John Hagel

The Connection Between Narrative and Purpose

John Hagel

Narrative and purpose. These are two widely used words in business and life, yet they’re often loosely used. They’re really important words, so I want to at least clarify how I use them, because I think meaning matters. Defining terms. I’ve been exploring narrative for years, but I have a very specific meaning for the word. As those who have followed me know, I make a key distinction between stories and narratives that I’ve explored  here and  here.

The Big Shift From Engagement to Passion

John Hagel

For decades now, companies have been relentlessly tracking levels of employee engagement. Every large company I know has an employee engagement survey it regularly administers. Is it possible that they’re tracking the wrong thing? I’ve come to believe that engagement is a distraction from the real issue – the lack of worker passion. Let me explain. Employee engagement. Employee engagement is a concept that is used widely and somewhat loosely.

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The Big Shift in Business Models

John Hagel

In the Big Shift , we are all experiencing mounting performance pressure. Our response to that pressure so far has been failing, as revealed by our analysis of the collapse in return on assets for all public companies in the US since 1965.

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The Future of the Gig Economy

John Hagel

The “gig economy” has become an ever-expanding meme, clocking over 500,000 citations on Google. It’s also become an interesting barometer of sentiment. Some people, especially techies, love the concept and can’t wait until the gig economy frees everyone from working as employees for large, bureaucratic organizations. Others, especially “progressives,” worry that this is the latest form of labor exploitation that will surely consume all of us, driving us into the pits of poverty.

Follow the Data to Find the Money

John Hagel

The perennial question here in Silicon Valley is: where’s the money? Given the techie culture here, this question usually gets translated into: what’s the next breakthrough technology? Let me suggest that’s the wrong way to frame the question. If you want to know where’s the money, then follow the data and don’t get distracted by the technology.

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The Big Shift in Platform Business Models

John Hagel

Everywhere you look today, platform businesses are in the news. Most of the stories focus on what platforms do. Some highlight the value they provide in terms of ease and convenience in connecting with needed resources. Others focus on the risk of monopoly as network effects take hold and as platform participants become commoditized and their earnings squeezed. Relatively few look beneath the surface to try to understand the business models that drive platform businesses.

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Make This the Best Year Ever

John Hagel

As we approach the New Year, it’s an opportunity to step back and reflect on our journey. Are we headed in the right direction? Are we making the kind of progress that we would like to see? For most of us, we approach this opportunity in a relatively granular and ad hoc way – we craft a set of resolutions for how we’re going to act in the New Year.

What's the Future of Jobs?

John Hagel

What better time to reflect on the future of work and jobs than Labor Day? I’ve written about this extensively with my latest foray on a recent blog post. Is STEM our future? Today, I want to be a contrarian. The conventional wisdom is that the best way to prepare students for the future of work is through a STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math), although a few might recommend STEAM (adding art as a token concession to the quantitative basket).

Independence Day

John Hagel

Today is the day that Americans celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence that marked our intent to establish our own nation, free from British colonial rule. Like many holidays, I believe it's an opportunity to reflect on our history as a better way to understand where we might head in the future. Agency versus passivity.

Business Practice Redesign

John Hagel

In the world of scalable efficiency, processes rule. Businesses around the world are well into their third decade of “business process reengineering”, massive initiatives designed to create more and more tightly integrated and standardized business processes to squeeze out the inefficiency that lurks when people don’t follow instructions to the letter. And, it’s not just companies – all of our institutions have caught the process religion, whether it’s schools, governments or even NGO’s.

The Demise of Advertising Business Models

John Hagel

In a blog post earlier this year, I explored the emergence and evolution of new business models enabled by digital technology infrastructures. At the very end of that blog post, as a teaser, I mentioned in passing that advertising business models are unlikely to be sustainable as the Big Shift unfolds. Now, that’s a pretty bold statement given that it’s one of the most widespread business models, especially in the media business and Internet businesses.

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The Real Unemployment Innovation Challenge

John Hagel

While unemployment rates in certain parts of the world appear to be slowly improving, unemployment in many other parts of the world remain stubbornly high and, in some cases, are even increasing. More fundamentally, there’s a growing concern that rising unemployment may be one of the most significant economic, social and political issues that we will face in the decade ahead.

Flows, Fragility and Friction

John Hagel

I’ve long been a fan of flows but, in the spirit of paradox, I’ve also been a fan of friction. But, wait a minute, friction slows down flows – how could I possibly favor both flows and friction? Until recently, I hadn’t even been really aware of the paradox in my perspective, much less thought systematically about ways to resolve the paradox.

The Big Shift in Strategy - Part 1

John Hagel

In an exponential world, it stands to reason that our traditional, linear approaches to strategy will need to be re-thought from the ground up. One way to characterize the big shift in strategy is that we are moving from strategies shaped by terrain to strategies shaped by trajectory. What do I mean by this? Strategies of terrain. If you think about traditional approaches to strategy, they were profoundly shaped by the current landscape.

Disruption by Trusted Advisors

John Hagel

What’s “the next big thing”?   Coming from Silicon Valley, I often get this question from executives around the world.    Usually, they frame the question in terms of the next wave of technology innovation. They want to know what’s the next big technology that could disrupt everything? That’s an important question, but I often shift the question to disruptive business models.

Platforms Are Not Created Equal: Harnessing the Full Potential of Platforms

John Hagel

Platforms are becoming increasingly central to business value creation.    Yet, not all platforms are created equal – some platforms have far more potential to trigger powerful forms of increasing returns that will ultimately marginalize other forms of platforms. In a rapidly evolving environment, it’s important to understand not just the structure, but the dynamics, of different kinds of platforms.

Making a Movement: Narratives and Creation Spaces

John Hagel

What better day than Labor Day in the US to explore movements and narratives? Labor Day emerged directly from the powerful labor movement in the US. Throughout history, we’ve had a lot of movements that have shaped our economic, social and political arenas. I believe we’re on the cusp of a new wave of movements. These new movements will be built on two solid pillars – compelling narratives and nurturing creation spaces.

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Catalyzing Passion through Strategy

John Hagel

As we approach the end of yet another year, I want to go out on one of my favorite topics – passion. In particular, let me explore one very promising approach to catalyze and amplify passion within the workforce. By my best estimates only about 12% of workforce have real passion about their work, so companies need all the help they can get to stimulate passion.

The Disruption Debate - What's Missing?

John Hagel

I admit that I’m mystified by Jill Lepore’s article in the New Yorker attacking Clayton Christensen and his theory of disruptive innovation. Not only does it have a meanness that isn’t warranted, but it leaves the reader with an unanswered question: if Clay's theories are not helpful (and I still believe they are), how do we explain the cascading disruptions that are playing out in markets and industries around the world?

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Leave Those Resolutions Behind

John Hagel

As we enter the New Year, we all tend to embrace it as an opportunity for some new beginnings. New Year’s resolutions abound, all made with the best of intentions. Some resolutions are truly audacious while others focus on small improvements on the edges of our lives. Whether big or small, most of these resolutions soon fall by the wayside as the pressures of day to day living resume their relentless quest to consume every minute available.

Drawing Inspiration From Independence Day

John Hagel

Independence Day in the US is a time of celebration, recalling a historic milestone when a small group of fragmented colonies in a distant part of the world came together and bravely declared independence from a world power. Rather than simply celebrating an event in the distant past, maybe we can use the occasion to inspire ourselves to pursue a different kind of independence today. The prison of conformity. What do I have in mind?

The Unmet Need for Trusted Talent Advisors

John Hagel

In a world that’s changing ever more rapidly, we all need trusted advisors. It’s a significant unmet need that creates a very attractive business opportunity. This has been a central part of my research and writing for almost 20 years since I published a book on the topic, Net Worth. Most recently, I returned to this subject in a blog post. Today I want to make an important distinction between two major trusted advisor opportunities.

The Big Shift in Strategy - Part 2

John Hagel

In my last blog post , I suggested that we’re going through a big shift in strategy from strategies of terrain to strategies of trajectory.    In that blog post, I made the case that strategies of terrain are increasingly dangerous in times of accelerating change, but I left you hanging in terms of what strategies of trajectory might look like. Most strategies (strategies of terrain) tend to look from the present out to the future.

Companies and Movements

John Hagel

On Labor Day, I posted about movements and the foundations for successful movements.    Many of the executives that I work with me gave me quizzical looks. They asked, “Why are you writing about movements? You’re a business consultant. What does this have to do with business?” Good questions. Let me see if I can offer some answers. Movements and companies – what’s the intersection between these two?

A 21st Century Global Declaration of Independence

John Hagel

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for individuals to dissolve the institutional bands which have connected them with another , and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of humankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

The Big Shift in Influence

John Hagel

Influence is becoming more and more challenging.   It’s hard enough to attract attention, much less retain it or use that attention to shape the behavior of others. And yet, in a world of scarce resources and mounting pressure, the ability to influence others becomes more and more central to the ability to set big things in motion. In my last blog post , I talked about the increasing strategic importance of influence points for institutions. 

Exploring passion – what kind of passion do you have?

John Hagel

I've become passionate about passion.    The more I explore it, the more convinced I am that it’s the key to unlocking sustained extreme performance improvement, both at a personal and institutional level. 

Harnessing the True Potential of Internet of Things Technology

John Hagel

Despite all the hype, businesses are still significantly under-estimating the business impact of Internet of Things (IoT) technology. In my last blog post , I explored at a high level the likely evolution of business models in the Big Shift. Now, I'll use IoT technologies to illustrate how just one of many technologies will enable the evolution of business models. The Internet of Things space.

Personal Narratives: Insight and Impact

John Hagel

We all have a personal narrative, even though few of us have made the effort to articulate it.   That’s a shame because our personal narrative can be a source of deep insight as well as a great way to amplify impact. Done right, they can be a powerful weapon in helping us to escape from the dark side of technology. I’ve written a lot about narratives, for example, here and here. 

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Robots Can Restore Our Humanity

John Hagel

Red alert! Robots are getting more versatile and artificial intelligence (AI) is getting exponentially smarter! Our jobs are in jeopardy and no one is safe! We’ve all seen the headlines. Anxiety and fear are steadily mounting that we are on the edge of a profound transition (some might even call it a Big Shift ) that will put us out of work and on the streets.

The Dark Side of Technology

John Hagel

I’m going to disrupt the Silicon Valley script. You know the one.    Every talk or article coming out of Silicon Valley follows the prescribed template: start with a dazzling description of awesome new digital technologies and then proceed to explore all the wonderful benefits and opportunities that these technologies will bring to us. I’m going to do something different.    I want to explore the dark side of these technologies. 

Expanding Horizons Through Corporate Narratives

John Hagel

I’ve become increasingly interested in the role that corporate narratives can play in driving business success in more competitive markets - something that I've written about here and here.    While many people find the concept of corporate narratives interesting, they often struggle with what a narrative might look like for their company. This isn’t surprising given how few effective corporate narratives there are out there.

The Untapped Potential of Corporate Narratives

John Hagel

At a time when we’ve all become obsessed with the power of story-telling, I’ve become increasingly focused on the missed opportunity to harness the much greater power of narratives, especially for institutions. In a time of mounting performance pressure and growing uncertainty, narratives will make the difference between institutions that crumble and institutions that grow stronger.

Where Do You Stand? The Shifting Ground of Strategy

John Hagel

We’re all trying our best to remain standing, but the ground beneath us is shifting at an accelerating rate. The implications for strategy are profound, but few have explored this terrain. Strategies of position are back Strategy was once all about position – all that mattered was where you were located and whether there were barriers to entry. As structural advantages eroded, this view of strategy fell out of vogue.

What Is To Be Done (Part 3)

John Hagel

It’s fitting that we reach this third installment of my “What Is To Be Done?” series on Martin Luther King day.    He’s an icon of the power of narrative and its role in building movements that can fundamentally change how we live and work.    Narratives are a third key component in our quest to move beyond the dark side of technology.

Strategy Made Simple - The 3 Core Strategy Questions

John Hagel

In increasingly turbulent and complex times, we understandably fall prey to a dangerous temptation – both as institutions and individuals. We’re tempted to abandon long-term strategy and fall back on rapid adaptation as the only winning game – sense and respond quickly enough to events as they occur and everything will be OK.    Don’t get me wrong, we all need to find ways to be more adaptable. But adaptation as a strategy is fraught with risk.

Getting Stronger through Stress: Making Black Swans Work for You

John Hagel

Unanticipated events, especially extreme unanticipated events, can harm us or even destroy us. But they can also help us to grow and make us stronger. If they do the former, we tend to fear them and avoid them wherever possible. If they do the latter, our orientation shifts and we tend to welcome them.

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Optimism or Pessimism?

John Hagel

People often ask me whether I am an optimist or a pessimist. I have real trouble with that question because it implies that I should be one or the other. As with many things in my life, I challenge the conventional wisdom by responding that I am both. In truth, I'm a long run optimist and a short run pessimist.

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The Big Shift in Business Strategy

John Hagel

Business strategy has evolved dramatically over the past four decades in response to the Big Shift that is re-shaping our global business landscape. We’re on the cusp of yet another shift that will determine who wins and who loses in the years ahead. We’ve recently been exploring some key elements required to escape from the dark side of technology : passion , institutional innovation and movements shaped by narratives. Today, we’ll look at the importance of new approaches to strategic advantage.

A Contrarian View on Resilience

John Hagel

In a world of growing uncertainty and mounting performance pressure, it’s understandable that resilience has become a very hot topic. Everyone is talking about it and writing about it. We all seem to want to develop more resilience. But I’m going to take a contrarian position and suggest that resilience, at least as conventionally defined, is a distraction and perhaps even dangerous. How can I say that?