Communication Nation: The connected company

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The average life expectancy of a human being in the 21st century is about 67 years. Do you know what the average life expectancy for a company is?

Surprisingly short, it turns out. In a recent talk, John Hagel pointed out that the average life expectancy of a company in the S&P 500 has dropped precipitously, from 75 years (in 1937) to 15 years in a more recent study. Why is the life expectancy of a company so low? And why is it dropping?

To be continued at


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Recommended video watch: Video Book Club: The Power of Pull

Found atNext Level Blog.

Video Book Club: The Power of Pull

Happy end of summer everyone. Probably like a lot of you, I spent some time in August catching up on my reading. So, I’m back with the Video Book Club series and this week’s installment features The Power of Pull by John Hagel III, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison.

If you’ve been trying to figure out what it takes to lead and thrive in the information economy, you need to take a look at this book. Backed by a lot of research and some interesting case studies, the authors offer a wealth of provocative ideas on how to operate in the age of the internet. They also have a real gift for simplifying complex concepts with short, memorable phrases.

I talk about three of those phrases that landed with me in the video.

To be continued at Next Level Blog.

Photocredit: Batikart

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Reading A Leadership Blog: How Many Surface Areas Do You Have?

Photo credit by Chainthug

I frequently blog about the profound insights of John Hagel III.  Having read (and being impressed by his latest) my primary appreciation dealt with the perfect implications for any person and professional. This recent post stresses one major relevant facet. Thinking and acting in an integral way.

Have fun connecting and integrally acting.

Found at Leading Blog: A Leadership Blog: How Many Surface Areas Do You Have?.

Power of Pull

How many points of contact do you have with the world around you?

If we limit ourselves to one area or experience, then we limit our exposure and growth.

If we depend too much on one facet of our lives, we isolate ourselves from the world around us and we end up missing what is really going on.

In The Power of Pull the authors share their conversation with entrepreneur Jack Hidary. He explains that people overlook obvious situations because they “paint themselves into a corner such that their entire interaction with the outside world is mediated through this one facet. Then they’re unable to critically analyze where they are. That’s how they end up going down with the ship.”

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Highly, highly recommended book review Of Push and Pull @ confused of calcutta

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My thanks to Bob Davidson (oybay on flickr) for letting me use the wonderful shot above.

Those of you who know me well will also know that I have had a soft spot for the writings of John Seely Brown and John Hagel for some time now. [I've found 15 mentions of the word "Seely" alone in the past five years].  The Social Life of Information is one of the most important books I’ve read in the past 20 years. Similarly, ever since I saw the two Johns present the findings that formed the material for The Only Sustainable Edge, I’ve been tracking what they’ve been doing with keen interest.

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Recommended Are All Employees Knowledge Workers? John Hagel III, John Seely Brown, and Lang Davison @ Harvard Business Review

Richard Florida, The Creative Class
Image by AlphachimpStudio via Flickr

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We live in a world of haves and have nots. No, not the kind you might imagine. These people reside within our companies. We increasingly group the people in our firms into two classes: those who have knowledge and talent and, by implication, those who do not. This segmentation is misleading and damaging to firms in the long run.

Ask executives to identify the talent within their firm and many will focus on the top tiers of management. Often, they will include in this august group the “high potentials” being groomed for leadership roles. Sometimes, they will extend the boundaries to include “creative talent” or “knowledge workers“. But then there is the rest of the workforce.

When talking about talent, many executives focus on what Richard Florida calls the “creative class”: engineers, scientists, architects, educators, researchers, coders, artists and, more broadly, knowledge workers.

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Recommended Read: A Better Way to Manage Knowledge by John Hagel III and John Seely Brown (HBR)

Social Media Club SF/SV - John Hagel
Image by thekenyeung via Flickr

Found at

We give a lot of talks and presentations about the ways and places companies and their employees learn the fastest. We call these learning environments creation spaces — places where individuals and teams interact and collaborate within a broader learning ecology so that performance accelerates

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Recommended read Networking Reconsidered – John Hagel III and John Seely Brown – Harvard Business Review

John Hagel, Kris Hagerman and John Seely Brown
Image by Joi via Flickr

Found at

Social networking is becoming more important, both at the individual and institutional level. For many, this provokes a negative reaction. It conjures up images of classical networking and schmoozing, driven by individuals intent upon prying business cards out of others and relentlessly expanding their contact lists, manipulatively using their contacts to advance their own interests.

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The Big Shift: Measuring the Forces of Change in foundations, flows and impacts!

Artist: Cornelie Tolllens

Original work Artist: Cornelie Tolllens Manipulated for this post

John Hagel III once wrote a book I like in spite of my operational orientation.  And again, his most recent writing intrigues.


Because he creates elements for the context we are working in, dealing with and are managing

During a steep recession, managers obsess over short-term performance goals such as cost cutting, sales, and market share growth.

Meanwhile, economists chart data like GDP growth, unemployment levels, and balance-of-trade shifts to gauge the health of the overall business environment.

The problem is, focusing only on traditional metrics often masks long-term forces of change that undercut normal sources of economic value. “Normal” may in fact be a thing of the past: Even when the economy heats up again, companies’ returns will remain under pressure.

One reason traditional measures alone don’t capture the challenges and opportunities for U.S. companies and the national economy is that the digital infrastructure supporting the lion’s share of industries has sustained rapid performance improvements—especially in computing power, bandwidth, and storage.

Previous infrastructures experienced sharp bursts of innovation in underlying technologies, such as the telephone and the internal combustion engine, and then quickly stabilized.

Today, we do not yet see any signs of stabilization, which suggests not only that competitive intensity (which has more than doubled in the past 40 years) will continue to build but also that the digital infrastructure will keep boosting the potential—and necessity—for business innovation.

To help managers in this decidedly challenging time, we present a framework for understanding three waves of transformation in the competitive landscape:

foundations for major change;

flows of resources, such as knowledge, that allow firms to enhance productivity; and the

impacts of the foundations and flows on companies and the economy.

Combined, those factors reflect what we call the Big Shift in the global business environment.

The Shift Index

Additionally, we have developed an index to measure the changes that have had the biggest effect on business over the past four decades (see the exhibit “The Shift Index”).

That set of metrics reveals a dramatic increase in performance pressure on U.S. companies.

Their average return on assets (ROA) has steadily fallen to almost one quarter of what it was in 1965, despite the fact that labor productivity has improved.

Worse yet, even the highest-performing companies are struggling to maintain their ROA levels and losing their leadership positions at an ever-faster rate.

The paradox of falling ROA alongside growing productivity is explained at least in part by the rising total compensation of knowledge workers and other talented employees, and by consumers’ growing power over vendors that end up “competing away” their cost savings. An even closer look at the situation shows a fundamental mismatch between the mind-set of today’s companies and the environment in which they compete.

Elements of the Big Shift

The first, foundational wave in the Big Shift consists of the extraordinary changes in digital infrastructure that enable vastly greater productivity, transparency, and connectivity.

Consider how companies can use digital technology to create ecosystems of diverse, far-flung users, designers, and suppliers in which product and process innovations fuel performance gains without introducing too much complexity.

The second wave involves the increasing movement of knowledge, talent, and capital.
Knowledge flows—which occur in any social, fluid environment where learning and collaboration can take place—are quickly becoming one of the most crucial sources of value creation. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media foster them. Virtual communities and online discussion forums do, too. So do companies situated near one another, working on similar problems. Twentieth-century institutions built and protected knowledge stocks—proprietary resources that no one else could access. The more the business environment changes, however, the faster the value of what you know at any point in time diminishes. In this world, success hinges on the ability to participate in a growing array of knowledge flows in order to rapidly refresh your knowledge stocks. For instance, when an organization tries to improve cycle times in a manufacturing process, it finds far more value in problem solving shaped by the diverse experiences, perspectives, and learning of a tightly knit team (shared through knowledge flows) than in a training manual (knowledge stocks) alone.

Knowledge flows can help companies gain competitive advantage in an age of near-constant disruption. The software company SAP, for instance, routinely taps the more than 1.5 million participants in its Developer Network, which extends well beyond the boundaries of the firm. Those who post questions for the network community to address will receive a response in 17 minutes, on average, and 85% of all the questions posted to date have been rated as “resolved.” By providing a virtual platform for customers, developers, system integrators, and service vendors to create and exchange knowledge, SAP has significantly increased the productivity of all the participants in its ecosystem.

Copyright © 2009 Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.


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