Search Results for “serendipity economy”

Social media adoption, the serendipity economy and flock behavior in communities

Okay, okay – the title is obscure. I’m pretty sure you know what social media is, but the serendipity economy? Flock behavior in communities?

Don’t worry – there’s a connection, and I will explain…

Last week I attended the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Santa Clara, where I managed to catch an amazing session with Daniel W. Rasmus called “The Serendipity Economy“. I found myself compulsively live-tweeting throughout Daniel’s talk. His thesis is essentially that our legacy, industrial-age approach to economics does not fit within our modern knowledge economy framework.

Think of it this way – value in manufacturing is realized the moment a product is created, whereas in a knowledge economy, the presentation I just created has no value until it’s presented. Additionally, because the knowledge economy relies largely on human networks, forecasting much of the value derived is basically impossible (imagine the number of variables. It’s like weather modeling, times a billion!) instead, our challenge is discovering unanticipated value as it happens – and then replicating it (you can download Daniel’s whitepaper here).

Twitter visualization

Image courtesy of Yoan Blanc

Anyway, it was an amazing talk, and one of my biggest takeaways had to do specifically with social media. Daniel rightly noted that there is a huge disruption when you introduce a horizontal technology (i.e. social media) into a traditional vertical structure (i.e. most large organizations), particularly as it relates to adoption. Social, ideally, needs to get to the point of being as widely used as, say, the phone or the PC. Problem? It’s much more skills-based, much more complex and we also don’t have years to roll it out.

So, what’s an organization to do?

In a conversation with a client the very next day, I mentioned Daniel’s presentation, and as we discussed adoption of social media and the very real challenges with integrating horizontal technologies into vertical organizations (so well put!). I was suddenly reminded of something I read in both the MIT Technology Review Physics arXiv Blog and Fast Company, and subsequently did a presentation on in late 2009. My presentation was called “Disrupting Traditional Leadership: Flock Behavior in Communities” and it explored research that showed it was possible for a very small number of leaders to move very large entities, if only you have the right criteria in place:

  1. Distribution: The leaders must be distributed throughout the organization in a fairly consistent way in order to touch the maximum number of individuals. Their own networks must not leave any significant pockets untouched by their mission, vision or goals.
  2. Allegiance: The people in the leaders’ networks must be absolutely loyal. That means the leader must be persuasive, and when he or she moves, their network moves with them, as do the networks surrounding their network… you get the idea.
  3. Communication: To get everyone to move at the same time and in the right direction, messaging about the mission and the action to be taken must be communicated to all leaders and then to the loyal members of their networks quickly, efficiently and consistently.

Interesting model, which raised all kinds of questions for me, including whether it could be deployed to achieve significant change in unexpected places… like large, vertical organizations, who are deeply challenged by quick-moving, disruptive change.

I’m really excited about the continuing challenges presented to us as we help our more progressive clients fully integrate social into what they do. The adoption discussion is a priority for 2012, and our team will be actively exploring new models in an effort to help make our partners more nimble, flexible and just better at leveraging social media. Would love to hear your thoughts!

Sales pipelines and non-linear pharmokinetics

When I ran my own business, I had a solid, tried-and-true, 3x pipeline. That was absolutely, 100% the math. For every $3 in prospective sales, we would see $1 in booked revenue, and this was the case for years. Until it abruptly wasn’t. For whatever reason, the ratio started to shift, and we began closing less than 30% of deals.

Clearly it was time to move to a 4x pipeline. If we were going to maintain the same amount of revenue annually, we needed to increase the number of opportunities were were pursuing. So that’s what we did.


Let’s park this parable for a moment and jump to an article I came across last week. It turns out that a popular pharmaceutical contraceptive doesn’t work well for women who weigh more than 165lbs (75kgs) and doesn’t work at all for women over 176 lbs (80kgs). The article explained that the reason for this was something known as “non-linear pharmokinetics”. Essentially: taking y of a drug = x of the drug in your bloodstream. However, for some drugs, taking 2y does not = 2x in your bloodstream, it may still be 1x or even less, depending on your metabolism.

Which is why this particular contraceptive doesn’t work for women over a certain weight. Because of non-linear pharmokinetics, you can’t take enough of the drug for it to work if your body mass is above a certain amount.

And this is the connection I began to think about as it related to our sales pipeline long ago. Even though we created a 4x pipeline, our revenue did not respond accordingly. Because it turns out that there’s something very similar to non-linear pharmokinetics that happens in sales. According to a Sirius Decisions study released this year, B2B companies with 3x pipelines perform much better than those with 4x pipelines – by about 32%. The reason is explained as quality – when you increase pipeline, and lower expectations of productivity, we encourage sales professionals to reduce quality. That’s certainly what we saw in our own 4x experiment, which didn’t do a thing. We ended up refocusing our efforts on the right clients, instead of all the clients.

The reasons for these two different but similar phenomenon (put more of x into the system, which doesn’t generate linearly more y) is the multiplier. It’s an additional variable that we, in our quest to see simplicity where it sometimes is not, forget about. The good news is that these unconsidered variables in other circumstances can sometimes actually generate more value, especially in a knowledge-based business. You can read more about that in this fascinating article by Daniel Rasmus about the Serendipity Economy.

Do you have any examples of this from your own work?

TechEd Las Vegas – what I learned & what I saw…

In my new role at SAP, I am part of the team that puts together the amazing SAP TechEd events. This past week I had the great pleasure of kicking off TechEd Las Vegas (next week it will be TechEd Amsterdam, and early December we’ll be in India for TechEd Bangalore…) I can’t possibly do this tremendous event justice in one short blog post (hundreds of hours of educational content, 6500 live attendees, over 20,000 online, the events reach a total of over 200,000) and many others have posted their own thoughts and personal highlights. However, I would like to share a couple of small, but very interesting “Ah-HA!” moments I experienced over the course of the event – one of the things that makes attending great conferences and speaking with smart people such a joy. (think the Serendipity Economy).

Have the iPhone/iPad trained us to customize UIs (user interfaces)?

I remember reading a study in 2007 that talked about how Napster had shown many millions of Internet users that the web was not only cool, but useful. That the music-sharing site had, in fact, trained us to perform transactions online, creating comfort with behaviours that would support the rapid growth of online shopping as well as social media. In the context of a discussion around SAP’s acquisition development of Fiori, an apps-based user interface technology, Sam Yen (SAP’s global head of design and user experience) pointed out that, similarly, the iPhone/iPad has trained us to expect the ability to customize UIs. This is, of course, a relatively new space with an enormous amount of potential, not only to make the user experience better/more intuitive, but also to gather an additional layer of data (not only what you did, but how you set things up to best do it).


The “digital layer” is a given at conferences – but now attendees want to take their content home

This was a really interesting one. It’s been a given for a while now that conferences must have robust digital layers to meet attendee (and online lurker) audience expectations. No surprises there. But what happens when attendees have an amazing augmented experience via a highly useful mobile app? When they share pictures, make comments and connect with others – and then want to take that content home, or into another platform? During a lunch with the SAP TechEd app leaderboard winners (those who had used the event app the most) we had a lively discussion about how the content these folks had created could be exported from the mobile into a desktop (“If I could even get a Word document…”) or online experience (“What about if we could bring the content into an SCN forum thread?”). It was a great question that I had never heard asked before – and I expect it to come up again as the lines between online, offline and IRL continue to blur.

Finally, this is my favourite picture of all from the event, and I would like to know just how one comes to own their own personal SAP t-shirt cannon?? Sign me up!

Picture from "SCN is 10!" celebrations at DemoJam #SAPTechEd

Picture from “SCN is 10!” celebrations at DemoJam #SAPTechEd, courtesy Martin Gillet

So, two small (but interesting) discussion points from a rich, lively event that had thousands of attendees. If you attended or watched online, what did you come away with from #SAPTechEd? I’d love to hear in the comments below.