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10 Things: The Power of The Network

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

I was excited to find David Cushman’s self-published book . It’s available on Lulu as a downloadable PDF for only $.84, which is an excellent bargain given the density of insights and provocative ideas that Cushman packs into its 98 pages. Cushman also authors the blog , from which much of the content for the book emanated, it being a compendium of Cushman’s writings from over the last year or so, writings on the future of advertising, online networks, the death of broadcast media, and the power of . He succinctly ties together a wide range of ideas we’re all writing and thinking about in various ways, and he does so in a way that very directly points us to the future. As he says on his about page: “The further ahead you look, the faster you go.” That’s a lesson he picked up from motorcycling, and one I can appreciate given my own penchant for racing, motorcycles, and change.

Below are 10 Things from The Power of The Network by David Cushman:

  1. The Death of Death: At the heart of the networked world is conversation, and conversation is “at the intersection of ideas, the driver of value of the network… The digital world is not about death. It is about life… The evolution has begun.”
  2. Don’t Just Witness The Network: If we sit still we are in the midst of witnessing some of the biggest changes since the industrial revolution. But it’s different this time because we can participate, we can all “engage with self-forming communities of (global) niche shared interest (purpose).”
  3. How to Go Viral: 1. Speak in an authentic voice. 2. Lose the TV envy. 3. Give people the tools to make their own. 4. Don’t bother with urls, links or ‘brand messages.’
  4. Communities of Purpose: Leveraging , Cushman points us to two important caveats, that real value is only created by communities of purpose, and this value is best enabled by synchronous response. He then points out that the gap between Reed’s Law and reality is navigation and discovery.
  5. What Now for Advertising and Marketing?: We’re really left with limited options like widget marketing (take advantage of existing advertising model and add viral and widget messaging), engagement marking (creating conversations, participating, listening), and no marketing (no advertising, no marketing, but instead the bringing together of co-creating communities).
  6. We’re All Publishers Now: Indeed. We’re experiencing an orgy of self-published content via the internet and through the success of self-forming communities. “The silent majority have had their day. The participating majority are coming.”
  7. It’s Not How Famous You Are – It’s How Relevant: Enough said.
  8. Reed’s Law and How Multiple Identities Make The Tail Longer: Don’t network for networking’s sake as limiting yourself to one-to-one communication presents little potential for collaboration. Networking openly stands to unleash the power of crowds, and “none of us is as clever as all of us.”
  9. We Are The Eighth Mass Media: From this chapter, a favorite quote: “We all have cheap, rapid, easy ways of sharing our metadata. That’s what publishing has become. Publishing for all. Advertising for all. We can all share content. Content is the conversation starter, conversation is where ideas turn
    into action, action is where value is created. Now we can all share in sharing this. We can all share ourselves. That is what changes everything.”
  10. How Are We Made Great?: Start with the Stowe Boyd quote: “I am made greater by the sum of my connections, so are my connections.” We live with the opportunity to consume an enormous volume of ideas/opinion/perspective. There are so many ideas that would go unrealized were it not for the power of the network surrounding the person who originated it. The catch is that predicting how people will respond to an idea is impossible, the network has its own proprietary wisdom, and from this wisdom comes the elevation of great ideas beyond the individual and to the many.

10 Things: The Network is The Computer

Friday, September 12th, 2008

Last year, at the , author and visionary gave an incredibly compelling and thoughtful talk where he points out that the web as we know it, depicted as a graphical representation above, is only about 5,000 days old (the internet is actually much older than that), and that in this time we have seen unprecedented change. He proceeds to then explore what the next 5,000 days might bring, with much thought put to the notion of “the cloud”, networks, and ubiquitous computing… themes that I am increasingly exploring myself, and have written about on occasion. The talk is worth taking 20 minutes to watch, and below are my 10 Things from :

1.  Ten years ago we thought the web was going to be “TV, only better.” Obviously, that was just a touch limiting.

2.  The first lesson we have learned from the last 5,000 days is that we have to get better at believing in the impossible. Many things that are/were inconceivable to us previously are happening regularly.

3. Think about all of the handhelds, laptops, mobiles, and servers in the world and how they are networked. They are giving us one thing, what Kelly refers to as “The One Machine,” or “The One.” All of these devices are windows into this single, global, exponential machine.

4.  This machine, The One, is the most reliable machine ever made with zero down time running uninterrupted.

5.  On the web there are over 100 billion clicks per day on the computers of the world with over 55 trillion links between the pages on the web made per day.

6.  The internet uses about 5% of global electricity.

7.  The internet uses about 246 of storage (an exabyte being equivalent to 1 quintillion bytes).

8.  Total traffic on the internet is around 7 terabytes per second. The Library of Congress is 20 terabytes. Every second about half the Library of Congress is moving around the web.

9.  At this point, the internet is roughly comparable to the human brain in terms of connections, processing power, and capacity. The rate of increase will put the One Machine equivalent with about 6 billion human brains 30 years from now. By 2040 the web will exceed humanity in processing power in raw bits.

10.  Humans are becoming the extended senses of this machine. We are the web. We are the machine. The next 5,000 days are about intelligence, anticipation, personalization, and ubiquitousness… a new kind of stage in the development of the web. The web is becoming an organism, and a unity is beginning to emerge:

  • There is only One Machine (the network is the computer)
  • The web is its operating system
  • All screens look into The One
  • No bits will live outside the web (the internet of things)
  • To share is to gain (participation requires transparency)
  • Let The One read it
  • The One is us

10 Things: You Couldn’t Do This Last Year

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

I am attending the conference in San Francisco. I am here because I believe strongly that the tools and technologies that make up Office 2.0 are having a dramatic effect and influence on the way we work, interact, and collaborate, and that this will have a profound effect on how our physical workplaces will need to evolve and respond to this change. I have made no mystery of my feelings on this point, that the office as we know it is becoming increasing irrelevant. I want to be at the forefront of this change.

This morning at Office 2.0 , who heads up Google’s enterprise products team, gave an impressive presentation (and thinly veiled Google sales pitch) entitled “10 Things That I Can Do In The Cloud Today, That I Could Not Do a Year Ago.” This has been a big week for Google with the launch of and secure video sharing. Sitting next to at the presentation, he quipped… “And this from an online ad company.” Business model innovation right before our eyes. But that’s been Google’s model since inception. Matt’s 10 Things essentially outline this innovation and thinking, presented in reverse order:

10.  Everything on the go. Just over a year ago the iPhone opened up computing for the mobile world and drove a paradigmatic shift in how we utilize our mobile devices and access and interact with information. The cloud is a central player in this paradigmatic shift with everything potentially living in and accessed from anywhere.

9.  Search through all my email. Google’s 25 gigs of personal email storage allows you to save and search everything. We live in email and this makes it actually work for us allowing you to do email how you want, where you want, when you want.

8.  Chat with customers and partners in any language. In cloud computing you can tap services like real time translation. The ideal of the individual knowledge worker working in isolation is arcane. We are always collaborating and language barriers are falling away because of these tools. Matt demo’d the translational tool in Google Talk chatting with a team member in Spain. Very cool.

7.  Collaborate simply and securely on projects with sites and docs. Google Docs was launched at Office 2.0 two years ago, and in that time has been refined into a seamless and effective collaboration tool.

6.  Organize all of my business travel with email. Matt demo’d , a service that takes any travel related confirmation email message and builds a personal itinerary and feed for you to more easily access and manage your trips. It offers a seamless integration with your calendar and a great mobile interface, with email as the integrating medium. Fascinating.

5.  Easily collect data from co-workers and customers in Forms. Matt demo’d which allows you to create a custom form in Google Docs and embed it for use. He did this and we watched as it populated and autofilled live. Very cool.

4.  Build any scalable business application on the cloud platform. Basically, the ginormous and complex infrastructure needed to do this is done (Google App Engine,, Amazon Web Services). You just need to pay for what you need and use as a service. The platform is the service? already has 80k+ applications.

3.  Use online templates for documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. You can create custom templates for these tools and use them for your business, accessing them from anywhere and allowing easy collaboration or use of them from anywhere.

2.  Run fast, secure, and stable with web applications. Essentially, the recently launched browser, Chrome, from Google is the next generation of web applications (Mac support is happening ASAP…). Chrome is the term for the area around your browser, and the goal of this team was to get rid of the chrome (ironic naming). The browser is the new desktop, but with speed and stability that eliminates browser hang, crashing. Matt bench-marked  Chrome’s speed against IE. Chrome rocked by a significant factor. It is also open source, pushing the state of the art. Much excitement in the room around this.

1.  Securely share video in applications. This is a powerful medium, and with the security that business needs in order for it to be useful. It empowers the use of video in business and offers a paradigmatic change in the way we collaborate. This is made possible by the cloud and by the reality that we all now have video recording embedded in our mobile devices and computers.

Matt ended with an amazing statistic. Business adoption of Google’s tools is skyrocketing, with 3,000 new business sign ups EVERY DAY. This is one of those shifts in thinking that can wipe away entire careers and subject matter expertise, and it is a rare opportunity to actually witness a paradigmatic shift as it is happening. For some, cloud computing is all blue sky. For others, it is a looming and business model challenging storm.

10 Things: Innovation at Steelcase

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

Before I get into Steelcase, allow me to announce this piece as the inaugural “10 Things” post on schneiderism. My plan is to use 10 Things as a way to recap some of the more interesting experiences and information I come across. I have added 10 Things as a category in the category menu and am planning on writing several posts of this nature in the coming week or so to get the category going.

Last week I had the opportunity to spend an intense day meeting and interacting with some of the more fascinating aspects of at their HQ in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Most will hear the name of this company and think first, and perhaps only, of office furniture and cubicles. They do design and manufacture a lot of both, but that is not why I made this visit. Steelcase has developed tremendous assets with regards to workplace and human factors research, as well as what would appear to be an organization-wide relentless focus on innovation and understanding the complexities and preferences of human interaction. The building in the image above is their WorkSpace Futures Research headquarters, and is essentially the nexus of design and innovation for this nearly $4 billion global enterprise. Yes, that building is a pyramid and yes, it does appear to have fallen out of the sky.

The following are 10 Things from my visit:

1.  User experience, user-centered design, user-focused process was everywhere. It has become the company. Everybody speaks in these terms and they are passionate about understanding people, their needs, and designing solutions and systems from this perspective back to technology and materials. This was an incredibly consistent theme.

2.  Design thinking is the practice and methodology. A few years ago Steelcase very smartly acquired a controlling interest in , which remains a stand-alone business. Most people hear this and are very, very surprised. That is because IDEO is much more than a portfolio piece for Steelcase, the value being the relationship between the two companies, a relationship between a David and a Goliath. It has become an invaluable strategic partnership.

3.  IDEO/Steelcase has done an expert job positively influencing, infecting really, how Steelcase approaches its business, and that is a truly amazing outcome.

4.  is an intense area of focus, and they actively experiment with technology on themselves in an effort to shrink distance and remove the obstacles presented by working remotely. Steelcase CEO is all over this, so much so that he and IDEO’s have a direct telepresence connection between their offices. Jim is in Grand Rapids and David is in Palo Alto. This link is referred to as “the wormhole” and is a connection that is much more than symbolic. They benefit greatly from the opportunity to virtually sit across the table from each other to ideate and challenge ideas. I was fortunate to visit Jim Hackett’s office and actually see how this works. Very cool.

5. Innovation at Steelcase begins at the top. Literally. In many ways it appeared to me that as well as CEO, Jim Hackett also functions as a Chief Innovation Officer. Many initiatives and innovations began with Jim asking some questions or believing that something could be better. In fact, he changed the management paradigm at Steelcase physically and functionally by moving executives out of their arcane and isolated top floor 1950’s executive suite and into a functioning, experimental workspace laboratory that allows even Steelcase executive leadership to be their own lab subjects.

6. “Furniture is a given, and is not what we really need to be talking about.” Furniture is a commodity, Steelcase is not in the commodity business. I heard this a couple of times during my visit, and I believe it was attributed to CEO Hackett. This is somewhat revolutionary in terms of how this organization is thinking about itself. The opportunity is in innovating at a level that their products as physical elements almost fall away with the focus instead being on the thinking behind the products.

7. It’s not about technology, it’s about human factors and the seamless integration of technology into the communication and collaboration needs of teams and the individual. There is much effort being put to understanding the tensions between presentation and collaboration, or presentation vs. collaboration. More collaboration, less presentation.

8. The goal is the strategic application of space. Steelcase is moving way beyond a product mindset and into areas of research that positions them to help organizations map their physical and virtual workplaces to their unique business model. This was a favorite quote, “Stop talking about space, though, and instead look at the table of contents of the latest Harvard Business Review. That is what Steelcase is concerned with, with understanding, and with integrating into our needs response.” Architects and interior designers should take note of this, immediately.

9. “The change in the mindset is that our work is not about saving our client’s money, it is about helping them make money.” It is also about business model alignment and business model innovation. It is about identifying the critical success factors for an organization, at a complexity of levels, and integrating this into the needs response.

10. More than a few people that I met spoke to me about (ubicomp), and about “the cloud.” Steelcase knows that these ideas will change the way we work and interact. They choose to be the vanguard by investing serious resources in researching and investigating exactly how this might happen. The Workplace Futures team is constantly projecting out years into the future and hypothesizing about what our interactions might be like, about what new technologies may be of use. Let me remind you that this is happening at a $4 billion global office furniture company. Tom Brown, CEO of IDEO, and Steelcase CEO Jim Hackett conceived of an idea 18 months ago that would provide comprehensive media and communications seamlessly integrated with telepresence, information capture, and idea sharing. They rapid prototyped and iteratively and incrementally improved the concept. Media:Scape launches in the spring of 2009.

There was so much more that I experienced and that is worthy of writing entire posts on. I’ll get to all of it, especially my time in the Learn Lab and with Details president Bud Klipa, but for now these are my 10 Things from my time with Steelcase. I came away very impressed and inspired.