Euan Semple - danger man

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy May 22, 2013
I've known Euan Semple...oooh...maybe seven years.

I've known Euan Semple...oooh...maybe seven years. In that period we've met on perhaps a handful of occasions. From time to time we'll exchange thoughts via Facebook or, more likely Twitter. I guess you could say we have one of those 'bursty' relationships.

The other day I called him up on POTS. He was eager to learn more about diginomica's business model, I was interested to learn what's grabbing his attention.

Euan comes from the knowledge management world and was one of the very early social media experimenters, running a highly successful 'bottoms up' wiki project inside the BBC in the early 2000's.

Today, he advises organizations large and small on how to navigate the social web. His real skill though comes in asking questions. He pursues this relentlessly and especially on his lean blog, The Obvious?

Some years ago, I took the position that Enterprise 2.0 is a crock. At the time, the floggers of all things E2.0, Web 2.0, Anything 2.0 wrote off my rant as the cynical response of an old fart who is out of touch with reality. Euan didn't. He's still here. Most of my detractors have disappeared from public view.

He explained that while people in our position might view the social web as a net good, an obvious way to engage and collaborate, he had come to the conclusion that the work needed to carry through the vision of a well connected network is generational. I was shocked. By generational, Euan was thinking in terms of decades. It's a topic we picked up upon during our most recent conversation.

We both agree that things in the workplace are changing much more quickly than either of us thought just three years ago. Euan however said that in his experience, the newer workforce entrants are deeply frustrated at what they see as outdated modes of working.

That was poignant in the context of my commentary around email. But equally, the featured image says it all: many companies are attempting to create the impression of being hip, cool and slick on the outside while running archaic internal command and control structures. It is a guaranteed disaster in the making. Being social isn't about putting lipstick on a pig. It's about an attitude, a way of being, a humanizing of the workspace.

Our conversation around the diginomica business model was fascinating. I made the assertion that as I look around the world of commerce, the social web has not materially influenced the way marketers approach their business. If anything, I argue that, on the whole, the social tools seem to becoming 'things' that add more ways in which brands advertise to us. This seems so wrong on many levels. In a sense, they are attempting to reinforce what we see as a failed model of engagement.

Euan agreed. From Twitter:

And then we discover that Flickr is actively implying we should downgade from paid to free accounts. One can only assume they believe they need to encourage us to consume more advertising as opposed to being real customers. It is almost as though the advertising anti-bodies are trying their best to subtly win back the ground they surely have lost forever.

So what makes Euan 'danger man?' In short, his presentations are always at a human level, designed to inspire and state 'the obvious.' Here is an example:

It occurred to me that maybe there is a role for an "official" corporate anarchist, if that isn't a contradiction in terms. Someone who radically questions things, who prompts people to pick apart things that aren't working, who keeps pushing decision making to as wide a network as possible. They would have to be senior enough and have enough clout to push against the inevitable resistance but if enough people bought into the need for the role it should be possible. I remember British Airways being mocked years ago for having a corporate jester with a similar brief. Maybe it is not such a daft idea after all.

British Airways eh? I have tales to tell there and they are surprisingly positive. More to the point, Euan is suggesting something that makes great sense. It is this ability that I find so endearing.

As always, the conversation was thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening. Check out his representative client list, check out his book. Above all, if what you see of Euan piques your curiosity then reach out to him. He's not hard to find.

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