History for the future: Bitcoin and the 1781 Bank of North America Act of Congress – Bitcoin might be special but it’s nothing new

There is no argument that bitcoin has the potential to be revolutionary and is already starting to be. However, to predict what might happen in the future, we can look to the past.

In a nutshell; in the 18th century different banks and currencies were everywhere and popped up to launch frequently (most failed), the need for banking was pushed by the industrial revolution to fund investment and growth, a lot of the origins and the development were in China, there were several crashes and ultimately, governments saw the potential for profit and the need for regulation and took overall control. If you swap the 21st century for 18th the century and Information revolution for industrial, does it make you think of anything?

History (you can skip this bit if you are well read or easily bored)

The origin of banking and money is a fascinating one and well worth a read. (See below) here is a very rough history for you. The origin of paper money comes from China in AD 700ish where they also came up with the word cash. It didn’t take off in Europe until much later where promissory notes started to replace hard currency in the 18th century, this happened at the same time as the creation of stock markets, a number of bubbles (Tulips, South Sea) and a change in the way governments funded war (i.e. the British needed a way to get money to fight the French).

In the US, the desire to have separate currency was a cause behind the wars of revolution and the post war years led to the creation of a large number of banks at state and federal level, several of which were fraudulent or corrupt with people swept away with the potential for profit. Alexander Hamilton (of the Musical fame) even ended up losing a duel to the vice-president of the US (Aaron Burr) built on a hatred gained from the creation of Banks. The 1781 Bank of North America lasted 6 years before corruption destroyed it and after another wait, there was a second and more successful federal attempt.

In this manner, creating for ourselves our own paper money, we control its purchasing power, and we have no interest to pay to no one.” Benjamin Franklin

The Chinese created paper money as part of millennia long campaign of innovation and ideas growth, the British created a state monopoly (Bank of England) to ensure the money and control stayed with Britain and the Americans were hugely entrepreneurial, had a fight about it and ultimately settled on the government option (which importantly meant tax revnenue.) (see below for further reading)


What does this tell us about today?

Drivers for development and success – the development of central banks and paper money were driven by in particular, the industrial revolution which required a new method of finance to fund and support growth in technology. In a period of huge disruption and change in industry (which can be strongly argued is much larger in scale to the disruption of this age. i.e. think of the impact of a horse ride of day being reduced to an hour on a train.) The underlying drivers supported the development of the system and the fundamentals of finance changed towards debt and investment without which the progress would not have been as quick or as ‘sticky’. Britain at the time as the leaders in industry and war, become the leaders in finance too.

Skip to 2017 and look at the drivers in today’s market.

Global disintermediation – like the Americans in 18th Century who didn’t want to be beholden to the British to run their finance, the unstoppable force today is towards a reduction in intermediaries and the closer connection globally between any two points. The power of globalisation is both driven by and enabled through Blockchain and Bitcoin.

The fundamental disruption of the information age is doing what the industrial revolution did, providing huge change and therefore growth opportunity. One of the biggest constraints to global trade for small business is risk/confidence and efficiency in transfer costs (FX etc). If you remove that then there will be a huge change – what does Blockchain/Crypto do again??

There was no stopping central banking once they got going and there’s every evidence showing the same now for Crypto.

Boom and bust – any new wave in finance is usually met by some aspects of a bubble. Namely, there are some first movers who know enough to profit which builds as demand grows, the less informed public jump in pushing the price higher until it’s unsustainable and then collapses. If there is value in the product then there is a return to a more sensible long run price.

There is the example of the East India Company who in the 18th century tried to convince the government to convert government debt with the Bank England into shares in the East India Company. It came close to tying the British nation’s finances to a bubble. Consider the range of ‘Initial Coin Offerings’ today mirroring the myriad of new banks and ventures in the US and UK at the time.

Have a look at these graphs below, one is the classic view of a bubble, another the the price of bitcoin in the past 5 years, and finally the last 15 years of Amazon.


The question is, is the Bitcoin one like Amazon which went through a correction (couple of spikes and drops) and then run into a sustainable period of growth? Or is it going through the mania phase before a real drop?

It was only after a period of adjustment and a few false starts that the systemic, controlled and stable banking system came to pass. Which takes us to;

 Government regulation – there came a point where the government stepped it to take charge of the banking system. Partially as a response to the range of newly created banks; the risk of fraud, boom and bus, in order to protect its citizens. More importantly perhaps in order to take control and ultimately build in taxation to create revenue. Central banks use a range of levers to steer the economy which includes the management of money supply, debt, interest rates etc. At the point that Crypto reaches (or threatens to reach) a scale that it can influence economies, there will most certainly be a desire to bring it under the wider banner of the government. However, because it is decentralised like the internet, there will be a need to have a international joined up approach.

However, power talks so whoever takes the initial control in regulation will take the lead in better leading its adoption. It may be most prominent in Japan but it’s the Chinese interesting pushing the Americans into regulation. This was not the case with the Internet.


For all you Brexit fans out there, this is type of thing that Britain used to lead a couple of centuries ago. It is demonstrably not the case now. For all the America First Trump fans; it’s time to start getting a bit worried that it’s China leading the way.

So then…

All in all, if you are betting on an outcome. You can put your house on Crypto being a huge part of international finance and business in the future. If you want to consider what might happen as part of that trans, it’s worth turning to history.

“Let me issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who writes the laws.” Mayer Amschel Rothschild, 1790


Further reading

The 20 second option – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_banking

The great fiction but still informative option – https://www.bookdepository.com/Conspiracy-of-Paper-David-Liss/9780804119122?ref=grid-view&qid=1508195359685&sr=1-1, History of paper money and the stock market (with some sex and violence) https://www.bookdepository.com/Whiskey-Rebels-David-Liss/9780812974539 History of US banking (with some sex and violence) – both books are brilliant, ask me about my money back guarantee

Crypto trading – have a chat to my good friend at VANAM http://www.twitter.com/J_van_Amerongen

Background to blockchain – https://blockgeeks.com/guides/what-is-blockchain-technology/

Harry Potter and the Organisation Design of Destiny; we are increasingly segmenting customers by behaviour but why not your own people? What you need is a sorting hat.

Consultants are now designers, designers are now consultants, an operating model is now a service design, are you a technologist or a CX delivery consultant? It’s all getting wonderfully mixed up so maybe it’s time to recognise that putting people in teams based on what they do might be yesterday’s thing. What would they do at Hogwarts?

Once you’ve been discovered as a wizard (HR recruitment process) and you’ve bought your wand (your area of SME), you arrive at Hogwarts (induction week). The first thing that happens is that you are allocated into your House (service line). Hogwarts has the benefit of a mystical Sorting Hat who allocates you based on what’s in your heart.  It’s nothing about how much you know and even what you know, it’s about who you are.  How about a corporate equivalent?

harry potter

Imagine a scenario; everyone you work with leaves the company tomorrow and goes to a new one. Do you choose to stay with the company or do you go with your colleagues? It takes an incredibly strong brand or corporate culture or level of success to ensure that you stay. Much more likely is that you would choose to go with your colleagues. People power is absolute in maintaining the culture, the performance and ultimately to get the best out of the individuals.

So pick your heads of house; if you don’t have a blend of leadership personalities and approaches then you have bigger problems so assuming that you do. Select people to be the marquee personality types to align people with. They don’t have to be the smartest or most successful but they don’t need to be, they need to be people you can look up to and see yourself in them. Maybe a Slytherin type; all confidence, cunning and black magic or a Ravenclaw type; thoughtful, intelligent and balanced.

You then allocate people based on suitability with these people; personality types, approaches, ideas and connections.

You all still go to classes together; as with the pupils at Hogwarts, you still go the same classes with each other. Your knowledge is separated from the House you are in. There are experts in Potions in every house who end up together, but they go back to their common rooms to get support and build their personality.

The work you do and the projects you are in can be kept away to your house and managed in a more procedural numbers driven way. When skills are becoming increasingly connected, it’s already a challenge to distinguish teams and the structures are becoming increasingly arbitrary anyway.

Create a house competition; it’s human nature that you are not going to like everyone in your organisation (there will also be people who don’t like you). Rather than try to fix the unfixable, embrace the competition between different teams. Gamification often hits a wall when it’s kept in a small group of people or where it’s not visible enough. Perhaps the Slytherin team needs a strong individual competitive environment with league tables etc whilst the Hufflepuff gang would hate that. Perhaps they would prefer collective incentives. To give you an example; ask yourself, would you rather have a competition in your team where everyone gets a $1000 bar tab if your team hits a target or the top two performers get a $1000 Michelin star 12 course degustation menu?

You can build the right incentives for individuals within the teams because people are fundamentally driven by different things.

Sounds magic right but it’ll never work

It’s already happening, have a think about the current graduate recruitment process where experience and content is loosest. There are lots of conversations about bringing together grads into a single group or having them rotate. Even the process tends to pick the grads first and then you allocate them into teams. This is a very small step from Hogwarts.

How about performance reviews, we are always trying to connect qualitative and quantitative measures. Why not separate them completely? You get you exam marks from your classes (quant) and you get a report from your house master (qual) and the overall success of the business is measured by the house competitions (your numbers).

Disruption is everywhere for clients but we’ve not necessarily changed enough about how we structure ourselves to deliver that disruption. Tacking on a design bit, blending tech teams with non tech, carving out bits and pieces. Why not something new?


PS As regards enabling services, I am wary of making to suggestion but how about ‘house elves’. Effective, efficient, loyal and actually much more magically proficient than most of the wizards and witches. Comments about remuneration are also worthy of discussion………

Donald Trump’s unofficial guide to customer engagement.

Donald Trump’s unofficial guide to Customer Engagement: you may have all the best products and be so smart, so smart but….you have to keep it simple, you have to find what the individual wants and you have to think about the customers you normally don’t. Anything else is fake news.

A lot of people have been saying that Donald Trump isn’t necessarily the best president that ever lived (fake news) but I think he’d make a great Chief Customer Officer and it’s possible he might be available soon. The Donald has much to teach us about building great customer engagement so here are his top tips.

Keep it simple – people like simple, the Facebook generation is both hugely capable at research and is connected to a huge network of information and influence. Paradoxically, they are also much quicker to believe things that they read and only apply their capabilities to things they are interested in. For example, if you asked a range of <30 year olds if they would rather have their superannuation divested from Fossil fuels, they would say yes. If you ask them if they are invested in fossil fuels; they don’t know and if you ask if them if they’ve taken steps to move their fund…. you get a very low number. At the same time, there is an assumption that things are just easier now. I’m to used to having to try and flag a cab at 1am in the rain but not many university students do the same now.

The objective is to find a way to connect the simplicity with something people care about. I would bet you my own superannuation that a link to Facebook with the banner ‘One touch to divest yourself from Adani’ would get some serious traffic and it’s pretty much possible already. Donald is way ahead of the game of this one. His message is; don’t worry about the details of what it means or the practicality. Here is something simple that you care about and here is something good.

Find out what the individual wants –the fascinating trend at the moment is towards hyper-personalisation where everyone can essentially get exactly what they want. This is also a core tenet of economics where there is perfect price discrimination – e.g. I pay the exact amount I am prepared to pay for any given good or service (which is not what everyone else pays.) The essence of behavioural economics is to do the same for behaviour namely; how can we influence behaviour to reach a particular outcome. ‘Nudge’ is essentially about targeting messages or engagement that lead to the desired outcome for an individual. For example, the most effective thing to say on a sales call is generally meant to be ‘Most people choose this package …….’. But there will be a line that will work on everyone, it’s just a question of finding it. ‘Your brother in law couldn’t afford this package’, ‘Every CEO in Australia does x…….’ ‘only someone very different chooses……’

The way you get to this is with data and insight. The more you know about how someone acts and thinks, the better you can target messages. This is not more so the case than with politics and voting. Wins for Trump and Brexit, and even Macron in a way reflect a huge change to how voters (customers) are targeted. You might not like Donald Trump but you have to recognise the way his potential ‘customers’ were laser targeted and mobilised based on behavioural insight. The right messages in the right place however unpleasant, were very effective.

Find the customers you usually don’t – There was a remarkable insight from Trump’s victory that suggested that people knew he was bad but given that people never got a break regardless of the party they chose. They thought that choosing to annoy the people who’ve benefited in the past was still preferable even if it was worse for them. They would rather burn down their own house if it led to the destruction of their smug next door neighbour’s. The conventional wisdom was to go after the same kind of people in the same way. Not for the Orange one.

This is hugely applicable to a customer context. You don’t have to position yourself as the best, you can be the anti-option. Commonwealth Bank has had some publicity challenges recently so rather than try to be the best bank in the market, you could try to be the absolute opposite of CBA. Contrary to the example of the fossil fuels above, there remains enough support for coal etc that you could take advantage. If all the mainstream banks are edging towards more carbon balance, why not create the Queensland Coal Bank: Resources and tradition (anything else is un- Australian.) If you worry about the long-term, surely Trump shows that people have an incredible capacity to forget when you change the narrative a little. For example, with very little research you can see that one of the world’s largest producers of organic food is very connected to one of the worlds biggest cigarette sellers.

So, when you are hiring your next Chief Customer Officer, think about the Donald. As regards opening slots in strategy, operations, finance and especially HR; it might be worth broadening the search away from the Whitehouse.

I’ve got all the best websites – Thecorporatefuturist.com

Believe me (Cambridge Analytics it’s coming to Australia) https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/apr/05/donald-trumps-data-mining-advisers-to-meet-liberal-mps-in-canberra

Many people have been saying that Nobel prize winning economics is interesting http://freakonomics.com/2017/10/09/congratulations-nobel-laureate-richard-thaler/

Be a disruption seagull; you don’t need to know where the fish are, you just have to follow the boat.

Some companies are making the disruption and some are benefiting from it. They aren’t mutually exclusive, so in a period where there is some big stuff happening, how do the little guys line up behind it?

Rather wonderfully, driverless electric cars are almost certain to be the way of travelling in what could be less than 20 years. This means my hoverboard should be ready shortly after. Have a look at this article from a former colleague Jack Basley. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/car-wars-driverless-disruption-jack-basley/?trackingId=Wvh89xrLmODzWZgN3P%2BV5Q%3D%3D

Now, where Jack has really got me thinking is in positioning driverless cars in the context of public transport. The price point for Uber vs the cost of public transport is already not miles away from parity – per passenger trip in Sydney it costs around $15 for the government. Public transport relies on scale to be profitable so small, rural towns in particular could make real savings. They already are in some places (including this one in Canada https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/04/03/innisfil-taps-uber-to-fill-public-transit-void.html). Driverless just removes another constraint which makes it even more efficient.

However, this mostly benefits councils, Uber, the car companies etc. You perhaps need to go a level deeper to identify opportunities around the main disruption where ripples in the pool lead to all sorts of opportunities. The initial wave is easy is to see and to guess the value. The real opportunities are in the waves which follow and the changes they cause. You just have to look at the use cases and reimagine what might be possible. For example:

Travel is about point to point?? – most cafes and restaurants are based in urban areas or especially beside main roads where there is parking. If that is no longer a constraint then you can take detours to anywhere you like. You can normally assume people want to get places quickly but if you aren’t driving, you can be working, or having fun. So if the restaurant doesn’t have to be on the main street, it can anywhere you like.  So here is my business idea number 1; taking a leaf from Indian colleagues with their wonderful looking home cooked lunches; I would create a network of domestic lunch makers at which you could stop on your way to work to get. The disaggregation and democratisation of lunch. A sort of Uber eats run by your granny. The same Granny could also provide a cleaning service for the cars, she pushes one button and fleet of Googlemobiles arrive for a spruce-up.

However, even this idea is based around a fairly standard view of transport so I maybe need to think a little differently. The mindset is to see travel as the means to an end rather than the means itself, therefore everything is a factor of time or distance. If you change the mindset, you start to see the opportunity. Here are three such ideas.

Future of Parking – is generally considered to be an economic and environmental disaster in that the efficiency of parking spaces is typically very low, it paves over space which could be better used to generate utility (happiness or money) and it’s not good for run-off of nasty chemicals and even the reflection of heat. There is also a huge use of space alongside roads where cars are not moving for the vast majority of time and accordindly serve no purpose. Where then are the opportunities to reformat, repurpose and rethink parking when you don’t need the space? Urban gardens, markets, micro-distribution centres or hubs for commerce http://freakonomics.com/podcast/parking-is-hell-a-new-freakonomics-radio-podcast/. An investment now in parking might be brilliant move.

Future of Education – Sydney in particular is renowned for a huge migration of children every day going off to schools all over the city. With driverless cars, you would unleash all sorts of potential for mischief making. Why not then build the first lesson of the day into the commute. Facial recognition knows what children are where, whether they are looking and you can deliver a lecture, homework, verbal exams whilst they are on the move. A bespoke language learning course would do just the trick, AI bots to have conversations, immersion in the language, connection internationally with kids overseas. You could have the whole population of Australian children speaking Mandarin without ever having a teacher know a word.

Future of healthcare –  a typical Doctor’s surgery and pharmacies require a range of stock to support the different Doctors with different specialities. There is a company in Mexico; Cemex who revolutionised cement delivery by putting geotagging on their trucks and then sending them out into cities with no specific orders to fulfil; when the orders came in, the trucks would be directed to the need. Why not apply the same principle to Doctors, ignore a base location and send them around in a driverless car going where they are required. A much more efficient use of resources. A series of pharmacy vehicles does something similar roaming around the city waiting for the orders to come in.

The driverless car industry will be a $1trillion business over the next 50 years. Not everyone is going to be able to get much from the big disruption bit; the first half of the money is going to go the tech companies, the next chunk to the car companies, the next chunk to insurance companies and government etc. But even being left with a wee tiny bit at the end, it’s still a lot of money. The objective today is to start to imagine the future and take the first steps towards the potential opportunities. There is nothing above which can’t be done today in some format, the real money is just over the horizon.

There’s plenty of fish to go round if you go looking.

The Icelandic Football team’s guide to Digital Transformation

Yesterday, the Iceland football team qualified for the World Cup in Russia ahead of Croatia, Turkey and the Ukraine and in doing so became the smallest ever country to achieve that feat. Iceland has 330,000 people, almost non-existent football league, a very small number of recognisable players, weather that could be considered ‘not ideal’ and an economic legacy of near Armageddon. They have continued on from the European championships where they not only qualified but managed to beat England 2-1 (TV rights for English football $18b AUD). 10 years previously they were ranked 120th in the world and their best ever result was a 1-1 draw with Turkey.

In summary; they have very little money, huge restrictions in their talent pool, conditions which don’t provide a natural advantage for success, no legacy of success and they exist in an area of huge competition. They have nonetheless, achieved a transformation so remarkable as to be quite unbelievable. If the situation sounds similar to many corporates, that’s because it is.


So what would the Icelanders recommend

1) Have a plan and stick to it – on the field Iceland have a style of play which is entirely based around what their players can do, they play on the counter attack and don’t try to take on the bigger teams at their own game. They are rigorous in training, coaching and managing players to fit to that system. In a recent game against Turkey (a 3-0 win), they had the ball for only 25% of the time but still managed to score three goals. Their game plan is based around every single player knowing the job they have been given to do and executing it well.

Off the field it is the same, they designed the transformation of the game which required players, coaches, the leadership and even the fans to buy into an approach and a design and every decision was taken to support that. For example, they had a long term coach who built a succession plan to the current coach which started 5 years ago. They resisted the temptation to change the structure or the resources after a few bad results. Their 10 year plan was to create a new system to support the the game overall, invest at all levels, pick the style and the approach for playing and build everything around that.

How often do we change around structure to fit to a new direction and how often does your company build a strategy or transformation plan?

2) Change needs to be everywhere – the problem was not viewed as simply as the Icelandic national football team being bad. The approach was not to spend lots of money on the team itself rather, to see the challenge as football in Iceland as a whole. Much of the investment has been on coaching young children, providing facilities and a system to support everyone. Women’s football, youth teams, children’s teams are not treated as anything different.

For example, young children in the system are able to go and train with a professional club and anyone is allowed to apply to be a coach. Accordingly, Iceland has the highest number of coaches per capita of anywhere. The investment and the engagement is spread across the whole organisation.

How often do we in organisations think about how to transform the whole business? The view is that scale of the challenge is so big that it needs to split into boxes, new teams are created or devolved from other parts. The strategy process and the planning sits with the higher levels and the steps to get there are communicated down rather than built up. The England Manager is on a salary of $5m AUD, but that’s not where they should necessarily be putting the money.

3) Change the dynamic of your constraints – one of the biggest challenges for Iceland is that the winter is cold and extremely dark and at other times, they have huge amounts of rain and low average temperatures. Manly Beach in the Spring it is not, and their beach volleyball team is extremely ropey. As a Scotsman, I can appreciate the astonishing natural advantage Australia has for playing sports outside but you have to imagine Sydney with the weather of Glasgow. It would be a different place and would need a different response.

Iceland though have changed the dynamic completely. The have built a series of huge, heated indoor halls with full football pitches rather than small practice ones. They have made access to these easy, cheap and have put investment into ensuring the experience of going to these halls is as good as it can be. There is actually an incentive to go to training when the weather is bad.

To add to this, they have taken a very small player base relative to other countries so they’ve applied a real ‘hothousing’ approach to manage and nurture talent. They have a learning pathway for development built off the range of coaches and the successful ones are managed into programs overseas. One of their players recently sold for $70m AUD (Glyfi Sigurdson).

The lesson here for corporates is to not to try and be something that you aren’t. I’ve had this conversation with a number of corporates; ‘we need to be customer centric’, our ‘customer experience needs to be best in class’, ‘we have to be agile’, ‘we have to get best use from our data’.

The trouble is, everyone says the same thing and everyone is trying to do the same thing. It therefore becomes a factor of investment or commitment. What would be the Iceland Football team answer?


Digital Transformation: how to know you’re successful? (here’s a tip, if you use the words Digital and/or transformation, you probably aren’t)

Digital Transformation falls into the most desirable category for consultants, namely; something for which there is no agreed definition, something for which there is a huge appetite for investment and something for which there is no clear definition of success. In consulting, we love waves of programs or even better ‘ages’ – information age etc. because it creates a case for change for every organisation which leads to large programs, investment and therefore revenue.

As a corporate though, this is what you want to ask yourself.

Do the best companies at Digital call it digital? The answer is a pretty big no. If ‘Digital’ is endemic in your business and it’s how you operate it’s not a choice, a channel or even a principle to align to. It is the core operating logic for how you do business. The real change in the market has been the reduction in barriers to entry which mean you can engage with customers, manage your people and manage your ecosystem (the huge investment IT costs to do this no longer being the same issue).  People love to point out that of the top 50 US companies of 10 years ago, there are very few that are the same today but what this highlights is that it has been much harder to manoeuvre something traditional into something ‘digital’ than it is now to change something digital into some more traditional. Amazon and Whole foods, Facebook becoming a media company, Apple becoming a bank. Perhaps we shouldn’t call it transformation and start calling it resurrection. Maybe you need to fundamentally change the Digital DNA of a organisation first before you try to transform anything. A lot of banks have their online only, people centric brands which they create and then try to roll the best ideas there into their big brand. Why not try it the other way and allow the big brand to die slowly as they blend into a completely new organisation?

Is it transformation when you do it all the time? I have spent a career designing and planning transformation, it is on my CV, my title and I’m proud of the time and investment I’ve put in to trying to ‘transform’ organisations. However, the frequency with which I’ve run strategy sessions, built operating models and customer journeys shows that there is an obsession with perpetual transformation. One program connects with another program which overlaps with the new one which is the second part of another one. Most are named something of the genre ‘Phoenix, Genesis, Apollo, Jigsaw or anything with First in the title; CustomerFirst, PeopleFirst, America First etc. etc. There is a trend at the moment to not call programs ‘transformation’ because people have become bored, blasé or generally tired of the term. If this is the case then either they haven’t been transformative or they haven’t been successful. By the very definition, people need to know they are in a very different world because of something that has happened and they can pinpoint the changes. Again, the companies who are best at transformation don’t call it transformation. It’s not because they are bored of the title rather they see change as a constant and valuable force. Although I am loathe to use the word agile, the core of being flexible, agile and adaptable is built into how they operate. The rise of Chinese Tech firms is a quite remarkable case study but before anything, it’s noticeable that you can’t define what type of company they are; tech, media, transport, financial services, communications etc. These would not be successful without a constant and embedded capacity for change.

What happens when Digital is Business as Usual? – it’s likely that we’ll look back and consider even the term ‘Digital’ to be old fashioned. We are already at the point where it’s not an option, it’s the way we do business. ‘Digital’ penetration might be varied by industry and by country but it’s a question of when rather than if the entire world sees Digital as the standard. Even more so, it’s increasingly the Digital part driving the non-digital part. Your shops are there to market your products with the sales and service online. Your call centre is to support your online presence and so on… As it stands, there are lots of cases of the online service being much better than the traditional channels; (don’t believe me, next time you want to complain about a phone company or an airline, make sure you put it on Twitter the same time as you start a phone call and see what happens.) As this changes, organisations will need the scalability to handle the majority of their cases Digitally rather than looking great managing a small number which is easy. You can already see the lag on ‘click to chat’ growing but you can also see the huge investment going into AI Chatbots.

So then, have a think about your own companies approach to Digital Transformation. What they call it can tell you almost everything you need to know.

As for the next buzzword after Digital Transformation I am putting my money on a return to the old days of consulting; a block of How consultants Design People, Design Services, supported by a raft of What consultants – SMEs in industries, capabilities, tools. What I don’t think we’ll have is anything called Technology or Digital or Customer because that will be so obviously core skills that we wouldn’t need to mention it. My previous job title Keith Logan; Head of Digital Customer Experience Transformation.


Super-agile-project’s-fantastic-culture’s-still-atrocious: Mary Poppin’s guide to mandatory fun at work

In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and – SNAP – the job’s a game!. You want to get some fun into the office; start by not planning it, nominate your Mary Poppins and ensure that there’s always a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.

Mary Poppins is the original Culture Transformation consultant. She came into an organisation with some major staffing challenges (unruly, messy, children), a dysfunctional executive board (Mr Banks being only numbers driven, Mrs Banks focussed on other projects) and operations managers struggling with the scale of their job.

Her first task in the house, rather than to define a framework or strategy for culture was to focus on practical operations concerns (e.g. tidying the nursery). Her first change was not to recommend huge expenditure on a new environment, on training or new processes but rather ‘In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and – SNAP – the job’s a game! ‘. She very successfully changed the mindset of the everyday task into something fun e.g. tidying up by singing a song with some characters (and granted with some magic).

Looking at Mary Poppins, she isn’t a naturally ‘fun’ person (even if she is practically perfect in every way). She is very serious even with the fun, she smiles rarely, she is hugely strict in management and on timescales, and is incredibly inflexible. After a few short weeks though, even though her focus was on the lowest ranks of the organisation (the children), she made a huge change to the whole organisation; including the bank of the children’s father

What would Mary make of today’s corporates?

There is a recognition that the way we are all working is changing. Projects are shorter and more intense, Agile etc, people are working harder in shorter timescales. We are increasingly blending together people of different working backgrounds; designers with testers, analysts with accelerated workshops, digital native grads with 30yr veteran CFOs. There has been huge investment in working spaces; activity based working, collaborative spaces, innovation centres etc. This is all worth nothing unless there is single thread of culture you can weave throughout. The simplest thread that everyone can connect to is ‘fun’.

The only problem is, corporates are typically pretty poor at being fun and consultants are even worse. Here is what Ms Poppins thinks.

Not about planned fun – there is an obsession with having launch ‘parties’ or quarterly meetings with a ‘fun’ element. These things are usually heavily planned and agreed in advance, typically watered down to be acceptable and usually run by HR. Mary has a simple rule for this; if you put an agenda item called ‘fun’, it’s not going to be fun. People will go to these events partially because they have to and partially because ‘why not’. However, the Christmas party does not make up for a whole year of boredom and it’s madness to try. I once watched the senior leadership team dress up as the ‘supremes’ and sing a karaoke number; the memory haunts me to this day. Fun needs to be a way of working, not a reward. It’s like a bonus, if you come to expect it the value is reduced and can actually work the other way. Examples of my own include; an all day connect 4 match where a move is played only at 15 minutes and 45 minutes past the hour; the Susan Race, where the team had the time to complete a deliverable as long as Susan took to run 10k which we monitored online. (name changed to respect Stef’s identity); the Wednesday afternoon British vs Australian Dairy Milk taste-off (controversial victory to Straya). Mary would build fun into the fabric of the day to day and you should too.

Nominate your Mary Poppins – don’t underestimate what a few people can do to a working environment. An office is like a party, there will always be a few people which make the difference between okay and great. You can still have a quiet conversation in the corner but you remember the person singing cover songs of Frank Sinatra into a banana and wearing a tea cosy. You get the strange effect of fun osmosis where the atmosphere spreads to people who aren’t involved. You need some people to be like casino concierges, walking around having chats, handing out free fruit/chocolates, showing some interest, tell a few jokes. Mary was constantly thinking up new ideas, new people, new adventures.

Micro fun – a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down – in most organisations, you give big carrots to people for big achievements. There should be more little carrots for little achievements and they should not be financial. Take a process like doing your expenses. If that could be improved just a little with some fun, you would vastly augment the experience. Working on something big can be reward itself but it’s the little jobs everybody hates. You work a 60 hr week and it’s the 90mins on the expenses you complain about all week. E.g. completion of an expenses report entitles you to one spin on the roulette wheel which could win you a coffee or an iPad or half a banana; anyone completing expenses is allowed to sit on the special massage chair with an expenses only laptop to do the work. Little incremental changes have huge benefits. Mary made the small boring tasks the most fun, this is a great place to start.

So before you spend a fortune on rewards and environments have a think about how you put some fun into the workplace; get onto it before the wind changes


For all the reasons why fun is important and for some much smarter writing, have a look at these.