Like Minds 2011 Overview
The following post is a really basic summary of just some of the things I made a note of during my time at the Like Minds conference last week. There’s a lot that I’ve missed from this piece, mostly because I was probably too absorbed with what people were talking about at the time!
James Moffat from Organic Development talked about how successful organisations in the future will be complex adaptive systems, dynamic communities with no hierarchies. He also mentioned at the end that he sees interfacing as the most important development for businesses to understand.
Points made about organisations by others included the importance of online cluster development and making change happen collaboratively, on the premise that the best ideas come from outside of an existing physical and hierarchical business.
Chris Ward talked about how working in a coffee shop with good company is one of the top ways to generate and develop ideas, while the best way to learn something is to explain it to someone else and get feedback from them.
Chris Moss spoke of a ‘digital riptide’ whereby today is a time of amazing business opportunity caused by new disruptive technologies, changing the rules everywhere. According to Chris, ‘D’ now stands for digital and disruption, both of which have become part of every day life and need to be embraced. As a result, we all now need to be braver and gamble more, rely on our intuition, break the rules and manage the process. He summed up the attitude required as being to ‘have fun, think smart and be different’.
Chris Barez-Brown deduced that better organisation is all about relationships and how good people feel about themselves, leading to a more participative culture.
Ian Fordham from the Education Foundation spoke about how education needs to be rewritten for a digital age. Broadly, education needs to go from its current top down approach to a more bottom up and engaged model. Schools need to have their purpose extended, to be open longer and to form more of a hub for the whole local community. In particular, schools need to look beyond their physical boundaries and embrace the virtual and connected world a lot more.
Word of mouth
Molly Flatt and James Whatley from 1000 heads gave some good insight into word of mouth marketing online, the most important things to focus on being content, context, participation and reach. They explained how they engage relevant bloggers who are passionate about a particular product or service and never pay them to write because authenticity is paramount. Once they do this, then invariably the mainstream media picks up on the story and re-publishes it to the masses.
According to the statistics, word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20 to 50% of all purchase decisions. For brands to be successful they need to identify the social buying factors and discover what it is that drives decision making. Today these decisions are a product of a mixture of offline and online influence, but what our parents have bought and what children want are still very significant in determining what we buy. A trusted referral from a non branded entity is always going to be far more powerful than any amount of advertising, marketing or PR.
Earlier, James Whatley mentioned how the East Africa fibre optic cable is going to have a huge impact in the region as finally Africans can begin to get good internet connectivity at an affordable price.
Juliana Rotich from Kenya later took to the stage to detail how she and her Ushahidi team have developed ‘crowd mapping’ in Kenya and around the world in order to respond to crisis and coordinate people better. Her team initially developed software to mashup and map reports of violence in Kenya after the election in 2008. Since then the platform has developed and become open source. Ushahidi have used developers globally, in particular those who have built similar portals in other parts of the world in response to disasters.
The software changes how information flows and gives everyone a voice, leading to a more accurate impression of what is happening. The integration of social media into placemaking practices which are community centred leads to better communication and facilitates political debate, while also fostering collaborative problem solving as the platform can connect people who need assistance with those that can help. The closer to real time information people can get the more likely that the right answers and responses are found and delivered.
IBM’s social model
IBM’s head of social media Delphin Remy-Boutang gave a fascinating account about how IBM became a social business, detailing how the business now runs 17000 blogs, has 70000 members of its social network and its own wiki receives 1 million daily page views. IBM also encourages all employees to be active on the outside social web, especially Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. The new business reality is that employees are now the publishers and the corporation is simply an enabler. IBM no longer attach documents to email, but upload such information to a relevant platform so knowledge is shared.
IBM have trained their sales teams to stop making calls, but to get on social networks instead and listen and start conversations. They have created a worldwide community of social software evangelists passionate about social networking. Their only guidelines, which were co-created by all employees, are to be who you are, speak in the first person, respect your audience, use a disclaimer that views are your own, add value, don’t pick fights, be the first person to respond to your mistakes, use your best judgment and don’t forget your day job.
Serial entrepreneur Luke Johnson who bought Pizza Express and turned it from a chain of a few stores with an overdraft to a well known brand with 150 stores in the UK in the 1990s. Luke then started and owned other businesses, including building a chain of dental practices. He left Pizza Express in the late 90s and then started the Strada chain from scratch. Luke stressed that you need to be very patient to build successful businesses, while being careful to build the right teams to deliver the idea as well as possible as success is not so much about the insight but all about the execution.
Luke believes that entrepreneurship is nothing to do with educational background, but all about character and willingness to go against the tide and be determined. The people that get remembered are the innovators not the cynics. Entrepreneurs are the people who desire gain more than they fear loss and who get satisfaction from achieving independence and freedom.
Jobs for life and final salary schemes are becoming increasingly rare and the benefits of working within a big organisation are declining in a digital age as bureaucracy suffocates creativity. In years to come more and more people will have to become entrepreneurs as there will be no more ‘nice jobs’ out there. In the words of General MacArthur there is no security on this earth only opportunity. Luke finished off by saying that gaining the true credit for your successes is hard to beat and as shown throughout history the future always belongs to the optimists.
I can’t leave out Gabrielle Laine-Peters’s moving account of how she survived 9/11 and developed a social media career as the connectivity she achieved from communicating online made her feel more secure and happy and life got more interesting the more conversations she had.
Scott Gould gave an inspiring talk on the last day, explaining how achieving success is all about listening, inspiring others and creating mass participation to form a successful community.