See excerpt – interesting point:
Full article on FT here: Kraft Heinz makes £112bn approach to Unilever
See excerpt – interesting point:
Full article on FT here: Kraft Heinz makes £112bn approach to Unilever
You’ve heard the news. Jobs will come under fire if not already so. Machines, robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI), are going to take over. The Matrix, Terminator, all those movies had it right. So is it time to start a resistance movement?
What happens if it’s all true but the ending is not a tragic one. Can we find a happy coexistence with machines? In an alternative scenario, machines would be our servants and tackle the hard tasks they are brilliant at. Retaining, processing and repeating rule-based information. Complex calculations in milliseconds. Massive infrastructure and mechanical jobs that require strength, are dangerous and may even need to happen on other planets and atmospheres.
And whither humans? With land, capital, and labour safely being managed on our behalf, might humans be able to realise their full potential? Creative powerhouses constantly renewing and improving, stimulated by human interaction and fired by endless imagination. With time to put that strength to work.
In this post, I’m attempting to set out my stall for the next trend report I write. This will be my third. You can find out about the first two in the trend report page.
This is going to take about a year because I’m doing this alongside a day job. This post expands on the main hypothesis I am working on verifying.
No doubt it will change over time.
It’s important to start somewhere. A diagram is one of my favourite ways to synthesise thinking. So I drew some lines.
This post is also a part of an attempt to work out loud as much as possible. That could take the form of an occasional post to update on progress.
Follow along if you have a mind to or an interest. Better still, take part. But don’t feel obliged.
For my last trend report I set out with great intentions to involve contributors.
I found out it’s not so easy especially when you are time constrained to start with. It takes effort to do well. Others are in the same boat and have their own priorities.
So if you manage even a read and a comment, I would be grateful :)
I hope it’s straightforward enough. I struggled with this for a while and am still not sure I have the right angles. I’m not referring to the arrows :)
I grappled with how to characterise the trajectories of the three arrows. I mean what did they constitute. I concluded that they were learning priorities. Wether by humans or machines, they were directions of learning intent.
By machines I mean AI for the most part. In the case of super AI even more so. By definition it is self learning and its intent is to become super intelligent.
Robots are something that are going to take over physical work. They have mechanical capability more than intelligence. Their intelligence will come from computers that drive AI.
Together you could see them as a whole – machines.
If all projections on AI are correct, then its trajectory is due for a massive jump soon. Capacity to learn as well as intelligence will rise exponentially.
Human learning is different. Learning directions and priorities are often imposed. By schools that teach who are often lead by organisations that hire based on skills taught.
I have distinguished between STEM based learning directions and creativity based.
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (as an educational category). This has dominated learning priorities for at least the last fifty years. As mentioned, institutions of all kinds impose it.
Creativity, if seen beyond the narrow confines of education in the arts, has lagged. That in my view, should change and I’m not the only one. I’m suggesting we will need to see a massive increase in learning emphasis, both at school and at work.
Creativity is as important as literacy. Sir Ken Robinson
I assume there is going to be a need for humans to take care of the machines. Even if humans will not remain on a par, they will have to maintain their STEM focus. They will need it to maintain the machines – at least in the near term. So the STEM based learning trajectory continues roughly on par with past trends.
As for my vertical axis, here too I grappled. I was thinking what is the point of all this activity. For the moment I have couched it in the familiar. Innovation and productivity are after all the holy grail that many organisations aspire to achieve.
So that will do for now on my current standpoint. My hypothesis in essence is as follows:
Machines are self learning and will become super intelligent. There will soon be an exponential rise in their capability. They will outstrip our current STEM based capabilities. We will no longer need the capabilities as much since we can rely on machines. Mastering our creative capabilities is the next frontier. We will use them to put ourselves and machines to work and solve the biggest challenges humanity face. We need to start preparing now.
Below I describe some of the main influences on my thinking so far.
I attended a Tim Urban talk at Transition, an event my company hosted last year. We didn’t record and share the full presentation. Luckily this Google talk he gave was and he spoke about the same topic.
He makes compelling arguments simple, as he is know for doing. A couple of things stood out for me. That we are at the cusp of exponential growth in AI’s capability for self learning. And the distinctions between standard and super intelligence blew me away.
The latter especially lead me to believe we are not thinking big enough about AI. In essence he showed me the limits of my imagination.
He didn’t project futuristic outcomes, he only shed a light on the possibilities. Extrapolate from only recent progress and a super intelligent future is hard to deny.
The title is not mine – here is the article: Don’t want a robot to steal your job? Be creative. The title alone is what nailed it for me. Then on reading it several points jumped out. The first was this one:
Cheap computing power and rapidly advancing AI mean that machines already outperform us on tasks that involve retaining, processing, and repeating rule-based information.
Then their point about STEM learning which I incorporated into my diagram and thesis.
There was also the link to the NESTA report (pdf). This provided rich, research based evidence. The results confirm that “creative occupations are more future proof to computerisation”.
They also define a far broader concept of creativity than common perception holds. That it’s more than the arts. It encompasses “the use of imagination or original ideas to create something”.
The part in italics is what stood out for me .
That lead me to Richard Florida’s paper: The Creative Class and Economic Development (pdf).
Independent of all this, I wrote a post some time ago that seemed to resonate with many from all the likes and shares it received (in the thousands).
Based on Maslow’s model I positioned the Modern Organisation’s Hierarchy of Needs. Creativity and innovation were at the pinnacle of organisational actualisation.
What I left out was the AI and robots element. I’m convinced I should include it. I created a survey to try and get feedback from others to see if my hunch was correct. I’d love you to respond to it – it shouldn’t take longer than 3 minutes: Advancing the Modern Organisation’s Hierarchy of Needs
I propose to remodel the hierarchy and include those considerations. I’ll make this a core part of my trend report. I’ll use it to advocate how organisations should change to refocus their efforts.
Any feedback at all on my initial thinking would be great. Please add a comment.
I’m tracking these updates with the #innerventuresupdate tag – you can find all of them by following the link. They all tie in with and add to the findings from my trend report which covers startup driven innovation in large corporates, corporate venturing efforts and the role of the intrapreneur. You can buy the report from iBooks or add a comment (which requires an email that no one will see) and I can provide a voucher for a FREE COPY :)
I’ve written a lot about ways to scale success efforts but the best is always face to face. Events like customer meetups are a perfect way to bring customers together. I’m running these in EMEA for the company I work for currently. The context is enterprise technology. This is what I’ve learned so far and I’ll update this post as I go along.
The ideal conversation at a customer meetup would be to discuss shared successes. We all know those are hardly going to be the only outcomes. Discussing failures and how to overcome challenges are also good topics.
Meetups in the context of customer success should not only be about technology. They can also be a means to building relationships with your strategic customers. They should build your customer advocacy base too. It is a rich means to nurturing customer advocates and a customer community.
Aspects outside technology can also be topics for exploration. How something like organisational culture impacts on technology adoption. How a well designed approach can aid your technology adoption efforts.
Yet you should also use customer meetups for your product team to meet customers. The purpose here would be to share insights about whats coming in the product roadmap. Customers also have the chance to provide nuanced feedback on what they want and need.
You should avoid the feature / function trap of enterprise technology adoption. Make it about the strategic use of technology. Bring product teams closer to customer needs and pain points. You could cover use cases which are the currency of success. A meetup is the perfect environment in which to discover and share successful use cases.
Above all, meetups should be learning environments. Settings where people can come together to share expertise and learning. They should also encourage new and different thinking. At best they bring people, tools and techniques together. They drive openness and foster creativity to help solve problems.
The ideal customer attendee is the advocate. They have an interest and passion for your product and the industry in which operates. They have deep knowledge and the willingness to share it. If they don’t have these attributes, the customer meetup is the forum to nurture them in.
From the vendor side (customer meetups are most often run by the vendor) there are ideal attendees too. Those passionate about making customers succesful are obvious choices. So bring the customer success team into the meetup. Product teams are the other obvious choice. Product managers and even hard core software engineers should attend.
If you can have senior executives attend, that is ideal too. It shows how serious you are about customers and the meetup format.
Don’t get sidetracked or become unfocused. The meetup is always about the customer and their needs. Its never about your cool product or your clever founders or your awesome people. They will shine through anyway if you make the customer shine first.
There is sometimes debate about inviting prospects. Some would treat the customer meetup like a demand generation event. To make it more impactful. They would have marketing more involved to drive attendance. Sales people involved to have customers convince prospects to buy. Don’t let them do it.
Strategic prospects that are well advanced in opportunity stage could attend. Screen them first. Make sure they have the right intent. Are they genuine in their passion and intent to learn or do they want to verify a decision. If the latter, there are better ways of doing that. Like a reference call.
Sales focused events are different. Attendees of these events know hard selling is a primary motive. You can market the crap out of those you attend or sponsor :)
Who owns and leads customer meetups also comes up. Customer success teams should in my view, not marketing. They are close to the customer and know their environment. The meetup can also be a forum to forge closer ties as well as drive further customer success work.
Which does not mean there is no place for marketing. They can help promote as well as scale efforts.
But if customers think the meetup is a vehicle for marketing or sales, you lose their trust. The potential to build a community of customer advocates is no longer there.
The ultimate goal of a series of customer meetups is to build a community of advocates. If that drives loyalty in your company and product as it should, that is a beautiful thing.
I’ll keep updating this post with my learning. If I find good articles covering the same topic I’ll also add them. If you have any input please add a comment. I’ll add the best stuff to the post.
Customer Success is the business I’m in. That is, the task of ensuring the customer of my technology platform (mostly this is what it concerns) is successful in the use of the platform.
We both have an interest in being successful but often come at it from different sides. So I plotted it on a graph.
We both have an interest in all of the elements, it’s just the focus that’s slightly different.
The vendor wants to drive usage and adoption. Adoption means the users are using the tool. If they are not satisfied with it they won’t use it. If they are not using it, come renewal time the customer won’t renew.
The customer wants to be happy that the product does what he or she wants it to do and gets the results targeted. NPS stands for Net Promoter Score in case you weren’t sure. It’s a good proxy for happiness :)
Features and functions are easy to obsess over. They are tangible. You can click a button and it does something. Or not, at least not what you expect. And you can obsess about why not and what it should be doing.
I’ve been included in countless enterprise technology adoption programs and find this the most focused on area. This and plans. Plans are also easy to obsess over. You can move dates, tasks, people responsible, etc. Again this is a tangible area of activity, or seemingly so.
It’s the the difference between deep work and shallow work that Cal Newport covers in his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.
In my view the feature and function work and also the planning work is shallow work. Which is not to say it’s unnecessary. It must be done and is critical for success. But it plays a small part. Currently the majority of the effort sits here and accounts for a small part of success in my humble opinion. It should be the other way round.
Deep work is the human behaviour work. Thinking how to change it. The strategic work that takes you out of the shallows and the weeds. The creative, imaginative work that forces you to think about where you are going.
Its easy to see why the feature, function and plan work is the work that dominates. You can easily avoid confrontation on difficult people work when there is a plethora of functions to play with or talk about. You can spend endless hours discussing why something does or doesn’t do something or even playing with it.
Questioning why you are doing something that may not be working or taking responsibility and hard decisions for needed changes. Understanding misalignment to a broader purpose. This is impossible when your head is stuck in the nuts and bolts of features and functions.
The Lean Startup isn’t just about how to create a more successful entrepreneurial business…it’s about what we can learn from those businesses to improve virtually everything we do. I imagine Lean Startup principles applied to government programs, to healthcare, and to solving the world’s great problems. It’s ultimately an answer to the question ‘How can we learn more quickly what works, and discard what doesn’t?
That quote from Tim O’Reilly, CEO O’Reilly Media, pretty much sums up what I am trying to do here: apply the methodology to a great challenge I face daily in my role in customer success – successful enterprise technology adoption. To find out more about the core methodology you can head on over to www.leanstartup.com.
The methodology has been highly successful in its application with startups but far more broadly now too as Tim O’Reilly suggests. I’ve been thinking about it a while and captured how I wanted to apply it very briefly and simply in a customer success management primer I put together on SlideShare. I’ve added the relevant bit as a diagram at left of this paragraph.
It’s not unlike what the co-founder of Percolate where I currently work has suggested in this article: Noah Brier’s Three Rules For Leveraging New Technologies. There’s no specific reference to the lean startup methodology but you should see the similarities and they are based on the lean startup methodology’s heavy reliance on software engineering approaches which Noah Brier does reference.
I’ve been applying the approach loosely with the customer success planning and execution work I have been doing with customers and now felt it time to capture that in a little more detail. That is what this post is about. It’s also in the context of my most recent work which is marketing, as in Noah Brier’s post, but I believe it can be applied widely for most enterprise technology platforms. It also chimes with earlier thinking I’ve done which seemed to resonate at the time: Why leaders of digital initiatives inside organisations need to think like start-ups.
This approach I am taking is in direct contrast to previous approaches to technology adoption. Enterprise technology platforms used to be highly configurable and customisable and were often planned and prepared for launch far in advance of launch dates. They would exist in this form for years afterwards until a new version was ready for re-launch. This was tied in, to a large degree, to a vendor’s approach who would plan new features and functions years in advance before releasing a new version. Now with SaaS (Software as a Service) that has all changed.
Customers no longer get to change the platform to the degree they used to and vendors have vastly reduced development cycles to ship new features more frequently, sometimes as often as weekly. However, most often these are tested with a handful of BETA customers and then shipped when ready on a quarterly basis.
With new features coming this frequently and with the lack of customisation and configurability, it doesn’t make sense to plan too far in advance. A far more iterative and experimental approach is called for.
This approach supports customer and end user success with the use of their enterprise technology platform. So those chiefly responsible for the platform’s success as well the users of it. It combines what has worked well with many global customers in my experience and incorporates lean startup methodology. It’s based on the view that success cannot be achieved by chance but needs a good design which is measurable, executable and iterative. It targets key outcomes including measures of success (KPI’s), plans the necessary activities and resources required to succeed and reviews progress periodically that allows for course correction or continuation of successful activities. I simplified the steps from the Lean Startup methodology for my purposes to three.
Note that this model is narrowly focused on planning and execution activities and does not take into consideration some critical supporting activities. Things like a champion network, an online support environment, etc. I’ve written about all of these to some degree or other under the #customer-success tag so follow the link to find out more.
Generally there is a phase of work prior to the success management cycle starting that includes getting the platform ready for launch. This would include things like configuration of the system, setting up workflows and permissions/ roles, access and security settings, provisioning of users, etc. These technology, governance, authentication, legal, support and security considerations have to be mapped out and delivered in accordance with the organisations policies, most often managed through IT. This would ideally be followed by a successful launch of the platform which I’ve written about here: Launch like a boss – bringing consumer startup practice to your enterprise technology platform
The success management cycle would ideally have been been planned ahead of launch as part of the implementation planning, e.g. the initial uses cases and workflows you launch with form part of a longer term success vision and planning cycle.
In some cases, a customer will have launched and have been using the platform for many months, even years, without a robust success methodology in place. In this case you would have to take stock of where successful (or not) platform usage is and work from there. It may require a platform relaunch. At best, there are some successful uses of the system in place already and you want to take these to the next level.
NOTE: When starting with your first success cycle, be aware of any preceding activities like an implementation or onboarding phase with all that it set out to achieve. This can be used as a baseline for the use cases and measures in your initial success cycle.
Over time, with successive quarters and years of use, you would expect an organisation to become more and more proficient in its use of a technology platform and that value outcomes will also increase over time – see diagram.
And if you expect that all users will be equal in their stages of maturity well you are likely to be disappointed which is why you might want to break maturity levels up between your users and segments of users – see next diagram.
Also, there is likely never to be an end to the overall maturity path as new features are added to the platform and new users come and go.
An approach to managing maturity levels between different users and /or segments of users is not critical to the success methodology. But if you are dealing with a great many users in a large organisation with many different geographical or vertical segments, you may want to consider it.
The diagram at right is pretty self explanatory and hopefully its clear how you might be able to work with something like this. You really want to keep it as simple as possible because you don’t want to add complexity especially where the organisation or technology already is.
Which leads me neatly to a final point. This whole methodology, like the lean startup approach, is very simple and experimental. That is the beauty of it and the reason for its effectiveness. Good luck using it and if you have feedback about what works or doesn’t or any improvements, please do let me know in a comment.