My second book, Firm Wisdom : How to Use Social Technology to Make Your Business Wise is all about capturing the most widely ignored asset in every business: institutional memory. Inside the heads of every employee there is vital and valuable information about your business. It isn’t the high-level stuff that you normally consider important. I’m talking about all the little tricks of the trade that employees have learned through hard experience. You can use the same technology that powers Wikipedia inside your business to start recording critical data — as simple as where are the paper clips stored to as esoteric as the particular brand of perfume that makes the bank officer approve your loan application. Firm Wisdom teaches you how to implement, capture, store and cross-index all this critical information so your employees can start benefiting from it immediately.
Tell us something about yourself.
I am a business technology expert, author and speaker. I specialize in helping small business executives choose the right technologies to enable growth.
An 18 year veteran of the tech industry, I have seen how the right technologies can make the difference between success and failure. Ten years ago I started R-Squared Computing to help businesses make smarter tech decisions. To date I have helped over 100 companies to be better, faster and cheaper than their competition.
I am also the author of two management books about business technology, Nearly Free IT and Firm Wisdom. I was the kid that always found the best way to get the job done.
What inspired you to write this book?
A few years ago when the whole social media phenomena started gaining popularity, I spent some time thinking about the practical, business applications of the technology — outside of marketing. While everyone else was focused on the marketing aspects, I realized that social media forms a digital zeitgeist for popular culture. That’s the real reason why the Library of Congress has decided to store everything on Twitter into their archives — it is a phenomenal sociological research tool to track the thoughts, ideas and posts of millions of netizens.
Inside a business, it makes perfect sense to use these technologies to achieve the same end. By recording ideas, processes, dreams, goals, policies, procedures and all the other odds and ends inside a business you create a digital corporate zeitgeist that can be queried and cataloged for later use. I have always believed that everyone is entitled to one good idea in their lifetime, if so, then why not record the ideas of your workers which might really benefit your company? Sure there might be thousands of stupid, selfish ideas but all you need is one genuinely brilliant idea to change the world.
How did you choose the title?
A firm is another name for a commercial business concern. For some reason, in recent years the term has been co-opted by attorneys, but it also can mean strength, security and determination. Wisdom is the natural offshoot of experience, prudence, knowledge and common sense. My argument is that business wisdom can be accumulated and synthesized from digital social technologies inside a business.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
The last thing on earth I ever expected was to become a writer. As a child I used to write science fiction stories. I started writing again four years ago as a way to help clarify my thinking on a variety of topics related to my industry. With all the recent changes in how we interface and work with technology, I needed a medium to help me gather my arguments and develop my ideas to a logical conclusion. Since I am not a natural writer, I spend extra time developing my ideas and outlining my thoughts into coherent arguments.
I started using Google’s Blogger to collect my writings, with no real interest in gathering a following. It wasn’t about becoming a famous blogger with thousands of followers — it was about collecting my thoughts so I could serve my customers better. If I can’t understand where technology is going, how can I explain it to my customers?
Within a year, one of my blog readers noticed the trends in my posts and recommended that I collect some of the posts into a book. That was the genesis of Nearly Free IT (www.NearlyFreeIT.com), my first book. Since the majority of the book had already been released on the blog, it made little sense to try charging for the book, therefore, I released it online for free.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I wouldn’t exactly call them rituals, per se. Usually I prefer to write late at night (1-3am) when my house is quiet and everyone is asleep (have you ever tried writing with screaming kids and a blaring television?). Once I have completed all my writing and collected it into a rough book form, I usually take an entire day to complete the first edit. On those days I will move around with a printed hardcopy of the manuscript to different locations — libraries, coffee shops, public parks — where ever the muse takes me. My second edit I do the same thing except instead of a printed hardcopy, I just lug around my laptop. The third edit is reserved for my actual editor who actually knows what she’s doing.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?
I love books about history, politics, science (especially physics), science fiction, travel, business, management, biographies of leaders and, of course, technology. I am a voracious reader and it isn’t uncommon for me to read three to four books concurrently.
I enjoy Malcolm Gladwell’s books because he forces me to look at the world from a different perspective. He asks me to challenge all the normal and accepted standards of life. On matters of technology and internet life, I enjoy Cory Doctorow (I also like his science fiction), Clay Shirky and Seth Godin. All three provide me with an alternate view of the new network economy and how traditional business models are being shaken. For travel books, anything by Robert Kaplan will make it into my reading list. His works provide an in-depth view into worlds that are seldom seen by Westerners, plus his analysis is phenomenal.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
As a matter of fact, I am working on two books at the moment. The first is a collection of my essays about the intersection of business and technology in the opening years of the 21st Century. The current working title is 100 Insights.
The second is a much larger enterprise. I am working with strategic consultant extraordinaire Jose Garcia to develop a business primer for navigating the Network Economy. I contend that emerging technologies and declining populations will cause massive changes to the old Industrial Economy. The industries that gave rise to our modern world will begin to unravel (newspapers, television, radio, etc.) as the network effect begins to take hold on every industry. We will see continued disintermediation shake up more and more businesses as the Internet continues to grant deeper and greater access to critical decision-making information to consumers. Our goal is to provide a primer for how to prepare and protect yourself from the seismic changes that are coming our way.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Forget traditional publishing. With the rise of ebooks and print-on-demand there is no need to have a traditional publisher kill trees for you. Instead, focus your attention and time building up a following on your own. Once you have a critical mass of followers, you will reap the enormous rewards that will follow. As for writing, just write what you know and love.
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
My ideal readers are managers of medium-sized businesses who are interested in emerging technologies that can help make their businesses more responsive to customers, more profitable and better able to deal with adversity.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
You can learn more about me and my work at www.LouRG.com. You can order a copy of Firm Wisdom at www.FirmWisdom.com or you can download a free copy of my first book, Nearly Free IT at www.NearlyFreeIT.com.