Amongst the books I've been digesting recently, I've been ruminating on three which intersect in interesting ways.
"Pull" is suddenly a hot word with real time web enthusiasts: John Hagel, John Seeley Brown and Lang Davidson of the Deloitte Center for the Edge just published 'The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion'. The book discusses a world where we are undergoing a seismic shift from a world of 'pushed' information: top down, hierarchical, inflexible, procedural...sit back broadcast models and so on, to a environment where 'pull' dominates.
'Pull' in their context is collaboration, modularity, bottom up, flexibility...and a world where it is possible to invoke people and resources you didn't even know were out there to achieve more in life and business within less time. This book sometimes reads to me like a snapshot of the zeitgeist last fall around Twitter, Facebook and 'Social Media' Web 2.0 strategies for PR, Marketing & Corporate Communicators. More importantly their book focuses on how you should alter your thinking to be empowered by this new world.
The authors attempt to conflate 'Pull' as remedies for what ails modern capitalism which they have separately dissected in exhaustive detail in their excellent 'Shift Indexes': U.S. companies average return on assets (ROA) has steadily fallen to almost one quarter of what they were in 1965, despite the fact that labor productivity has improved.
The 2009 Shift Index commented that only one in five US workers are passionate about their work, while at the other extreme a recent Gallup poll found one in five employees so disengaged they were actively seeking to undermine their work colleagues, according to 'Pull'. The authors suggest an 'access> attract> achieve' model unlocks value at personal and business team levels.
Confusingly an excellent book by David Siegel, also called 'Push', was published last year. Siegels' focus is on the power of the semantic web to transform your business, and the website is powerofpull.com. Data that is 'semantic' means exactly the same thing to any person and - more critically systems - that access it. This information consistency is a solution to the chronic fragmentation modern technology has enabled.
Seigel's 'Pull' focuses much more on the mechanics of the next generation web where largely invisible middleware works with you to help you find what you're looking for and provide context. I'd recommend consuming these two books together to get two angles on the 'Pull' concept and also to help put in context some of the frothier 'social' parts of the Hagel, Brown Davidson. In this fast moving world some of the latter book will inevitably be out of fashion and/or superseded in the near future as the whole social bandwagon matures and shakes out into less of a crystal ball gazing futurist exercise and any value is grooved into everyday societal use.
The machine readable web is arguably a larger sift than web 2.0 was, although less tangible from a user interface perspective: this semantic web will have an enormous impact on US companies return on assets independent to human 'pull' activities, and I believe that the successful collaborative enterprise requires an architectural model which is a skillful blend of push and pull in order to avoid the stasis that befalls dispassionate, cynical employees.
A third book arguably discusses some of those blended models: Vinnie Mirchandanis' forthcoming 'The New Polymath: profiles in Compound-Technology Innovations' invokes the spirit of the Italian renaissance to argue convincingly for a new generation of polymaths (individuals who excel in many disciplines). Using 'R-E-N-A-I-S-S-A-N-C-E' as a framework, with each letter a chapter that discusses a building block for the New Polymath: Residence; Exotics; Networks; Arsonists; Interfaces; Sustainability; Singularity; Analytics; Networks; Cloud Computing; and Ethics.
Mirchandani's book is packed with examples and quotes about innovation written by someone intimately involved with the pragmatic details of large enterprise deals and the delivery of business value. 'The New Polymath' discusses individual use models of modern tools and technologies as well as corporate use at all scales.
There are commonalities across all three of these books (I'm still digesting the last one, along with Vineet Nyar's excellent 'Employees First, Customers Second: Turning Conventional Management Upside Down'), and the New Polymath particularly has me ruminating on what fascinating times we live in.
The hard day-to-day reality of course is how to turn these ideas and concepts into tangible action items in the context of your business. How to motivate those one in five disengaged employees out of their stasis, who may have great intellect and depth, and how to avoid the lowest common denominator communication clogging syndromes that plague social media marketing and obscures the fascinating innovation going on using similar tools.