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The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion

by John Hagel III, John Seely Brown, and Lang Davison

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The world has changed profoundly, and the old tools that led to success in the world of Push won’t work anymore. The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion helps us understand the shift we’re experiencing and provides us with a new understanding of the implications of how our digital world really works—and what we can do to thrive in an environment dominated by the forces of pull.

Drawing on pioneering research, Pull reveals how you can access people and resources when you need them, attract people and resources you didn’t even know existed, and achieve potential with less time and more impact than you imagined possible. Few of us are systematic in how we use the tools available to us. And no institutions are effectively dealing with the startling changes wrought by these technologies and the attitudes they encourage. Pull will change all that.

Original, deeply researched, and more necessary than you realize, Pull will unlock and optimize the hidden potential of individuals and organizations, turn uncertainty into opportunity, and enable small moves to achieve outsized returns.

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s The Only Sustainable Edge: Why Business Strategy Depends On Productive Friction And Dynamic Specialization, John Hagel and John Seely Brown, Harvard Business School Press; May, 2005

The Only Sustainable Edge makes the case that executives need to fundamentally re-think business strategy at three levels: sources of strategic advantage, management techniques required to build this advantage and approaches to developing business strategy. Starting with a perspective on offshoring and related outsourcing trends, the book shows how these trends will force companies around the world to reassess specialization, connectivity and learning in order to get better faster. While the world is flattening, it is paradoxically also creating new opportunities to build much more powerful forms of strategic advantage - but only for those who understand how to compete in a flatter world. Information technology is playing a key supporting role and the book discusses how new generations of IT will support new business strategies. In a Prologue and Epilogue, we also explore the public policy implications of the forces reshaping the global business landscape.

Out of the Box: Strategies for Achieving Profits Today and Growth Tomorrow through Web Services By John Hagel, III aAvailable from Harvard Business School Press. Like my other books, it can be read on many levels. It is the first book designed to help executives understand the business implications of Web services technology. It demonstrates that this technology will have a profound impact on traditional enterprises, driven by compelling economics. But that is just the starting point. It focuses more broadly on the changes in business practices that will be required to continue to create value in markets shaped by intensifying competition. Even more fundamentally, it highlights a profound shift in mindset that must occur for businesses to succeed in the decades ahead.

Net Worth: Shaping Markets When Customers Make the Rules By John Hagel, III and Marc Singer aThis book popularized the term "infomediary". A business book best-seller that has been translated into ten languages, Net Worth also can be read on many levels. It develops a detailed view of the infomediary business opportunity - to serve as an agent on behalf of customers, helping them to capture information about themselves and to use this information to make them even more effective in extracting more value from vendors. More broadly, it highlights the important role that customer information - and the related controversies around privacy - will play in shaping relationships and value creation opportunities on electronic networks. Expanding further, it traces the power of economic webs, using economic incentives to mobilize the resources of third parties to advance your own business strategy. At another level, it helps executives to understand the changes that will be required to adapt to markets where customers gain more power, including a very different form of marketing - collaboration marketing. Underneath all that, it makes the case that electronic networks have significant power to reshape business relationships and that companies should understand and exploit the distinctive capabilities of these networks. Net Gain: Expanding Markets through Virtual Communities By John Hagel, III and Arthur G. Armstrong esDescribed as "subversive" by Esther Dyson, Net Gain makes the case for virtual communities as a new kind of business model. Another business book best-seller that has been translated into ten languages, Net Gain argues that community and commerce are not at odds with each other. If properly understood, they have the potential to significantly reinforce each other. Pointing out that customers are coming together in independent forums to talk about vendors, the book indicates that companies do not have a choice about this - their only choice will be what role to play in these conversations. Rather than thinking about marketing as a one-to-one relationship with one vendor communicating with one customer at a time, marketing must be reconceived as a more complex orchestration of relationships, helping customers to connect with each other as well as with other vendors. The key theme of the book is that electronic networks offer distinctive capabilities and companies need to develop innovative new business approaches to effectively exploit these capabilities.

Storytelling in Organizations : Why Storytelling Is Transforming 21st Century Organizations and Management, John Seely Brown, Stephen Denning, Katalina Groh, Laurence Prusak, Butterworth-Heinemann; August 2004

The Social Life of Information, John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid, Harvard Business School Press, February 2000 (translated into nine languages).

Seeing Differently: Insights on Innovation, J.S. Brown (Ed.), Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing, 1997.

Intelligent Tutoring Systems D. Sleeman and J.S. Brown (Eds.), London, England: Academic Press, Ltd., 1982.



Recent work:

Social software for business performance: The missing link in social software: Measurable business performance improvements

Cloud computing: Storms on the horizon

The 2010 Shift Index™

Edited Collections "Integrating Human Capital Strategies into the Overall Business Strategy," contribution to Leaders Talk Leadership:Top Executives Speak Their Minds Meredith D. Ashby and Stephen A. Miles (eds.) (Oxford University Press, 2002). Discusses the implications of the ability of talent to capture increasing value in business environments. Suggests companies will need to develop more creative and leveraged human capital strategies to continue to attract world-class talent and generate additional economic value for shareholders.

Harvard Business Review "Feed R&D - Or Farm It Out?" (HBR Case Study with Commentary co-authored with John Seely Brown), July 2005 - Addresses a specific company's dilemma regarding offshoring and outsourcing by applying the concept of productive friction. Discusses the specific requirements to make productive friction work.

"Productive Friction: How Difficult Business Partnerships Can Accelerate Innovation" (co-authored with John Seely Brown), February 2005 - Explores the importance of productive friction as a management technique to promote innovation and learning across company boundaries. Drawing on examples of companies around the world, it suggests that most companies are missing significant opportunities to get better faster by working with others.

Does IT Matter?” (letter to editor co-authored with John Seely Brown in response to Nick Carr article “Does IT Matter?) June 2003 – Provides an extensive rebuttal to the perspective offered by Nick Carr, making the case that strategic advantage can still be enabled by information technology, but that companies need to learn from the experiences of the past decade in order to harness the full potential of the technology.

"Leveraged Growth: Expanding Sales Without Sacrificing Profits" October 2002 - Discusses an innovative new approach to growth that involves accessing and mobilizing the resources of other companies to add more value to one's own customers. Profiles a number of companies including Li & Fung who are pursuing innovative leveraged growth strategies. Bottom line: an opportunity to meet growing pressures for profitability and growth.

"Your Next IT Strategy" (co-authored with John Seely Brown), October 2001 - Analyzes the experience of companies with the early adoption of Web services technology and highlights the pragmatic approach that can quickly generate tangible business value. "Unbundling the Corporation" (co-authored with Marc Singer), March-April 1999 - Suggests that most companies today represent an unnatural bundle of three very different businesses and urges executives to ask the most fundamental question of all: "What business are we really in?"

"The Coming Battle for Customer Information" (co-authored with Jeffrey Rayport), January-February 1997 - Developed the concept of "infomediary" - a business working as an agent on behalf of customers, helping them to maximize the value of their information profiles. Suggests that electronic networks will increase the power of consumers, allowing them to assert ownership over information about themselves and to demand value in exchange for access to this information

"The Real Value of On-Line Communities" (co-authored with Arthur Armstrong), May-June 1996 - Explores the opportunity to use electronic networks to help people to interact with each other, taking a well-known social phenomenon - the spontaneous emergence of virtual communities - and developing the commercial potential. Suggests that companies creating on-line communities will command significant customer loyalty and generate strong economic returns.

McKinsey Quarterly"From Push to Pull: The Next Frontier of Innovation" (co-authored with John Seely Brown), 2005, No.3 - Discusses a fundamental shift in how institutions mobilize resources, moving from push models to pull models. While this shift is driven by the desire for greater flexibility, institutions are finding that pull models are very powerful in supporting innovation. This shift is occurring a wide range of arenas in response to fundamental forces re-shaping our business landscape. The shift will be difficult for many institutions, but they will be increasingly vulnerable to new pull-based players if they fail to master the techniques of pull.

"Innovation Blowback: Disruptive Management Practices from Asia" (co-authored with John Seely Brown), 2005, No. 1 - Suggests that most executives are thinking much too narrowly about the strategic role of emerging economies like China and India. These economies are certainly important as growth engines for many companies. However, they are even more important as significant catalysts in business innovation as companies strive to serve demanding customers in these markets. Makes the case that these economies will be a seedbed for disruptive innovations that will ultimately support attacker strategies targeting entrenched players in more developed economies."Offshoring Goes on the Offensive" 2004 Number 2 – Observes that most companies fail to capture the real value of offshoring because they continue view it solely as a way to save money. Sophisticated companies are beginning to realize that offshoring provides an opportunity to access distinctive capabilities through new forms of high performing organizations. A few companies are beginning to use these capabilities for offensive purposes to drive growth and to restructure entire industries, rather than simply focusing on defensive efforts to reduce costs.

Flexible IT, Better Strategy” (co-authored with John Seely Brown) 2003 Number 4 – Compares flexible service-oriented architectures to the more rigid IT architectures that preceded them, concentrating on communicating the business value of these new architectures. Urges executives to focus on IT architecture issues because, in the past, IT architectures have been a significant constraint on building strategic advantage and now they provide a foundation for building strategic advantage.

"Spider versus Spider" 1996, No. 1 - Analyzes economic webs - a powerful new approach to mobilize the resources of other companies to support your own business strategy. Proposes that the use of economic incentives and more informal relationships provides far more reach and economic power than traditional alliances or joint ventures. This concept was explored further in Net Worth.

Edging Into Web Services” 2002, No. 4 - Observes that Web services are being adopted in production deployments first at the edge of the enterprise, helping to automate connections in business processes that extend across multiple enterprises, because this is where the technology has its most distinctive advantage. Predicts that adoption over time will extend back into operations within the enterprise

"Loosening Up: How Process Networks Unlock the Power of Specialization" (co-authored with John Seely Brown and Scott Durchslag) 2002, No. 2 - Makes the case for a modular and loosely coupled approach to managing business processes as a way to encourage increasing specialization and spur innovation. Discusses the emergence of process networks as management implements a new approach to process orchestration.

"Unbundling the Corporation" (co-authored with Marc Singer) 2000, No. 3 - Reprint of Harvard Business Review article suggesting that most companies today represent an unnatural bundle of three very different businesses and urging executives to ask the most fundamental question of all: "What business are we really in?"

"Private Lives" (co-authored with Marc Singer) 1999, No. 1 - Excerpt from Net Worth discussing the growing economic power of consumers and the infomediary business opportunity, helping customers to capture information about themselves and to use this information to become even more helpful to customers.

"The New Infomediaries" 1997, No. 4 - Discusses different types of infomediary businesses likely to emerge in online environments and evaluates the capabilities of various categories of existing businesses to exploit the infomediary business opportunity.

"Retail Banking: Caught in a Web?" (Co-authored with Todd Hewlin and Todd Hutchings) 1997, No. 2 - Explores the opportunity for retail banks to exploit economic web strategies to focus on distinctive capabilities and create more economic value.

"Net Gain: Expanding Markets through Virtual Communities" (co-authored with Arthur Armstrong) 1997, No. 2 - Explores the impact of virtual community business opportunities on a variety of business functions including marketing and human resources. Adapted from a chapter of Net Gain.

"Who Will Benefit from Virtual Information?" (co-authored with A.M. Sacconaghi) 1996, No. 3 - Analyzes four different scenarios regarding the possible evolution of information capture in online environments and discusses the implications for economic value creation. This is the first article to suggest that customers may have an opportunity to capture information about themselves and use it to bargain more effectively with vendors.

"Real Profits from Virtual Communities" (co-authored with Arthur Armstrong) 1995, No. 3 - This is the first article to suggest that the social phenomenon of virtual communities on electronic networks might be leveraged to create new kinds of business opportunities.

"Fallacies in Organizing for Performance" 1994, No. 2 - Identifies common mistakes made by management as they seek to build higher performance organizations. Maintains that the best way to proceed is in rapid incremental waves driven by clear performance metrics and frequent milestones

"The CEO as Chief Performance Officer" 1993, No. 4 - Insists that one of the primary tasks of the CEO is to make the invisible visible - to establish explicit links between the strategy of the firm, the key operational performance metrics implied by the strategy and the core operating processes required to deliver this performance to the marketplace

Business 2.0 "Shift into Reverse" (co-authored with Marc Singer) March 1999 - Excerpt from Net Worth discusses how marketing will need to evolve to respond to the growing power of customers

CIO Magazine "The Joy of Flex" (co-authored with John Seely Brown), September 1, 2005 - Discusses the role of loose coupling delivering both flexibility and the potential for accelerated innovation, not just at the technology level but also the business level. Makes the case that CIO's can become significant players in the next wave of business innovation by working closely with non-technology business executives to understand the power of loose coupling.

"Go Slowly with Web Services" (co-authored with John Seely Brown and Dennis Layton-Rodin), February 15, 2002 - Urges senior management to adopt Web services technology using a pragmatic incremental approach focused on generating tangible economic value and enhancing learning opportunities

Corporate Dealmaker "Reformulating the Firm" (co-authored with John Seely Brown), September-October 2005 - Suggests that changes in the global economy will force companies to choose among three different business types as a focus for specialization. More fundamentally, makes the case that the rationale for the firm itself is shifting from economizing on transaction costs to accelerating knowledge building and capability building.

Financial Times "The Benefits of a Long Distance Relationship" (co-authored with John Seely Brown), August 9, 2005 - Suggests that most companies are underperforming in terms of harnessing the real potential of offshoring. The article distinguishes three different motivations for offshoring - wage arbitrage, skill arbitrage and skill building arbitrage. It suggests that executives need to focus much more on the opportunity for skill-building arbitrage.

"Don't Resist Offshoring, Exploit It" (co-authored with John Seely Brown), August 13, 2004 - Recommends that companies make the difficult institutional changes required to create value through offshoring and outsourcing. The article suggests that companies will need to develop a much sharper focus within their own business and master new techniques for connecting with other highly specialized companies in ways that help all participants get better faster.

"Even As a Commodity, IT Still Matters" (co-authored with John Seely Brown) January 18, 2004 - Suggests that IT can still help to build significant strategic advantage even if the underlying IT components are rapidly commoditizing. Focuses on the convergence of two architectural trends - grid computing and service oriented architectures - offering the promise of delivering greater flexibility in organizing business activities. Indicates that strategic advantage will not come from specific innovations, but instead it will come from the organizational capability to harness IT to generate continuous waves of innovation

Journal of Interactive Marketing "Net Gain: Expanding Markets through Virtual Communities" Winter 1999 - Examines the implications of a new virtual community business model. Adapted from keynote speech to Direct Marketing Association conference

Optimize Magazine"The Shifting Industrial Landscape" (co-authored with John Seely Brown), April 1, 2005 - Indicates that the sources of sustainable competitive advantage are shifting and in the future will come from a capacity to work closely with other highly specialized companies around the globe to get better faster. Discusses the management techniques and new generations of information technologies that can help to build this form of strategic advantage.

"The Innovation/Productivity Quotient" (co-authored with John Seely Brown) February 2004 - Focuses on business innovation as the missing link required to generate productivity improvements from IT investment. Proposes that a combination of high tech, soft touch and loose coupling will be required to drive the next wave of business innovation. High tech refers to the emergence of new IT architectures providing more flexibility. Soft touch refers to the use of social software to help mobilize knowledge within and across enterprises. Loose coupling refers to a more modular way of organizing IT and human resources to enhance innovation capability

"Step Into Action: Challenges and Benefits of Adopting Real Time Systems" March 2003 - Provides senior management with a balanced view of the real time enterprise concept, arguing that it is both too broad and too narrow. Makes the case for a focused approach to delivering business value through IT investments designed to deliver real time performance where it counts.

"Cut Loose from Old Business Processes" (co-authored with John Seely Brown) December 2001 - Suggests that a fundamentally new approach to management of business processes will be required to exploit the capabilities of new generations of information technology. Explores the role of an orchestrator in coordinating activities within business processes that span multiple enterprises

Release 1.0 "Service Grids: The Missing Layer in Web Services" (co-authored with John Seely Brown) December 2002 – Focuses on the critical need for the emergence of service grids to expand and accelerate the adoption of Web services technology. Highlights some of the early companies offering service grid functionality in the market today.

Software Development From Tightly Bound to Loosely Coupled” (co-authored with John Seely Brown) September 2003 – Makes the case that more loosely coupled technology architectures enabled by Web services will require a fundamental re-thinking of business processes. Business managers have an opportunity to develop loosely coupled business processes to provide much more flexibility. Discusses the implications for the changing roles of IT managers as well.

Wall Street Journal "A Web that Supports Rather than Traps" March 3, 1996 - Proposes that economic webs represent a powerful new way to leverage the resources of others by creating appropriate economic incentives.


Working Papers

I have been working closely with John Seely Brown to research the evolving interplay between new generations of information technology (especially Web services and distributed service architectures) and new approaches to business strategy, operations and organization. Some of our work has been published (see above), but the published material is only the tip of the iceberg. It also requires relatively long lead-times to reach the audience. For this reason, we are providing access to key working papers that provide more background regarding our thinking.

From Push to Pull - Emerging Models for Mobilizing Resources (PDF) By John Hagel and John Seely Brown Makes the case that institutions confront a profound shift in how they mobilize resources. In more stable times, push approaches have worked well to produce increasing efficiency - anticipate where and when resources will be required and organize to make sure that these resources are available at the appropriate place and time. These approaches are now challenged by a fundamentally different approach - pull platforms designed to help distributed participants access resources where and when they need them. Lean manufacturing was an early, partial step in this direction, but much more fully developed models are emerging in arenas as diverse as global process networks for apparel, motorcycles and electronics equipment as well as media, software and education. Pull platforms not only provide greater flexibility, they are also becoming essential for innovation, learning and capability building on a global scale. This working paper offers a preview of some of the research for our next book.

"Capturing the Real Value of Offshoring in Asia" (PDF) By John Hagel
Warns that most companies are missing the real value of offshoring. Focused primarily on cost savings through wage arbitrage, these companies don't realize that offshoring provides access to distinctive capabilities. By mastering new approaches to building high performing organizations, aggressive companies can harness offshoring capabilities and rapidly expand their performance impact across a broader range of business activities. This is an extraordinarily dynamic arena. Substantial value can be created, but considerable economic value can be destroyed as well. Offshoring is a strategic, as well as an operational, issue. In the quest for near-term cost reduction, we have barely begun to grapple with the strategic issues.

The Agile Dance of Architectures – Reframing IT Enabled Business Opportunity (PDF) By John Hagel and John Seely Brown
In contrast to the prevailing conventional wisdom that IT provides diminishing strategic advantage, we assert that quite the opposite is true: IT offers the potential of increasing strategic advantage. New strategic architectures and IT architectures are emerging and intersecting in ways that create significant business opportunity. Senior managers must actively manage both of these architectures in order to overcome organizational inertia and create the institutional capability required to create strategic advantage.

Overview of Working Paper Series (PDF) By John Hagel and John Seely Brown
This is probably the best place for a new reader to start before diving into individual Working Papers below. It places each of the Working Papers into a broader context and will help readers to navigate to find the Working Papers most appropriate for their needs.

Break On Through to the Other Side: A Missing Link in Redefining the Enterprise (PDF) By John Hagel and John Seely Brown
Web services technology will have a subversive impact. Businesses will rapidly adopt the technology because of a very pragmatic near-term value proposition: with modest investment and relatively short lead-times it can generate tangible operating cost and asset savings. The emergence and evolution of a robust service grid will be key to accelerating adoption of the technology in mission critical business processes. Once adopted, the technology creates the potential for a powerful new growth platform that will ultimately redefine the enterprise and generate significant economic value for those who harness these growth platforms.

The Secret to Creating Value from Web Services Today: Start Simply (PDF) By John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Dennis Layton-Rodin How should businesses proceed to get the most economic value from Web services technology? The key is to start simply, proceed incrementally and learn from earlier initiatives.

Service Grids: The Missing Link in Web Services (PDF) By John Hagel and John Seely Brown This working paper focuses attention on a key missing link in Web services – the need for robust service grids consisting of diverse enabling services required to deliver mission critical functionality for application services. It makes the case that the emergence of service grids will be a key catalyst for broader adoption of Web services. The paper also speculates on possible trajectories for the emergence and evolution of service grids as well as implications for business value creation.

Some Security Considerations for Service Grids (PDF) By Martin Milani and John Seely Brown Executives appropriately express significant concerns about security as they proceed with the adoption of Web services. The technology will need to adopt much more robust security functionality to meet the needs of mission critical business processes. The good news is that Web services technology provides a foundation for a much more flexible and robust approach to security than previous generations of technology.

Control versus Trust: Mastering a Different Management Approach (PDF) By John Hagel and John Seely Brown Business management tends to focus on control to ensure results. Process manuals specify in detail the activities required. Management monitors activities at a granular level to anticipate potential problems. As companies find they must coordinate activities across multiple enterprises and provide more flexibility, these control approaches prove less helpful. Increasingly, management will need to master a different, trust-based approach. They will need to accelerate the building of trust and in particular become much more adept at the use of incentives to motivate appropriate action.

Orchestrating Business Processes - Harnessing the Value of Web Services Technology (PDF) By John Hagel and John Seely Brown Web services technology enables a much more flexible, loosely coupled technology architecture. To effectively create economic value from this technology, companies will need to develop very different management approaches. Today, we rely on hard-wired management approaches because that was all our technology allowed. Now, we have an opportunity to adopt a much more flexible, loosely coupled approach to business process management. Those who master this new approach will generate significant wealth.

Orchestrating Loosely Coupled Business Processes: The Secret to Successful Collaboration (PDF) By John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Scott Durchslag Business collaboration remains abstract and irrelevant unless it is firmly anchored in specific business processes. Coordination of business processes across multiple enterprises requires a different approach to business process management. Loosely coupled business processes require new orchestration skills.


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