The Connected Company Hardcover – Sep 21 2012
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About the Author
Dave Gray, SVP Strategy, Dachis Group, is an author and management consultant who works with the world's leading companies to develop and execute winning strategies. His previous book, Gamestorming (O'Reilly), has sold more than 50,000 copies and has been translated into 14 languages.
Thomas Vander Wal has been working with folksonomies since their darkest origins, and is credited with inventing the terms 'folksonomy'and 'infocloud'. He talks and writes about folksonomies more or less continuously. Thomas is also on the Steering Committee of the Web Standards Project and helped found the Information Architecture Institute. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland.
Top Customer Reviews
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Realistically the book could have been half the size and lost no content and a slightly more formal approach with something akin to case studies rather than an anecdotal approach would have been enormously useful. There are some gems buried in the book and there are certainly many companies out there that would benefit enormously from taking these ideas on board but tidying up the wooly writing, tightening the architecture and losing the ersatz sketch diagrams would make it a much more satisfying read.
Often technology and the sheer coolness of tech companies (Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon) inspire business leaders to emulate them and all of us to wish we worked for companies like them. The focus in both of these books is on business strategy. The results of companies that have committed to getting connected (IBM, GE, Apple, Google, Vanguard Group, Amazon and others) indicate that working in more engaged ways is becoming mainstream. This seems great for the Dachis group because they can now function as business consultants beyond just technical or Web consulting.
I loved how Gray designed the flow and presentation of the book to practice what he's preaching. His Table of Contents is 15 Kindle pages long, offering links to chapters and subsections of chapters throughout. In addition to the ease of going right to what you're interested in reading, this enables the reader to jump around as they hopefully start planning out how they will apply these strategies in their own companies. Gray also uses his own graphics and illustrations throughout to clarify his discussions--many of which he also uses in his blogs and slideshows elsewhere.
The book is divided into 5 parts. The first part provides the rationale for why companies need to get connected, stating that customers are changing and expressing their opinions so easily and quickly now that only adaptive companies can keep up. Gray establishes his treatment followed throughout the book by starting with case studies about how several companies learned dramatically that they could not keep up with posts and messaging that were coming from both inside and outside their respective organizations. His writing is clear and precise, introducing and establishing examples and metaphors (e.g., cities and cars are examples of connected systems) that he then uses later throughout the other parts. Many of his references come from Gray's readings and interviews, and he references those at the end of each chapter so the reader can dig down for further detail. By the end of Part One, we know that services (or customer experiences) are not strictly under the company's control; customers each have their own definitions and expectations of how they want to be served and companies and their employees must be prepared to deliver different experiences according to each person's expectations.
Based on that good foundation of what customers want in the first 7 chapters, Part Two then explains what a connected company is and how it can respond to those customer expectations. Gray establishes that knowing their true purpose (not just making profits) distinguishes connected companies. He works through famous examples of how IBM and GE re-made themselves and then through additional examples (Southwest Airlines, Ritz Carlton). He also introduces how many of these companies have adopted the Net Promoter Score as a way to address customers who hate their experiences.
In Part Three we learn how connected companies (Netflix, Whole Foods, Nordstrom's) use pods to interact with customers, and how pods are like smaller versions of the overall company but with the ability and data to make their own self-directed decisions. This part is where there is the greatest focus on systems, software and platforms but it is all done at a higher, more conceptual level to understand how these pods can be supported, not controlled. In Part Four, Gray describes how connected companies are led, differentiating the roles at the pod level, for leaders and for managers. And finally in Part Five, he describes how to get started in transitioning to a connected company and some warning signs along the way.
"Social Business by Design" reassured senior leaders that social media and business was not just a technical play. "The Connected Company" arms them with greater understanding so they can make the organizational changes necessary to make each employee an important contributor. At certain points, I could see how Gray was synthesizing many of the same books I've read into a compelling narrative, and so it was kind of an outsider's perspective on what he sees happening across many companies. This is not typical, as most authors seem to have been more engaged in the inside of the companies and changes they're writing about. What makes it all work is the way he puts it all together to guide companies to the next level.
This year, with the publication of The Connected Company, Dave Gray has written an important book. Like Peter Senge's The Fifth Discipline, Gray has placed the idea of the organization as a learning and evolving organism at the center of an argument for how the effects of Internet culture and technology are changing the environment in which companies operate.
I admire Gray's clarity and the simple power of his well-considered arguments. This is also a very carefully designed book, very mindful of the user experience of its readers. Gray clearly understands and empathizes with the sort of people who need to read this book and what they need to do with the ideas they will find in it. And I hope it won't hurt sales to say that this is a book for the thinking business person.
Dave Gray doesn't have all the answers, of course, but he is struggling with the right questions, and they are the questions that business leaders must also now confront, make sense of, and orient themselves within. The Connected Company sometimes reminds me of the ethos of Tracy Kidder's The Soul of a New Machine. Not only does it capture the sense of urgency that faces organizations today, but also an optimism about the opportunities that lie ahead for the companies that manage to leave the vestiges of the machine age behind and embrace the struggle with complexity that only connected companies can.
I preordered this on Amazon when I read Dave Gray's blog post "Everything is a Service". I forgot about it and one day the book arrived.
It's a flowing read but an involved one. It seems that Mr. Gray, whether intentionally or unintentionally wrote the book utilizing the concepts of his book-- each chapter is organized like a pod. A self-contained thought that in some aspects pretends as if the other chapters do not exist. For example you might see the same citation/excerpt in subsequent chapters rather than referring to the earlier citation. It works here because it allows each concept to build on the other in a modularized fashion.
The takeaways are simple and you've heard many of them before:
The U.S. management theory hails from the philosophy of Taylorism and The Wealth of Nations, a command and control philosophy. However, the shift towards services and the reality that each of our businesses are actually nodes in a connected 'service network' and in a fractal sense are one 'service network' themselves.
These companies that are to themselves networks of people (not 'human resources') need a different approach to being prepared and competing for the new dynamics of competition. Gray encourages, among other things-- pushing knowledge to the edge, smaller team like approaches for getting things done, and on the whole optimizing for adaptation vs. efficiency, or at the very least being more cognizant about the choice.
I have to revisit this text but on first survey this is a classic management text, even though it is not written in the same authoritative tone. Sadly, while this might endear its readers, its design, style and layout may ultimately lead this book to 'preach to the choir' as it departs in tone and style far enough from widely distributed business books like 'Good to Great' that it may find circulation in management hallways challenging.
Additionally this book suffers from survivorship bias, it only refers to the case studies that support the central arguments and ignores those who follow similar practices and are not similarly successful. Personally I do not find this to be a problem because the way Mr. Gray wrote the book its more of a manifesto, and hypothesis than a perspective that is to be taken by the letter and the law.
(from my GoodReads review)
Large or small, a company is a collection of unique people and so are the customers... They should be treated as such. This book is the how.
With case studies, excellent writing, and well drawn ideas, it is a delightful read. No matter how much time you spend reading this and dealing with the change to implement it, having a successfully podular company will save from wasting countless unproductive hours in the future and could very well save your company from extinction.
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