Recently in Business Category
April 15, 2013
I've been mildly obsessed by the work of Continuum Fashion since I saw Mary Huang speak at NEXT Berlin last year. In particular, their Constrvct service looks to me far more like the future of fashion in a digital age than the current model, which is just the old mail order catalouge rethought for the online era. I've been blogging about it on and off for NEXT Berlin since I backed their kickstarter.
This video neatly captures what it is, and the possibilities inherent in the system:
Custom designed fabric? Made to measure? Unique garments posted to your house, at less than designer prices? So much potential here...
November 21, 2012
The problem with today's startup-centric web culture is that increasing numbers of services fail or get sold, and they close down, taking their content with them. DailyBooth was a hot site, particualry amongst teens and 20-somethings, a couple of years ago. It encouraged you to shoot a daily photo of yourself using your webcam and upload it to the service. I played with it a little, and then it dropped from my conciousness.
Well, the service is now closing, and they dropped users an e-mail with insturctions on how to grab their content. I did so, and then left it as an archive in my downloads folder for a while. I finally got around to dealing with it this morning, and found, to my delight, not just a folder of images, but a set of HTML files with the photos. One quick upload to my server later, and you can now see my (brief) history with DailyBooth captured for posterity.
The contrast with online polls service Vizu which sent an e-mail saying that the service was closing - and that we should screengrab or print out - on paper no less - our polls is rather marked...
October 14, 2012
Apologies for the patchy posting around here - I'm now in my 11th day without broadband or phone service at home, thanks to BT. I reported the fault on Thursday 4th as soon as it happened. By the time I was back from Berlin on the 10th - exactly nothing had happened. BT hadn't even passed the fault on to Openreach.
Nearly 5 days on from that call, I've had a lot of reassurances - and no action whatsoever.
I'm compiling notes and records of what's happened, and once I'm connected again, I'll post my experiences in detail. It's a fascinating case study of how all the social media customer support in the world is useless, unless they actually have the power to get something done. BT is passing the blame to Openreach - but I'm a customer of BT, not Openreach. Promising action, and delivering none aggravates the situation, rather than helping it. And this sort of tweet just seems designed to annoy...
@adders The commitment date for the fault is Tuesday.— BT (@BTCare) October 14, 2012
Will keep you all informed, as best I can. :-)
October 9, 2012
Nearly four years ago I liveblogged Luis Suarez talking about his nine-month old project to abandon e-mail. How's it going, after nearly five years? Well, he's still not using e-mail, and he hasn't been sacked yet, and he's lost a load of weight, based on photos from the two events...
His talk was as much an interaction with the audience as a talk, and not really a great opportunity to liveblog - but here are my notes:
- 71% of the employee workforce is totally disengaged. 7/10 don't give a shit about you. Employees are not their to do your work, but their work. This is your problem
- We're going to stop using e-mail to bully, to build power, to cover our arses. Half of some employees' workday goes to e-mail. What a waste.
- By dropping e-mail, he's both challenged the status quo, and shown people a better way of working through being open on the network. Four years ago, everyone thought he would be fired. Now, he's featured in their video adverts for their social business offerings.
- He believes in what he's doing, he owns his work. He lives in his networks.
- He gives a shit about what he does.
- Define how addicted you are to e-mail. Resist the urge to respond to e-mail. Inbox zero is bullshit. It doesn't exist. Break the fucking chain.
And that was that. Now I suppose I ought to write something about what I took away from the day...
The rise in computing power between 1990 and 2020 will be insignificant compared to the rise in the thirty years thereafter. Solar panels will be cheaper than coal by 2020. If you're under 30, you've never really seen change, because it take those 30 or 40 years to really become visible.
What does that have to do with Hexayurts? They're built from standard industrial manufacturing sizes of materials - sheets and half sheets. If the hippies had had these things they would have won. Burning Man is covered with them. In year 10, it's starting to acquire exponential momentum.
Our houses are three things: accommodation, storage of wealth and investment. Right now - accommodation is well met, storage of wealth and investment are ruined, because prices are going down. If we build millions of new homes, you can drive prices down so far that everything changes. Mortgages go away. Ireland has 200,000 empty units. The over-build is gigantic and we won't let the housing prices drop, because no-one wants to admit that the houses aren't worth what they once were. The market is totally illiquid. Abundance breaks the financial system.
Economists get a bad rep, but there are some good new ones. The new economists:
- Coase - companies are efficient pockets of command-and-control within market chaos. But that only holds for some costs of decision making.
- Nash - it's possible that everyone can get stuck in a situation which will destroy all of them, because the costs to the individual of changing the situation are too high - you need co-ordinated action from all - the goat rodeo.
- Benkler - new kinds of value creation exist in an abundant information, cheap communioncatin world. It appears commons based per production works bett than capitalism.
Valve is apparently the most profitable company per employee in the world. They mythology is that you pick and choose your projects in the company. It has no internal coercive structure. If you drive out fear, you get good quality communication. Hierarchy create fear which reduces productivity. The boss of Valve can't get his own games made - but the people who work for him make him $300,000 a year. The pyramid doesn't work in this environment. It's an internal anarchy.
Hexayurt is not a business. There's no bank account. There's just a domain name. Yet, it's the most efficient shelter in the world, and its growing exponentially.
Windows is a corporate ecosystem, and is full of evil midgets - the crapware. Apple is a benign dictatorship - unles you're the app developer who gets kicked out of the store. Linux is structured like the Goth tribes that sacked Rome. The secret to Open Source success is looking like you can finish it on your own. They've sacked the server market and haven't quite done the same with desktop. Apple has put a thin level of dictatorship on top of Open Source BSD and sacked Microsoft, but you can't contain the anarchy.
The three futures:
- Cheap energy, cheap information
- Resource scarcity and war - the classic bleak future
- Decentralise (Naxalites) - a machete version of capitalism
Fear of the nuclear bomb stopped us thinking rationally. It might all work as long as we can get the nanotechnology or biotech risk under control. Stop anyone making an open source 3D printer for genes...
We could end up in a world where the largest functional organisation is 24 people for 4.5 months. Could happen. To survive, we need one planet consumption and no apocalypse technology.
They did a book: The Future We Deserve. Sourced on Twitter, two weeks to edit. Go.
Once you've worked in a co-operative, you get the bug. They moved on to setting up a home care co-operative, based on the system for granting additional payments on benefits for home care. Those additional requirements payments were withdrawn, and the business petered out. She went to work for the Prince's Trust.
But the co-operative bug was still in her system. Next up: Sunderland Home Care Associates. They're serious both about the co-operative ownership - and about business success. They started in 1994 with 20 people, now it's 440. They have £170,000 profit on £5.5m turnover. They help older, disabled and vulnerable people remain in their homes as long as possible. They provide academic support for students with disabilities.
Independent Futures - helping people with learning disabilities live on their own, and use micro enterprise to give them meaningful lives.
Catching up on my liveblogged notes from last week's Meaning Conference - I ran out of laptop battery, so couldn't post them at the time.
Pamela's here to tell us a story about making the world nicer. Todmordon has fruit, vegetable and herbs springing up all over the town. They've developed vegetable tourism. They have a huge challenge ahead of them. The way we're living is passing on a rubbish legacy to our kids.
Is it possible to find a unifying language to talk to people regardless of age or income? There is one: food. So, they didn't bother with a strategy document, or a proposal. They gathered around a kitchen table. And they decided to spin community plates, like circus plate spinners. Let's think about what happens in our gardens, and streets, and community places. Let's teach each other about food. And let's move from that to buying our food locally.
60 people came to the meeting. They didn't talk about climate change, they talked about food. They didn't ask permission. They didn't ask for a cheque. They had to see off the nay-sayers. The power of small actions is awesome. Your little bit of action will help other people come together.
This world is not for the faint-hearted. The models of the past are not the ones we need for the future. They do propaganda gardens, because her mate hates the word "guerrilla". They took a verge, which had been neglected and left to go wild (and become a toilet), and made it a garden, and six months later the council started mowing it - and put a bench in. One person took her wall down, took the flowers out and started growing fruit in her garden. And put up a sign saying people could take it. For two years no one did. And then they started...
This is not a movement for articulate Guardian readers. If you eat, you're in. People started picking veg. One family picked veg, and then brought back soup made from it. They'd never talked to each other before.
They use edible flowers sometimes, so as not to upset the "in bloom" people. They planted a garden in front of the police station - the police now look after it. And they'll tell you that environmental damage in the area has halved. So, male competition being what it is, the fire station decided to join in. Beyond that, they took the prickly plants in front of the new health centre, and replaced them with edible plants. People are walking into the health centre surrounded by things they have only ever seen wrapped in plastic at the supermarket.
They went into the station, they went into the graveyard...
And from that they've moved into training people in cooking what they've grown, and to sharing lost arts, like pickling, preserving and skinning. They bought every market trader a board, on which they could chalk their local goods. It started conversations, which reminded people why markets are different from supermarkets.
They didn't get good response from local farmers, so they build the demand themselves, using things like the Every Egg Matter campaign, and some are starting to join in. They took some waste land, and created a market garden training centre.
They're just a "working class northern town doing veg" but they're featured on TV all over the world. And there are 33 towns following them...
Believe in the power of small actions.
October 1, 2012
Why is there so little concept of happiness at work? In Scandanavia there's even a word for it: Arbejdsglaede
It's not about being deliriously happy, it's about that feeling of kinda liking what you do. It's a feeling, not job satisfaction. A lot of companies measure and try and improve job satisfaction. Arberjdsglaede is how you feel about your job, job satisfaction is what you think about it. It's measured through a cerebral exercise of judgement.
Anyone can have it. Sewage workers have it. You become part of the team when you have your first head-under accidental dunking...
What make you happy at work? Pay? Perks? Promotion? Good coffee? None of those.
Making a difference - being proud of what you do - feeling that you did an awesome job, and contributed positively. It doesn't need to be in a checking-off tick boxes way. Not completing tasks - but knowing that you made a positive difference. A lot of jobs offer this - and some don't. Say... you make landmines. Is that meaningful? To most, probably not.
It's very banal: it's when you like the people you work with. Everything goes easier when you like each other. Knowing something about the person behind the professional title - when you have a coffee break in the work place, take the time to talk about other things than work. More and more people skip coffee breaks and eat lunch at their desk, missing an opportunity for this.
He had us greeting, complimenting, and touching each other to prove this.
About 30 to 35% of the English hate their jobs. Why do we put up with this? There is an idea that work something slaves do so free men have time for philosophy and sports that started with the ancient Greeks. This came to the fore in the industrial age - that was a terrible time to be a worker. The attitude is that work is something you have to do.
We spend most of our waking hours at work. It's the number three factor in life happiness after a romantic relationship and family. People who are happy at work do better work. Chasing success thinking it will make you happy is a failed idea. But working at something you love is more likely to make you successful.
Southwest Airlines make employee happiness their number one priority, because that will make customers happy which will make investors happy.
What can you do? Really greet co-workers tomorrow, do random acts of workplace kindness, give yourself a little me time - and write down three things which were really awesome at work today.
Happiness at work is something you create together, every day. It's a great business strategy.
What do businesses do when the way to develop people? They put them in the equivalent of a classroom. We go on a course, the employer tick a box, and then we go back to our desks and do what we always did. Why? The brain is a habit machine. When we learn, we create connections between neurons. The more often we use a pathway, the more likely we are to use it. Our brains are hard-wired for inertia. Argument doesn't make a difference - action does.
She cites the example of a 42 year old engineer with a stressed life - redundancy at work, difficult children at home. Work put him on a Do programme to reduce stress. One day, he was given the task of a 15 minute walk. He did it after work. And continued doing it each day. And then, one day, his autistic child came with him. And started talking to him. It's really difficult to make big sweeping changes in you life - but you can make small changes, and create ripple effect. If you do nothing, nothing will change. If you do something, you don't know what might happen.
To change behaviour, you have to break down old habits. We all have behavioural patterns we use all the time, but we also have ones we don't use that could serve us well. On the way to a crucial strategy meeting, one operations director got a Do message telling him to be unassertive. He was persuaded by a colleague to give it a whirl. At first it was hard, but then he listened and learnt. He discovered that one that he thought was on his wavelength wasn't - and the ineffectual one was asking probing questions and insights. If you keep reusing the same behaviour trait - you'll just stay where you are. You stay on that same brain pathway and don't develop.
Just having one behaviour is like going around with just hammer. Sometimes it'll help, and sometimes it will smash everything to pieces...
To grow the toolkit, you make people more flexible, and you do that one activity, one Do at a time. The adult brain can rewire itself - but you do it by changing people's behaviour not people's thinking. It's CBT turned on its head.
The firm, the corporate entity, is a relatively recent invention. It was born in the 18th century, and a vehicle for efficient exploration of other of the world.
In 2010 he went to Detroit, and visited where the Model T Ford was built. Henry Ford was famous for paying more than average - a lot more. Why was he paying more than anyone else? Because he lost so many staff each week. Why? Because they were asked to doing the same thing again and again. It was the end of craft. Seven years later, the car had become stylised. It was being sold as a lifestyle image. As purpose was removed from work, it was transferred to consumption.
In 2004, he was working for a practice of 17 people. At 17 people, they were designing handrails for hospices with nodules, as the tactile memory is the last to go. At 64? The detail was lost. They were creators of images, not details. That says something about how we manage size.
Until 1998, he was at architectural school. He realised that the decisions of how a wall was made were being pulled from the craftsman building it to the architect designing it. The meaning was being stripped from the crasftman's work.
There are diseconomies of scale - which are under-discussed. The losses of management are significant. We're moving into a civic economy. Since the 1960s, very few large organisations have been born. It's a trend. We're starting to have to look at what the informal economy means. The accelerated reputation economy is becoming more important than contracts. We can start holding ash other to account in small ways. We could all underwrite Stowe small amount for a loan. We can all start to aggregate in ways that haven't been done before - and that starts to redistribute power.
Rutland Telecom is a great example of people coming together to create micro-infrastructure.
The Hub is like a co-working space - but it's global. Not corporate clonal, but locally-owned global. All The Hubs together owned the idea and assets. It signals that we can build a civic global. There are 32 hubs around the world. Imagine what you could do with that with a university.
Micromassive - the idea of how resources is pulled together is huge. The web is allowing us to make co-operative structures fractional and sharable in a way they never could before.
Social - can be outcome, method, governance, ownership and inputs. But their all linked. They're all converging. In 10 years, we'll just be talking about social business as the way to do business. The funder is just one stakeholder in the process - the model of clients is different, because everyone is one.
Architects should be social liable for the buildings they design. It would ensure that I did everything possible to make that building a positive social outcome. If the local authority could sue me as an architect., I would have to work differently. But then you could librate planning. Why would you need it?
In London Zoo, the only way out is through a tacky gift shop? It's a charity, I'm a member. Why? They're legally obliged to maximise value for their purpose. Single purpose vehicles are problem. Finance is changing - capital is starting to have to become intelligent. One VC says they're getting 40% returns - because ether think this is the future.
There's a shift from management to co-ventureship - it's replaced by servant leadership. It's a fragile thing, easily destroyed by someone trying to take the reputation for themselves.
Streetcar is not a sharing economy product, it;s a rent economy one. There is a risk we will be moved into a rental economy, where the assets are owned by fewer and fewer people. You end up with no assets. Sharing assets is different, because we actually build resilience. We have to be very careful about what we mean by platform. Platforms should be though of more like states than corporates. If we let assets be stripped away, be become very exposed to shocks.
Imagine that one day they made you stop doing the job you love. That's what happened to Cardigan. The jeans factory closed, and 400 jobs - in a town of 4000 people - went away.
Imagine what you'd do, if you sold your company and realised that it was a mistake. That's what happened to him. He toyed with the idea of getting back to making jeans - but does the world need another jeans maker? No. There are enough unsold ones in the US to last decade.
But something needed to be done for the town. So, he started a jeans company. And they got six months of orders in the first few days - they had to stop taking ordes.
But it was a good match. He could market jeans. The town could make them. The taxi drivers could teach you how to make jeans. They had people who had spent 50,000 hours making jeans. They were grand masters of jeans making.
So far, they have 10 people. 10 out of 400.
It's a great story - manufacturing comes back to a town. It isn't enough.
Their coin pocket fits an iPhone. But quality isn't enough.
We have to have ideas.
The things we own, tell stories about us. Think of children's' beloved toys.
Now, think of the space where the internet - which tells stories - and the luddite desire to make objects last.
What if jeans had a story? The secondhand jeans market is stronger than the first hand one... If your jeans end up in a secondhand shop with a story attached, is that interesting?
The Antiques Roadshow is interesting for two reasons - you find out if you're going to be a millionaire, and what your object's story was. 80% of the market for jeans is for pre-washed jeans. Industrially was he dot make them look old. We can't afford the £1million market to fake history for our jeans. That puts us in the 20%.
So - we have the denim breaker club. You give students jeans for six months, who agree to wear them, and not to wash them. To record their history. And when we sell them, you get 20%. Planet earth is better for out. Our margin is better for it. But it's an experiment. We need ideas, because there are 390 jobs left to go.
In 20 years' time we'll thank the bankers for making a mess of everything. It's such a mess that we'll have to do something extraordinary again. They made such a mess that everything has to slow down. I love Kickstarter - I love anything that starts putting the banks out of business.
We need big, bold, brave ideas. If you have them, I love you, and I want to make jeans for you.
We need to throw away the old box, not think outside it. We need to give up on the idea of continuous economic growth. Its costs are too high. We need to see the economy as a possession of the environment, rather than the other way around.
The green economy is more labour-intensive than the fossil fuel economy. It provides jobs to be a route out of our current economic difficulties. Globally, subsidies for fossil fuels are six times higher than for renewable energy. Imagine if that was refocused.
We're stuck in an odd paradox. We have companies trumpeting their environmental credentials, even as the situation gets worse. Planes may be getting more environmentally focused - but as the planes get more green, their use goes up. It's a net loss.
There are some signs of hope. No-one wants your products - they want the use of them. B&Q realise that people want a hole in the wall, not a drill. So why not rent them? The need gets met, but resource consumption goes down. A human-powered MP3 player that looks like a plaster... Skype and Spotify stop us using planes or the plastic for CDs. You can make carpet tiles from recycled yarn.
What would replace the mechanism of capitalism that requires endless growth? This is a dangerous idea. But growth is creating dysfunctional, unequal societies. Happiness does not reply on it - that's about happy families, meaningful work and connected societies. Right now - unless there is growth, people lose their jobs, taxes drop and public services erode. We need a new macro-economic model that takes account of the limited resources of the planet. If the biosphere isn't getting any bigger, the sub sphere has to achieve a steady state.
A steady state is not a failed growth economy. A helicopter is designed to hover. An aircraft... is not. We need a helicopter economy. We need the same amount of better stuff, not more of the same stuff. We need to reform taxation, working hours and practices, pay structures, It's ambitious stuff - it need shift is attitude of politicians and the expectations of the public. We need to make the future we aspire to more positive than the fossil fuel driven one. We need enlightening people in business, in politics and in every walk of life.
Unless people like you care - nothing will happen.