While business was once all about keeping one step ahead of your rivals, in today’s socially networked society, working together can lead to greater success. Colin Brown re p o rts ant to know how to succeed today in business without really trying? Forget about Old Boy networks and climbing the corporate ladder by whatever Machiavellian Wmeans necessary. Try instead tapping into the kindness of strangers and being upfront about your weaknesses. It certainly worked for Henk van Ess, a Dutchman who stumbled upon a thriving global sideline business by accident. Annoyed at how his beloved smartphone kept losing its charge, the investigative reporter-turned- technology expert posted a general plea on LinkedIn, the social network for the business community. “Who brings me the smallest rechargeable battery for the iPhone 3G without silly cases?” asked van Ess on a Friday night of his 500-plus online connections. Within 24 hours of that all-points bulletin, van Ess was being directed towards a Chinese manufacturer that works closely with NASDAQ-listed China BAK Battery. And so began a planetary chain reaction in July 2008: China BAK teamed up with the manufacturer to spec up a snap-on battery booster; a San Francisco artist designed the logo; a Dutch student came up with the box; a blogger from Engadget made a commercial; a New York video artist fashioned six other adverts; and a German supplied the music. Van Ess himself agreed to moonlight as the worldwide distributor for what became 3G Juice, presiding over a global backroom operation from his offi ce in Amersfoort, central Netherlands – even while keeping up his day-job training professionals to use IT. The resulting enterprise has seen rocketing sales through its Amazon storefront and is now expanding into new product areas. 52_CS4_SixDegreesFINAL.indd 2 15/04/2010 12:40 SIX DEGREES OF COLLABORATIONCOVER STORY “I can’t take credit for this” says van Ess. Flickr and Digg are only the most visible “All those strangers, professionals, did it examples of this barter mentality. for free. I was fl abbergasted that people There is no one rigid philosophy or who I never met, helped. Like me, they management practice that is driving this hated the battery life of the iPhone.” shift, but rather a spectrum of changing Propelled by the advent of online attitudes, techniques and tools that search and networking applications, good combine to promote sharing, aggregation, ol’ offi ce scheming and corporate secrecy peer group coordination and social has been stabbed in the back by this new cooperation. Together, they amount to one wave of volunteerism and transparency. giant “reset” button for business. “This is a great time to start a new That the internet is largely responsible business if you know how to harvest social is not coincidental. In his book, Weaving This is a great time media,” says van Ess. “I call it Product the Web, the web’s founding father Sir 2.0 – although the term 2.0 is a little Tim Berners-Lee says his objective was to start a business worn-out. Try to develop your product to make it easier for people to collaborate with your customers and engineers and by combining knowledge. Well, mission if you know do this openly. Find what people want in accomplished. Today, people and fi rms are Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn; reaching out to one another in ways that how to harvest fi nd the engineers and marketers too in would have been unfathomable even to social media.” He also urges the disclosure Berners-Lee when he proposed his “global social media of any product failings in an open-book hypertext project” in 1989. In doing so, policy that ought to give Toyota pause; in a looming marketplace for connectivity Henk van Ess, worldwide distributor, 3G Juice a world atwitter with instant feedback, tools has opened, one that is embracing there’s no room for soft-pedalling. media way beyond just text messages. Steering an enlightened path between “Collaboration is a $34bn [€25bn] create a central nervous system, keep staff outright capitalism and downright market today, enabled by technologies members looped in and enhance their communism, a new C-word has emerged which have video at its heart,” says institutional memory. as the way forward for business: Marthin De Beer, senior vice president of Unsurprisingly, others are eyeing Collaboration. In today’s hyper-socialised emerging technologies at Cisco Systems. this same mother lode. Among them economy, it’s not who you know that Once the world’s largest company in is Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of really counts, but who you don’t. terms of market valuation, Cisco is now Salesforce.com, the €7.1bn San Francisco Latching onto this open-sourced amassing a portfolio of videoconferencing fi rm best known for selling on-demand paradigm, the priority for many CEOs platforms, wikis, document management business software applications. Benioff today is to break down the barriers that and team workspaces. sees collaboration software as the next stand between them and their employees, Already, estimates Irwin Lazar, vice frontier, “the most exciting revolution their customers, their partners, their president of communications and in computing, ever” that will serve as a vendors – even their rivals. National collaboration research for Nemertes catalyst for a productivity boom unlike boundaries are being bridged, corporate Research Group, approximately 40% of anything seen before. walls breached, expertise shared. US fi rms are deploying or planning to Responding to an email within 45 When he’s not looking to take a bite deploy a social computing platform to seconds of it reaching his BlackBerry out of Apple, Google chief Eric Schmidt’s prevailing mantra is “collaborate or perish.” Similarly, conglomerates such as IBM and Cisco have got collectivist religion and are bent on replacing the top- down managerial model of benevolent dictatorships and proprietary ownership with fl atter hierarchies and reciprocal relationships. They know that no single industry, company or individual has a monopoly on useful ideas. Failure to adopt this new collaborative mantle also leaves dyed-in-the- wool companies vulnerable to agile entrepreneurs who now have all the communication, technology and information at their disposal to become global competitors. And if such weapons of mass disruption are still not enough to assail entrenched market strongholds, Google’s mantra of “collaborate or perish” there’s always the nuclear option: offering may have helped it to products and services for free. Wikipedia, its leading position Craigslist, Yelp, Loopt, Delicious, YouTube, MAY 2010 I CNBC BUSINESS 53 52_CS4_SixDegreesFINAL.indd 3 15/04/2010 12:40– proof of just how real-time business 100 countries. US electronic retailer communications has become – Benioff Best Buy has created an in-house wiki draws a distinction between his own to discover insights into competition and ambitions and those who have failed 1 popular trends, while extreme off -site to grasp the transformational potential brainstorming with employees has also of social media. He says existing TAP YOUR led the company to form a web design enterprise collaboration platforms such as consultancy for small businesses. Microsoft’s SharePoint and IBM’s Lotus OWN STAFF Such initiatives are designed to foster Notes are so yesterday. If Facebook were a country, in-house incubators of creativity and “We need a new generation of its population would rank third largest after to break down the corporate silos that enterprise collaboration. Lotus Notes is China and India. Its exponential growth, and can lead to wasteful duplication and the so old it was conceived before [Facebook that of LinkedIn and other social networks, hoarding of valuable tidbits. Left to their founder] Mark Zuckerberg was. That’s is testament to the multiplier eff ect of own devices, knowledge workers fritter why we are working on Salesforce human networking. Th ey also serve as daily away up to 10 hours every week hunting Chatter, the Facebook for the enterprise.” reminders that chief executives know more for information through Google and other In an open letter to the tech community about their social media “friends” than they sources, according to market intelligence in the US on 10 March, Benioff said he do about most of their own staff . thought Facebook and Twitter one of the Which is why employers have started most productive ways to start his day. their own private collaboration spaces. Using these internet-enabled networks Danone, the French food group, has of friends and followers, he has tested forged invitation-only discussion groups new ad campaigns, elicited customer to unite its 90,000 employees across responses, promoted his book to a large audience, and even named a new product – all before sitting down for breakfast. Microblogging has By drawing a generational battle-line between the tech giants of the desktop era fewer barriers: it’s and the cloud- based upstarts, easier, quicker, Benioff is pointing out the attitudinal more flexible divides evident in global business as a whole. The following pages will highlight six ways that Marc Benioff , chairman and CEO, collaboration is Salesforce.comhelping executives prosper in the fl attening world economy. All of these initiatives are designed to create more of a two-way street in business dealings. While some are still rooted in the traditional notion of companies that fl ex up or down in size according to market conditions, others foresee a more free-fl oating vision of commerce, one that is increasingly dictated by a shape-shifting universe of freelance operatives who coalesce around single projects, disband and then reform for the next. Their umbilical chords are not attached to the corporate motherships, but rather to the information feeds and personal profi les that accompany them wherever they apply their skills and connections upon demand. “The enterprise is not just going to the cloud, it’s now going social, and it’s going Océ says microblogging among its 23,000 mobile,” says Benioff. “Not everyone has to worldwide staff has get it yet, but eventually they will. increased productivity “As they say: Shift happens.” 54 CNBC BUSINESS I MAY 2010 52_CS4_SixDegreesFINAL.indd 4 15/04/2010 12:40 PICTURE GETTYCOVER STORY fi rm IDC – and often Proctor & Gamble has for information collaborated with Cisco that the company and shared staff with already possesses. Google Océ, one of the world’s leading providers of document management and printing for Samuel Driessen, information architect, Océprofessionals and soon to be under Canon control, turned to the micro-blogging application Yammer in order to reach across its virtual and physical employee walls from its Dutch headquarters in Venlo. Relying just on internal email exchanges alone would not have been enough to galvanise a company with 23,000 people far as to share its ideas and expertise with worldwide, argues Océ’s information AT&T, General Electric, Proctor & Gamble architect Samuel Driessen. “Email is and other fellow “frenemies” of the global a closed network. Lots of important 2 business elite. Th e collaborative concept is information and knowledge runs through applied internally as well, in order to speed email. And it stays there. Hardly anyone TRADE YOUR decision-making. Instead of a lumbering takes out the nuggets and shares them Pentagon-like central command-and- publicly. We have an internal blogging SECRETS control system, Cisco has more of an allied platform as well. But what we see is It’s not just Océ that has forces approach to corporate warfare, that blogging is not for everybody. developed its expert-fi nding service. IBM empowering a global network of councils Microblogging has fewer barriers: it’s has BluePages, an internal web-based to push their own buttons on new business easier, quicker, more fl exible.” directory to help employees fi nd advice and assaults. Rapid response is the key here. Driessen says once employees have answers from colleagues across the world. Th e next wave will be fi rms swapping not been reassured about the privacy issues But IBM, in keeping with its “smarter just knowledge, but also IT systems and that come with using a hosted platform planet” mantra, doesn’t just stop at its own workers. Already, Google has reportedly that resides outside its security fi rewall, corporate boundaries. In a quest to reap shared staff with Proctor & Gamble, the a tool like Yammer yields surprising new the collective intelligence of the world, the Fortune 500 equivalent of top-tier football connections. Employees can read status IT giant has been deploying outside talents teams loaning players to each other updates and discover others (that they and working with governments, universities mid-season. Pfi zer, the pharmaceuticals were perhaps unaware of) doing related and local companies to establish a network company, has no problem with outsourced work. Microblogging is also an implicit of infl uential “collaboratories”. For a operatives in India preparing Powerpoint expert-fi nder. “Employees that write about company that once jealously guarded its presentations and conducting web searches certain topics probably know something research and stockpiled its patents, such on behalf of its top executives, even at the about it. So you can search Yammer and partnerships are tantamount to a revolution. risk of confi dential data being compromised. fi nd those back posts and contact the As altruism goes this open innovation Far better to have those executives apply poster. I see people emailing less and drive is highly self-interested. By letting their skills on strategic matters, rather than microblogging more,” adds Driessen. ideas fl ow more freely, participants get exhaust hours on tactical grunt work. While Driessen does not explicitly to leverage the insights of others. Th e Indeed, the fear that competitors will measure Yammer’s return on investment, exchange also assures an inside track glean information and skills is becoming he is convinced he has seen an increase on lucrative contracts, particularly now more of a non-issue. Businesses today are in productivity. Building on that success, that government stimulus packages have built less on proprietary secrets and more Océ is working on enhancing its in-house accelerated the need for large private fi rms on execution and connections. A tightened mentoring. “We have developed an to work with public offi cials and regulators. economy means companies are increasingly interesting – and patented – approach Cisco Systems is another fi rm believer sharing consultants . And why stop there? that is now spun out of Océ. Th e company, in the “distributed idea” model, going so With so much managerial talent available as called Guruscan, uses social networks to a result of recent lay-off s, outfi ts could rent capture emergent expertise networks out custom-suited CEOs by the day. (using referral chaining). Th is is not your Already, Google However, how amenable Pfi zer and other typical who-is-who with manual input big pharma companies will be towards of expertise and hobbies, but a more has reportedly collaborations to lower the cost of life- sophisticated, low-barrier way to support saving drugs – the “patent pooling” model expert-fi nding in the organisation.” shared staff with being championed on behalf of struggling Unsurprisingly, you can learn more about economies by international health funding this on Driessen’s own blog. Proctor & Gamble agency UNITAID – remains uncertain. MAY 2010 I CNBC BUSINESS 55 52_CS4_SixDegreesFINAL.indd 5 15/04/2010 12:40APIs in one big global matrix of social co- operation, the resultant dissemination of talent and technology has proven hugely 3 benefi cial – even to the cynics. Some 60,000 man-years of coding went into the REAP WHAT creation of Fedora Linux 9 in 2008, which then went on to power an estimated 60% of Zygna’s Farmville on YOU SOW all web servers. Facebook highlights the nurturing spirit of Among the positive OhLoh, which tracks the open source collaboration outgrowths of Web 2.0, the user-generated industry – and is itself openly edited – phase of the internet’s evolution, are all reckons there are currently a quarter of those desktop factories that deployed a million people working on some 275,000 Similarly, game-makers have been volunteer workforce of agents and willing diff erent collaborative projects. Th is virtual leveraging Facebook’s technology for their input from a global audience to create beehive rivals Samsung, Nestle, Deutsche own gain. Zynga, Playfi sh and Playdom mission-critical products such as the Linux Telekom and General Motors in workforce are among the many developers that have operating system, Mozilla Firefox, the size – except that these particular drones used the social media platform as a launch MySQL open source database management are happily working unpaid. pad – and boosted Facebook’s popularity system and the Apache web server. Such munifi cence can spark off in the process. Zynga’s FarmVille stands Dubbed “dot-communism” by those subsequent innovations. When PayPal as a metaphor for the whole nurturing who failed to understand why anyone opened up its codes, it unleashed a wave spirit of collaboration. Th e game lets users would contribute code, apps, scripts and of alternative payment systems that are plough, grow and harvest a variety of crops now challenging banks as the pre-ordained for money and game points and players mover of money. Outfi ts such as Twitpay also have options to invest in their farms Dissemination and Square are making it eff ortless to send by purchasing fruit trees and animals, and and receive cash through a mobile phone. complement their crops with other assets of talent and Another example, Obopay, which is funded such as barns, windmills and greenhouses. by Nokia, is a boon to countries such as Around 75 million take part each month, technology has India where fi nancial institutions are scarce creating a virtual agricultural community and where mobile phone users outnumber totalling more than 10 times the number of been benefi cial bank accounts by three to one. actual farms operating across Europe. products like drugs that were researched, closest rival and allowing the company to developed and marketed at considerable invent a new market niche. cost in the West, and then manufactured for Th e resourcefulness with which 4 pennies on the dollar in the East. But now developing countries adapt to low living the polarity is being reversed. In a trend that standards and infrastructure obstacles has LEARN FROM has been termed “trickle-up innovation” turned them into laboratories. For example, companies are looking at these regions as Nokia watched how phones were shared in EMERGING creative wellsprings in their own right, rather such countries, then used the information to than as sources of cheap labour. decide where to place speakers on its 5800 MARKETS Under its CEO Gerard Kleisterlee, Philips Xpress Music smartphones. Th e fact that there are now Electronics has been transferring resources, India, in particular, is proving a fertile more Chinese online than Americans is vivid such as manpower, advertising spend and hunting ground for game-changing illustration of the changing world order. Th e research investment, to such developing business model and management practices. geographical divide between the digital countries. Th is has already born fruit in the Kiva’s peer-to-peer lending website for haves and have-nots is narrowing, meaning Ghana, where a Philips outpost designed a small-scale entrepreneurs has inspired web-based tools of innovation are within low-cost solar-powered lighting system. several other micro-fi nance programmes the grasp of all corners of the globe. Th is tilt Philips has held off marketing this as to help alleviate poverty in diff erent parts of in the global balance of power is changing a hand-me-up to the West for fear of the world. And then there’s Fabindia, which how Western fi rms view emerging markets. cannibalising sales of its existing, higher- has turned 15,000 of its 22,000 strong Developing markets have long been margin products; GE Healthcare, on the network of artisanal weavers, block printers, seen as the lucrative dumping ground for other hand, had no such reservations when woodworkers and organic farmers suppliers its came to a lightweight electrocardiogram into shareholders of the company – even machine that it developed expressly for though many of them are illiterate. As Firms are seeing India and China. Th e machine, which weighs many of the population are still so reliant just 2.7kg, was repurposed for the US on visual cues has prompted HP to prowl in these regions as marketplace at a fractional development India for web interface applications that can cost of €185,000 and sold as the €1,850 migrate to mobile phones. Poverty has its creative wellsprings Mac 800 – making it 80% cheaper than its commercial upsides too. 56 CNBC BUSINESS I MAY 2010 52_CS4_SixDegreesFINAL.indd 6 15/04/2010 12:40COVER STORY scrutiny. Th e supply chain has become “Make your customers part of the naked, putting into play that most process of production” advises 3G Juice perishable of assets: customer reputations. instigator Henk van Ess. “Real people will 5 Rather than shy away from excessive tell you about real problems. Th ey love to exposure, today’s more successful hear that you want to produce something COLLUDE companies have learnt to come clean new that they need and like. Tell them your about themselves and their practices. Even failures and successes. Be transparent, WITH YOUR Apple, the paragon of corporate secrecy, even if you fail. I did this recently with a has learnt to open up its kimono a tad cable for the iPhone that some customers CUSTOMERS and share enough code with third-party needed, but no one in the world made. Social media has created developers to enable a vast panoply of Th rough social media I found professionals exciting new ways to reach and infl uence mobile applications. who helped me to design the product. customers, as well off ering free focus Zappos, the online retailer bought by Prototypes were sent over and over again groups for new ideas. But those network Amazon, attributes its success to that to the potential customers. In the end, not communities can cut both ways, providing a very culture of openness. Transparency is only did the idea for the cable come from forum through which to cross-check and CEO Tony Hsieh’s constant watchword. He social media, but so also the buyers and the verify a company’s ethical behaviour, opens his books to buyers and suppliers, people who made the cable. Since so many question the environmental record of its and encourages his employees to engage people knew about the idea, the product vendors and to subject services to public directly with customers through unfi ltered was instantly known to early adapters who microblogging. Such tactics not only build gave it rave reviews on Amazon.” trust and make faceless corporations Van Ess’ devotion to self-expression Companies have seem more human, they also provide on social networks has also paid off in Hsieh with thousands of additional eyes unexpected ways. “Ziv Gillat of Eye-Fi learnt to come with which to steer his business. Not to choose me to be his European partner just mention a supplemental revenue stream: because I posted an idea to combine MiFi clean about entrepreneurs keen to learn Zappos’ tricks and Eye-Fi on YouTube and announced of the trade pay $39.95 (€30) a month to that on Twitter. He loved the idea and themselves watch this live business school. Mifi europe.com was born.” Online retailer Zappos engages directly with customers through unfi ltered microblogging Tony Hsieh, chief executive, Zappos MAY 2010 I CNBC BUSINESS 57 52_CS4_SixDegreesFINAL.indd 7 15/04/2010 12:40The new shape of business travel. 3. Change to an earlier flight home for free. Finished your meeting early? If there’s space available, we’ll get you on an earlier flight home at no additional cost. It’s just one of the many benefits you can enjoy when travelling on business with us: No hand We fly you to We charge you Missed your flight Speedy Boarding baggage weight main airports less home? Catch the and Speedy limit next available one Boarding for a small fee Plus Our flights are now available through your Business Travel Agent. Visit business.easyJet.com Business Travel . Tra nsformed . Subject to the paragraphs (a) to (c) below, if you arrive early at the airport for your Flight home, you may transfer for free to an earlier Flight on the same day as the Flight Booked where that earlier Flight has seats available and where it would not cause a delay to its departure. (a) You must have already made an Outbound Journey with easyJet and be returning to the original point of departure from the original destination. For additional convenience, if your original point of departure is a London airport, where available, we will allow you to return to any London airport (i.e. Gatwick, Luton, or Stansted). (b) On arrival at the airport, please go to the sales desk to find out if it will be possible to transfer. You must also observe the check-in times for the earlier Flight. (c) easyJet reserves the right to refuse your request to transfer to an earlier Flight if in its opinion any of the above conditions are not met, or for safety or operational reasons. In addition to booking directly at www.easyjet.com easyJet is now available through business travel agents using the Amadeus and Galileo Global Distribution Systems (GDS). Please contact your travel agency or GDS account manager for further details. No.00000 easyJet_BARTER.indd 1 30/03/2010 14:36COVER STORY Alibaba acts as a go- between for Western SMEs and Chinese manufacturers Jack Ma, founder, Alibaba involved in fi lm seems perpetually between the website off ers real-time English- jobs. Th e same can also be true now of Chinese translations of instant messages. manufacturing. Th e sweatshops of old, Add into the mix TechShop, which can 6 with their high-cost machinery and long provide you with prototyping tools for as development cycles, are being replaced by little as $100 (€75) a month; Regus, with BUILD YOUR nimble, high-tech garages that boast state- its chain of worldwide offi ces for hire; and of-the-art fabrication prowess and global Amazon, with its cloud-based web services OWN DREAM reach but without any of the associated and e-commerce storefront, and you have expense of traditional assembly lines. the makings of a global mini-factory from FACTORY Appropriately enough for a methodology your comfort of your web-connected home. Look beyond Hollywood’s that mimics the creators of Hollywood All that’s really missing is staff . And once velvet rope and you will see a working fantasy, one of the key enablers for these again collaborative software provides the model for the 21st-century economy. DIY factories is a website called Alibaba. key. Job specialists are hired as required Movie-making has long stopped being the Essentially a massive online database through the use of matchmaking databases product of indentured talents working for of nearly fi ve million manufacturers and – the high-tech temp agencies of the Th e Man under the old studio system; these companies, the $15bn (€11.2bn) Chinese freelance economy, one in which talent data days, fi lms arrive on the big screen courtesy internet trading platform has become a has become the prized new commodity. of teams of independent contractors who favourite of European and American SMEs Even within company walls, human are assembled based on the skills required who buy from Chinese suppliers to support resource departments are turning to digital for a particular project, and then disbanded. their own manufacturing needs. Founded sleuthing specialists such as Cataphora Such temporary, single-purpose vehicles by former teacher Jack Ma in 1999, Alibaba to map out company links and employee are designed to spread risks and contain has grown to become China’s second- performance, identify super-connectors costs, and help explain why everyone largest internet company after digital and thought leaders, and establish cost- entertainment portal Tencent. Its $1.7bn benefi t analysis for recruiting, training, initial public off ering on the Hong Kong retaining and laying off staff members. But Specialists are Stock Exchange in November 2007 was the truth is that many of those who have biggest Internet IPO since Google’s 2004 been laid off during the recession will never hired as required off ering on the NASDAQ. return to the corporate bosom. Propelled If you are looking for a Chinese factory into involuntary entrepreneurship, they are through match- capable of fulfi lling that high-margin reinventing themselves as free agents, and micro-order, then Alibaba is ground central. learning that there is little need to go back: making databases Language is not even an issue here since they already have all the friends they need. MAY 2010 I CNBC BUSINESS 59 52_CS4_SixDegreesFINAL.indd 8 15/04/2010 12:40 PICTURE GETTY

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