Dave Snowden


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I had an surprisingly enjoyable flight with British Airways to Jo’burg, much better than the equivalent with American from Dallas the other night. I got offered champaign and nuts even though I was in economy (Emerald status) and I didn’t need to buy the G&T – lessons need to be learnt there. I haven’t flown economy with American in a decade but last week I did it four times and the term cattle class seems appropriate. It was a new 380 mind you and those are comfortable planes. Landing in Jo-burg it was a simple journey on the Gautrain to my now familiar accommodation and time for a shower before heading for the first meeting.

So why the pebbles? Well the first meeting of the day was with an insurance company looking at the implications of complexity theory to a business which tends to focus on product when it needs (in my humble opinion) to be more service focused. This has been a theme to my work for years and a constant frustration when I was in IBM. Focus on products seems to direct people towards linear models, veering between push and pull marketing approaches. Service however requires a co-evolutionary approach in which capability interacts with needs, and unarticulated needs to create value in the interactions between supplier and customer.

To do that means getting the granularity right (hence the pebbles). By taking current products and breaking them down unto objects and capabilities we allow for assembly and reassembly of those objects in different contexts. Add to that SenseMaker’s ability to capture the day to day experiences of customers and we can link the two exaptively to see patterns of capabilities and needs from which we can develop products that change rapidly in response to need but carry with them a degree of efficiency and repeatability. Granularity is one of the key things that we can manipulate in a complex system and getting it right is a mixture of art and science.