Facebook Steps in to Train Journalists

Software companies have built and scaled their businesses by creating and nurturing developer ecosystems for decades. They start with a few, dedicated and passionate evangelists and stoke that passion with fire, autonomy and cool technology. Just look at the dedicated developer programs like those run by SAP or Microsoft, Salesforce or even IBM.

Years ago, when I worked for SAP, we realised that the developer ecosystem was not keeping pace with the demand for software and services. Looking into the future, we recognised that the changing demographic and technological landscape posed a risk to future earnings. So we did something about it.

Over the following 12-18 months we put in place highly targeted programs designed to attract more computing students into the ecosystem. The aim was to build overall capacity, not to create a talent pipeline for ourselves – and it worked spectacularly. Well within 12 months we had vastly exceeded our targets in half a dozen countries, and were able to scale back the acquisition aspects of our program, focusing then on a more operational cadence to our efforts. In short, we kept the fires burning.

But we learned a very important lesson. We learned that because the technology continues to change and advance at an ever increasing pace, it’s essential to train your ecosystem of developers on not just what the technology does today, but on what it will do tomorrow. We learned that our ecosystem of developers – and the corporations and partners that hire them – receive greater value, faster, when we show them our secrets, share our best practices and actively engage them in planning for the future. It’s a win-win-win outcome.

So it comes as no surprise to learn that Facebook is now following this well worn, but successful, path – providing eLearning courses for journalists.

The courses are available through Blueprint, Facebook’s global training program, and focus on the three core pillars of the news cycle: discovering content, creating stories, and building an audience.

No doubt, the course will prove a vital and useful resource for journalists of all ages and experience.

But it will do more than this. It will create a language, focus and framework for journalists and the way that they discover and create content and grow their audiences. Of course there will be a Facebook focus to the courses, but the principles will also apply to other social and digital media properties. And at some time in the future, you can expect there to be certification and qualification programs. There may even be university level partnerships.

And all of this works to create a deeper, richer and more focused ecosystem.

It was only a matter of time.

Sign up for the courses here.

Investing in the Future of Young People

Through Vibewire I have been working with young people for over seven years. It’s a not for profit association whose aim is to be a launchpad for young change makers. In the time that I have been involved, I have been astounded by the way that, given an opportunity and some nurturing, young people can truly accelerate their professional and personal trajectory. We have run hundreds of events – some large scale and some barely more than a meeting. We have provided project experience and internships for hundreds of people who have gone on bigger and better things. And we have seen dozens of social impact and tech startups incubate, grow and scale.

But it is largely a thankless task. Just as soon as we launch one cohort of young people into the world, another comes along. The challenges remain the same:

  • Lack of opportunity for meaningful work
  • Soft skills require substantial work and support
  • Challenging and entrepreneurial roles are few and far between.

And in many ways, Vibewire’s programs of spaces (coworking for young people), skilling (workshops), startups (mentoring and support) and showcasing (amplifying the work of young people through events and online promotion) have been designed to consistently deliver these outcomes. But it’s difficult to maintain. Hard to attract sponsorship and support. After all, Vibewire has always been youth-led and youth-run, and as such, our teams are constantly learning the ropes. Learning what it takes to build corporate relationships. Learning what it takes to deliver on project promises. Learning the business of creativity and business.

I am often asked what keeps me involved.

My involvement in Vibewire is beautifully summed up in this great speech by Eric Thomas. It’s a gift of love. An investment in the next generation. And a mark of respect for the futures of the young people who come through Vibewire’s doors.

Lufthansa Takes You on a Virtual Journey

One of the key marketing challenges that we face in the customer journey is moving from awareness to trial. That is, we want potential customers to “try out” our products or services.

This can be particularly challenging when your product or service has a substantial price tag attached.

Think of travel.

There are a whole series of steps that we go through when we are on a travel journey:

  • Ideas and inspiration: We seek out amazing stories, pictures and reviews of places, people and experiences so that we can plan our own adventures
  • Planning and projection: We start to actively curate our activities, destinations and journeys, connecting the dots and figuring out our itineraries and (gasp, horror) budget. In this stage we are not just planning our activities – but actively imagining what it will be like to BE there
  • Lock and load: When we’ve checked, double and triple checked, confirmed our budget and dates, now we wade neck deep into the process of locking dates to a loaded credit card. Yes, it’s commitment time and the pressure is on (so many websites, so many things that can go wrong)
  • See ya, see ya, wouldn’t want to be ya: Wave goodbye to your friends and family and take the leap into the unknown
  • Wish you were here: Well, we say this to be kind, but if the planning and projection phase was well done, you’ll be taking hundreds of selfies all around the world and using them to induce raging envy across your social graph
  • Reflection and longing: Planes aren’t the only things that land with a BUMP. So too does our travel ego. Coming back to “reality” can be a confronting experience. To cope, we return to our #RunningWithTheBulls selfies to remind ourselves just what the travel rush was all about and how we really are #travelheroes.

In amongst each of these steps, there are hardly any that an airline can directly impact. They can inspire us with their media activities, advertising and profile. And they may even help us to plan – albeit in a small way. A good airline will make locking and loading a breeze and but it’s really when you are in the plane that they can make a huge impact.

But experiencing airline travel is expensive, right? And price alone is a barrier.

This virtual travel experience from Lufthansa by 3Spin is a very interesting innovation that I expect will see plenty of others follow.

Lufthansa have touched on many aspects of the travel journey – turning a largely imaginative process into something that is more tangible. More experiential. In fact, it’s not just the destination that is inspirational, it’s the experience of the virtual reality itself. And with a clever mix of digital, analog and old fashioned customer service, they’ve created something far more than just a 360 degree virtual experience. They have created an EVENT – a point in time and space that will create memories. Stories. And hopefully for Lufthansa, bookings.

It makes me think there may be something to this VR lark after all.

Creating New Business Patterns for Social Impact

I have always believed that a sense of purpose would drive change, no matter whether that change was behavioural, economic or cultural. And as such, my work in marketing has always been driven by an interest in psychology, behaviour and action. The reality is, is that I am curiously interested in people and what makes them tick – not in the things that they tell you when prompted, but in the millions of tiny actions that create our personalities. For example, I love the way that vegans wear leather, or doctors smoke cigarettes. I adore the inconsistencies that defeat algorithms and confound logic.

But I also love the way that these apparent inconsistencies can also create opportunities.

Over the last couple of years, businesses have started to pay closer attention to millennials – that generation born between 1982 and 2004. And while the span is open to debate, it is clear that this generation have a substantially different mindset from those that came before. I notice this in the work that I do with youth entrepreneurship organisation, Vibewire – where I am regularly confronted by behaviours, actions and expectations that, on the surface, appear completely alien. And I notice it in my work with corporations and clients, and in the research I do for various public speaking events. But as this generation begins to reach into management and executive ranks of government and business, it is something that we are all having to come to grips with.

Deloitte’s Millennial Survey is a recent example of the research which serves to reinforce what we have long suspected – that a sense of values and purpose is at the core of the millennial mindset. Thus far we have seen this play out in the consumer landscape, with a significant reduction in leading indicators of personal consumption – consider:

  • The fall in the number of driving licenses issued and the downstream impact on car sales
  • The rise in preference for public transport and the increasing pressure on inner city housing
  • The interest in entrepreneurship opportunities and skills and the downstream disinterest in professional careers and career paths.

The Deloitte report indicated that while millennials are “pro-business”, they are also particularly interested in business’ potential to “do good”:

Millennials continue to express positive views of business, and their opinions regarding businesses’ motivations and ethics showed stark improvement in this survey. However, much skepticism remains, driven by the majority-held belief that businesses have no ambition beyond profit. Almost nine in 10 (87 percent) believe that “the success of a business should be measured in terms of more than just its financial performance.”



However, while there is an alignment of values between business and millennials, there is a substantial gap in the alignment of purpose. The report concludes: “Millennials would prioritize the sense of purpose around people rather than growth or profit maximization”.


This, of course, suggests unsettling economic, cultural and social futures while the mis-match is sorted out. But as in most things, the most negative impacts will be felt by those businesses that respond too late or fail to plan strategically.

How to plan ahead for generational change

Whether your business has felt the winds of generational change or not, make no mistake, it is coming. From 2015, the Baby Boomer generations began retiring from the global workforce, taking their years of experience and expertise and substantial spending power with them. This trend will accelerate in the coming years. And as those experienced business leaders trade suits and ties for no ties and sun-filled beaches, enterprises from downtown Chicago to dusky Beijing will be restocked with ambitious, values focused millennials seeking to make their mark on the world. And this shift will force substantial change to what has been “business as usual”, with values and purpose taking centre stage.

Anecdotally, we are already seeing this play out. Financial services organisations are softening their positioning and message to the market. Utilities and resources companies are speaking of values, and professional services firms proclaim purpose and social impact. It’s out with conspicuous consumption and in with the sharing economy.

But this is just the beginning. Real change must be embedded deep in the hearts and souls of these organisations. It must be lived in the brand experience. And the “old ways” – the “business as usual” approaches must be re-made for this changing age.

Innovating for social impact

Often when we talk of innovation, we focus on something new or novel that is introduced to the public. It could be technology or an experience. It could combine the two. But we will begin to find that our efforts at innovation trip and stumble as they reach the market if we fail to take into account the changing nature of our buyer’s values and purpose. It won’t be good enough to put “lipstick on a pig” and serve it up on a bed of kale. We will need to begin the challenging task of creating shared value outcomes that don’t just serve our markets, stakeholders and management. We will need to address social impact too.

Over the last year or so, I have been working to create powerful business innovation frameworks that help entrepreneurs bring their products and services to market faster. My very first of these was an adaptation of the Lean Canvas used by startups for the purposes of social impact. I called it the Shared Value Canvas. Recently I have turned my attention to workshop and facilitation formats that use the same lean and agile methods employed by the world’s most innovative companies, tweaked to incorporate a social impact or social innovation outcome.


In the coming days, I expect to release a comprehensive handbook that guides facilitators and teams through a Five Day Social Sprint. Designed for not-for-profits and for-purpose organisations, it’s a deep dive into the tools and techniques that rapidly move from idea to product within a week’s worth of effort. It has been inspired by the Google Ventures, five day sprint process – but revised and refocused for social impact.

And while I hope it finds favour with charities and not-for-profit organisations around the world, I also hope it inspires more traditional businesses to find tangible ways to bring purpose and values to life within their organisations, one innovation at a time.

Talking Social and Digital Trends on the Echo Junction Podcast

GavinHeatonx300 Podcasts are one of my newly discovered joys. A well curated list of subscriptions basically means that you can remain up-to-date with your fields of interest independently of the mainstream media. This is particularly useful for topics that are too niche for the media or too controversial – which is why my personal subscription list includes podcasts on the topics of digital and social media, Australian history, and the history of writing and language (often including large amounts of swearing).

Podcasts also mean that you have a greater role in programming your own media content, so if you don’t like what you hear, you can unsubscribe and find something you like more.

One of my regular casts is Adam Fraser’s Echo Junction. With dozens of podcasts recorded this year, he has been seeking out and presenting some of the best thinkers and doers in the online world for the last year or so. He meticulously researches, prepares questions and challenges his guests to connect the dots between the enterprise and digital worlds. Some of the best episodes include:

Back in April 2015, I joined Adam to talk social business and the enterprise landscape, and last week we got together again to think about the future – 2016 – and what it might hold for the world of social and digital. It wasn’t an interview. It was a discussion. You can listen in here (and argue with me on Twitter).

Improve Your Innovation Fitness: Make Yourself Redundant

“Waves are not measured in feet and inches, they are measured in increments of fear.”
Buzzy Trent

When we talk about technology – and when we talk about change – we often talk about “waves”. Like surfers talk. Except it’s nowhere near as interesting or compelling. Except when we add a tinge of fear to it.

When I first started working in publishing, I realised that I was already redundant. Or was on the way to being redundant. I led the way in implementing online coding in a world full of typesetters, and I started using desktop publishing when it seemed like blasphemy. The change was coming and I was doing all I could to ride the wave was there before me.

Later, at IBM, I learned about process re-engineering. And “restructuring”. And “outsourcing”. Everywhere I looked, I could see disruption, dislocation and relocation. There were people losing their jobs, careers being swept out from under them. It was a time of tremendous uncertainty.

The thing is, it is no different now than it was then. In many ways, we now live our lives in a constant state of disruption. Gone is the fabled “job for life”. Gone is the bond between employer and employee. And gone is the social contract that saw us all working towards a shared future where a “fair go” was on the table for anyone who stepped up. In its place is uncertainty, change and anxiety.

But disruption is not just about fear. It is also about opportunity.

One of the better lessons from my time at IBM was the need to treat a company like a living organism. Every year or two, there would be a restructure. While this was used as a way to reduce costs or shift them to another country, it was also amazingly invigorating. It challenged us to forge new networks in new parts of the business. It forced new and often unexpected ways of working. And it did so when all we wanted was to stay in our comfort zones.

Now, “restructuring” is not always the most pleasant of experiences. And it is emotionally bruising to find yourself out of work suddenly.

Disrupt yourself first

If you take your job seriously – and almost everyone I have ever met does – then the challenge is to make yourself redundant. The opportunity is to disruption yourself, your career and your industry before it happens from the outside in.

This is partly what we are doing with the Disruptor’s Handbook. Despite the name, it is not a “book”. It is a strategy and innovation firm. Our mission is to bring the innovation practices and methods used by startups to the enterprise. And yes, we have handbooks. We make them freely available on our website so that you can apply these practices to your own business. We also have thought leadership eBooks designed to help you make the case for innovation in your business. We also have a series of techniques and approaches that have not been published but are used in our client work. These are shared with clients so that they learn to do what we do – so they know what we know and grow in confidence and capability. We are effectively disrupting ourselves as we grow.

Challenging yourself

I believe that you must challenge yourself and your industry. Can you do better? Can you reinvent your business?

In challenging yourself this way, it keeps you thinking about the long game. It keeps you focused on the health of your skills and networks, your capabilities and your ability to deliver. And it keeps you focused on your customers and their needs, serving them as they shift and change.

And in a time of uncertainty, making yourself redundant puts you in the driver’s seat of your career. You can choose the timing of your next step and its direction. You can prepare yourself for the changes that are coming. It’s Darwinian. Survival of the fittest.

And this … “innovation fitness” means that you are giving yourself the best next chance possible. Don’t just see the next wave coming, ride it, baby. Ride it.

IT’s Big Secret – Platforming: Bringing IT and Marketing Together

The big IT companies have a secret. And it’s a secret that can radically transform your business. For the last decade or so, technology has been converging – with different technology stacks coming into alignment, sharing interfaces, connecting data and improving the process of software development and deployment. As a result, we have seen huge improvements in the capability of software to impact business. Just think about:

  • The rise and role of data in business decision making
  • The importance and focus on dashboards and data visualisation
  • The growth of mobile and location based information
  • The abundance of “internet of things” devices and sensors
  • The near ubiquitous adoption of smartphones.

Behind the scenes, technology companies have been “platforming” – turning their business processes and models into digital systems. They do this across four key business dimensions:

  • Social: The Social dimension has the potential to deliver powerful, personal yet scalable CONNECTION. It offers a single conversational channel, builds trust and offers a way to accelerate a resolution or conversion process
  • Mobile: The Mobile dimension delivers LOCATION. With a connected device in your pocket (close to your beating heart), a mobile phone is the convergence point where the digital and the “real” worlds collide
  • Analytics: The power of big data is not in crunching everything known about a customer. The real value is in delivering AWARENESS to a network. This effectively means creating USER context from the social, mobile and business data signals available
  • Cloud: And the cloud provides the mechanism for SERVICE. To remain relevant to customers, brands must re-acquaint themselves with the value of service. And Cloud provides the mechanism to do so.

But the challenge for marketers is that these dimensions are largely unconnected to marketing. They rightly belong to the company’s technology teams. Right?

Combining marketing and IT capabilities

The greatest opportunity for business is to combine the expertise of marketing and IT. Marketers usually view their customers through the lens of media – combining paid, owned and earned media to reach and engage them. We have shifted, however, beyond this broadcast approach – and this is increasingly being enabled by the SMAC platforms.

To more effectively bridge the marketing and IT fields, we need new ways of thinking, collaborating and conceptualising what it is that we do. We need a shared language, shared measurements and cross-line-of-business visibility into key performance indicators, pressures, deadlines and processes. And this means digital transformation.

Is it possible? It has to be. For only through this kind of alignment will we be able to deeply impact our customer’s brand experience.

I spoke in more detail on this subject recently. See my slides and the presentation here.


DH - From Media to Experience (3)

Where’s My Hoverboard? The Evolution of the Employee and the Future of Work

I have been fascinated by the future of work for some time. Ever since I first wobbled out of the office, became “freelance” and started my first business many years ago, I felt that change was coming and that organisations as well as individuals would transform the nature of their relationship. But the amazing thing about “the future” is that it always takes so long to arrive. After all, I’m still waiting for my hoverboard – and that should have been here by now.

And while lasting change has taken some time to bed in, we have seen some remarkable changes in the landscape of work. Looking back, these changes seem small, but each contributed to a growing momentum, which when added together, provide a clear path to where we are today and where we are heading. Let’s take a look at some of these.

1. Where we work

Location has been a central part of the identity of “work” for centuries. It marked “work” out from “home”, delineated the work/life balance and created the need for commuting. But technology in many shapes and forms has transformed “where we work”. With mobile phones, connected devices, laptops and broadband access, now more than ever, our office is in our pocket. Moreover, the “spaces” where we work – especially for the “knowledge worker” – are also different. We can choose “hotdesks” over cubicals, coworking spaces over offices, cafes over desks and home over central business district. We don’t even have to live in the same country as our teams. For many years, my working rhythm skewed towards the evening and late night while collaborating with colleagues in the USA and across Europe. This impacted the “how”.

2. How we work

Gone are the days of “bundying on” – for most office workers at least. The workplace is far more aligned to outputs rather than inputs – what you produce rather than the time spent producing it. Unless, of course, you are running behind schedule or over budget! Technology is also transforming how we work – with more collaborative technologies finding their way into the office. There’s also a vast array of collaborative software to choose from – almost every office department will find dedicated software with a collaborative component (either built-in or bolted on) – and it all resides “in the cloud” which means your work is with you wherever you may be.

3. Why we work

We’ve also seen a remarkable shift in our reasons for working. Many younger people are opting out of the corporate path – or at least stepping off the ladder a few rungs up. The desire to “work with purpose” is seeing young (and now older) professionals make choices that would have been surprising even a decade ago. Creating your own ladder – entrepreneurship – or running your own startup or small business seems to be a viable and enviable option – which has a personal impact focus.

In his book, The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization, Jacob Morgan suggests that the “work that we know is dead”. He looks at a range of factors that made up the history of our working lives and then looks to the future to suggest new trends.

And while I largely agree with his observations I wonder whether we are quite as close to the future as he suggests. It always seems to me that individuals cope with change and adapt far more quickly than the culture, processes and policies of businesses and organisations. For example, I still hear of companies that prohibit access to YouTube or Facebook, despite the opportunities for collaboration and learning on offer. So perhaps the future has arrived, but it’s just not evenly distributed.


Top Social Media Trends for 2015

In the world of social media and content marketing, we talk about the “Three Bs” of content. You can either:

  • Buy – pay for the creation of content
  • Build – make content yourself
  • Borrow – share the great work of other

And around this time of year, we start seeing blog posts, articles and presentations on the trends for the year ahead. And while I have my own ideas about what is coming and whether (any of it) is important, my former SAP colleague, Natascha Thomson has put together a quick-to-read presentation on the 2015 trends which I thought I’d borrow. Since leaving SAP, Natascha has been running her MarketingXLerator consultancy from San Francisco’s Bay Area. You can contact her via her website.

Six Marketing Visionaries Look to the Future

The Economist Intelligence Unit has interviewed six marketing visionaries who are sharing their insights of what the future of marketing looks like.  The “Future of Marketing” initiative is sponsored by Marketo, and publishes conversations with Seth Godin, John Hagel, Aditya Joshi, Marc Mathieu, Jim Stengel and myself. It makes for great, and varied reading, with each person taking a particular path to the future:

  • Seth Godin encourages us to make stories worth telling. He argues that marketing is about everything and that today’s marketer must be embedded within what  the company makes, working and pushing towards what the customer wants.
  • John Hagel says that marketing is just experiencing the tip of the iceberg in terms of transformative change. We are going to see more marketers having to work with what he calls the “three As” – attract, assist, affiliate. The “power of pull” means we need to work to attract customers, help pre and post purchase, and find new models to help customers help each other.
  • Gavin Heaton discusses PANDA – a framework for the future of marketing. Tapping into purpose, analytics, networks, digital and art (yes art), marketing will not only remain relevant as a business and consumer facing profession, it will help drive brands and companies to deliver greater value to its stakeholders, customers and networks.
  • Aditya Joshi looks at the skill base at the marketers of the future. And by future, he means now. Clearly we need to be investing in marketing teams to build out strategic thinking, analysis capabilities to derive insights and develop actionable plans and technology abilities to help organisations straddle marketing and IT.
  • Marc Mathieu also speaks of massive change. Technology is infusing how we connect with people, learn from them, connect with entrepreneurs and engage with audiences. But perhaps the most challenging aspect is a central shift in purpose – “Marketing used to be about creating a myth and selling; now it’s about finding a truth and sharing it”.
  • Jim Stengel breaks the future into three components, personalisation, automation and purpose (yes it’s a theme). He also flags storytelling as a mechanism to encompass the whole approach. “You don’t have a story unless you have purpose, have ambition, and are trying to make a difference in the world. More and more, people care about where brands come from”.

Take your time and read one of these interviews per day. There are insights that you don’t need to wait five years for – they are practices that you can embed in your thinking now and prepare for out to 2020. After all, the future is a moving feast. Take your seat at the table.