A year in

Unbelievably, it’s just a week from my first anniversary at Brandwatch. These are the things that stand out for me.

Teams

If my experience has confirmed one thing to me it’s about the importance of teams. The quality of the people in them. The communication within and between them. Their environment, their happiness. Their sense of purpose.

The moments I’ve enjoyed the most over the last 12 months have been being part of focused happy groups doing great work and accomplishing new, difficult things.

The moments I’ve enjoyed the least have been where I’ve been disconnected from a team I belong to (I can think of three formal teams I belong to, plus more informal project groups) or where I’ve lost sight of what makes teams tick, and ignored the issues that needed addressing.

For me it’s all coming back to people.

When I joined we were 140 people. 12 months later and we are close to double that. That is a lot of change. As I’ve said to people internally, in most cases it feels like the primary unit has shifted from being the office – like Brighton or New York – to the team or even sub-team. Which means that the affiliation and communication between teams and sub-teams, even within the same office, now requires additional effort and probably some new skills too.

It’s very interesting and exciting seeing this arise as a challenge and seeing us find our way through it. (We also have a fantastic new chief of staff Tom who is helping us all out, which I’m delighted about).

Speed of change

One of the other things I am absolutely loving at Brandwatch is the sheer pace of change.

Every week something happens in our market or in our company which makes a material difference to the company’s business or my team’s work.

There is literally no time to get bored and I bloody love that. I love the dynamism. I love how we have to deal with it and seeing the people around me dealing it so admirably.

And yet most of us in the company would like to be moving faster, to be innovating more quickly, to be launching everything, everywhere, tomorrow (!) and that tension between quality and speed, and having to say no many times in order to say yes a few is really fascinating to me.

This 12 months has also helped me clearly see that,  having worked in a startup, then my own entrepreneurial endeavours, and now a scaling startup, I definitely belong in this world. Startups for evarrrrrr (probably).

Business travel

Travelling for business is just a reality within the US. And in my role I need to travel to Europe and beyond too pretty regularly.

What I’ve learnt is that my travel comes in waves. September is a write-off – I’m at home for (most) weekends, but that’s it. April and May were pretty full-on too. But the summer is quiet and there are troughs in between the peaks in which to recover and spend time getting back into healthy patterns.

I met a friendly guy from one of our competitors who travels every week within the US as a VP of sales. Because of the time involved he told me that over the years he has worked to reduce and compress all of that waiting around time as much as possible to the extent that he accepts that he will miss 2-3 flights a year, and if he isn’t missing those flights, he’s not pushing it hard enough and wasting time sitting in airports.

I can feel myself on the same trajectory. I was the last one on the plane on my last US domestic flight, and on the outbound leg I got through security with 30 mins to spare (still plenty of padding). I’ve racked some serious miles this year and am getting more polished at the business of travel. Although travel becomes a ball-ache, I love visiting new places and I love spending time with people face to face. It is part of the adventure I sought out and signed up for, and I’m lucky because I feel in control of it at the moment.

As I side note, I LOVE the BA mobile app. It’s close to Amazon and Uber for me in creating loyalty through sheer simplicity and ease of use. Big fan. Quite impressive, given their not being a digital native company.

Health and happiness

Despite the intensity and change, I’ve managed to stay reasonably healthy and sane. I’m not as fit as I was a year ago – I haven’t clicked with the way they structure the CrossFit programme at my local box, and bouts of travel mean that running has become a more reliable, easier to plan activity.

It sucks a bit because CrossFit is the most amazing way to be all-round fit IMO, and physically I’m not exactly built to be a natural runner – that said, I do enjoy it and I’m looking forward to running in a ‘race’ or too. (Race in inverted commas because I won’t be racing, I’ll be surviving :).

So I do feel grateful that 12 months in I’m genuinely happy and pretty healthy. You never know when you change job, country and all that other stuff.

Family

Lastly but most importantly, the most amazing thing about moving country as a family has been what it’s done for us as a family. We were already in a good place but there’s something ‘us against the world’ about hoiking yourselves to an entirely foreign country where you know next to no one. I never saw that coming.

It’s been beautiful to see how we’ve pulled together and been able to share in the joys of difference together.

So that’s it.

A great 12 months. Learnt loads, done loads, and excited for the next 12 :)

Teams

I love being in teams. I’ve just always been that way. Through childhood, then especially playing rugby as a teenager and in my twenties, and then at NixonMcInnes where we managed to assemble a special team. I’d almost always rather do work and play activities as part of a collective.

And like many people, I love especially those moments and periods of time when the teams I’m part of somehow reach that higher level of performance. When everyone is contributing their particular strengths, giving everything they’ve got, and the whole thing is working together fluidly.

Those moments when you look around you and you’re inspired and driven on by your teammates. And you suddenly realize that the individuals have become more like a single entity and you’re part of it. Yes it’s hippy-sounding and it’s also true and tangible. You must’ve experienced that too. Playing in a band, dancing in a club, organizing a brilliant event, whatever.

What prompted these thoughts was that I was at the dmexco show in Cologne, Germany these last few days. An unusually high quality event. Enjoyable to be part of and impressive in scale. (Most noticeably, not soulless in the way that the large scale trade shows have become – and better than anything in London of the same scale in my experience).

And these thoughts of teams are prompted by how our team came together to put that on.

Before the event our design and marketing team worked particularly hard to make a richer, more engaging platform than before – so some great foundations were laid and our goal of going further was established too. And then over the two days of dmexco our German commercial team just blew me away with their attitude and results.

In my favourite moments during the show one of two things was happening:

- sensing the same without communication

Every time I thought I was going to need to suggest to one of our guys that there was a person nearby who looked interested in chatting, as if by magic a team mate would sense the same thing and engage. Sometimes this was a lot more subtle than it might sound, and that was the inspiring, exciting bit. And the initiative, the proactivity to keep the whole thing functioning – the bin being emptied, screens being fixed, laptops being swapped. None of this is glamorous or difficult. But normally there’s friction in the need to spot, communicate, in the egos about who does what, that stop the flow.

- total contribution

Total effort all out. And ego-less. Our longest serving German team member gave out flyers and quietly supported from the edges. Our CEO gave product demos. Our head of client services lost her voice from talking to customers and prospects. Our young marketers shape-shifted into a salesperson and an IT / AV guy. And – to a person – our front-facing commercial guys worked so bloody hard. They smiled and they chatted and they won. Two days, everyone on their feet, extended periods of complete focus on other people, limited or no breaks. Our team gave their all.

All of this makes me wonder how we can do this over longer more stretched out periods of time. And across the boundaries of sub-teams. Our whole company is one team, after all.

Because I’ve experienced this team flow in a 60 minute new business pitch, in a half day workshop, over a two day show and – outside of work – in an eighty minute game of rugby.

Given that the teams I work with are located between 3 offices and working on programmes that can last weeks or months in quite different regions, the question I’m left with is can this state be designed for, given those constraints?

Can we reach this level of work zen and unity over an extended period of time, longer than 48 hours? Or is there just something about that compression of time and that essentially physical, face-to-face experience that best suits these moments? The reality is that very often we feel like we’re a long way off this smooth, satisfying state.

And what are the ingredients? What conditions create the right environment for this to happen?

At the heart of this team experience was one person – Susanne, our marketing manager for the DACH region. She was the axis at the heart of the whole endeavour, from deliberately planning the event into her budget in December 2013 to being the last person in the event hall, waiting for delayed delivery guys to show up. The playmaker. The conductor. The team captain. Not in a strategic armchair, but working like crazed person in the thick of it.

And secondly, there was a complete sense of shared purpose, and I think our team in this instance wanted to prove themselves, too. We all knew what the goals were. Shared purpose. And we wanted it.

I love teams. I wonder what else is present when teams of people reach their full potential and put on their best performances?

New things

Life is interesting now. I have many thoughts but no theme to wrap them up, so I’m going to slide them into this blog post, like pouring pebbles into a bucket. Feel free to look away.

Learning

I’m in my 12th month at Brandwatch, and I feel that I now fully understand the company, the market, the people, the dynamics. Obviously it hasn’t been linear – probably a nice s-curve – but it’s interesting to me how long it took. 12 months to nail it. As an aside, the company has doubled in staff size in that time.

(Knowing all of that how the company works stuff isn’t necessarily helpful. I feel the value of fresh eyes, when new people join us. As much as I’ve understood the status quo, I am now part of it too. Gotta watch that.)

I have loved taking services-side experiences and skills and using them inside an organisation. Especially having worked with so many different types of personality and spent time learning about listening / motivations / organisational culture etc. So for me the transition from external (consulting/agency) to internal (client-side) has been very rewarding. Seeing things through. Being at the heart of it. I love it. I don’t think I will want to go back to services, but never say never.

The only two things I miss from the type of work you do services-side are:

  • Winning deals – I am one step removed from our sales teams and their selling to clients, so that incredible adrenaline that I used to feed off has gone. There are lots of warm, fuzzy moments when we win, or launch great stuff, or see particularly sweet inbound enquiries from great organisations, but it’s less raw, less heart-racing. I miss that.
  • Space to be creative – I only noticed this recently, in two more creative, spacious conversations with team mates. And I realised how lacking we’ve been in our NYC office in places to draw (white walls, flip charts) and how rarely I’ve been in that mode. We can be very head down – there is so much to do. I can do more of this and plan to, now that I’ve noticed it, but also learned the business.

America

Still loving living and being in New York. We had a great summer (bloody hot, but unseasonably mild apparently – I shudder at the thoughts of ‘normal’).

My subway card swipe (no Oyster card here) still needs work. Really pisses me off. How can I consider myself settled before I can confidently swipe through with 99.9999% success?

Favourite moments are still where the melting pot blends ingredients that were just not available back in Brighton & Hove. Like taking the kids to the playground, and there being 5 or 6 families cooking BBQs for their kids parties, Puerto Rican music blaring out of proper sound systems, while I push the kids on the swings in the sunshine. Or seeing snakes and eagles on our summer holiday. The variety, the difference.

Some of my language has changed. I say apartment instead of flat, even to Brits. Elevator. Resumé. Soccer (I know). But not all. I say Surname. And said ‘trainers’ the other day – I’m never saying sneakers. It’s a non-negotiable. Mrs and kids have gone further: they say chips instead of crisps (this upsets me greatly). Accent-wise, I think I’m still largely unchanged. Some gentle rounding of Ts, maybe. Our eldest said ‘peanut budder’ the other day. Our youngest deliberately pronounces ‘wadder’ to make himself understood at school. Sweet.

Challenges

Perception – this is a bit abstract now, but I am becoming more and more fascinated by perception. It seems to be a central opportunity and challenge for us at Brandwatch, and principally for me given my role. And for anyone who has something they want to share with others. I can’t really explain all of it, but it’s about I suppose it gets called and relates to (but isn’t entirely about) Positioning, a lot. It’s a magical area. How people feel about a product, a company, a sector. I am looking forward to learning and playing in this area.

Face time – I spend the first 2/3rds of every day in Hangouts and on Skype calls, some one to one, many with multiple attendees. It is often a frustrating experience. This area is still so flawed, technologically, for consumers. What’s great is that I have found that strong relationships can continue to thrive through these channels, but really working through challenges when the relationships aren’t there yet or are suffering is very difficult. It’s also hard to contribute to important, dynamic conversations when the majority of a group are together in a physical space and one finds oneself the voice from the screen. A challenge. (And the reason that business travel continues, despite tech).

Time for writing – I write best in the morning. Morning is now when I catch up on 5 hours of the UK’s productivity (and to a lesser extent, 6 hours of Germany’s) and start jumping on video calls with people. I need to find a way to hack this. I enjoy writing and I know it is a great investment.

And those are the thoughts I’ve been carrying around with me.

BAD CLOUD

I’m starting to get a bit miffed with THE CLOUD.

I was on a flight, went to listen to some podcasts I subscribed to especially for time spent on trains, planes and automobiles, piped through a mini iPad bought especially for travelling, and yet none of the podcasts were available because the default setting is to stream them from the cloud.

Making various changes to my iTunes account has also resulted in my biggest commitment to Apple, my music library, first being uploaded to the cloud (iTunes Match) and then gradually disappearing from various devices. I got Genius support early on in the process, but one step after another it went wrong. Somewhere along the line I’ve overwritten the fullness of my previous library, and with it a chunk of my lock-in and goodwill with Apple.

Actually, what pissed me off the most wasn’t losing the back-catalogue of music, but losing my beloved favourites playlist, which had over 600 tracks that I’d manually rated as either 4 or 5 star. It was my go-to music resource, whether head down in some PowerPoint or post-pub kitchen-dancing at friend’s houses. The first transfer of music to the cloud and a new Macbook worked, but that tiny file of metadata was lost, and with it a slowly curated and highly personal compass that helped me find the best of my music. I would pay good money to get that playlist back. Not the tracks, just the listing.

And as I whittle down my inbox of several hundred emails flagged for reply or action, it gets to the point where the 100 or so left all contain links that point to the cloud – to Google Docs, to Soundcloud, or that need reference to my calendar (Google Apps) or just the straight good ol’ internet. I’m in an internet deadzone, thirty thousand feet above the Labrador Sea.

The cloud is great when you’re online, but it rather sucks when you’re not.

I’m not knocking the internet. I love the internet. It’s given me knowledge and connections and a job that I love. But there’s a utopian feel to how the cloud is described. It reminds me of part of Honor Harger’s utterly brilliant talk at Meaning 2013, where she talked about how the dreamy branding of the cloud belies its inherently physical nature of big ugly datacenters. A mesmirising and potent talk.

And I think what else is niggling is that some of the time that this disguises some of what is good for the vendor company than for the consumer. Like those irritating cards in hotel rooms proclaiming green credentials and asking the guest (quite rightly) not to drop towels on the floor unless they really want fresh ones, but pretending it’s all out of the good of their hearts. Why would my brand new mini iPad default to streaming podcasts? I can’t see how that benefits me.

What would help is simple. Better offline support for cloud-based platforms. Offline platforms that work intelligently and carefully deploy precious storage to maximize the chances of me being able to access what I want to. And more wifi everywhere. Good wifi, free wifi.

Then we can cherish the cloud more as we traipse around our busy lives down on the ground.

Thoughts on what’s next after the Twitter Gnip deal

Fun few weeks in the world of social analytics (or whatever you call it now – more of that ‘what do we even call this any more’ conversation another time).

Our partners in Boulder, Colorado Gnip got bought by Twitter, who we at Brandwatch also proudly partner with as a Twitter Certified Product.

Totally unexpected, totally logical. And in our little social data village, this is big news.

This makes complete sense – it continues Twitter’s strategy of buying up or clawing back control of the crucial elements of their ecosystem – buying Social TV companies like Bluefin Labs and Second Sync because TV is so crucial to them, buying TweetDeck for its high-rolling users, and this move buying their data-channel-to-market in Gnip.

If I remember correctly, Fred Wilson who had invested in Twitter and was at the time on the board, wrote back in 2010 that the company would consolidate and integrate the developments on its platform that were ‘hole-filling’. And Twitter did. This isn’t quite that, but it does feel to me like something very similar: integrating core assets that are strategically important.

So the deal is done, or at least announced, and while a lot of the detail is missing, from what we do know we feel positive about this. We know and love the Gnip guys, we recently announced our Premium API, of which part is driven by our partnership with Gnip. So far, so good.

The next question for most people was ‘what does this mean for DataSift, as Twitter’s only other data wholesaler?’. My view at the time was that is must’ve been a blow for them to hear, but that it could actually be good for them.

These were my thoughts that I chipped into an interesting management discussion – for me:

- Their major competitor has been effectively taken out of play (in the broader social data provision business).

- People in our market suddenly need someone else to solve their specialist data source problems

- So didn’t their potential customer base just expand and their competition lessen (outside of the Twitter piece)? My thought would be that this means that their data wholesaling business just got more attractive.

All speculation. And of course they have other paths open to them too that they may well prefer over data wholesaling.

By chance I saw Rob Bailey, DataSift CEO at an enjoyable Altimeter dinner last week, and he seemed happy. He’s saying that they’ve had an acceleration in enquiries and deals closing, which I believe.

Looking ahead it will be interesting to see what unfolds next with Gnip’s integration into Twitter, and with initiatives like Big Boulder.

But with the way this market is popping at the moment, it will also be interesting just to see what happens next. The action is so constant it’s like a soap opera at the moment, but with less douchebags and better acting :-)

Which reminds me – Susan Etlinger said Silicon Valley is worth a watch. Happy viewing!

Observations in moving to NYC

We moved to Brooklyn from Brighton & Hove 17 days ago. These are my field notes.

Food, drink, etc.

  • I’ll start with food, because I always start with food.
  • The food is better than anything you can get in the UK, including London, by sheer quality, variety and how dense those options are. I don’t care what you say. This is a fact. 
  • Seamless is a mobile app that you can order takeout from – imagine two or three hundred 4 or 5 star options that will deliver to your home within 30-45 mins, stored in your phone with your card details. *PUBLIC HEALTH WARNING*.
  • Brisket.
  • For better or worse, much of the US culinary genius lies in blending salty and sweet. In cookies, with bacon and syrup, or whatever. If it’s sweet, they’ll make it salty. If it’s salty, you’ll get a sweet twist. 
  • Most things taste saltier here (tortilla chips, bread, peanut butter etc). Gotta watch that.
  • Buying food in shops is more expensive in general than in the UK
  • We found a good wine shop with reasonable prices (phew).
  • A pickleback is a shot of whiskey followed by a shot of pickle juice. Love dem.
  • Smorgasburg – 60 food and drink independents selling their Ethiopian / organic fruit slushies / Donuts / Lobster Rolls, weekly on Saturdays in a small park by the East River. Weekly.
  • The peanut butter part of the aisle in the supermarket is impressive. PB FTW.

Culture and stuff.

  • New Yorkers are as obsessed with the weather as Brits. It’s brilliant! They love bitching and speculating and the whole damn weather thing. They do it well. We unite on this.
  • Related: knowing the location of things is a badge of honour for New Yorkers. “It’s on 14th and sixth”. “No, fifth”. “That’s right, 14th and fifth – they moved their last year”.
  • People talk on their mobile headphones as they walk more than they do in the UK. Jabbering away.
  • We think as Brits we know American celebrities (or I did), but of course we just know the top 10% – many conversations reference celebs I have never heard of. (I hope I retain this ignorance.)
  • Grilled cheese is Americanese for cheese on toast – for once*, we are more literal than them. (See: sidewalk).
  • When people don’t understand my accent, they react as if I am stupid. Like this: “HUH?!”. It happens about once every two days.
  • In NYC, no one cares about your fancy British accent. (SF, also).
  • On the other hand, colleagues tell me that if people hear you have a British accent, they assume you are smarter than you actually are. So it’s not remarked upon, but it gives you a little upgrade in the intellectual dept. Useful.
  • The Mrs has been saying ‘kinda’ way more than usual. Noticeable uptick. (Kids haven’t started school yet).
  • People are friendlier. It’s just a fact. And some of it is lip service, but most of it isn’t.
  • Walking around busy Manhattan is no different to walking around busy London – the whole tough New Yorkers thing is only really apparent when it comes to two things. Hailing cabs. And being a busy metropolitan person in brutal winter conditions.
  • A homeless guy, wrapped in many layers, apparently asleep on a bench in the subway, gave me correct directions when other commuters didn’t know the answer.
  • The Social Security office has been my only real perspective of the real, rest of American life. Grim.

Physical stuff

  • On his impressions of NYC, our oldest offered “on the one hand it’s big and scary, and on the other hand it’s safe and secure”. +1 to that.
  • Subway is quick and easy. Apparently the platforms get horrifically hot in summer (the carriages are AC).
  • Consumer electronics stuff seems much cheaper – from TVs to Apple gear.
  • IKEA Brooklyn is exactly like IKEA in Croydon. For better or worse.
  • Transition from (small ish) house to (large ish) apartment has not been claustrophobic as feared – in fact, to our surprise, it’s actually been quite liberating
  • On the liberating front, we await our cargo shipment not with eager anticipation but more the fear of an impending tidal wave of old junk we’ve been without for 6 months. Shipping companies should offer a ‘nuke it’ setting – push the button, they burn/eBay it. If you ever do this, make a clean break. 

 

Augmentation

In the last few weeks I’ve joined the millions of people who need the support of something external to carry out their daily lives.

For me, it’s just reading glasses.

But getting my head around needing these, remembering to wear them, having to carry them around with me, has been a very unusual and disconcerting experience. (I’ve needed them for a while but ignored the need. Then I got them and hardly wore them. Then suddenly in SF a few weeks back my vision threw a hissy fit and I’ve been wearing them solidly at my desk since. And it feels better, easier, like it’s needed.)

Weird for me having to depend on something just to see properly.

Weird that if I left them at home, my work would be much harder.

As human augmentation goes though this is pretty pedestrian stuff, I know.

Two weeks ago I had a meeting in the same San Francisco office building where a Google Glass team is located. A guy had a pair around his neck in the elevator. A young woman had a pair on as she crossed the street as I walked away. As if it were normal (which soon it will be, in some parts of the world).

And then a colleague asked me to pick her pair up from our NYC office on my latest transatlantic trip. Sci-fi tipping into every day life.

All of this got me thinking about augmentation again.

Wearable tech has been hyped in the recent year as the big investable area. The new new. It makes sense to me that as the value that we get from the network continues to rapidly grow and the technology continues to rapidly shrink, we will all be augmented further – more than through glasses and pacemakers, more than by our companion smart devices and nearby screens.

For my own experimenting I decided to get one of those exercise band things too – a Jawbone UP at the advice of Drew Benvie and Stephen Davies.

It’s relatively humble experiment about personal data, about data and behaviour, and about augmentation.

The early signs are interesting. I walked further than normal today, because I was (temporarily?) more conscious of taking steps – the main currency the UP band takes note of.

I now have some data on my sleep last night, and my sleeping has been inconsistent with all the travel and time zones I experience at the moment. So that might be enlightening to observe.

But what is perhaps most interesting and indicative of the way things will go is plugging my band into my phone and seeing them talk to one another about my movements – me, the fleshy host, hot, stupid and inconsistent; them the cold robotic collectors of data, computing my movements, ‘motivating’ with colourful charts and smiley faces.

Me and the tech, as part of a little personal ecosystem.

So in the last few weeks I’ve found my every day self being a little more augmented. Both by need and by choice. And I find myself feeling that augmentation is an interesting part of the next phase.

And if all of this is a bit tame for you, here some further questions rolling around the back of my un-augmented brain:

  • What would it be like if my family all had this kind of data-gathering, and we shared our information with one another?
  • When will we go from wearing to hardwired, and why?
  • The feeling of becoming accustomed to a crutch, to something integral, is interesting – does anyone know of any models from academic research that describe this transition to ‘dependency’?
  • Can any of this help solve the great problems of our time and if so how?

Reflections

Last year was great in many respects.

Highlights in no order whatsoever were:

  • Going out for a burger and coming back with small, stupid tattoo
  • Doing Tough Mudder with my brother
  • Organising some of the social events for my Crossfit Connect fam
  • A brilliant trip to Denver with Max for the WorldBlu conference, seeing lots of old friends and then hanging out in the Rockies with Alexander and Jon and Max
  • Our younger boy learning to ride a bike :)
  • Going for a bloomin’ cold sea swim in January with Clive
  • Seeing more of my heroes speaking at the bigger and better second instalment of Meaning Conference (for videos, follow the link – there are literally five or six of the speakers who gave my ‘favourite talk of the day’, too hard to pick one, but favourite moment was when James from BrewDog got 300 odd people to open a can of Punk IPA at the same time)
  • The project that we did at NM with the smart, brave people at Orbit
  • Jumping onto the back of the crazy dragon that is Brandwatch, becoming part of something different for the first time in ~11 years, and especially working with our international teams and all of the different culture stuff (inc new food!) that brings
  • Being part of Rebuild 21 for the second time – I love those guys, and got to continue my love affair with Copenhagen
  • Crossfit, generally
  • NYC, generally
  • Instagram, generally

There were some very tough times too. I feel that I got lost in my latter period at NM, I made at least two crap decisions, two key relationships went wrong, and leaving was hard. So there were real lows, and the soul-searching that came with that was heavy.

Looking ahead, I’m looking forward to:

  • Exploring ‘Merica (and a bit more of Berlin and Germany, and wherever else our international expansion takes us)
  • Making a big impact at Brandwatch – I’m settled in, now it’s time to rev things up and enjoy the unbelievable opportunity we have
  • Seeing our kids evolve and change as they explore a new country and cultures
  • Having fun, generally, and staying fit whilst eating all of the things.
  • Doing some neat lil’ projects that haven’t even been conceived yet
  • Might do the NYC half marathon

Excited about 2014.

Tearing ourselves apart?

I am generally an optimist. And I have believed and tried to spread the idea that we have the potential to use networks to positively transform the world.

But when I look at my networks today I feel that we are increasingly using our new-found connectedness to tear one another apart. (I could give examples, but you know and every day will see and experience your own – individual vs organisation, individual vs individual, organisation vs organisation etc etc).

And it makes me wonder which way we’ll go… We, as a species, as a global society.

Is this a necessary step on our journey towards some new kind of enlightenment where a readjustment has to happen? Perhaps all of this turmoil, challenge and stress is the energy required to fuel an important recalibration in how people and organisations relate?

This has been my hope, since reading Cluetrain, and ploughing my heart and energy into making large organisations more social and more human through the projects I involve myself in.

I do believe in lifecycles and phases. Maybe this is just the next stage, the ‘storming’ before a more harmonious ‘performing’ in the largest group setting, together, as a new global networked society.

But maybe it is not – maybe this raw networked debate is the start of a great schism, a global jigsawing of society into ever more distinct tribes who are newly mobilised in a new, networked, global context. Now the tribe isn’t just the local goths or petrolheads or city chapter of socialists or day-trading liberatarians – now these tribes are global, they are sizeable, and they can pool resources to achieve their goals. (At the extreme but certainly well within the possible, we can speculate about ‘smart crowds’ evolving towards the emergence of new communities with resources to compete with very large organisations or even nation states).

Maybe as we become more networked, we have the chance to be more polarised, to just find more people like us and more ideas that match what we already believe, rather than finding more difference or finding new perspectives, rather than compromising and blending and empathising.

Maybe we will just retreat into homogenous digital enclaves where we all think the same things, leaving only to attack – Clash of Clans-style – the opposition. Could that happen?

I still believe we have a huge opportunity. (I am an optimist!). We have this new superpower – the network. But I do wonder what we’ll do with it. The choices we’ll make. We, the people. Do we just need to learn-by-doing? To fuck up and fuck up and fuck up until we collectively appreciate the power we now have and how best to employ it to make the world better?

I wonder. I do.

Lifecycles, phases, obsessions

I’ve always been through real phases with things.

In recent times it has been mountain biking (no longer an obsession), CrossFit (current phase, but not the white hot obsession that it once was), looking further back, rugby, outdoorsy stuff.  I wrote the book in a kind of obsessive bursty way too: 3 months of disciplined writing, done and dusted from start to finish in 6 months. 

From a work point of view, it was marketing, then entrepreneurship, then digital, then social media, then culture and organisations. Now it’s my new role. I am noticing as I immerse myself. So is my wife.

These phases or cycles last different amounts of time. But the patterns are similar.

I devour everything on the topic. With mountain biking I subscribed to two magazines, read a forum daily, rode when I could, lovingly washed the bikes, took photos of them, ate and slept biking. It is obsessive. These things become ‘my thing’. It has been the same in work. When a world catches my interest, I immerse myself, I turn almost all of my available attention and energy to it. There’s both a learning energy and a doing energy.

Quite funny really.

Family and friends seem to be less cyclical, fortunately. But some of the people I love to be with the most are newer friends. That said, nothing compares to people I’ve known and who’ve known me for decades.

So for me, cycles are interesting.

It’s the winter solstice today (I just remembered, as I write). Another cycle, another turning point. In my work, I am seeing cycles and phases – as Brandwatch becomes a bigger company, with bigger international teams, moves into its next and most ambitious (yet) phase, as our market moves into a new phase, as I move into a new phase, as my team start a new cycle. We are all shifting.

These cycles are irresistable. They just are.

The best advice my mum gave us when we had our first child was that, now matter how rough things were at any time, to ‘remember that everything is a phase’. She was right. And not just about coping with new borns :)