Thursday, August 13, 2009

Community: An Update to the Update

In my previous post I suggested that one of the hot trends at the moment was around ‘community’.

I stick with that assertion and let me clarify it a little further...

Communities, tribes, clusters have been around for yonks. They’re not new. Living in a cave with a couple of families was probably our first community and that’s more than a few
years ago.

There are two specific things that are new about communities.

  1. For a while there the focus was on the individual, now it’s swinging back to the group.
  2. With online or virtual communities the game has changed: New groups; meeting in new ways; in different timeframes.

The Focus on the Individual

A handful of decades ago, Marshall McLuhan put forward an interesting ide

He suggested that the standardization of Industrial Age technology w
ould promote the individual. Think of it as a backlash. If every thing around me is generic, standard and the same, then I’ll make sure I’m a little different. Thus the rise of the Avant Garde.

The flip of this is the Electronic or Information Age, where information is automatically unique and custom. Plus, anything electronic was instantly connected and therefore the emergence of one of McLuhan’s grandest ideas: the ‘global village’.

Sameness in one area was like a bubble under the carpet. Push it down in one place and it was going to show up somewhere else.

Alternatively, let’s use my favourite change metaphor, the pendulum. Previously, it swung toward the individual and now it’s swinging back to the group.

This is not necessarily an either/or thing.

For instance, marketing is becoming ‘both’.

Previously, with mass advertising, everyone was treated the same. We all saw the same message and we were thought of as one group.

There was a brief hiccup when we swung to the other end of the spectrum to One-to-one Marketing or Database Marketing. In this case, we were all treated as individuals.

Now the pendulum has swung to the middle and Community Marketing is prevalent. As Douglas Atkins suggested in The Culting of Brands, we want to be treated as both an individual and as part of a group.

See our issues Brand Worship and Talk With Me for more on this.

Online Communities

Online Communities are a recent phenomenon.

They’re about 20 years old starting out with the old Usenet and other forum-like clusters on the net. They began as a home for the geeks because you needed to be technologically inclined to be able to log in and join the conversation.

In recent years, adult proof technology has allowed onl
ine social networks to flourish: MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

The first point is these groups represent new clusters of people.

Previously, because our communities were built primarily on face-to-face contact, they were location driven. For instance: your neighbours; local CWA; or School group.

Now that we are forming virtual groups, anyone from anywhere on the planet with an Internet connection can join in.

The second, rather obvious, point is that virtual is not face-to-face. This means the relationships we have with people online will not be the same as those we have offline. The sensory channels are different. Whilst we can do video teleconference where we can see and hear, we’re not able to touch, smell or taste.

This subtle change in the medium of the communication changes the possible relationship we can have with the person on the other end.

For instance, we can have a dialogue on a phone call but only a monologue in a letter.

A further twist is the ease with which ‘friendships’ or connections can be made online. See our issue The Great Business Gestalt for more on this.

This means that communities spring up as quick as desert wildflowers after rain. And, in some cases, disappear just as quickly.

This acceleration of time means our online friendships may be short lived particularly when compared to the neighbours we lived next door to for decades.

We also have a change in immediacy. With the use of the smartphone we can now be part of our global community any minute of the day, regardless of what time it around the world. We can also get an immediate response from any questions we may ask.

Our communities are now open for business 24 hours a day whether we are or not.

Finally, perhaps the biggest point of all… We now all have access to a level of broadcast that was previously only available to a limited few.

The most spectacular example is Barack Obama on Facebook. He now has over 6 million fans. That’s right, six million. He can now email these people whenever he wants about whatever he wants.

Previously, he’d need access to a mass media device like a TV network, radio station or newpaper to pull that trick off. Now we can all do it simply by adding a few friends on Facebook.

So that’s a brief synopsis of the ‘community’ trend.

A swing back from individual to groups AND the rise of new groups online.

Hope that clarifies it further.
Keep sending in your comments and questions.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

One is good, many is better...

Now that you can get all the Book Rapper issues for free, I thought it would be appropriate to publish the big picture context and update each author and the issue at hand. Here's the third in the series...

The Book:
Barry Libert and Jon Spector and thousands of Contributors; We Are Smarter Than Me: How to Unleash the Power of Crowds in Your Business

The Bees Wees: One is good, many is better...

To learn about the power of community-at-work look to the natural world.

An individual bee, with its modest brain, is incapable of producing a hive by itself. And yet, a colony of bees can build a hive-community in the most amazing way.

The mighty midget termite-mound builders of Northern Australia, show what is po
ssible when the ants work toward a mutual goal.

Wow! When it comes to working together for the common good, Book Rapper defers to the master - Nature herself.

Community Building releases control, unfurls ideas, shares information, connects like-minded individuals and promotes cooperation within vast communities.

By giving away our raw imagination and naked ideas we allow others to polish up these diamonds-in-the-rough. Just put ‘em out there!

How often have you secretly hung onto your best ideas only to see them flower in someone else’s garden!

Ongoing interaction and dialogue is what makes information useful; feedback from others refines it for even greater benefit.

The business models of crowd-sourcing and community building extend the Aussie community spirit - CWA, CFA, SES - and traditional Amer
ican barn-raising; they raise the roof on business possibilities.

Housed under the vibrant white roofs of a Greek island village beats the slow, steady, throbbing heart of community cooperation.

It’s the same heart that the smart organization now has throbbing through its workplace chambers.

Gone are the days of the few controlling the many where corporations decided what, when and how things were produced.

Henry Ford’s ‘any colour as long as its black’ (because black paint was the cheapest) was the poster child of corporate control in those days of old.

In less than 20 years, the World Wide Web has spawned new business models and reversed the concentration of economic power.

Wikinomics, crowd-sourcing and open-source has democratized production and created an ‘economy of the people, by the people and for the people’.

The ‘new community’ taps into the power of the masses to fulfil tasks previously safely guarded by the exclusive eyes of in-house experts within the walls of the corporate office and the factory.

The Web has enabled this change in collaboration. Initially, the ‘1-way Web’ mirrored Industrial Age thinking whereby business focussed on control of information.

The modus operandi was to generate profit through strategies to corner the data market and up the price.

Web 2.0, the ‘2-way Web’ has flipped this on its pink
ear. Web 2.0 recognizes that information becomes more valuable as more people use it.

Social networking, crowd sourcing and building communities is your future.

Think and work together.

When we communitize we can reduce costs, wind up with a better road-tested product; a product that is already supported by a waiting market of customers.

We Are Smarter Than Me also shows how the principles of crowd sourcing can be used in the recruitment and retention of good people. This has to be a welcome bonus.

So, what can social networking, building a community and crowdsourcing do for you, your product and your brand?

Wrong question! Rewind; reframe.

Instead, ask, What can I do for my customer, my
people and my product?

The answer: Build communities!

Social Networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Second Life are second nature to Gen Y. Finally, smart heads of corporations and businesses are catching on.

The future of business points to Community Building, Social Networking and Crowd Sourcing.

One is good; many is better; We is best!


I’m often asked about the patterns and connections I see between the Book Rapper issues that I’ve been writing and researching.

One of the loudest trends that’s showing up is: Community.

At the time The Bees Wees issue was written, 'community' appeared to be an emerging trend.

A mere twelve months later, it’s no longer emerging. It’s shifted from the outside edges to centre stage. It's now front of mind, central to conversation and a natural part of our social lives.

The obvious flood has come from social networking. Facebook is flourishing and Twitter has become a tsunami. It seems we’re clammering over each other to get connected.

In our Book Rapper issues, ‘community’ is showing up across most of our recent issues.

'Brand Worship’ is all about connecting and belonging to a community through a brand.

Talk With Me’ is all about conversations within organizations and between customers and organizations. Conversations lead to relationships which build communities.

We Blog’, ‘The Great Business Gestalt’ and ‘Twittergy’ are the tools of social media. They tell us how to connect online and how to build virtual communities.

In the past few weeks, Book Rapper has been released to the world for free. This was a direct response to this trend of community. Our goal is to attract more people to Book Rapper and build a community around this to discuss the ideas we've been rapping.

My conclusion: if you’re building anything of value today, ensure you have ‘community’ embedded within your idea. If it’s not included, go back to the drawing board and redesign your offer.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Now that you can get all the Book Rapper issues for free, I thought it would be appropriate to publish the big picture context and update each author and the issue at hand. Here's the second in the series...

Book: Ori Brafman & Rod A. Beckstrom; The Starfish and the Spider; The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, Portfolio (Penguin), London, 2006.

Our Context

During the Cold War, the Americans and the Russians were engaged in an escalating battle of espionage and defence.

It was thought impossible that a plane could get anywhere near Russia, let alone the beating heart of Moscow, without the Russians knowing about it well in advance.

Well, it happened. By effectively flying below the radar, a German flying student flew his small plane from Germany and successfully landed smack-bang in Red Square.

You can just hear the jubilant young pilot shout “Surprise! I’ve
arrived,” to the amazement of the Russian shoppers and Red Guards.

The central idea in The Starfish and the Spider will have a similar impact on business over the next decade.

Even though there are well-known examples of successful decentralized organisations around us right now, coverage of this concept in the popular press is all but invisible.

While the business press celebrates our prized leaders as the source of strength, certainty and foresight, our business schools champion ‘leadership’ as the great salvation for our confused and ever changing world.

Yet, the ticking clock in the background suggests the pendulum that swings between centralization and decentralization is making a decisive strike in the opposite direction.

Has no one noticed that the central (sic!) feature that is transforming business today is a decentralized structure called the Internet?

In parallel with our opening story, it too is a result of Cold War defence. Developed by the US Military to create a ‘leaderless’ organization in case the Soviets
attacked, the Internet has created its own war on business traditions.

As Seth Godin suggests in his latest serving, Meatball Sundae (see RAP4, Marketing How-Now), the Internet has ended advertising, changed marketing forever and upturned business. Have you been paying attention; have you noticed?

Decentralized organizations pose a similar threat. The game has changed, as any music industry executive will tell you.

Napster started in a college dorm room and has dismantled the music empires of the big five recording companies one swapped song at a time. The starfish had attacked the spider and won. (See our story in the RAP on Page 7)

Historically, the Industrial Revolution gave birth to business based upon top-down control in the form of a hierarchy - think military command. In contrast, the Internet shapes the Information or Knowledge Era in which we live and this favours a decentralized approach based upon loose networks, open systems and interacting relationships.

Is it any wonder the Big Military of the US didn’t see the tiny cells of Al Qaeda coming? Talk about slip through the cracks...

The pendulum is swinging. Whilst it won’t swing completely to purely decentralized structures, competitive advantage in the digital economy is heading that way.

We are likely to have many more fusions like Ebay, Skype and Wikipedia.

Other landscapes will not escape the starfish imprint.

On the political platform, Barack Obama may become the first black president of the US. However, this will be a mere sideshow to the real change - the first president elected using a fusion of decentralized campaigning.

Whilst Hillary’s campaign was up to $36 million in debt based upon a classic top-down approach of seeking big donations from major players, Obama broke funding records. More than 250,000 people contributed to his campaign with more than 90% offering $100 or less. This is more contributors than any previous candidate and simultaneously he gained more than a million friends on social networking sites.

Whilst elections are not won by dollars in the bank they are won by grass roots action one vote at a time.

Most interestingly, if decentralization gets Obama to the White House, could this be the beginning of the redesign of democracy?

With the aid of the Internet, participatory democracy is highly achievable against the centuries old tradition of elected representatives going off to our Capital Cities to vote on our behalf.

In Australia, as the most governed country in the world, perhaps it is time to dismantle the Federalism of states and become the ‘Starfish Republic’.

Decentralizing the monolith of government would surely be a transformation of our society.

Closer to the lounge room is the demise of television, that bastion of centralized conformity and family life that is being transformed by the freewheeling anarchy of the Internet. Being told what to watch and when to watch it is not a popular sport for Gen Xers and Ys.

TV is also changing at other levels: the canned laughter of the sitcom is giving way to Reality TV where the ‘actors’ are free to be themselves rather than following some preordained script.

The Big Brother parallel to business is evident in the increasing demand for innovation. If you want to be creative you need to abandon corporate speak and start to think and act for yourself.

In a command and controlled environment innovation is a contradiction. To remain competitive in the cut-throat global arena of big business, decentralized units are ‘the Idea Advantage’ because they are naturally suited to the free-flowing nature of an open system.

Ironically, the presentation of decentralization as the way to leader-less organizations is a misnomer - we’re heading to Leaderful Organizations.

Instead of a starfish organization being mired by the imagery of a chook with its head cut off running around aimlessly, our organizations will become more leaderful!

If Peter Drucker were alive today he would proclaim the ‘Leaderful Organization’ as the replacement of business bossiness.

Rather than having one dominant leader or chain of leaders, our organizations will require that we all step up to the plate and demonstrate personal leadership in being accountable and responsible for our contribution each and every day.

A catalyst and an even stronger ideology that is truly worth believing in will replace the reliance on the CEO to lead the way. Building corporate cultures is like innovation; in a closed system of centralized control it is a contrivance and a contradiction.

Instead, decentralize, loosen the reins and let your employees step up to the plate in smaller circles where there is no place to hide.

In our previous RAP The Four Hour JOLT! we pointed to the demise of the 40-hour work week. Decentralized organizations make the Four Hour Work Week feasible for all of us.

This is a major change in our society. It not only changes business, government and community organizations, it also dramatically alters our roles within them and within our local neighbourhoods.
Ignore this at your peril!

PS : Co-author of The Starfish and the Spider, Rod A Beckstrom has just been appointed head of Cyber-Security - a new organization established by the US Governments Department of Homeland Security. The Bush administration has realized that a centralized approach is not working to stem the impact of starfish based hackers and terrorist cells following the failure of the centralized FBI, CIA and NSA in failing to predict S-11.

The obvious update is that Barack Obama is now in the White House. Did his Fusion approach of using a grass roots, social networking approach combined with strong clear leadership work? You bet!

No word on Rod Beckstrom. He's probably business with his new job...

Ori Brafman has since published a new book with his brother Rom. The book's called: Sway: The irresistable pull of irrational behaviour. I haven't read it. Scanned it at the book shops several times, haven't been tempted enough to want to read it. Love to hear your thoughts from those who have.

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Tim Ferris - The Four Hour Work Week

Now that you can get all the Book Rapper issues for free, I thought it would be appropriate to publish the big picture context and update each author and the issue at hand. Here's the first in the series...

The Four Hour JOLT! Business/Self development books bring to mind sheep in wolfs clothing; they’re a better fit with ‘auto-biography’ than the ‘fix it’ genre.

What they represent is life experience pulled together, bowerbird style, into a personal ethic, philosophy, research paper, manual, etc.

The unifying theme is: ‘buy my book/ebook; CD/DVD; workshop/seminar, and, I’ll show you how you too can get: rich/religion; motivated/thin; up early/up yourself; calm/connected; jailed/free; colour coded/colour integrated; multiple orgasms/organised; the perfect job/the bosses job; wired/unwired; a 3rd mortgage/a 3rd bankruptcy; a dodgy song into Eurovision/a colonic irrigation @ FutureLifeVision; a cubicle on the window side (when Roger retires)/a $50 million hand-shake (only a few of these)… Get it?

They are published, for better or for worse, because the author wants us to feel as good as he does when we replicate his life, buy (sic) following his process/rituals/acronyms/advice.

At first reading, The 4-Hour Work Week fits this genre: work less/play more; increase income/decrease hours; more freedom/less accountability. Yeah, yeah...

Move on, you’ve read it all before; you know the drill! But wait! This time it may be different.

Sure, Tim Ferriss walks his talk (lots do), tells it like it is (very Gen Y), has zero tolerance for ‘idiots’ (envy it), and yet, on second (and third) reading, there is more, much more here.

It’s rests in what Tim Ferriss doesn’t say.

It’s what he, and a few others of his generation, (unwittingly) demonstrate in who/how they connect, commit, commune and communicate with their species; in the way they engage life.

What Book Rapper is flagging is perhaps something that you don’t yet know you will want to know.

The way we see it is that the global perception and practice of work has undergone a seismic shift.

We’re in the beginning of an ‘Industrial’ Revolution (we’ve had several of them; a major one was the 40 hour work week) and the 4-Hour Workweek concept makes the Short Time Movement look like an all day sucker!

The Short Time ‘8 Hour Day’ movement grew out of the atrocious conditions of England’s Industrial Revolution’s factories. With working days of 12-16 hours commonplace Robert Owen launched a plan for an 8 hour day way back in 1817.

His innovative vision was for a 24-hour-day plan comprising 8 hours of work, 8 hours of play and 8 hours rest.

Whilst skilled workers in Australia and new Zealand were awarded a union negotiated 8 hour day as early as the 1850’s it didn’t become a typical day for all workers until around 1920.

One hundred and fifty years later, the end of the 9-5, M-F 40 hours work/live for the weekend lifestyle is rolling into a workplace near you...

Like Owen, TIM Ferris has posted a radical vision – a 4-Hour Work Week – and it’s close to the mark of the promised ideal offered at the beginning of the Information/Knowledge Age.

Remember the Age of Leisure (freedom) with which visionaries of the recent past have tantalised and motivated us? Well, Ferriss shows us that he has achieved it; he’s pulled the plug on an 80 hour, office bound week and freed himself to live his ideal lifestyle.

His DEAL offers each game soul the key to enable them to pursue a personal dream or passion. You can create a one-off blueprint, a personalised Lifestyle Design and live your ideal life.

The DEAL process is also the perfect lense through which to view changes in industrial, social and cultural evolution over the last 200 years.

In terms of Time, if you’re still working 50-70 (or more) hours a week, then you’re doing no better than steam driven England. It may be that your soul (sic) purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others!

When Absolute Income (hours in/dollars out) is the measure, we’re all better off. However, the outstanding winners today are those who plan around, and insist on, Relative Income ($$$’s per hour worked).

Finally, if you’re commuting to a cubicle five or six days a week then you’ve only traded tools and method in the Mobility stakes since 1850; you’ve effectively swapped your loom for a computer, and your horse for an engine.

Tim Ferriss insists that you define what ‘work’ is for you. Why are you doing what you’re doing? He claims that it can only be one of two things: ‘income generation’ or ‘dream fulfilment’.

‘Work’ is a scientific term; it’s a measure of energy used. It has nothing to do with generating an income or fulfilling a dream.

Will you choose to generate an income or pursue your passion and live your dream? What might happen if you re-frame the word ‘work’ to ‘income’ or ‘dream’?

Be mindful that even when you don’t choose, you do! Life is the original DIY: Lifestyle Design is your own personal ‘how to’ map.

Why should you change?
  • Family : What did you miss out on growing up? Are you leaving the same legacy for your family or pumping for something different?
  • Career : Is the cost of what you’re pursuing worth it? Are you in a game worth playing; a game worth winning? Are you going through the motions or training yourself for a better tomorrow?
  • Self-Image : Are you holding onto habitual beliefs that keep you from pursuing opportunities to show what you secretly believe you’re really made of?
Listen, really listen, to your internal voice, your instincts, your intuition. You can’t store time in a bottle. Drink deeply today, down to the last sip. Don’t waste a drop.

The 4-Hour Work Week could JOLT you to make a paradigm shift in how you relate to yourself and to your world.

It’s about being you first, in designing yourself as a person, who you are and only then about what you do to earn the income you need to practice, act as, behave, experience being who you are.

It’s an inspiring book when read as that - an account of how one person lives an inspirational life. Tim clearly set out his process and it is a repeatable one.

Otherwise, you know all the stuff in it. It’s the little brother of 1984 and the 80/20 rule. Great principles that we all need reminding of now and then – eliminate crap: work on what brings in 80% of your income.

You know all that. And frustratingly, you don’t follow it.

Why? Could it be that you’re not being your true self. Are you acting out of what you have to do – what is expected - and not what you want to do.

Are you being YOU?


With this book now a couple of years old, it's interesting to notice how it's message is filtering through the community. In particular, I've had a series of conversations with people changing their goals since reading The Four Hour Work Week.

For instance:
  • Colleagues rethinking their careers. In particular, restructuring their work activities and starting new businesses to focus on cash flow rather than being satisfied with 9-5 attendance.
  • A lot more talk about mini-retirements and a host of people taking them. I'm heading to Sydney for 4 week working holiday in a couple of days. I'll be meeting with clients on half my days, writing Book Rapper on the others and enjoying the fresh Sydney air on the weekends.
  • Finally, a few rumblings in the world of HR favouring flexible work conditions. Some I've spoken to backed off from their plans to ask for flexible work due to the threat of cutbacks in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis. Others, spotted the opportunities and were able to negotiate a 4 day work week to work on other things - less work and more mobility. In return the employer was able to cut salaries by 20%. A good win-win. Others I spoke to abandoned the permanent job for a contract position - work 9 months for the same pay!
Love to hear how you, or people you know have taken on board the principles of Tim Ferris' The Four Hour Work Week.

If you haven't read the book do so. Alternatively, read our RAP, 'The Four Hour JOLT!' It's now available on our website for free.

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