Real-Time Management: Thinking Fast & Flow

See the video here:

Fast & Flow framework

My co-author and I first met in 2014 when Professor Omar El Sawy was giving a talk as part of the Renowned Scholars Seminar Series at the Department of Digitalization at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. Here, we connected and discovered a common research interest in studies of the impacts of digitalization on management. In February 2015, at the University of Southern California, our second conversation ended up as a philosophical brainstorming session lasting several hours. The research idea was born.

Our motivation was sparked by a general curiosity on time as a resource and the many assumptions that relate to real time management strengthened by Professor El Sawy’s profound knowledge on Time Issues, gained from his PhD dissertation, teachings of MBA class on fast response management for almost a decade, plus a new course on real-time management. We then embarked on answering the open question of “what is real-time in the minds of managers?”

The profound societal changes triggered by technological disruption also influence our relation to time. We noticed how real time becomes increasingly important for the value proposition of enterprises and their ability to develop and innovate technology-driven products and services. At the same time, we see how people and societies are challenged by this acceleration of time demands. The “faster is better” seems to have severe consequences for people and societies in general and apparently sometimes for the worse, not the better. Many people cannot cope with the accelerating pace of technology and risk suffering from stress and burnout, which eventually slows down business productivity. Thus, there seems to be a need for critically considering how we approach time and the value assessment of real time.W

Since this took of as an explorative study we did not know in advance what direction the study would take.

Instead of defining hypotheses and using them as constraining light posts we decided to let the data speak to us, hoping that surprising findings would appear from the data. We tapped into the knowledge potential there is in the “go with the flow” of inductively conducting this type of research. Luckily we were rewarded with surprising empirical as well as theoretical findings. The results indicate that faster is not always better, and that flow is an alternative way to go.

This study embraces the product focus as well as the customer focus to address this paradox (expressed by the famous Henry Ford quote) “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” even though the faster horses eventually will kick them off. The quote is meant to highlight that real-time management is about understanding the underlying drivers of accelerating time and be able to navigate managerial practices accordingly. Those who are able to harness that may stand a better chance of creating lasting value with digital technologies for customers and business.

http://California Management Review A new era of disruptive technologies and changing business practices is moving a number of industries toward the “real-time” enterprise. With increased capabilities and intensity of online digital platforms, managers need to deliver goods and services faster, and to respond rapidly to customers within a disruptive and dynamic business environment. It is therefore critical to ask what “real time” means to managers, what real-time management entails, and learn how enterprises capture business value through real-time management, especially when the ability to adjust and operate in real time must be ingrained in organization’s culture, structures, and processes. We surveyed over 1,000 senior managers to better understand those issues and to get broader insights into enabling technologies and organizational mechanisms needed to transition more effectively into real-time management. Interviews provided deeper insights about managerial perceptions of real time, and about how, depending on the manager’s focus, real time generates value to the enterprise. We show that managers, who use “real time” in different ways, articulate different facets of experience and practices, leading to the Fast & Flow framework. Thinking of real time as “Fast & Flow” presents a sensemaking that is better attuned to the organization, the market, and a technology-driven state of flux. We provide insights for managers to build a “Fast & Flow” responsive enterprise and to transition to real-time management.f

Why decisions can never be data-driven

Today, I posted this article on our business home page:

Not only politicians, but also managers tend to ignore facts that don’t support their viewpoints.

A newly released research project reveals that politicians ignore facts that don’t support their viewpoints, but speak against their viewpoints and political beliefs. The results come from a survey conducted by Aarhus University, Denmark based on a sample of nearly 1000 politicians. The more facts that are presented to the politicians, the more strongly they tend to defend their stance. The results were created from experiments and undermine the general assumption that facts are convincing – more facts are even more convincing.

Our research shows that this is not only a problem among politicians, but all decisions-makers are in that risk zone of rejecting facts by interpreting facts incorrectly. In a Big Data era, it is unfortunate to experience that the human (cognitive) factor overrules the technical progress. Knowing becomes a question of believing, which sidetracks science in human decision-making and reasoning. Mindsets (Emotions and attitudes) are therefore very important factors to consider when managing with Big Data. It undermines the concept of data-driven decision-making, which urges us to ask how can we then use Big Data in a valuable factor in modern management – post-rationalization?

There are plenty of examples showing that managers recruit and hire people based on their immediate impression of the candidate and gut feeling. All the testing that follows is only used to build a solid argumentation for what feels right to to manager.

Yet another reason to take the human factor into consideration in Big Data management is that decisions can never be data-driven. They are mindset-driven!

See why here from a talk at the university of Zagreb

Professional Development in Atlanta #AOM2017

Transform you business with Big Data – but mind the mental gap

The Academy of Management Annual Meeting will take place on August 4-8. This is the time where around 10,000 management academics and professionals meet to share their insights and knowledge. Luckily, I will attend this year too with one of my co-authors, Per Østergaard Jacobsen from Copenhagen Business School. It is the time to meet with colleagues from the rest of the world.

On Saturday, August 5th, 12:15-2:15 p.m. in Hyatt Regency, Hanover Hall f, Atlanta, US,

MOCs teaching in the Rough will offer roundtable sessions and interactive dialogs around the theme of management, organization, and cognition. Personally, I prefer these interactive sessions to ordinary paper sessions, where you just present with no time fo proper feedback or dialog.

For more info about the session click here

This year, I hope to attract curious minds and discuss with peers how we can use digital technologies in management training to trigger disruptive learning and business transformation with digital technologies and Big Data. The PDW is based on the research and hundreds of tests we have conducted with managers to write our book: Disrupt your mindset to transform your business with Big Data.

At the workshop I explain why a cognitive perspective is relevant and give empirical examples of how different mindsets influence big data strategy. Participants will then see how our online test can spur managerial mindset disruption, which can be a precondition for creating value with Big Data. We end with a dialog of how to use cognitive online testing for coaching and facilitating management learning in the digital age.

I hope to see you in Atlanta. It will be a great opportunity to boost your managerial practice and organization and expand you vision and professional network.



Disrupt Your Mindset to Transform Your Business with Big Data


Our book is in now available and my co-authors and I are thrilled to present the missing link of Succesful Big Data Management. Here is an appetizer from our book homepage:

Everyone talks about how Big Data disrupts industries and organizations but they forget to ask the central question:

How can managers work with their cognitive frameworks to improve the organizational preconditions for creating value with Big Data technologies?

Your mental mindset as a manager sets/influences the agenda for your organization and how it interacts with the marketplace. Especially when markets changes radically, such as when disruptive business models emerge and/or new customer insights becomes available by using big data it is mandatory to identify your mental model.

Are you ready to “Disrupt your mindset to transform your business with BIG DATA”?

The main driver of successful value creation with big data starts with the mindset of the manager: The manager’s ability to divert its existing frames of understanding the business-customer interaction and incorporate the insights into the company’s strategic choices is the best starting point to invent at customer strategy.

In this test, you identify your mental model within one/more of four categories related to the mental model mindset theory. Basically, you are provided with a quick insight into your cognitive style, which impacts how you potentially perceive Big Data and implement them into your organization.

Based on our research a person’s Big Data mindset can be divided into four categories as illustrated in this figure:



At the end of the test you will get your score and some comments related to your mindset and see if your big data mindset is aligned with the strategy of your organization?

Test your Big Data Mindset here

Buy the book on Amazon here


At the end, let me proudly present my co-authors:

Torsten Ringberg, Professor, PhD,
Department of Marketing, Copenhagen Business School

Torsten Ringberg is Professor of Marketing at Copenhagen Business School and has published in top tier international business journals (FT45), such as Journal of Consumer Psychology, Journal of Marketing, Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Management Studies, Research in the Sociology of Organizations.

He reviews for a number of journals, including Journal of Consumer Research and Journal of Management Studies, Organization Studies and others. He also presents at and reviews for e.g. the Association of Consumer Research and the American Marketing Association. He has won two Best in Practice Awards from the American Marketing Association/Milwaukee.


Per Østergaard Jacobsen, External Lecturer and Project Leader, Department of Operation Management, Copenhagen Business School

For the past thirty years, Per has worked in a variety of international and national companies. During his carrier in several executive positions and advisory roles, he saw many challenges and opportunities regarding customer relations and data and know “where to rub”.

The stage was set in 1999 with “The CRM Handbook – From group to multi-individual”, published in six languages and sold in +50.000 copies worldwide. After the first release, he has published numerous books, studies, papers and articles. Common to these is that they more or less deals with the challenges regarding finding, winning, maintaining, developing and recreating profitable customers through targeted communication, segmentation and performance management based on customer insights and knowledge. (BIG DATA)

Per is lecturing at Master level (CBS) and supervisor for Master Thesis. He is cofounder and project manager for “Rio to Roskilde” a research project about developing new sustainable business models based on BIG DATA. He is also a part of “Social Data Analytics” project funded by The Danish Industry Foundation. In addition, he has been working with CRM and Loyalty research project at CBS.

How Managers’ Mental Models of Business-Consumer Interaction Influence the Implementation and Use of Social Media

Conference Proceedings EMAC 2014. European Marketing Academy 43rd Annual Conference: Paradigm Shifts & Interactions. . red. /Enrique Bigné. Brussels : EMAC 2014, s. 229

by Pernille Rydén; Torsten Ringberg; Ricky Wilke

The paper empirically illustrates how mental models influence how managers implement social media in their businesses. We posit that managers’ use of social media is constrained by four mental models of business-consumer interaction and question the rational decision process that often is assumed to play a major part of introducing new technology. Based on twenty-seven interviews with managers we identify four mental models, each of which uniquely influences how managers implement social media within the service and retailing industries.

Can Social Media Expand our Thinking?

During my PhD study I have been presented to a number of articles that describe the use of social media, i.e. the use of different platforms (e.g. Oestreicher-Singer and Zalmanson 2013), in different contexts by different people (e.g. Kozinets et al. 2010), in different ways (e.g. Van Iddekinge and Thatcher 2013), and for different reasons (e.g. Seraj 2013). These studies teach us how social media affect the way we live, work, and interact in the digital age.

Only a few studies (e.g. Fischer and Reuber 2011) investigate the ways social media platforms affect our thinking, however with focus on the single platforms. If you happen to know of any, please let me know. That made me think of a specific development taking place with social media: The growth of social media platforms based on relational, visual, and creative thinking may lead towards a more varied thinking repertoire. Daniel Pink (2005) describes a shift from an economy and society build on logical, linear, and computer like capabilities of the information age to an economy and society built on the inventive, empathic, big-picture capabilities of the conceptual age.

A new whole brain thinknology?

So what do I mean with ‘whole brain thinking’? A recognized cognitive distinction is between left and right-brained ways of thinking. Back in the antique Greece, Hippocrates discovered that people had distinct preferences in their approaches to problem solving and explained this through the dual brain. Up till the 20the century a detailed knowledge of the complexity and specialized functions of our brain was unfolded by scientists as Roger W, Sperry, Paul MacLean, Joseph Bogen and Michael Gazzanaga still clinging to the concepts of the dual or triune brain. However, this often populist notion is outdated, as Stansbury (2014) explains, “Although the left-brain/right-brain distinction has persisted in popular culture, there is little evidence to suggest that individual differences in cognitive processing can be linked to anatomical differences in the two hemispheres of the brain. The reality is that the brain works as a single interactive system.” However, the notion of the dual brain may still be useful as a metaphor for different thinking preferences. Moreover, the simple description does not capture radically different ways of thinking (Leonard and Straus 1997: 113).

According to Leonard and Straus (1997), one of the paradoxes of modern management is that in the midst of technical and social change, so pervasive and rapid that it seems out of pace with the rhythms of nature, human personality has not altered throughout recorded history. However, there is a shift in management towards more egalitarian, empathetic, globalized, and creative management forms, which requires a similar shift in values, mindsets, and behaviors. Social media, in this regard, is accused of realizing exactly such shift why it is interesting to take a closer look at the potential link between thinking preferences and social media.

Herrman International

A metaphor of the brain

Four years ago, as part of my position as associate professor in Management, I became certified in administrating and interpreting the HBDI concept. In contrast to other psychological personality identification concepts, this method did not look specifically at who you are, but how you prefer to learn, communicate, and make decisions.

At they argue that your personality is closely liked with your social media preferences and give highlights from an infographic based on data collected while surveying individuals using different social media platforms. So what? If our personality steers our social media choice in an unreflected way, we might not learn much from it. That is why it can be more constructive to look at the preferences. Unlike personalities, preferences are not rigid; most people can draw on a mixture of approaches and do not live their lives within cognitive boundaries (Leonard and Straus (1997: 112). Preferences are neither inherently good nor bad, but their assets and liabilities depend on the situation (Leonard and Straus 1997:113).

Ned Herrmann, physician, musician, and artist, developed and instrumentalized the whole brain metaphor. He worked as manager at General Electrics (1976) and wondered how our cognitive styles/preferences shape the leadership styles and communication patterns. In this context he developed the HBDI model (Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument) as a frame of reference to expand thinking preferences and create learning that synchronized with the learners’ preferred learning modes:

”Preferred ways of knowing are crucial factors to take into account in management education or any teaching education because they filter out certain data and allow other information through. For people whose preferred mode of knowing is visual, what is presented in pictures will get through to them better than a lecture or a book with text only. Thus, preferred modes of knowing shape our perceptions of the world around us and incline us to think about our experience in specific ways”.

The four quadrants

Figure: HBDI: The four quadrants.

By splitting ‘the brain’ into four quadrants, it is possible to identify the dominant preferences – or cognitive styles. Read more about the theory behind the HBDI model on or proceed to how it applies to social media. The left-brain hemisphere represents logical, sequential, factual, and analytical thinking whereas the right-brain hemisphere represents non-linear, intuitive, value-based, and holistic thinking. Left hemisphere thinks in numbers and letters as opposed to the right hemisphere that thinks in images and symbols. Please note that despite the neuro-biological references, the model is a metaphor and not a depiction of the brain.

Cognitive preferences and social media

Social media seems to be a concept of a dual nature. Humans are social, but media is a technology that allows for human interaction. Media, in its nature, cannot be social unless they are gives human characteristics. Social media can thus be defined as an oxymoron (in this context it does not refer to the anti-social effects of it use), but the concept has been broadly applied to define a new digital media that differs from traditional media.

Applied to the four quadrants, ‘Social’ refers to the lower right quadrant (interpersonal) and the upper right quadrant (integrating) whereas ‘media’ associate to the process (lower left quadrant) of conveying content (upper left quadrant). By that, social media, in itself, can be considered a whole brain thinknology!

Moreover, most social media platforms, e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin, and Youtube, contain text and image functions. Texting appeals to the left-sided functions whereas images (including videos) appeal to right side of the model.

In that sense, social media use carries the potential to expand our thinking preferences. As mentioned, the shift from an economy and society build on logical, linear, and computer like capabilities of the information age to an economy and society built on the inventive, empathic, big-picture capabilities of the conceptual age may even be influenced by of image-based technologies such as social media.

Just take a look at our schools and work places. 20 years ago, text-based materials such as books and reports were considered predominantly the ‘right’ source of information. Today, many power point presentations are image-based and the kids are allowed to produce videos and image materials instead of text-based essays and reports. Social media is used to support digital learning environments. When students or conference participants are allowed to tweet questions, comments, and pictures during a session, it indicates new forms of human interaction and media use spurred by social media.

Now, let’s assume that people have specific approaches to perceiving data (text/images), making decisions and relating to other people. Peter, who prefers to gather, absorb, and process information on his own tend to evaluate evidence and make decisions in structured, logical processes. Liza, on the other hand, usually prefers to work together with other people. She relies on values and emotions to guide her on her decisions. Using social media for assessing where to go on holiday, the former would probably prefer to visit Wikipedia whereas the latter will tweet her friends or check out on Yelp.

People’s work experience reinforces the original preferences and deepens associated skills (Leonard and Straus 1997: 113). This may rub off on the way we approach social media at work. Moreover, if we go along with the premise that biased and categorical thinking hinders learning and innovation, the managerial challenge is to use the insights of the whole brain approach to create new processes and encourage new behaviors that will help innovation efforts succeed (Leonard and Straus 1997:116). Expanding the variety of social media platforms to a whole-brained portfolio in the company may both lead to development of managers’ and employees’ thinking preferences, but also expand the modes of external interaction to target a broader range of stakeholders.

I simply posit that we can learn to expand our repertoire of behaviors and act outside preferred styles (thinking out of the box) by using social media in such considered way. Research suggests that style flexibility – being able to select among styles, monitor their effectiveness, and switch styles if necessary – may actually be more important than style rigidity (Stansbury 2014). If not appreciated, or understood, cognitive preferences tend to personalize conflict or avoid it (Leonard and Straus 1997: 121). A positive effect of a whole-brain approach is that we learn to appreciate the differences as each approach brings a unique valuable perspective to the process of learning and innovation.


Fischer, Eileen and A. Rebecca Reuber (2011) Social interaction via new social media: (How) can interactions on Twitter affect effectual thinking and behavior? Journal of Business Venturing, 26(1), pp. 1-18.

Herrmann, Ned (1988) The Creative Brain , North Carolina, Brain Books.

Herrmann, Ned (1996) The Brain Business Book, McGraw-Hill.

Herrmann, Ned (1991), The Creative brain, The Journal of Creative Behavior, 25(4) pp. 275–295.

Kozinets, Robert V; de Valck, Kristine; Wojnicki, Andrea C; Wilner, Sarah J.S. (2010) Networked Narratives: Understanding Word-of-Mouth Marketing in Online Communities. Journal of Marketing 74(2), p. 71-89.

Leonard, Dorothy and Straus, Susaan (1997), Putting Your Company’s Whole Brain to Work, Harvard Business Review, July-August.

Oestreicher-Singer, Gal and Lior Zalmanson (2013), Content or Community? A digital Business Strategy for Content Providers in the Social Age, MIS Quarterly 37(2), 591-616.

Stansbury, Merry (2014) Groundbreaking: We can predict cognitive styles, and here’s how.

Van Iddekinge, Chad H. and Thatcher, Jason B. (2013), Social Media in Employee-Selection-Related Decisions A Research Agenda for Uncharted Territory, Journal of Management, Oct. (in press).


A qualitative perspective on social media thinking among managers

The MIT survey, conducted by Michael Fitzgerald, Nina Kruschwitz, Didier Bonnet, and Michael Welch, is based on 1559 executives and members of staff from 106 countries who participated in a broad-based survey. Such dataset can make a qualitative research based on some thirty Danish managers look ridiculous. Let me start with a few comments to set the frame of this blog post: In qualitative research, representative samples do not make sense as every single informant has a unique voice and understanding of the world. The questions posed by a researcher or stated in a survey will always be interpreted differently based on the respondent’s particular experience and context – which make comparability a worthless effort. However, a quantitative report can be useful as a point of departure for an in-depth discussion.
Technology in business is becoming increasingly strategic, which also explains why that is my field of study. One of the basic and global acknowledgements amongst managers is that the connected consumer creates an imperative for digital transformation and that managers believe in the ability of technology, such as social media, to provide open routes to new ways of doing business and thus bring transformative change to business. Put in concrete numbers, 78% believe that achieving digital transformation will become critical to their organization within the next two years and 93% of the employees feel that digital transformation is right.

But if we take a closer look at the management dimension only 38% in the MIT survey said that is was a permanent item on the CEO’s agenda and only 36% of the CEOs the digital transformation vision. However, 65% thought it ought to be.

The Danish managers in our (my colleagues and I) research expressed the same perception of a changing market. Stating an imperative does not necessarily initiate action; there was not much digital transformation taking place in their companies and there was no strong consideration of implementing social media as a business platform. In line with the MIT report it is a significant minority of companies in Denmark who have developed the technology and management skills to realize the potential of social media.

The MIT report also states that managers see the potential in social media, but are unclear about how to get to the results. In my interviews, not all Danish managers saw a potential, not because they didn’t want to, but no clear vision seemed to appear – just blurred ideas triggered by the questions posed by the interviewer.

One of the reasons may be that it is difficult for a small Danish retailer or service company to associate with some of the successful companies like Lego or Starbucks, which are often used as best practice examples, and thus find useful and applicable inspiration. No doubt that these large companies have been really innovative, as stated in the report by Brotman (CDO, chief digital officer) from Starbucks:

“We were not just doing smart around Wi-Fi, but we were doing something innovative around how we were connecting with customers”.

But if the manager forget about size for a moment, he or she might find something very useful, indeed, that does not have to do with size, but with attitude: These companies used social media to change customer relationships. Changing the business model has helped both Starbucks and Lego to re-engage with customers and boost overall performance. Social media is becoming more pervasive in people’s lives, which invites you to rethink our corporate identity. Try for a moment to re-think you as a manager of a social media-based company – not a traditional retailer- or service company.

Stating that it is a question of attitude more than company size place a particular challenge on the shoulders of the manager. In order to develop the competences needed the manager needs to boost self-motivation and make sense of such learning process. Another argument for the impact of managerial perception is that of those companies, who have digital transformation as a core strategic consideration, 81% believe that it will increase competitiveness in two years. Optimism and the ability to see opportunities are vital traits, but opening up to the digital also seem to influence optimism: Among those managers, who were not focused on digital transformation, only 18% believe their companies will increase competitiveness.

In general, most companies lack experience: Digital immaturity is a widespread problem, but mainly because of the manager’s attitude towards it. In raw numbers, the report defined 15% of the managers to be mature and 65% as beginners. This is a problem since it is the managers who must lead the process and coordinate across the company. In our research, we did not categorize the levels of competency, but the MIT report suggests four categories:

Beginner: The manager is slow to adopt or is sceptical of more advanced technologies such as social media (65%)
Conservative: Companies deliberately hang back, although management has a vision and structures needed (14%)
Fashionista: The company is very aggressive adopting new technologies, but lack corporate coordination and effective vision (6%)
Digirati: The managers share a strong vision for what new technologies bring, invest in and manage digital tech quickly and effectively, and gain the most value (15%).

The mental barriers of including social media on the executive agenda are obvious in the MIT report as well as in our qualitative research. The in-depth interviews, I conducted, revealed in some cases a strong personal resistance, even though the context was professional. Both managers in the MIT report and our informants raised the problem of too much hype. All that talk of social media and digital technology seem to have a negative impact on some managers’ motivation.

However, the immediate explanations given for not getting further involved was time and money, but at a deeper level the reasons were attached to the individual perception and self-identity: The fear of incompetence, to be viewed as ridiculous by others, a perception of social media as something unserious that managers should not spend their precious time on, and no sense of urgency. The latter was confirmed by the report as 39% felt no sense of urgency, which can be seen as a cultural barrier to social media. Most dominating cultural barriers mentioned were:
53% said ‘we don’t have time for that now’
42% said ‘we don’t have time to do that’
40% expressed a resistance by saying ‘this is the way we have always done it’
18 % expressed a risk aversion by stating ‘it’s not worth the risk’.

A reason, also stated by the Danish managers, was the lack of clarity of pay-off. What is the ROI and how can we define KPI? There was no second-order reflection on whether is could be measured in the ordinary way. The question should instead be: What social media measures are relevant and why? Why is measurement considered so important (for instance, we don’t need to measure the air we breathe in order to assess its vital function)?

The survey shows a clear split in perception of urgency between top managers and their employees: The further down, the more they feel that the development goes too slow. 53 % of CEOs think the pace is right, fast or very fast in opposition to 22 % of staff. One of the respondents (p. 7) expressed that “Management is found guilty of complacency, ignorance of modern technology and clueless management”.

Again, perception leads to low motivation.

In accordance, the MIT report concluded that managers in general lack the management temperament and relevant experience to know how to effectively drive transformations through technology. The authors state that it requires a different mindset and skill sets than previous waves of transformative technology. Social media and the Internet is not just another technology, but more pervasive than assumed.

What does the positive mindset have to offer?

But let’s try to motivate by looking closer at the experienced benefits and what managers of small companies can expect from gaining membership in the social media business club:

Most prominent is better customer experiences and engagement by improving the overall customer experience, followed by enhancing products and services in customer-friendly ways. This was followed by stream-lined operations and new lines of businesses or business models. Moreover, social media seem to improve internal communication in the company. But in the light of strategic management, the manager must decide what to transform first. Is it the relationship with the customers and/or other stakeholders? Is it the internal operations or is it the business model?

The positive approach starts with a vision in the mind of the manager that can be shared with others. Business transformations seldom happen as a clean bottom up process, and has the strongest odds of becoming successful when the entire company aligns around the same vision. The report stated that what distinguishes a doing technology and leading tech-based transformation is how the companies put the leadership framework in place. (page 7)

But what to do when 2/3 of managers seem to fail to articulate a vision for digital transformation? How can the manager articulate such vision, draw a roadmap and commit to it?

I suggest that the first step is for the manager to acknowledge the degree of difficulty such challenge possesses with regards to:

Management competencies. The manager’s role has shifted from ‘managing a profession’ to ‘professional management’. That is no longer sufficient, but now requires both the managerial and professional skills: technological and social intelligence are equally important. The manager must be able to add ‘a social and digital leader’ to the resume. Moreover, the manager must be able to involve others and develop the courage to shift the collective mindset. The MIT report states that a critical skill is to have someone who can keep scanning the tech landscape and explain it to the rest of management. Reframing such questions about the business is really challenging, because it requires a company to challenge its own assumptions about itself.

Handling market change and complexity. The traditional assumptions of control must be revised. Control is a mental state of mind, a sense more than a tangible fact, which develops parallel with the sense of competence. Social media management requires the will to explore it without being judgmental. It is complicated, but can be managed, if the traditional assumptions of what to manage, why manage, and how to manage are adjusted to the digital age. A place to start is to understand that technological and social change is a basic condition, not something that will go away. Companies have to develop a continuous process for digital innovation. Try to be curious about it, take small experimental steps and invest in what works. Remember, the worst to do is doing nothing! Second worst is to just do something or hire others to do it for you. Whatever you choose, choose it for the right reasons.

If you are a manager in you best years, you must also be alert: According to the report older managers must understand that their age can undermine faith in their ability and interest in leading digital information and develop approaches to make it clear that they want to se transformation occur. Senior managers seem to understand the importance/relevance, but seem to be paralyzed by business systems and business processes that will take a good deal of effort and cash to change/adapt.

Thinking about your thinking can change your mindset and offer new perspectives that may work as stepping-stones into this digital transformation. And remember – as this report together with our research has shown – as a manager, you are not alone on this challenge.

Checking the social media pulse of world retailers

I just returned to Denmark after three days at the World Retail Congress (@WRC) 2013 in Paris. The main purpose for my visit was to discover where global retailers are in their understanding of social media implications on the B2C market. I also hoped to network with interesting leading profiles in social media thinking, but the outcome was unfortunately limited. Attending the award dinner was too costly, and no discount coupons were given, so only rush-networking was allowed between the sessions. However, there are three takeaways I want to share with you that particularly relate to my research:

Is social media on the retailers’ agenda?

The digital impact on B2C was so strong that it was the dominating theme on the three-day long programme. But social media was primarily talked of as yet another channel, however potentially impactful. Nicola Mendelsohn, the VP of EMEA, Facebook, was also invited to talk about ‘reaching the connected consumer’. Her very professional presentation stressed that consumers have integrated social media in their lives to such an extent that it is an obvious opportunity for retailers who want to become part of their customers’ lives. Another advantage of social media was how social media analysis could provide big data input for retailers and as such empower the retailer more than empowering the consumer. So yes, social media is a large player in the changing market, but still it is seen as a channel from which retailers can gain more customer knowledge and sell more products. Even though many of the large retailers had the digital interwoven in their business models, it was not socially driven. However, they seem to be puzzling with the issue of how the consumer can become more central to strategic decision-making. Let’s see, there might be something new on that next year?

Are retailers starting to think ‘out of the channel’?

First of all there was a general acknowledgment of social media as a technology that will change the way we do business. They constantly talked about ‘fundamental change’ and ‘rethinking the business.’ Mark Lewis, the Online Director of UK Department Store Group, expressed that the new technologies are changing fundamentally how people shop. In consequence, retailers cannot just continue on the same path of business practice. Customers no longer distinguish between online and offline, so it is time for retailers to take that point into account. In this stream, we got the most entertaining and perhaps honest input by Jacques-Antoine Granjon, CEO and Founder of He stated that consumers want good offers and that is what eventually drives them. To retailers, it is a question of stimulating the consumers emotionally and innovate your business. Particularly interesting to my study of social media strategy was the managers’ language use: the most dominating words at the conference were ‘omnichannel’ and ‘multichannel’. Channel convergence and ‘seamless integration’ were the means by which retailers are going to meet this retail paradigm change. I see this as a reflection of a more or less unaltered mindset (they still think in channels). However, a few speakers pointed out the retailers ought to think beyond the channel comprehension, but no guidelines were given on how to do that.

Ian Cheshire, Group CEO, Kingfisher

Did I get a future vision of retail?

The main statement was that retail will change considerably in the next ten years, more than it has for the past fifty years – which makes competition even harder! The main concern was how retailers can sustain growth in the future by all digital and non-digital means. Steve Power Brown, Chief Evangelist and Futurist at Intel (mind the fabulous title) gave an interesting presentation on the potentials of vibrant data and future trends, which I found to be the most visionary and interesting. I hope that they will send me their book as promised. Sandy Douglas, Global CCO at the Coca-Cola company, and Ian Cheshire, Group CEO, at Kingfisher talked about retailing in a flat world. The future prospects were about expanding to emerging markets such as Africa and Latin America through online retailing – not the kind of sustainable world vision I hoped for.

There were a few speakers on sustainability and CSR. I attended a stream called ‘Corporate responsibility – a business imperative: building trust: the socially conscience consumer’. It might have been the unappetizingly long title, cause there were more empty than taken seats in the little room. The subject was apparently not an imperative for the absent 1370 retails who went elsewhere. The panel ‘discussion’ between Arvind Singhal, Chairman at Technopak, Marko Janhunen, VP, Public affairs and CR at UPM, Dr Gordon Campbell, MD at Spar International, Luke Jensen, Group Development Director, Sainsbury’s and Andy York, Ethical Trading Manager, N Brown Group were more a presentation of the positive initiatives taken by the companies in African villages and textile factories. While one of the participants, whose company was having their garments produces in Bangladesh trumpeted ‘Clothes should not be at the expense of any worker’s life’, a factory fire in Bangladesh had just taken 10 more lives.

Better organised

To wrap up, overall I got what I came for, namely to take the pulse of today’s global retailers represented by the 1400 attendants. First, social media was on the agenda, not social business, stressing the media more than the social element. Second, retailers seem to understand that considerable changes are taking place, but to me they still wear the same old spectacles, and therefore miss the chance of re-thinking retail to cope with future challenges. I also doubt that they are ready to fully explore the social dynamics that might make the difference. Third, the visions presented were not particularly visionary, in fact it was a bit scary to see that they still keep the traditional growth course, just being crafted with new digital ‘navigation’ systems. These large retailers should act as role models for the majority group of small- and medium sized retailers that were not represented at the congress. Let’s hope the small businesses will take the lead then.

The whole conference setup was based on traditional one-way communication forms and did not leave room for critical discussions or mutual learning among the participants (in that sense they were not listening to their customers and did not manage to practice what they preached, which is a shame). No rethinking here either. Even though they encouraged the participants to twitter during the conference, the wifi was over-exhausted and I did not succeed once to leave a question or comment. Thank God I have my blog then 😉

Why should we bother to think about thinking?

We cannot solve out problems

With the same thinking we used

When we created them.

Albert Einstein.


Deliberately or by accident, you are now facing a universe of thoughts and ideas sustained by research in management cognition in the digital age. You are most welcome. Please share my professional interest and curiosity and dig into the contents of this website. If you have some relevant questions and input to share with me, this is the place to think aloud.

The figure here is to give you an overview of the central areas this website deals with:

Research areas: Rethinking business, Management, Social Media, Cognition, Human Mentality

You might wonder why the circle is not closed? The gab depicts not only my uncontrollable appetite on new perspectives, but expresses a personal statement that critical research should never be a closed circuit. Keeping open perspectives spurs new thinking and make research much more fun.


Why should we bother to think about thinking?

The answer is simple:

Your thoughts become your words

Your words become your attitude

Your attitude becomes your actions

Your actions become your habits

Your habits become your character

Your character becomes your destiny!


Seen in a larger scale perspective the same causality is evident for the human kind and planet earth. By accepting this simple answer, we are forced to look upon ourselves and understand that the thoughts of a single mind carry the responsibility for the world we hand on to our children.

That is why I bother! As the mother of four wonderful children and the daughter of two parents whose thoughts became their destiny, it is my responsibility to put this item on the agenda in my professional and private life: let’s call it ‘prifessional’agenda cause there is no distinction to hide behind as my thoughts or mission is consistent.