A New Contract Between Employees, Customers and Society


Capitalism 2.0

Throughout its history, information technology has been on a journey, becoming ever-more integrated with business and society. Consider that employees are no longer just users; they are increasingly ‘double-deep’ skilled in both their particular job functions as well as the relevant IT know-how. Customers are also no longer just consumers. They rely on the web and their own social networks to help themselves and others make better, more informed decisions. Finally, in many organizations, IT has become inseparable from business decision-making, corporate culture, and the larger contract with society.

These shifts in employee empowerment, customer behaviour, management thinking and societal obligations are changing the very nature of work as well as the business practices and social contracts used inside and outside of the firm. The Internet will continue to create many exciting new opportunities in areas such as social networking, mobility and collective intelligence, but it’s also creating new risks and challenges as traditional command and control environments must learn to co-exist with new management models based on communities, participation, and trust.


Curated by Trevor Lee




FAILURE! Pause for Thought.

The success rate of business mergers comes in a distant second to that of marriages. Bain & Company (2004) put the U.S. failure rate at 70%, defined in terms of failure to increase shareholder value. Hay Group and the Sorbonne (2009) found that more than 90% of mergers in Europe fail to achieve their financial goals.



The Good News They’re Not Telling You


by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.

As we look at things that impress us technologically we also have a certain trepidation, because we’re told that robots are going to take our jobs. “Yes, the internet is wonderful,” we may say, “but robots, I don’t want those.”

I don’t mean to make light of this because robots are going to take a lot of jobs. They’re going to take a lot of blue collar jobs, and they’re going to take a lot of white collar jobs you don’t think they can take. Already there are robots that can dispense pills at pharmacies. That’s being done in California. They have not made one mistake. You can’t say that about human pharmacists, who are now free to be up front talking to you while the robot fills the prescription.

Much of this is discussed by author Kevin Kelly in his new book The Inevitable, with the subtitle Understanding the 12 Technological Forces that Will Shape Our Future. It’s incredible what robots can do and what they will be able to do.

Automation Really Is Taking Our Jobs

To me, just the fact that one of Google’s newest computers can caption a photo perfectly — it can figure out what’s happening in the photo and give a perfect caption — is amazing. Just when you think “a machine can’t do my job,” maybe it can.

What kind of world is this we’re moving into? I understand the fear about that. But, at the same time, let’s think, first of all, about what happened in the past.

In the past, most people worked on farms, and automation took away 99 percent of those jobs. Literally 99 percent. They’re gone. People wound up with brand new jobs they could never have anticipated. And in pursuing those jobs we might even argue that we became more human. Because we diversified. Because we found a niche for ourselves that was unique to us. Automation is going to make it possible for human beings to do work that is more fulfilling.

How is that? Well, first let’s think about the kinds of jobs that automation and robots do that we couldn’t do even if we tried. Making computer chips, there’s no one in this room who could do that. We don’t have the precision and the control to do that. We can’t inspect every square millimeter of a CAT scan to look for cancer cells. These are all points Kevin Kelly is trying to make to us. We can’t inflate molten glass into the shape of a bottle.

So, there are many tasks that are done by robots, through automation that are tasks we physically could not do at all, and would not get done otherwise.

Automation Creates Luxuries We Didn’t Know Were Possible

But also automation creates jobs we didn’t even know we wanted done. Kelly gives this example:

Before we invented automobiles, air-conditioning, flat-screen video displays, and animated cartoons, no one living in ancient Rome wished they could watch pictures move while riding to Athens in climate-controlled comfort. … When robots and automation do our most basic work, making it relatively easy for us to be fed, clothed, and sheltered, then we are free to ask, “What are humans for?”

Kelly continues:

Industrialization did more than just extend the average human lifespan. It led a greater percentage of the population to decide that humans were meant to be ballerinas, full-time musicians, mathematicians, athletes, fashion designers, yoga masters, fan-fiction authors, and folks with one-of-a kind titles on their business cards.

The same is true of automation today. We will look back and be ashamed that human beings ever had to do some of the jobs they do today.

Turning Instead to Art, Science, and More

Now here’s something controversial. Kelly observes that there’s a sense in which we want jobs in which productivity is not the most important thing. When we think about productivity and efficiency, robots have that all over us. When it comes to “who can do this thing faster,” they can do it faster. So let them do jobs like that. It’s just a matter of — so to speak — robotically doing the same thing over and over again as fast as possible. We can’t compete there. Why bother?

Where can we compete? Well, we can compete in all the areas that are gloriously inefficient. Science is gloriously inefficient because of all the failures that are involved along the way. The same is true with innovation. The same is true of any kind of art. It is grotesquely inefficient from the point of view of the running of a pin factory. Being creative is inefficient because you go down a lot of dead ends. Healthcare and nursing: these things revolve around relationships and human experiences. They are not about efficiency.

So, let efficiency go to the robots. We’ll take the things that aren’t so focused on efficiency and productivity, where we excel, and we’ll focus on relationships, creativity, human contact, things that make us human. We focus on those things.

Automation Really Does Make Us Richer

Now, with extraordinary efficiency comes fantastic abundance. And with fantastic abundance comes greater purchasing power, because of the pushing down of prices through competition. So even if we earn less in nominal terms, our paychecks will stretch much further. That’s how people became wealthy during and after the Industrial Revolution. It was that we could suddenly produce so many more goods that competitive pressures put downward pressure on prices. That will continue to be the case. So, even if I have a job that pays me relatively little — in terms of how many of the incredibly abundant goods I’ll be able to acquire — it will be a salary the likes of which I can hardly imagine.

Now, I can anticipate an objection. This is an objection I’ll hear from leftists and also from some traditionalist conservatives. They’ll sniff that consumption and greater material abundance don’t improve us spiritually; they are actually impoverishing for us.

Well, for one thing, there’s actually much more materialism under socialism. When you’re barely scraping enough together to survive, you are obsessed with material things. But, second, let’s consider what we have been allowed to do by these forces. First, by industrialization alone. I’ve shared this before, but on my show I had Deirdre McCloskey once and she pointed out that in Burgundy, as recently as the 1840s, the men who worked the vineyards — after the crop was in, in the fall — they would go to bed and they would sleep huddled together, and they basically hibernated like that for months because they couldn’t afford the heat otherwise, or the food they would need to eat if they were expending energy by walking around. Now that is unhuman. And they don’t have to live that way anymore because they have these “terrible material things that are impoverishing them spiritually.”

The world average in terms of daily income has gone from $3 a day a couple hundred years ago to $33 a day. And, in the advanced countries, to $100 a day.
Yes, true, people can fritter that away on frivolous things, but there will always be frivolous people.

Meanwhile, we have the leisure to do things like participate in an American Kennel Club show, or go to an antiques show, or a square-dancing convention, or be a bird watcher, or host a book club in your home. These are things that would have been unthinkable to anyone just a few hundred years ago.

The material liberation has liberated our spirits and has allowed us to live more fulfilling lives than before. So, I don’t want to hear the “money can’t give you happiness” thing. If this doesn’t make you happy — that people are free to do these things and pursue things they love — then there ain’t no satisfying you.

Tom Woods, a senior fellow of the Mises Institute, is the author of a dozen books, most recently   Real Dissent: A Libertarian Sets Fire to the Index Card of Allowable Opinion.


Trevor Lee




Executive Search & Interim Management since 2001
Connecting you with the best certified executive talent on the planet

Why Start-Ups Succeed.

Five metrics from Bill Gross of IdeaLab.

Bill is a Serial start-up entrepreneur.

#1 Timing (is the customer ready) 42%

#2 Team (A team always beats B team even if they have lesser product) 32%

#3 Idea (is it novel, innovative or disruptive of what already exists) 28%

#4 Model (is the business model sound with the right structure and skill set) 24%

#5 Funding (always easy once marketplace traction is achieved) 14%

Analysis based on over 100 start-ups.

TedTalk link:


Trevor Lee – EP International




We provide C-suite services in the field of talent acquisition, development and retention.

A failure of management.

In this guest post from Dr Jules Goddard he explains why studying failing organisations is more productive than studying those that succeed.


Business failure is much more interesting than business success. Failure tends to conform to a rather small number of pathological patterns, whereas success is invariably a one-off.

There is very little of interest that can be said about success because, by definition, it doesn’t generalize. If it did, every aspiring entrepreneur could be successful simply by adhering to a limited set of established principles. However, we know from practice that this is an illusion.

No sooner have Tom Peters, Jim Collins and other business observers claimed to have unlocked the secret of excellence, getting from good to great (or some other winning formula) than their chosen exemplars regress to the performance mean of their industry and the hunt for the snark has to start all over again.

Failure would seem to be different. It is less idiosyncratic. When things go wrong, standard reasons are usually to blame.

Incompetence is patterned. Unlike success, failure lends itself to generalisation and can therefore become the basis for theory building. We can imagine a science of business failure in a way that would not make sense for a science of success.

Warren Buffett has always been intrigued by failure:

I’ve often felt that there might be more to be gained by studying business failures than business successes. In my business, we try to study where people go astray and why things don’t work. If my job were to pick a group of 10 stocks in the Dow-Jones average that would outperform the average itself, I would probably not start by picking the 10 best. Instead, I would try to pick the 10 or 15 worst performers and take them out of the sample and work with the residuals. It’s an inversion process. Start out with failure and then engineer its removal.

Systemic reasons

Organisations typically fail for one of two systemic reasons: mismanagement or over-management. Mismanagement is a particular kind of market failure in which the organisation operates to a mistaken understanding of the market it serves. For example, Eos and Maxjet both assumed, falsely, that the market for trans-Atlantic air travel could support an exclusively business-class airline. By contrast, over-management is a form of institutional failure in which the organisation takes on too large an administrative burden. The current woes of the National Health Service, for example, result essentially from an inflated view of the efficacy of bureaucracy. There are simply far too many managers.

The latter source of failure is insufficiently recognized – both by theorists of management (who tend to take a Pollyanna-like view of the potential of managerialism) and by practitioners themselves (who have a vested interest in its efficacy). Organisations get bigger, more complex and ever more global – until the task of coordinating the workload and motivating those doing the work becomes simply too great for mere mortals. It is a bad organisation that requires extraordinary managerial skills for it to flourish. For example, the quality of the head teacher is now the most important factor discriminating good from poor schools in Britain. Something is drastically wrong when organisations become so dependent upon the qualities of a single individual. In business, this disease has been called ‘the cult of the CEO’.

The signs of over-management are now widespread and self-evident: layer upon layer of managers reporting to other managers on managerial issues; an internally focused culture of long and indecisive meetings, incessant emailing and endemic micro-management; a long-hours culture; large numbers of disengaged and demoralised employees; a neurotic obsession with displacement activities such as restructuring, operational excellence or change management; and a language of impenetrable jargon.

The root cause of over-management is an exaggerated faith in managerialism. We give executives the job of both coordinating a wide range of tasks and motivating those who are performing these tasks. But above a certain size or complexity of organisation, this job becomes undoable. Our response to this dilemma is to make matters worse by employing even more managers or even more expensive managers to manage what has become unmanageable. In many organisations, managerialism is now the problem and not the solution. In the context of economic planning in socialist economies, Friedrich Hayek gave the name ‘the fatal conceit’ to the belief that a small number of very clever economists could allocate resources more productively than markets. In many companies, the same fatal illusion has taken hold.

Above a certain size (my view: 150 employees), coordination is better achieved by market principles of self-organisation and emergent order than by hierarchical principles of control and constraint. Motivation is more likely to result from a culture that emphasises autonomy of the individual, the development of personal mastery and an ambiance of sociability rather than targets, key performance indicators, scorecards and financial incentives.

The recent onslaught by behavioural economists such as Daniel Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (Canongate, 2011), Richard Thaler’s and Cass Sunstein’s Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness (Penguin, 2009) and David Brooks’ The Social Animal (Short Books, 2011) on the traditional notion of rational economic man adds fuel to this critique of manageralism, by refuting the assumption that man is essentially a calculative being who sees and treats others primarily as resources or ‘factors of production’.Organisations that need large numbers of highly skilled managers to run them are simply organisations that are not serving a self-evident purpose, that are staffed with the wrong people, or that are structured into jobs that require a high level of supervision. Peter Lynch, one of Fidelity’s most illustrious funds managers, used to look to invest in ‘simple businesses that anyone could run’. Where highly talented (and expensive) executives are necessary, a fundamental error has been made in the design of the organisation.

Generally speaking, most people in managerial positions are only needed because:

• People on their own can’t do their job without help and support (a problem of incompetence).

• People without close supervision would cheat on their employer (a problem of mistrust).

• The work to be done is poorly specified, the decision rights are unclear or the customer is remote (a problem of incoherence).

In each case, the solution lies elsewhere than in more management.

Better leaders?

The same doubts and reservations about managerialism also hold for the concept of leadership, the more genteel word for management. ‘Stronger leadership’ or ‘better leaders’ is the fashionable battle cry; but it should come as no surprise that most employees (those who are regarded as needing to be led), when asked to nominate some great leaders, come up with the names of Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin. Who said cynicism was dead?

The deeper question is why a business would ever want to employ someone who needed to be managed or led. Why would a self-respecting individual ever want to apply for a job that entailed being led by someone who was seeking followers?

Richard Rumelt recently suggested that, when times get tough, it’s time to dispense with all those people who need to be managed. But why did we have to wait for the recession?

And why did we design organisations in the first place to be so dependent on bosses?

Jules Goddard (jgoddard@dial.pipex.com), formerly Gresham Professor of Commerce at City University and currently a Fellow, Centre for Management Development at London Business School.



Trevor Lee – EP International




We provide C-suite services in the field of talent acquisition, development and retention.


How to Network More Effectively

As you advance in your career, it’s harder to find time to network — especially when the people you want to know also have jam-packed schedules. To meet prominent people, you have to make yourself stand out so that they come to you.

Start by figuring out what sets you apart. Ask your friends to identify the most fascinating elements of your biography, your interests, or your experiences. Share this information the next time you’re with a group of people you’re trying to connect with. Building your expertise in a niche will also attract people to you.

If you know a lot about wine, or nutrition, or salsa dancing, or email marketing, or any other topic, people who care about that topic are bound to seek you out.




Trevor Lee – EP International




We provide C-suite services in the field of talent acquisition, development and retention.

Are you economically relevant in the Digital Age?



Guest post by Ade McCormack, Digital Strategist, Near futurist, Keynote Speaker and author of a new book entitled “Beyond Nine To Five; Your Career Guide for the Digital Age”.

Ade has spent the last three decades plus working with some of the world’s leading brands and is a digital leadership guru of high international repute – you will find him on YouTube. He is a renowned near-futurist and keynote speaker.

Intro over; here are his thoughts on Talent in the Digital Age.

Ade: Firstly let’s look at the principal actors, namely:

  • The talent.
  • The talent consumers.
  • The talent defenders.
  • The talent suppliers.

Looking at each in turn:

The talent

The term talent feels like a slightly more humane term then human resources or personnel. It possibly has a bit of a ‘youth’ feel to it. The reality is that most talent today are simply acting as technology placeholders in the factory machine, whether that factory is furnished or is criss-crossed with conveyor belts. As technology advances become asymptotic, the placeholders are being filled by technology. We have seen blue collar jobs being automated. We are now seeing white collar jobs being blue-collarised.

Talent in the digital age means having a capability that cannot be replicated by software or a robot. Creativity is key here. If you are a ‘process cog’ in the machine, you are facing extinction. Talent looks less like a bank clerk and more like Lady Gaga, in the digital economy.

The talent consumers

HR functions need to adjust to the new realities of talent management. Firstly, they are on a path to mastery, your organisation is, at best, a stopover to acquire the skills for the next phase of their journey. That is why talent engagement is so important. The longer they stopover the better the return you get on the recruitment investment.

Step one for HR professionals is to stop recruiting with compliancy as the primary competence, and actively seek out talented disruptive thinkers. Step two is to come to terms with the reality that you are the service provider not the police in respect of the talent’s wellbeing.

The talent defenders

There used to be dignity in labour. Today any such charitable behaviour just makes you globally uncompetitive. So the unions need to move away from fighting to keep workers employed, despite the economics, and work with the leadership to ensure the workers get the development they need to become world class and future-proofed talent.  The recent UK election results will have clarified any uncertainty around this point.

The talent suppliers

Recruiters, in theory, control the talent pipeline. They allow the talent to focus on doing great work, rather than having to divert their attention to find the next gig. But genuine talent will be self-marketing because their work is their brand. So recruiters need to raise their game to provide value over and above simply finding the next job. The recruitment industry has come a long way over the last twenty years. But there are still too many buzzword bingo boiler room operations that regard the talent as a detail of the sales process. My advice would be to focus your limited love on the candidate rather than the clients.

Whether we are talent or union leaders, we all have to raise our game. The digital age represents a great opportunity for all parties. Firstly we have to realise that the game has changed. And secondly we have to develop a healthy paranoia about our market value on a real-time basis. 

TBL: Ade, as do I, wish you well as you either embark on your career or adapt to the momentous changes of the digital age. 

Ade’s magnum opus is a reality check for each and everyone’s economic relevance.