The Elephant, The Rider and The Path to Cloud Computing

August 19, 2010

A common thread that runs between IT and innovation in general is that new ideas require change. As Chip Heath said at the World Innovation Forum in June ’10 (that’s him above): change is hard, it can be futile and most people resist and hate change.  Chip and his brother Dan have written two books, the second one is Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard (disclosure: I received a free copy at the conference).  Cloud computing is a big and potentially scary change, how is the industry doing at creating the correct environment for customers to undertake the new products and services?  At VMworld, “The Cube” will be broadcasting LIVE and digging deep into this topic – see all the details on SiliconANGLE and be sure to tune in Aug 30-Sept 2 for executives, customers, bloggers and analysts.

“A long journey starts with a single step.”… But you know what else starts with a single step? An ill-conceived amble that you abandon after a few minutes.

The theory of Switch is that when change works, it follows a pattern.  There are three pieces of the pattern which they describe as The Rider, The Elephant and The Path.

The Rider is analytical and works well with concrete examples to follow, a technique discussed is following “bright spots”.  These are not happy thoughts, but finding successful results and replicating and amplifying them.  What may look like resistance to change  may simply be cluelessness of not knowing which direction to go, so scripting the first steps will help get people on the right track.  This is similar to getting the low hanging fruit – what is the one thing that can be done or changed that get people moving in the right direction.  An example in the book was a campaign to get people to switch from whole milk to 1%.  It is a simple change that dramatically lowers the daily fat intake and compared to the food pyramid, it is easily understood and followed.  On the analytical side, customers are confronted with a lot of information about cloud computing, but it is often difficult to distinguish between vision and reality.  Plenty of companies are utilizing public cloud offerings and this puts internal IT organizations in the position of having to be competitive with the flexibility and costs that their lines of business can get directly from the cloud.  When it comes to fully virtualized solutions, the analytical customers are still asking a lot of questions about security and management.  As for scripting the critical moves, turnkey solutions and integrated stacks have been coming to market, allowing customers to deploy virtualized data centers or private clouds.

The Elephant is the automatic reaction and emotional side.  The voice of the elephant tells you to eat the entire quart of ice cream, that you must check email constantly and when it comes to change *THAT’S WRONG*.  In trying to create a major change, the action is not Think > Analyze > Change, but rather See > Feel > Change.  A recommendation for the emotional side is to find the feeling that will allow people to see and connect with the change.  Another method of motivating the elephant is by shrinking the change, breaking it down into pieces that aren’t as scary and get the snowball rolling towards the ultimate goal.  In order to avoid spooking the elephant, people must understand that change is a journey that will have peaks and valleys – “rarely a graceful leap from heigh to height” – and that if failure and challenges are listed as an expected part of the journey, that people will be less likely to give up when there are challenges.  Cloud computing has a way to go on the emotional side.  Many IT practitioners still have the elephant voice telling them that cloud = no job.  There are plenty of ways to create bite-sized changes along the path to cloud such as deploying a single application (take backup as an example).  I’ve yet to see anyone embracing failure as part of the deployment of cloud computing, but would love to hear from customers about learning experiences that they’ve had in this regard.

I’d read plenty in sales and business books dealing with emotional and analytical positioning, but Shaping The Path was new to me and resonated strongly.  Chip said that we often have a fundamental attribution error – that is we focus on people rather than situation.  As an example, if a car cuts you off on a highway, we blame the person, not the situation (which could be the road itself or extenuating circumstances that causes the person to be driving more reckless than they should).  Shaping the Path can be done through adjusting the environment, building habits or “rallying the herd”.  An example given for tweaking the environment was to give software engineers “quiet hours” (or what EMC called the “cone of silence”), specific times where they would not be interrupted and could focus on their job without having to feel guilty for not checking email, answering calls or otherwise being distracted from their primary job.  As part of building habits, Heath advocates that checklists can help people from becoming overconfident.  People think that having a checklist means that you can’t remember or don’t know your job, when it is can be a reminder of the mission-critical things that must be done and help avoid mistakes.  “So before you conclude that your husband is hopelessly absentminded, always forgetting to pick up the dry cleaning and the milk, maybe you should try shaping his Path. How about taping a checklist to his steering wheel?”  Finally, rallying the herd is about allowing reformers to have a space to discuss their change plans and let the environment become contagious.  Rather than completely separating reformers from resisters, Heath advocates going through an “organizational molting” so that the new culture takes over.  Doing a search, I see that there are plenty of Cloud Computing checklists – has anyone found any good ones?  Industry conferences can often be a great place to rally the herd and as I mentioned earlier, the live broadcast on SiliconANGLE will highlight those customers who can share “next practices” for cloud computing.

Don’t think outside of the box – find a good box and think inside it. -Chip Heath

One of the funniest things that Chip Heath said was that most people think that change is really hard, yet the #1 and #2 most stressful and challenging changes in people’s lives are sought after and embraced.  Getting married (#2) and having children (#1) are a more dramatic change than any merger and acquisition or industry shift.  Sure there are plenty of challenges in implementing cloud computing and other innovations, but with a good pattern to follow, the journey can be undertaken intelligently.

Stuart Miniman


PS – Speaking of Tweaking the Path, check out the new “Tweet” button (below), a nice new option on WordPress from Twitter to make it easy to share articles like this (go ahead and try it)


Is Twitter Innovative? @biz at #wif10

June 11, 2010

Social Networking was well represented at the World Innovation Forum including discussion of Web 2.0 from former Amazon Chief Scientist Andreas Weigend, technology venture capitalist Brian Shawn Cohen and Twitter co-founder @Biz Stone.  At events, I use Twitter for taking notes (I’ll quote a few in this post).

RT @stephenshapiro: Biz stone from twitter on the stage. Surreal tweeting about twitter. #wif10 < surreal? no, flashback to 2008/9

5:36 PM Jun 8th via TweetDeck  [I also wrote a few blog posts about Twitter in 2008/9, and here I am again writing about it]

How do we innovate?

There are many ways that companies can innovate including internal development, crowdsourcing, and through acquisition.  Twitter has done all of these.  Twitter started as a very simple tool – broadcasting 140-character messages sent via SMS (text) or web for the world to see.  One of the most innovative things that Twitter did was not limit how users used the tool.  Several features created by users, such as hashtags and retweets, were eventually adopted by Twitter and built into the system.

@Biz at #WIF10 People are basically good and if you give them a tool to do good they will

5:36 PM Jun 8th by @KenMcArthur

Twitter has acquired a number of large pieces of the partner ecosystem including search (Summize) and an iPhone application (Tweetie).  They have also followed/copied ideas from other companies such as Lists (as seen on TweetDeck and Seesmic) and location/geo (many tools such as FourSquare and Gowalla).  I have wondered if we can really call Twitter innovative since so much of the improvements have come from outside.  When you consider that Twitter is a very young company (3 years) with a small staff, I think it is innovative that they have used all means possible to grow at such a rapid pace.  The community may be a little disgruntled form time-to-time, but that is even happening with Facebook and Apple.

Twitter had early fame, @biz concerned they don’t become like a crazy famous child actor, want to be like Ron Howard instead #wif10

5:38 PM Jun 8th via TweetDeck

People get all wide-eyed when you hear of the millions of people using the service who are sending over 65 millions tweets a day.  Twitter allows for connection of people.  Case in point of translating online to in-person: click on the tab of “Blogger Photos” at the top of my blog page.  Another example – I posted this question online at the beginning of Biz’s interview.

#wif10 @biz says that the starting point for Twitter is SEARCH – agree, but we need better analytics & access to more data

5:32 PM Jun 8th via TweetDeck

When we reached the Q&A, I ran down and asked Biz the question about analytics in person and got the answer:

Stone: We will provide a metric dashboard for twitter soon.#WIF10

June 8, 2010 5:57:50 PM EDT by @daniel_krauss

The Star Wars reference for 2010! RT @stevetodd @stu is directly asking @biz about Twitters search deficiencies. Brave, young padawan #wif10

5:58 PM Jun 8th by @InnosightTeam

In typical Twitter fashion, friends in person and online were excited that Biz gave me props for my @stu name (which I learned thanks to a RT by Hutch Carpenter of a blog from Jesse Stay).

Twitter Trends

This was the second year that the World Innovation Forum had a Bloggers Hub and there was a significant difference in the Twitter experience.  Last year only about half of the bloggers attending were active Twitter users, yet the conference trended worldwide twice thanks to lots of interaction from people around the world watching the stream.  This year not only were all of the bloggers on Twitter, but there was a lot of other very good Twitter content from the paying audience (which had doubled to 900 people).  There were over 3500 Tweets sent (you can see them all & download them from Twapperkeeper), yet the conference did not even trend locally.  Did Twitter downtime affect this – it was flakier this year than last, did the overload from the new iPhone launch affect the stability for the whole week?  Maybe it was just a mixture of other news and people being very busy (hopefully, with the economy picking up).  Sports, entertainment and news may dominate the trending topics of Twitter, but it is without a doubt that there are a lot of innovative communication going through Twitter’s channel.

RT @frijolita: Open exchange of information *can* have a positive global impact says @biz #WIF10 < such as getting together for beer!

5:48 PM Jun 8th

Stuart Miniman

Twitter: @stu


Seth Godin: Creating Tribes to Drive Change

June 9, 2010

Seth Godin, a prolific marketing blogger and author, spoke to the World Innovation Forum about innovation.  Much of his material was from his two most recent books – Tribes and Lynchpin.

Innovation is stuff that’s impossible, because otherwise someone else would have done it

Tribes is about leading the groups that already exist.  Communities in the past were formed around politics, religion or sports, now they can be for anything that can get people passionate.  As people get emotionally engaged, they can overcome fear of change by charging to the new way with a group of like-minded people.

In the IT world, convergence, virtualization and cloud are innovative trends that have the potential for companies to fundamentally alter the way that they do business.  Like any new idea, there is inertia and resistance to making this change.  For a couple of years, there have been thought leaders (including bloggers) that have been trying to lead this revolution.  This top-down messaging was a good start to allow people to become familiar with technology.  We are now starting to see field organizations from vendors adjust their structure to support cross-disciplinary offerings.  The prime example of this are vSpecialists from the VCE coalition – where there are employees from VMware, Cisco and EMC who are cross-trained on the full storage, network and server virtualization stack.  Enterprise IT organizations will also need to adjust to realize the operational efficiencies of the new solutions.  Nick Lippis had reported that some customers are creating a Chief Data Center Officer (CDO) for merging various disciplines.  J Michel Metz (Cisco) recently put a proposal out for a new SLAM (Storage and Local Area Management) Administrator to help with the bottom-up adoption of convergence.

Are you comfortable with the state of things today, or are you willing to help lead change?  I’ll leave with with a couple more words of wisdom from Seth Godin:

If you’re working for a big company, start with small changes, such as writing a blog or changing a meeting and these can grow into larger innovations.  Ask yourself, am I doing what I should be to make a difference or should I give my chair to someone else.

Go make something happen!

Stuart Miniman


Michael Porter: Changing the Delivery of Value

June 8, 2010

Michael Porter kicked off the World Innovation Forum at the Nokia Theatre in NYC today.  He spoke on healthcare – a topic which affects everyone – you can see a portion of this content in a video that was posted from Davos 2010.  There are also plenty of lessons around strategy that can be applied broadly.

Porter believes that there is a fundamental issue with how the challenge of healthcare is framed.  Most people are concerned about the cost of healthcare (where there is a downward spiral of losing as everyone tries to shrink the bottom line) while the focus should be on increasing value for the patient.  He defined value as the patient health outcome per dollar spent.  We know in business that the worst competition is based on price and that it is better to focus on solving customer problems.

In general, it is not a technology issue, but the delivery of the value.  Porter said, “We are delivering 21st century medical technology with 19th century organizational, management and pricing models.”  He gave an example of the German healthcare system which is focused on specialization. Similar to large organizations, there are cylinders of excellence (silos) where there are specialties for everything and an abundance of paperwork and processes which limit the flow and speed of information and care.  The German system changed by creating integrated practice units which changed the focus to the patient and specific connected areas (cancer, migraines, etc).  In corporations, while not every company can be flattened or reorganized around solutions, there can at least be cross-functional collaboration that can break through the walls of the silos.

Another change that Porter advocates for the delivery model is that healthcare providers need to look beyond their own resources.  In the old way, hospitals would try and treat every patient for every ailment and surgery possible.  In the new way, providers that have specific expertise around a specific disease or surgery can move beyond their current geographic limitation to provide services through affiliations and partnerships.  An example that he gave was that a hospital that did one knee replacement a week was inefficient, wasteful or resources and likely to be lower quality than a hospital that does dozens of these surgeries a week; they should partner.  This is the same sort of innovation that we have seen in business where companies create synergies with partners to deliver more value at lower costs.  To take it a step further, while companies have come a long way to improve manufacturing processes and partnerships in sales, most are still not leveraging and sharing information as well as they do resources.  People are good at looking at Google and Wikipedia for basic information, but through communities and social media networks, companies and individuals can get real-time answers and insights.  I would challenge you that if you have a process or technology that you are struggling with, consider reaching out to whatever community that you are on – Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn and see if someone has an answer or idea to help solve it.  I know that I’m a little biased on the power of communities, since I’m not only active on those social media sites, but working at a company allows the IT community to share and collaborate.

The Twitter hashtag for the conference is #wif10 and you can follow me @stu.

Stuart Miniman


Research for the World Innovation Forum 2010

May 27, 2010

I will be attending the World Innovation Forum in NYC on June 8-9th [disclosure: I have a free pass to the conference as a blogger; I am under no obligation to write anything].  I’ve done some background checks, researching the line-up of speakers, and wanted to share what I’ve found.  I like to understand a bit of their backgrounds so that I’m ready for the rapid-fire rotation that we’ll see.  I find that reviewing the speaker’s most recent book summary, blog posts and Twitter are useful, so I created a spreadsheet with all of this information (click on the image below to be taken to the Google Document Spreadsheet).  On the spreadsheet, you can follow links by highlighting a cell and clicking the arrow that appears to the left of the cell.

I’m excited by what I’ve learned already — the conference has a good mix of academics, executives and entrepreneurs.  Twitter has grown a lot in the last year; not only is one of the founders, Biz Stone, a speaker, but seven other speakers have active Twitter accounts.  I found some good multimedia content including speeches from Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler, podcasts from former Amazon Chief Scientist Andreas Weigend, and an episode of the Colbert Report with Teach for America’s Wendy Kopp.  Over half of the speakers are authors, and there is a mix of how much material can be found online for free. Michael Porter’s website on Harvard Business Review is fantastic, there is also a lot of content for the environmentally conscious on Joel Makower’s website and Jeffrey Hollender’s Seventh Generation company’s site.  Seth Godin is a prolific blogger and author; he also has two great TED videos (of course, it’s rare that I find a TED video that I don’t love).  I’m sure that I’ll be adding to my bookshelf after attending the conference.

Remote Participation

In addition to the free content delivered through Twitter and blogs, HSM is also offering a full live webcast [for a fee] of the conference.  As for what you can expect from Twitter and blogs, see my posts from last year’s World Innovation Forum and World Business Forum.  Make sure to check out all of the members of the Blogger’s Hub; I’m looking forward to catching up with friends from last year’s conferences and meeting some new bloggers.  The Twitter hashtag for the conference is #wif10 and you can follow me @stu.

Please post a comment with any additional resources, suggestions or questions that you have for the speakers and consider subscribing to this blog.

Stuart Miniman


Tapping into blogger communities

March 31, 2010

What is a blogger?  Not only are there the corporate and independent bloggers, but many bloggers don’t fall into the well defined traditional buckets such as marketing, press, or analyst.  While companies have mostly tackled how they will allow their employees to participate in the social world, how can companies engage and tap into the fast-changing communities of external bloggers?

Over the last year, I’ve had the pleasure of participating a number of events that have tapped into blogger communities – see my Blogger Photo wall for some of them.  Bloggers are always looking for connections and information, so if you can bring together a group that have similar interests around an event is a good way to build some goodwill.  Most bloggers are rather social and many are including photos and videos, so make sure to give them time to socialize and appropriate power, networking and  interview areas.

Here are 3 upcoming events of blogger communities:

The brainchild of Stephen Foskett, the 2nd Gestalt IT Tech Field Day is coming to Boston on April 8th and 9th.  As described on the website: “This unique event brings together innovative IT product vendors and independent thought leaders, allowing them to get to know one another. It is a forum for engagement, education, hands-on experience, and feedback.”  EMC is a sponsor of the event which provides us with 3 hours where we are looking forward to good technical discussion.  These events help to increase connections and is a clear benefit to both the attendees and sponsors by building a tighter sense of community.  One of the aspects of the event that I really like is that there is time for discussion and socialization built into the schedule.  You can follow the event on Twitter using #TechFieldDay.

We are in full preparation mode for this year’s EMC World, which is being held in Boston from May 10-13 – see the site for registration details.  Len Devanna is bringing back the highly successful Blogger’s Lounge to this years show.  Looks like we’ll have an interesting mix of tech bloggers, social media experts, press and analysts.  I had so many good conversations at last year’s event that I had lost my voice by Wednesday.  Bloggers can sign up for entrance on this wiki.  In addition to the usual broad spectrum of keynotes and technical presentations, I’m hearing that a lot of the podcasts and industry calls that normally take a week off for the conference will be broadcast from EMC World this year.  It will be like the Superbowl week for the storage industry.  If any bloggers have questions about attending or partners have questions about tapping into some of the special events, feel free to drop me a note and I’ll be happy to help connect you with the appropriate people.  You can follow the event on Twitter using #emcworld.

The third event is the World Innovation Forum which is held in New York City on June 8-9th.  HSM Americas started a blogger’s lounge for the World Innovation Forum and World Business Forum last year and they were both tremendous events.  In addition to the world class speakers, they helped to create a community of bloggers from diverse industries.  The bloggers are given access similar to press which included special seating, plus the very necessary network and power connections.  The Twitter activity and blogging posts increase the conference’s reach around the world and continues the discussions long after the conference has ended.  There are so many things that can be learned by reading and interacting with bright and engaged people with very different points of view.  If you can’t make this event in person, you can follow it on Twitter using #wif10.

Have you seen any other interesting engagements with blogging communities?  I hope that you’ll join some of the upcoming events, either in person or through conversation on Twitter or through this blog.  I’d love to share any viewpoints or questions from the community at these events.  If you’re new to this site, please consider subscribing to this blog.

Stuart Miniman