually with our colleagues.

Rise of collaborative models – leisure, work, competition

This does not mean that competition will disappear, however it will change.  Due to increasingly scarce resources collaboration will become more important for business. Further, the question of why a business needs to do everything for itself will become important. With cloud and ubiquitous connections to the network partnering with best-of-breed service providers will be easier.

In the personal sphere collaboration is likely to increase too.  And the change will be driven by similar considerations to business.  For example, why own a car when you don’t need one all the time, especially if you can get access to one whenever you need it?

Shared resources – cars, tools, etc – will make increasing sense to people and shift the consumer culture from one of product acquisition to service adoption. Some good examples of existing collaborative consumption models include Open Shed and 99 Dresses.

The future is a distant country*

Some of my prognostications will be wrong in their particulars. But the technology trends are clear. The next decade will see the rise of new businesses fuelled by technologies that don’t exist yet.  The job I do for a living did not exist when I left school. The industry I work in did not exist at the start of my career. I can see no reason why those trends will change in future. We need to be open to the new opportunities and accept that things move faster now.
* with apologies to L.P. Hartley

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Digital economy and the digital revolution

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Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the digital revolution and the changes that it is driving in the economy. We are seeing a bifurcation between the old 19th and 20th century manufacturing based industries and the 21st century digital economy.

This is a shift from creation of tangible products to the creation of digital products.  These digital products are not intangible. We still touch them, but the interaction is mediated by digital devices. For example we are still reading books and listening to music, but instead of reading a physical book or listening to a physical record or CD we simply download the digital media to our devices.

 Newspapers are a good example

What drove the success of newspapers and magazines in 19th and 20th centuries? The need for information, the scarcity of that information, and the tyranny of distance that prevented ordinary people from acquiring information easily.

And it was advertising and information about shipping that was the killer app for the newspapers. Classified advertising and the shipping schedules met key information needs for consumers and merchants alike.

This situation made newspapers a valued intermediary between sellers and buyers. And it made them valuable to consumers of information about the world, people, politics, and current events

Even digital business are not immune to change

A stalwart digital business is World of Warcraft, and I was surprised to see it reported via BBC News that World of Warcraft loses another million subscribers. 

Yet along with Facebook, with its recent IPO debacle, and Zynga, with its disappointing earnings and consequent management changes, we are seeing digital business struggle. This shows that being a digital business is not the sole answer.  There are other elements of success that we must uncover.

Thus it is interesting to consider The 10 (Surprising) Companies That Make More Money Online Than Facebook where Alexis Madrigal notes (via Paid Content) that the following companies earn more revenue that Facebook:

  1. Google
  2. China Mobile
  3. Bloomberg
  4. Reed Elsevier
  5. Apple
  6. Yahoo
  7. WPP
  8. Thomson Reuters
  9. Tencent
  10. Microsoft

One thing of which I’m certain: businesses whose revenues rely solely on people clicking online ads are destined for the deadpool in the long run.

Information scarcity is gone – we need trustworthy filters

That day is gone. Information scarcity is a thing of the past. Instead our need is to identify the best and most reliable sources among the flood of information available to us.

There was a good discussion of this in Techdirt recently: Turns Out That The iPad Won’t Magically Bring Back Scarcity For Magazines .

The fallacy of adopting old business models and applying them to the digital economy

There has been a belief that we can simply pick up old business practices and apply them to digital channels and expect similar results to what we got last century.  But some recent evidence indicates that this might not be the case.

Some recent articles that point to emerging challenges to traditional advertising approaches are:

New models evolving

Some new approaches that are evolving are supported by concepts like content marketing and community engagement. In recent times the retailer Sears has adopted a new approach and recounts progress: Sears Explains Its Success In Content Marketing.

This article by Shane Snow discusses some of the issues facing us in the digital economy How To Thrive In The Free-Product Economy, the fairly radical call here is:

“The bottom line is someone will probably one day ship a version your product for free. Maybe it will lack this or that feature you hold so dear, but that won’t matter. The broader the appeal, the more likely someone’s going to undercut your paid product with a free one.

I say beat the competition to the punch. It’s going to happen anyway. And setting your product free may just earn you the most business you’ve ever had.”

Even in traditional businesses some are reporting success in the digital economy, for example as Mathew Ingram reported recently:

“Both the Financial Times and the New York Times have either already crossed or are close to crossing an important threshold: namely, the point at which revenue from reader subscriptions exceeds the revenue they get from advertising.”

But Ingram notes, this success is largely because advertisers are departing in droves. The decline of advertising driven revenue models will only get worse in this age of information richness.

Technology shifts are driving the change even faster

As Dave Copeland notes Social Discovery Is Pushing Search and Social Closer and:

“Social Search Is the Web’s New Disruptor”

And consumers are increasingly living in a realtime world and feel annoyed or disrespected when organizations do not deliver to their expectations. A good example of this was the so-called #nbcfail where the NBC network in the US did not broadcast Olympic events to its audience in realtime. Instead it chose to only present them in delayed telecast during prime time.  This led to negative reports on social networks and even to Twitter banning a journalist at NBC’s request, which led to reports like: The #nbcfail isn’t about email addresses, it’s about corporate cronyism.

The Olympics also provided an example of how walled gardens for sponsors simply result in bad user feedback in these hyperconnected days. For example, this user reported their experience of visiting the London Olympics and provided their feedback on one of the sponsors.

The kind of command and control approach used by the Olympic organising committed and their sponsors seems strangely out of step with the digital world.  And it is so easily subverted as demonstrated so amusingly by Nike in London.

I’m not sure what the disruptors will be, but as Tom Foremski said of changes to our traditional business models:

“This is the Gordian knot of our times. The saving grace is that if anyone, I, Rupert Murdoch, or you — figure it out, we all benefit, we can all adapt to that business model.

I’ve been warning about this issue since I left the Financial Times in mid-2004. At the time, I was confident that we’d find a solution within five years. We haven’t — and I’ve seen nothing yet that shows that we will. “

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What’s the big idea with social media? #media140

Media 140 Perth 2012
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I was lucky enough to be invited to Media 140 in Perth recently to discuss what the ‘big idea’ is with social media.

The idea was for a context setting discussion about social media and how it is changing business and society.

DIGITAL REVOLUTION
We are living through a digital revolution that is changing the world we inhabit as absolutely and as irrevocably as the industrial revolution of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

That previous industrial revolution changed our relationship with time, with money, and with people. It created the wage labourer that we know, and the unions whom we’ve to come know encapsulated by the term ‘organised labour’. It created a society governed by the mechanical clock and the notion of work versus non-work time.

The digital revolution is on a similar scale, and this scale is based on a remarkable shift in the means of production. The digital revolution has at its roots a democratization of access to the means of communication.

EXPECTATIONS AND ACCESS TO COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY
As a result we are seeing a shift in the expectations of ordinary people about communications technology and their access to that technology. Further, we are seeing a rapid evolution of behaviour in relation to communications technology – mainly in the use of smartphones and tablets.

All of this is leading us to significant shifts in society, and it is all fuelled by innovations in communications devices. The smartphone and almost ubiquitous access to the internet have created a new baseline expectation in people that they will always be connected. I have often argued that with Twitter we are seeing the genesis of the hive mind of humanity.

The digital divide is no longer about access to technology – as my friend Mark Pesce notes, even poor fishermen in Kerala have access – it’s about your willingness or desire to be connected.

However, people are finding enormous utility in being always connected. For example, the number of ereaders in the hands of people is growing enormously, doubling since July 2011. And an example of a behavioural shift afforded by the technology is the growth in women’s erotic fiction sales. Romance novels have always been a big business globally, but a recent sales data indicates a substantial growth in sales of erotica (the so-called ‘guilty pleasures’ factor) that has been fuelled by the anonymity offered by ereaders.

As long ago as 2008 Australia mobile phone subscribers outnumber people according to ACMA data. This means that individuals have more than one device connected to the mobile phone network.

SOCIAL MEDIA, SOCIAL BUSINESS
Along with this embrace of ubiquitous mobile connectivity we have seen the growth of social media and social networking. This growth of social media is part of the landscape that makes up the digital revolution. Social media is revolutionary because it empowers the populace with access to the means of communication that were once the province of rich media barons.

This growth in social media fuelled by mobile connectivity has also changed the business landscape in important ways. There is a shift from command-control and pipeline driven businesses to social business that is focused on continuous engagement and conversations.

The kind of new business opportunities enabled by this digital revolution include:

  • the ability to compete in a new geography without even opening a local store (like Amazon);
  • the opportunity to reduce complexity for customers and remove friction from business operations (like Telstra);
  • subverting traditional models like recruitment where businesses build online talent banks of people who are interested in working with them (like Deloitte).

However, the shifts in society are not limited to business and consumers. They are also changing some things that we have always accepted. For example, we have always assumed that there is a just and valid separation between the domains of public versus private, or between business versus personal. But now those verities are being shaken by social media and social networking.

Social media is blurring the boundaries between the public, private, business, and personal. We are still working out how to negotiate this new territory. But already we see reports of people turned down for jobs because their online reputation score was too low.

We are now seeing a world where reputation is created, maintained, and mediated by online channels. There are increasing tools for measuring reputation online, such as: Kred, Klout, and Peer Index. Bouncers are even reportedly using Facebook as an identification check for entry into nightspots according to the BBC.

SOCIAL WORKPLACES
Workplaces are changing too, partly in response to the digital revolution. Open plan offices with collaboration spaces and hot desks are enabled because of wifi and portable connected devices like laptops and tablets.

SOCIAL EDUCATION
Our schools and places of education are being swept along by this digital revolution as well. With schools handing out laptops to all students and wifi in schools, libraries, and on public transport our children inhabit an always connected landscape. A teen boy said to me recently of my complaints about the poor wifi in Sydney: “but it’s just in the air, it’s everywhere”. It is a good example of the world that our young people inhabit. They live in a world where the connectivity is just ‘in the air’ around them.

The physical changes in workplaces are being reflected in schools too. They are becoming focused on collaboration rather than rote learning of facts. Students are learning how to discover, assess, and synthesize information rather than memorize facts.

WTF?
When we put together the shifting physical nature of the workplace and schools together with the blurring boundaries between public- private-business-personal, and the always connected devices in the hands of individuals many opportunities and challenges arise.

It is an exciting time to live. We are living through a revolution. The real question is will we drive the revolution or let it just happen to us?

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