I could just say “Marc Benioff”, since he personally introduced me to all three. Soon after joining Salesforce.com, I heard Marc speak about the concept while travelling with him through Munich and Davos last year; he gave me the opportunity to meet Neil Young, a boyhood hero of mine, in Tokyo last December; and he ensured that I had a chat with David Agus, heard him speak and read his book last week in Las Vegas. [Incidentally, if you have any interest in personal health, you should read David's book, The End of Illness. I've just finished it, it's an excellent read].
Serendipitous introductions, like the ones Marc made above, can be valuable; sometimes they’re valuable enough for me to write a blog post about them. And sometimes they’re a lot more important than that.
Let’s take David Agus and his book, which I will commend you again to read. It’s more than just a book, it’s a manifesto. A call to action built around some core (and radical) principles. A whole new way of looking at the very concept of health, or at the very least a renaissance of older ways, underpinned and substantiated by advances in medical research, technology and understanding.
Early on in the book, Dr Agus quotes JBS Haldane as saying, in Cambridge in 1923:
“The recent history of medicine is as follows. Until about 1870 medicine was largely founded on physiology, or, as the Scotch called it ‘Institutes of Medicine’. Disease was looked at from the point of view of the patient, as injuries still are. Pasteur’s discovery of the nature of infectious disease transformed the whole outlook, and made it possible to abolish one group of disease. But it also diverted scientific medicine from its former path, and it is probable that, were bacteria unknown, though many more people would die of sepsis and typhoid, we should be better able to cope with kidney disease and cancer.”
For patient read customer. That’s easy. And for disease read product/service; it may be a bit harder to strip negative connotations away from the word, but the principle is important so please try.
We used to be patient-centric, then found that we could industrialise processes better if we went disease-centric. Which was fine for some patients and some diseases. But overall it was a backward step as we stopped learning about the patient in a holistic manner.
Park that thought, and let’s move on to Neil Young. When we met in Tokyo, Neil spoke passionately about the parlous state of modern music. He’s been a harsh critic of the poor quality of MP3s, and has felt particularly aggrieved by the continuing deterioration of the technical quality of recorded music. As a result, he’s been working on ways to transform the music listening experience end-to-end, how music is recorded, how it is stored and retrieved, how it is played back, the devices used, the connectivity, the whole nine yards. You can read some of his views on this here and here. I was particularly taken with the way Wired UK reported on this, quoting him as saying:
My goal is to try and rescue the art form that I’ve been practising for the past 50 years. We live in the digital age, and unfortunately it’s degrading our music, not improving [it].
You could say Neil is putting forward a manifesto, a platform for change, transforming the customer experience end-to-end. It may be about his chosen art form, but the principle transcends that.
Which brings me to the Social Enterprise.
It’s a manifesto for radical change.
It begins with a holistic view of the customer; the entire process emanates from a 360-degree customer profile that is at the core of the Social Enterprise vision.
It then continues with a radical transformation of the business, end-to-end, connecting customers with the companies they deal with, their staff, their distribution network, supply chain and even their products.
And it focuses on making sure that technology is used to enhance the customer experience, not to degrade it. [Remember region coding on DVDs? That's the sort of thinking that comes from being product-centric. No customer's experience was enhanced even infinitesimally by that "invention".]
And there you have it. How Neil Young and David Agus help me understand and explain the Social Enterprise.
I know, I know, you’re very tempted to say “To a hammer everything looks like a nail”.
But step back and think about it.
We have moved from being customer-centric to product- and service-centric in many contexts, sometimes to such an extent that we forget altogether about the customer. Think about what’s happening in education, no longer about the student or about learning; about what’s happening in healthcare, no longer about the patient or about being healthy; about what’s happening in government, no longer about the citizen or about her satisfaction.
There’s a renaissance needed, to a time when it was about the student, the patient, the citizen. And about the customer.
A renaissance based on using the tools of technological advance to improve the customer experience rather than to degrade it.
Thank you David Agus. Thank you Neil Young. Now, as I listen to my vinyl collection on my Linn equipment, and as I continue to approach my personal health and well-being holistically, I will also continue to learn about how the Social Enterprise works.