Thursday, 21 April 2016

Myths to Methods: Mobile to Money

I'm getting a bit fed up with urban-myths sold as fact.  Remote working is impossible.  People travel to offices because digital technologies can't replace face-to-face.  You can't work virtually until you've met face-to-face.  And the list goes on and on in ignorance.
Recently had a conversation where I was told in no uncertain terms that, 'You can't work virtually unless you had met face to face!'  I asked the speaker politely if he had ever tried working digitally or virtually first, or at all to which the reply came back, gruffly, "No! Because it wouldn't work!"

Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.- Lord Kelvin (1824-1907), ca. 1895, British mathematician and physicist

Recently a Harvard Business review article by Carlo Ratti and Matthew Claudel caught my eye.  in it they comment, “What early digital commentators missed is that even if we can work from anywhere, that does not mean we want to.” It is an incorrect observation.  The truth is that most of can’t WORK from anywhere. Work is often about human to human interactions, emotions, creativity and trust building or other relationships. Stop and think about it. I write a comment to this post. You read my comment and respond. Someone else responds to your comment and I read that… We NEVER interact as humans. You and I NEVER interact as human beings as we would in a real-life space. The bulk of the market for digital communication is not about human to human interaction. The digital communications which the authors go on to describe are about human beings interacting with data!  Here's a blog which expands and explains more.

I confess that in 1901 I said to my brother Orville that man would not fly for fifty years. Two years later we ourselves made flights. This demonstration of my impotence as a prophet gave me such a shock that ever since I have distrusted myself and avoided all predictions.- Wilbur Wright (1867-1912) [In a speech to the Aero Club of France (Nov 5, 1908)]  

My focus for the last decade has been on Enhanced Reality (ER)...ER is digital technologies put into action to re-create the human interactions with all the attendant emotions and physical spatial memories. And ER then seeks to layer on top of the human experience features only digital technologies can enable such as persistence, single points of view amongst several people search at a click, etc.  To my surprise we have created what I describe (and I  am biased) is a world beater...QUBE.  We are working towards making QUBE the world's most sought and bought productivity and education methods and behaviours.
In my Google Zeitgiest talk I explain how the daily commute has turned us into time travellers. (12 minutes if you have the time.) The authors are correct in their conclusions but for the wrong reasons. Over the past four years I have transitioned my organisation from offices to working globally via ER. Relationships are better, office politics has declined and most importantly productivity has risen by about a factor of five. I believe that we will continue to travel to offices until we transition from devices and digital applications which separate us from each other by making us interact with data to routinely making the technology serve us and enhance our human to human interactions.
And that's why slogans, for that is all it is like, The world is going mobile." are so misleading.   Mobile means doing what we did in the 20th century and adding on digital opportunities simply as accessories!
Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.- Marshal Ferdinand Foch, French military strategist, 1911. He was later a World War I commander.
So if you've never experienced the 'Heavier than air flying machines of the digital communication world' - Enhanced reality (ER)  ,I'd like to invite you to visit and explore my organisation which collaborates incredibly effectively although we are permanently geographically dispersed. My stipulation is that you write up what you discover honestly and post them to this conversation.
Connect to me via LInkedin or as @EddieObeng

Monday, 18 April 2016

Living in my own time

One of my oldest friends, Jacob Hodgson recently said to me, "You know, what you should do is dig out all the ideas you had 15 to 20 years ago and try them out again. The world has probably reached the point you were at then about now."  His comment was prophetic. This morning I was discussing with Jonathan Norman of Taylor and Francis how we could should approach Serious Games. Serious games is a movement intending to use computer gaming as an educational vehicle.
Columbus:  The blue cones represent resources, the pound sign dynamically shrunk with use of resources, purchase of raw materials etc.  The grey weight in the background was work in progress

In 1996 working with Keith Still the mathematician I created Columbus for a company called Nuclear Electric. Columbus was the first ever Virtual Reality Business Game on the planet! We had been asked to find a way to teach (nuclear) scientists business acumen and skills and a simulation seemed like a great idea.) We used an Indigo for the programming (really cool technology for the time) and created a 6 module/ level game of the basics of business acumen and market segmentation and dynamics) Columbus was a context-free simulation, built on the cutting-edge but now redundant Superscape PC platform.

Columbus:  The 'Orcans' represented customers and from above you could see they were walking in circles each representing a customer segment. Clicking on them drove the orders and purchases but of course not all segments are equally valuable!
I would work a full day and then at 21:00 I would drive at break-neck speed from Beaconsfield to Stokenchurch. to work with Keith. We would design develop and programme until 1 a.m. and then I would drive home to sleep.
I learnt that there was a massive difference between a game and a learning tool, no correlation between enjoyment and challenge, that the graphics could often be more distracting than helpful... and a host of other things.

Now Jonathan and I intend to run a global project management game and competition called Project Champions  We are going one step better instead a VR game we are going to use Enhanced Reality (ER) which means that participants will be able to work as three person teams and we will be able to observer their behaviour and soft skills as well as their skills in the game!

We hope to find the best project managers in the world and get them to share their secrets.

Could it be you?  Come and join. Come and play....

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Virtual reality is the big thing in 2016? No. Really? I don't think so.

This was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.

The BBC's Tech Correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones @ruskin147 says, "Virtual reality's the big thing in 2016."

Source: BBC Radio 4 - Broadcasting House, Bluffer's
Guide to 2016 - Rory Cellan-Jones on Technology

"When someone says they can't imagine something happening it says nothing about the probability it will happen and more about the person's lack of imagination." - Anon
I hate to admit it but I can't imagine VR becoming the ‘Next Big Thing’. It is true that VR is pretty amazing.  It draws you in, you lose track of time, and your mind is in a different place from your body – that immersive experience is exhilarating. But when you get a real ‘Next Big Thing’ it is because 'the big thing' gives us real Value. iPads helped you look so cool in front of your friends that you didn't care about the price tag. Value is simply the sum of all the Benefits you get minus the associated Costs, both financial and emotional (for the geeks V=B-C).  VR will only take off if we get the Value right!
Even I am too old and stuffy to wear one of those 'silly', bulky VR face-headsets. How would that look in the office when the CEO puts one on and bumps into a wall because of a 'lack of vision'? To give me Value, the benefits would have to be pretty amazing. VR would work for me if it gave me something I couldn't do without VR, easily and cost-effectively. It would have to, at minimum, give me superpowers.
VR would work for me if it gave me something I couldn't do without VR, easily and cost effectively. It would have to, at minimum, give me superpowers.
Or alternatively VR would give me Value if we could reduce the Costs. For me the emotional cost is of looking silly in a 'face-headset' set. When I saw the new Star Wars movie in 3D, I was kitted out with a style-free, black version of the glasses Brains wore on Tracy Island. The film's images were more immersive than the plot. I know that VR can give you the same experience but turbocharged. But can we make the VR experience happen without the headsets? Yes we can. Do you own a sound player with stereo loudspeakers or a headset? Stereo was the big innovation which turned music into an immersive experience. Your brain is fooled into thinking you are actually surrounded by musical instruments playing. You can create an immersive experience with a screen which is big enough to capture your attention and three-dimensional sound. For me just taking away the bulky, face-headset would bring huge value.
I would be primarily interested in using VR to help my enterprise. For you as an executive or senior manager, I suspect you are interested in your goals. 21st-century business success is either about: Evolution – that means innovation, agility, collaboration and continuous learning - or Domination - gaining scale, global but seamless communications, resource utilisation and decision effectiveness. VR would only get my attention if it could help me do these things better, faster and more cost-effectively than I can traditionally.
I suspect that as powerbroker in your organisation you are also probably an 'oldie'.* (* My definition of an oldie is, "anyone who is older than Google or can remember when the internet happened".) For us oldies, Value will come if the design of the VR is aimed at us. It makes use of tech skills we already possess, it allows us to use our familiar tools like spreadsheets and powerpoints. Even giving us decent text sizes and making it not feel ‘gamey’. I would want to be able to forget about the software and concentrate on the goals. All of those would boost the Value to me.
Virtual worlds are real places where people can interact. Whether your strategy is to Evolve or Dominate, your people have challenges which will best be solved through interaction. So adding interaction to the immersiveness of VR adds more Value and gives it a better chance of becoming ‘The Next Big Thing’. I suspect many games will be built with this combination in mind. But if you remember SecondLife you will know that just interaction and immersion can lead to some very strange looking avatars and awkward situations.
...the sweet spot is the overlap between immersivity, interaction and integration.
VR can only be ‘The Next Big Thing’ if it hits the sweet spot. It must offer so much value that it is utterly compelling. It must do something which we cannot do without it. And it must do it in a way which is easier, more convenient and cheaper than we would anticipate.
I believe that the sweet spot is the overlap between immersivity, interaction and integration. Integration is when the designer has ensured that between participants, goals are shared, alignment is easy, people are enabled to collaborate or compete towards a real outcome, in a different & better way than they can do traditionally face-to-face or using pale imitations of face to face like conference calls, lync, Skype, webex, adobeconnect and other software packages.
When VR hits the sweet-spot it will be ‘better than life’. That for me would be the equivalent of VR giving me superpowers. And it would add real compelling Value. If VR hits that sweet spot Rory Cellan-Jones would have predicted correctly and it will definitely be ‘The Next Big Thing’ for 2016.
Cognition, Collaboration, Connection
About VR by oldies for oldies with a goal

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Collaboration? Sure! Yes, but what’s in it for me?

[This is an updated version of an article first published in Project Manager Today written before Pentacle launched QUBE.]


On-line collaboration!  Hah!  All it has meant for me so far is that I’ve had to waste an hour re-typing perfectly legible handwritten notes and emailing them to our scrum master/moderator.  It takes a week to get posted - and half the team aren’t given access to it any way so they’ll just text me to ask about it.   It’s OK for our project leader, he doesn’t mind wasting his time to look cool and trendy and anyway she gets her offshore writing to text provider to do it for her.  But for me it’s just more work.  What a waste of time.  I just want to get on with the work - why does anyone need to know what I’m doing?  It’s just to check up on me that’s all.  What a waste of time - I haven’t got the time to spend like some others on staring at  a screen all day - I’ve got to make things happen.  I curse silently as the traffic which had started to move grinds again to a halt.  Anyway, I get enough emails, lync messages, skypechats, yammer pings as it is.  Why do I need more?  Five more metres and then the traffic stops again.  I’m going to miss my train at this rate. And I’m going to bate for the sprint update adobe connect session.

Now I’m sitting on a damp platform waiting for the next train due in twenty minutes.  I’m trying not to waste my time but so far my attempts to reach half a dozen people by phone have drawn a blank.  Phone tag.  I’ve left messages about their messages.  All I need are a few estimates on cost and an update on how the last phase of the implementation has gone - and I’m trying to update my sponsor. 

The train arrives and I’m off for a full on face-to-face meeting with the key client - I like to see their reaction as I talk - Now I’m late I’ll only have forty minutes with them - I hope I can get it all in and it won’t be too rushed. The spreadsheet is huge and my tablet is small It’s hard to check and make all the corrections I need to.  I wish had a bigger screen so I could go fast and modify my presentation to fit 40 minutes.  No matter I’ll just leave out some of the pages and use a flipchart.  I can always bring the chart sheets back with me.  It’s really annoying.  I’ve been up since six a.m. and will end up spending all morning to get a 40 minute slot.  There must be a better way.  But I can’t seem to get my message across at the weekly conference call.

On-line collaboration (OLC) is a better way - and I can vouch for it.  After about two decades of working in a Virtual Business School I can vouch that if you do it right it’s a world beater, but if you do it wrong....

OLC is about using technology to reduce the challenge of space and time, bringing the team and stakeholders closer together emotionally and in terms of goals and activities. 

The idea is simple enough:  Collaboration conjures up ideas of conspirators - all in it for a common deeply held belief in a goal - so ideas become ‘free’ and there is a genuine willingness to contribute, challenge share, and learning.

All we need to do is to use digital devices and the ease of data sharing via the internet to capture, organise, share, broadcast and update information and knowledge for all the people involved in the project. 

So why doesn’t it just happen?  What goes wrong?  I often hear three issues either people find it difficult to be effective on line, or it starts with a flourish and then slowly drops away or they complain that it is simply duplication of information and conversations which are held elsewhere!   If you’re interested the bubble diagram below shows the most typical reasons why OLC is ineffective or just dies a death.  Are any of these things happening in your project organisation?  Click on the thumbnail below for the detailed BubbleDiagram or cut to the chase, skip the diagram and find the five root causes below.

 There are five root causes for the failure of OLC

1.     Individual readiness -  Your potential collaborators individually don’t ‘get it’ and genuinely believe  that not collaborating is more effective than collaborating (plus it gives better promotion prospects!)
2.    Team readiness - People refuse to collaborate because it requires a level of trust in others they don’t have - the team isn’t mature enough.
3.     Lack of effective ground rules - No one is really sure how it’s supposed to work what accountabilities other have and what demands they can make of them.
4.     Lack of appropriate kit/ infrastructure - The kit, software and infrastructure available is not set up to make it easy.
5.     Lack of Proactive digital Leadership - There is no one role-modelling and actively shaping the collaborative activities

Individual readiness -

Principle: Collaboration like a chain is as strong as it’s weakest link.  Take time to strengthen the individual links.

...had to waste an hour re-typing perfectly legible handwritten notes and emailing them to our scrum master/moderator.
·        Help people to see the benefits to them - ask them about times when they’ve needed input from others and it’s been hard to get hold of them.  Ask them about the impact on the quality of their work of non-single source data inputs. Ask them about the last minute rushes they have faced because they were unaware of something which had been decided with a long lead time.

...why does any one need to know what I’m doing?

For exactly the same reasons you need to know what they’re doing
·        Make sure that people can easily delete their own contributions (or else they won’t post any contributions)
·        Spend time coaching people on the new tools
·        Be patient with the ‘F2F for everything’ brigade - start them off gently, before they know it they’ll be comfortable with the new way of working.  You may need to teach them how to ‘ping’ people for a response in order to work out the true emotional response
·        Show them real examples of collaborative working

Team readiness -

Principle: Everyone must feel confident in their ability to add to and learn from the contributions of others

...It’s just to check up on me that’s all...

·        OLC will not work without a level of trust and interdependence in the team - If use/ teach participants BlyndTrussed and have them apply it from the start.

...Phone tag.  I’ve left messages about their messages.

·        The team and stakeholders should make sure that they are available on-line easily and information others might want is also available.

Lack of effective ground rules -
...and half the team aren’t given access to it any way so they’ll just phone me and ask about it

Principle: Everything should be as transparent to everyone as is possible -

·        Be sure to have ground rules which are obvious, clear and enforced.
·        If there is the need for confidentiality this should be set up as a limited access area within the collaborative space (not a smoke-filled room outside it!)
·        Your ground rules should include:
Synchronous working (all collaborators on-line at the same time)
·        A moderator
·        SpinCasting to ensure everyone contributes to the conversation
·        Time drumbeats for summary and review (I suggest every 15 mins.)
·        Notes taking /Decision /Action list/Accountability list Using RAPID to make sure nothing is missed

Asynchronous (not everyone on-line at the same time)
·        Ownership of topic - is it with the initiator/ moderator/ concluder
·        Record messages/Summaries for mission people or use KatchUp and set a time to close the loop (I suggest 24hours)
·        Who/how the notes/action list/accountability is to be updated
·        Add in humour and a human element :
...full on face-to-face meeting with the key client , I like to see their reaction as I talk!

Lack of appropriate kit/infrastructure -

Principle: Everyone must be able to enter any information they wish directly themselves without intermediaries and without delay


...Anyway, I get enough emails as it is.  Why do I need more?

For this [Advert Alert!]  I recommend you use QUBE.  QUBE is a unique, universally accessible learning, collaboration and execution enterprise/social medium

[Another advert alert!]  QUBE has all the functionality of Skype, lync , hangouts, adobe connect, gotomeeting, yammer, conference call bridges etc., etc. but is surprisingly easy and intuitive to use – It means you have a single place to collaborate and learn.  

[Advertising gone mad!  Video on ‘Why use QUBE?’

...I wish I had a laptop then I could modify my presentation to fit 40 minutes.  No matter I’ll just leave out some of the pages and use a flipchart.  I can always bring the chart sheets back with me.

OLC warriors minimum kit

  • A large screened device - This is your primary tool if you wish to stay sane you will ignore all that "The future is mobile" sloganeering (If the future is mobile where are they all going?  Why move atoms (people) in a digital world where the electrons (data) moves easier?)  Use this device in comfort for most of your work and only go mobile to collaborate if you have no other options!
  • A light digital device – if it has a lid it must fold flat so you can see your colleagues over the top - preferably with wireless/3or 4G connection which allows you to take it into meetings and capture notes etc. ONCE directly ono QUBE DURING the discussion

re-typing perfectly legible handwritten notes and emailing it to our scrum master/moderator
Smart phone to insist on taking snapshots of all the notes i.e. yours and everyone else’s at the end of the session and posting to QUBE

[Advert Alert] Using QUBE as your collaborative space means you will avoid the trap of different softward versions so all your information will be available to everyone within the team/ stakeholder group

Select the best collaboration software for your team

Lack of Proactive digital Leadership -

Principle: You have to lead, You must change your behaviour. You must share and create psotive emotions for your followers. You must Derive the actions to be taken. You must encourage adn enable collaborative thought and learning.

...anyway she gets her offshore writing to text outsourcer to do it for her...

·        You have to lead yourself - so get comfortable with OLC  [Advert Alert!! Pentacle offers a QUBE eFacilitation course for this]
·        You must be rigorous - capture all knowledge electronically - no old world dead tree back up systems
·        Be clear on the behaviours you expect - pro-actively poke people in the ribs to alert them to new contributions and demand contributions from them
·        Work with your internal IT department to help them understand what you are trying to achieve
·        Create a cyberPersonality which you use consistently - a signature, a type of humour, a style of writing, etc.

 There must be a better way!

There is!  Find out more at

@eddieObeng is Learning Director at Pentacle The Virtual Business School @PentacleTheVBS  20 London End Beaconsfield Bucks HP9 2JH  +44 (0) 1494 678 555

@QUBEcc is Pentacle’s answer to the challenge of collaboration in a world which changes faster than we can learn

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Another way of thinking about moving from an Old World to New World mindset

I've spent over half my life educating, exploring, provoking and challenging people to realise that the business environment  which existed for most of the previous couple of hundred years has ceased to exist.  If you know me well you'd have watched my TED Global talk about 'turbulent environments 'and green ink'  (No? Enjoy a stimulating 12 minutes now.)  Today my friend Peter Tandlich sent me through a video which in 8 minutes illustrates the challenge I have faced in my quest to get people to respond rationally to the real environment around them instead of in a knee-jerk to one which no longer exists but which they recognise, know the rules of and have the skills for.

The part in the video where the brain reverts back to the old world, just snapping back is something I once watched one of my cutting edge clients, back pedal about a decade after a merger with an Old World organisation, in less than a year they completely lost and forgot all the amazing successes and progress they had made.  And the merger partner was unable to take any advantage of the reasons they had taken them over which was their World After Midnight outlook strategy and culture.

I guess for us, the challenge from the video is compelling, if you're an 'oldie' (my nickname for anyone older than Google or who has been in business longer than facebook) prepare yourself for a tough long re-learning curve with lots and lots of falling off!  But remember it's all Smart Failure!

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Commuting Heaven?...or Hell!

This was originally published on the Pentacle blog New World Times.

Commuting heaven?  What tomorrow's urban transport systems might look like.  That was the header on the BBC News page yesterday.
The illustrations were stunning... but..

21st-century future - trains?




Yesterday during an NHS NSS review 'qall' on QUBE ( Kerry Russell said, "Isn't it about time we began to think of a world post meetings"  "A world where we do things differently much better, learn new things, get the work done and make decisions?"  "This is what I liked about working on QUBE."

About a fifth of the energy we use is used for transport - mostly to move people from homes (with computers connected to the internet)  to and from offices or schools  (with computers connected to the internet) or to and from meetings.

Any serious plan to re-balance the world that doesn't involve a radical rethink about moving electrons instead of people isn't really serious.

About a fifth of the average worker's time is spent in meetings of which a quarter of that time is completely wasted, according to Management Today.  Harvard Business Review warns us that for senior management, it's more like four-fifths spent in meetings and that doesn't even take into account the time spent getting there and back!  McKinsey's warn about the wasted time.  But worrying about time is not enough.  In our fast-changing, complex world, without new learning, how good is the quality of any decisions taken in these meetings?  How good is the perspective of any plans made in these meetings?

Any serious plan to build a world-beating 21st-century business or organisation that doesn't involve a radical re-think about how to integrate continuous, collaborative learning and working into the core of the enterprise instead of individuals working independently and meeting up periodically to share 'past sell-by-date' thoughts isn't really serious.

Join us and experience what working and learning does look like in the 21st century at our open inspiration event or just contact us to find out more.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Instructions for INNOVATION*

Innovation is nothing less than:
“The process of Turning (new) Ideas into Money (or social benefits).”

1- Innovation is change – so the Laws of Change** apply. But because it is (new) change, engagement must be more than logical – it must be emotional and/or cultural

2- The Sparq of an idea goes on a journey to end up as Money (Social Benefits) – as on any journey The Speed of Innovation and time taken is Determined by the Bottlenecks not the number of ideas which set off!In a complex system there are rarely ever more than half a dozen bottlenecks. Innovation has five potential bottlenecks:

  • Lack of opportunity to begin to innovate Create the Opportunity
  • Lack of focus and clarity on ‘why’ and ‘what’ we wish to achieve or is acceptable Achieve Focus
  • Lack of engagement of the people inside or outside the organisation (customers) Engage Commitment
  • Inappropriate scale or poor protection Make It Possible
  • Ineffective execution or inappropriate project management  Make it Happen

3- For every extra idea squeezed through the bottleneck you will have an extra innovation – so increase the throughput through the bottlenecks. All time and resources spent on nonbottlenecks will have no impact at all on the level of innovation achieved. Its’ not how big the funnel is it’s the size, organisation and use of the orifice!

4- Sparqs which originate outside the organisation, Pull Sparqs are at risk inside the organisation – Sparqs which originate inside the organisation, Push Sparqs are at risk outside the organisation. The closer to the end recipient the Sparq originates the more likely it will be accepted. The closer the Sparq originates to the capabilities of the organisation developing it the more likely it will be executed.

5- Because innovations change the world they enter, success is not just the impact of doing something. Success is the sum of the effect of doing something AND downsides of doing nothing!  This means that conventional business cases and value calculations are irrelevant


– Watch Eddie Obeng on TED global talking about innovation at

* From the book Who Killed the Sparq? - Get the free ebook download at
** From the book Perfect Pojects -Read it on Amazon

Meet, interact and apply this with Eddie Obeng and your work colleagues on QUBE
Read about other companies using Eddie Obeng's Innovation Accelerator