Cleve Gibbon

content management, content modelling, digital ecosystems, technology evangelist.

Team of Teams

I recently finished the book Team of Teams.  For me, it was one of those books that give sensible names to the things already do, but articulated in a clear, smart, and demonstrable way.  

It’s about leadership.  What was complicated before is truly complex now.  A complicated problem can be decomposed into a number of parts with a manageable amount of inter-relationships.  Complex problems are those where the inter-relationships between the parts are much greater and nuanced.  A jigsaw puzzle is complicated, but a virus complex.  

Being complicated is different from being complex
– Team of Teams

You cannot solve complex problems with complicated solutions.   Hierarchical organizational structures with command and control leadership are efficient approaches to solve complicated problems.  However, the effective resolution of complex problems requires a different approach.

Shared Consciousness

So we must build teams where information flows like water.  Be open and transparent.  And develop that operational muscle to make information readily accessible in near real-time between trusted teams.  There are many techniques for doing this (PPP Reports, stand-up meetings, 1-to-1s).  

Empowered Execution

Grow and nurture leaders.  Your job as a leader is to provide oversight.  Proactively get out of the way.  Don’t stand in front of the information firehose throttling access.  Don’t make the decisions upstream and disempower teams downstream.  The flow of information within complex environments is too much for a single leader to make informed and impactful decisions with the speed and accuracy expected of them.  So don’t.

The transition from Command to Command of Teams is a good first step. However, an efficient shared consciousness brings diminishing effectiveness returns in Command of Teams structures as leaders quickly starting drowning in information.

Becoming a gardener

Instead, a great leader is oil in the engine.  They connect the parts.  Feeding the teams.  Providing oversight. Sharing information. And in doing so, tending the complex environment to enable growth. 

So I’ve heard this put two ways: 

  • Nose-In, Fingers-Out
  • Eyes-On, Hands-Off.  

Both work. So go be that gardener and grow great leaders.

Ethics and Compliance

Ethics and Compliance

The oversight of ethics and compliance programs is a core board responsibility.  A single corporate misstep today can result in immediate reductions in business operations and/or long-term reputational brand damage.  

Both are important but in very different ways.  

ethics and compliance

Compliance

A known set of rules, laws, regulations, and/or policies that are applicable to a group of individuals or entities.  

So compliance is binary in nature.  Your behaviors fall into one of two categories: compliant or non-compliant.  That’s because compliance is quantitative, objective, and black/white in its approach.  Being compliant means periodically determining whether you are, as they say, still on the bus.  

Ethics

A shared system of values.

And so ethics are fuzzy.  They require a higher level of judgment to determine whether individuals and/or entities share a common system of values.  Ethics are qualitative, subjective, and grey by definition.  Ethics pits your value system against someone or something else.  Comparing value systems is an important discovery through discourse.  Evaluating assumptions and getting real. Being ethical means continuously determining whether you are, as they say, on the right bus.

Ethics and Compliance

You need both.  However, employees are choosing companies that share their values.  Ethical companies clearly articulate purpose, have a point of view, and proactively go after it.  Where compliance enforces, ethics empowers.  Today, we’re seeing that ethics are multipliers to robust compliance programs. You need both in balance.

Three simple data questions

Information is useful and useable data.  During a typical working day, a business hopes to close with more valuable information than it started with.  The broader goal(s) is to better understand “this” in order to achieve “that” – whatever this and that may be for your business!  

Regardless, digitization creates meaningful and modular data chunks that enable information exchange to take place anytime, anywhere, by anyone. Data literally moves at the speed of light.  That’s how digital business is conducted today.  Always on platform businesses – Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Spotify, Uber – never close.

Three important data questions

90% of company assets on the balance sheet today are intangible. Let that sink in – 90%!  Digital businesses place a lot of value on insights, information, intelligence, and IP.  This requires digital businesses to really deeply understand the data they manage.

So start by asking:

  1. What data have you got?
  2. What format is your data in?
  3. What data can you access to augment your data?

Simple questions that have a difficult path to the answers.  However, these answers are critical to your future business success.  The bigger the company, the greater the challenge.  When talking about data management in the broader sense, do you have answers to these three simple questions?  

What is product engagement

If you like something, you’ll use it. A lot. That’s product engagement.

I recently listened to John Straw speaking on a McKinsey podcast. I’m sharing his super simple way of thinking about product engagement. Take a look at these two companies:

Company A: Makes $1, per 100 users, with 1k interactions per day

Company B: Makes $1000, per 100 users, with 1 interaction per day

So which company has better engagement? A or B? Of course it’s A. However, it’s important for Company A not to lose sight of this as it grows the $ part of the equation.

It’s clear that company A has a product that customers want to engage with. Company B has got the marketing right.  Sustainable businesses scale products (the ends) not marketing (the means).  

Healthy Curiosity

My wife is a writer.  Last week she shared an interesting piece of advice for dealing with writer’s block. Cleve, you need a good dose of healthy curiosity Cleve. Of course, I asked for more details and I got this:

   Every week research something that you’re curious about.  

Something I’m curious about? Well, I’ve always wanted to learn how to code in Python. It’s a playful yet powerful programming language that I’ve never used in anger. Why not?

So on Sunday, I signed up for an online self-service python course. The University of Michigan module on Coursera looked perfect. From there I downloaded the Python for Everybody kindle book for a dollar and got to work. Six days later and I’m wrapping up the course and finished with the book. It was super fun and lived up to being playful yet powerful. I highly recommend it as a first programming language for anyone wanting to get into coding. I wish it was around when I was a boy. For parents, consider it for your kids.

Now, I hate snakes by the way (but love the movie Snakes on a Plane).  Python was NOT named after the snake.  No. It was named after the Monty Python Flying Circus comic strip.  Remember the playful part of python.

Back to Healthy Curiosity

I’ll let you into a little secret.  I don’t have writer’s block.  My writing efforts are far too short and sweet for that.  However, it did supercharge my curiosity in all other areas. It was as if my eyes and ears were temporarily supercharged.  I put all the energy derived from a dose of healthy curiosity into listening more intently and paying attention longer in my day-to-day. I’m hoping it continues into next week. I’ll let you know.

So healthy curiosity appears to be a good thing. Try it.  Pick something small and lean in on it. I’d love to know where it takes you

Cannes Lions Innovation 2021

Cannes Lions Innovation happens every year. This year it’s fully digital. The best of best submit their creative works in the hope of winning. Sadly, Cannes was canned in 2020 due to COVID. So in 2021, there’s two years’ worth of innovative work to judge. I had the honor of joining 9 other judges that reviewed 161 entries in the innovation category.

It was hard. So many great entries spanning the 6 innovation sub-categories of early-stage, applied, scalable, product, brand strategy & experience, and innovative technology. We shortlisted 17 entries. This week the shortlisted teams will present their work to the judging panel. By the end of the week, they’ll be winners.

Well done to everyone that entered. Good luck to the shortlisted. If you know any of the judges, next week they will have a singular focus. So wish ’em look.

Cannes Lions Innovation Judging in Progress

Devyce

I’m a Londoner living in America.  However, I still need a UK number primarily for banking purposes.  Security is real. However, mobile provider tariff plans are both complicated and costly.  So how do you get a reliable UK number with the least amount of pain? 

My brother introduced me to Devyce. One phone. Two numbers.  Devyce is a regular mobile app.  Once installed, you pay a monthly subscription fee for unlimited UK texts and calls. Devyce sits on your phone with no additional SIM card required. Just like WhatsApp using the UK number that comes with your subscription. All you need is an internet connection. Problem solved.

So how much?  My personal plan is less $8 per month people. Devyce is a smart, simple and scaleable solution. It also offers plans for teams and businesses. I think everyone should know about Devyce. Consider yourself told!

Black Leadership

I’m black. Born in England and live in Seattle, Washington.  I turned fifty in 2021.  I’ve three careers – so far – an academic (5 years), a software architect (6 years), and currently a chief technology officer (16 years).  For the last twenty years I’ve head leadership positions where I created and/or part owned those companies I worked within.  Now, given the renewed racial tension and events taking place across America, and building a family, I’ve been asking myself what it means to be a black leader today.

Black Leadership Academy

Enter McKinsey who run a Black Leadership Academy program.  I was fortunate to get a place on it in November 2020 through work. And so, six months I’ve graduated and got my badge. But short story short; it was life changing. 

How so?  After speaking with a few of female colleagues attending women only events, like them, these environments are a welcome space to share and care with peers. Less interruptions, no mansplaining. Similarly, the everyday biases and barriers invisible to the majority, yet ever present to the minority, gone! Instead, we were free to openly discuss key leadership topics around networking, managing personal energy levels, psychological trust, the power of storytelling, and the rising importance of non-executive board directorships.  The focus was resolutely on the work. But don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of occasions of group therapy, bonding, and camaraderie. It that was fun. This added to the sense of freedom we strive to feel within a less diverse environments, or put another way, the world we live in today. 

Back to the work

I graduated from the McKinsey Black Leadership Execution Program – BELP – and made many new friends.  The storytelling session was off the charts, equipping the attendees with essential communication tools.  The importance of networking was brought forward and the need to continuously grow and nurture your personal board of directors focussed on you.  Common sense and extremely powerful when applied in the right way.  

The sessions were human. Highly engaging, and deeply personal at times.  The content is proprietary to McKinsey and private.  Unfortunately, I cannot share it with you.  However, I would highly recommend you sign up for the program.  As I said, life changing!

From Cash Wallets to Digital Wallets

Digital wallets are on the rise.  In year COVID – 2020 – digital wallets surpassed cash as the number one payment at all point-of-sales globally.  That’s a big deal. But what are you and I using now instead of cash?

Cash was King

I’ve got a baby on the way. So my wife and I are changing things up at home.  We’re buying and selling furniture. Nesting if you will.  My wife posted a sofa on Facebook Marketplaces for $3000 and Brian said he wanted it.  

Brian> Cleve, do you mind if I come over at 10:30 am to take a look 

Cleve> Sure, no problem Brian

Brian> Awesome, I’ll see you then!

11:30am and Brian rocks up at all flustered and wet.  It’s raining.  Wife and U-haul in tow.  

Brian> Had an absolute nightmare withdrawing $1,500 from a Bank of America ATM

Cleve> How come?

Brian> Typically, we don’t withdraw this amount of cash.  Fraud checks and all.  Took me an hour on the phone to get the cash.  But here it is.

This was literally my first cash transaction since moving to America back in October 2019.  I was happy for Brian but confused as to why he was using cash. I said nothing.  My wife and I showed them our sofa and they agreed to buy it.  

Brian> Right, the downpayment.  Please count it, I’ll feel better that you do.

Brian stuffed the dollars into my hands and asked me to count them. I did as instructed.

Cleve> Okay, all good!

Brian> Super, where’s the nearest ATM so I can get the remaining cash.

Towards digital wallets

I pointed Brian towards the nearest ATM five minutes up the road, and they were gone!  45 minutes later and still no sign of Brian.  In the meantime, we sold another sofa, paid using Venmo (a digital wallet), the buyers had collected and gone.  Okay, Brian’s back!

Brian> That was a nightmare. We couldn’t get any more cash out.  We’re at the limit for today.

Cleve> Yeah, it doesn’t matter what ATM you go to, the limit is the limit!

Brian> However Cleve, I can use Zelle.  It’s a digital wallet I never knew I had on my phone.

Cleve: Interesting. Zelle works for me.  Do you want my cell number?

Brian> Yeah, that’s it, all you need to give me is your cell number.

So Brian and I stand side by side – we didn’t need to do this but did – and in 60 seconds we’re done.  

Brian> I had no idea I had a digital wallet, literally on me all the time.  Why would anyone go to an ATM?

Why indeed?

The Cashless Future

So going forwards Brian will double down on his new digital wallet.  For me, I have the added challenge of going into the bank branch to deposit Brian’s first cash payment of $1,500.   Today, cash is hard to work with.  However, as more and more people with mobiles unlock their digital wallets, increase the number of transactions through them, the future of banking will truly become decentralized. 

Imagine that. Imagine.  That!

It’s not just about the tech

Have you ever heard someone say, “it’s not just about the tech“?  Yes, you have.  In fact, it’s more like, how many times?  Now think back to the context in which technology was presented in that way.  This isn’t a magic trick, but I already know. Technology was put down to better position something else. To sell something.  Raise something up an agenda. To make a point.  To change a mind. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Technology “versus” mindset is a common tactic to advocate for something that isn’t technology.

I’m a technologist.  And technologists know that technology enables something.  It’s seldom a versus situation.  More a “plus” mindset.   So technologists tend to roll their eyes when we hear technology pitted against something.  Frankly, it’s a dated, naive (verging on silly), and uncompetitive way to position technology in the world today. However, things are changing.

What’s changed?

Technology enables so many things that we rely upon everyday to get stuff done.  Ordering groceries.  Buying clothes.  Texting.  Playing music.  Watching movies.  Gaming.  Video chatting.  Table stakes!  And when COVID hit in 2020 our reliance on technology reached all time highs. Onwards and upwards. 

The value of technology is no longer in question.  Technology kept the human race connected through a pandemic.  

What needs to change?  

Whether you’re a technologist or not, think of technology with a plus not a versus mindset.  Technology enables something. It strives to adds more, not takeaway. Yes, we have to adapt. And no, it’s not gong to be easy. But in which mindset do sit?

Versus: It’s not just about the technology, we have to consider the people and processes to deliver better customer experience.

Or

Plus: Technology makes our people and processes smarter to deliver better customer experiences. 

I urge you to favour plus over versus.

Summary

When you hear the versus narrative for technology, please call it out.  I do.  Change the story.  Be inclusive. Make technology a tool for good whether you’re a technologist or not. Why? Because collectively we have a bigger challenge now demystifying technology. The world sees its true value.   Closing that gap requires technologists and non-technologists alike to adopt a plus mindset to help technology make a better world for us all. 

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About Cleve Gibbon



I'm Cleve Gibbon, CTO at Wunderman Thompson where we are passionate about digital content.

My sort of up-to-date cv tells you my past, linked in shows you my professional network and on twitter you can find out what I'm currently up to.