Monthly Archives: March 2011

Game Mechanics and Landscape Design for Customer Value Creation

My daughter checking out the landscape design of Crete (Summer 2010)

I recently met a marketing professional who had seen the “social light”, or should I say Social Business Light. He was stressed about the fact that most of his colleagues and the management “don’t understand the value of social media and what is happening within marketing communication”. Very familiar set up!

At least some of the common misunderstandings and friction is a result of language we use. Different backgrounds and experiences lead to a situation where mutual comprehension is not easy.  Other challenges are – no news here – results of silo-liked work environments, communication and collaboration gaps, and also some kind of idea “inbreeding”.

All these factors complicate the work of management, business operations, and strategy work. More precisely, complicating the way management is use to manage and lead.

People, Process, Tools

What I am trying to do is to learn more about the challenges related to the communication and language issues. In the background I have several years of work with the global community of great IT Service Management people. So I am familiar with a situation where business people are accusing the lazy techies in the IT department for hampering the competitive edge, and the IT folks are blaming (laughing and crying at) business units for their unrealistic wishes and lack of understanding related to the various IT services and systems.

A best practices framework (called IT Infrastructure Library, ITIL) introduced the key processes for IT services and the common terminology for IT people; however it’s clear it isn’t the language of business people. They speak dollars and Euros, hours and minutes. I’m not going deeper into ITSM now; my wise friends from the ITSM sphere can help me with that. I’ll continue with wondering communication and organizational culture related to people, processes and tools.

From Land Border Discussions to Landscape Design

A common language does not solve all the challenges, but it sure supports better mutual understanding. I have recently experienced that often there’s a severe lack of trust between the departments (silos) and no common language. How on earth would they use social tools together?

Both understanding and trust are created in the interactions, in the value-creating relationships, between individuals within companies and also over the organizational borders. This is a must for value creation. An organization, that recognizes the customer value and customer experience as their core tasks, will be successful. I would like to describe its benefits with this metaphor:

An organization that, instead of “land border discussions”, invests in “landscape design”, where each part is creatively fitted into the environment, sometimes with some trial and error. This kind of organization can be more innovative and produce more value for the customer. And further, an organization which has managed to skip the land border talks and proceeds to landscape design, is able to learn both from its existing business environment, and also better perceive the future changes.

This kind of organization also learns not only more quickly but also smarter what ‘social’ really means. Check out one of my favorite blogger Harold Jarche, he discusses about smart learning, working smarter. The foundation for this kind of development lies on an open attitude and desire to learn.

New Structures of Work, Language Bath and the Process of Helping

How a silo-like organization will be a smart, learning, social organization? There are naturally lots of answers to that but here are three suggestions:

  1. New structures of work lead us towards a situation where departments and hierarchies as the operating platform for management, are becoming useless. We need to move towards distributed work structures and new kind of organizational landscape design is needed.
  2. A common understanding that is supported by language bath (nicer term for language immersion) so that the language does not form new barriers. Forget about placing people in the offices by the unit and role, mix them up, let them find their swarm, distribute work, crowdsource, and utilize collaboration tools effectively. This contributes to development of a common language and understanding.
  3. On top of these two, an entirely new process is needed: A Process of Helping. This new process together with the two previous points will help organizations to create value.

Point 3. is an idea which was presented by the pioneer of organizational development and culture Edgar H. Schein in a recent interview ”A Corporate Climate of Mutual Help” (pdf). He says wisely:

”Better teamwork requires perpetual mutual helping, within and across hierarchical boundaries.”

”…companies need to train their teams in the helping process. Most teams training that I’ve seen is focused on making people feel good about one another. But what I’m talking about is something much more profound and essential: knowing how to work with one another as equal partners in an operational setting.”

Beautiful. BTW I think it’s also applicable to a marriage.

Esko Kilpi describes the value creation in this kind of organization – and with this kind of attitude – in his interesting blog post from May 2010, “Online multiplayer games teaching management”. He suggests:

“The new landscape of work consists of the network as the architecture of work and work as interaction between non-co-located but interdependent people. The astonishing thing is that we can find an existing, efficient, working model for this kind of digital work. It is multiplayer online games and the game environment in general.”

“Acting in the game environment is always based on uncertainty. You can’t succeed in an uncertain environment without trial and error, without taking risks. You can’t embrace risk taking without accepting failures. Here the game environment is fundamentally different from most corporate cultures. In corporations the often-heard objection to trying out something is: “We’ve already tried it and it didn’t work!” The game environment approach is “Let’s try that again. The situation has changed and we have learned!” Frequent risk taking and confronting risks routinely help players to learn to keep paradoxes alive calmly and to live efficiently with continuous uncertainty.”

Very well put. I recommend that you read the entire post. I do favor an entrepreneurial attitude, risk taking and curiosity, genuinely taking all parties into account – the client first and foremost. Like in the game mechanics.

I do believe in the ideas of game mechanics and a new kind of business landscape design for the customer value creation. I’ll end this post by Esko’s wise words:

“Widespread adoption of game mechanics to communication, coordination and taking responsibility would require a dramatic change in the mainstream organizational culture. However, these games are here today and the generation that has grown up playing the games is growing up and joining corporations. They are going to be the drivers of the change towards a more productive and more fun work environment.”

And I feel genuinely good about the fact that he is speaking about my WoW playing son too. 

PS1. One aspect to the value creation is open innovation. Hutch Carpenter’s recent post about social CRM and innovation is excellent, he says:   “Open innovation is the two-way engagement with external parties to source, co-create and develop ideas that benefit the market and the company.” A topic for another post.

PS2. I’ve earlier written about this topic in Finnish, you’ll find it here.


Odottamattomia yhdistelmiä, somea ja johtajaominaisuuksia

Minulla on tapana katsella kattoja, sieltäkin löytyy välillä yllätyksiä.

Haluan jakaa muutaman tarinan, tarkemmin sanottuna odottamattoman yhdistelmän.

Odottamattomista sattumuksista ja mahdollisuuksista olen runoillut aiemminkin: avoimella asenteella, systeemit 1 & 2 käytössä. Niistä voit lukea lisää täältä.

Minulla on tapana havainnoida hauskoja, odottamattomia yhdistelmiä, ja nauttia niistä. Kahden minulle rakkaan asian yhdistelmiä. Usein välittömästi hymyilyttäviä ja päivän pelastavia, kuten äidiltäni lahjaksi saamani äänikirja, jossa Dr. House, näyttelijä Hugh Laurie lukee Tove Janssonin Muumi-kirjaa englanniksi. Aivan mahtavaa kuunnella Hugh’n brittikorostuksella lausumaa tuttua tarinaa ja muumihahmojen englanninkielisiä nimiä. Mahtavan rentouttava, odottamaton yhdistelmä. Suosittelen lämpimästi.

Kuten Hugh & muumit toinen sydäntäni lähellä oleva, epätavallinen yhdistelmä – trumpetin ääni ja lentäminen – löytyy tästä videosta:

Norjalainen trumpettivirtuoosi Ole Edvard Antonsen nousee F-16 -hävittäjän kyytiin Pohjois-Norjassa ja taustalla soi sävellyksensä Vidda (mikä tarkoittaa tundraa). Video on minulle rakas, palaan sen pariin säännöllisesti. Trumpetin sointi tuo minulle mieleen rakkaita muistoja ja olen jo vuosia haaveillut lentolupakirjasta. Ihana, jos vähän kummallinen yhdistelmä.

Twitter on ehtymätön odottamattomien yhdistelmien löydöspaikka. Serendipiteettitaivas. Hugh’n ja muumien, Ole Edvardin ja hävittäjälennon jatkoksi sopii tämä esimerkki, hiukan eri linjalla, mutta kuitenkin. Odottamaton suomalainen yhdistelmä: Sosiaalinen media ja Puolustusvoimat.

Yle raportoi hiljan Puolustusvoimien satsaavan sosiaaliseen mediaan, esimerkiksi nostettiin armeijan oma YouTube-kanava, jonka sisällön tuottavat combat camera -miehet. Loistava idea.

Kohtasin Puolustusvoimat somessa myös henkilökohtaisella tasolla. Olen todella vaikuttunut Pääesikunnan päällikön, kenraaliluutnantti Markku Kolin toiminnasta sosiaalisessa mediassa. Markku Koli ilmestyi Twitteriin jokin aika sitten ja alkoi toimia aidosti, aktiivisesti ja uteliaasti. Luovastikin, Markulla on omat lyhenteet, esim. tviitin alussa oleva PP tarkoittaa Parasta Päivässä ja HA on Huolenaihe. Eipä tullut ensimmäisenä mieleen, että Puolustusvoimien korkea-arvoinen upseeri heittäytyy someen. Suuntaan siis katseen peiliin. Vaikka pitäisihän minun tietää, edesmennyt rakas upseeri-isoisäni oli varsin luova persoona.

Hetki sitten lukemani Markku Kolin tviittaus inspiroi tähän kirjoitukseen. Se kävi näin. Tviittasin eilen McKinsey’n tuoreen artikkelin Seven steps to better brainstorming. Illan aikana kenraaliluutnantti Koli oli sen re-tweetannut ja lisännyt oman kommenttinsa: Laatutavaraa! Lisäisin vielä: Understand your culture. Minun aamuni alkoi siis (Japanin tilanteen ohella) sillä, että mietin Markun kommentin ulottuvuuksia. Kiitos, Markku!

Avoimuus, ennakkoluulottomuus ja kokeilunhalu ovat mielestäni hyviä johtajaominaisuuksia. Niitä voi opetella sosiaalisessa mediassa. Jospa suomalaiset yritysjohtajat ottaisivat mallia Markku Kolista – sen sijaan, että ulkoistavat somen ‘sisäisesti’ markkinoinnille tai surkeimmassa tapauksessa lykkäävät homman organisaation ulkopuoliselle gurulle.

Rakastan odottamattomia yhdistelmiä. Tänä aamuna somea ja johtajaominaisuuksia. On mahtavaa löytää niitä kaikilta elämänalueilta.

Mikä on sinun yhdistelmäsi?

PS. Muutoin tämän aamun ajatukset ovat tiukasti Japanissa. Vuoden 1986 huhtikuu on kirkkaana mielessäni.


My Nostalgia Trip to Pre Social Business

As part of my unlearning and learning process towards better understanding of Social Business I’ve been thinking back the time I worked for a Swedish Supply Chain Management (SCM) company IBS.

Yes, I am recalling the attempts we made in order to build a platform for a global wholesale distribution, the concept was called as Virtual Enterprise.

It is now most interesting to follow the discussion about social business design and to find many similar perspectives.

Simultaneously with The Power of Pull, a warmly recommended read, I have been re-reading older European research about business process design (pdf), written by two Swiss gentlemen Elgar Fleisch and Hubert Österle. Already eighteen years ago (!) in 1993 they created an interesting concept of Integration Area that refers to organizational processes which are characterized by high dependency, and therefore require a high degree of coordination.

They discuss the complexity of inter-organizational networking which is associated with human interaction, organization structure, and the culture. In order to reduce this complexity, Fleisch and Österle presented the Coordination Areas. The five coordination areas that are highly dependent of each other are: Supply Chain Management, Relationship Management, Innovation, Infrastructure, and Organization Development.

Here below their model for inter-organizational networking for complex environments:

Coordination Areas. Source: Fleisch & Österle (2000)

The difference between these two concepts is that the integration area pursues integration through integrated information processing, while the coordination area pursues integration through the organization of dependencies.

Related to the latter, organization of dependencies, an interesting parallel could also be drawn to the systems theory and its qualitative determinants. Two system determinants, attributes of the elements and the degree of the organization among system elements, employ the same kind of complex dependencies.

Fleisch & Österle also used a notion of networkability:

“The inter-organizational dependencies within coordination areas are contrasted by the intra-organizational dependencies across areas. Both play a decisive role in the networkability structure of businesses.”

It is easy to find confluence. After reading some of the recently published books related to the social business and comparing the models and messages in those to this older research – you can find many themes that are in common.

Good old SCM and the Social Business

Fleisch & Österle state that coordination of business processes have to cover both outputs and all associated design areas such as process, IT, people, organization structure, and culture. The efforts my company made 10-15 years back, associated with Supply Chain Management, were directed towards this kind of coordination of the inter-organizational processes.

Yes, there’s a clear connection between these SCM development efforts and Social Business/Enterprise 2.0! Exactly as Jacob Morgan tweeted while ago.

Here’s few more pickings from the nostalgia period research (1997-2001):

Fleisch and Österle developed a model called “Five computerization phases towards business networking”. They describe an integration area as an indicator of the degree of “informatization” of an organization. The size of integration area is growing while technology develops. Well, this reminds me of Enterprise 2.0 when seen from a tool & information perspective. However, their model was not yet very social one.

Some of the nostalgic themes of that time were:

  • On the tool side, the new portal technologies as the tools to give a common view of supplier relationship related information and system integrations for integrated processes. For example information stored in the ERP, CRM and Human Resource systems. Very much system and information flow centred approach.
  • On the process side, the concept of Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) was a hot topic as the supplier relationships emerged and companies wanted to create a strategically managed structure around their supplier relationships. In 2001 Gartner Group stated about SRM as follows: “[…] this goes beyond e-procurement and strategic sourcing to embrace the collaborative creation and management of supplier-enterprise products and processes.”

A bit like pre Social Businessian, isn’t it?

Summarized it can be said that the focus were clearly around the processes, work flows and managing information within the processes.  Some initial ideas for the collaboration on the individual level were present, but were still rare in the businesses. What was missing then was naturally the emerging new communication culture and the possibilities enabled by social media – to connect, discuss, and to create value also on the individual level.

From a System Level to a Human Level & The Power of Pull

The focus is now broadening from the system level to the human level: how individuals communicate, interact and create value together has become essential. The core concepts have changed from the pure process view with task descriptions, detailed instructions and strict control towards empowerment of people, enhanced interactions inside and outside of the own organization, away from the information/knowledge silos – all this supported by the new kind of social technology.

However, there’s much to do. Firstly, we are still often calling people as resources or assets, sigh! We do have Human Resources departments, like people were parts in a machine. And secondly, social media is often reduced to a set of tools only.

One of the best readings on the topic is the latest book of John Hagel, John Seely Brown & Lang Davison. They present a Pull approach with which you can turn uncertainty into opportunity, and further enable small moves to make a huge impact. The Pull approach consists of three levels:

  • At the most basic level, pull helps us to find and access people and resources when we need them.
  • At a second level, pull is the ability to attract people and resources to you that are relevant and valuable, even if you were not even aware before they existed.
  • Finally, the third level of pull – the ability to pull from within ourselves the insight and performance required to more effectively achieve our potential.

I do believe that the Pull approach enables us to learn faster and translate what we’ve learned into improved performance; the performance of ourselves but also the people we connect with.

One driver for this nostalgia trip was actually this sentence in their book:

“These three levels of pull go far beyond the “on-demand” focus of technology industry in recent years. On-demand initiatives generally seek to facilitate the first level of pull, but they have very little to offer regarding the second and third levels of pull.”

I fully agree with them.

I will continue to study social business design and how to use the power of pull to access new sources of information, to attract like-minded individuals, and to shape serendipity to increase the likelihood of positive chance encounters.

Still much to learn for a Serendipity Hippie like me. The passion will help me on the way.

PS.  Dachis Group describes the Social Business Design in a way I like a lot. Their model covers how customer can participate in the value creation, how to enhance collaboration, and how to rethink and optimize the value network. The latter – Business Partner Optimization – is quite close to the Virtual Enterprise concept I was working with in the end of the 90’s. It is fascinating to notice how the basic ideas of social business have been around for a long time, and now finally becoming part of our daily business.

Related reading from Dave Grey of Dachis Group – The Connected Company.


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