Business 2.0, Design, Sustainability

Digitally connecting to nature

I recently spotted a short doco/interview piece where Sir David Attenborough meets US President Barack Obama for a short interview on Sir David’s 89th birthday (the full interview is embedded below).

One part of the exchange caught my attention. At around 14:15, Sir David says:

Well, it is an extraordinary paradox isn’t it, that the United Nations tells us that over 50% of the human population on the planet are urbanised, which means that to some degree they are cut off from the natural world. And after all some people are totally cut off, they don’t see a wild creature from dawn to dusk unless it’s a rat or a pigeon. And yet at the same time, mass media can inform those people what the natural world is … if they don’t understand the workings of the natural world, they won’t take the trouble to protect it. That’s one of the roles that the media should have. Of maintaining a link between the population and understanding what goes on the natural world. Because why should they give up money, or taxes come to that, to protect the natural world, unless they actually care about it.

And later (~16:30) , President Obama indicates:

…what we’ve been doing is trying to initiate ways to get more children and young people to use the [national] parks, and as you said, so many of these kids are growing up cut off. They’re sitting on the couch, playing video games. If they experience nature its through a television screen, and just getting them out there so that they’re picking up that rock and finding that slug. They’re seeing that bird with colours that they’ve never seen before.

The discussion continues along these lines, the gist being that we need kids to get out into the natural world, discover it, to regain that connection to the natural world. And, I would suggest, to rediscover the connection between our individual actions and the impacts they have. For example, we flick on the switch to use power from burning coal a long distance away, creating pollution etc. If we had to burn that coal in our house for our energy use, we’d very quickly understand the ramifications. But we are so removed, this impact is barely even considered. Continue reading

Business 2.0, Design, Sustainability

Business 3 point oh?

Do you remember when “Web 2.0”, “Enterprise 2.0”, “Business 2.0″ was the (overhyped, much maligned) buzz word of the moment? It referred to the shift in the business world towards integrating social media and networking—both technologies but also models of engagement in and outside an organisation—into their operations.

Organisation ROI, Purpose, Network models

I was thinking about this recently, and realised that this is a large part of what Zumio is all about—not so much on the “social networking in the enterprise” sense (which would potentially link more to the Shared Value principle of “Redefining productivity in the value chain”, but more in the “Reconceiving products and markets” sense. Tossing around some ideas the other day, I jotted down the following Venn diagram (I’m a designer, what more is there to say?) that captures some of the essence of this thinking.

Seeing these “three pillars”, and building on the idea of “Business 2.0”, I thought what if it was called “Business 3.0”—with 1.0 being about returns, 2.0 being about the network model, and 3.0 connecting this to social responsibility and purpose.

I thought to myself, no doubt someone’s already tried to claim the term. And of course, they have. Fast Company use the term to define social and environmental responsibility. And the University of Queensland Business School put forward a Core Capabilities—Partnership, Community, Transparency, Trust—that look remarkably similar to some things I’ve written before ;)

When I look around, I can find lots of beacons that crossover between two of these spheres. For example, BCorps and shared value combine the ideas of purpose and return. Recent and up-coming conferences like the Social Good Summit and Purpose.do also explore this space. “Enterprise 2.0”–orientation, and considerations of the networked organisation (such as that outlined by Tim O’Reilly in his article Networks and the Nature of the Firm point to the overlap of the network organisation driving returns.

But I’ve not seen a lot of consideration about how these three sphere’s combine.

Perhaps there’s an assumption that any competitive organisation nowadays has to be digitally enabled, and thus, any forward thinking for-purpose organisation has that aspect down. But my experience is that this is far from reality.

And there is real power in combining all three.

The on-demand economy (I’m with commentators that eschew the term “sharing economy” for such enterprises) is a probably the best example of how these three elements can be combined, with commercial success.

Many of the biggest success stories in this space have significant environmental and social flow-on effects (many of them positive). AirBNB (unlocking value in underutilised space in the built environment, (at its best) enabling stronger social connections), Uber (unlocking the value of vehicles and, again, (at its best) enabling stronger social connections), iTunes + music sharing services like Spotify (reduction in packaging and materials use making CDs, transporting physical product etc.) and car rental services such as GoGet—serve as examples of digital technology supporting the process of dematerialisation.

Some other examples, looking from a different angle, are enterprises like Chuffed and StartSomeGood point in this direction, leveraging network organisation in the form of crowdfunding to support social projects. (One could argue that Kickstarter’s decision to become a BCorp puts them in a similar position.)

Each of these examples creates positive social and/or environmental outcomes and rely on network organisation models to achieve their goals, enabled by digital technology (that is, digital technology reduces the transaction cost for co-ordinating effort and value creation).

In each of case, the “digital” component is more than just the “product”. Uber and AirBNB are not just an app. The “apps” they create are an integral component to the overall success of the model, but it is the underpinning models of operation and value creation that are the key to their success.

When we say “we help for-purpose organisations build products and services that thrive in a connected world”, this is what we mean… It’s about creating a business strategy that harnesses network effects, supported by digital technology, to achieve meaningful results. Regardless of what we call it—“Business 3.0” or something else—we’re excited by the possibility of bringing more of these types of services to life, supporting the co-creation of value between organisations and their stakeholders or customers.

Diagram outlining a hierarchy of attributes for a minimum viable product
Business 2.0, Design

The role of delight in a Minimum Viable Product

A few weeks back a brief post from our friend Adrian @ Pure and Applied rekindled some previous thinking about the idea of a Minimum Viable Product.

(Vladimir Blagojevic has created a terrific introduction/guide to Minimum Viable Products for those that aren’t familiar with the term.)

Adrian’s post pointed to a wonderful diagram by Jussi Pasadena (@jopas)—an adapted version of this diagram is included at the top of this post—about what I think is a common misconception as to what a Minimum Viable Product is, focusing too heavily on the basic functional building blocks of a product or service offering.

I’ve previously termed this idea as the Minimum Inspiring Product. Other’s have circled around this same concept with different terminology: Minimum Lovable Product, Minimum Delightful Product etc. In essence, I think we’re largely referring to the same thing—that while it’s critically important not to get carried away with overbuilding, it is important to include in a product or service elements that delight. Continue reading

Sign with words "evolution". Source: Kevin Dooley @ Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/1856663523/
Business 2.0, Design

Do you need a digital strategy?

I’ve been giving the topic of “digital strategy” a bit of thought lately—what does it mean, exactly, in today’s marketplace, to have a digital strategy?

In jamming around some ideas, I recently jotted down the following:

The lines between what’s digital and what’s not have been permanently blurred. Our customers and stakeholders no longer see digital as something separate to their day-to-day “real world” experience. So you can’t afford to either.

The biggest opportunities are often not found in a simple app or product. They require a rethinking of how we do business—how we engage stakeholders in the definition, design and delivery of solutions. How we organise our own resources. How we manage our business to manage risk and build a culture of innovation.

The general vibe I was trying to capture was that having a separate “digital strategy” is problematic in a world where mobile and social technologies enable increasingly integrated experiences—where the “online” and “offline” distinction is less and less meaningful.

I was interested to read, then, a post from McKinsey entitled ‘Transformer in Chief’: The new chief digital officer. So, when early in the article, Tuck Richards notes:

Digital isn’t merely a thing—it’s a new way of doing things. Many companies are focused on developing a digital strategy when they should instead focus on integrating digital into all aspects of the business, from channels and processes and data to the operating model, incentives, and culture.

…it all sounded rather familiar. Continue reading

Business 2.0, Design

The new MBA: Mastering Business Ambiguity

Lisa Kay Solomon has a great post entitled The New MBA: A Masters in Business Ambiguity:

Long gone are the days of “Mastering Business ‘Administration.” (What are we administering anymore?) Today, the model we should be teaching is more appropriately titled: “Mastering Business Ambiguity.”

It’s a great piece—I’d recommend checking it out.

But it also sparked for me some thinking about the role that we (at Zumio, but also designers more generally) play, and I think that a critical part of our value to our clients is in working through ambiguity—the so-called fuzzy front end of business and product development.
Continue reading