What is the future of the enterprise and its relationship with the individual?
How is social media and the entry of ‘digital natives’ into the workforce going to change the face of business?
These are two questions that John Hagel III, John Seely Brown and Land Davison (HSBD) discuss in their book Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things. The authors have written a good book with strong views on the future nature of enterprises and their relationship to individuals. The Power of Pull is one of the most comprehensively thought out books on the subject of social media and the future of the enterprise to have come out. It goes way beyond the buzzword or branding driven works that concentrate more on staking out territory than investigating the future of companies, individuals and technology.
This is not a technology book, in fact it is more about the theory of the individual, their value and the impact of that value on companies. The central premise is that “institutions will be shaped to provide platforms to help individual achieve their full potential by connecting with others and better addressing challenging performance needs” page 8. This is a distinctively different view form others who see the future of social computing as one of communities or collectives taking action. Hagel, Seely Brown and Davison then go on to discuss such an environment as one of “pull” with three basic principles.
- Finding and accessing people and resources we need
- Having the ability to attack people and resources to yourself that are relevant and valuable
- Pull from within ourselves the indicate and performance required to achieve our potential
Now you can combine the quote and the points above and think this is a book at the cross roads between an academic researcher and Tony Robbins. This book is anything but. I have tremendous respect for the authors who have delivered a comprehensive and thoughtful book on a complex subject.
Hagel, Seely Brown and Davison see ‘Pull’ as concentrating on the innovation and new ideas that come from the people on the edge, those who are experimenting and pushing the envelope. They use the example of large wave surfing to illustrate that people working on the edge of their profession deploy sophisticated tools and communications patterns to make breakthroughs.
Creating breakthroughs is an integral part of competing in the future and therefore something that companies need to get better at. That is where the individual fits into their argument, they can engage the edge, learn more, build the relationships that bring the best of the edge into their creation spaces that allows them to leverage themselves in the corporation. It is an interesting premise and one that the authors illustrate through several ‘mavens’
I recommend this book in general and particularly the introduction and first chapter to business leaders who want a different view on the future and social media. Lately there are few books that I have highlighted or taken notes in the margins as much as I have with this one. There are a few strong ideas, well presented and discussed.
- The introduction – among the best and clearest I have ever read. It lays out the issues and scope of the book in a way that helps you figure out where to concentrate your attention as you read.
- The blending of business activities with technology as the book talks about the importance of platforms rather than applications and how enterprises will operate and compete more on platforms than products or market positions.
- Anti-hype, this is a serious look at the future without the platitudes about the net generation or how all our skills and what we know will be rendered irrelevant. In fact it is much the opposite.
- A rich blend of academic and engineering approaches to the issues that make for deep treatment of the issues.
- The book gets repetitive at times particularly as it talks through the three aspects of pull. It often relies on the same story that can lead to it becoming worn and overused. The reliance on three or four cases does provide depth, but no one case can fit all of these ideas, reducing the effectiveness of the examples.
- The two major examples are non-business examples that are fun to read, but challenging to see how it applies to me. It was great to learn about surfing and the world of warcraft but real companies are applying these ideas and it would have been better to hear about them.
- The book has more than its share of jargon and in an engineering/academic style this makes reading it a little harder than it should. Jargon includes: push, pull, edge, creative spaces, big shift and shaping strategies to name a few. This is where the consultant-ese gets in the way.
- The emphasis and contrast between push and pull is stark and needs to be for literary purposes. However much of the economy and much of our work will remain heavily push influenced even when we are all knowledge workers. Building that bridge is the bigger challenge than saying ‘all smart people go be self actualizing.’
Finally, this book is a Deloitte developed book and the authors are all associated with Deloitte. The authors have done a great job in not writing a book about why you should buy pull based consulting services. While the authors have done a nice job in maintaining or presenting their ideas independently, they have a business basis that the reader should take into consideration. Still recommended, but the ideas are big, the presentation comprehensive so you will need to pull on your thinking cap and take the time to reflect on what is in this book. Enjoy.
You can find my review and others of the book on Amazon at the following link.