A Digital Conversation: The Next Web

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A Digital Conversation Meetup, June 2014. The closing presentation of the evening was shared by Adam Sefton.

Talking on the subject of complexity of the Next Web, he suggested instead of worrying about trying to organise and control this world, both digital and offline, we should embrace complexity (unicorns and all) and allow solutions to evolve and emerge naturally.

Adam Sefton is Global Executive Creative Director at Reading Room. He's been working in digital on a variety of levels for over 10 years, the last 6 in senior agency positions. He is excitable, energetic and enthusiastic about the internet, how people like to use it and what might happen to it in the future. He is returning to discuss how the emergent principles and technologies underlying the next iteration of the web should influence organisations digital strategies. What are the challenges and opportunities facing digital decision makers.

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  • Let’s assume we can even agree on the structure of a company.
    Now looking at just one single business silo, with an overly simplified structure
    But ME 1 is Greg, who is fiercely competitive and desperate for the marketing manager job when Jane (who currently works there) gets promoted to elsewhere in the business.
    Bob, one of the DMMs, is really interested in campaigns, and so tends to only consider the cool ideas stuff, whilst Bill who is less senior, the other DMMs is left with the CMS selection, which he thinks is dull as ditchwater and so ignores it. No-one’s really watching the CMS selection
    Meanwhile all of them don’t speak to other departments because that’s just not the done thing, and Joseph, the MD, would be horrified if his staff mingled with the IT guys (who are kept in the basement anyway)
  • Let’s assume we can even agree on the structure of a company.
    Now looking at just one single business silo, with an overly simplified structure
    But ME 1 is Greg, who is fiercely competitive and desperate for the marketing manager job when Jane (who currently works there) gets promoted to elsewhere in the business.
    Bob, one of the DMMs, is really interested in campaigns, and so tends to only consider the cool ideas stuff, whilst Bill who is less senior, the other DMMs is left with the CMS selection, which he thinks is dull as ditchwater and so ignores it. No-one’s really watching the CMS selection
    Meanwhile all of them don’t speak to other departments because that’s just not the done thing, and Joseph, the MD, would be horrified if his staff mingled with the IT guys (who are kept in the basement anyway)
  • Let’s assume we can even agree on the structure of a company.
    Now looking at just one single business silo, with an overly simplified structure
    But ME 1 is Greg, who is fiercely competitive and desperate for the marketing manager job when Jane (who currently works there) gets promoted to elsewhere in the business.
    Bob, one of the DMMs, is really interested in campaigns, and so tends to only consider the cool ideas stuff, whilst Bill who is less senior, the other DMMs is left with the CMS selection, which he thinks is dull as ditchwater and so ignores it. No-one’s really watching the CMS selection
    Meanwhile all of them don’t speak to other departments because that’s just not the done thing, and Joseph, the MD, would be horrified if his staff mingled with the IT guys (who are kept in the basement anyway)
  • Let’s assume we can even agree on the structure of a company.
    Now looking at just one single business silo, with an overly simplified structure
    But ME 1 is Greg, who is fiercely competitive and desperate for the marketing manager job when Jane (who currently works there) gets promoted to elsewhere in the business.
    Bob, one of the DMMs, is really interested in campaigns, and so tends to only consider the cool ideas stuff, whilst Bill who is less senior, the other DMMs is left with the CMS selection, which he thinks is dull as ditchwater and so ignores it. No-one’s really watching the CMS selection
    Meanwhile all of them don’t speak to other departments because that’s just not the done thing, and Joseph, the MD, would be horrified if his staff mingled with the IT guys (who are kept in the basement anyway)
  • Let’s assume we can even agree on the structure of a company.
    Now looking at just one single business silo, with an overly simplified structure
    But ME 1 is Greg, who is fiercely competitive and desperate for the marketing manager job when Jane (who currently works there) gets promoted to elsewhere in the business.
    Bob, one of the DMMs, is really interested in campaigns, and so tends to only consider the cool ideas stuff, whilst Bill who is less senior, the other DMMs is left with the CMS selection, which he thinks is dull as ditchwater and so ignores it. No-one’s really watching the CMS selection
    Meanwhile all of them don’t speak to other departments because that’s just not the done thing, and Joseph, the MD, would be horrified if his staff mingled with the IT guys (who are kept in the basement anyway)
  • Let’s assume we can even agree on the structure of a company.
    Now looking at just one single business silo, with an overly simplified structure
    But ME 1 is Greg, who is fiercely competitive and desperate for the marketing manager job when Jane (who currently works there) gets promoted to elsewhere in the business.
    Bob, one of the DMMs, is really interested in campaigns, and so tends to only consider the cool ideas stuff, whilst Bill who is less senior, the other DMMs is left with the CMS selection, which he thinks is dull as ditchwater and so ignores it. No-one’s really watching the CMS selection
    Meanwhile all of them don’t speak to other departments because that’s just not the done thing, and Joseph, the MD, would be horrified if his staff mingled with the IT guys (who are kept in the basement anyway)
  • A Digital Conversation: The Next Web

    1. 1. The Next Web How this new network of connected things is a complex system. Why this means we no longer know what we’re doing. And why that might just be ok after all. 13 June 2014
    2. 2. What it used to be The Next Web
    3. 3. What it is now The Next Web
    4. 4. It’s complicated The Next Web
    5. 5. Keep it simple, stupid The Next Web
    6. 6. The Next Web
    7. 7. “As with all things in life, it’s changed … So I guess I now prefer complexity.” The Next Web
    8. 8. Bugger The Next Web
    9. 9. Complex systems The Next Web
    10. 10. Complex systems (the following from “Complexity: A Guided Tour” by Melanie Michell) The Next Web
    11. 11. Complex systems • Complex collective behaviour – the whole is not just the sum of its parts. The Next Web
    12. 12. Complex systems • Complex collective behaviour – the whole is not just the sum of its parts. • Signaling and information processing – these systems both produce and consume signals and information. The Next Web
    13. 13. Complex systems • Complex collective behaviour – the whole is not just the sum of its parts. • Signaling and information processing – these systems both produce and consume signals and information. • Adaption – they adapt through learning to get more effective at what they do. The Next Web
    14. 14. Examples • The Human brain. • Weather and climate. • The behaviour of societies. • Communication networks. • Capitalist markets. The Next Web
    15. 15. Important Point #1 • Complex systems cannot be understood by understanding their constituent parts. The Next Web
    16. 16. Aside #1 – measuring complexity • The system is as complex as the lines of computer code it would take to code that system from start to finish. The Next Web
    17. 17. Example system 1.0 The Next Web
    18. 18. Example system 1.1 The Next Web
    19. 19. Example system 1.2 The Next Web
    20. 20. Example system 1.3 The Next Web
    21. 21. Example system 1.4 The Next Web
    22. 22. ARRGGHH Example system 1.5 The Next Web
    23. 23. Example system 2.0 The Next Web
    24. 24. Example system 2.1 The Next Web
    25. 25. It’s adapting, but it’s painful • It happens all the time. • So why do we expect to get it right next time? • Because we understand more this time? The Next Web
    26. 26. It’s adapting, but it’s painful • It happens all the time. • So why do we expect to get it right next time? • Because we understand more this time? • Remember, complex systems do not get easier to understand the more you understand their constituent parts. The Next Web
    27. 27. Seeking simplicity in the face of complexity is simply a faster route to obsolescence. Accepting complexity The Next Web http://responsive.org/2014/05/you-cant-escape-complexity/
    28. 28. Important Point #2 • New technologies mean our systems have to adapt. Fighting that adaption is painful and in all likelihood entirely futile. Stop it. The Next Web
    29. 29. Aside #2 – death of RSS was Very Bad • It represents the New Order (Google, Facebook, Apple) tightening their walls around their (your) data. • It represents them locking you (the user) into one ecosystem. Apple do it better than others, but they ALL do it. • But being locked into one platform does not simplify the experience. The system is still complex. • And now you have less choice. The Next Web
    30. 30. Concentric complex systems • Not only are our technological networks complex, but the organisations in which they sit are likely also complex. • We have to deal with, unfortunately, complex systems within complex systems. The Next Web
    31. 31. The Next Web Marketing H.R.I.T.Sales Finance Marketing Director Marketing Manager Brand Manager Comms Manager Digital Marketing Manager Digital Marketing Manager Marketing Executive Marketing Executive Concentric complex systems
    32. 32. The Next Web Marketing H.R.I.T.Sales Finance Marketing Director Marketing Manager Brand Manager Comms Manager Digital Marketing Manager Digital Marketing Manager Marketing Executive Marketing Executive Concentric complex systems
    33. 33. The Next Web Marketing H.R.I.T.Sales Finance Marketing Director Marketing Manager Brand Manager Comms Manager Digital Marketing Manager Digital Marketing Manager Marketing Executive Marketing Executive Concentric complex systems
    34. 34. The Next Web Marketing H.R.I.T.Sales Finance Marketing Director Marketing Manager Brand Manager Comms Manager Digital Marketing Manager Digital Marketing Manager Marketing Executive Marketing Executive Concentric complex systems
    35. 35. The Next Web Marketing H.R.I.T.Sales Finance Marketing Director Marketing Manager Brand Manager Comms Manager Digital Marketing Manager Digital Marketing Manager Marketing Executive Marketing Executive Concentric complex systems
    36. 36. The Next Web Marketing H.R.I.T.Sales Finance Marketing Director Marketing Manager Brand Manager Comms Manager Digital Marketing Manager Digital Marketing Manager Marketing Executive Marketing Executive Concentric complex systems
    37. 37. ARRGGHH Haven’t we been here before? The Next Web
    38. 38. An example The Next Web
    39. 39. Important Point #3 • Complex systems exist within other complex systems. The workings of one interact with the workings of the other. The Next Web
    40. 40. The Black Swan • The Black Swan is a concept based around the idea of events that are impossible to predict but that seem obvious in hindsight. • For a variety of reasons, this is true of almost all large events. • Human beings are very bad at accepting randomness. But the truth is that random events impact upon our lives and success far more than we realise. • See also: Outliers; Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow; Any Good Book On Behavioural Economics. The Next Web
    41. 41. Dealing with uncertainty Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s approach to the stockmarket: • Place a lot of bets on exceptionally safe low-odd outcomes • Place a few on exceptionally risky high-odd outcomes The Next Web
    42. 42. Dealing with uncertainty If you don’t know which 1 thing is going to happen, do more than 1 thing. The Next Web
    43. 43. Important point #4 • Complex systems are hard to understand. • But human beings like to feel like they understand. • Post-rationalisation is rampant and covering up the truth.
    44. 44. Benefiting from complexity • Complexity brings uncertainty. • We might understand what happened, but we don’t yet understand how or why it happened. • Can we use this to our advantage? The Next Web
    45. 45. Why don’t we just accept the truth • We don’t know. We’ve got no clue. Sorry boss. The Next Web
    46. 46. If we know this, we can benefit by … • Building extensible systems. APIs. Standard frameworks and interfaces. Common web services. Things that allow data to flow between points more easily. The Next Web
    47. 47. If we know this, we can benefit by … • Building extensible systems. APIs. Standard frameworks and interfaces. Common web services. Things that allow data to flow between points more easily. • Building adaptable systems. More advanced notions of AI that helps systems learn and adapt to new environments. The Next Web
    48. 48. If we know this, we can benefit by … • Building extensible systems. APIs. Standard frameworks and interfaces. Common web services. Things that allow data to flow between points more easily. • Building adaptable systems. More advanced notions of AI that helps systems learn and adapt to new environments. • Building open systems. Open, standardised platforms make extensible and adaptable easier. The Next Web
    49. 49. If we know this, we can benefit by … • Building extensible systems. APIs. Standard frameworks and interfaces. Common web services. Things that allow data to flow between points more easily. • Building adaptable systems. More advanced notions of AI that helps systems learn and adapt to new environments. • Building open systems. Open, standardised platforms make extensible and adaptable easier. • Building more systems. If we cannot know for sure what will work, we should do more than 1 thing. The Next Web
    50. 50. What might we see in the future? • Solutions shared across multiple clients, collaborating to develop better results (e.g., multiple charity clients sharing data to develop big data prediction solutions). The Next Web
    51. 51. What might we see in the future? • Solutions shared across multiple clients, collaborating to develop better results (e.g., multiple charity clients sharing data to develop big data prediction solutions). • Rapid prototypes, development of Minimal Viable Products, that are released quickly, learnt from, and redeveloped. The Next Web
    52. 52. What might we see in the future? • Solutions shared across multiple clients, collaborating to develop better results (e.g., multiple charity clients sharing data to develop big data prediction solutions). • Rapid prototypes, development of Minimal Viable Products, that are released quickly, learnt from, and redeveloped. • A website that has a genetic algorithm that constantly evolves its IA to maximise conversion. The Next Web
    53. 53. What might we see in the future now? • US firm DataKind was set up with the expressed intention of helping charities to find data professionals to help with data analysis across multiple charities. The Next Web
    54. 54. What might we see in the future now? • Government Digital Services in the UK have been leading the push, releasing work in an agile fashion, adapting to the chaos caused by complex systems. The Next Web
    55. 55. What might we see in the future now? • A space antenna, designed by a genetic algorithm (in 2008). This was a better design than anything designed by human-hand. The Next Web
    56. 56. This is happening now • The ability to accept you cannot understand frees you • You can plan and build things differently. More successfully. • And finally … The Next Web
    57. 57. Answering “will it go viral” I don’t know if it will go viral. In fact, I cannot know if it will go viral, as the concept of viral spread is inherently a complex system that is unfortunately not understandable by reviewing and understanding its constituent parts. Therefore despite being able to review the creative idea, despite having an excellent grasp of social media, despite knowing the number of fans and followers your brand has and despite knowing the amount of budget you have to spend on media to kick start it [DEEP BREATH] I am unable to tell you if this piece of work will go viral. The Next Web
    58. 58. Thanks very much adam.sefton@readingroom.com @adamsefton The Next Web
    59. 59. One last thing!! One-in-twenty The Next Web

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