Clueless or Empowered

Those who know me well have probably heard me quote from The Cluetrain Manifesto ad nauseam, yet I am always astounded by how few people have read this life-changing book. It remains one of my most-referenced pieces of wisdom in navigating the digital revolution.

So, its good to see the folks at Forrester revisiting it and looking at contemporary practices that are emerging in the fulfilment of the vision and predictions of the Cluetrain Manifesto. I think a few of my colleagues in IT will be especially pleased by Empowered Chapter 12, whilst others will be wondering how on earth they are supposed to mitigate risks and keep costs down. 

Its good to see evidence that finally, leadership teams are beginning to actively grapple with these issues instead of ignoring it. And easy, it is NOT! But fun? Hell yes! Put it in your boss’ Christmas stocking, and if you ARE the boss, make sure you read this and change the way you lead. You will thank me for this later. 


by Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler


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.



THE GEEK’s version of the “Tradie belt”

I haven’t yet met a geek who doesn’t love toys (except for @jeffjervis who was trying to be contrarian with his dramatic stunt of publicly “reboxing of his ipad” with great bravado on YouTube today.) Thanks- picked that one up via @IA on Twitter. 


An act that suggests to me maybe Jeff is just a “pretend geek” and not an inventor, despite having written about the the current Gods of Geekdom at Google so eloquently . Geeks rule the earth because they are experimenters, tinkerers and inventors. If they cant figure out a need for it, they will invent one, as hacker, serial inventor and futurist Paul Pablos Holman so elegantly explains here . -It’s called user-led innovation, and a catalogue of thousands of iphone and ipad apps invented by users is testimony this phenomenon. ) 

But the reason for this post is not to snigger at Jeff, who is clearly VERY courageous to voice a contrarian opinion, but to rather celebrate the energetic messages of worlds of posibility opened by the smart use of technology, brought to us by the Montero brothers on their amazingly rich blog called The Anywhere Office.

Here is just one example of why you should subscribe to them if you are in the business of getting the most value out of the time you have available through the smart use of tools and work and organisation methods. They came up with this idea to enter a competition to win a Flip Ultra HD Camcorder.….and they won! Full story here and this was the video they made that won them first prize. ! 

I have recently ordered 3 new Flip HD minos for our office to lend out to IT teams to submit content for our World Creativity Week celebration (more about that later- see also my earlier post) . And, I have  requested our contracts team to negotiate a mass purchase price so that this vital communication and knowledge capture and sharing device can be offered as an extension of our standard operating environment (SOE) aka “geek toolbelt” at work at less than AU $200 per unit. (We actually bought the starter pack of 3 for US$154 each on Amazon)

This device will pay for itself in a single hour of video footage if it helps create better storytelling capability around work-related issues, aha moments and camaraderie-building. Yes, and even fun has a business value. If you don’t believe me and want that scientifcally verified, read The Levity Effect“. 

So Jeff, even though I am not sure exactly what business problem we will solve this way, I am pretty sure that it will emerge….and that’s what experimentation is all about. 

Tradie belt: Australian slang for pseudo-sex object- a leather contraption slung suggestively low around the hips and worn by a tradesman- like a cowboy’s gun-holster- in which he carries his tools of trade and paraphernalia like pliers, hammer, screwdrivers, measuring tape, etc