It’s once again been a while since I’ve blogged. For me and many others, blogging is one of those “important but not urgent” activities that often seem to slip off the agenda in the face of more pressing concerns. I will soon be relaunching this blog to make it more accessible and useful, so my resolve to blog regularly is firming. I do come across many interesting ideas in the course of my travels, so I’ll endeavor to share more of these than I have been. To this end, I’ll experiment with sometimes making shorter postings, with more links and less commentary. Part of my problem is that as soon as I start writing about a topic, there are so many related issues I want to touch on that it soon risks becomes a full treatise, so daunting I never even get started. Perhaps if I contain my enthusiasm, I’ll end up communicating more…
Continuing the live conference blog…Valdis Krebs of Inflow talked about the many types of real-life networks that can be analyzed, including studying cow disease contagion by which cows tend to hang out together as they eat, and the vast array of companies that Apple has brought together to create the iPod. His colleague Eszter Hargittai has researched liberal and conservative blogs in the US, and found – unsurprisingly – that they are as deeply divided as the US population seems to be. I then ran a Living Networks Forum, in which I first presented the ideas of the living networks, how we participate in the emerging global brain, and how collaborative filtering is enabling us to access the most stimulating, top-of-mind information and ideas of our collective consciousness. We then used a live Wiki, so everyone in the audience could contribute to the screen what they wanted to discuss with others at the conference. This led onto us selecting four topics – finding expertise, collaboration, identity and mobility, and network science – that groups gathered to discuss, explore, and create valuable connections between people and ideas. This is being followed by a conversation (as I write) between Esther Dyson, Edward Vielmetti of SocialText on social networks, looking at Flickr, which allows us to share photos with our friends, and many other spaces. A key theme being discussed is the evolving nature of personal networks. Esther believes that the technology is reducing friction in our relationships with our friends. However it also reduces friction in our relationships with those who are not our friends, so we need to create new conventions to contain our online relationships. This is a critical aspect of how our identities will evolve as social software enables us to relate more richly with those we choose to.
The second edition of Developing Knowledge Based Client Relationships will be launched in New York in June. Below is the preface to the second edition, which gives a good overview of what the book is about… Click on “Read more” below to see the full text.
Two chapters from the book will be posted on my website for free download shortly.
“As I write these words it is almost exactly five and a half years since I finished writing the first edition of this book. The release of the book in January 2000 helped launch a powerful wave of interest in the topic. Immediately after its release, the book was ranked #1 on Amazon.com from Australia for over two months, and since then has spent time on a range of Amazon.com bestseller lists, including the Deloitte & Touche bestseller list for over two years. Not long ago the book went into its fifth printing. The concept of knowledge-based relationships has now become a broadly acknowledged aspect of leading business thinking and practice. Many other threads came together to create this momentum, however I hope the detailed treatment of the topic in the first edition of this book helped to crystallize this emerging domain.
Much has happened since the first edition came out, certainly in terms of changes in the business environment, notably in the professional services landscape, and in how communication technologies are changing business relationships. However during that period, my thinking has evolved even more. Over many years of putting the ideas into practice…
…helping leading organizations to implement knowledge-based relationships, running workshops all over the world for some of the smartest people around, and speaking widely, I have learned a great deal on what works and doesn’t work. I also recognized that I needed to broaden the ambit of my work from the core concept of knowledge-based client relationships to everything that a professional firm must do to be successful in its client relationships.
The first key lesson is that even if you are brilliant at engaging in knowledge-based relationships with your clients, that doesn’t help you if your clients don’t recognize the value you can create for them through this deeper level of engagement. Professionals must lead their clients into knowledge-based relationships by demonstrating the value of collaboration. On every front, the future success of professional services firms will depend absolutely on the leadership capabilities within the firm. They must lead their clients into new ways of working, they must lead their professionals into combining their expertise collaboratively, and they must lead their industries by showing that new business models and approaches to value creation are possible and desirable. Thus the new subtitle of this book: “Leadership in Professional Services.” The subtitle of the original edition, “The Future of Professional Services,” still applies, as knowledge-based relationships are indeed the future of the professions. However the essence of this second edition is how to develop the leadership that will brings these kinds of professional relationships to reality.
One of the major shifts in the second edition is to focus far more on the immediate issues of professional services firms than on the broader issues of knowledge in business. The first edition brought many of the lessons of knowledge management into professional services and organizational relationships, in a way combining the domains. However the real value of the book is in its relevance to its core readership of practicing professionals. It is intended to help them enhance their client relationships, and build practices and firms that will prosper enormously in our burgeoning knowledge economy.
Since writing this book I have written a quite different book, Living Networks, on the implications for business of the connected economy. My work today falls into two domains. I am a specialist in professional services client relationships. And I am a generalist in helping executives understand how to create success in our swiftly-evolving global network economy. These two seemingly disparate themes in fact mesh together into a perfect unity. A networked world is nothing more than a set of relationships. In an intensely commoditized global economy, value creation will be increasingly concentrated in trusting, collaborative, knowledge-based relationships. Professional services, as the quintessential knowledge business, provides a perfect template and model for developing and implementing these kinds of relationships on a broad scale.
The changes to this second edition have resulted in a book that is almost half new material. In some ways I would have liked to have changed more, almost rewritten the entire book, however I also wanted to maintain the integrity of a book that has clearly struck a chord, and has sold consistently very well for five years. With two entirely new chapters, and half the remainder of the book heavily reworked, this second edition has truly been brought up to date and will be of great value to professional services and knowledge practitioners in a rapidly-evolving business environment. There are certainly many challenges ahead for every professional. But looking through the lens of knowledge-based relationships, I believe there are massive opportunities for those that can successfully implement deep, collaborative approaches to value-creation with their clients. I wish you all success on that path.”
Apologies! It has been far too long since I’ve blogged. Hardly the dynamic stuff of the living networks… I’m sure anyone who has maintained a blog will have experienced the tug between the present urgency of demands like client work, and the broader importance of capturing and communicating a rich flow of ideas. For a while now immediate pressures have kept me below the surface, making my work less visible, but I intend to rekindle my blogging endeavors. Among the very interesting work so far this year, I’ve been working with some colleagues to take the top executives of a mid-tier financial institution through a scenario planning process to examine the company’s long-term future, and working with some of the leading client relationship teams of a global top 10 law firm to enhance their capabilities and approaches. All good stuff, but I want my ideas to flow more broadly…
To this end, I will be relaunching my blog and newsletter in May, including relocating the blog. Watch this space. In the meantime I’ll start to make this more dynamic.
On other fronts, coming up this June is the launch of the second edition of my first book, Developing Knowledge Based Client Relationships. I’ll post the preface to the second edition here shortly. I have also recently established a US corporation to enable me to better serve the US market. More on other projects, including new frames on social network analysis, coming soon.
Since I wrote Living Networks, I’ve dreamed of creating an event that would literally bring the book to life, to allow people to experience personally the power of the networks and the implications for business. The first of what I hope will be a whole series of events – the BDI Living Networks Forum – will be held in New York City on December 4th, 2003. I have the perfect partner for this – the Business Development Institute, which combines a fantastic network of network-minded individuals and organizations with innovative business development services.
In the agenda you’ll see that the event is focused on creating interaction and what I call “enhanced serendipity” between participants. Using Spoke Software we will show participants their “relationship path strength” with all other attendees, and with any other individual, who they know in common. Litéra collaboration software will be used as a platform for showing participants how to implement collaboration effectively in and across organizations.
We have some great supporters, and there’ll be some awesome people along. Nothing like this has been done before, so I’ll let you know some of what we learn at the event. Or of course would be fantastic to meet you there!
I believe that events that use emerging social network technologies and effective design of participant interaction will over time become the norm. Hopefully “talking-head” conferences will die a natural death very soon. Events that apply living networks ideas will create immense value in bringing the right people together to create and share knowlege, ideas, and relationships. Be there at the birth of something big!
For something completely different (or is it?), I’ve had an extraordinary confluence of conversations lately about where to live and where we belong. I am Australian, the city which I love the most and where I feel most at home is certainly Sydney, yet I’ve lived overseas for over half my life in a wide variety of countries, speak five languages, feel at home many cities and cultures, and travel a large proportion of the time. Many of the people I know and interact with live similarly distributed lives, with affiliations in many places. Like me, wherever they are in the world, the majority of their friends are in a distant country.
One of the key questions as you grow older is where to live. If there is a conflict between what career and personal relationships suggest, how do you play it? It’s a nice idea to split your time between countries, but the reality is it means you are not settled anywhere. Somehow it seems that almost the majority of conversations I’ve had for the last months (not coincidentally which I’ve spent largely on the road) have been about where we choose to live. I’ve decided that in many cases there is no possible resolution – we remain torn as people.
In his latest book Pattern Recognition, William Gibson describes jetlag as moving so fast that our souls are left behind, and we must wait until they can catch up with us. Perhaps those that have created deep connections in many parts of the planet have distributed souls. Wherever they are, part of their soul is somewhere else. We are moving swiftly forward into an intensely mobile, networked world. As humans adapt to living in the living networks, I believe that powerful existential issues will emerge further into our shared consciousness. The landscape will evolve as increasing bandwidth allows richer communication, but there will never be a substitute for being in the same place as people we care for, and we must make choices about where we live. More and more people will find themselves grappling with living with a distributed soul.