It’s a bright sunny day and JP Rangaswami (Salesforce) is up on stage speaking at the Social Business Summit. This is bound to be good because JP always talks with visionary zeal.

09.15: (JP) It’s ridiculous that we have to say “social business” because surely all businesses are “social”? Businesses have been social long before the last few decades of mono-directional, broadcast messages, the age of advertising.

Until recently, people have been told they can’t have a loan, for example, because the system says no (not the individual dealing with them). That’s because of the way our businesses have been built.

Change is constant

We are seeing a change in the way we work: Ricardo Semler’s “Maverick”, John Roberts “The Modern Firm”, were published 30 years ago. We are seeing changes in how we account for the interactions we have with customers.

This firm which used to be hierarchical is morphing into a network of relationships. If you cannot value something you’re not able to move it onto a balance sheet: we must be able to measure capability and relationships in some way.

We’ve been talking for some time about the fact that, after the agricultural and industrial ages, we are now in the Information Age. In the industrial age, we could build many processes that were linear, and we could build pipes for the work processes, and we could predict what was going to happen.

09.30: Why do we want to increase our fixed costs? Because that’s what we do by filling our day with meetings. But workers are changing (Millennial generation) and tools are changing.

The thing is, change is a constant.

From process to pattern

The execution of the graphical user interface, and the use of touch, is happening at almost the speed of light. The child expects the screen to talk back. And touch will be augmented with voice. I was at a google zeitgeist last year and I was amazed to see how much I could do just using my eyes: it’s not commercially viable yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

We are moving from process to pattern. We’re spending more time dealing with the exception than we’re dealing with the rule. We need to build systems that allow us to identify patterns, that enable us to have a wider and wider group of people say, I’ve seen that movie before, I know how that book ends, and stop focusing on the repeatability and start focusing on which pattern is this pattern nearest to, and how should I respond. Start capturing things that do not work, because you can embed them in your learning, and revisit them later. It is not failing, it’s an opportunity to learn.

When I hear about people building seed banks 60m below the ice in Sweden, I used to think, how about survival of the fittest? But then I realised that human beings are accelerating damage to the environment and we need to start having a steward-like approach. It may come too late: some species may have been killed off during that time when we created an artificial environment.

We need to start looking at failure as a way of future-proofing.

Like a video game

09.45: Kids are pretty smart about privacy. But their privacy is a lot more granular: my kids are friending me, but they are inviting me to sleep in the guest room – they don’t expect me to go up into their bedroom and start rifling through their drawers. Stop trying to automate things that are essentially social.

Their concept of ownership is different. Kids are into sharing stuff much more than us.

In India, if you’re living 7,8,10 to a house, what does it mean to have privacy?

Linear vs non-linear: I think of work very much like a video game. I came into and spent a bit of time in the sandbox. And learnt about the rules of engagement of the game. Then I went looking for missions I could actually do. Every organisation is a video game today. Gamification is starting to enter everything: you can win badges (for example). We are getting back to grips with something we have lost for 50 or 60 years.

NOTE: I interviewed JP Rangaswami for Monkeys with Typewriters back in 2008.

It’s high time for smart working

Photo: Lars Plougmann (via Flickr)