Revolution – It’s The Only Way

The revolution will not go better with Coke
The revolution will not fight the germs that cause bad breath
The revolution WILL put you in the driver’s seat
The revolution will not be televised

~Gil Scott Heron

I read a great book recently on the changing nature of selling. Very good. Very practical. The authors are friends of mine and have worked with the leading hi-tech companies in America developing sales models and implementing sales programs. Now they are talking about what next? And it got me to thinking.

Source: Fun Vibes Radio

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Some would argue that I come at problems a little idealistically. ‘Not shackled with practicality’ as my University tutor would have had it. (But then why should we be?) Back at that University, I eschewed Applied Mathematics and Physics in favor of Pure Mathematics. So yes – unashamedly – yes! I am of the opinion that idealism is something to aim for. Like the stars. If you don’t, you never get there. Worse, if you don’t crash, you could end up in orbit .. the astronaut’s equivalent of ‘going round in circles’! That said, let’s get back to the book. [/message] [su_spacer]


In the book, reference is made to the ‘silos’ often found in large organizations. We have actually suffered from these for years and are directly attributable to the hierarchical nature of organizations – which of course took their lead from the military. More on that another time. But, my point is that for as long as I have been in business we have talked about breaking down the walls, barriers, silos that apparently are inevitable in the organizations we work in.

And it’s not just large organizations. Just the other day I was talking to someone who had just resigned from a twenty person company. Small enough to work in a single large room – which they actually did. Reason for resignation? The teams weren’t talking to each other! In fact worse. They were second guessing each other. A team of twenty had ‘siloed’ themselves. It’s an epidemic.

Try this one …

Last year I was talking to the head of ‘Social Media’ for a large TV company. You will know the name. I asked how they connect social media activity with email programs. The blank stare was telling … email was managed by a different ‘line manager’. I knew that. In fact I knew the Vice President responsible for ‘EMail Programs’. Yup … ‘VP EMail’ … the company was that big … and that dysfunctional.

The Social Media team reported up two layers to a peer of the VP EMail … and no – he had never talked to the email people. I introduced them. To my knowledge they still haven’t engaged.

Two separate budgets. Two different sets of results and each line item justifying what they were doing to protect their budgets and more importantly their jobs. It gets worse … neither measured by anything that was really about the customer. But that didn’t stop them arguing about who owned the customer relationship!

Corporate arrogance never ceases to amaze me.

Meanwhile – as a customer it is my choice as to whether I engage with the organization. I may want to watch their shows. I may want to watch them through different channels. But. But – I do not want a relationship with that company. And nobody in that company ‘owns’ me, my data or my ‘relationship’. Not their social dudes. Not the VP EMail. Not even their SVP of Customer Relationships (if they have one). I just want to watch their shows. Period.

I do know that both of those people had their own set of metrics as to how they managed their success and in turn delivered to the bottom line to ensure the success of their company. A couple of examples of how those metrics get spun up into their existential story.

  • “EMail is the single most cost effective channel when you compare spend to ‘conversion’.”
  • “Social Media is an engagement platform that allows us to converse with our customers and though those interactions we develop unique relationships.“

… yada yada yada …

You don’t have to dive too far in to know that it is all bull and all the science and measures and metrics that the internet can bring us gives an illusion of knowledge and that still fails to answer the eternal question postulated by Wanamaker all this years ago …

Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

… and sadly we still don’t. I might be paraphrasing David Gelernter – or maybe it’s original 🙂 … but let me ask … ‘If we live in the Information Age – how come we know so little?’

Remember ‘multi-channel’ marketing? How it morphed into ‘omni-channel’ marketing (it isn’t just a fancier name) … well of course that eventually leads to the ‘justification gods’ focusing on ‘channel attribution’. And that is where the battle lines are currently drawn.



John Philpin
John Philpin
JOHN'S career spans 30 years, 2 continents, and organizations as diverse as Oracle, Citibank and GE. A Mathematics graduate, John moved to California in 1990. He helps technology companies create, develop and deliver their story for fund raising, market development and influencer programs. He also works with businesses to ensure they understand, and are ready, for the ever accelerating changes that technology is bringing to their industry. John is a co-founder of Expert Alumni and gleXnet and long before futurists and industry watchers were writing about the impending challenges that industries were going to be facing, they predicted a perfect storm of issues like skills gap, declining work forces, the gig economy, people trained to do work no longer needed, demographic shifts, economic and social change, market upheaval and rapidly changing ways of doing work. From the beginning they have promoted the idea that massive change was coming to how organizations should think about their workforce, with a singular focus on simplifying the interface between people and their work. Understanding the challenges ahead of the curve, the solution was built to arrive at a better understanding of the greatest restraint to business operations - competence, not capital. gleXnet provides unparalleled insights into an organizations people and operations by flipping the problem from the perspective of people, not the business.

DO YOU HAVE THE "WRITE" STUFF? If you’re ready to share your wisdom of experience, we’re ready to share it with our massive global audience – by giving you the opportunity to become a published Contributor on our award-winning Site with (your own byline). And who knows? – it may be your first step in discovering your “hidden Hemmingway”. LEARN MORE HERE


  1. Perhaps trashing the concept of silo organization is a version of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Some types of businesses and some companies work best with that type of organization. I think the trick in those cases is to keep the silo walls somewhat porous and with a lot of glass. When those silos/departments become fortresses of brick and steel then problems result.

    The bottom line is very few types of companies can flourish or even survive without people skills. The more labor intensive the business, the more critical that becomes.

    • “Some types of businesses and some companies work best with that type of organization.”

      … no dispute here … and so I would then argue that an organisation needs to get really clear on their strategy – and what they are about, to help them get to deciding what they need and what they don’t. My experience is that too many compnaies blindly follow others that have been successful – but wrongly identify the essence of what made the original company successful to begin with.

      On that topic BTW – I can highly recommend a gentleman by name of Simon Wardely – a lnk to a video he did for google lives here …

  2. A real good point. I’m always talking about that we have to cut through the rhetoric and look at the factual data. There are three kinds of data out there. Subjective, stuff we believe is true. Objective, it’s true despite what we believe. Computer, the information flowing through our wires.

    Subjective data has surpassed objective data with vast volume. It’s gone so far that people cannot even identify the data that comes from our observable and measurable reality. And if you think you’re immune to this, you have already been compromised.

    • HA – I just replied to you over on LinkedIN Chris – here again …

      Surely the ‘computer’ category is one channel for how we get to ‘subjective’ and/or objective information? The TV is another. Friends another. Etc.

      Then in the other two categories, we either believe, or we don’t. Personally, I don’t have an issue with belief in subjective information – unless there is objective information that doesn’t support that belief. I think THAT is the issue … denying facts because it doesn’t suit the narrative you believe – REGARDLESS of channel.

      i feel a BCG 2*2 coming on … how about you Chris ? 🙂

  3. John, thanks for a thought-provoking article! I’ve always wondered what it would take for a company to prioritize user experience when they have been focused on silo performance and risk management. I would think you’d need an uncompromising and unpopular leader like Steve Jobs. Have you seen any companies successfully make the change?

    • It’s a tough switch Carol. And in Apple’s case, the turn around happened when essentially there was nothing left to lose. Then again – plenty of examples of companies with nothing left to lose that still don’t make the shift … RIM? Nokia?

      Also – Jobs has been gone for a while – with a very different leader in place who has managed to (more than?) double the mkt cap, revenue, profit, cash reserves since he took over and despite ‘everyone’ saying he was no Steve Jobs.

      Nevertheless the mantra of ‘delight’ and ‘customer experience’ lives ingrained in that company – and you see do others trying to emulate Apple by improving their packaging to be more ‘Apple like’ or copying ‘Apple design’, or trying to ‘get ahead of Apple’ by ‘innovating new products faster’ – completely ignoring the fact that Apple has NEVER been the first into ANY category … and it is not one thing – other than customer delight.

      I referenced this link in a comment below
      …as a primer to the challenge of that approach.

  4. Interesting take on the subject. I reckon it can be controversial in some aspects as you are aware as well, but at the very least it’s has good conversation sparkles in it.

    A quick “meta” consideration:

    > “I am of the opinion that idealism is something to aim for.”

    I’ve recently evolved my thought where balance isn’t necessarily achieved in individuals, but in systems and networks. I believe that “idealists” and “pragmatists” are both necessary to evolve ideas, as one without the other would be problematic. It’s important to be aware which one of these two roles one is fitting in any given moment (because of course the same person can take different roles at different times).

    > “all the science and measures and metrics that the internet can bring us gives an illusion of knowledge”

    This is very important. Unfortunately we live in an age where on one side data and measures are used and selected purposefully to sustain a pre-conceived idea, and on the other side there’s a misunderstanding as how subjectiveness plays a role: the importance of being aware of the inevitable partiality of our own subjective perspective isn’t the same as the subjectiveness being the only thing that matters in decision making.

    > “‘Channel Attribution’ is a necessary fall out from departments (silos) needing to justify their budgets and on occasions, their existence”

    My perspective here adds two elements to the ones you raised.

    (1) Individuals — as you mention later on “people first”, it’s very important to acknowledge that it applies also to the inside of the company, and that is a concept entangled with silos and budgets. People fear losing prestige, people fear losing their job, people fear the person they don’t like gets a better deal, and so on. The criticality here is that most of the “rational” decisions are outcomes of individual fears, and justified post-factum.

    (2) System Scale — every business scales, and everything that scales reaches breaking points. Divide-et-impera, a millenia old concept that has one if its direct translation in hierarchies, is one of the systems to deal with scale, but that breaks too. The important think here is to be aware that the kind of skills and thinking necessary to scale up is *different* from the kind of skills and thinking to run the same thing at a smaller scale. That’s why business have growing pain: the same individual gets larger and larger teams and often they don’t think in terms of business restructuring or process transformation, nor in terms of “layering” (a concept similar to APIs where a small group standardize a process to make it scale for everyone else in the company, reducing overall work for everyone), but in terms of hierarchies. And that hurts.

    • Excellent point about the employees, Davide. John brings it up too, but it’s one of the great challenges of any kind of change. Most revolutions start with a large group of people sweeping in a new order. But would employees ever want that kind of change?? Can you have revolution without their pushing it?

    • It’s a good point, thanks for raising it so we can expand the discussion.

      As John points out, everything in this sense tends to start small. Great, huge movements have humble origins. While I’m also a big proponent of not focusing on individuals as the only cause of success (it’s a myth that concentrate success in individuals), individuals can still trigger systemic effects. It’s not a mathematical formula unfortunately, but a statistical one: sometimes an action does trigger change, some other time it doesn’t.

      Changes like this can happen at any level: while surely in hierarchies someone higher up can have more leverage, they still need to convert people, and that’s again has fear as one of the primary players.

      Also, “do they want change” is a VERY important question. Change can’t be forced. People must ask for it. This is something that is often missed: from the outside it might look like the same, but the same kind of “change” that is communicated and framed in a way that is beneficial for everyone and as such people see it and ask for it is very different from the same kind of change that is simply mandated top-down. Likely, the second one won’t work. That’s also why it takes time.

      The above has a secondary reason: often people don’t want to change if they have to find out alternative by themselves. But if someone shows an alternative, that is for the most beneficial, and they can choose to embrace it… it’s a process that is up to a great start! 🙂

    • i want to be sure that you know that I am not ignoring this comment Davide … just that there is a lot to unpack and that requires more considered thought – and maybe even a totally separate thread. I will be back.