This video is a five minute taster of what my new book Monkeys with Typewriters is about. David Wilcox did the interview with me last week outside Leon in Spitalfieds (while Tuttle Club was taking place). Thanks David for the blog post and for taking the time to interrogate me – look forward to turning the camera on you one of these days!

[UPDATE: Monkeys with Typewriters is available to buy on Amazon]

Here’s the video:

And here’s the transcript of what we said:

David Wilcox (DW): I’m here with Jemima Gibbons at Tuttle Club which is meeting inside Leon restaurant in Spitalfields market. We talked a few months back about a book you were doing at that point around leadership 2.0. But I see from the launch invitation it’s something about monkeys now. What is it?

People power

Me (JG): Yeah – the leader of the future is a monkey! Something like that. What happened was, I sort of explain it a lot and go into it the book. I started off looking at leadership and obviously you can’t really look at leaders without looking at followers. And it was very difficult to look at employees without looking at the whole way the workplace was structured. And then, inevitably, now that work life is blending so much with home life, I just thought there was so much to look at. I was struggling for weeks, months probably, trying to come up with a title that kind of summed up the situation. And there’s so much stuff out there about web 2.0 and social media and leadership 2.0 and organisation 2.0 and all that. And I was – yeah – monkeys and typewriters – that’s the title.

DW: And what’s the next bit?

JG: The subtitle is “Myths and realities of social media at work”.

DW: And when are we going to get it?

JG: We’re going to get on the first of December. I think it’s going to be available to pre-order on Amazon from next week actually but very soon, very soon. I’m sure I’ll send out a tweet I think to let everyone know when they can order it.

DW: Right.

The big experiment

JG: And really part of [the title] was in answer to Andrew Keen. In The Cult of the Amateur he said that that we’re being taken over by monkeys with typewriters and they’re going to be churning out all this rubbish and we really need to try to put a stop to it. And we really need to value editors and channel owners and all of that. And I was kind of I quite like this image with the monkeys. The more I looked into it, I found out it had been used quite a lot in terms of the internet. Quite a few people had said the internet is just a load of monkeys with typewriters.

There are a couple of German academics back in 2002 [Ute and Jeanette Hofmann: Monkeys, Typewriters and Networks]. They said that the internet was just a big experiment of monkeys with typewriters and it was just fantastic the way it’s turned out. So I was quite keen to take up the kind of positive side and say, well okay here we all are with our typewriters doing all sorts of things. A lot of it may be worthless but some of it might strike gold. It was really just kind of a plea to just let people get on with whatever it is they want to do without trying to control them. So it links back to leadership in that way. I think really it’s a kind of message to the leaders to just enable the monkeys.

Time to dive in

DW: So if you’re talking to a leader who says, what’s all this internet stuff? I guess they get a bit more sophisticated than that these days but what are you saying in conversations with them?

JG: You mean for example a manager or a CEO who wants to know more about social media? What could I say to him?

DW: Yeah.

JG: Well I think let the monkeys get on with it is a is an important thing. I mean all the usual messages you hear people saying now. Try to cede control a bit and try to enable rather than rather than tell people what to do. I think also I would say just dive in yourself and just start using it yourself. Get involved and find out what it can do for you. And don’t be scared, basically. Don’t worry about piracy, don’t worry about security, don’t worry about all these things.

I think Don Tapscott, the Wikinomics author, said something great in the Us Now film about social media. He said you know that there are all these issues but they’re just issues we need to address. They’re not reasons not to do it. And I think he’s right, you know? We need to just like move forward and stop kind of coming up with these ‘buts’. We need to actually just embrace it really because it’s so easy to do and there’s so much potential there.

Open minds

DW: Where did you find the issues? Obviously in embedded procedures and cultures in organisations but also in personality types and styles of leaders? Do some people take to [social media] more easily than others?

JG: Yeah definitely. And Euan Semple, he was head of knowledge management at the BBC. He said it was just easy to see people as open or closed really. People are either into all these kind of experimental ways of doing things, happy to let people do whatever, or they would rather have a closed system where there’s quite a lot of control. And that seems like quite a good sort of personality split really. I think you get people who are up for it and you get people who really don’t like it.

DW: So control is crucial. Any other central issue?

JG: I think even if you break the issues down, I think that they all come back to control really. Whether you sort of want to want to control your IP and who has access to that. Or whether you want to set up systems that you want other people to follow. Or whether you’re worried about your brand and your reputation. I think all of those do come back to control. So that’s the big thing. That’s the big issue.

Get ready

DW: Right. So anything else we’ll need to buy the book I guess. Or is some of it going to be available on your blog?

JG: Yes. Well I’m setting up a new blog which is monkeyswithtypewriters.co.uk and there’s going to be material on there obviously. I think I’m hoping that we’re going to release a chapter of the book for free – Creative Commons obviously – but I suspect I’ll have issues with the publisher if the whole thing goes out for free. But we’ll see!

Photo: Craig Morey via Flickr

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Postscript

It’s interesting to read this a decade later and remember just how much optimism there was back then – when today’s dominant social media platforms were not yet mainstream. To use the much loved technology adoption model, social media were still very new. But Twitter, Facebook, YouTube et all were about to cross the chasm between early adopters and early majority. Eventually they would come to wield more power – and more disruption – than most of us predicted. Here are my reflections ten years later:

Goodbye 2010s: the decade of selfies, fake news and data abuse

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