All is Social by Graham Brown

From the book All is Social

Startling Science of the Social Starlings

Be amazed. It’s not just humans that have a strong Social Code but birds too. Treated as a mass this kind of phenomenon is known to scientists as “murmuration”. AI enthusiasts will know this as “emergent functionality” - the idea that complex behaviors can emerge from very simple rules.

Reclaim New York - the power of our Social Code

Brian Lehrer has been asking New Yorkers to help find the city’s “privately owned public spaces” – those small patches of indoor and outdoor real estate that property owners have committed to making available for public use. The world has heard of Zuccotti Park, thanks partly to the Occupy protests. But New York is dotted with these beautiful spaces.

Members of Occupy Wall Street sleep in Zuccotti Park near Wall Street, New York Members of Occupy Wall Street sleep in Zuccotti Park near Wall Street, New York. Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

Developers were given valuable exemptions to the city’s zoning rules in exchange for building and maintaining public areas. But building a space and letting the public use it are two different things. Michael Keller, behind the project, says there’s very little enforcement of the “public” part of these privately owned public spaces and equally little data about the shape they’re in. “Some, like Zuccotti Park, are very well maintained, while others,

Our Social Code: connectivity or die. Here’s how we turn unfriendly social spaces back into the humane. Here’s how we turn the stolen back over to the public domain. Great article. More examples of how the Social Code reclaims social space:
* Guerilla Gardening
* The Amazing Bubblegum Alley
* More Social Spaces Reclaimed
* Abandoned Theme Parks

Innovation Communities - how do they work?

Thanks to Gavin @ Servant of Chaos for this find. In the book All is Social I share stories of how innovation is a function of culture not strategy (The Porpoise, Scion and mobile technologies like SMS being examples). In this video, Marilyn Pratt and Anne Hardy and talk about social innovation as a function of its innovation community.

Facebook and Twitter Users don’t engage with brands (survey)

UK users of social media sites such as Facebook don’t want the hard sell from big brands, according to a survey. Photograph: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Almost two-thirds of Britons do not want to be bothered by big-name brands on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, according to a survey.

The survey of more than 72,000 internet users indicates that Britons are less susceptible to online marketing messages and corporate blogposts than web users in other countries.

No surprises here. People don’t wake up thinking about brands anymore. The challenge for brands today is understanding what they do wake up thinking about - their social needs.

Watering the Bamboo (book extract)

Small, ornamental bamboo plant.

Image via Wikipedia

This is an extract from chapter 1 “Watering the Bamboo” of the book. I’ve used an analogy of watering the bamboo to describe the challenges facing modern marketers today.

Sometimes you can’t articulate why something has to be done. It just feels right. It’s an act of faith when all around you common sense and feedback is telling you to give up. You plant the bamboo bulb and water it but nothing grows. You keep watering it for a year and nothing grows. Most people would give up but the diligent, the crazy ones, keep watering the bulb. At the end of the second year the bulb breaks through the ground and the bamboo cane grows a full 20 feet (6 meters) in 72 hours. The first two years of growth were entirely underground. When most would have given up the bulb was quietly growing out a complex root system called rhizomes.

Marketing today is like watering the bamboo tree. Something exciting is ready to break through the topsoil at an incredible pace but we’re too lazy, too impatient to wait for it to happen. We need results right here, right now. We hire trendspotters to deliver the magic silver bullet. Agency pitches that promise a campaign to take the brand pain away seduce us. All along the patient brands are diligently building out their underground networks - one customer at a time.

Is Advertising pollution?

Like a scourge on our eyeballs, so-called ‘visual pollution’ proliferates in our cities in the form of advertising big and small — from distracting billboards in public spaces to those annoying ad panels in bathroom stalls. But there’s a grassroots movement that’s starting to fight back, as documented by American filmmaker Gwenaëlle Gobé in a new documentary called This Space Available.

Trailer from This space available on Vimeo.

Advertising ain’t what it used to be: youth aren’t paying attention to it, they’re not watching TV and although it’s still “sex”, only losers today are paying for it. This documentary by filmmaker Gobe examines the concept of advertising as “visual pollution”.

Write that book… even if you don’t get any readers


Image by brody4 via Flickr

Because the most important reader is you. You’ll teach yourself a lot in the process. Even if you don’t sell a single copy you’ll end up elevating your level of insight beyond the wall of internet noise. Every book you do sell is a bonus. As an author you’ll carry a mental map that helps organize noise and turn it into insight. People will pay big bucks for that. You’ll also have a ready made repertoire of stories to entertain. People will pay big bucks to hear you tell them on stage.

I’ll never regret writing this book. Now I’m hungry to write more.

Genchi Genbutsu - the secret of innovative co-creation


It’s easy to be seduced.

"The car built by Facebook likes" (aka the VW Slamwagen) sounded great at the agency pitch but it’s a waste of money - a bit like Chevy throwing the Sonic out the back of a plane. Gimmick.

It’s easy to believe a Facebook fan page can take away your innovation pain.

Crowdsourcing ideas isn’t about asking people to vote on those ideas. Anybody heard of the Homer Simpson car that played the Cucuracha? (“O Brother where art thou?”)

Nobody ever made anything noteworthy because they liked it and it certainly won’t work for VW and the Slamwagen. The brands and products that made a difference were made out of love. Sitting behind Facebook all day and counting likes is exactly the opposite of what VW needs to be doing. Facebook “Likes” are lazy.

John Waraniak from SEMA (the after-parts market that provides the auto industry its own “department of great ideas”) reminded me about the Toyota philosophy of Genchi Genbutsu - or in English “going to the source”. The American corruption of this idea is more easily understood as “get your boots on”. Get your boots on, get out there and find out what drivers love.

Before you think it’s auto-brand bashing season (see The Chevrolet Sonic ad campaign is a waste of money) consider this - there are some winners out there worth praising. Innovation isn’t about asking for people to “like” stuff but getting out there and embedding yourself in the community like Ford Fiesta Movement or Toyota Scion. These brands (namely the people who are/were behind their rise to prominence e.g. Jim Farley, Jeri Yoshizu etc) quite simply “get it”. That means talking to real drivers, offline. That means getting out there in the community and supporting their own events (like Rebel Industries did for Scion). That means getting off Facebook and seeing where real meaning is created - offline.

Real innovation is Social. Innovation doesn’t happen on social media but in the social context of how drivers really use the vehicles (at shows, rollouts, meetups, local community events etc).

So let’s have a look at 3 quick-fire secrets to Genchi Genbutsu from you can draw from my work in Social Innovation in the book All is Social:

  • 1) CONTEXT: Study innovation and usage behavior in its natural environment. Re-create the social context that drives innovation (positive deviance).
  • 2) FANS: Don’t bother co-creating with everybody. Society has leaders and followers for a reason. Give everybody a voice (like the Threadless model) but you have to structure a social dynamic that affords everyone significance and belonging in your creative community even if they’re simply watching from the bleachers. Practise the 90-10 rule. Focus on the 10% who influence the 90%.
  • 3) REAL-TIME: Don’t be suckered into thinking Facebook is the answer. Any media agency selling you a Facebook solution to innovation is a liar. Innovation is a real world process not an online event. Get out there and connect in communities, events, night-clubs, auto shows and wherever those fans are.

Now turn your computer off and get your boots on.

The Chevrolet Sonic ad campaign is a waste of money


This is difficult to describe as anything but dumb. It also epitomizes the tail end of an advertising approach crafted in the 1950s - the Pepsi Generation. It’s a brand management model that still survives today in the DNA of the world’s advertising agencies - find new ways to tell your brand story. Unfortunately for Chevrolet (but much to the benefit of their ad agency) this expensive campaign for the Chevy Sonic is aimed at an audience who really don’t care for this kind of marketing.

What Chevy *should* be doing is less brand management, more brand democracy. The Ford Fiesta movement is in the driving seat here - an approach built on the original pioneering work of Jim Farley at Scion. But it’s not easy to switch to real social marketing; it’s about letting go of brand ego and allowing people to tell their stories, not drowning them out with the latest clever ad campaign.

Slime Democracy: Secrets of our Social Code

"It turns out we’re not the only species that assembles ourselves into networks," says physician and sociologist Nicholas Christakis in his Floating University lecture, “If You’re So Free, Why Do You Follow Others?” Consider the slime mold, for instance. When placed in a maze with food at the end of it, individual amoebas will connect to create a sort of “super organism” capable of performing feats that no single organism could do on its own.

One mycologist, Toshi Nagagaki, found that the path taken through the maze by this “super organism” was more efficient than the path proposed by his graduate students.

What can Slime Mold teach us about our Social Code? More than we’d care to imagine it appears from this video. Not only can slime mold organize itself socially but the ways in which it self-organizes have fascinating parallels with those of human societies.