Posted by Steve Mann.

Last week I ran a session at Frost & Sullivan’s GIL: Silicon Valley (Growth, Innovation and Leadership) conference in Santa Clara. The session ran for 75 minutes and outlined for participants methods for driving digital transformation within organizations.  Many of the participants agreed with one another that they are tired of marketing regarded by their peers,  board or other C-levels as a cost center that doesn’t produce enough. The session was meant to provide guidance on how leverage digital marketing to turn the organization into a revenue center.

Marketing transformation is a change management issue. And this change management runs along 6 dimensions:



Teams must develop a  framework for strategically moving marketing into high-powered revenue creation mode by addressing each of the above. One of the fundamental issues in digital marketing transformation is the need to find the “sneezers” in your marketing organization, those individuals that will infect others to your way of thinking. Why? Because mindset is the single largest obstacle to a successful transition to effective digital strategies.

Organizational Design

I like to organize my workgroups in an Agile way, creating cross-functional,  semi-autonomous teams. This organizational design is critical to moving the marketing function forward, because lack of agiliity is your enemy. If you want to prove that marketing is a revenue center, you need to produce results quickly.  In addition to org design make your department and yourself more visible by reporting on a regular basis to the CEO. One of the road blocks to digital transformation is lack of visibility.

I would also take the time to recruit folks from outside of marketing to spend some time with your teams. It could be as little as a week.  But this ensures that folks outside the department gain insight into the concerns and practices of the marketing department.  At LexisNexis, we had instituted a marketing fellowship program where individuals could spend up to six months learning and working in different areas of the organization.

Talent Mix

You will need to assess your talent and remix them in such a way as to avoid impacting your budget. The goal here is to uncover who can make the switch to digital and who can’t.


Marketing Methodology

If you are using a traditional waterfall methodology, limit its use.  While certain areas of your marketing ecosystem may maintain this approach, implementing agile is critical for speed to market.

Marketing Technology

You will require a quality MarTech stack — everything from Systems of Record to Systems of Engagement  — CRM, marketing automation, personalization, social listening and engagement, analytics etc.  You can’t optimize for success nor measure it without the right technology.


What is your tactic mix? With digital, balancing Inbound tactics with Outbound is critical.  I like leveraging outbound to drive prospects to my inbound funnel.  Develop competency in a variety of areas — everything from search, to content marketing, to social media to remarketing.  


Why save this for last?  Because it doesn’t matter if you have a great GTM strategy if you don’t have the foundation above.  If you’re going to Build to Last (to paraphrase Jim Collins) — build those solid competencies, organize your talent in the correct way and ensure they have the right tools to get the job done.

Digital Marketing Transformation is a journey. It doesn’t happen overnight. And if you need help don’t be afraid to ask questions. Lots of questions.

Posted by Steve Mann.

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at Confluence, a cool digital marketing conference in Oklahoma City of all places.  Had a blast.  I introduced the concept of Neuro-Digital Marketing – the notion that digital marketing tactics, properly leveraged, can affect direct changes in a consumer’s brain which will drive incredible results for your digital marketing tactics.  Among some of the key items we discussed:

  • Marketers get stuck in a rational marketing cul-de-sac and forget to market to emotional and instinctual sides of the brain
  • Great brands appeal to the non-conscious more than the conscious aspects of our thoughts
  • The work of Antonio Rangel, the CalTech Neuroeconomist who demonstrated the power of the non-conscious in driving purchase behavior
  • The fact that we are designed to seek out happiness, that it is in our very nature to actively seek out happiness and avoid that which gives us discomfort
  • The Dopamine-Endorphin “Happiness Machine” and how powerful dopamine is in driving compulsive even addictive behavior that can be leveraged thru digital marketing
  • Examples of digital techniques that can be used to engage this  Happiness Machine to drive consumer purchase behavior
  • The fact that many digital techniques can be leveraged to elicit a wide variety of emotions which can draw a consumer closer to your brand and in fact alter their purchase behavior

Here is the slideshare of the presentation:



If you are interested in learning more about neuro-digital marketing and how it can help you transform your marketing organization, reach out to me here.

Posted by Steve Mann.


I’ve been a CMO for a number of years (love it, can’t get enough of it, want more of it) but it continues to amaze me how organizations continue to regard the CMO as someone who “just does advertising” or “picks colors” or “designs a pretty web site.”

Are C-levels that unenlightened?

I hope not.

But I do think that marketeers tend not to do a good enough job marketing internally what they do and how important it is to their enterprise (myself included). I’m reminded of Groucho Marx’ s resignation from the Friars Club:

I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.”

Yet here I am, a member of the Don’t Do a Good Enough Job Selling the Value of Marketing club.

So what’s a CMO to do? I mean its all well and good to put your head down, work hard and meet your annual performance objectives but are you really going to do great things that way?

No. You’re not.

But you will do great things if you’re able to turn your marketing department from a cost center to revenue generator.


Why, digital transformation of course.

Many of you are probably facing some particular form of pain. Either a lack of support for your marketing initiatives or poor executive understanding of the opportunities to be gained from going to market in a predominantly digital fashion. Maybe there’s a lot of corporate inertia slowing you down from doing things differently?

No matter the pain, the digital transformation highway is the path to redemption and glory. But its not one of those roads less-travelled. It’s cluttered with many exits and entrances, lots of wrong turns and dead ends.

To travel this road I have found it useful to recruit a sensei… a counselor, guide, mentor so to speak someone that can help me implement “the formula:”



Let’s take each in turn.

  1. A Digital Marketing strategy – not only a demand or branding strategy but a methodology for developing such a strategy
  2. Omnichannel design — we all know that we have be where our customers are, meet them on their terms, but how many of us know how to do this in an effective fashion – including both engagement and cost effectivess
  3. Expert Mobile/Social Engagement —  one of the lynchpins of great digital experience are obviously the mobile customer experience and the social engagement that surrounds it and the brand experience in general

Underlying this marketing revenue alchemy are four must haves:

  1. Digital Learning and Management —  the team must be imbued with the relevant skills and competencies that make digital a reality in your organization
  2. Change champions —  to overcome corporate inertia, CMO’s need a team of change champions who will carry the digital gospel to the far corners of the enterprise.
  3. Integration with/creation of an umbrella digital business model —  digital transformation of marketing cannot exist in a bubble – rather it needs to be integrated into an overarching digital business model for the company. If one doesn’t exist, it needs to be created.
  4. C-level sponsorship – and here is where that selling comes in. One has to ensure that the other C-levels in your organization are aligned with and supportive of your digital efforts. If not, you probably won’t go anywhere.

Digital transformation, albeit a fancy word for change, must be embraced in order for marketing organizations to thrive and evolve from a cost center to revenue generator.

Posted by Steve Mann.

What if I told you that conscious perceptions of the world are worthless? And that emotion and instinct rule our behaviors. Unfortunately for most marketers, we spend our time trying to affect conscious thought because we can easily relate to it.

As data-driven CMO’s we seek answers to questions about our customers using tools such as segmentation, persona development and predictive analytics to identify and reach the consumer who is ready to buy. But we rarely ask ourselves, how are decisions truly made? What truly motivates a person to buy?

And if we do ask these questions, we typically focus on answers that are based on the rational thoughts a buyer has – in B2B situations we look to solve the business needs or pains of the consumer. In B2C environments, while marketers get closer to non-rational elements of the buying process (i.e. using a sexy model to make a car more attractive to a male buyer), we also tend to focus on what people think rather than what they feel. And even if we do focus on what they feel, rarely if ever do we make an appeal to their non-conscious self.

These are the questions that CMO’s and their teams need to ask. They must figure out how to speak to the different brains within each of us as these brains have fundamentally different ways of reaching decisions and motivating a person to buy.

Yeah, different brains.

Back in the day, we used to think the act of buying was a fairly logical process. We believed that a product engaged the attention of our customers through the information we offered about it and then those customers would go through some sort of buying process and decide to buy or not. But now we know better.

The three-brain experience a customer has with a brand is one of the most illogical aspects of marketing. We engage with brands on three levels (1) the rational (conscious activity), (2) emotional and (3) instinctual (mostly non-conscious). And these three categories of thought are roughly located in different areas of the brain. The degree to which a brand satisfies these three brains – is the degree to which we have an affinity for it—and want to consume its products and services.

I love shopping at Banana Republic. When I walk into the store, I admire the design of the store layout. I feel good in the store. It appeals to my emotional side. Then I try on a pair of jeans, and typically say, “wow, I look great in these jeans!”

So–first an emotional appeal to buy the jeans, coupled with an instinctual reaction – the desire to look attractive to my wife, then I check out the price and the rational brain kicks in – “Can I afford these pants?”

As a buyer, I weigh all three aspects of the brand experience… the rational, emotional and instinctual and then I decide whether to purchase or not. Sound about right? At one time I thought so, but am I really weighing all three aspects of the brand experience rationally? Or do I just think I am? Do my non-conscious thoughts influence my perceptions of these three brain arguments? Indeed they do as discussed in this post. Think about your emotions and instincts – they don’t always operate at a rational level. You don’t think, “I’m scared. I think I will run away now.” You just do it. You feel the emotion and your instincts kick in and you run.

The rational, emotional and instinctual are three very different thought processes that are both separate from one another, as well as, integrated with one another. And to be clear, these areas do a lot moTriuneBrainUpdate-8_9_2012_jpg__413×336_re than just what we’re speaking about here but lets focus on these key elements. These thought categories are influenced by different interactions among these areas so it’s important to have an understanding of which does what, so you can fine tune your marketing strategies to speak to these different thought processes:

  • The human (neomammalian) brain- where rational thought resides.
  • The mammalian brain, also known as paleomammalian brain, where functions such as control over our visual and auditory input, movement, and the limbic system – the seat of emotion can be found.
  • And the oldest – reptilian brain, where decisions to act based on instinct and input from the other brains resides.

This “triune brain” model has been challenged as our knowledge of the brain has evolved but for purposes of what we are trying to achieve as marketers it fits very well (and my apologies to all the neuroscientists out there for any inaccuracies in this post).   For instance the “reptilian core” does more than just “reptilian” behaviors, it plays a crucial role in action selection at all levels. The “limbic system” is more diffuse than first thought and other structures play a role in emotion – but the notion of an emotional thought system still holds true.

The Human Brain

The human brain is responsible for a variety of functions including receiving and processing sensory information, thinking, perceiving, producing and understanding language, and controlling motor function. Our ability to think, to rationalize, to use logical thinking resides here. It’s the youngest area of our brain from an evolutionary perspective – about 80,000 years old. Seems like a long time but in evolutionary terms its just a blink of an eye. And because the reptilian brain has had five million years to hang out and develop – this non-conscious part of us is much more powerful, holds more sway over us than we give it credit for and is something that is normally lost on us marketers.

The Mammalian Brain

The mammalian brain contains the seat of emotion and bonding – the Limbic system. When a child is attaching to a parent, it’s the Limbic system that’s highly active.  The stronger the emotional charge connected to a perception (read: brand), the stronger that memory is and the quicker a person can retain and retrieve that information.

The mammalian brain is also one of the primary areas where where dopamine is produced. Dopamine plays a vital role in motivation and reward. Our pleasure centers are driven by dopamine, as are our movement centers. A lack of dopamine can lead to conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. This is our Happiness Machine.

The Reptilian Brain

Our vital bodily processes – stuff we don’t think about are governed by this part of the brain. The reptilian brain manages our instincts, our autonomic bodily functions such as digestion, coughing, sneezing, equilibrium, swallowing, dilation of blood vessels and breathing to name just a few.

The CMO Takeaway

You know how your heart races when you see some one you are attracted to? Well that’s a hard-wired response that sits in your emotional and instinctual thought centers and connects nerves, adrenaline and your heart – and you can’t help yourself – it just happens. This is one of the responses that great marketing drives – the engagement of the non-conscious/non-rational via emotion and instinct.

CMO’s much consciously shift their rational, logical attention away from what they believe customers are thinking and focus on what they are feeling and experiencing.

Posted by Steve Mann.


Although a lapsed neuroscientist, I do a lot of thinking about how to elicit the right response in a consumer’s mind from the marketing strategies I create. Engaging with the non-conscious part of us is what is critically important for great marketing. Do you need some convincing? Well consider this:

Would you buy wine based on the music you’re listening to? How many of you are shaking your head “no”? I bet most of you.

But that’s the question that behavioral economist Antonio Rangel asked and answered. In his wine study, he selected four French and four German wines and matched them based on price and dryness. They were then placed on a supermarket shelf in England. French and German music were played on alternate days from the top shelf of the display.

The results?

On days when French music was playing, 77% of the wine purchased was French. On days the German music was playing 71% of the wine purchased was German. The music was the decisive dynamic in which type of wine a shopper chose. A rationally driven purchase? I think not! The non-conscious mind ruled those oenophile’s purchases.

But does engaging the non-conscious parts of our consumer’s brains work in B2B marketing? You betcha. Lets look at enterprise gamification.

We are designed to be happy! More accurately, we’re designed to seek out happiness. It’s in our nature to seek out those things that make us happy or comfortable and avoid, that which is painful, or that we don’t like. As a species we have been remarkably successful in creating a world that delivers to us – pleasure. In fact, we are hard-wired to get more of whatever is delivering us happiness.

three_brainsDopamine, a prominent neurochemical, plays a central role in motivation and reward (i.e. pleasure!). The dopamine neurons (nerve cells) drive pleasure-seeking behaviors. And while endorphins (morphine-like neurochemicals that stimulate our pleasure centers) make us like something, dopamine makes us want more of it.

Gamification is all about the use of game thinking and game mechanics to drive what I call striving behaviors – eliciting the desire to want more of something and receiving a sense of pleasure once that want is fulfilled.

In the B2B space, SAP launched its online community – the SAP Community Network (SCN) 12 years ago. Over the years it has grown to become the go to social network for customers, employees, consultants, professional services firms, outsourcers – just about anyone in the SAP Eco-system. SCN is so effective that many customers go there rather than to SAP’s traditional support line.

But after a migration to a new community platform, engagement indicators dropped. It was clear to the SAP team that they needed to jump on this or risk sliding back and having to re-market to and re-engage community members.

The team chose to gamify the SCN experience by designing missions, which the team could send community members on. These missions are multi-level achievement and rewards oriented — just like a viral game and are meant to stimulate the happiness machine – the dopamine/endorphin pleasure complex. The core of this gamification project was the reputation program that SCN rests on.

In the SCN reputation program, community members earn points that reflect their reputation within the community. And members accrue these points by fulfilling missions – onboarding to the community, contributing content, showcasing expertise, or influencing peers etc. This point economy drives the striving behavior… in this case striving to become an influential and respected member of a vast high-tech community, by achieving surprise levels at each stage in the gamification process.

After just one month, the results were astounding:

  • Activity within the community increased by 400%
  • A 2,210% jump in activity-generating points, which indicates how much gamification drove contributions and engagement around content.
  • Community feedback rose by 96%
  • A total of 53,028 badges were earned.*

The SCN is now filled with engagement addicts – and I use that term in the most positive sense. Our reward systems are there for a reason – to make us happy and if engaging on SCN makes YOU happy – the more power to you.

Gamification isn’t the only way to cross the neuro-digital divide. Any marketing strategy that leverages the way the brain stores, represents and responds to information about a brand, product or service will do.

Your neuro-digital marketing cheat sheet

Keep these elements in mind when designing your marketing strategy:

  1. Be Memorable – leave an impression with your consumer. It’s important because if the brand or product isn’t memorable, the consumer won’t buy it and they aren’t likely to tell someone else about it.
  2. Be emotive: Emotion is important because all perceptions go through the amygdala, the seat of emotion, before they go to the rational brain. The amygdala checks all perceptions for emotional relevance. The stronger the emotion, the more we pay attention to it.  To make your brand part of your customer’s identity, you have to make your customers feel different than the people who use competitive solutions. The sharper the distinction (even if in real terms it’s not all that meaningful), the more effective this strategy will be.
  3. Evoke instincts: Our instincts are powerful drivers to purchase – evoking instinctual responses related to winning, dominance, lust, passion, and attractiveness all our powerful connectors between a brand and its consumers.

* source:




Posted by Steve Mann.

Today’s pace of change is causing many CMOs to struggle in the design of compelling customer interactions. As consumers demand more and more engaging omnichannel experiences, CMOs must add another arrow to their marketing quiver — the ability to deploy multiple and compelling channel-native experiences.

While we’ve been creating digital channels for quite some time, enterprises still struggle with delivering consistency (don’t make me learn new paradigms of interaction) and contextualization (don’t make me repeat myself as I move within a channel or when I move cross-channels). How many times have you, as a consumer, been asked to repeat problem statements when engaging with a brand? And how many brands can claim to deliver a highly consistent customer experience (Cx) across channels?

Many CMOs ask me where to begin when developing an omnichannel design. My response is “how will your brand express itself via any one particular channel?” Begin with developing a consistent brand expression across channels. To do this, CMOs must create a red thread that ties together the brand, the omnichannel design and channel-specific engagement strategies.

Begin with Branding

Branding must completely infuse your omnichannel design. The consumer’s experience of your brand across channels is the cornerstone of a compelling and effective omnichannel design.

The foundation of effective omnichannel design is a clear branding strategy across the key brand elements – aspiration, position, promise, experience, attributes and messaging. Of course, this must be followed by a compelling creative concept that activates the brand to drive awareness and demand and overall engagement with consumers.

Assuming you have a branded foundation…now what?


Enter Design

Design is the method by which branding converges with omnichannel deployment. A superb omnichannel experience is the humble servant of a fine tuned engagement strategy and great functionality.  And, the brand identity must live in the visual details, the interactivity and usability that make up each channel. Your brand’s identity is expressed through a compelling customer experience that is both consistent and contextualized.

It’s also incumbent upon CMOs to extend brand guidelines beyond routes to market – to encompass the product and service as well. Why? Because today’s consumers expect the product and channel to co-exist. Engagement and product usage go hand in hand. They want to use the product and have direct connection to the brand simultaneously. In leveraging design to drive the development of your channels, the brand identity should guide interface designers to develop experiences that delight, inform and meet standards for consistency and contextualization.

These interfaces need to express and utilize what I call Iconic Implicature (related to the semantic notion of conversational implicature) – a sense of intuitiveness that occurs just by looking at the representations in an interface. This intuitiveness should also deliver a timeless quality to the brand; a sense of constancy that users can count on so that the digital persona of the brand is a comfortable friend, not a stranger.

The CMO Takeaway

Developing brand and design standards that easily translate across channels is essential for a sustainable omnichannel deployment. Great design drives users to be more engaged with brands and should also guide the product development strategy. Since today’s products actually co-exist with engagement channels the product delight factor is more important than ever.

Successful omnichannel deployment depends on a comprehensive Experience Strategy that incorporates both brand and design and is applied equally to the channels consumers inhabit as well as the products they consume from your organization.


Posted by Steve Mann.

A dozen years ago, Gerald Zaltman wrote a book that fundamentally altered the way I view markets and the consumers that inhabit them – How Customers Think  The lessons in this book have stayed with me and they provide the foundation for how I take companies to market. If you’re a marketeer who likes to craft logical appeals to consumers to buy your product or service, this post is for you. Zaltman makes the case that logical appeals are doomed to failure. In doing so, he foreshadowed the use of content- and neuro-marketing that is ever present today. So consider the following:

  1. The unconscious rules: Most of the thoughts that influence a consumer’s purchasing behavior are unconscious and How-Customers-Think-Essential-Insights-into-the-Mind-of-the-Marketdeveloping an understanding of consumer thoughts and behaviors requires an understanding of how the brain functions. Effective marketing must elicit strong emotional and instinctual responses in order to have impact.
  2. Customers have no clue: Consumers generally can’t explain why they make the choices they make, and efforts to uncover their motivations thru Q&A and other standard ethnographic techniques typically fail. So don’t rely on them.
  3. Organizations don’t mesh well with consumer’s lives: Customers do not live their lives in the silo-like ways that businesses organized themselves in the past and this has traditionally caused problems with the way businesses engage with their consumers. New forms of enterprise organization, such as social or holacratic, may enable an enterprise to get closer to their consumers but the jury is still out. The data does look promising though. Check out Dion Hinchcliffe’s recent post on holacracies.
  4. Don’t bother asking customers to self-report their feelings: Marketing strategies that are based on self-reported feelings, preferences, desires or statements of customers significantly underperform in driving demand for products and services.
  5. Metaphors rock: Incentivizing customers to utilize metaphors as they are probed about the products and services they love or hate is key to truly understanding their feelings around a brand. Metaphors make it much easier for the researcher to engage in a conversation with the consumer.
  6. Steer clear of Focus groups: They will typically fail at uncovering the mind of a consumer. The outcome of such activity rarely indicates consumer desire.
  7. Don’t rely on memory: Since memory is super fallible it should not be relied upon in branding efforts – memories are very selective, can easily be altered by new information that “attaches” to the existing memory and are usually influenced by the way a person feels. Thus, they are generally unreliable.
  8. Words are as important as feelings: The words people use when talking about a subject reveal as much as the content of their explanation. For example, uses of “liquid” metaphors – words such as spout, leak, pour, spit, brim over, dry up, in midstream, torrent — are powerful indicators of the way people are actually feeling. For example, Zaltman recounts a CEO’s comment related to creativity:

One breakthrough idea can be a tidal wave sending people scurrying to higher ground for protection… But people are just afraid to swim in moving waters, they prefer wading in a stagnant pool.

The quote above is just dripping with metaphors (sorry, couldn’t resist). But you get the point: in this instance the liquid metaphors are much more impactful than simply saying, “my team is afraid of new ideas.” It goes to the degree of importance that this issue holds for its CEO and the corporate culture he is shepherding.

The words used to describe a thought, action or feeling are as important as the thought or feeling itself, at least as they pertain to what the consumer is actually thinking.

So get out of your focus groups, stop doing so much observational ethnography and talk to your customers. But forget about trying to understand their rational thoughts, instead, focus on their emotions and their instincts. Listen to the words they use. Have a metaphorical conversation.

Posted by Steve Mann.

It’s all the rage…Omnichannel. But lets be clear about what it is: it’s a multichannel approach to sales and marketing that aims to deliver your customer a seamless experience — whether the customer is interacting with you online via a mobile device, by telephone or in a brick-and-mortar environment. If it’s not a major component of your efforts to bolster customer loyalty – it should be.

Developing great marketing requires inhabiting all possible channels – digital or non-digital, by which a consumer can actually reach your brand and then delivering a compelling experience through each and every one of those channels. Most organizations don’t know how to inhabit all channels effectively. They typically fall short in one major area or another. The result? An inconsistent experience which makes consumers crazy. I’m reminded of David Armano’s brand staircase he developed a number of years ago. Consistent, credible and authentic interactions lead to loyalty, while inconsistent, non-authentic experiences lead to a lack of loyalty and missed opportunity.


And it’s becoming increasingly difficult for organizations to field consistent yet alone superior experiences because there are just so many things that can go wrong:

  • The mobile app is a dud.
  • It’s too hard to recover a password from a website.
  • Updating a mobile app writes over personalizations consumers rely on.
  • Context is not maintained – gathering information on a problem or issue that a consumer faces and then making the consumer repeat it over and over again every time they speak to different personnel.
  • Telephone customer support takes too long.
  • The brick-n-mortar experience is underwhelming; taking far too long to serve the customer or the personnel on hand lack the necessary training to share details about cross- and up-sell programs.

So how can organizations forge a compelling and consistent omnichannel experience?

  1. Delight your customers. Surprise them with great yet unexpected experiences. This involves staff training and ongoing updates of to your offerings. It involves delivering more than just what the consumer is expecting from a particular channel they inhabit. For instance, Starbucks does a great job of this with their “pick of the week” function in their mobile app…. Each week something new to take advantage of above and beyond the functionality of the app.delight-your-customers
  2. Consistency across channels. This demands a good, hard look at what’s in place, what’s working and what’s not – and a willingness to make the necessary changes. Driving consistency is a change management issue. You’re going to need to find a Change Champion… actually a team of change agents to (a) evaluate existing experiences, (b) determine the gaps between those experience (c) imagineer the optimal cross-channel experience and (d) go about the hard work of then constructing each experience. Once those changes are implemented, it’s a matter of maintenance. Not easy either but worth the loyalty it earns
  3. Minimize customer-waiting time while maximizing that time as well. Implement strategies that minimize wait times. That can be DIY transactions. That can be staff training. That can be automatic callbacks for customer support calls during peak hours, online kiosks in brick-n-mortars, etc. It’s anything that streamlines your processes. Again, a team of change agents willing to tackle this issue is needed. There will always be some wait time however. So leveraging it by providing information about other options/opportunities your organization offers is a reasonable strategy.
  4. Offer free tools and advisory services. Enable customers to research product options and compare and contrast solutions. I love the College Board’s financial calculators for instance – they are immersive, easy and provide lots of feedback.offer-free-tools
  5. Train, Train, Train your employees. Many brick-n-mortar experiences fail to deliver authentic experiences because of a lack of seasoned professionals delivering those experiences. Check out what respected restaurateur Danny Meyer said about the role of training and hospitality in delivering great experiences:If a waiter puts a spoon on the left side of the table I’m sitting at, I can’t tell if he or she is on my side. This is service. But if a waiter [is trained to] remember that I didn’t like the big spoon with my soup last time I was at their restaurant, I know they are on my side. That’s hospitality. Service is a monologue. Hospitality is a dialogue.

Isn’t it ironic that today’s notion of great marketing and great hospitality (read experiences) is the foundational idea that a dialogue between brand and consumer is essential?

Posted by Dion Hinchcliffe.

With many eyes in the business world now watching the company-wide open experiment in next-generation business at Zappos that some have labelled a vital new management trend, we find it’s worth using this industry discussion to ask the question about how your organization is preparing the vital groundwork towards its future.

For his part, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh is convinced that an emerging discipline known as Holacracy is a better, more modern way of running a business in the digital era, and so it may be. A surprising number of organizations apparently agree: Over 300 other companies in the last decade have taken up Holacracy, according to the Wall Street Journal.

However, in our work and conversations with organizations across a wide range of industries and geographies, we find most of them tend to be rather more incremental in their thinking of the contemporary workplace. Some might say bite-sized changes to our businesses are the most prudent. As I’ve noted before, the larger and more comprehensive a corporate transformation or restructuring is, the more likely it is that it will not succeed.

Comparing Models of Management: Traditional Hierarchy, Agile, Social Business, and Holacracy

Thus, most organizations are not making wholesale, Zappos-style changes to the way they operate, even though most of them are badly falling behind the digital evolution curve. And yes, technology is perhaps the key enabler of the latest round of next-generation management practices such as social business, Wirearchy, podularity, and Holacracy.

So, even though the gap is widening between what’s possible and what most companies are actually doing, most organizations today are incrementally seeking to find their way forward towards an updated workplace and new operating models. Certainly, at Adjuvi, we are seeing many organizations embarking on efforts this year to carefully rethink their workplace to better incorporate the latest ideas and developments. How ambitious these efforts should be is the ever-present question.

Most frequently, we are seeing workplace rethinking that emphasizes the latest enterprise technologies — including new or updated collaboration tools, mobile devices and supporting applications, and digital engagement platforms of every description, backed by a growing array of analytics tools that create data that can be used to monitor and manage all of the activity within them. In this view, technology is the key lens to look at new possibilities of the workplace, though not the only one.

Less often, but in our view much more impactful and transformative to the average business, are organizations looking at changing how they work, adopting new workforce practices such as more agile, participative, and social ways of working, rapidly fostering today’s vital digital skills across the company so that workers can take advantage of the changes, and perhaps most importantly, genuinely laying the combined political and technological groundwork required for genuine and sustainable digital transformation.

Most Organizations Improve Either Technology or the Business: Not Both

Due to the famous IT/business divide, most organizations naturally tend to change a single dimension — either technology or the human components — of the way they work or the other, but rarely the two in unison, other than perhaps at a superficial level of technology automation. This is perhaps the largest challenge we see with organizations adapting themselves to today’s new operating environment: Companies are making meaningful changes very incrementally, in organizational silos, and with primarily — and often solely — a technological or business lens. To say this generates limited results would be an understatement. I am almost always surprised how many organizations measure simple adoption of new tools or ways of working, instead of measurable actual business impact. As a result, the efforts rarely get the fuller results they were seeking.

In response to the relatively poor results from these fragmented efforts to update the workplace, we’ve begun to see more comprehensive approaches for how organizations must change their structures, processes, and cultures to operate more efficiently, innovate better, and stay adapted to a world that’s changing ever faster.

Thus Holacracy itself is not so much a self-help approach to adopt in a piecemeal fashion some of the latest management practices, as it is literally a comprehensive ground-up vision for a new decentralized and self-organizing corporate operating system, with a blueprint for how the entire organization should be structured, how information is shared, how responsibility is partitioned, who does the daily work, who makes decisions, and even how to use digital tools to keep everything understandable, organized, and well-communicated.

Interestingly, Holacracy articulates new ways to do all of these things, yet it doesn’t prescribe how corporate fundamentals such as compensation, performance management, compliance, financial controls, budgeting, or even hiring is conducted. The person behind the approach, Brian Robertson, believes these should be redesigned into modern new incarnations by the those within the Holacracy itself, as an organizational form of “apps” that run on top of the fundamental organizational platform enabled by roles — people taking on specific types of tasks — that are self-organized into something called circles, which we’d formerly call departments.

The key motivation for this model and others like it is one of the most important factors in many highly decentralized systems: One of human interest and motivation. After studying self-organizing systems for many years, Robertson realized that the bigger and more bureaucratic an organization became, the more likely it would “crush the ability in people to actually contribute and use their gifts” and the less likely it would respond well or adapt as needed to the external pace of change.

Next-generation management approaches instead seek to tap into the way people will respond the most fully and openly, by unleashing them do what they do best while eliminating the overhead of everything else through technology tools combined with increasingly optimized and lightweight supporting processes that connect activities to meaningful business outcomes. This also allows organizations to tap into what digital networks of people can do like no other, such asymmetric value creation at scale that I’ve called ‘letting the work do the work.’

Another key motivation of these new digital age management models is the elimination of unnecessary waste and overhead. By all accounts from authoritative sources, this means virtually all of middle management. So too are time and resource consuming institutional practices like reviews of people, processes, and projects, status reporting, traditional corporate decision-making, change enablement, and many other support activities that were required before human activity and corporate information became ambient, distributed, automatically captured, trackable, and instantly manageable as a group entity.

Therefore, we believe the short answer to whether organizations should make the switch, is that most companies will inevitably tend to Holacracy-style models over time. It’s the natural, better way to work in today’s connected, digital organization.

New Ways of Working Have Arrived: What To Do

Will there be major issues and challenges for organizations to make the transition? Almost certainly. Are organizations better off getting there in several steps, or piecemeal? Sometimes, but faster is better, as long as the pace is sustainable. What are the consequences of failing to shift your organizational and technological landscape in a coordinated fashion? The ceding of significant levels of competitive performance to peer organizations that will ultimately put the company at existential risk.

Not that it will be easy to get there. Only corporate leaders can spur the transition fast enough for large organizations. For its part, the CIO and IT department has perhaps one last chance to help lead this effort.

The real underlying issue for most organizations is that there are at least two major misalignments in most organizations that will prevent them from making significant progress. One is that the business and technology teams are not well-aligned in most organizations, and second is that there are missing many key digital-era skills. Both of these issues can be addressed, but it represents the governance and leadership challenge of our generation in our opinion. For those strongly considering a move towards Holacracy or something like it, we strongly encourage you to make the initial steps, as they are vital to your future. You will learn a great deal, and you will make a difference, no matter how far you get.

Additional Reading:

How Social Technology Has Turned into an Enterprise Management Model

Digital Priorities for the C-Suite in 2015

Posted by Dion Hinchcliffe.

While there are a number of key factors that help organizations create important new types of business results using enterprise social networks or online communities, leadership is almost always at the top of the list.

There is no avoiding the fact that what executives and middle managers actually do when it comes to leadership with digital networks has a inordinate determining effect on whether workers usefully employ social tools in their day-to-day work, take unique advantage of what makes them special, and create meaningful new levels of business value.

I’ve studied or helped organizations apply the key adoption factors of social business for years, and there’s a key question that still seems to come up as frequently as ever:

What exactly can leaders do to enable their organizations to incorporate the vital concepts and work techniques of digital networks into their daily work?

It turns out that enablement of the overall underlying concept, social business, by corporate leaders requires some of the same key skills that made them top managers in the first place: Effective communication, the ability to get others to follow their lead, the ability to formulate a vision and inspire others with it, getting things done, and perhaps most of all, the ability to encourage others to help carry out positive change.

Sidebar: Study a thumbnail sketch on the concept and progress of social business.

Leadership today also requires a set of attributes that many managers usually do not yet have today: Knowledge of and skills with modern digital collaboration tools, and their techniques and strategies. As my industry colleague Cerys Hersey recently noted, the enterprise social network is becoming our corporate ‘operating system’, at least in a significant — and steadily growing — percentage of large organizations today.

Related: What Are the Required Skills for Today’s Digital Workforce?

Comparing Traditional Leadership with Network Leadership

The full and compelling motivations for using a social network as a foundation for how a modern corporation operates is beyond the scope of the analysis here. However, I’ve explored it in detail recently on ZDNet, and the short version is that it enables truly engaging employees, helping them work together in improved ways, tapping deeply into their knowledge to enable widespread learning, scaling work processes in new and potent ways, creating richer/better institutional practices, and capturing a highly differentiating corporate body of knowledge, among other known benefits.

So, of all the new skills that executives have to learn today, perhaps the most important isnetwork leadership, which the conservative and well-respected Executive Board recently pegged in their report, The Rise of the Networked Leader, as a major new evolution in management skills, which can contribute up to twice the profit growth in organizations which have the most effective leaders:

Analyzing the relative performance of more than 3,000 leaders, CEB has found that organizations with the strongest leaders have double the rates of revenue and profit growth compared to those with weaker leaders.

Unfortunately, many organizations and their leaders struggle to meet these mounting demands; those who struggle are hard pressed to maintain their advantage as the work environment changes and the nature of leadership in the new work environment shifts. CEB research shows that many leaders are poorly equipped to thrive in the new, rapidly changing work environment.


The lesson here is that it’s now urgent for executives and managers to acquire network leadership skills in order to succeed in today’s modern work environments, rife as they are with many new types of digital collaboration environments that can help them wield outsize leadership influence, which they can use to then orchestrate high-scale performance improvements for their organizations. Beyond the usual corporate focus on revenue and profit, which network leadership can deliver in potent and innovative new ways, network leadership also fosters a fundamentally better, more aligned, and more satisfying workplace for everyone.

As Altimeter’s Charlene Li, in her examination of how digital is remaking the styles, techniques, and even the very culture of leadership, singled out in her best-selling new book The Engaged Leader, notes that:

In order to be truly effective today, leaders in business and society must change how they engage, and in particular how they establish and maintain relationships with their followers in digital channels.

The good news is that top corporate executives are realizing the imperative of leading through digital channels. There are now leading examples of network leaders from highly respected organizations around the world, including business luminaries such as Richard Branson, Rupert Murdoch, Mark Bertolini, Marc Benioff, Marissa Mayer, and even Harvard’s Bill George, though there are certainly still considerable differences in digital engagement depending on corporate responsibility.

So, to understand exactly what top network leaders do in enterprise social networks, let’s examine the patterns that are emerging in what leaders do, day-by-day, to cultivate and exert effective network leadership in their organizations, and even outside of it.

Create Reach: Cultivate Network Capital

Network Leadership | Step 1: Cultivate Reach and Social CapitalGetting an organization to engage with an executive over an enterprise social network can be straightforward if you’re a well-known and/or well-liked leader. But most executives will have to work fairly diligently on building a network of followers in the organization. Over time, these individuals will pay a growing amount of attention to them communication and value steadily flows from the executive through their daily activities. And that’s just internal cultivation of network capital. It can be much more work to gain a relevant network following on the other major arena: Out on the Internet. In its simplest form this is gaining followers interested in your industry work on popular social networks. More meaningfully, it becomes the entire set of online conversations, group activities, and concrete value streams that have your professional social identity connected to them in some way. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources that can teach executives the necessary skills. In particular, reverse mentoring programs such as at Bayer Material Scienceshave been known to be particularly effective at helping executives rapidly acquire the necessary skills.

Be Transparent and Communicative: Working Out Loud

Network Leadership | Step 2: Working Out Loud on Social NetworksSocial networks only become truly powerful business tools when executives start to set their knowledge free to work out in the network, 24 hours a day. Leaders must also build authentic and meaningful conversations with other stakeholders on the network, and so the currency of lightly narrating your work activities on social channels, including what you’re doing and what issues you are facing is considered a key network leadership technique. Cultivating these digital habits will have the benefits of automatically creating more transparency and a shared understanding of what the organization is actually facing at an executive level. Working Out Loud can also directly improve employee engagement, which can be low particularly because meaningful ongoing storytelling is often missing in large organizations, despite inclusive corporate cultures being widely regarded as drivers of high performance. This narration process, which can be usually be accomplished in the margins of executive schedules, also becomes the basis for building even more social capital, as well as enlisting the organization to help just-in-time with key issues, as ideas and solutions have a strange way of coming from where you least expect it. You can learn more about Working Out Out from Deutche Bank’s John Stepper, who has long promulgated it.

Engage on the Network Regularly: Stay Involved at Multiple Levels, Channels

Network Leadership | Step 3: Regularly and Proactively Engage on the NetworkAs one might suspect, just narrating your own work is not sufficient to be a network leader. One must also track key conversations and work streams happening within your networks and social followings. While there’s no way to keep track everything that’s happening, most enterprise social networks have volume controls and filters to let you focus on what matters to you at the time, such as what particular teams, projects, or even people are doing, while still making sure enough serendipity still occurs. It’s important to stay involved at a sustainable pace at multiple levels in the organization across the key digital/social channels, as it’s long been understoodthat diversity of information and stakeholders creates the most vibrant and useful knowledge networks. Opportunities for doing more within network, as well as learning about the organization — and perhaps most of all about your customers — faster than ever before, soon become obvious.

Related: What Network Leaders Should Do About Customer Communities

Work Through the Network: Orchestrate and Co-Create

Network Leadership | Step 4: Orchestrate and Co-Create Through the NetworkOnce a leader has sufficient network capital, along with involvement and credibility within various digital networks and communities, they can begin to more actively wield their influence and leadership strategically over the network. What’s more, this engagement can scale far higher — and much faster — than traditional relationship networks, which is one of the key benefits of digital/social.

Leaders can also use networks to proactively enlist stakeholders in driving successful change, seizing business objectives, solving vital problems, and harvesting needed innovation, or even just getting important work done. Executives can maintain corporate alignment across a highly diverse workforce, while directing the co-creation of solutions to the issues of the day. What’s fascinating is that these activities don’t tend to put much of an additional burden on the workforce because of two sources of headroom: Many employees aren’t fully engaged until their leaders work more closely with them, and most organizations have a significant cognitive surplus. So while network leadership is fundamentally about moving towards improved engagement with your stakeholders, it also has transactional benefits as well. Finally, if you’re still not sure about all this, the Collaborative Leaders Network has many compelling example of executives using collaboration and co-creation — many over networks — that led to better outcomes.

Use the Network to Learn, Then Optimize

Network Leadership | Step 5: Use the Network to Learn Then OptimizeAs I’ve recently pointed out in exploring how our organizations are heading towards a 4th Platform, networks are also the ideal place to learn, and from the learning to improve ourselves and our organizations. Enterprise social networks are therefore terrific environments to learn in the large, because most of the activity is out in the open and can therefore be analyzed for a variety of strategic business objectives. Leaders can also use their social networks for informal and unstructured learning, and getting ‘ground truth’ about what’s really going on and how things are actually accomplished within their organizations.


Fortunately, since nearly two-thirds of organizations now have the necessary networks internally, and 100% have the needed external networks (social media), almost everyone can get started on network leadership these days.

Note, however, that one key concept that is depicted in the visuals for each step above is thecapability of community management, an essential function to maximize the operational results of enterprise social networks. Community managers can also make the process of leaders getting involved and developing the skills, and even working through high value scenarios, far easier than it would be otherwise. Chances are good that your organization has people that do this, but if not, they can be found online with a bit of effort.

Lastly, this is a new journey and new management skill that we are all learning together as business evolves into more organically networked structures. There is little doubt in the value of network leadership, but the rule of thumb tends to be the more that you put into it, the more you and your organization will get out of it.

Ultimately, we now believe that the real question leaders must ask themselves is this: What will I do with this unprecedented new strategic management capability?

Additional Reading:

How Boards of Directors Can Prepare for Digital Transformation

How Social Networks Drive High Performance for Business

Adjuvi’s Services to Help Executives Prepare for Digital