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September 28, 2010

Cluetrain made actionable

by Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler

Cluetrain The Cluetrain Manifesto was an incredibly prescient book. It still amazes us that a book written in 2000, when blogs were novelties and Mark Zuckerberg was in high school, was able to identify the shift towards customer empowerment. Combine that with the insight that employees must directly engage with those customers, and you have a truly visionary work.

Because of when it was written, Cluetrain was not practical. A whole lot of people read it and said "Wow, this makes me think differently." But it's more inspiration than manual. Ten years later, its authors have seen their work's influence blossom, but even in 2008, when we published Groundswell, it was hard to act on many of the insights in Cluetrain.

Well, welcome to future, folks. We didn't set out to write Empowered to address the trends articulated so provocatively in Cluetrain -- we were just following the idea that emerged from our research into the way technology empowers individuals, both customers and employees. But that research led us to this fundamental principle:

To succeed with empowered customers, you must empower your employees to solve customer problems.

Looking at this, it seems very Cluetrain. Specically, Cluetrain theses 53 and 56: There are two conversations going on. One inside the company. One with the market. . . . These two conversations want to talk to each other. They are speaking the same language. They recognize each other's voices.

We have started to get a fair number of questions about it from others who find some of these thoughts familiar. We will be talking about it in our speech to the Web 2.0 Expo audience in New York today. But for the rest of you, here's a little closer look, the call and response.

Cluetrain thesis 50: Today, the org chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical. Respect for hands-on knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority.

Empowered Chapter 1: "Your staff are going to be coming up with solutions on their own . . . management's new job is to support and empower employees."

Cluetrain theses 8, 9, 10 and 18: In both internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge. As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally. . . . Companies that don't realize their markets are now networked person-to-person, getting smarter as a result and deply joined in conversation are missing their best opportunity.

Empowered Chapters 3-6: "[In the United States, people generate] more than half a trillion impressions [on one another about products and services every year.] . . . Solving customer problems, making customers happy, and harnessing their power to talk about it is marketing."

Cluetrain thesis 41: Companies make a religion of security, but this is largely a red herring. Most are protecting less against competitors than against their own market and workforce.

Empowered Chapter 12: "[L]ocking down technology doesn't work so well. . . IT has two new jobs: 1. train and educate information workers about how to keep themselves safe. 2. Help [employee innovators] assess manage, and mitigate risks associated with their projects."

We could go on, but there's no need. We promise you, we didn't set out to rewrite Cluetrain, we set out to create a practical manual for today's connected world. In that world, though, the shout that is The Cluetrain Manifesto has become the reality of customers and employees empowered by social, mobile, video, and cloud technologies. Cluetrain's ideas are now practical and actionable, but the details are a bitch. Empowered looks at the world of the 2010, complete with Twitter, Sharepoint, and Google App Engine, and tells you what to do. It's a management manual for the age of the empowered customer.

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Comments

Jeff Berg

On one hand, I love that you guys are mentioning the Cluetrain Manifesto, something that I frequently reference when talking to clients about social media.

On the other, why did you guys have to mention the Cluetrain Manifesto?!? Now people will think I'm a guy who keeps up with the industry instead of someone who can reference quasi-obscure books from ten years ago.

Josh Bernoff

Jeff: to answer your ironic comment seriously . . .

We got a bunch of questions about Cluetrain and Empowered so I wanted to get this out there to help people understand the relationship.

Cluetrain is not as quasi-obscure as you think ;-)

Doc Searls

Thanks for the kind words, and for doing the hard and good work of giving full (and practical real-world) respect to empowered customers and users. Right on.

One small and minor correction. Cluetrain (both the website and the book) were written in 1999 (wrapped at the end of August). The book came out in January 2000, just in time to cause the crash. :-)

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