Decyphering Bitcoin and the Blockchain

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No doubt you’ll have heard about Bitcoin by now. It’s that disruptive technology that is keeping Financial Services CEOs awake at night. JP Morgan CEO, Jamie Dimon, in his annual letter to shareholders warned investors and the banking industry that “Silicon Valley is coming” – suggesting that there are hundreds of startups focusing on the financial services technology space (“fintech”) and that traditional banking will need to double down on its innovation efforts.

[Startups] … are very good at reducing the ‘pain points’ in that they can make loans in minutes, which might take banks weeks. We are going to work hard to make our services as seamless and competitive as theirs. And we also are completely comfortable with partnering where it makes sense.

But his particular focus on next generation payments systems like PayPal and Bitcoin were called out for special attention.

Here in Australia, these new systems have been the subject of a Senate Hearing Committee investigating digital currencies.

But how does Bitcoin work? Sean Carmody, Head of Credit Risk at Westpac put together this presentation that explains the technical underpinnings of Bitcoin – the blockchain. It explains:

  • Why virtual currencies are a happening thing – the perfect match for a virtual world
  • The problem with virtual currencies – how to prevent people simply “copying” a digital currency
  • The innovation in the “blockchain”

And while the presentation does get technical, it is also eye-opening. Technology may be transforming the way that currencies can operate (now and into the future) – but TRUST remains a vital ingredient in currency transactions. And as Sean suggests, Bitcoin may not be the winner in the digital currency race – but it has fired the starter’s gun.

Why Digital Disruption Sneaks Up On You

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Digital disruption is a popular theme in any business discussion. No matter whether I am speaking with technology companies, startups, industrial product manufacturers, professional service firms or pharmaceutical companies, eventually the topic arises. But it is hardly ever a direct conversation. More often than not, we approach “disruption” from the side.

You see, when we think of disruption we are thinking of some big change that temporarily suspends the way that we work – forcing us to change. But digital disruption doesn’t necessarily work this way. It’s more like wave after wave of small changes. Like a tide rolling in way past the high tide mark. But the REAL problem of disruption is that we don’t see if for what it is. Put simply:

We treat disruption’s symptoms but not its root cause.

And this means the threat of digital disruption is all the more dangerous for business.

Marketers have been at the forefront of digital disruption partly because they have (or should have) a good ear for the voice of the customer. They should understand the accelerating pace of change that consumers are adopting and incorporating into their everyday behaviours. But digital disruption is not JUST a marketing challenge. It is a challenge that faces almost every aspect of our businesses.

To understand the wide ranging impact of disruption, we put together a framework – the Five Cs of Digital Disruption. It’s a framework that we use with clients to map, understand and address digital disruption in a programmatic way. It helps us and our clients determine priorities – how to CREATE value in an age of disruption, how to CONNECT socially, engage CULTURALLY, CONDUCT business and CONSTRUCT our thinking.

5 Cs of Digital Disruption

But more than this – the Five Cs provides a focus for action. After all, if you are sitting still, you’re a sitting duck. Choose one of the Five Cs, analyse your situation and begin a PROCESS of attack (note I don’t say “plan of attack”). Don’t let digital disruption sneak up on you – act and iterate. For in a world where disruption is the new “business as usual” you really MUST find a place to start.

The Thought Leader Journey

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2015-03-20 11.49.51Up until recently, I have rarely listened to podcasts. They just did not seem to work for me. I didn’t have the regularity of travel or the time to focus. But podcasting seems to be riding a wave of new popularity – and an explosion in the type and number of podcasts combined with easy to use apps has seen me start to change my ways. And with an interest in supporting people and businesses I know, I started with some local casts – Trevor Young’s Reputation Revolution podcast and Mark Pesce’s This Week in Startups Australia.

Trevor’s podcast investigates personal branding and the do-it-yourself thought leadership route available to us all. I was able to join Trevor to share some of my own DIY thought leadership. Hope you enjoy it as much as Trevor and I had recording it.

Disrupting the Disruptors – Follow Me on Meerkat

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I feel it. I’m sure you feel it too. Launch fatigue. It is what happens when you can’t bring yourself to click a link or open yet another email announcement about the app or website that is going to change your life. After all, our lives are pretty much the same as they were last year, right? AND the year before. And the year before that.

Actually, I can’t recall being truly, authentically excited about a new technology for sometime.

Until Meerkat arrived.

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I frequently attend events of all shapes and sizes. Sometimes as a guest. Sometimes as a speaker. But always as a curious participant. If there is something interesting taking place, I will live tweet the speeches. I will take photos from the stage. It’s as much for my own benefit as it is for those who follow. I find this kind of live coverage a great way to capture value – to tell the story, to bring people closer. To explore. But with Twitter and even with Instagram pictures only take you so far. And for most events 15 seconds is just not long enough.

Enter the Meerkat

While Twitter recently announced its purchase of Periscope for live streaming – Meerkat has been able to build a substantial user base in a matter of weeks. And while new apps come and go, it feels like this cat may have some interesting and stripy surprises.

In my view, most social networks handle new product launches appallingly. It seems that once they achieve some level of scale, they lose their way, hire in “enterprise” types and follow the beaten path towards monetisation through advertising. Facebook are getting better at this. But Twitter is clearly lagging. Not only have they invested in an app with little or no public traction, their track record with new releases does not inspire confidence. And this leaves the door open for disruption.

Meerkat takes what has been happening in a much more clunky way and removes the friction. They’ve taken a leaf out of Apple’s playbook – observe an innovation and make it better. Pioneers of portable web streaming like JustinTV led the way, struggling with battery packs, bulky technology and low network connectivity. But for the individual it was all too much. Trouble. Bother.

And that’s where Meerkat’s elegance wins out. With your smartphone and a good 4G signal (or 3G while standing on one leg), you can now livestream anything. Everyday events. Activities just t. Special occasions.

With Meerkat, social media is not about telling people what you are having for breakfast. It’s not even about how good your breakfast looks in photos. Now people can watch you eat. Live. With sound.

We’re all breakfast TV hosts now

Effectively, our conversations can actually be turned into conversations. We become both interviewer and subject.

But already this new medium is challenging the old form. Twitter excels for those who find social settings too in-your-face. On Twitter you can know all the answers, but Meerkat’s critical eye demands high energy. Conversation. Viewpoints. Meerkat is the medium of the incessantly curious the verbally dextrous.

Is it all too much?

It’s very early days – but Meerkat is setting a new direction that we didn’t know we needed. But one thing is for certain. Those who win on networks like Meerkat will be very different from those who win on text based channels like Twitter. And when the disruptors are disrupted, things get interesting.

The True Value of Social Business is Still to be Unlocked

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Realising the value of any business initiative – especially when it involves some form of transformation or change management – can take months or even years. In fact, the benefits of some changes can continue to accrue for decades. Little wonder then, that business is taking time to bring its social media / social business programs to account. After all, it’s not just about allowing Facebook access through the firewall and launching a new Fan Page.

For business to generate value from their investments in social initiatives, integrated programs need to be rolled out across five dimensions:

  • Goals – it’s essential for your program to set goals. These goals will, over time, become more refined, but even ad hoc programs should establish clear parameters
  • Commitment – understanding how your teams will use social media helps determine the level of resourcing, governance and support that will be needed. Essentially, you need to determine your organisation’s accepted level of commitment
  • Ability – how will social be deployed within your organisation and by whom? What level of training and best practice sharing will be put in place? How will you formalise this?
  • Measurement – are you achieving your goals? Are you failing? And are you even measuring the right things?
  • Scalability – who’s job is social? Thinking through this question will help you confront the challenges of scaling social within your business.

To understand the way that organisational maturity can be built over time, I created this social business maturity model. But when it was first developed back in 2011, there was a paucity of data available on the impact of social business. This is now beginning to change.

The Sloan Review/Deloitte’s findings from their 2014 global study on social business reveals that as social business matures, value begins to build across the enterprise – not just within the marketing and sales divisions. Almost 60% of B2B companies are finding that social business initiatives are “positively impacting business outcomes”. And that central to the realisation of business value is the support of the C-suite.

Those experienced in the world of change management will know the importance of “top down” support. And social business transformation is no different.

Read the full report here – and then roll up your sleeves. With only 51% of business sitting in the early stages of the maturity model, there’s plenty of opportunity to grow and create value.

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

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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.

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Tech, Media, Telco – Trends, Predictions and Maybe Some Good Guesses

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The challenge of digital is not one of technology. It is that it is relentless.

From December through January each year, we look back over our shoulder at what has happened and then look ahead, towards the horizon, seeking to map out the future. It’s a time honoured ritual that happens on a range of scales – from the personal “New Year’s Resolution” to the enterprise level “Strategy/Planning” sessions. But predictions are notoriously difficult to make. And disruption has a way of changing the conditions of our personal and professional lives at a moment’s notice.

Think back to the beginning of 2014. What were your personal resolutions? What were your professional goals? Did you keep your resolutions? Did you see the changes in yourself or your circumstances that you were hoping for? What about your professional life? How well did your ambitions match your achievements?

Chances are the things that you predicted, wanted or expected, changed through the course of the year. After all, the one certainty we have is change.

However, business trends and predictions can be very helpful when prioritising your limited time and resources. And if you are involved or interested in the technology, media or telecommunications industry, the Deloitte TMT Predictions for 2015 make for interesting reading.

Some of my favourite predictions include:

  • The Internet of Things really is things, not people. The prediction is that 95% of the IoT devices to be purchased in 2015 will be bought by enterprises. This marks a substantial shift away from the consumerisation of IT that has driven innovation for the last few years – with technology finding a home again in the corporation. Of course, there will still be plenty of human involvement in signing the cheques for that $30 billion in contracts.
  • The re-enterprisation of IT. In a similar vein – and perhaps not quite a prediction on its own, but a substantial shift in the role of technology in the business. I have a feeling that for this to actually happen, we’ll need whole new ways of imagining not just transformation but the foundations of innovation.
  • The “generation that won’t spend” is spending a lot on media content. Rather than a generation of content pirates, Gen Y are proving that they not only value content but are willing to pay for it. This is driving growth in subscription platforms from Spotify to Netflix. It may even account for the shift away from assets like cars to use of services like Uber and GoGet. And that means – for me at least – that the shift is less about media content and more about the EXPERIENCE of consumption.

You can read the full report and predictions here. What catches your fancy? What’s next on the horizon for you and your business?

Look at Me-When Screen Time Changes Lives

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Walk tall, walk straight and look the world right in the eye
— Val Doonican

In my childhood home we listened to both kinds of music – country and western. There was none of this “modern” country – it was heavily loaded with Johnny Cash, Charlie Pride and Waylon Jennings. There was a smattering of Willie Nelson, albums of Dolly Parton before 9 to 5, and even some Elvis. Of course, there was Slim Dusty. But one of my Nan’s favourites was Val Doonican’s Walk Tall. She would say it was more than a song – it was a handbook for life.

The concept of looking the “world right in the eye” is deeply ingrained in us. Certainly in Western culture. So much so that we believe it’s hard to look someone in the eye and lie. This has been debunked as a myth, but its cultural currency remains strong. In 1997, Dr Arthur Aron published a paper that showed simply staring into the eyes of a stranger for four minutes uninterrupted can have a massive impact on the development of “closeness” or “relationships”. Recently, this was charmingly re-enacted (under more open conditions) by Mandy Len Catron and written up in the New York Times.

But what happens if a person you love – a child – your child – won’t look you in the eye? This is the case for many parents of children with autism:

People with an autism have difficulty establishing and maintaining relationships. They do not respond to many of the non-verbal forms of communication that many of us take for granted like like facial expressions, physical gestures and eye contact.

But what if that could be changed? And what if technology could help?

Samsung in Korea worked with universities to create an app that taught autistic kids to look at faces, decypher emotions and understand what is going on with the person they are “communicating” with. The Look At Me app is the result:

The Look at Me app aims to improve an individual’s ability to make eye contact. A multidisciplinary team of clinical psychologists, cognitive psychologists, and psychiatrists have dedicated their participation in developing the app curriculum. The app is currently under clinical testing to verify its effectiveness through research. The app keeps children motivated and highly concentrated by using the camera function of digital devices that often appeal to children’s interests.

And now, following the success of the app in Korea, Samsung Canada is donating 200 tablets preloaded with the Look At Me app to Autism Speaks Canada.

This is technology that really has the potential to change lives. It brings technology, creativity, health and psychology together in an ingenious way. And at least in some households, it will be perfectly acceptable to have plenty of “screen time”. It would be great to see the same kind of program here in Australia.

HT: Digital Buzz Blog

Improve your Business and Your Mind with Slideshare

Point of no return

The idea of continuously learning seems like a “no brainer” to me. Being naturally curious, I have always sought out knowledge – and have been lucky to find it in abundance. But my efforts have never been idle – they have never been for the sake of knowledge alone. For while I love acquiring knowledge, I love – even more – the thought of turning that knowledge into action. Doing. Making.

And now with an abundance of learning opportunities via the web, everywhere I look I see opportunity. There are blogs written by whip smart innovators, thinkers and doers. There are YouTube channels teaming with tips, insights and edutainment. There are the moocs, open learning platforms and iTunesU.

There is so much content to learn that it’s literally impossible to consume it all. So that means being selective.

So if you are looking for some great, simple and effective ways to improve your business and your mind, take a look at Slideshare’s Must-Read Decks from 2014. There are dozens of recommendations that you can dip in and out of, bookmark and revisit. What are you waiting for? Just get started below!

Imagens Evangélicas via CompfightPoint of no return Bada Bing via Compfight

Three Newsletters for Digital Leaders

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As much as we write about the end of this or the end of that, one consistent form of communication that refuses to die, is email. Love it or hate it, newsletters and the like continue to go from strength to strength.

And there is nothing more telling about the role of email than when some of the most innovative digital thinkers start their own newsletters. Over the last few months, newsletters, not blogs or podcasts, have been started by at least three digital leaders that should be on your must-read list (or at least in your “Primary” Gmail tab). These are:

  • Rosie & Faris’ Strands of Genius: Part business diary, part link collection, this newsletter by Rosie Yakob and Faris Yakob has a particular advertising and innovation focus that is hard to find. It is peppered with the dynamic duos’ personal sayings, interesting perspectives, and content that favours insight over statistics (though there are plenty of both).
  • Kris Hoet’s Warped: A weekly curated email featuring the best ideas, trends and awesomeness from the previous seven days. Kris keeps an eye on innovation and trends emanating from Europe.
  • Dave Phillip’s Work Study Dad: Short and sharp – Dave’s Five Things newsletter focuses on social media marketing and culture and contains only five links to items worth reading.
  • Natural Disruption: The newsletter from our Disruptor’s Handbook team keeping you up-tod-ate with disruptive trends, technology and ideas.

And yes, I know that makes four. Make some room in your inbox for all of them ;)