On 9/11, Asymmetry, Exponential Change, and Washington’s Culture Challenge

As 9/11 comes around again, 11 years on, it’s time to think about risk, asymmetry, and the long term. Because a key lesson of that dark day is a simple one: that advanced technologies and the global communications they have enabled have reset the game of security, once and for all.
Three key reflections as we grieve anew – and look ahead.
The core mission of C-PET, the Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies, is to advance, in Washington, DC, the long view – in which we ask “tomorrow’s questions” as the context for today’s decisions, at the interface of policy and technology. In parallel, my consulting practice Strategic Futures, LLC (akaFutureofBiz.org) asks “tomorrow’s questions” as the context for today’s decisions at the interface of business and technology. The corporate/government relationship, which we all agree is too mired in lobbying and short-term advantage should be stronger and visionary.
1. I wrote some time back that the past decade been dominated by two global experts on asymmetry, neither of whom worked for the U.S. government. Their names were Bin Laden, now dispatched, and Assange, now incarcerated in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy in a situation somewhere between scandal and farce. Point is simple – and I make no suggestion of moral equivalence between them. These two men intuitively grasped the capacity of strategically deployed small means and small numbers to shape global events. There have always been asymmetries of power – I fly tonight to London, where Karl Marx sat writing Das Kapital in the British Museum. But technology has changed the game. And the key issue for our security in Century 21 is how we play it when we no longer set the rules, and they keep being changed.
2. While destructive technologies are developing apace, and increasingly accessible to individuals – synthetic biology, which we have addressed in our Roundtable series in Washington, is one key example; and cybersecurity, another C-PET theme – the principle we need to keep in focus is that of exponential change. While change has always been at a gathering pace, it’s in our generation – powered by Moore’s Law but other factors too – that the impact of exponential has begun to have dramatic implications. We all know this, of course, as a fact. The degree to which it has been absorbed in Washington is another matter, of course.
3. To begin to grasp the implications of asymmetric shifts and the exponential pace of change, we need not simply to be far-sighted (that is, constantly working the long view, future scenarios, asking what tomorrow’s questions shall be); we need to be integrative, interdisciplinary, radical in our patterns and practices quite aside from our thinking. Our politics, in my own view, is in general the realm of good men and women incapable of rising above a “corporate culture” that sets their foreshortened agendas and is dooming us to decisions that take tomorrow for granted. The rumblings of what I have named “exopolitics” suggest a seismic change to come, one that is indeed cognizant of the asymmetric potential of social media and other aspects of our new communications technologies.
So on 9/11, a day that will always be somber to us, let’s take a fresh look at asymmetry and the impact of the exponential change that has given it such significance, for ill and for good; and let’s redouble our efforts to bring about a culture of government in synch with such dramatic shifts and attuned in Century 21 to the values that laid down the foundations of this nation, and the technologies that, in large measure, have resulted from its efforts.

$1.3 Trillion from Social, Says McKinsey. BUT . . . .

English: McKinsey matrix as described in McKin...

English: McKinsey matrix as described in McKinsey Quarterly Español: Reproducción de la Matriz de McKinsey según se describe en McKinsey Quarterly (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This looks a very interesting projection. The value is mainly to be found from better productivity that will come from better collaboration using social tools.

All this may be true. But the wild card lies in what I term strategic social – not incremental tools for biz collaboration (which are important) but the much messier and so far little engaged possibility of public social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook. In general companies have seen presence in these media to be useful for advertising and customer relations efforts, and delegated that presence way down then line. The prospect of values alignment between customers, employees, and the corporation; and the ready flow of information via relationships across the organizational boundary; have been little tapped and not that much noticed. My sense is that the value lying there is in fact much greater, as it can, should, may, drive innovation and culture change within the company. Culture change/innovation is where, prospectively, all the value lies – in the context of rapid change.

Evidence of very low levels of hands-on engagement with social in the C-Suite suggests this value is a long way from being realized.

McKinsey Says Social Media Could Add $1.3 Trillion to the Economy – NYTimes.com.

The C-Suite: Social-free Zone – but IBM’s report says things are cool

English: IBM's Watson computer, Yorktown Heigh...

IBM’s Watson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

IBM‘s latest report on global CEOs – Leading Through Connections – makes fascinating reading and I commend it to you in extenso. It is packed with data and based on interviews with many hundreds of the top corporate (and some other) leaders.

But I have a problem. I just don’t find it very convincing. The answers are too good, too positive, too forward-looking. And on�the core issue of “leading through connections,” social, while the nostrums are as expected the evidence (as we know separately; see various earlier blogs here and much elsewhere) is that hardly any top CEOs (or CIOs! hard though that is to believe) are engaged with social at all. In fact, the evidence suggests that the Fortune 500 C-Suite is largely a social-free zone.�

My problem is that knowing this distracting fact undermines my confidence in the generally smooth prose of the report at large.

Read it, and read the social-usage evidence, and try to make sense of a situation that looks so good from the outside (or, should I say, from the inside; it’s the CEOs themselves who shaped the data in this document).

Most Organizations Still Fear Social Media

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From Gartner via HBR comes another handy report on how major organizations are responding to social media. Despite the alliterative categories (sorry, not into that) there’s great data and analysis here, although it is focused on the tactical and not so much the strategic value of social.

The “fear” term is interesting. Seems to me that fear requires a level of (perhaps mis)understanding that the failure of the CEO/CIO class to engage personally with this new world is somewhat OTT.

My recipe stays the same. A serious immersion in social for every member of the C-Suite and the board. Best time/money spend any major organization could make; and let’s start tomorrow.

The grim details: 14/500 CEOs tweeting . . . .

https://futureofbiz.org/2012/07/13/the-grim-details-on-ceos-and-social-14500-are-tweeting-for-example/

Most Organizations Still Fear Social Media – Anthony J. Bradley and Mark P. McDonald – Harvard Business Review.

Sustainability, #CSR, and the Disconnects

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One of my occasional anxieties lies in the fact that CSR has been such a success story that plugging it organically into the core strategy of major enterprises will actually get more difficult and not easier. The current evidence of deep disconnects between “CSR/sustainability” functions and marketing, brand, other departments drive this home.

Seems to me that logic is on the side of strategic alignment, and competitive advantage. That is, CSR properly tackled aids the mainstream and is not tacked on to aid corporate image (though aiding image over the long term is part of the package). Which is not to say that in every product or market this will be at all evident. It’s a gamble on the long term.

But not an unreasonable one. Social, transparency, growing brand subtleties, there are many factors driving things this way (Michael Porter may have over-stated things in his bombshell essay, but the right things).

Some good data and discussion below:

Your Sustainability Message: Not Enough Charisma To Light Up The Room?.

Decision-Making In Gordon Moore’s Land

Black Background image showing Moore's Law

Moore’s Law (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Three Months Circling the Future

Nigel Cameron is President of the Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies (C-PET), a Washington, DC think tank on technology and the future. He also blogs at FutureofBiz.org.

Two years ago I penned, or should I say keyboarded, a commentary with the title A Week in Tomorrow. It told the tale of three successive conferences. That will help explain the trope of the title. But I anticipate.

Midway through 2012, there are four big things on my mind. They should be on yours too. Not simply because in themselves they are in varying proportions significant and fascinating. But because if we are to start thinking straight about the future, in our companies and our government, here are the case studies to teach us. They are plain enough; the four dominant (non-defense) issues of this year. In no special order:

 

  • the Facebook IPO
  • the Presidential election
  • the Dragon spacecraft
  • and the global climate process, focused on Rio+20.

 

As some of you will know, I’ve touched on each of these before, both in newsletters and my blog posts (at c-pet.org, and FutureofBiz.org). Here, I’d like to look at them through the lens provided by the past three months of my travels. For fate, or le bon Dieu, depending on your predilection, determined that I would be invited to nine different conferences (to be pedantic, actually 11. I pulled out of one – on corporate social responsibility – as I was sick; and another, on the future of healthcare, got postponed). Of the 11, eight were in the United States, and three in Europe. (No repeat of 2010-11, when I managed to be invited to make a speech on each of the five inhabited continents. Let’s not get into the 46 hours and four flights it took me to get from Cape Town to Beijing, slowly recovering from, well, you can guess . . . . Great bio lines come at a price.)

 

A word about the issues. Facebook. When did America last flock to a movie about a start-up? Even Google, our ubiquitous info point, never got that. And when did Wall Street find itself confronted with a hoodie who was not trying to occupy it – and hand over very, very serious cash? The election. Rhetoric notwithstanding, Moore’s Law determines that every presidential election is in certain key respects more significant than the last – whatever our politics, and whatever the merit of the respective candidates. Dragon. Suffice to say that 50 years ago American got seriously interested in space, lost interest, and is coming to terms with the fact the next round is being catalyzed by private money and private leadership (and China). Then climate. I’m not here taking a view. But there are many more views than two, and according to all aside from one of them this issue is huge. And even that one should take out an insurance policy.

 

Now for the conferences. What interests me above all is that I don’t know anyone who was at more than one of them. Certainly, the nonofecta was mine alone. I was invited to all of them; to join the program at 6 and be a guest at the other 3. At the risk of convincing you I have a ridiculously wide range of interests, let me run through them. My presentations/moderations were at WorkTech (future of work; in NYC); the European Cloud and Identity conference in Munich (a 3-day marathon which I was invited to moderate after sharing the opening keynote); a conference on global education, my keynote being on resource-poor regions; Gov.2.0LA addressing the new accessibility of government in the digital age (and a chance to save democracy); Planet under Pressure, the global science gathering preparing for Rio+20, the UN process on climate change; and the Tech Policy Summit (an annual goodie, this time in Napa, which C-PET co-sponsored). I was also a guest at a conference of 1100 venture capitalists and entrepreneurs (MAVA, in DC); the Ideation conference, focused round social enterprise; and SOBcon, which gathers leaders in social marketing under the irresistible, almost ineffable, queen of blogging and much else besides, Liz Strauss.

 

If you’re counting, five of these events were business-focused, three on policy, and one on education. What all nine had in common was rapid technological innovation, and the shadow of the future. As conferences, they varied: from the intimacy of SOBcon, with every meal and a nightclub and karaoke together for just over 100; to 3,000+ at the climate event. Gov 2.0LA was smaller but had 100,000 following the webcast around the planet. MAVA was mostly pitches and updates from entrepreneurs; Ideation reports from social enterprise gurus and start-ups; WorkTech, a packed one-day event in NYC (they have other sites around the globe), that brought together Intel’s futurist and MIT’s Sherry Turkle with space planners and real estate leaders; in Munich I had the honor of presenting the European Cloud and Identity Awards to the likes of Daimler and Deutsche Bank (oh yes, and joining one of the famed Ping parties, hosted by its CEO who was still passing out shots when I left at 1.00 a.m.). And Planet under Pressure was dripping with Nobelists; most notably the great Elinor Ostrom, whom it was my special honor to meet for the first and, so sadly, last time (she passed a few weeks later).

 

Point is: There is a fundamental alignment between our thinking about the future, risk, business, social enterprise/CSR/nonprofits, innovation, and technology. Some examples from my personal mash-ups:

  • My argument on global education was that mobile had changed the “valuation” of resources now available to resource-poor nations, such that innovative solutions to education are now possible (that parallel the M-PESA banking revolution in Kenya).
  • On the Future of Work at WorkTech: That how we think about the future must powerfully determine how we act today (let’s not talk about how failure to address the future will doom it for you and your company).
  • To Gov2.0, that digital offers us our great (and urgent) opportunity to save democracy.
  • To Planet under Pressure: That a fundamental reframing of the climate debate in terms of global risk is needed, and that it must be led by industry and government leaders, not the scientists and NGOs of the parallel universe.
  • At the Munich cloud conference: inter alia, I moderated the discussion about cybersecurity, on which hangs a good deal of C21.
  • At Tech Policy Summit, the panel I moderated: What do we need for U.S. competitiveness?

 

That is to say: In each of these seemingly diverse contexts the imperative is to take the future more seriously; to bring the Moore’s-Law driven tech revolution into every conversation; to recognize that every single decision we take today is profoundly shaped by the assumptions we make about tomorrow. Value for business, and good policymaking for government, are dependent on a convergent conversation that spans every one of these seemingly disparate, silo’d conversations. The moreso every day.

 

Oh, and by the way: The most memorable, and perhaps most illuminating, response I received at any of these nine expert gatherings was at the event on global education, where a former senior official of the United Nations summed up my argument as “crap.” At least he was listening.

 

I trust you can see where we are going. My key point here is the connected nature of these discussions, the fundamental relevancy of each to the other. Our standard approaches to understanding, and its child decision-making, are revealed as threadbare because they are hopelessly silo’d. For, tragically, within these silos we have essentially distorted our capacity to prepare for continued exponential change. That is, we have insisted on defining the future in terms we find congenial. We bend the path of exponential change to ensure that we face a future that is thoroughly compatible with the present, rather than daring to think of one that mirrors the creative destruction of which we have learned from the deep discontinuities of the past.

 

Back to the case studies. Facebook? Well, many investors are treating it as if it were the next General Motors. Yet as a digital company its lifescycle will be foreshortened (the lifecycle of these digital companies will typically get faster); as one analyst has suggested, it may soon resemble Yahoo, a profitable enterprise yet with far lower value in the market. Discontinuities have powered the success of entrepreneur Elon Musk and his Dragon spacecraft, whose seemingly flawless first trip is just completed. The Presidential election is fielding two smart decent men (sorry, partisans; I have my own take but this much is obviously true), neither of whom (sorry, again) seems unduly, or even duly, preoccupied with the future. And the climate debate, now post the hyped and hopeless Rio+20, displays all the most expected naivety of the global NGO movement which honestly believe that their voices raised loud yet again will shape the thinking of corporate and government leaders. As I pointed out at Planet under Pressure, this debate is now running backwards. And as I have subsequently argued, it is crucial to reframe the discussion – in terms of global risk and in the context of other clamant risk issues, from rabid nanobots to WMDs to the prospect of post-antibiotic medicine to security asymmetries (especially cyber-risk) – if decision-makers in finance, business and government are to take it seriously. The fulminations of scientists and left-leaning NGOs have only so much impact, and it can be net negative.

Some tentative conclusions

Three practical proposals

  1. In every discussion of strategy, include a futures advocate whose task it is to stand 10 years out and raise hard questions.
  2. In every discussion of strategy, include outlier opinion from today. As far out as you can find. All articulate voices. Seriously. In 1. and 2., protect that person with the authority of the Board Chair/Head of State. Indefinitely.
  3. Work with your team, not once but repeatedly, on what the E-word means. Exponential. It has become the most important word in the vocabulary. At every strategy meeting begin with a discussion/reflection/meditation on what are its implications for your business. Every.

 

Major newspapers have lately appointed “Public Editors” to speak from the outside and act as ombudsmen. How about every company, department of state, NGO, appointing a Public Discussant, whose task it is – at the most senior level – to raised the hard long-term issues, and ensure that groupthink is shot at if not down?

 

The issue is not, let it be said, about technology. Technologies become the vehicle for and catalyst of dramatic change. Change is the point. Change and the fact that we cannot prepare for it by being good at the things we used to be good at, in the way in which we used to be good at them. Exponential change operates at a visceral level. Take a look at what has happened and is happening to newspapers, and to book publishing. That’s the impact of exponential change. Its effects will be felt in every area of the economy and most areas of social and political life. Those effects have only begun to engage.

 

Let’s suggest Three Draft Laws of Exponential Change

  1. We are required to make faster and more far-reaching decisions; all the time. Alvin Toffler’s famous book Future Shock, published a generation ago, essentially made this argument though long before its implications were as dramatic as they are today.
  2. Each year is shorter than the last. At the International Content Summit last year I suggested that organizations revamp their schedule to gather sooner each time they met. The year is shortening. Time to add a touch of geometric progression to the Gregorian calendar?
  3. Competitive advantage lies with companies, nations, and individuals who are nimble, flexible, and integrated.

 

So as we value Facebook, anticipate space policy, reflect on issues of global risk, and prepare in the United States for a presidential election – and as in our companies and organizations we work through our own plans for strategy and tomorrow – this is the way we shall need to go. In a context in which the only issue from the future deeply concerning this nation, the deficit, is an issue from the past; and in which recent  research revealed only a tiny handful of CIOs from our major companies personally engaged in social media; the only way would seem to be up. Let’s go.

 

Facebook user satisfaction plummets- MSN Money

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Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook

Mark Zuckerber (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nuff said.

But if I may add: The cause is attributed to three factors: Privacy issues; the constantly changing interface; and what HuffPo describes as “in-your-face advertising.”

Which takes me back to a theme I keep harping on: Our leading “social” company is among the least engaged on its own behalf in social media; despite being uniquely well-placed, it has chosen to disconnect itself from its user/customers and take continual decisions without consultation.

The context here is fascinating, since it is not simply that Facebook, “the social network,” does less well than G+ and Twitter; as a whole social companies score far worse than traditional (and traditionally unpopular) companies such as airlines and utilities.

Hard to make this up. And truly remarkable that these companies seem to be among the least able to grasp the impact on business/consumer relationships of the technologies they have mastered.

It’s also dire news for Facebook investors.

Facebook user satisfaction plummets- MSN Money.

Social Media is NOT necessary for the C-Suite . . .?

English: Infographic on how Social Media are b...

English: Infographic on how Social Media are being used, and how everything is changed by them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After all the recent talk around the unbelievably low numbers for executive participation in social media – including that of hardly any CIOs, which should be a hanging offence if not one for drawing and quartering first – we now have an effort to defend the C Suite and pooh-pooh the concerns of those of us who have been suggesting that the Fortune XXX are well on their way to losing their fortunes.

Jeff Esposito makes the best of a thoroughly bad case, and I invite you to read it (link below).

Quick points in rejoinder (and see my earlier posts):

1. The issue is strategic. If in 2012 hardly a soul in the C-Suite is actively engaged in social, a (the?) major source of competitive (dis)advantage is simply being ignored – because, unlike say the dictaphone, you don’t know what you’re talking about / hiring for /strategizing about unless you have splashed around with several of these platforms over time. As I said in an earlier post, social is like saying you’re sorry; you can’t just hire someone to do it for you.

2. CEO disengagement is bizarre (these are supposed to be the smart guys). @Rupertmurdoch stands out as the only top CEO using Twitter interestingly. Only. But if the CIO, the conscience of the new info technology, is making snide remarks about people wasting their time “twittering,” it is not surprise everyone else in the suite feels they are off the hook. He (OK, almost all of them are) is doing more damage to the company than he could begin to imagine. At Moore’s Law speed, the social revolution is – chaotically – up and running. (The fact that most U.S. CIOs still report through the CFO, another body blow revealed by recent reseach, explains, sadly, a lot.)

3. Point is: This is not “about” marketing/customer service – though fielding complaints in real time is no bad thing. It’s about strategic re-invention by the alignment of corporate values, the values of employees, and those of present and prospective customers. It’s about B2B as much as B2C. It’s about letting loose a force for continuous innovation within the company – the only way, in the M’s-Law context, that this can be achieved. This is nuclear stuff. And the sooner 225 CIOs are giving their marching order (only 25 are on Twitter), the better. At least, if shareholders and boards have any interest in long-term profitability.

Jeff’s charge is partly that social media pros, whatever exactly they are, are jumping up and down about a situation which is of course of interest to them. But by and large their interests are tactical and marketing/CR focused. This issue is nuclear in its implications. There is no better thing any board member or CEO or C Anything Else could do than spend 2 weeks in social media immersion.

Memo to Social Media Pros – Social Media is NOT necessary for the C-suite.

The Crisis of Trust in Companies and Beyond

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The constant drip of admissions from J.P. Morgan Chase as the cost of the “London whale” rises and both dishonesty and folly is revealed comes in tandem with the latest round from Penn State. Former FBI Director Louis Freeh’s report unsparingly flays the leadership of that tarnished institution for a fundamental lack of concern for boys whose lives were being destroyed as individuals from janitors to the president were too interested in themselves to bother.

And in both cases, the people who knew and chose to look the other way now find that once you sow the wind, it’s the whirlwind that comes back.

Branding is not simply a game for consultants; it connects at a deep level the integrity and values of an organization with how it is viewed by the public and its customers and how it connects in turn with their values. One of the profound impacts of social media has been to begin to lay bare these and other connections in ways that go far beyond the occasional probes and revelations of press and whistle-blowers as transparency comes to be routinized rather than an exceptional experience.

At bottom therefore the issue is not about “brand” as a manipulable commodity to be burnished but integrity as a deep set of values that drive an organization by lining up its proclaimed sense of itself with how it really is and who its people are.

The issue for Penn State as for J.P.Morgan is whether what has been lost will be able to be recovered. What we already know is that this will not come soon or easy. We know how it is with the reputation of an individual. While corporations (for-profit and non) are persons only in a technical sense, their reputations are every bit as central to how the wider world sees them – and will be prepared to do business with them.

And (to pick up our much-blogged theme of social and the C-Suite) social media has only just begun to begin to open every one of our organizations and their commitments and their practices to Freeh-report style merciless scrutiny.

The Real Loss For JPMorgan Chase: Their Integrity.

CEOs, C-Suites, and Suicide

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Seems that approximately once a week a report is coming out giving fresh evidence for the same, utterly bizarre, fact: That most top execs are simply not engaged, personally or professionally, in social media. To qualify a tad: One well-placed observer tells that he believes many are actually engaged in private social media (such as Yammer) within their companies. I should be interested to see the evidence. Some I am sure are. But the whole point about social is that it is substantially public; private chat/bulletin experiences are not exactly the point. And while we are being skeptical: Anyone have data on private social use? Key issue is that the dynamic, transformative, threatening, swirling, social ocean needs to be swum in. It’s not just chit-chat among colleagues.

Back to point: Just before reading this nice piece in AllThingsD, I had posted a cry of distress that our major “social” corporations (that is, Facebook et al.) are themselves way down the list of those corporations benefiting from social engagement with their customers/users. Way down.

That is, the argument is a fortiori. If even our top social corporation isn’t engaging with its environment socially, what hope for B2B and B2C players in more trad industries?

This is bad.

Top CEOs Aren’t Using Social Media, Study Says — Should They Be? – Mike Isaac – Social – AllThingsD.