Today AU, tomorrow the world

“From Push to Pull: How to Navigate the ‘Big Shift’ Reshaping the World” interview of author John Hagel (, 8 July 2010). It’s Saturday, so let’s just cut to the chase…

Consulting: What exactly is the power of pull?

Hagel: I guess it starts with a rather provocative proposition that the current management approaches and institutions that we have in business are fundamentally broken, and to support that proposition we muster a set of evidence around performance trends over long periods of time for all public companies in the United States. In particular, we show that return on assets (ROA) for all public companies in the U.S. has eroded in a very substantial and sustained rate since 1965. In fact, it has come down about 75 percent. There is no evidence of it leveling off, much less turning around. At minimum, it suggests that the current recovery of the economy debate may be a bit misleading. We’re showing some longer-term trends that have been playing out across many economic cycles that we have not been able to respond to effectively.

Consulting: And to what do you attribute that decline over the last 45 years?

Hagel: On one level, you can simply think about it in terms of intensifying competition. One of the metrics we have shows the intensity of competition has at least doubled over this time period. But at a more fundamental level, the basis of competition is changing. In the past, we lived in a world where the source of economic value was around knowledge stocks, developing a proprietary set of knowledge, protecting it fiercely and extracting the value from it as efficiently as possible for as long as possible…

Wow! That’s quite a mouthful, eh? Where we are today traces all the way back to 1965. That’s a lot of bad habits and false assumption to break and remold. No wonder the last couple year felt like a house of cards collapsing. Fortunately, there is hope…

Consulting: How would this impact the way professional service firms serve clients?

Hagel: That’s interesting: One of the key implications, we believe, is for professional service firms to organize a much broader network of expertise. Most professional service firms tend to operate as ‘we have the answers and we engage one-to-one with our clients’ as opposed to organizing a large network and help to connect that network and its expertise to clients. With more and more options competing for everyone’s attention, the notion of someone who deeply understands what a client’s needs might be and who can be helpful connecting that client to the people, information and resources that are most valuable to them will be well positioned to succeed.

Interesting enough, that sounds very similar to the Alchemy United model. Let’s just leave it at that for today. Time to run out and grab Hagel’s “Big Shift”.

In support of the AU “sweet spot”

“Brand Aid: Technology’s the Great Equalizer” exerts from an interview with Allen Adamson, author of “Brand Digital” (Consulting Magazine, March / April 2009).

Full disclosure: We haven’t read Mr. Adamson’s book yet. However, if this interview is any indictation, we will be soon enough. Yes, yet another objective third party example supporting the importance of an AU state of mind.

Without guests there is no retail

“Wholesale Changes” by Eric Krell (Consulting Magazine, March / April 2009).  A fairly insightful article that was good enough to trigger this letter to the editor:

Consulting Mag:

The ill condition of retail is well known. However, there is a factor that was not directly mentioned (in the article) and we believe is essential to understanding and solving the problem. Typically it’s
called the customer experience. Although we prefer the higher ground of The Guest Experience. Even prior to the economic correction many of retail’s industry leaders and
results producers provided an experience that was average at best and continually failed to meet guest expectation.

For example, my local supermarket has more video monitors than my local sporting goods retailer. In addition, when online a person interested in a product or service can get detailed information, read reviews, watch video, compare prices, ask questions, shop 24/7, etc. Walk into a retailer today and once you get past the obligatory greeter you’re not likely to get much help – let alone an experience that inspires loyalty and guides purchases. Finally, merchandising is so me-too and cookie cutter that the yawns are increasing louder than the ca-chings.

Like it or not online is raising the bar for all purchase expectations. Much like print (magazines and newspapers), retail is in denial and is losing – and has probably already lost – the next generation of customers. The fact is retail (with its accountant driven formulas) only has itself to blame.

Hoist a new flag

Mark Simchock
Chief Alchemist
Alchemy United
Princeton NJ

“You can have it done cheap, fast, or right. Pick two”

“Project management for networking geeks” by Greg Schaffer (Computer World Mag, 23 Feb 2009, The irony for this post is that Schaffer was trying to teach geek dogs new PM tricks, but his lesson was simple enough for it to be shared with all. Consider this a refresher course more that a new ground breaker. And who can disagree with the classic: “You can have it done cheap, fast, or right. Pick two”.

And while we’re on the topic of PM, “Excerpt: Agile Project Management” as pulled from Karen R.J. White’s “Agile Project Management: A Mandate for the 21st Century” as offered by Consulting Magazine (Jan / Feb 2009. In a nutshell agile is a buzz word for being prepared for things not to go as planned and responding to get things back on track.

It’s not the 20th century anymore

New Business in the Network of Everything” an interview of Andy Mulholland (Consulting Mag, November / December 2008). The interview is essentially part of promoting Mr. Mulholland’s new book “Mesh Collaboration.”  Here’s a piece that should inspire you to pursue this one in full.

What you really need to do is find the four people who worked on the development of the product when you need them to answer a specific question. It all comes back to: can I find the right people at the right moment with the right expertise to answer a specific question quickly? The answer is not to set up a department for the next four years. The word “mesh” was used in the title to indicate the idea that the Internet was causing a mesh of connections between everyone and everything, and how [can] I use that mesh—the network of everything—to draw a line around the group of people and expertise that I need right now to solve a particular problem.

Btw, if you decide to read the book please come back and give us a review.