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.


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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.

Facebook Charts the Course to 2025


Strong third quarter earnings were posted by Facebook this week, but CEO Mark Zuckerberg set the stage for a year of investment ahead, with a ten year horizon. Facebook’s expenses are expected to grow between 50% and 70% next year, and the company looks set to not only aggressively scale its various app based technologies, but also recruit the best and brightest talent.

With almost 8400 employees, Facebook has grown 44% since last year. As CFO Dave Wehner explained:

… we’re investing where we think there is a great opportunity for long-term growth and that’s going to be really investing and continuing to grow the talent base of the Company. So, we’re investing in the people and that’s a big part of it.

On the user side, Facebook reports that over 1.35 billion people use the social network each month with 64% logging in daily.  On mobile – yes mobile – 703 million people login daily – signalling a massive 40% growth since last year.

Not content to simply keep pace, Facebook are pushing ahead with a substantial technology investment planned. The plan with 3, 5 and 10 year horizons is for Facebook to develop and grow multiple products to scale ahead of monetisation. On that agenda are WhatsApp, Messenger, Search, Video, NewsFeed, Oculus and Instagram.

Interestingly enough, for the majority of its social network users, Facebook is a single, broad product, with an abundance of features spooling kraken-like into our digital experiences. The push to hive off products across the social network platform (like the recently calved Messenger), however, signal a more strategic understanding of both the business opportunity and the audience behaviours.

With a core platform providing a consistency of experience, Facebook is well placed to aggressively invest in a next generation computing platform – based on augmented reality and Oculus. However, there are significant hurdles to overcome, even with a 10 year horizon. And that heavy investment will need to be focused around transforming the ungainly augmented reality hardware that limits the broad appeal of Oculus in order to avoid a fate similar to Google’s ill-conceived Glass.

Leaving that aside, Zuckerberg’s understanding of audience and scale and the commercial approach to technology and monetisation underpins both the investments and the product strategy. Turning his attention to Search and News Feed, he explained:

Some of the things like Search and some of these other products, this may sound a little ridiculous to say, but for us, products don’t really get that interesting to turn into businesses until they have about a 1 billion people using them. And so for Facebook, we’re there with News Feed and that’s why in the near term our priority is really around continuing to grow and serve that community and making sure that the business around News Feed and those mobile ads fully reach their potential. [my emphasis.]

Throwing these large numbers around seems trite until we break it down. Thinking through platforms at scale – with 1000 million people as a user base for several products at a time – means operating at a scale that few of us can imagine. In Zuckerberg’s own words:

But I do think that this is such a big opportunity ahead of us. I can’t think of that many other companies or products that have multiple lines of products that are on track to reach and connect 1 billion that have a clear path of how we can turn them into a business.

The path to 2025 has been laid out – and it looks like quite a journey ahead. But looking back to 2005 I could hardly imagine the 2015 we have in front of us. I’m guessing Facebook’s investors are consulting their psychics and calling on their resident futurists. And well they might, there’s certainly a lot at stake.

You can read the full transcript of the earnings call on

Disrupting Work: 2015 is here. Are you ready?


Some years ago, while working at SAP, I was involved in a global workforce enablement program. Our challenge was to look ahead to 2015 (yes, we are now almost there), model the future demand for software, services and skills and put in place programs that would ensure there were enough skilled and experienced SAP practitioners available to deliver to the expected demands of our customers.

What we realised was that learning could no longer be seen as a single event. It was not good enough to rely on a stream of barely qualified candidates streaming out of universities. To achieve sustainable, professional outcomes for customers we needed to encourage life long learning and professional employee development. Moreover, we needed to be flexible enough in our thinking and education delivery to create competencies which were not yet in demand. So this meant innovation in education delivery – so we designed our programs with formal courses and partnerships with universities, put in pace informal mentoring and collaborative systems and ensured that self-directed learning was available as broadly as possible.

Some of the areas of expertise we focused on included Analytics, Cloud and Mobility, and social media.

In a recently released study, Oxford Economics, sponsored by SAP, reveals that this challenge continues. Looking ahead again, out towards 2018, there are skill predictions including:

  • Analytics – a current skill gap of 21% will grow by 131% over the next three years
  • Cloud – currently experiencing a 15% gap, this will almost double to 30% by 2018
  • Mobile – the skill gap is expected to grow from 16% to 27%
  • Social media – already at 24%, this is expected to reach 38% in three years time.

How is your company preparing your workforce for the future?

We are already facing a skills shortfall. And as the Baby Boomer generation continues to move into retirement, we will face not just a skills challenge but an experience crisis. How well is your company prepared for this challenge? How will you thrive through change?

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Disruption is the Future of Work: The All Consuming Employee


It’s not hard to see the future of work. In fact, it’s right there in front of our faces. It is happening under our noses. At the desks, in the hallways and foyers of our organisations. It is even happening in the homes of our staff, executives and customers.  And it is changing even what we consider “work” to be.

A quick search on LinkedIn revealed almost 40,00 Australians with “freelance” in their title, and almost 100,000 Australians working in a self-employed or contractor capacity. For these people, the idea of a “9-to-5” job is anathema – either through choice (they prefer to work beyond the walls of a single employer) or through circumstances (full time working conditions cannot be accommodated for a variety of reasons, from health to age, experience to opportunity).

Furthermore, statistics on telework and the business use of information technology from the ABS (from 2012), revealed that more that a third of micro businesses use the internet to allow staff to work from home, while this more than doubled for larger businesses, with 75% providing facilities for staff to work from home via technology.

And when we add to this the number of individuals who take on side projects in their spare time for cash via sites like oDesk or Freelancer or even those willing to work for a fiverr, it becomes clear that “work” is quite a different beast than it was in the Twentieth Century.

The challenge of course, is that the future of work involves a disruption of work itself. And this pushes staff, executives and HR departments into new territory. Or does it?

Katie Chatfield and Jon Paul Potts from Jack Morton have provided a quick refresher on why CEOs should care about employee engagement. Take a read and then take a look around you. How’s the future from your point of view?

Young people put their mark on the future at Vivid Sydney


On the last Friday of every month, Vibewire in conjunction with The Powerhouse Museum, host fastBREAK, a rapid fire event showcasing young innovators. Starting at 8am, five speakers are given five minutes to tell the story of their innovation – and why it chose them (or why they chose it). But this month the format has changed. It’s bigger and bolder. And it’s on this Sunday as part of Vivid Sydney.

With the theme SAVE THE WORLD, this fastBREAK will feature 5-minute talks by:

  • Senator Scott Ludlam, outspoken Greens Senator for WA
  • Tom Tilley, triple j’s Hack’s man about town
  • Jess Scully, the creative powerhouse behind Sydney’s Vivid Ideas festival
  • Urthboy, music innovator, entrepreneur and performer
  • Dan Ilic, comedian and driving force behind A Rational Fear
  • Ella Weisbrot, social justice and climate change campaigner with AYCC
  • Alex Greenwich, the independent Member of Parliament for Sydney

vw-fastbreal Jess Scully, festival director of Vivid Ideas and returning fastBREAK headliner said, “Creative people can – and will – save the world. We’ve got the skills, the passion, the radical point of view. When you empower young, creative people to use those skills they’re pretty much unstoppable – because they bring the vital elements of energy and optimism to the mix.”

Since launching in 2010, fastBREAK’s five minute format has showcased over a hundred creative changemakers and provided the inspiration for many more.

At fastBREAK – Save the World – in addition to the speakers, there are also two workshops and a band. And the world famous (ok, locally famous) breakfast courtesy of Black Star Pastry, and visual installations and storytelling courtesy of Sydney Digital Publishing (SDP).

When: Sunday 25 May, 10.30am – 12.30pm

Where: Powerhouse Museum, 500 Harris Street, Ultimo, 2007