When people think digital, words like “sharing” and “collaboration” readily come to mind. And there’s a good reason for that. Both are strongly identified with, and characteristic of, the “digital age”.

It doesn’t take a lot of reflection to understand why.  We’ve got the sharing economy disrupting legacy players and driving the likes of Uber and Airbnb. We get around sixty hours of video uploaded daily to YouTube every minute. And millions upon millions of photos, parties, work desires, pets, holidays, love desires (along with, yes, millions and millions of dumb, dumb things) are shared daily across social media.

At the same time products like Slack and Trello are improving collaboration across projects and organisations globally. I draft this blog in Google Docs, where The Exponential partners or other collaborators can be invited to comment on and edit the document in real time wherever they may be.

Pretty cool, huh? And all down to the rise and rise of digital. Right?

Well, no actually. At least, not entirely.

Sharing and collaboration around information is as old as the hills. And so are the concerns that come with them – privacy and freedom of opinion. That’s why, back in 1927, the Royal Institute of International Affairs (based in Chatham House, London) created something called the Chatham House Rule. Here’s what the rule* says:

When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.

Participants in meetings will always give more valuable feedback and information if they know they are in a “private” space. In a place where there responses won’t be held up for public identification. We use the Chatham House Rule a lot here at The Exponential – it lets us bring clients, people we admire, and industry thought leaders together to meet and share, knowing they are in a comfortable environment.  

We have a couple of such meetings running at the moment. One is a Start Up breakfast, with a group of NZ entrepreneurs just kicking off on their journey. The other is a CMO Dinner, with some of New Zealand’s leading CMOs, representing some of our biggest brands. These groups are at opposite ends of the journey, and I’m lucky enough to run these meetings myself… some of these guys are clients, but most aren’t. The Exponential brings them together to facilitate the sharing of business learnings and best practices. And of course to learn more about “what keeps them awake at night”.

That’s exactly the question we put to our CMO group when we had dinner earlier this week. They discussed and ranked their biggest issues… the ones where solutions always feel just that little bit out of reach. Amongst the things you would expect from a group like this five issues stood out.

  1. People, resourcing and structures : How can my organisation optimise its resources, including finding, retaining and valuing core talent?
  2. Change and speed to market : How can I accelerate the product pipeline, fast track new opportunities, and execute at the pace required today?
  3. Budgets : How can I continue to achieve revenue targets and demonstrate ROI when budgets continue to come under pressure?
  4. Commoditisation and differentiation : While 75% of the group felt their industry was “relatively stable”, and only 10% felt “totally disrupted”, the message of blogs like this around change was hitting home. A clear majority reported they were feeling the pressure of commoditisation and the need to differentiate.

  5. Data : Although more of an untapped opportunity than a pressure, nearly half the group still saw themselves at the “data dawn” stage (defined as understanding a value in data but not able to define it). Similarly, only 22% identified themselves as being a “data driven business”. And a single view of customer still seems some way off… half of the group ranged from below average to “not even close” to achieving this.

    Any CMO reading this (or indeed anyone who works with a CMO) will recognise these issues. Over the next few weeks I want to dive a little deeper on some of these, working in some of the insights we’ve picked up here at The Exponential. Those notions of sharing and helping business gain value from the pooled experience of the The Exponential Agency are core to our offering… and so naturally we’ll also throw in the odd tidbit from the CMO group.

    Which takes us nicely back to where we started – with the Chatham House Rule, sharing, and collaboration. It’s nice to know concepts like these aren’t really Johnny-come-lately. I guess as the saying goes, there really is nothing new under the sun (I’m sure there’s a blog in there somewhere!).


    *The group were very quick to identify (and then relentlessly niggle me with) one of my pet peeves… there is only one “Chatham House Rule”, and so it is never, ever written as “Rules”…!


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