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“And then we cross our fingers”

Here’s the truth about stakeholder mobilisation: crossing your fingers isn’t going to simply make it happen.

The old-school business analyst’s dream revolves around creating a product, this straightforward, logical, “meets needs” product or service … the one that solves the business problem, exploits the business opportunity. Functionalise it into being a success.

The hope is that with interviews, with a workshop, with a requirements specification, with sign-off, with a stakeholder matrix, with a few users participating in a few UAT sessions, with a go-live broadcast sent from the project sponsor … the hope is that the solution will become the “perfect” solution, and everyone will embrace it. It will work precisely because it works.

But you’re not fooled by this.

Sure, every so often the stars align, but most of the time, this approach merely leads to project failure. Over time and cost, under quality, project failure.

The power of simple network effects

Sarnoff’s Law, named after the American radio and television pioneer, observed that the value of a broadcast network grows in direct proportion to the number of viewers.

Yet while simply dropping your product or service to a group of users will have some marginal benefit, where risks are mitigated, gaps are closed, problems are solved, seeing an end-user as a node on the end of a spoke from a hub significantly undermines the potential utility.

Bob Metcalfe, the inventor of the Ethernet, described this when he formulated Metcalfe’s Law which illustrates that the value of a network becomes exponentially greater with every additional user that becomes connected.

One fax machine is useless. Two fax machines have some marginal benefit. But with every fax machine that joins the network the total number of possible connections with whom a user can send and receive information increases, meaning the potential utility of every fax machine in the network rises each time.

Computer Scientist David P. Reed took this a step further (in Reed’s Law) when he asserted that the utility of a network increases even more dramatically still when the people connected are empowered to create their own subgroups to collaborate within a network.

Clubhouse is taking on a life of its own because people can form groups easily. It’s these communities that make Clubhouse so interesting for everyone, and its utility is amplified by this interconnectivity between users.

The power of these simple network effects is at the centre of every business transformation and every successful organisational change.

This is not (exactly) about cost-benefit analysis, it’s about growing beyond the critical mass to maximise the potential benefits. And it occurs when utility is designed right into the heart of your change, and more importantly when the product or service works better when we can collaborate and self-organise with others.

As a user, the conversations I’m empowered to have with my connections become the chain reaction for utility. Utlility creates more growth, which leads to more utlility.

Ten good reasons to curate a newsletter

A few more than ten, actually.

Over two billion blog posts will be published this year. Curating the best of what you consume is worthwhile, here are some good reasons to get started:

Reading more blogs is one of the best ways to become smarter, more effective and more engaged in what you do. (Every week I read more than fifty blog posts. Well worth the time.)

It broadens your mind with new and different ideas.

It helps you to clarify your areas of interest.

It bookmarks where you are at this moment. And leaves behind an archive of the trail you’ve taken.

And because you’re sifting through all this information anyway, you can bring useful (often-overlooked) resources to other people’s attention that they don’t have time to search for.

You get to add commentary to the conversation, your voice matters.

It probably serves a niche and it’s not likely to attract hundreds of thousands of subscribers, so you can focus on serving people like you.

It’s a generous way to say thank you to the author.

It’s a creative project that is completely and totally up to you.

As projects go, it’s an easy one to set up, requires very little extra energy, and is repeatable …

Meaning that you get to curate another one.

Publishing a regular newsletter requires you to keep a promise. Promises can be difficult to keep at times. But soon that promise turns into practise and practise turns into a habit. Habits are much easier to keep.

Then you become a curator.

It’s not as lonely as you might think (people will respond).

And … it will increase your authority in your space.

P.S. This Sunday is the first birthday of the 5W-1H Interchange. Over 2500 blog posts read, podcasts heard and videos watched, with 312 of those shared, since the first newsletter 12 months ago, and I haven’t missed a week (given some leeway for automated email gremlins) since then.

The most effective change comes from utility

Instant messaging was transformative. It was adopted not because of a bright, shiny project roadshow, but because users chose to embrace it.

Why?

Because instant messaging works better when your connections are on the platform too.

Brian Acton and Jan Koum realised this when they created WhatsApp. Their early version showed statuses next to individual names of the people. This is a marginal benefit, not much to get excited about.

But once users were able to message each other, share photos, and group chat everything shifted. Now, you were in one of two camps: on WhatsApp or off WhatsApp. And if you were excluded, off WhatsApp, that was problematic. And the more people who joined WhatsApp, the more people talked about WhatsApp. This snowball effect made exclusion even more problematic.

The chain reaction of stakeholder influence

Every very happy stakeholder encourages another one.

Uninterested stakeholders aren’t worth the trouble. Neutral stakeholders, critical stakeholders, stakeholders you think need to be kept on watch … you can’t influence transformation from a dead end.

Your supportive stakeholders become your new champions.

Your work to enable the business flourishes when change spreads, and if you want the change to spread, you need to create something that works better when it gets spread.

That generates the chain reaction you’re looking for. The influence that makes change happen.

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