Why You Need to FOCUS – Forget Ideas, Start with Problems


In the rush to innovate, we jump to solutions, look for silver bullets. We cool hunt. Crowd source. Idea storm.

But there is a problem with ideas. Sure they are fantastic for a fledgling startup, but they are dangerous, time consuming and unproductive for most corporates. Unfortunately, one of the first responses to a “call” for more innovation is to ask for “big ideas”.

A better approach is to forget ideas and put out a call for “problems worth solving”. It’s the approach that I have been following for years and it has distinct advantages:

  • Focus on business value – there is an immediate connection between any subsequent ideas and the business value that needs to be created
  • Ownership – you can pinpoint a “business owner” who has a vested interest in the problem being solved
  • Crowd solving – it’s easier to direct structured and unstructured teams to solve the challenge
  • Understanding and articulation – working with the problem owner means that there is a clear understanding and articulation of the challenge. It means everyone is “on the same page”
  • Systems win – in the corporate world, systems win. Taking a systematic approach to solving problems rather than pursuing ideas means that business value can be retained, capacity can be sustained and velocity can be built into (or on the edge of your business).

Once you have your problem sets, you’ll find it’s much easier to get started on that next innovation.

Qantas Hackathon: Feels Like Innovation


After a busy first day of briefings and coding, the stage was set for the last, desperate rush to the midday deadline. Pitches were scheduled and rehearsed, last minute bug fixes were released and some even found time for a relaxing morning tea. But what, really could be created in a mere 24 hours. Would it be useful? Interesting? Would there be true innovation found amongst the lines of code and discarded lolly wrappers? Only time would tell. And time was the one thing that really was in short supply.

Here’s how Day 2 of the Qantas Hackathon played out.

The Inaugural Qantas Hackathon


Held over the weekend of 30-31 May, we’ve been working with Qantas to host a hackathon that brings together teams of developers from across the country. How will these innovations play out? What will the teams deliver? Only time – 24 hours to be exact – will tell. Here’s the wrap of the first day.

Why Digital Marketing Transformation is Important


I recently spent time with IBM travelling as part of their IBM Connect conference series in Auckland, Sydney and Melbourne. At each location, I hosted a panel discussion that centred on the “voice of the customer” – drawing out the experience and knowledge of panels that included ADMA’s CEO, Jodie Sangster, CIO of Tennis Australia, Samir Mahir, City of Melbourne’s Executive Manager, Commercial and Marketing, Lucan Creamer, Think Global Research’s Mark Tyler, and Twitter’s Head of Data Sales, Fred Funke.

I spent a few minutes with the IBM team to share my thoughts on why digital marketing transformation is important – and how you can use the “Marketing PANDA” to focus your efforts around customer centricity.

Decyphering Bitcoin and the Blockchain


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


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


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


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.


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


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.


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.