Saturday, March 14, 2015

A long journey ... but a happy one ... Karma is kind.

Seven years ago, I wrote the presentation below (one of many). I presented it at several large companies and then at a public Strategy conference in April 2008 to around 600 people. I got into several arguments.

So, how have things progressed in the last 7 years? Well, during the talk, I covered a subset of my research including :-
  • The cycle of commoditisation
  • The evolution curve (ubiquity vs certainty)
  • Evolution vs Diffusion
  • Three layers of IT shifting from product to utility
  • Why we had no choice (pressure for adoption, Red Queen)
  • Accelerators to evolution (network effects, open source, standards)
  • Polar extremes of an organisation (innovation to commodity)
  • Properties of those polar extremes
  • Why one size methods don't work and the need for different methods  (Agile and Six Sigma)
  • How to organise for these two extremes (Pioneers, Settlers and Town Planners)
  • Different investment / competition effects as activities evolve
  • The importance of a maps (though I didn't cover how to map).
  • The issue of bias
  • Creative destruction
  • The innovation paradox
  • Componentisation
  • How reducing non strategic cost is both friend (operational efficiency) and foe (reducing barriers to entry)

I also provided Four Predictions
  • An increase in the rate at which innovative services and products are released to the web.
  • More disruption in the information markets.
  • Increasing organisational pressure within IT.
  • The architecture will never be completed.

7 years later ... the predictions all hold and every item on the presentation is still relevant. 

In 2007 to early 2008, I was funding my own full time research. I burned most of my own life's savings in order to understand why the experiments which I had undertaken in Fotango during 2002-2006 worked. Of course, I made the concepts all creative commons - I work on a principle of Karma. 

Naturally the work has evolved since then - I've tidied up terms, made a few adjustments - but in principle it's all the same. There has however been some important moments of change. Whilst I used the mapping technique in Fotango (2005) and Canonical (2008), it wasn't until a good friend of mine - Liam Maxwell, who I had worked with (giving my time freely) on the 'Better for Less' paper which included many of my concepts - persuaded me to talk more openly about the topic did I gain the confidence to speak publicly on How to Map.

Despite my public speaking, confidence was an issue.

Back in 2007, in most business events then the ideas I expressed usually created a hostile reaction from  fruitcake, idiot, ridiculous, nonsense, delusional, sad waste of time, rubbish to gibberish. Hence the arguments. I'm not shy of a fight especially when it gets personal.

Back then it was all one size fits all, our method will solve everything, few understood evolution and even basic ideas of competition were rare. This does wonders for your confidence if you've just spent your life savings investigating something and the majority tell you that you've got it all wrong. I hoped that this was just an educational issue. I had to push slowly at the door.

But I'm made of stern stuff and so I continued. As more understood then I exposed more of the underlying concepts. Eventually, I had to find a job. Karma was kind and Canonical found me because of a discussion I had with Mark Shuttleworth on evolution. Even though the first five employees I met at Canonical in 2008 told me the 'cloud was just a fad', it changed. Today Canonical dominates the space.

These days all the topics are either considered conventional wisdom or well on the path to such. Even if companies do go off on the wrong track (e.g. two speed IT, bimodal) then I know that eventually they'll work it out. 

Today, I often listen to people speak at conferences and talk about the ideas that I once presented. The hostility is gone. The nodding of heads is commonplace. Knowledge also evolves but then I knew that. Everything evolves.

These days, any arguments are about who created the ideas first. Usually some consultancy firm is claiming them. This makes me smile. Most of the ideas come from long dead economists. I like long dead economists, they work cheap and don't grumble.

It's marvellous to see how things have changed.

Today, I work at the LEF where many governments and companies now fund me to research into even more marvellous areas. Had I never taken the risk, spent my life savings and given the concepts all away then that would have never happened. I'd never had worked for Canonical. I'd never have written the 'Better for Less' paper. I wouldn't have met the good friends I have today.

Karma is kind. 


The slides are just an aid to the talk. At some point I'll record the video again (I have the original text) and it'll make more sense but the slides are enough for now.