Post of the Month – February 2019 – The Vote

Post of the Month – February 2019 – Nominations


It’s time again to open nominations for Post of the Month (crikey – already?) so as usual I’ve selected a short starting list below but ask you to nominate your own favourite reads from the past month to add to these and once I have a good list I’ll put them all up for the vote. So my starting list of four is:

Brands are the campfire of the company by Jan Gooding

Oh God it’s raining newsletters by Craig Mod

The D2C Playbook by Shane O’Leary

When Work Tries to Destroy You by Rob Campbell

Please do add to these nominations either direct or in the comments below.

I’m Writing Another Book


It’s been almost two years since my first book came out. Writing that book was something of a cathartic exercise for me, having worked for many years to help companies of all types become more native to the digital empowered world in the way that they think and operate. At the time there was plenty of material that talked about the ‘why’ of transformation, but precious little that talked about the ‘how’. The book was designed to fill this gap. Thankfully it seems to have struck a chord and whilst it’s difficult to know what good looks like in this context it seems to have done really well. At least my publisher (Kogan Page) thinks so since they’ve asked me to write another one. 

So why do I think it’s important to write a second book on transformation? The work that I’ve undertaken since the first book came about, working with a broad range of large corporates, has thankfully served to validate a lot of the approaches that I set out but it has also opened the opportunity to go deeper in to some of the fundamental areas of change and opportunity. I do still believe that whilst the business environment has fundamentally changed forever, many companies still haven’t adapted to face this challenge.

Digital technologies have impacted in countless ways to create a climate of rapidly changing competitive and consumer dynamics, heightened unpredictability and disruptive new market entrants, and yet many businesses remain stuck. Stuck in outdated modes of working that keep them from moving fast. Stuck with structures that originated in a different era and that actively hinder agility and horizontal collaboration. Stuck with processes that make bold innovation difficult if not impossible. Stuck with cultures that reward conformity and status rather than entrepreneurialism and originality. Stuck with approaches that celebrate efficiency over learning.

After several years of corporate focus on digital transformation many organisations still pursue rigid, linear change management programmes that are doomed to fail. Many still prioritise chasing shiny technology over empowering their people to drive lasting change. Many pay lip-service to new ways of operating without ever really changing the fabric of how the organisation works or building the culture that can genuinely support change.

More recently the potential of agile working and principles to generate business value far beyond technology teams has been recognised by some enlightened companies as a route to greater organisational agility. And yet in so many cases these principles remain poorly understood, undervalued, or badly applied. In some organisations the word ‘agile’ has become overused and abused to the point where it is no longer helpful, where it fails to represent the true potential of what is possible. Many businesses are playing at the edges, or scratching the surface, or still failing to grasp the scale of change that is really needed. 

If we are to truly reshape organisations for the new world we need to take a more sophisticated, adaptive approach to transformation. We need to rethink embedded assumptions about structures, processes and leadership that were born of a legacy, industrialised world. We need to understand how we can scale agile principles and culture appropriately to support lasting change. We need to take a far more sophisticated approach to the application of different ways of working, both new and old. There is a need to build on what has come before, to go beyond most interpretations of ‘digital transformation’ and to go deeper in to fundamental aspects of organisational structure, process, culture and leadership to help define what organisational agility really means and help leaders of all kinds to build a practical roadmap for lasting change.

This book is about helping businesses to become unstuck. It is about generating an entirely new level of organisational agility. It is about transforming business to become truly fit-for-purpose for a very different world.

I’ll be sending out (very) occasional email updates featuring some of the ideas that will be explored in the book. You can sign up to those here.

Post of the Month – December 2018 – The Winner


I’m a little late with this due to a heavy work schedule (sorry) but I can formally announce that the winner of Post of the Month is Gareth Price’s post on the personalisation problem. We had some good voting around Noah Brier’s excellent thinking around Marketing and the Tension Between Contrarianism and Tradition but in the end it was Gareth’s EatYourGreens presentation that won, so well done to Gareth. You join the hall of fame. My thanks to everyone that took part. Stay tuned for next month’s vote.

Post of the Month – December 2018 – The Vote

Post of the Month – December 2018 – Nominations


If you can think back as far as 2018 it’s time to open nominations for Post of the Month. So please do look back at your bookmarks and nominate any good posts that you read and that you think are worthy of being in the vote. As usual I have a short starting list below but do add to these via the comments below or direct and as soon as I have a good number I’ll stick them up for a vote. My starting four are:

Marketing and the Tension Between Contrarianism and Tradition by Noah Brier 

Calling time on our long hours culture by Melissa Vodegel Matzen

Being Bolder (Reflections 18 months into my work at NHS Digital) by Matt Edgar

Technology Wastes as Much Time as it Saves by Rory Sutherland

Do let me know your own nominations.

Valuing Curiosity in Business


Curiosity fundamentally conflicts with the scalable efficiency model that dominates virtually all of our institutions – we anticipate a big shift from scalable efficiency to scalable learning driven by a changing economic environmentJohn Hagel

Curiosity is one of those qualities in business that most of us recognise as having value yet few businesses actually do anything to recognise or support. Many organisations are in fact very efficient curiosity-killers, developing policies and ways of working that actively squash any inclination by their staff to explore. No-one is given any time to dedicate to it, few have serious strategies in place to support it, the prioritisation of the business acts against it. 

Research conducted by behavioral scientist and Harvard Business School Professor Francesca Gino showed that out of 3,000 employees surveyed from a wide range of industries, only 24% reported feeling curious in their jobs on a regular basis. Moreover 70% of respondents said that they face barriers to asking more questions at work. 

And yet there is a solid business case for the value of curiosity. Francesca Gino’s research has also shown that greater curiosity results in fewer decision-making errors (we’re more likely to think deeper about decisions, and be less susceptible to confirmation bias or stereotyping) and more innovative approaches. Other research by her has indicated that when evaluating staff, natural curiosity in employees was associated by bosses with better job performance, and that curiosity helped people to be less defensive, to increase open communication and empathy, reduce group conflict and improve team performance. Work by Spencer Harrison, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at INSEAD, has demonstrated that curiosity boosts creativity (even in relatively structured roles such as those in a call centre). 92% of respondents in that 3,000 person survey by Francesco Gino regarded curiosity as a catalyst for motivation, job satisfaction, high performance and innovation.

What’s interesting though is how much the attitudes of leaders and employees diverge. A big study by Spencer Harrison in collaboration with SurveyMonkey which surveyed more than 23,000 people (including 16,000 employees and 1,500 C-Suite leaders) found that whilst 83% of senior leaders said that curiosity is encouraged in their company ‘a great deal’ or ‘a good amount’, only 52% of employees felt the same. An amazing 81% of lower-level staff believed that curiosity made no material difference in their compensation.

Clearly senior leaders in many organisations believe that they are supporting and encouraging this attribute when the reality is very different. It’s easy to talk about simplistic fixes like ‘give employees more time to explore’, but I believe the answer needs to be more systemic than that.

Spencer Harrison talks about the importance of identity, and encouraging individuals to bring their interests with them into the workplace. And I believe there is something very powerful in creating an environment where people can really be themselves and do their best work. But it’s a quality that will only thrive if it is genuinely integrated into organisational culture and that means that it needs to be continuously reflected and reinforced through the behaviours of leaders, the questions they ask, the attributes that they recognise and value. Businesses have to get better at de-prioritising low-value time spent and systematically opening up more time for exploration. In times of change and high unpredictability the businesses that will survive will be those that can explore and learn fastest. Curiosity is not a luxury, it is essential.

Thanks to Paul Jocelyn for pointing me at the John Hagel’s Tweet which inspired the post.

Photo by Bing Han on Unsplash


“Bureaucracy is a massive, role-playing game. If you’re an advanced player, you know how to deflect blame, defend turf, manage up, hoard resources, trade favors, negotiate targets and avoid scrutiny. Those who excel at the game, unsurprisingly, are unenthusiastic about changing it.”


Via Nicole Yershon