Communication Digital Transformation News and Events Painless Change People strategy Uncategorized

Thriving in turbulent (Digital) times

These are a few of the slogans flowing around Digital and Business Transformation and my reply in brackets.

Digital is eating the world (Yes)

The World is being disrupted (So what?)

The future is too hard to predict (Not really)

The overspill of digital technology is impacting every business. Scare stories abound and they don’t offer much of a solution.

The reality is the internet has changed how you do your job. And it is going to continue to change how you do your job.

If you don’t change someone who will change will put you out of business, or make your organisation seem too inefficient by comparison. Copying the work of the kid at the next desk doesn’t work.

Learning together, open conversation and preparing and adapting to change does work.

It is not the strongest businesses, nor the smartest, nor the one with the most money (though that helps) that succeeds. It is the ones that adapt to change fast enough.

We’re running a workshop on this topic in a few weeks. If you’re interested in this you can find out more here.

Digital Transformation News and Events Painless Change People Technology Uncategorized

Digital Age Orientation Day

If you have two and a half minutes take a look at the video below on Bronze Age Orientation day. It’s short, it’s funny and it’s true.

It underlines that the concept of change is not unique to the our digital age. No Company ever likes to transform itself (if the caterpillar had a choice, would it become a butterfly?) but in most cases they have learned to accept the fact that they have to.

Companies have been dealing with mergers, acquisitions, buyouts, restructuring, de-localisations, re-localisations for a long time. If you’ve been through it you’ll know this sort of radical transformation is slow and painful: the all-or-nothing approach forcefully pushed by many consultants is not popular and also falls flat a lot of the time. The Digital Age is here. It’s been coming for twenty years and to succeed in this environment every business needs to be a Digital Business.

We’ll be running a daylong course at the end of the month on Digital Change and how to manage it in your organisation. Our approach is gradual, offers numerous intermediate steps, defines clear deliverables and measurements and ties companies to their specific context. It’s Digital Transformation tempered by Change Management methods and experience

You can find out more here

Candid Communication News and Events People Uncategorized

Candid: Mary Carty From Curiosity to Creativity

This was the fourth in our series of #Candid talks with the wonderful Mary Carty on the 22nd of October. Rowan Manahan who was in the audience kindly did this guest post for us.

The Craft of Creation – Mary Carty

A #Candid talk on by the ever-candid, crafty and bogglingly creative Mary Carty quickly evolved into a high-energy dialogue about curiosity. Mary pivoted the talk early onto that subject and immediately challenged the room to think about genuine curiosity and to ask ourselves why aren’t certain questions being asked in our world.

She shared with us the question that she and Anne-Marie Imafidon asked themselves last year – “Why are there so few women in tech?” More importantly, they asked themselves, “What are we going to do about it?”

And thus Outbox Incubator was born. That story of 115 young double-X chromosome geniuses coming through one big house in London is familiar enough to those who followed the rise of the Outbox Executives last summer. Mary took us behind the scenes into the world of “Fun. Free. Food” – which were the pillars on which Outbox was built.

Suffice to say to ensure the smooth running of any future enterprise involving young women from the ages of 11 to 22, always ensure that there is a quiet, get-away-from-it-all staircase and a bounteous stash of hot chocolate and Mars Bars.

Some of Mary’s other notable questions:

“Have you ever seen a panel of VCs all smiling, all at once, all day?”

“Why don’t we push against or find answers to the known unknowns?”

“Why don’t you give yourself permission to be curious, really curious?”

Take it from a woman who has created some pretty cool stuff – we can create what we want to create, we just have to make the choice to be curious enough to start …

Thanks to Rowan for his take on Mary’s event, it was really powerful.

Rowan is our next guest in this Candid series and he is with us on 10th December to lead a discussion on the Heart and Art of Public Speaking – info and tickets here.


News and Events People Uncategorized

Yes to equality.

On Friday the Near Future principals Keith and Dermot will be voting yes to equality and we’re encouraging everyone do do the same.

We believe this is a matter of human rights, and that it should be the case that”“Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”

It is a simple as that.

The Irish Times summed it up well when saying

We devalue many lives by confining them to second class status. We tell children of “irregular unions” they are worth less, and young people struggling with sexual identity that some choices are less valid, trapping many in secret, painful worlds of denial. We tell couples their commitment to each other can never be as deep or valid as the relationships their brothers, sisters, or parents have been committed to. And that the State will not offer them the same protection, the same honour.

That is not who we are as a people. We are generous and open, inclusive and non-judgmental. And we are committed to strengthening the institution of marriage. That is why we will vote Yes.


Candid News and Events Uncategorized

Dubunking some of our notions about support for Science

We held our first #debunk in the Project Art Centre on the 9th of April.  It’s the first in a series of free morning Near Future events in Dublin where we explore #debunking some of the truism’s that misguide us all in our thinking and decision making.

After great coffee and pastries our first speaker Barre Fitzpatrick (pictured above) spoke eloquently on the nature and role of funding for basic Science research in Ireland.  This is a topic of critical importance to Ireland as a society and its place in the world. Barre pointed out that before 1999 we lacked a serious policy and investment in Science. This despite significant achievement in Science over many years.

The changed with the foundation of Science Foundation Ireland in 2000 and in some respects the period from 2000-2009 can be seen as a brief golden age for Science in Ireland.  An all too brief period it seems. Despite a decade of work the foundations that were being build are starting to crumble. A letter signed by over 900 Irish Scientists appearing just before our talk served to underline this problem.

A key point that Barre made, and is raised by the letter is that

By their very nature, such discoveries are not predictable and cannot be prescribed by what the Government calls “oriented basic research”. Equally unpredictable are the areas in which important discoveries will be made. Basic research should be funded on the criterion of excellence alone to ensure a credible and sustainable scientific infrastructure.

The Innovation Union Scorecard shows that Ireland

According to the Innovation Union Scoreboard 2014, Ireland ranks ninth on the performance of research and innovation systems in the EU countries.

Sweden tops the list, followed by Denmark, Germany and Finland. These states have balanced research and innovation systems, with very good performance on all aspects evaluated (research and innovation inputs; business innovation activities; innovation outputs; and economic effects).

As Barre noted during the talk most Irish statistics used relate back to numbers for 2009. When the system was at it’s strongest.

Barre took us through some critical points on language and the use of language with regards to research.  The linguistic positioning of research as “pure” and “ivory-tower” and a “blue sky” approach was contracted with the need for a pragmatic “grounded” approach in Ireland’s straightened circumstances. This illustration

Using another metaphor a recent piece in the Irish times wrote that

Making sure we have an SSTI policy that delivers is crucial. The age-old metaphor– “the chain is as strong as the weakest link” – is very relevant here both in relation to RD&I policies for enterprises and for investment in research and development in the higher education sector, since research and innovation are on a continuum.

To thrive in the 21st Century Ireland needs the correct State policies in place to foster local innovation, a system of secondary education that produces a scientifically literate knowledgeable society, a system of tertiary education that generates new knowledge, an industrial system that works with the educational system to produce innovative goods and services, and a system of state structures that provides the overarching framework to support innovation. The system must be dynamic enough to anticipate, pre-empt, and adapt to exogenous change yet static enough preserve the ability to change.

Despite our rhetoric about the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) we are failing badly at this.

Barre’s inspired half hour exposition led into a further animated  half hour discussion amongst the attendees before we reluctantly wrapped up just after 9am.

News and Events strategy Uncategorized

The Emperor’s New Facts

“It ain’t so much the things we don’t know that get us into trouble, it’s the things we do know that just ain’t so.”  Artemus Ward

We’re focussed on helping people improve their businesses in Near Future.  And we think a lot about how we might do that. A part of that involves improved thinking, and asking awkward questions.  I’ve found over time that most ideas are logically constructed and the best way to challenge ideas are to challenge the assumptions, the basis on which they’re built.  If the assumptions are wrong everything else falls apart.

Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert L Sutton wrote a wonderful book on evidence based management a few years ago called “Hard Fact, Dangerous Half Truths & Total Nonsense” which poked holes in many of the modern Shibboleths of management.

One of the myths that Sutton and Pfeffer explored in their books was on the nature of Financial Incentives. The evidence shows that incentives sometimes demotivate, sometimes motivate the wrong behaviour and often attract the wrong sort of talent. Even in the best of circumstance are damn hard to get right. Even a company as clever as Microsoft has managed to design disastrous incentive systems that it has now abandoned.

We are planning a breakfast event in a few weeks in. It will be on the theme of what we know that isn’t true.  It is designed to break open a few management myths, the Emperors New Facts. The event will be invite only and we have a few open slots, email dermot if you’d like to be included in this or future events that we might run.

In the meantime, we’d love to hear your ideas of things that are generally assumed but are wrong.



News and Events strategy Uncategorized

Better Butterfly than Bankrupt. Why Newspapers need to create new products

It’s no secret that Newspapers are dying. Look at any set of figures and they are on a slow (and sometimes fast) downward spiral. Circulation is down. And advertising revenue has been badly hit. One could be cynical enough to wonder if all the talk about a new housing bubble in Ireland is a desperate “Hail Mary” pass to bring back advertising revenue.

So what are Newspapers to do? “Go digital or home” might be the mantra. Lots of eyeballs online to compensate for fewer eyeballs offline? All chasing the same advertising dollar? Not the best strategy in the world. Paywalls. Sure if you’re the New York Times there may be some margin in that. What happens if The Irish Times puts up a paywall?

Even if people are buying the paper they don’t have time to read the damn thing.  TV, Radio, Buzzfeed, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, iPlayer, NetFlix, Spotify, WhatsApp, Vox, Viber, Vocativ, Vice. 57 bajillion channels of information.  And not enough time. Not even at the weekend.  As Markham Nolan deftly asked on Twitter last week

So what are Newspapers to do?  There can only be a few New York Times/Guardian/Mail Online sites.  Offering a generic product that a million others are offering in a generic marketplace is not a happy place to be.  News in many respects is the reddest of Red Oceans. Draw a Wardley Map of News and its not going to a pretty picture.

A different approach is to go swimming in a Blue Ocean. Create new products that people will pay for. Stop chasing the advertising revenue. Yes maximise the amount you can make with your current product and stop obsessing about that and how many copies of pure paper sales you’ll make. Create new products and sell them to people.

Journalists, good journalists, are great on insight, on synthesis and generating value from information. So they should build products that people will pay for. Business products, financial services products, sports products, personal products. Yesterday LovinDublin introduced a mobile app. It has an interesting model, you pay €3.59 per month for a specialist magazine.  You pay for the product. Niall Harbison who is behind LovinDublin is loved and hated in equal measure if the Twitter reaction is anything to go by.  And he has by all accounts a terrible cheek in asking for money a product.

The question I’d like to ask is how come none of our Newspapers with hundreds of staff producing volumes of content on a daily basis came up with this idea? This product could fail spectacularly.  Or it may make a nice little revenue stream.  It’s not going to bankrupt Niall or LovinDublin. And it certainly wouldn’t bankrupt any of our Newspapers.  It’s a safe fail experiment.  And Newspapers and News organisations need to do lots of those.

There are lots of products that will add value to peoples lives that Newspapers are capable of creating.  And lots of products that businesses could pay for.  There are lots of data in the world that can be used to build new products and services for people.  Newspapers and News organisations could and should be working on these.   No one is suggesting this is easy or painless. It’s a bit like a caterpillar transforming itself into a butterfly, painful as hell and rips the creature apart in the process before something new is created. And it beats the alternative. Better butterfly than bankrupt.

If your mission is to produce great journalism then go create some products that will pay for that. It used be Crosswords, TV Guides, Restaurant Reviews, and Horoscopes. Now is the time to create some new ones.

(Some of the ideas here crystallised in conversation with Gavin Sheridan)

Image via Peter101 on Flickr. Shared via Creative Commons License.