Welcome to the Machine

Welcome my son, welcome to the machine.

Where have you been? It’s alright we know where you’ve been

– Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here ℗ 1975

I’ve been thinking about people this week – and not just because of the incredibly moving and disturbing news coverage of the refugee crisis sweeping across Europe. It just seems that in so many debates we increasingly seem to forget the “human” element of a situation until it’s placed fully in sharp focus by something or someone..

Now, trust me I’m not going anywhere near politics here but this week there was also a surprisingly large amount of mainstream media coverage on the subject of robotics and what many call “the second machine age”. With it came the inevitable man vs machine debate ranging from the natural evolution of work to a variety of terminator style apocalyptic scenarios. Intermixed with all this however were some interesting and challenging philosophical discussions about the true value of work itself and the modern era’s linkage between work and pay, effort and reward etc. What will we do when “work” – be it physical or intellectual – becomes a robotic / cyber activity and what exactly will we get paid for doing in that world strange new world ?.

All interesting stuff but it still brings me back to thinking about where people fit in all this

There are probably millions of column inches (and whatever the web equivalent measure is) dedicated to the “Internet of Things” and how all our devices, physical goods, machine components, electrical appliances etc are going to be chatting endlessly over the internet. But surely the key question is …  for what purpose? Tim O’Reilly (of O’Reilly media fame) used a phrase “the Internet of Things and Humans” about a year ago and even got some traction with the hashtag #IOTH – though given all the robotics coverage, the Internet of Human Things is perhaps an even more interesting concept.

My point, and believe Tim’s was too, is that the reason behind IoT and connected everything has to be, in part, about the value that’s delivered to people. Indeed, often the true value of IoT only comes into sharp focus when you consider the person or people at the end of all that technology and innovation. Technology for technology’s sake or disruption created purely to disrupt is an ultimately futile exercise

Aaron Levie Tweeted about Uber saying: “Uber is a $3.5 billion lesson in building for how the world *should* work instead of optimizing for how the world *does* work.” Surely, that’s the perspective todays Internet of Things designers and developers should consider: how do all these connections and all this collected data make it possible to change the nature and experience of what we do in the real world – for the better?

Just a thought

A catalyst of change ??

There’s been an huge amount of column inches (or whatever the on-line equivalent is) to CDO’s…. of the Chief Digital kind rather than the Chief Data variety.

I’ve gone on record as saying that some companies will require such a role as a “catalyst of change” in a particular sector and specifically if their CIO wasn’t necessary comfortable with the whole “outside in”, consumer and data-led focus of the digital agenda. Equally, however, there are plenty of CIO’s out there who are comfortable with that narrative and they are incredibly well placed to lead “digital transformation” initiatives, though sometimes lack the presence or confidence to seize the initiative.

Some of my thoughts and comments are here – https://leadingedgeforum.com/publication/60-of-firms-face-a-digital-leadership-gap-2499/ – in some recent LEF research

Anyway, I was pleased to see a post in a similar vein from Dominic Collins on Linkedin – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/i-wrong-chief-digital-officers-dominic-collins?trk=hp-feed-article-title-like

I was particularly drawn to his comments on the of the CDO role as a catalyst of change in certain organisations

“Essentially the CDO should be a catalyst – defined as… a substance, usually used in small amounts relative to the reactants, that modifies and increases the rate of a reaction without being consumed in the process.

The interesting thing about a catalyst is that once the desired reaction and transformation has taken place, the catalyst itself is unchanged and no longer required”

So do you agree with Dominic’s statement ??

I’ll tell what the smile on my face meant

I’m often asked why I left corporate life so suddenly. What was the catalyst, will I go back and other related questions. And as I hear those questions I also hear a tune in my head the lyrics of which go:

So I went from day to day, tho’ my life was in a rut

‘Till I thought of what I’d say, which connection I should cut

Peter Gabriel’s Solsbury Hill is an amazingly simple yet thought provoking (and often misunderstood) song. It particularly resonates because, back in mid 2014, as with most of my career to date, I didn’t have a grand master plan to shape what I was about to do next. I’d been fortunate to have spent the previous 5 years achieving goals, building an incredible team and creating new capabilities but I just knew I wanted to do something else.

I was feeling part of the scenery. I walked right out of the machinery

My heart going boom boom boom. “Hey” he said “Grab your things I’ve come to take you home”.

So, to try and answer the “Why” question I opened with; It’s easy to get comfortable with where you are – particularly if you are successful. Its also easy to  fall into the trap of believing that you are “pushing the envelope” when actually you’re not. Yes you may be innovating and achieving in the context of where you are but that’s the point – the outcomes are only seen through the lense of where you are.

In a recent post for CIO.co.uk I wondered why I used to see so few corporate CIO’s at meetups, boot camps, hackathons or other “startup type” gatherings and I suggested that perhaps it was just that they felt uncomfortable at such events. Perhaps they were just more comfortable at the familiar, traditional, big vendor led, CIO type shindigs. Now I wasn’t being critical – if that’s your thing then fine. For me, though, the desire to get involved, engaged…. experienced (as I said in the post’s title) was too great. I’d already started to work with “startups” and I learn by experiencing and doing stuff so for me it was natural to just dive in.

And it’s because I made that “dive” that I’m doing what I do now. I get the luxury of working with some incredibly bright companies who do amazing things for their clients – and I love every minute. Its got variety, challenge, the ability for me to bring my skills and experience to the table whilst also learning loads along the way – what’s not to love.??

It can be daunting and often uncomfortable leaving the safety of a regular paycheck and going out to build a business, win clients and create value (for them and for you). What it does do however is make you incredibly focussed on doing work you enjoy and working with people that you both respect and like working with. It’s hugely cathartic.

… and so, to quote again from Solsbury Hill…

Today I don’t need a replacement, I’ll tell them what the smile on my face meant

My heart going boom boom boom, “Hey” I said “You can keep my things, they’ve come to take me home.”