The end of privacy ??

Originally posted on my LInkedin feed –

Please watch, consider and then comment below as you see fit.

The conventional view is that if you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear. But as more and more data is collected about us then perhaps, as this peice asserts, if you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to live for. Privacy is more than a tradable commodity – its a fundamental right

….. Oh ond yes, the irony of posting this on a social network / blog is not lost on me

Is it better to be a horse or a unicorn ??

One of the many things to consider before taking that seemingly attractive VC windfall.

Its all about “what you want to be” right ?? Except that’s possibly the hardest question for any company let alone a start-up.

As  Andrew Wilkinson, Founder of MetaLab ( and Flow (, says “…rising venture money is a high risk commitment to go big or go home, and it isn’t for everyone. It certainly isn’t right for me, but neither is the surfer lifestyle business. I’m somewhere in the middle, with the Snyders of the world – I’m not a unicorn, I’m a horse. ”

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Are you experienced?

Have you ever been experienced?  I have… “  

I was fortunate enough to spend some time earlier this week down at “Digital Shoreditch” – an event billed as “a unique community celebrating the outstanding creative, technical and entrepreneurial talent of London and beyond.”

 Now it may be that they were all lost amongst all the brogues and beards but I didn’t see many of my CIO colleagues there which is a little disappointing. Not because its the only place to sample the startup vibe – that’s not the case as there are many other vibrant communities all across the UK.  No, I guess I was disappointed because too many of my ex colleagues still seem to think that this new wave of entrepreneurs and disruptors are not relevant to their industries or sectors. Indeed, there was an alarming number of CIO 100 submissions this year from people who didn’t think the startup community posed a threat.

 Despite my natural inclination to think this was just startling naivety, I wondered if the real reason was the fact that many of these new entrants are simply operating at a pace and with a vocabulary that many CIO’s are just not familiar with.

 Its not a new phenomenon. It was the same in the 1st ecommerce wave of the 90’s (and is probably traceable back to the earliest innovation cycles) – people who have become successful at doing what they’ve always done rarely see or recognise the opportunities for disruptive change that new entrants recognise with laser like clarity.

 There is however a genuine power shift going on. In the past, startups both the UK and “the valley” were, to use a military metaphor, a bit like like arms dealers – happy to ship their munitions so that others could load, aim and fire to enact business change. Now, they are fully fledged commando units; armed to the teeth with new technologies, behaviours, and commercial acumen. This time round they’re gunning for you and your markets – just take a look at what companies like Uber, AirBnB, Coursera et al have achieved in next to no time. These companies are already ready to pivot to find new opportunities yet you’re still looking at your project plans

 So what can you do ??  The answer is simple – dive in, engage and learn. Work with new partners, try new tools and techniques, co-create, experiment and get experienced. As Jimi would say “If you can just get your mind together , then come on across to me….. Are you experienced? Have you ever been experienced?  I have… “

Meet the new boss …

…. same as the old boss ?????                

“Originally featured in – ” 
The time has passed when executives could wear their lack of IT knowledge as a ‘badge of honour’ 
I’ve been fortunate enough to be doing a bit of digital advisory and consulting recently. Its been a real eye opener. Not because “digital” is possibly the most misunderstood and misused word of the last few years. Or because there are so many column inches written about it (oh bugger, I’m adding to them). No its been an eye opener to see how many leaders are just abdicating their responsibilities.

Pete Townsend said “ meet the new boss, same as the old boss” …. and sadly, too often, that’s exactly who I meet. The same old boss who wears his lack of technology knowledge as a badge of honour. “I don’t do technology”, “I don’t do social media” and maybe sometimes – “I’ve got an IT guy who does all that – I still print my emails”The single most important aspect of the “digital journey”, after clear leadership, is what people are now calling “engaged executives”. These are the senior leaders in your organisation who genuinely believe that “IT matters” and accept that they need to step up and take clear and direct ownership of their firms digital activities.
You see “digital leadership” is about everyone in the firm. Its not about hiring a CDO (though some companies may need one to act as a catalyst or provocateur). This is about about recognising that this “digital journey” is primarily a change of culture and approach across your whole enterprise. Its recognising that technology – which enables and underpins this journey – is now everyone’s job and that everyone needs to have the vocabulary of technology.

The time has past when executives could where their lack of IT knowledge as a badge of honour. You’d never hire a CFO who “didn’t do math”, but equally you’d never hire any executive sales, marketing, managing director etc who didn’t do “numbers” – so how can you have people “who don’t do technology”.

Now you don’t have to be an expert, but get some vocabulary, do some research, get engaged, try, learn, explore, experience ….. The “digital journey” is going to create some new challenges and “not doing technology” will be like driving a Fiesta on the motorway when everyone else is in Ferrari’s. You’d better pull over and get out of the way.

Its not big, Its not clever

I can still hear the words from my schooldays as if it was only yesterday……. “Stop that right now Cohen!!!  It’s not big and it’s not clever!!! “

I can’t really remember what the “it” was, but the sentiment applies absolutely to all the hype around the so called “Big Data” debate….. and what a shame that something which is actually so important has become so embroiled in marketing hype (much the same as where the cloud computing debate was back in 09/10).  I’ve actually grown to hate the term “Big Data” now. For me, there is no “Big Data”, there’s just “data” – always was and always will be.

Now many of you will know that I’m a simple man and I try and think in simple terms and for me there is really only three categories when it comes to data:

  1. The stuff you have and you know where it is, but if only you knew a little more about it.
  2. The stuff you think you have, or believe you should have, but you’re not quite sure where it is.
  3. The stuff you know you don’t have, and may have not even thought about until now, but its stuff that might just be useful, if you only knew what it “did” and where to look.

The first two really should be easy with today’s search, retrieval and data management tools right ?? ….. and even without all that sophistication, if you just organize your own data more effectively, you’ll find more stuff. I mean; when all I owned was a filing cabinet, and the document I wanted was buried among a sea of unfilled papers, just thrown into the cabinet, did I have a big data problem?  I certainly had a big finding problem – but it was one that was quickly sorted by indexing and structure.  And as storage requirements have grown, so have the ‘retrieval’ technologies with increasingly sophisticated structured and unstructured search techniques.

But, its the last category which seems to be where the majority of the big data chatter” lives. This idea that if you analyze huge amounts of data you might just find out things that you wouldn’t have otherwise known. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen, because it clearly does. And certainly, there are a growing number of data sources where information about your brand, products or services could reside. However, I would argue that this is just an extension of looking for the things you already know about – or more importantly you should know about. Indeed, it would be good if some organisations just got to grips with the data they already have and know they already have. Surely it makes more sense to leverage and monetize the information you already have before  before moving on.

The thing is, there aren’t that many businesses that need the level of serendipity often used to hype up “big data”. The arguments people often resort to come from social media – that If you mine Facebook, Twitter, blogs, forums etc, and pull all that conversational information together with buying patterns, you’ll get a better view of “the customer”. Maybe you will.  But then what ?? The real skill is working out what to do at that point. That’s a people skill – do you have the right people ?? That’s a business skill – are you equipped to respond (if responding is even the right thing to do) ?? “Big data” systems aren’t going to help you with that. Loads of companies have leapt into social media conversations about their brand only to make the situation worse. And frankly, is this serendipitous searching even necessary? One of the big parts of social media is “conversation” and consumers are more open than ever about their views on your brand, products, goods or services. Why not just ask ??

Perhaps we should focus more on a “bigger understanding” of the stuff we already have, do a bit more “big listening” and have some well considered “big conversations”.

Because as my teacher would have probably said; when it comes to data – its not big and its not clever – it’s just data.

A little more conversation ?

I know Elvis said “a little less conversation a little more action.. ” (Yes, I’m back with the song titles !!) but it seems that when it comes to leadership the reverse is true.

Now many of you will have seen me banging on about this in various presentations where I postulate that we should add “conversation” to the now ubiquitous cloud, consumerisation and collaboration triad. Most of the time I’ve been talking about the conversations we have with our customers and colleagues however in this post I’m going to focused the latter.

Companies are increasingly finding that the emergence of enterprise social tools, that enable “conversational collaboration”, create far more employee engagement than any of the traditional push / broadcast communications. Interestingly they are also allowing large companies to create the intimacy that was always seen as the benefit of smaller organisations. Large disparate and geographically dispersed companies can now seem intimate and inclusive rather than cold and fragmented.

But, just like the best traditional conversations, organisational conversations work best when there is more listening than speaking – particularly from those at the top of the tree. The old “two ears , one mouth” adage is sometimes lost when executives dive into the world of enterprise social. Equally, people who use these tools to simply pontificate or make self-centered pronouncements are reminiscent of the chap who walks into the pub or dinner party and shouts endlessly about me me me … and we all know how we view those folks.

Right up there with listening is authenticity. There’s been a lot of chatter recently about celebs who don’t do their own updates – shock horror !! Really !!! You thought it was all Justin’s own words (look up Bieber on Google or ask your kids). But seriously, if your CEO isn’t big on blogging or tweeting then he or she probably shouldnt be spoofed by your corporate communications folks as employees will quickly see through the charade. Better to have someone who is genuinely comfortable with the medium stimulating the conversations….. and that’s where trust comes in.

No one is going to enter into an open and honest exchange if they believe there’s a hidden agenda or worse still inappropriate behaviour. Trust is a hard-won commodity that is easily lost so organisations are naturally cautious but in reality most employees don’t come to work with the intent of spilling the company secrets or damaging its reputation so perhaps a more trusting approach (with some clear policies around “acceptable behaviour” – actually nothing more than you’d expect in a physical conversation) would be beneficial. The rewards can be great so its worth giving serious thought on how to cover subjects that in that past you might have considered off-limits.

So there you go, by no means exhaustive but if I had top pick 3 things to focus on it would be listening loads, being authentic, and creating a genuinely trusted and trusting environment.

I’m sure those of you reading this will have lots more to add and, as usual, this is just my humble opinion.

….. oh, and Elvis has left the building.

Doesn’t anyone own music anymore

Seems my original post from back in August really should have been “doesn’t anyone own music anymore”

An article from today’s FT says that sales of downloaded music, video and games passed the £1bn mark for the first time last year (2012)

“Digital music sales rose 15.1 per cent over the year to £383.3m, excluding the growth in music streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer.

Data from the Official Charts Company released on Wednesday showed that these services were growing in popularity with 3.7bn tracks streamed in the UK during 2012. The top three streamed tracks reached the equivalent of 140 streams for every household in the UK last year.

Digital downloads accounted for 99.6 per cent of all single sales. Digital album sales rose 14.8 per cent to 30.5m last year with Emeli Sandé’s Our Version of Events the bestseller.

However, physical sales of CD albums fell 19.5 per cent over the year to 69.4m.”