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5 Minutes With Euan Semple

8th Dec 2015


Euan helps organisations, and more importantly the people in them, get their heads around social media, social business, and the social web both inside and outside the firewall. He has a unique experience in doing this from his time as Director of Knowledge Management at the BBC where they deployed social enterprise systems - forums, blogs and wikis - on a significant scale.

Since leaving the BBC Euan has worked with major organisations such as Nokia, the World Bank, and NATO.

You have some unusual roles and worked in a variety of industries. How would you explain to the layman what you do?

My role is to explain the impact of the Internet on the world of work, and to encourage people to use it to shape their experiences.

What are your priorities for the year ahead?

Hopefully tapping into the increasing numbers of senior people who realise that this is an important aspect of their work.

Which brands or businesses are using digital / technology to its full potential and how?

None. Most are still using it to do things that they’ve always done rather than adapting their behaviours to maximise its impact.

What emerging technologies or trends should people be aware of?

I think automation of bureaucratic functions in big organisations is going to have a huge impact on what have traditionally been white-collar, knowledge work, jobs.

How are people’s roles and positions in companies changing with the emergence of digital and technology?

There is a lot of milling around going on at the moment with the baton being passed between HR, communications, and technology. We have seen the creation of a new role of chief digital officer but I'm not sure that this is bringing about the changes that were expected.

What are your strategies to stay ahead of the competition?

Using my online networks to make sure that I know more, better, faster than ever before.

When you're consulting with a client, what problem are you trying to solve?

Bewilderment! Most folks are either unaware of what is likely to happen to them, or not sure of what to do about it even if they are.

Which country is leading the way in change management and what are your thoughts on how does Australia measures up?

I find it funny that it's time I visit Australia I am asked if they are keeping up. Given that I don't think that any companies are doing this particularly well, it follows that I don't think any countries are either.

What do you see as the main challenges technology leaders currently face? Is it the technology or the people?

If by technology leaders you mean those in charge of technology within organisations, I think they need to transition from gatekeepers to enablers. This starts with the leaders themselves but also involves recruiting and training the right sort of people.

What’s the best piece of innovation you have seen in recent time and why?

The hashtag. Blindingly simple, zero cost, but affecting how we see the world and collectively make sense of it.

You were recently in Australia. Why were you here and what was the best of learning you took away?

I was there for two pieces of work. The first was a change management conference in Sydney and then I headed off to Apollo Bay near Melbourne to run workshops for the local health authority there. The main piece of learning was that if you present the changes represented by digital to people in the right way, no matter where they are from, whatever their roles, seniority, or age they can't see it as an exciting opportunity.

I know you read a lot, what is the best business book you have read of late and why?

I don't tend to read many business books. However the book I am currently reading, A Secret History Of Consciousness, actually relates to the gist of your questions. I believe that connecting through online networks affords us the possibility, individually and collectively,  to become smarter faster and to learn how to deal with the significant challenges we face in the world these days. It will ultimately alter our sense of ourselves and the world around us and I find this topic endlessly fascinating.

Tell us a little about your last book and why you wrote it?

It is called “Organizations Don't Tweet, People Do” and is intended to help managers understand the impact of digital on them and their work. It is not so much about technology as it is about attitudes and behaviours. I wrote it because if our world of work is going to benefit from the opportunities of the Internet more people are going to have to understand more what it is all about. 

You travel quite a bit, during your travels what was your favourite place to travel to and your favourite local food?

I love Hong Kong. I didn't the first time I visited but now it has become one of my favourite places. This is partly because I have discovered all of the wonderful walking on the island and the nearby mainland. A visit to a small island off Hong Kong was also the location for my favourite meal which was wonderful seafood literally taken straight out of the sea and into a wok.

What is that burning question within Strategy and Architecture you’ve always wanted to ask but never have?

Why do people invent phrases like "strategy and architecture" that make the rest of us wonder what on earth they are talking about!?