Clearvale SecondFloor: “From the Chasm to the Cloud”

We’re all very excited to have Geoffrey Moore as our guest speaker at the upcoming CSF event. Author of “Crossing the Chasm” and other innovative business books, Moore has been an important figure in helping companies bridge the gap between business and technology innovation.

Taking place at Tech Mart and coinciding with the closing of the second day of the E2.0 Conference in Santa Clara (Nov 9th at 5:30, click here for details:, the event will be a great opportunity to unwind after the conference, network and learn about cloud computing, collaboration and the post web 2.0 economy.

Gearing up for the event, I had the opportunity speak with Moore about education, self-organizing principals of the internet and how your age might determine which resources you utilize on the internet.

Are you reading anything right now?

I read a ton of stuff outside the business world. Almost all of it is set in other periods. I did my dissertation on Medieval Renaissance literature; I love reading stories set in other periods.

I also tend to read books about Darwinism and self-organizing principles, so it’s all very abstract. Right now I’m reading Stuart Kauffman’s book “At Home in the Universe”. It’s one of a series of books I’m reading on “how do systems of order evolve?” It does ultimately relate to business. When I look at markets, I try to look at them as evolving ecosystems.

Considering that almost anyone has access to a platform that allows them to be a critic and publicly display their criticisms, how would some of your favorite writers have fared today?

I am a great believer in the marketplace of ideas. I actually think that what is going on today is extremely healthy, although there is a lot of second-guessing and cheap shots. Because in the digital and blog media, there’s a kind of “punchiness” you need to cut through that rewards the clever remark over the thoughtful remark.

Take the book that Nicholas Carr is working on and the idea that the internet is dumbing people down, what he’s worried about is that the clever will take over the perceptive or the thoughtful. I’m not as worried about that. I think the exchange of ideas is excellent. Most of the deep exchanges I have do not happen over the digital medium. But most of the trend detections do.

What I love about the world we’re living in right now is you’ll get massive exposure to lots and lots of signals, which is great, because it’s hard to be parochial. The challenge is you need to get off the grid in order to think and reflect on what those signals are actually detecting or reflecting. The thing my colleagues and I try to give back to our clients is the ability to create time for them to reflect. We also try to do reflecting on our own so we can try to be helpful in developing these deeper patterns that can guide management decision making in the middle of very uncertain situations. You need to have a playbook to play from in these situations. You can’t develop those patterns in the middle of a noisy environment. You have to extract yourself from the noise to do that.

Darwin was a great example; he spent the last 45 years of his life on his farm. He was definitely removed from the noise. I think Darwin would not have done particularly well in this environment, he was very, very careful about how he published – just the opposite of Facebook.

What responsibility does a person have when publishing content on the internet? What responsibility does a person have when choosing which content to read on the internet?

There are a couple of things that will sort that out. There’s no question that in the short term, people are being only as thoughtful as they need to be about source.

The New York Times and a casual blogger can look the same in terms of how they’re represented on an iPad or a PC. One is a highly reputable, highly researched reflection and the other one could be just the random jottings of a person under the influence of a passion. Several things will sort that all out. On the user side, it will be the idea of karma; whatever you do, the results of those actions will come back to you. You can take that in a mystical sense, or you can just say, “what goes around, comes around.” What people will have to realize is, whether they’re accountable or not, the world will hold them accountable. There are reckonings if you are careless with your words. That’s one of the governors on the user-generated side of things. People who don’t care about that governor are going to get a lot of bad karma. Whether that sorts them out or not, who knows?

On the other hand, edited content has more precision, more elegance and it cuts through the noise in ways that are more attractive. So it will reassert itself. The challenge has been: how do you monetize it? Wikipedia is a wonderful example of how you can potentially self-organize content. It has its advantages and its drawbacks, but it’s certainly an example of how you can evolve good, trustworthy content. You can think about eBay ratings and Yelp ratings and things like that, but it’s another way to cut through the self-serving behavior of people on the internet.

Do you use Wikipedia?

What I do is I use Google, and as often as not, Wikipedia is in the top 3 answers. So I end up going to Wikipedia, although I don’t start there.

What internet resources do you find personally valuable?

It’s interesting: most of my really valuable information comes directly from people. Partially because I’m at a stage in my career right now where most of the conversations I have with clients are at the higher level, so I get well-informed opinions from interesting people.

Do you have many conversations outside of the 2.0 realm?

Because of my age or demographic, social relationships are definitely 1.0.

A recent study of UK students suggests that young people feel detached and depressed when they unplug. Do you find time to unplug?

With joy. But understand that depending on what age you are, technologies are either inside of you or outside of you. For the first ten years of your life, it’s not technology; it’s just the world. So whatever you encounter, you don’t actually go through a technology adoption. However, at some point, you do organize your life around a set of technology and every subsequent technology is a disruption of that order.

So I organized my life in the 60’s around a typewriter and a pen, and much less TV. The personal computer and laptop were life changing for me and I absorbed them gratefully. The Blackberry was game changing for me, I absorbed it, but with some issues. It’s an interrupt driven medium and I am not an interrupt driven person. So subsequent technology I’ve had to hold at arms length; they’re not compatible with my mental rhythms. It’s what the world is about and where the world is going, and I definitely want to participate. But I can’t immerse myself in it.

How do people on the cusp of technological disruptions play into things?

Earlier, I said I Googled then used Wikipedia. If we were on the other side of the cusp, I would have said I checked Facebook, then Google, then Wikipedia.

When I grew up, you always sat by yourself and talking to another student about a problem was called cheating. When my kids grew up, they sat at tables with 3 or 4 other students and talking about a problem was called collaborating. The whole social networking approach to problem solving, even answering “what restaurant should we go to?” is done very differently on the other side of that cusp. I’ve watched this, and it’s clearly a transformative phenomenon. And I want to understand it as well as I can, but I’m clearly not a digital native; I’m a digital immigrant.

Does collaboration interfere with the positive impact that competition can have?

If the collaborative process does not produce a competitive result, then the organization that is failing that process is going to be marginalized. The organization that is creating better results will be prioritized. Now the argument about today’s business method is that in an outsourcing world, more and more companies are involved in getting an offer from inception to the market, then service and support. There are lots of companies involved in that, hence the need for more collaboration inherent in the systems. You can’t just walk your own path.

The reason I’m studying ecosystems is there is an inherent ecology in the current business model. So I think there’s reason to believe that people who are collaborating will be held accountable. If they’re not accountable, you don’t have to punish them because the world will punish them.

How does collaboration affect the way individuals are rewarded?

I grew up in a world where governments were working under a command and control model, a hierarchical structure with a top, middle and bottom. A lot of the rewards were based on either getting paid at the level you’re at or being promoted to the next one. A lot of behavior was perceived as game-behavior to get to the next level. In the collaborative model, it’s much more about being of service to something outside of yourself; service to a cause, an idea, a constituency, etc. So compensation models need to encourage people to be of service to something outside of the organization. Command and control tends to be of service to something inside the organization.

When the world changes, being internally focused is very dangerous. The collaborative model is very good at staying in touch with what’s outside the organization and going forward.

In my dad’s time, you took care of the corporation and the corporation took care of you. Nobody in my children’s world believes that. In my children’s world, you take care of yourself and you honor the corporation that employs you, but you don’t expect them to take care of you.

So there is a shift in the model of rewards, but I don’t think people should be disillusioned by it, they should be aware of it.

Do you see a trend of new tech leading to a return to traditional methodologies?
The locavore movement is a situation where technology and tradition are intersected. So locavore outcomes are being engineered through contemporary mediums: the taco truck is celebrating local ingredients and Tweeting about it.

Can you tell us about the book you’re working on?

It’s called “Escape Velocity”. We’re still playing with the title, but it’s about freeing up companies form the gravitational pull of last year’s plan. We do a lot of work with very successful franchises, and the challenge is: “how do they transcend success and incorporate the future?” Last year’s plan has enormous impact on next year’s plan in these companies, more so than anyone would like. So the issue is, how do you get out from underneath that?