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The Cluetrain Manifesto

95 Theses

These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can't be faked.

Most corporations, on the other hand, only know how to talk in the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us busy signal. Same old tone, same old lies. No wonder networked markets have no respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do.

But learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will corporations convince us they are human with lip service about "listening to customers." They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.

While many such people already work for companies today, most companies ignore their ability to deliver genuine knowledge, opting instead to crank out sterile happytalk that insults the intelligence of markets literally too smart to buy it.

However, employees are getting hyperlinked even as markets are. Companies need to listen carefully to both. Mostly, they need to get out of the way so intranetworked employees can converse directly with internetworked markets.

Corporate firewalls have kept smart employees in and smart markets out. It's going to cause real pain to tear those walls down. But the result will be a new kind of conversation. And it will be the most exciting conversation business has ever engaged in.

  1. Markets are conversations.

  2. Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.

  3. Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.

  4. Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.

  5. People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice.

  6. The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.

  7. Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.

  8. In both internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.

  9. These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge.

  10. As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.

  11. People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products.

  12. There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.

  13. What's happening to markets is also happening among employees. A metaphysical construct called "The Company" is the only thing standing between the two.

  14. Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman.

  15. In just a few more years, the current homogenized "voice" of business—the sound of mission statements and brochures—will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French court.

  16. Already, companies that speak in the language of the pitch, the dog-and-pony show, are no longer speaking to anyone.

  17. Companies that assume online markets are the same markets that used to watch their ads on television are kidding themselves.

  18. Companies that don't realize their markets are now networked person-to-person, getting smarter as a result and deeply joined in conversation are missing their best opportunity.

  19. Companies can now communicate with their markets directly. If they blow it, it could be their last chance.

  20. Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them.

  21. Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humor.

  22. Getting a sense of humor does not mean putting some jokes on the corporate web site. Rather, it requires big values, a little humility, straight talk, and a genuine point of view.

  23. Companies attempting to "position" themselves need to take a position. Optimally, it should relate to something their market actually cares about.

  24. Bombastic boasts—"We are positioned to become the preeminent provider of XYZ"—do not constitute a position.

  25. Companies need to come down from their Ivory Towers and talk to the people with whom they hope to create relationships.

  26. Public Relations does not relate to the public. Companies are deeply afraid of their markets.

  27. By speaking in language that is distant, uninviting, arrogant, they build walls to keep markets at bay.

  28. Most marketing programs are based on the fear that the market might see what's really going on inside the company.

  29. Elvis said it best: "We can't go on together with suspicious minds."

  30. Brand loyalty is the corporate version of going steady, but the breakup is inevitable—and coming fast. Because they are networked, smart markets are able to renegotiate relationships with blinding speed.

  31. Networked markets can change suppliers overnight. Networked knowledge workers can change employers over lunch. Your own "downsizing initiatives" taught us to ask the question: "Loyalty? What's that?"

  32. Smart markets will find suppliers who speak their own language.

  33. Learning to speak with a human voice is not a parlor trick. It can't be "picked up" at some tony conference.

  34. To speak with a human voice, companies must share the concerns of their communities.

  35. But first, they must belong to a community.

  36. Companies must ask themselves where their corporate cultures end.

  37. If their cultures end before the community begins, they will have no market.

  38. Human communities are based on discourse—on human speech about human concerns.

  39. The community of discourse is the market.

  40. Companies that do not belong to a community of discourse will die.

  41. Companies make a religion of security, but this is largely a red herring. Most are protecting less against competitors than against their own market and workforce.

  42. As with networked markets, people are also talking to each other directly inside the company—and not just about rules and regulations, boardroom directives, bottom lines.

  43. Such conversations are taking place today on corporate intranets. But only when the conditions are right.

  44. Companies typically install intranets top-down to distribute HR policies and other corporate information that workers are doing their best to ignore.

  45. Intranets naturally tend to route around boredom. The best are built bottom-up by engaged individuals cooperating to construct something far more valuable: an intranetworked corporate conversation.

  46. A healthy intranet organizes workers in many meanings of the word. Its effect is more radical than the agenda of any union.

  47. While this scares companies witless, they also depend heavily on open intranets to generate and share critical knowledge. They need to resist the urge to "improve" or control these networked conversations.

  48. When corporate intranets are not constrained by fear and legalistic rules, the type of conversation they encourage sounds remarkably like the conversation of the networked marketplace.

  49. Org charts worked in an older economy where plans could be fully understood from atop steep management pyramids and detailed work orders could be handed down from on high.

  50. Today, the org chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical. Respect for hands-on knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority.

  51. Command-and-control management styles both derive from and reinforce bureaucracy, power tripping and an overall culture of paranoia.

  52. Paranoia kills conversation. That's its point. But lack of open conversation kills companies.

  53. There are two conversations going on. One inside the company. One with the market.

  54. In most cases, neither conversation is going very well. Almost invariably, the cause of failure can be traced to obsolete notions of command and control.

  55. As policy, these notions are poisonous. As tools, they are broken. Command and control are met with hostility by intranetworked knowledge workers and generate distrust in internetworked markets.

  56. These two conversations want to talk to each other. They are speaking the same language. They recognize each other's voices.

  57. Smart companies will get out of the way and help the inevitable to happen sooner.

  58. If willingness to get out of the way is taken as a measure of IQ, then very few companies have yet wised up.

  59. However subliminally at the moment, millions of people now online perceive companies as little more than quaint legal fictions that are actively preventing these conversations from intersecting.

  60. This is suicidal. Markets want to talk to companies.

  61. Sadly, the part of the company a networked market wants to talk to is usually hidden behind a smokescreen of hucksterism, of language that rings false—and often is.

  62. Markets do not want to talk to flacks and hucksters. They want to participate in the conversations going on behind the corporate firewall.

  63. De-cloaking, getting personal: We are those markets. We want to talk to you.

  64. We want access to your corporate information, to your plans and strategies, your best thinking, your genuine knowledge. We will not settle for the 4-color brochure, for web sites chock-a-block with eye candy but lacking any substance.

  65. We're also the workers who make your companies go. We want to talk to customers directly in our own voices, not in platitudes written into a script.

  66. As markets, as workers, both of us are sick to death of getting our information by remote control. Why do we need faceless annual reports and third-hand market research studies to introduce us to each other?

  67. As markets, as workers, we wonder why you're not listening. You seem to be speaking a different language.

  68. The inflated self-important jargon you sling around—in the press, at your conferences—what's that got to do with us?

  69. Maybe you're impressing your investors. Maybe you're impressing Wall Street. You're not impressing us.

  70. If you don't impress us, your investors are going to take a bath. Don't they understand this? If they did, they wouldn't let you talk that way.

  71. Your tired notions of "the market" make our eyes glaze over. We don't recognize ourselves in your projections—perhaps because we know we're already elsewhere.

  72. We like this new marketplace much better. In fact, we are creating it.

  73. You're invited, but it's our world. Take your shoes off at the door. If you want to barter with us, get down off that camel!

  74. We are immune to advertising. Just forget it.

  75. If you want us to talk to you, tell us something. Make it something interesting for a change.

  76. We've got some ideas for you too: some new tools we need, some better service. Stuff we'd be willing to pay for. Got a minute?

  77. You're too busy "doing business" to answer our email? Oh gosh, sorry, gee, we'll come back later. Maybe.

  78. You want us to pay? We want you to pay attention.

  79. We want you to drop your trip, come out of your neurotic self-involvement, join the party.

  80. Don't worry, you can still make money. That is, as long as it's not the only thing on your mind.

  81. Have you noticed that, in itself, money is kind of one-dimensional and boring? What else can we talk about?

  82. Your product broke. Why? We'd like to ask the guy who made it. Your corporate strategy makes no sense. We'd like to have a chat with your CEO. What do you mean she's not in?

  83. We want you to take 50 million of us as seriously as you take one reporter from The Wall Street Journal.

  84. We know some people from your company. They're pretty cool online. Do you have any more like that you're hiding? Can they come out and play?

  85. When we have questions we turn to each other for answers. If you didn't have such a tight rein on "your people" maybe they'd be among the people we'd turn to.

  86. When we're not busy being your "target market," many of us are your people. We'd rather be talking to friends online than watching the clock. That would get your name around better than your entire million dollar web site. But you tell us speaking to the market is Marketing's job.

  87. We'd like it if you got what's going on here. That'd be real nice. But it would be a big mistake to think we're holding our breath.

  88. We have better things to do than worry about whether you'll change in time to get our business. Business is only a part of our lives. It seems to be all of yours. Think about it: who needs whom?

  89. We have real power and we know it. If you don't quite see the light, some other outfit will come along that's more attentive, more interesting, more fun to play with.

  90. Even at its worst, our newfound conversation is more interesting than most trade shows, more entertaining than any TV sitcom, and certainly more true-to-life than the corporate web sites we've been seeing.

  91. Our allegiance is to ourselves—our friends, our new allies and acquaintances, even our sparring partners. Companies that have no part in this world, also have no future.

  92. Companies are spending billions of dollars on Y2K. Why can't they hear this market timebomb ticking? The stakes are even higher.

  93. We're both inside companies and outside them. The boundaries that separate our conversations look like the Berlin Wall today, but they're really just an annoyance. We know they're coming down. We're going to work from both sides to take them down.

  94. To traditional corporations, networked conversations may appear confused, may sound confusing. But we are organizing faster than they are. We have better tools, more new ideas, no rules to slow us down.

  95. We are waking up and linking to each other. We are watching. But we are not waiting.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Is Something Missing from GTD?

So here I am, doing some research for an upcoming post and I come across an article at Steve Pavlina's blog about what is missing from the GTD system:

I love the standard GTD system, but it’s a low-level system. It is absolutely wonderful for managing projects and actions. The results for me have been amazing, and I’ve gotten really good at applying it. I still use it every single day, even for my personal projects and tasks. And I love the results. My email inbox is empty. My inbox is empty. I just never let my email inbox or my paper inbox get cluttered. I get a lot of email every day, and new papers pop into my inbox every day. But I’m always processing them down until they’re empty. And I feel very relaxed and focused, able to concentrate easily without worrying about some email I need to reply to. I have no stacks of paper anywhere in my office. Everything I need to save is neatly filed. The GTD system really does work brilliantly if you stick with it. It took me a few months to really get the hang of it, but it was definitely worth the effort.

What’s missing from GTD though is the high-level part of the system. It starts at the level of projects, but where are these projects coming from? I think the assumption behind GTD is that these projects are assigned by your boss or your company. Or maybe you run your own business and just have a lot of previous projects stacked up before you ever learn about GTD. But how do you know if these projects are even worth doing at all? How do you even know you’re working at the right job in the first place? Instead of getting better and better at plowing through your existing work, doesn’t it make sense to take a step back and figure out if your ladder of success is even leaning against the right building? What about using GTD in your personal life? Where do your personal projects come from?
The "higher level" thinking that Steve Pavlina is talking about are the "40,000 feet" and "50,000 feet" levels of thinking that David Allen addresses, briefly, in chapter two of his book Getting Things Done. The 40,000 foot level is your 3-to-5 year vision and the 50,000 foot level is "the Big Picture view". Pavlina's perception is that these two levels of thinking are of vital importance, yet there is not nearly as much information in the book or system on defining these modes of thinking as there is on the lower-level realms of Thinking and Next Actions.

I agree with his assesment, but I feel the need to defend the "lack" of high-level purpose definitions. I would not say that these elements are "missing" from the system, they are simply beyond the scope of the system.

GTD is a framework for accomplishing the things that need to get acomplished in a true bottom-up fashion. The essential elements of this framework work best on your immediate responsibilities and apply to nearly everyone, and can be implemented across any number of platforms (Outlook, Gmail, Stikkit, pen-and-paper, you name it). Even the moderately higher-level areas of activity such as strategic planning and 1-to-2 year goals can be defined, codified and accomplished with the basic elements of the GTD system for nearly every user.

The highest-levels of operating and thinking, however, tend to diverge quite a bit from person to person. Pavlina touches on that here:

It makes no sense to blindly apply standard GTD unless you’ve already secured the top level elements of purpose, mission, and goals. Otherwise you’re doomed to spend your life working on other people’s goals and losing yourself in the process.

The top-level elements and motivations, the values and principles of each individual vary greatly from person to person. So this is where a book like Getting Things Done must be a bit more vague. These high level values can only be defined by each individual, and a variety of other resources have to be used. When this process has been completed, then you can procede to use the excellent tools provided by GTD to accomplish the smaller tasks that will lead to the fulfillment of your highest aspirations.

Some time ago, I went through this process of self-definition, (not easy at all) and put together a statement of sorts that encompasses the highest-level of principles and values.

My own higher level statement.

My current practice, then, is to accomplish my tasks and projects and goals in a meaningful way. As Pavlina concludes:

Before you can get things done, you must consciously choose those “things” you want to be doing. Before you put yourself into a state of readiness, you must consciously define what you want to be ready for. Knowing your life’s purpose is the answer. It provides the context for readiness and for action. It turns generic readiness into “ready to speak,” “ready to write,” “ready to love,” etc. Purpose turns “getting things done” into “giving life meaning.” When you ultimately work at the level of projects and actions, they’re infused with purpose. Your purpose. Your mission. Your very reason for existence. Every paper you shuffle, every word you type, every project you complete — they now mean something. They’re a part of a larger whole, a deep expression of who you truly are. But those very same actions, blindly assigned by someone else for no great purpose, become lifeless. Just things to get done instead of a great purpose to be fulfilled.



Geekette said...

Hey, Nice blog, I've only been reading it a couple of days but I like it.
i totally agree that GTD doesn't address higher levels or life's purpose very throughly, BUT I'm thinking, Maybe my productivity system doesn't have to dictate my life's purpose and is maybe an entity seperate from it. What I mean is: So I 'use' GTD to be productive It doesn't have to dictate my life or who I am or what my purpose is. Keeping my purpose on a 3x5 card or in my 43 folders doesn't make it more or less real, I've always known what I'm about.
Wow I hope that makes any since:)

Michael Ramm said...

Very nice post. This is the first time I have run across your blog, but it will not be the last time.

No, there is nothing missing from GTD, I totally agree with you. GTD is NOT for the high levels, and guess what, David Allen says it is not for the high levels!! He did not address them because he thought that they were out of the range of GTD. On the GTD Fast! audio series he specifically states that the higher level 'stuff' is not meant for GTD.

So you are going to have to build something out of the brief descriptions that Allen talks about in the Fast! series and the book. Like he says if your runway and 10k feet are out of whack, than your higher levels are also out of whack.

Great blog and I look forward to reading more if it.

Jay said...

David Allen does address this just a bit early on in the book. He writes (and I'm paraphrasing here) that we can't even get onto the higher-level stuff until we've cleared the "runway" (all the lower-level stuff).

This is definitely true in my experience. I think so much more clearly and creatively when I'm taking care of business at the lower levels. It's then that I can go through a process to discover what the big picture should and could be.

If you want a religious resource for going through a higher-level discovery process, you can check out my Personal Vision Workbook.


Stephen Smith said...

Jay, what a fantastic resource. Thank you for the poiter and for making it available!

I am going to print it out and do it, and use it to edit my own statement. I could have used a tool like that when I was struggling to craft my vision, isn't that how it always goes?