What you do is who you are.

Ben Horowitz, of Andreessen Horowitz (software is eating the world), wrote a new book. It is titled “What you do is who you are.“, and will, following the announcement, discuss corporate cultural standards and how they changed over the years, of course with a particular focus on the tech industry. It’s a hot candidate for this winters reading list.

Demo-Scene proposed as part of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

The Demoscene, which is born at the heart of the home computer revolution, has been showing how skills and creativity can be stimulated and implemented in a dynamic cultural practice adopted to digital contexts. Many of its techniques and mindsets became core techniques and influences of the digital change, and are still vibrant today.

Having been part of the demo-scene for many years myself, this is – at least to me – big news. Starting with the arrival of computers and first commercial software, crackers started copying others intellectual property and made an effort overcoming copy protection. Groups formed to not only solve the technical difficulty to ‘crack’ these systems, but also distribute the results. Soon, pretty presentations were included with these files, to advertise the group that managed to overcome copy protection. Shortly after, these presentations turned into their own discipline, giving programmers, music- and graphic artists an opportunity to compete in artistic demos.

The first demos I remember include 42 by halcyon, 4 kings by orange or daze by urinate. Given the first exposure to the hardwares limits, these were fascinating productions that never failed to amaze me. A close friend from the mailbox scene pointed me to the immortal ‘Second Reality‘ by Future Crew, that finally blew my mind.

Second Reality by Future Crew
Second Reality by Future Crew

Among my peers, this demo was the starting point for many people that I spent a lot of time with and some of whom I am still proud to call my friends. The years following I had the opportunity to not only attend many demo parties but actively contribute my own work to competitions and learn fundamental technology from idols I was lucky to meet at these events.

Now recently, Andreas Lange & Tobias Kopka have started an initiative to bring the demoscene onto the list of the UNESCO intangible world cultural heritage. The initiative advocates the mindset and innovation this scene has developed, contributing technology to culture and leveraging technology to create art. It will likely take a long time to proof this influence and all that I have seen in the past twenty years is well worth bringing this scenes achievements to a broader audience.

Demoszene

Source: Demoscene – The Art of Coding – Digital culture as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Of listening and contributing

With knowing marketing personal and products, I particularly liked the image/text link on the article. Listening to your customer is a skill that most organisations lost in their size and product managers never learned in their bubble. Your customer doesn’t express his experience in KPIs nor does he respond to NPS surveys. Frontal address only takes your brand or product as far as your consumer allows you to.

Initials look at experiential marketing and advise marketers to listen to consumers and add to culture. / Matty Adame

Experiential can be incredibly powerful. But getting it right isn’t straightforward; there are a number of factors you need to take into account in order to be successful. We recently worked with a variety of partners to develop a whitepaper – Live Amplified – exploring why experiential is so essential to a brand’s authenticity, and how to get it right.

Source: Understanding consumer motivation: The importance of listening and contributing | The Drum

Culture and Organizational Change

Just a small observation I made during AWS Transformation Day. While the entire theme for the event was on transforming business, the schedule had one track for “Culture and Organizational Change” alone. While Culture and Organizational Change is a broad and huge topic, but it is necessary and makes the difference for agility in rapidly changing and competitive markets. Amazon has been talking about this for years and they share their knowledge with their partners.

On an attempt to find out how organizations actually master this, the perspective most consultants and companies I talked to during the event shared with me was rather sobering. Anyone exhibiting at that event merely offered to run any software project under an agile management. No support, consultancy or even efforts to drive actual change, whatsoever, at least nothing that would exceed a traditional software project scope.

Cultural and Organizational Change is something requiring executive buy in and is killed quickly by means of exhaustive efforts to plan ahead. Culture needs to embrace the possibility to change quickly, throughout the process. And the wish for management is human, to have transparency and perspective early in the process, it is just as natural in the process for developers to stay vague for items that are not yet clear.

Any cultural change needs to embrace bi-directual communication and the ability to break down complex. On first thought this sounds easy, but requires plenty of cooperation and trust in a clearly defined team. Culture is rooted in clear understanding of roles, responsibilities and not to mention last, trust of all members.

Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast

“Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast” is a quote that is often attributed to Peter F. Drucker, but was apparently coined by Ford’s Mark Fields. Whoever said it, both have plenty of business acumen to take some credit for the thought behind it. There statement has lot of truth in it, looking into corporate structures.

With the arrival of digitalisation it is more true than ever before. All verticals struggle with fundamentally changing markets, forcing them to innovate in technology and services, and strive for new business models. In this environment it is crucial to embrace change, which enterprise culture often outright rejects.

Change Management has been a topic in management and HR for many years, and never has been so fundamental to organisational success as it is nowadays. Technology is converging at a breathtaking pace. The Internet of Things, as an example, requires electrical & mechanical engineers to cooperate with computer scientists and data analysts to produce a product a usability engineer designed jointly with a designer. Fundamentally different schools of though define the success of a product, and even consumer and enterprise grade of products converge in their appearance.

At the same time, the technologic ecosystem has outgrown individual organisations capabilities. Partnerships with technology vendors require management while intellectual property needs defence at the same time.

Organisations develop anti-patterns like “Silo Thinking” or “Not invented here” syndrome. While these cultural behaviours are tolerable in less dynamic situations, their effect can quickly go out of bounds and create a substantial counterforce to any change infused through external factors.

Embracing an open ecosystem and building on technologies developed outside the own organisation are fundamental to innovation. This open mindset is a prerequisite for any change into agility. Any strategy aiming for change ignoring these behaviours will be eaten by this exact culture. For breakfast.