Tagged: influence

Attenzi – a social business story

Attenzi – a social business story shines a light on social business that goes beyond the all too typical homages to social media. It’s a relatively short and easy read intended to help readers explore what social business means for their organization, marketplace, communities and career.

The story is designed to galvanize the organization.

As the tale unfolds, you’ll consider aspects of organizational design, business performance management, marketing, public relations, branding, complexity, and the imminent empowerment of the individuals that make up any and all organizations. In fact, although you’ll likely be reading the book in a professional capacity, you’ll be noting the implications for your other roles in life too.

Perhaps most controversially, the story begins to explore the evolution of the customer-centric mindset that has dominated management thinking for the past two decades.

It’s free and available in HTML (this website, just keep clicking ‘Next‘), PDF, EPUB, Kindle .mobi, Kindle .azw3 and iBooks formats. And at Scribd. Hyperlinks in the ebook take you to the same section on this website for questions, observations and discussion.

I hope you’ll let me and each other know what you make of it.

Best wishes, Philip Sheldrake.

15th May 2013.

I met Adam Pisoni shortly after finishing the first edition of this book and found someone equally enthusiastic for the wide and deep potential of social business. I invited him to write the foreword, and he kindly agreed. Thanks Adam.

And I met Robin Carey who suggested we publish a second edition, September 2013, in association with Social Media Today. And I invited Robin to help set the scene too … Next

Fifty six (i)

As we went through our list of influences we talked about flows, and when you talk about flows it’s impossible not to draw arrows. I set to work drawing arrows on the white board. Lots of them.

“What on Earth is that?!”

Georgio was being less than flattering about my artistic abilities. His follow-on exclamation drew some crude comparison between my diagram and a spaghetti dish his three-year old had thrown on the floor the past weekend.

“Is that a meatball?!”

“No, that’s a reseller.”

We found we made better progress with Georgio wielding the pens and with the rest of us flapping our arms about.

It was a view of the organization unlike any we’d seen. No, it wasn’t a view – it was Attenzi expressed as a system of influences. And by that I mean devoid of the normal departmental labels. Add the dimensions of time, money and materials and you have the whole. (Our people, indeed all stakeholders, are critical nodes or ‘agents’ in the flows lest you think I’d forgotten them!)

It was exciting. I could see where our work was taking us – well, if only because Saket had nodded in this direction.

“OK, here’s a challenge,” I exclaimed. “If you try and forget everything you know about the way our company is structured, about our roles and responsibilities and job titles, how would you put a team of people together to bring this influence system to life to best pursue our goals?”

It’s such a tough question, and with hindsight I posed it too early.

Dom tells me the brain has evolved in ways that makes it difficult to tear down established mental frameworks and rebuild anew – such facility has had insufficient evolutionary advantage he says.

My earliest experience of this mental challenge came at school. I could just about reconcile that French speakers consider a car to be female – each to their own I thought – but finding out French has two different words for “to know” was a jolt. It was down right confusing for a mono-linguistic 12-year old. Even though I’m now a mono-linguistic adult I am left less than certain about the strengths and weaknesses of my own language.

But I digress.

Forty two


You have been influenced when you think something you wouldn’t otherwise have thought or do something you wouldn’t otherwise have done.

The report then documents the idea I’d put forward in the planning meeting – about the ‘i’ of IT really being the ‘i’ of influence. So we’ll skip down to Saket’s first major contribution of the day.

Organizations have invested in ERP systems since they emerged in the early-90s, and their preceding technologies before that. Enterprise Resource Planning is all about using IT to track the flows of time, money and materials. However, with the advent of social media and related technologies, and with the extension of today’s social monitoring and analytics services, we increasingly have the nascent facility to track the flow of influence.

Saket described six influence flows:

  1. Our organization’s influence with stakeholders
  2. Our stakeholders’ influence with each other with respect to us
  3. Our stakeholders’ influence with our organization
  4. Our competitors’ influence with stakeholders
  5. Stakeholders’ influence with each other with respect to our competitors
  6. Stakeholders’ influence with our competitors.

I remember BB asking for an explanation of “stakeholder”, although that didn’t make the final report. Perhaps it should have. A stakeholder is anyone with an interest in an organization or something the organization is involved in – a customer, shareholder, employee, local resident, etc.

Saket summed up the value of tracking the flow of influence: “The ease and effectiveness with which we can manage and learn from influence flows is integral to the process by which customers, citizens and all stakeholders interact with organizations to broker mutually valuable, beneficial relationships.”

In plainer English, it’s central to doing business; always has been, always will be, except now we can be better at it, more scientific, more joined up, more disciplined.

Thirty one (i)

“And so that’s where we got to.”

It was Friday evening, Dom was over, and I’d invested in a nice bottle of Gavi di Gavi to have with cod, new potatoes and peas.

“And you want to do what to the business?” he asked.

“Yeah, good point. Haven’t yet worked out what to do on the back of these insights, but it feels like we’ll be able to synthesize that at the away day. It feels like it’s the kind of thing that could help us transform a decent company into a great one.”

“Run that link between ‘Information’ and ‘Influence’ by me again.”

“Well, we define useful information as information we actually use. i.e. we do something differently than otherwise. If information doesn’t do this, then it isn’t useful. So I guess therefore it’s useless. In fact, it’s just getting in the way of us seeing and acting on the good stuff.”

Dom swished the wine around his glass and watched it settle. He did so again as I forked the fish to see how it was doing.

“Sorry I was late again by the way. Sheer traffic. Wonder which car started it.”

I checked the saucepan of potatoes as Dom said this, but I could feel it tease me. He was poking me about complexity. I let it simmer; the thought that is, the potatoes were done.

“Tell me,” Dom said, “did you and your IT chap reach the same conclusion?”

“Funny you should ask that. Not quite. When I recalled our conversation this week I’d added some more interpretation without realizing that John and I hadn’t actually spoken about it. And of course, John started the thread in the first place. So I guess we sort of bounced off each other.”

“So you were both party to the same conversation discussing the same concepts yet you did different things with the content of that conversation at different times?”

“Well, it’s just I took it a bit further, and maybe John was too busy, or took it elsewhere and hasn’t yet shared that with me.”

“So. You and John both debated the same ideas, the same information. Yet, in structuring and organizing this information to form a framework for the incorporation of further information, in helping you in your evaluation of the world – the result of which we generally refer to as knowledge – you got to different places for whatever reasons?”

Thirty (iii)

“There are flows of resources – which I generally think of as time, money and materials. That definition of marketing you referenced Michelle means that we work out what the market wants or might want, and what we can deliver, and then plan to exchange products and services for money. Reciprocal flows. For example, the product flows out and the money flows in. And we hope to keep that up.

“And that’s where another kind of flow comes in, to do with reputation Yvonne. After all, without a decent reputation we can’t hope to keep those sales up. I’m talking about influence flows. Influence goes around comes around.”

“Yes!” John got our attention. “Of course, data, information and knowledge flow. I meant to say that. And when they do so usefully, which we now think of as when someone changes what they’d have thought or done otherwise, that’s influence.”

“That’s really interesting,” said Michelle. “So some influence flows through my department, some through the separate discipline of public relations,” (I couldn’t work out whether the emphasis was sarcastic or respectful towards Yvonne but I had my suspicion) “and some through IT.”

“And…?” challenged Saket. Given the silence, he continued. “And there’s influence flowing in the actions of customer service, procurement, logistics, HR, sales. In fact, in everything. There’s influence in everything an organization does, and sometimes in what it does not do. Let me read you something.”

It was Saket’s turn to find something on his computer.

“Reputation management does not actually mean managing reputation, and brand management does not actually mean managing a brand. They mean actively attending to the business of influencing and being influenced such that the resultant beliefs or opinions held about us and our products are conducive to our achieving organizational objectives.”

“When you say it like that,” said Michelle, “it really puts the customer on a pedestal for sure.”

“There’s no such thing as ‘for sure’. That’s the only sure thing I do know. A Beautiful Mind, 2001.”

After a few seconds of adjusting to Saket’s movie speak, Michelle asked him to explain.

“Well, maybe this whole so-called ‘customer-centric’ way of thinking is an over simplification. The quote I just read out didn’t reference the customer. It didn’t put the customer ahead of employees past, present and future, or suppliers or partners or shareholders, past, present and future. Or the general public interest. Or the planet. All stakeholders matter, and to put one consistently ahead of all the others sounds increasingly stupid to me. It doesn’t appear to recognize the complexities of the world we live in.”

My conversation with Dom about complexity crashed back into my mind, and I had a feeling of clarity, even if I couldn’t actually articulate it. One thing I did know is that I’d had about as much mental stimulation as I could cope with on one call, and I directed the remainder of the call to planning the away day.

Thirty (i)

A theme for the management away day was forming in my mind, yet I felt I needed to explore further first. Saket was out of the country, but he was good enough to find an hour in his schedule to join John (IT), Michelle (Marketing), Yvonne (PR) and me, via Skype.

I set the tenor of the call by explaining that I didn’t have hard objectives but simply felt we needed to revisit some of the conversations in recent weeks and take them further. I apologized for the vagueness, but perhaps our guts could guide us as much as our minds on this call.

I referenced the conversation with John where we’d knocked the ‘T’ out of ‘IT’ and then substituted ‘Influence’ for ‘Information’ for the ‘I’. If you’re in IT, you’re actually in the business of influence.

I defined influence. You have been influenced when you do something you wouldn’t otherwise have done, or think something you wouldn’t otherwise have thought.

“I don’t remember us getting as far as describing IT like that Eli”. John looked quizzical.

“Hmm. Perhaps you’re right. I think I’ve digested it some more since”, I replied.

I recalled the conversations about measurement. I told everyone how fascinating I’d found the discussion about communication. And recounted the thread with Yvonne about the radical transparency of the social Web. And that was my intro done.

Yvonne was first to jump in.

“I wear a public relations hat as you know, but what does that mean? PR has a PR problem. It seems there are two camps. The first interpretation, and perhaps oldest, is so-called ‘spin’ where I’m supposed to spin a line, persuade people however I can, adjust presentation of the facts to suit our needs.” She put her hands in the air to do the double quotes sign as she said “adjust”.

“Over the past decade or so this way of looking at it has appeared to both gain momentum in some areas of practice and become increasingly frowned upon at the same time.”

Michelle interrupted. “What’s this got to do with what Eli said?”

Unflustered, Yvonne replied, “I’m trusting my gut Michelle, and my mind come to that. Give me a minute to explain.”

She continued.


Attenzi – a social business story, as told by Eli Appel, Attenzi CEO

This is the story of twenty months in the life of Attenzi. It’s about how the Attenzi team changed things up in ways that benefited employees, customers, shareholders and, we believe, everyone with an interest in Attenzi’s success.

It’s about business.

It’s about people.

It’s about influence.

It’s about how we’re becoming a ‘social business’.

I’m Eli Appel and I’ve been Attenzi’s CEO during this time. Fortunately, I’ve kept a daily log of interesting stuff, ideas and ‘notes to self’ for as long as I can remember ­– there’s a cardboard box stacked full of them behind my desk. It forms a sort of chronological record and although it’s not a diary in the classic sense it has helped me assemble this story retrospectively.

I didn’t know, after all, that I was about to join one of those teams that just gels. I didn’t know we were about to redefine the way we all think about our business and its place in the market and its place in the world. And I definitely had no idea that I was going to write this story, but here we are.

I’m pretty sure we’re all going to benefit as more and more of us go through this transition. I’m sure those that do so earlier than others will grow market share, and those that pretend it’s not happening will struggle. I definitely know my allegiances with all variety of organizations will change accordingly.

I hope you enjoy our story. I hope it helps you develop your organization’s relevance, competitiveness and profitability. I hope it helps you forge your career and helps you bring your colleagues with you.

If the Attenzi team can help in any way please drop by attenzi.com. We’d love to share insights, perspectives and experiences.