Excerpts From The Cluetrain Manifesto
The End of Business as Usual
compiled by Rick Sidorowicz
markets are conversations
talk is cheap
silence is fatal
The Cluetrain Manifesto is a brilliant and powerful work. Here are several
excerpts from their site and the book that hopefully will serve as a little
more than just an interesting 'head twist.' It's time to re-think, re-evaluate
and prepare for a new conversation, so ... listen slowly. (ed.)
"A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people
are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding
speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter — and getting smarter
faster than most companies."
"These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language
that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether
explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably
genuine. It can't be faked. "
"Most corporations, on the other hand, only know how to talk in the soothing,
humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us
busy signal. Same old tone, same old lies. No wonder networked markets have
no respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do."
"But learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will corporations
convince us they are human with lip service about "listening to customers."
They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on
"While many such people already work for companies today, most companies
ignore their ability to deliver genuine knowledge, opting instead to crank
out sterile happytalk that insults the intelligence of markets literally
too smart to buy it."
"However, employees are getting hyperlinked even as markets are. Companies
need to listen carefully to both. Mostly, they need to get out of the way
so intranetworked employees can converse directly with internetworked markets."
we are not
seats or eye balls or end users or consumers.
we are human beings - and our
reach exceeds your grasp.
deal with it
The Cluetrain Manifesto
- Markets are conversations.
- Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
- Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in
a human voice.
- Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments
or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.
- People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice.
- The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were
simply not possible in the era of mass media.
- Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.
- In both internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees, people
are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.
- These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social
organization and knowledge exchange to emerge.
- As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized.
Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.
- People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better
information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for
corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products.
- There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies
do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell
- What's happening to markets is also happening among employees. A metaphysical
construct called "The Company" is the only thing standing between the two.
- Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations.
To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally
- In just a few more years, the current homogenized "voice" of business—the
sound of mission statements and brochures—will seem as contrived and artificial
as the language of the 18th century French court.
- Already, companies that speak in the language of the pitch, the dog-and-pony
show, are no longer speaking to anyone.
- Companies that assume online markets are the same markets that used
to watch their ads on television are kidding themselves.
- Companies that don't realize their markets are now networked person-to-person,
getting smarter as a result and deeply joined in conversation are missing
their best opportunity.
- Companies can now communicate with their markets directly. If they blow
it, it could be their last chance.
- Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them.
- Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They
need to get a sense of humor.
- Getting a sense of humor does not mean putting some jokes on the corporate
web site. Rather, it requires big values, a little humility, straight talk,
and a genuine point of view.
- Companies attempting to "position" themselves need to take a position.
Optimally, it should relate to something their market actually cares about.
- Bombastic boasts—"We are positioned to become the preeminent provider
of XYZ"—do not constitute a position.
- Companies need to come down from their Ivory Towers and talk to the
people with whom they hope to create relationships.
- Public Relations does not relate to the public. Companies are deeply
afraid of their markets.
- By speaking in language that is distant, uninviting, arrogant, they
build walls to keep markets at bay.
- Most marketing programs are based on the fear that the market might
see what's really going on inside the company.
- Elvis said it best: "We can't go on together with suspicious minds."
- Brand loyalty is the corporate version of going steady, but the breakup
is inevitable—and coming fast. Because they are networked, smart markets
are able to renegotiate relationships with blinding speed.
- Networked markets can change suppliers overnight. Networked knowledge
workers can change employers over lunch. Your own "downsizing initiatives"
taught us to ask the question: "Loyalty? What's that?"
- Smart markets will find suppliers who speak their own language.
- Learning to speak with a human voice is not a parlor trick. It can't
be "picked up" at some tony conference.
- To speak with a human voice, companies must share the concerns of their
- But first, they must belong to a community.
- Companies must ask themselves where their corporate cultures end.
- If their cultures end before the community begins, they will have no
- Human communities are based on discourse—on human speech about human
- The community of discourse is the market.
- Companies that do not belong to a community of discourse will die.
- Companies make a religion of security, but this is largely a red herring.
Most are protecting less against competitors than against their own market
- As with networked markets, people are also talking to each other directly
inside the company—and not just about rules and regulations, boardroom directives,
- Such conversations are taking place today on corporate intranets. But
only when the conditions are right.
- Companies typically install intranets top-down to distribute HR policies
and other corporate information that workers are doing their best to ignore.
- Intranets naturally tend to route around boredom. The best are built
bottom-up by engaged individuals cooperating to construct something far
more valuable: an intranetworked corporate conversation.
- A healthy intranet organizes workers in many meanings of the word. Its
effect is more radical than the agenda of any union.
- While this scares companies witless, they also depend heavily on open
intranets to generate and share critical knowledge. They need to resist
the urge to "improve" or control these networked conversations.
- When corporate intranets are not constrained by fear and legalistic
rules, the type of conversation they encourage sounds remarkably like the
conversation of the networked marketplace.
- Org charts worked in an older economy where plans could be fully understood
from atop steep management pyramids and detailed work orders could be handed
down from on high.
- Today, the org chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical. Respect for hands-on
knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority.
- Command-and-control management styles both derive from and reinforce
bureaucracy, power tripping and an overall culture of paranoia.
- Paranoia kills conversation. That's its point. But lack of open conversation
- There are two conversations going on. One inside the company. One with
- In most cases, neither conversation is going very well. Almost invariably,
the cause of failure can be traced to obsolete notions of command and control.
- As policy, these notions are poisonous. As tools, they are broken. Command
and control are met with hostility by intranetworked knowledge workers and
generate distrust in internetworked markets.
- These two conversations want to talk to each other. They are speaking
the same language. They recognize each other's voices.
- Smart companies will get out of the way and help the inevitable to happen
- If willingness to get out of the way is taken as a measure of IQ, then
very few companies have yet wised up.
- However subliminally at the moment, millions of people now online perceive
companies as little more than quaint legal fictions that are actively preventing
these conversations from intersecting.
- This is suicidal. Markets want to talk to companies.
- Sadly, the part of the company a networked market wants to talk to is
usually hidden behind a smokescreen of hucksterism, of language that rings
false—and often is.
- Markets do not want to talk to flacks and hucksters. They want to participate
in the conversations going on behind the corporate firewall.
- De-cloaking, getting personal: We are those markets. We want to talk
- We want access to your corporate information, to your plans and strategies,
your best thinking, your genuine knowledge. We will not settle for the 4-color
brochure, for web sites chock-a-block with eye candy but lacking any substance.
- We're also the workers who make your companies go. We want to talk to
customers directly in our own voices, not in platitudes written into a script.
- As markets, as workers, both of us are sick to death of getting our
information by remote control. Why do we need faceless annual reports and
third-hand market research studies to introduce us to each other?
- As markets, as workers, we wonder why you're not listening. You seem
to be speaking a different language.
- The inflated self-important jargon you sling around—in the press, at
your conferences—what's that got to do with us?
- Maybe you're impressing your investors. Maybe you're impressing Wall
Street. You're not impressing us.
- If you don't impress us, your investors are going to take a bath. Don't
they understand this? If they did, they wouldn't let you talk that way.
- Your tired notions of "the market" make our eyes glaze over. We don't
recognize ourselves in your projections—perhaps because we know we're already
- We like this new marketplace much better. In fact, we are creating it.
- You're invited, but it's our world. Take your shoes off at the door.
If you want to barter with us, get down off that camel!
- We are immune to advertising. Just forget it.
- If you want us to talk to you, tell us something. Make it something
interesting for a change.
- We've got some ideas for you too: some new tools we need, some better
service. Stuff we'd be willing to pay for. Got a minute?
- You're too busy "doing business" to answer our email? Oh gosh, sorry,
gee, we'll come back later. Maybe.
- You want us to pay? We want you to pay attention.
- We want you to drop your trip, come out of your neurotic self-involvement,
join the party.
- Don't worry, you can still make money. That is, as long as it's not
the only thing on your mind.
- Have you noticed that, in itself, money is kind of one-dimensional and
boring? What else can we talk about?
- Your product broke. Why? We'd like to ask the guy who made it. Your
corporate strategy makes no sense. We'd like to have a chat with your CEO.
What do you mean she's not in?
- We want you to take 50 million of us as seriously as you take one reporter
from The Wall Street Journal.
- We know some people from your company. They're pretty cool online. Do
you have any more like that you're hiding? Can they come out and play?
- When we have questions we turn to each other for answers. If you didn't
have such a tight rein on "your people" maybe they'd be among the people
we'd turn to.
- When we're not busy being your "target market," many of us are your
people. We'd rather be talking to friends online than watching the clock.
That would get your name around better than your entire million dollar web
site. But you tell us speaking to the market is Marketing's job.
- We'd like it if you got what's going on here. That'd be real nice. But
it would be a big mistake to think we're holding our breath.
- We have better things to do than worry about whether you'll change in
time to get our business. Business is only a part of our lives. It seems
to be all of yours. Think about it: who needs whom?
- We have real power and we know it. If you don't quite see the light,
some other outfit will come along that's more attentive, more interesting,
more fun to play with.
- Even at its worst, our newfound conversation is more interesting than
most trade shows, more entertaining than any TV sitcom, and certainly more
true-to-life than the corporate web sites we've been seeing.
- Our allegiance is to ourselves—our friends, our new allies and acquaintances,
even our sparring partners. Companies that have no part in this world, also
have no future.
- Companies are spending billions of dollars on Y2K. Why can't they hear
this market timebomb ticking? The stakes are even higher.
- We're both inside companies and outside them. The boundaries that separate
our conversations look like the Berlin Wall today, but they're really just
an annoyance. We know they're coming down. We're going to work from both
sides to take them down.
- To traditional corporations, networked conversations may appear confused,
may sound confusing. But we are organizing faster than they are. We have
better tools, more new ideas, no rules to slow us down.
- We are waking up and linking to each other. We are watching. But we
are not waiting.
- It's time we moved beyond fear, greed, happy talk and lip service.
The leaders of the future will be comfortable telling the truth, being authentic,
listening deeply, and caring. They will know that humaness and business are
fundamentally connected, and that quality, ethics, honesty and service are
not seditious but fundamental to success - the price of admission. Our new
leaders will be comfortable with the new conversation, and will create enterprises
that unleash creativity, spirit, talent, pride, value and profits. Most business
leaders today need a serious 'head twisting' to get it - but get it they
will - hopefully in time.
The End of Business as Usual,
by Rick Levine, David Weinberger,
Christopher Locke, Doc Searls,
Perseus Books Group, February
more book reviews and highlights in Refresher Reviews
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on Creative Leadership, Competitive
Strategy and Leading Change in The CEO Refresher