The best part of Altimeter’s amazing new Digital Change Agent’s Manifesto

Industry-leading analyst Brian Solis published a huge new report today, titled The Digital Change Agent’s Manifesto.

The report starts out with several pages of depressing reading about how hard it is to be a change agent inside an organization. I almost stopped reading it.

But then I continued, and the final 70% of the report is incredibly brave and totally outside of what I expected. It’s a discussion of the emotional barriers change agents face – not just in others, but also in themselves. Then, it offers great advice on how to manage those emotional barriers in yourself and in others.

All of the advice is remarkably good. Here’s just one taste of it.

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, to manage detractors, change agents ought to listen closely to their feedback. It is better to let them voice their concerns than to let them detract in secret. By listening to their concerns and the rationale for why they resist specific efforts to transform the organization digitally — and by trying to understand their motivations — change agents can turn detractors into allies. As Patrón Spirits’ Parker shares, “Most vocal critics can become your biggest advocates if you spend time with them.”

The whole report is amazingly helpful, though. You won’t read this kind of insight anywhere else. I highly recommend it.

Power pools at the points of intersection

Power pools at the points of intersection. That’s a clear theme in several of the most moving things I’ve read in the past few days.

Here are four items I recommend highly. Were we to do a multi-variate regression analysis of a few different dynamics in the world, these here might be explorations of independent factors that drive dependent factors like social cohesion, business productivity, justice and injustice.

  • In the relationship between mind and machine, product and platform, core and crowd – the latter of each pair has grown so much stronger now that the relationship between each of these must be re-examined…The business world is always changing but in transitions as profound as this one, things are even more unsettled than usual.
    Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future, Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson, 2017
  • “#changemanagement is often done with far too little communication, when it should be carried out more in the open with #WOL [Work Out Loud]+ #ESN [Enterprise Social Networks]+ network #leadership.”
    Dion Hinchcliffe, quoted in Change management needs more, different and modern communication to be successful (which I wrote)
  • A heartbreaking story of British imperialists collecting the dreams of their colonial subjects, in order to inform their control. Frustrated, they found – and resisted – evidence that we’re all equally human & that colonial rule is a nightmare.
    -Erik Linstrum, The empire dreamt back To help rule its empire, Britain turned to psychoanalysis. But they weren’t willing to hear the truth it told (Aeon)
  • And finally, tonight I listened to the most powerful speech I’ve heard in my life. If it doesn’t change your perspective on race and gender, then you’re not paying attention. If you already know all this stuff then you’re paying far more attention than I am – and chances are you’re not. Incredibly effective talk. Kimberlé Crenshaw – On Intersectionality – keynote – WOW 2016 Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, – the academic who coined the term ‘intersectionality’ and co-founder of the African American Policy Forum – gives a keynote on the unique challenges facing women and girls of colour when it comes to the struggle for gender equality, racial justice and wellbeing.

Social listening to your customers…when they don’t say your name

Social listening – for the past 10 years, since the founding of companies like Radian6 and ScoutLabs, it’s mostly meant “listening for the use of my brand’s name on social media so I can do damage control.”

There’s so, so much more than that. I’d like to write a book about how much more there is that that, but for now I’ll leave you with two thoughts:

* If your “social listening” only listens for your brand name, then it isn’t really social and it isn’t really listening.

* If you have customers, and you believe customer experience is important, then you should use social listening to see what your customers’ concerns, work, and day to day lives are like.

I’ve got some great systems for listening beyond brand name – to topical leaders talking about things other than…me. But now I’m building systems to listen to customers and it’s really exciting. It’s exciting to read about and listen to the work that is being done by the fascinating customers my employer works with! It’s fun – and it’s going to enable me to support those customers much, much better.

We must listen to people we disagree with

Sometimes people we find toxic have important insights that we ignore at our own peril. Social media amplifies the obnoxiousness and the opportunity. Ryan Holiday says “I Tried to Expose Russia’s Media Manipulation Playbook in 2012 and Nobody Listened.”

“You don’t get infected when you interact with someone you disagree with—or have at times found obnoxious or offensive. In fact, you can usually learn something. Specifically: what makes them tick and how they do what they do (the latter being the most important).”

Author Ryan Holiday wrote that in an interview he did with right wing troll Mike Cernovich a year ago last month. He says he was criticized for interviewing people like Cernovich, but he even started that article out by saying he doesn’t agree with Cernovich and had forgotten that he’d blocked him on Twitter.

I’ll follow Holiday’s lead and say I don’t particularly care for Holiday, either. But he’s got some important things to say and we should listen to him. He had a long post on the Observer today titled I Tried to Expose Russia’s Media Manipulation Playbook in 2012 and Nobody Listened.

It’s all about how he’d been interviewing people gaming the internet and contemporary cultural tastes for years and had written a book about it and had faced wide criticism. People saying he was trying to ruin the internet for everyone.

“I was trying to ruin it for everyone! Because the system had become a rotting, stinking mess—one worse than anyone wanted to admit—and I wanted to put some sunshine on it.”

But we didn’t listen. The whole post is a good read.

I’ll admit I didn’t listen. I enjoyed part of Holiday’s book The Obstacle is the Way, but I’m reading his compatriot Mark Manson’s book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. And when Holiday says in the Observer today that people have called him “a douchebag” and that his consulting clients are “mostly harmless”…uh yeah, he’s a part of a bro-tastic clique like that who are hot right now. But do they have valuable things to say? Yes. Should we sometimes hold our noses and listen? Yes. Are they “mostly harmless?” No, I don’t think that’s the case. But that’s not the whole story, either.

In this same spirit, I just took my dog for a walk and listened to Gerry Gould of the Summit Community Church in Ontario, Canada give a powerful sermon on apocalyptic literature and the spiritual meaning of the book of Revelations. It’s something I’d never have chosen to listen to, I’ve got a pretty deep aversion to such things to tell the truth – but you know what? It was fascinating! It was interesting to learn how those Christians think about some things and it was just an interesting meditation on spiritual life. I went out of my way to listen through to the end.

You know how I found it? Through the very cool “random podcast episode” button on the podcast search engine Listen Notes. Check it out! Give it a click or two and find something you’d never have listened to otherwise. Your dog will appreciate it and you’ll be a better, more informed person for it. The internet is great like that. Arguably, new media’s always like that: check out these great excerpts from an analysis of the newspaper explosion around the American revolution.

Aiming for Goldilocks-level innovation

“We want to reinvent, but we sure … don’t want to reinvent the wheel.” – Warby Parker co-founder Neil Blumenthal.

That line really struck me from this Fast Company article “The Future of Retail in the Age of Amazon.”

It reminded me of my friend Hideshi Hamaguchi‘s analysis of innovative products in terms of new and known behavior and value.

Hideshi explained that creating a product that allowed users to capture new value from known behaviors is a great way to make something attractive and comprehensible for the market. Making something that enables users to capture known forms of value using new (hopefully simpler) forms of behavior is good too. But when you’re innovating in terms of both behavior required and the form of value that comes from it – that’s going to be a tough sell.

I made a crude visual representation of that here. Hideshi’s would be much more attractive, I’m sure. In this case Green certainly doesn’t mean “go.” It just means, this is the easiest path to go to market. The yellow quadrants are probably the smartest way to successfully innovate.

This was a big struggle in building Little Bird, before it was acquired by Sprinklr last year. We were in that top right red quadrant. We were asking users to set up workflow systems to regularly check in on and engage with content highlights from high-impact people, on any topic, not filtered by keyword, in order to find key opportunities in a cloud of conversation to co-create value as a part of. That’s pretty awesome, but for most people it’s new behavior to capture new value.

Thankfully, now that we’re part of Sprinklr, the data we surface is much more easily actionable through more familiar behavior and delivers more familiar value.

One of the mistakes I made was building in that top right corner. The company could have been much more commercially compelling on its own if we’d succeeded in moving toward the more-popularly known axis in one direction or another. We knew this, I was just stubborn. )And it’s much easier said than done – we certainly tried.) I’m stubborn in large part because I am motivated more than anything else by awe, and the abundance of opportunities I personally have always been able to create with the behavior and value exactly as we delivered it was (and is) something I’m in awe of. In the future I’ll team up, with greater self-awareness all around, with settlers I can pass the ball to. That would probably be necessary but not sufficient.

Word to the wise!

How to get pumped up and finish hard tasks

Popular author Daniel Pink has begun a new podcast and the first of two episodes is particularly good. It’s embedded below.

Pink interviews Dan McGinn, author of a new book titled Psyched Up – The Science of Mental Preparation. The interview is really cool. Want to know what Stephen Colbert does every night before his show to get pumped? Check it out.

McGinn says when he looked across the preparation rituals of all kinds of high-performing people, he found that they all did different things to fill the following three needs.

1. Reduce anxiety
2. Increase confidence
3. Elevate your energy level (often with music)

I loved this interview, and just happened to listen to it as I was walking back to my office to tackle something I really dreaded working on. Something that made me feel a lot of anxiety.

What I did was this: I spent 5 minutes writing, with pen and paper, about my anxieties around the task. I’ve done that with a number of fears lately and it’s worked great to put things in perspective and help me turn down that anxiety. Then I spent just a couple of minutes visualizing the last time I successfully did the thing. It felt great. Then I put on some Bassnectar radio on Pandora and turned the volume up high. I told myself I’d do one Pomodoro of the task at a time, but once the first 25 minute period was complete – I was flying high.

Try your own steps to fill those 3 needs. I’m pretty excited about this model as a new tool.

About this blog (Q4 2017)

Blogs deserve love. As simple self-publishing technology, they have the potential to transform the world. This one’s helped transform my life – but I’ve been neglecting it. I’d like to try to change that.

Since moving from Google’s to my own self-hosted WordPress site here at 12 years ago, this site has grown brittle. I just pared it down and I’m going to try to get back into the cadence of sharing things on it. If I can stick with it for a meaningful amount of time, then I’ll allow myself to invest some time and resources into making it look better. For now, I’m keeping it simple.

I’m going to try sharing one thing each day here that I find in my wide-ranging reading. I use a lot of automation, experts-as-filters, and a decade of professional experience in emerging web technology to consistently find great things to read and learn. I know that some of you will really appreciate the same things I appreciate. By discussing those things aloud, on the public web, we’re going to open up some new surface area for each other, some exciting new possibilities.

I hope you’ll join me. Specifically, I hope you’ll subscribe by email (I’m going to run this blog’s RSS feed through Mailchimp) and occasionally post a comment. I’ll reply. 🙂 We can act like we’re having a conversation at a party, it is called social media after all.

Thanks for stopping by. I wish us both luck.