What I learned from working with 50+ companies on social projects..

Well, we are three weeks into the spring semester and I still haven’t reflected on the previous semester.   I thought I would put together some thoughts on the transitions I have seen in putting together “Measuring Social” over the past few years.  Measuring Social is a class I teach at Carnegie Mellon University designed to throw students into the turbulent waters of analyzing social interactions.  It is designed as an experiential learning environment where student’s work on real world issues not simulated or canned problem statements.  These are topics that clients, big brand name companies, are dealing with now.  Students are expected to learn project management skills, interact with their project sponsor, as well as understand and use both social listening as well as web analytics technologies.  They have a semester (4 months) to get up to speed and add value and they need to do it all while juggling a full course load…

To understand diversity of approaches, students are not constrained to a specific structure for their deliverable.  I do like to see an understanding of market analysis, best practices, and unique issues specific for the industry.  Depending on the project scope, some teams develop social applications while others develop algorithms and/or experimental methodologies.  So if a client come in and asks if social can be used to help mitigate online piracy that’s a much different problem and project than understanding how different communities can be leverage for increasing brand awareness.  This semester we are excited to be working with Autodesk, NPR, United Way, PNC, Walmart, Expedia and Sony Pictures.  At this point in the semester students are in a state of shock trying to figure out how they can accomplish everything over the next 12 weeks.  They always do and I’m often surprised and happy with what they develop.

So here are my thoughts on how companies are approaching and trying to Measure Social.  Please feel free to contribute…

Social is a team effort not just relegated to the marketing department.  There are legal issues (i.e. privacy) associated with collecting and sharing this data.  There are large complex data science needs to effectively analyze large pools of unstructured data.  IT is required to create and manage a data warehouse and applications that multiple departments can access, etc. etc.

Social data can be a cruel mistress – Not all data is beneficial.  It can occasionally lead you down a rat hole of false promises.  Evidence based management principles are critical to identify appropriate data based on the questions asked.  Strong filters are required to remove duplicative data that tend to skew results.  Lastly context is needed and context is hard.  We often discuss the 3 Vs – Velocity, Volume and Variety but the 4th V Veracity is (I think) the most challenging.

Data has a shelf life – data diminishes in value the longer you hold onto it without using it.  Yes you can do historical analysis but as you move away from when the data was generated you lose context incrementally.

Want to get good at social – Practice, Practice, Practice.   Companies that understand and live socially internally tend to do it very well externally.  Understanding how to be good at social online is different from being social in a physical setting.  There are different norms of behavior, different challenges (attention scarcity, security breaches) and different motivations/incentives.

Data Hoarding – Lets face it when we spend time and effort to collect and organize data, there is a tendency to want to keep it and use it.  After all we spent time and effort, so it must have some utility right?  Keeping date (hoarding) is one thing; saying that it must have value is another (denial).  As we acquire more and more data, the second can cripple an organization.

Metrics vary across departments, campaigns, companies, industries, etc.  So be careful about what you chose to analyze otherwise you might spend time and effort to get a metric that means nothing to the group you are reporting to

Most importantly – Communities are much more powerful than groups, divisions or departments.  Cultural dynamics and how/why different communities develop lead to an understanding of interaction at a granular level.  Companies developing strategies and processes with this understanding use social as a means to engage employees anyway they can are creating more rewarding workplaces.

Care to add to the list?

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Social First – Business Second…..

I had an interesting conversation with a colleague who was attempting to socialize a standard business process.  We batted around the idea of whether the process was even needed in the first place and then starting tackling the central issue.  The company wanted to apply a social component (like gamification) in a culture that was process driven.  I’m sure you are familiar with the type – conservative, hierarchical, command and control…

I explained that social should be thought through first.  Yes, sounds a little radical but there is some basis to the statement.  You need an understanding of organizational dynamics, specifically culture, and connection points (not reporting connections but communication, interaction, engagement) to understand adoption patterns of new technologies, procedures, or practices.  By fostering and understanding connections, not organization hierarchy, companies can learn, adapt and empower employees.  Connections are essential on a daily basis to understand: Where power and influence lies within the organization (It might not be where you think)?  How does communication flow across the organization?  How do groups, tribes, communities develop and add value to the firm?  How does it contribute to employee satisfaction?  All these questions can be measured and analyzed but it is nearly impossible to do without an understanding of connections.  In addition, connection help with an understanding of two essential issues companies are struggling with today – recruitment and retention.  How do you attract, retain and motivate key talent?  How do you balance fully leveraging employees without burning them out?   How do you get them up to speed and promote inter-generational and cross-divisional learning?

Connection can be understood through several dimensions including number and strength.  Number is pretty straightforward.  Strength can be assessed by commonality, number of interactions, type of relationship, even proximity.   All these factors develop stronger ties and strong ties are powerful.  The social networks we all know and love recognize this so why can’t corporations?  Strong ties can lead to greater employee engagement, motivation, greater commitment to stay (e.g. less likely to leave), basically things you would like to have in a workforce.  Connections can be based around business processes, product groups, innovation teams or social connections such as common interests, shared activities, affiliations.  Companies who understand the power of internal connections strive to foster both.  Some social companies go to extraordinary measures to foster interpersonal relationships through social communities.  There is a reason why start-ups have video games, foosball, ping-pong and regular outings.  With a dynamic rapid growth culture, building relationships is key.  Sharing, connecting, discussing in our digital world also generates data that can be collected, analyzed and used to build stronger connections, innovate, transfer knowledge and improve outcomes.

My belief is that businesses need to think more about retaining and nurturing employees than focusing on processes and departments.  Are engaged employees more productive, will connected employees be more likely to stay and can these factors be attributable to top line growth and bottom line efficiencies.  Is it a causal relationship?  Several folks are paying a great deal of attention to this from a consultative and research perspective.  AONHewitt put together a nice perspective piece on engagement drivers and outcomesAlex Edmans from Wharton looked at the relationship between job satisfaction and firm level value and found that there is a direct linkage satisfied employees drive positive firm level outcomes.

So if there is evidence that job satisfaction leads to positive company outcomes and engaged employees show higher levels of job satisfaction why do we still have low level of engagement in the workforce (see previous post on engagement).  The fact is that this might be due to regional disparities, cultural biases and industry wide norms.  Here is a radical thought – Rather than throwing out an org chart to see where everyone fits in the firm, put together a connection chart based on responsibilities and interests so that new folks can easily join the running group, homebrew club, gaming community and/or identify who is the knowledge leader on process improvement.  Both types of connections are critical but social connections have some unique properties over business/reporting connections – variety, access, adoption, etc.   However, the most important items is that they are easy to implement,  so why not focus on them……

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Projects submitted, final presentations delivered, grades entered and “debated”…It’s nice to have a bit of a break from classes and teaching for the summer.  Not exactly a break, since I need to revise lectures, develop a new class, present at conferences, deliver a workshop for executives, finish up research and bring in sponsors and projects for next semester.

I teach a few classes both in our master’s and our executive education programs.  Without a doubt, the most challenging is a class I call “Measuring Social”.  I also think it is one of the most beneficial for students. (I am biased of course)  The class focuses on 3 key elements:

  • Design thinking
  • Experiential learning
  • Unstructured data

Let me elaborate on these different elements. We deploy design thinking to essentially solve complex problems.  In order to do this, I bring organizations into the class (7 each semester).  They develop a project briefing for the students to work on.  Rather than exams and homework, the students are graded on how they interact with their client, deploy tools, frameworks or experiences within their collective arsenal and develop something of value for the their clients.  I say something in that it’s never exactly spelled out.  Outputs have ranged from algorithms to social apps (design and requirements, we stop short of coding) to experimental measurement frameworks.  Of course with each project, teams must demonstrate an understanding of key market segments, best practices, community analysis, data collection processes, etc.

Experiential learning simply means that I try to recreate or simulate a typical working environment.  In order to do that, students are not allowed to select team members or projects.  I take quite a bit of time to do some social engineering of the teams so that there is a balance between M/F, Quant. vs. Creative, and Policy vs. Strategy. By placing students in these types of situations, interaction with real clients on real issues, they become better at handling the ambiguity associated with client work and weeding through noise to add value in a relatively short time frame (4 months).  The students need to get up to speed on an industry, organization and how social is impacting their ecosystem.  So the critical parts include project planning, task delegation, and communication plan basically designing a PMO.

The last part is the theme to the class – understanding, collecting and analyzing unstructured content generated through online social interactions both externally and internally in relation to an organization.  Through close to 50 projects, we have seen quite a bit ranging from the hypothetical academic research related to the very tactical.  Several want to understand how to better engage different stakeholder communities while others want to mine vast repositories of stored data for insight on innovation, collaboration or simply how work more efficiently.  Some of the trends I have noticed from running the class over the past three years

  • Most companies get social.  It’s no longer an amorphous concept that is delegated to interns.  Budgets for social are not the same as traditional marketing expenditures but they are encroaching on them quickly
  • Metrics vary from industry to industry, company to company, department to department and yes campaign to campaign.  Deciding which ones are critical is key to achieving buy-in
  • Companies are realizing they they need good internal social awareness and processes prior to designing and implementing external facing social campaigns
  • Companies that “get social” are leveraging it for a wide variety of uses.  It’s not simply about brand building
  • Companies are interested in students that have done projects with social especially around analysis.  My students who put their “Measuring Social” project experience on their resumes get brought into interviews to discuss their projects

Over the past 7 iterations of the class, we have worked with close to 50 organizations.  Folks who have taken part in the class include

  • Thomson Reuters
  • PepsiCo
  • Adidas
  • Ford
  • Warner Bros.
  • HBO
  • Comcast
  • eBay
  • Microsoft
  • Zynga
  • Starwood
  • Ford
  • Time
  • Credit Suisse
  • Pittsburgh Steelers
  • American Eagle

It’s my belief that we will see more of these types of courses in the future.  Like all other industries, higher education is also going through a transformation (or disruption) where the old processes for delivering education are being challenged.  After all, how do you educate the next generation of student when they have real time access to massive quantities of information? The introduction of MOOCs, greater amounts of distance education, and technical training/certification classes have forced colleges and universities to rethink how to deliver value to students.  As a professor, I see a shift in typical lecturing and greater amounts of mentoring, coaching, facilitating, etc.   It’s refreshing to know that other colleagues are interested in this idea of experiential learning as well.  I’m excited to be heading to a gathering of folks from top b-schools who will be discussing some of the challenges and opportunities of infusing experiential learning into their curriculum.

So now that I have a bit of a break, I can update my syllabus and course content, play around with some new measurement tools, arrange some speakers to come into present in the fall and oh yeah – identify, pitch and try to bring in another 14 sponsors to participate in the class for next year…

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The Endorsement Economy

I have heard a lot of good things about Gary Vaynerchuk and his book “The Thank You Economy” although I have not read it nor have I used his services.  I do plan to read it over the summer once I get a break from classes/research/presenting.  I am creatively borrowing his book title for this blog post and the fact that I have no real interaction with him or his work is relevant to the content of this post.

I use LinkedIn continuously.   I have a business account and use it to connect with different members to discuss research opportunities, interaction with classes and students at CMU.  I also do a little digging on the background of students, recruits, sponsors, etc.  In addition, I use it to present myself to folks interested in connecting with me, viewing my profile and discovering my background.  I have over 1500 connection on LinkedIn.  I would say about 30% of them are strong ties while ~10% are people I honestly do not know.  Not quite sure what their motivation was to connect with me in the first place – bolstering their network, looking for employment, sell me their services, etc.   So, the majority of my network is composed of weak tie (folks I interact with infrequently, in the past, social – not business related, or not at all).  I have something like 25 or so recommendations where I actively sought out a co-worker, client, boss, etc.  This was a conscious effort on my part that involved thought and time to identify connections I felt could give an accurate assessment of frankly what I bring to the table.  This has helped build my credentials as a consultant, researcher, and educator so I am very grateful for the time and energy these folks gave in crafting something on my behalf.

Now, Linkedin had enabled a one-click effort to endorse any of your connections.  Prior to viewing a connection’s profile, the top page (i.e. most lucrative real estate on the page) is dedicated endorsements. You can chose to Skip but then you are directed to another screen to endorse other connections.  Now you can ignore it or click out of it but there is a psychological factor being applied.  Seems almost like a toll to view a profile.  Recently, I have been receiving a number of these endorsements through LinkedIn.  I have been wondering how did these skillsets make their way into my profile, who gets presented with what skillset? what’s the difference between a recommendation and an endorsement, how does this effect my ability to be discovered via search through LinkedIn, what does this communicate to LinkedIn members, etc?  I’m sure there are a number of motivations associated with receiving endorsements running the gambit from egocentric to altruistic.  In terms of my endorsers, there is a mixture of direct and indirect engagement (strong vs. weak ties) but no easy way of discerning between the two.   You could do a little digging and figure out that one of the endorsers is my wife and the other is my sister.  That would be a strong tie, but not in this community or in this context.  So what issues arise from having random sets of connection endorse you?

Well relevance for one.  It seems to function similarly to a “Like” on FB where you are endorsing an individual but since this is LinkedIn, it needs to be connected to a skillset/expertise, which is where the difficulty lies.  Why did a particular endorser select “Strategy”, were they a student, client, co-worker, audience member or just some random person who heard through the grapevine that I have done strategic work in the past.  Worse, are they simply selecting some random skills to ingratiate themselves or just get rid of the endorsement selection box (remove a nuisance).  Other motivations might include reciprocity (tit for tat) and discovery (remember me?).  These might work to augment the endorsers profile and create a tighter tie between endorser and endorsee, probably skewed in terms of benefit to the endorser. I have 27 categories for endorsement.  I can pretty much say I have done all these different things (depending on your definition) but some I have not done in a long time while others I have done once or rarely.  There are functional tasks (project planning), industry competencies (Robotics) and general knowledge categories (Social Media).  Others are categories broken down into specialty (3 strategy categories – product, business and marketing).  Some skillsets I manually placed into my profile others where mined and placed there to augment my skillset.  But what happens when individuals endorse you for something in which they might not have any real knowledge of your ability to execute?

Could this lead to misrepresentation, you bet?  If you select a consultant, doctor, lawyer based on an endorsed skills they willingly placed in their profile, knowing they have no real experience in this area, is it deliberately defrauding the public?  Is there an ethical boundary they might be crossing….   The other sticky question is can people game the system?   If someone recognizes that they pop up in search results based on their connection to influential people, they might ask for endorsements rather than recommendations.  After all, this is much simpler than crafting a carefully worded recommendation, just check a box.  So, once again by not understanding context or motivation behind the endorsement could we say that it’s misrepresentation?  How do we know that the sole motivation for endorsement is not “tit for tat”.  Reciprocity can be tricky.  There is a little more at stake than with other social networks.  Now, I’m putting my virtual “stamp of approval” on something and could this come back to me if what I’ m endorsing turns out to be false, perhaps.

The long and short of it is we live in an endorsement economy.  Increasingly, we don’t buy products and services unless they have received favorable reviews.  It’s the same with people.  However, there is a difference between discovery and evaluation.  People are looking to get discovered based on their skill sets/background/connections, however hiring a contractor, employee, consultant will not be done until they are properly vetted.  Both phases are time consuming and critical, but the discovery part is rife with challenges that need to be optimized or they will become less effective over time.  Perhaps, a development opportunity to weed out false positives and ensure a robust endorsement engine…

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What’s up Doc??

Well, frankly everything.  Healthcare is ripe for unprecedented levels of disruption.  Costs are out of control and frankly obscured from the patient even with advances in new technologies costs continue to escalate.  Meanwhile the gap between doctor and patient continues to widen as patients seek alternate means to understand and manage their healthcare to where to have their care administered.  At the same time, an explosion of data from genomic information to sensor based heath and wellness should allow for a transition from population style medicine to individualized care but changes are slow to take place.  Why? In part, because of regulation, embedded process, incentives that don’t align with holistic patient care, cultural barriers, etc.

Recently I was asked to speak at the HIMSS Physicians IT Symposium.  I enjoy meeting with CMIO’s who are interested in understanding this shift and how to implement change within their practice, hospital, health systems etc..  There is a confusing array of healthcare IT reform initiatives underway including Meaningful Use, Accountable Care, ICD-10, etc.  Several of the discussions focused on the development and challenges associated with digitizing medical records and developing an EMR platform.  Clem McDonald who is arguable the grandfather of the modern day EMR discussed the trials and tribulations he went through as he and his team tried to create increasing levels of digitization in a very analog world.  At one point he showed a somewhat wacky font his team developed to try and replicate a physician’s script.

Eric Toppol in his book the “Creative Destruction of Medicine” argues that there will be several transformative forces that will shape medicine in the coming years including the digitization of the patient.  I think this will issue in a profound shift in how care is delivered including a greater push to early diagnosis and preventative care.  It was startling for me to see the number of unneeded procedures, infections that were brought about inside the hospital setting and incurred costs.  Anything that can be done to prevent this has to be beneficial.  We will see more individuals analyzing not only their activity to understand its affect on health and wellness but also their genetic makeup to understand predisposition to various conditions.  This could usher in a wave of preventative care

I believe one of the most transformative forces will be the healthcare consumer especially the next generation of consumer.   Patient communities, mobile apps, crowdsourcing and gamification are slowly working their way into healthcare.  One of the most profound and possibly disruptive is Patient Communities.  The incentive system for physicians is based on numbers not holistic care, so patients have been finding an outlet within these social networks that are geared around health and wellness.  When it comes to life changing chronic conditions, patients are increasingly going online for the empathy and support that might be lacking in a clinical environment.  In these communities, they are finding people who are going through similar experiences.  Value is being delivered in the form of caring and understanding, which leads to greater levels of trust.  Greater levels of trust leads to more transparency and sharing of information.  Greater sharing leads to better targeting and tighter ties between members with commonality i.e. more data.  These communities have matured from sites of caring and empathy to stores of incredibly valuable information for multiple stakeholders in the healthcare community.  Cure Together, Organized Wisdom, and “Patients Like Me” are all taking this model and putting their own unique differentiation onto it. Patients Like Me initially focused on ALS but have branched out to other life changing conditions – MS, Cancer, Transplant Patients, etc.  I was showing Physicians in our MMM program (Master’s in Medical Management) a patient’s profile in ALS.  The patient was charting the effect of Baclofen, a drug used to treat spastic movement disorders.  The amount of data disclosed and open is frankly shocking.  This patient is tracking a variety of factors including exercise, diet, sleep, and other metrics to help monitor and assess their condition.

With all of the different permeations and variability between patients, this becomes a matching exercise and the more information the greater value patients receive from these communities.  Imagine a match.com for patient compatibility.  You can contrast this with Electronic Medical Records (EMR), which are being mandated by Meaningful Use legislation.  The difficulty is transferring records from paper to digital format, getting them up to date and ensuring data integrity.  Generally this information is spread over multiple sites and is incomplete.  Physician’s only have what the patient is willing to share or has the wherewithal to share with them.  Oftentimes, a patient will not disclose critical pieces of information.  In part, since a visit to a clinic can be intimidating and when diagnosed with a chronic condition well that information sometimes takes a backseat to struggling to cope with the news.  In contrast, the social sharing of information is vibrant, rich and dynamic which could assist the physician in treatment.  I think this partnership between patient, physician and community has a lot of potential to solving the EMR data input dilemma.  This represents a huge cultural shift and also a leap of faith in that the value to the patient and society will surmount any of the possible legalities and privacy concerns.  Other industries have already started innovating along this path.  Healthcare should look to them for an understanding of how they can do the same…

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Shall we play a game?

How about Global Thermonuclear War? Remember the movie WarGames?  It featured a very young Matthew Broderick who inadvertently hacks into a military supercomputer to try and play some games.  He accidentally triggers a military simulation that causes all sort of confusion at NORAD on what is real and what is fake (simulated).  One of my favorite movies, not just because Broderick’s character’s last name was Lightman, but it was one of the first movies I remember featuring a hacker, computer based learning, and the disruption associated with automation especially with maintaining command of our missile silos.

There are some interesting parallels for what is now occurring within corporations.  The term “gamification” is being thrown around a lot.  It’s one of those misused buzzwords used to describe applying gaming principles to business processes.

PwC was kind enough to listen to my ranting on this subject and even publish some of my thoughts in the their latest tech forecast.  I admit I came off sounding like a bit of a curmudgeon, after all who doesn’t love playing games, but if we rush into this shiny new space without addressing legacy issues nothing will be achieved with any lasting impact.  There is also a mind shift that needs to be overcome.  Some folks believe work is work, its not supposed to be fun.   You might agree or not, but I think we should all acknowledge that work should be meaningful and fulfilling.

My basic complaint was that we inundate corporations with new technologies and hyped up buzzwords and gloss over the central issue, which is that today’s employees are simple disengaged.  Gallop recently performed a study where they found that 2/3 of workers are disengaged at work.  They found this represents a cumulative $300B in lost productivity.  Whether you agree with their methodology or not, this is still a tough nut to crack.  After all, in most organizations, there is a heavy build up of processes on top of processes with little understanding of why. A game might help (or not), but in under to sustain engagement and turn around the notion of work as a chore that you have to do to get a paycheck, we might need to rethink how work gets conducted, how employee are incentivized, and how embedded processes can be streamlined or even ripped out of the equation.

Jane McGonigal and the folks at the Institute for the Future have done some interesting research on the positive psychological factors/motivators around game play including joy, contentment, relief, and excitement. I can imagine these are ideals that managers would love in describing their employee’s response to their work environment.  Also, Self Determination Theory (SDT), which researchers have identified as a key component of game play, helps instill key psychological needs –autonomy, competence and relatedness.  If games can help provide these key qualities and work is non-fulfilling than why not simply “gamify” work.  Well as I mentioned before it’s not a one to one mapping.

Like the confusion from war games, gaming without careful thought through will lead to mis-understanding within organizations.  Why are we doing this?  Is it part of my responsibilities?  How do we measure outcomes?  I think there are areas of work and a particular audience that might lend well to a game.  On boarding for one.  When you bring on new employees and there is natural collegiality between groups, you might be able to develop a game around finding resources especially within a large organization.  In fact, this is what the smart folks at SCVNGR have done.  However, not addressing legacy issues to create a fertile area for game play and not understanding adoption patterns within organizations will lead to retracting not advancing.  Congratulations, you are now the mayor of TPS cover sheets….

Posted in Culture, Enterprise 2.0, Gamification | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Electrical, Appliances, Millwork, Community Analysis?

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to come out to Lowes HQ and speak at their Social Business Symposium.  It has been great getting to know the company from an internal business perspective.  Like many others, I know the company very well from a consumption perspective since I spend about every weekend there asking inane questions on everything from wiring to plumbing.  I was impressed how a traditional large retail oriented company can transition to a social business.  Lowes has varieties of internal communities both personal and business.  There is a belief that by developing any connections between employees there will be stronger ties.  Stronger ties leads to knowledge transfer, culture development, more engaged employees, perhaps even greater retention.  It’s an interesting transition in the corporate world where executives are beginning to understand that the value of personal social networks can be replicated within a business setting however it cannot be 100% focused on advancing the corporation.  There needs to be an understanding of the employee from a holistic perspective not simply as a cog in a large machine.  These activities are not simply a waste of time but help develop a culture of sharing.  It was mentioned that within one of their communities focused on gaming, connections were made from different groups where these folks would not connect within a business-centered community.  This leads to a myriad of benefits that, I believe, outweigh the risks and can lead to greater engagement/ interaction with stakeholders outside the company.  It’s a testament to their effort to have Robert Niblock (CEO) stop in and provide his support for their work and the benefits of developing a social enterprise.

When I go to these events, most of the speakers discuss social business, social learning, etc.  They had one speaker, however, that was markedly different.  Victoria Labalme is a professional speaker and a classically trained actress.  She even studied under Marcel Marceau.  She discussed the importance of listening; she mimed on stage; she even performed a skit to demonstrate how our insanely crazy busy lives are not allowing us to connect with our through line. The through line is an acting term meaning the thread that links a character’s action to their motivations.  In this context, Victoria was trying to get the audience to discover their through line.  In part to help weed out all the noise and focus on what is important.  Victoria’s talk was different, hard to conceptualize and made me feel a little uncomfortable but that’s exactly what was needed.  I have been to so many of these events that I know the script.  Throwing a curve ball is good, understanding different experiences is good, getting uncomfortable is good….

As I tell my students when I teach innovation, getting out of you comfort zone is exactly what you need.  Complacency is bad.   Recently, I was quoted saying “complacency = death”.  If we are not rethinking our processes and measuring our decisions continuously than we are falling behind and not maturing as people and corporations.  Also, bringing in different experiences and viewpoints in my experience accelerates innovation (at least ideation).  Lastly, pride and purpose need to re-infused into the work environment.  We don’t live to work, we work to live.  Developing a social business, focusing on employees and not processes, providing tighter connectedness between different groups, and getting a little uncomfortable is a good recipe for developing culture and as I mentioned before culture trumps strategy….

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Member of the Tribe…

It was great to have Rachel Happe from TheCR  and Francois Gossieaux from Human 1.0  in class last month.  Rachel and TheCR are on the forefront in advancing the community manager profession and the social executive through a community of knowledge sharing.  Their community management model provides an organizational social assessment and practical steps to help advance social awareness.  Francois is a recognized thought leader on the culture and the impact of tribes on organizations He takes an anthropological approach to understanding human behavior and how that manifests itself into organizational culture.  BTW, Francois new book, “The Hyper Social Organization” is highly recommended

I love having guest presenters in class.  For one, it gives the students another perspective from leading practitioners as well as a sounding board to help them with challenging client-based issues.   Secondly, it gives them a break.  Let’s face it after 9 weeks of hearing me drone on about anything, students could use a break…

As Rachel and Francois were chatting, I was thinking about the notion of Communities.  I ask all my students a fairly simply question – “Is this class a community? “ and I get a different response every time.  Variance largely depends on the makeup of the class – graduate students, IT executives, physicians, etc.  Then we go through an exercise in what being a part of a community implies, how do we define, segment and socialize the notion of community.  Then we get into some more functional exercises of what you can measure to a) reinforce the initial notion of community b) understand whether our community is successful (along pre-defined success metrics) and c) look for ways to optimize community based interactions.  This is all done to get them primed to tackle very large community oriented questions within their class projects.

I find it interesting that my generation largely still defines our status and sense of place in an organization by belonging to a corporation, a department, and/or a functional group.  You just need to walk into most defense contractors to see how this is reinforced from what it says on your B-card to your clearance to whom you interact with on a daily basis.  As I go out and speak with different organizations, I am seeing more folks re-think this concept.

There is a renewed focus on worker identity both online and within organizations. I also see more emphasis on teams, communities and tribes within organizations – this as a good thing.  Instead of simply functional classifications, belonging to one of these groups incorporates and conveys a set of beliefs, convictions and shared goals. Instead of being defined by the corporation, employees attach themselves to the shared value/culture of the work community.  The corporation acts to help foster this interaction.  Some of the most successful companies have spent considerable attention to understanding and promoting culture in the workplace.  As Maslow tells us, the need to belong is an essential emotional need and smaller groups create a heightened level of belonging reinforcing tighter bonds.  When I speak with my students about careers, they are eager to carve out there identity, be a part of something and become a “go to” resource (knowledge leader).  With that said, I am seeing former students leave well paying corporate roles to join companies with a well-defined culture focused on communities and connectedness.  We need to examine culture and communities and how it helps to drive collaboration and innovation.  Having an understanding of what type of social community works for a specific situation is critical.  Teams might imply competition while communities can imply shared intent.  In addition, if you subscribe to the idea that everything is measurable, we can assess the output (benefit) associated with spending time and effort on fostering the development of communities.  This will help with the justification and further accelerate a community or tribal based culture.  I think this is key to innovation, social software adoption, attracting next generation of worker, maintaining a competitive advantage, etc…  How about you?

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SXSM – South by So Much…

As I was weeding through all the SXSW panels for 2013, I realized the last time I blogged was before SXSW in March.  Yikes, that’s pathetic.  So, my vow for the new year (school year that is) is to blog more regularly.  I will start with finishing my post from SXSW back in March.

I got a chance to head out to SXSW this year with a bunch of colleagues and students from Carnegie Mellon.  The one theme I noticed (IMHO) was that Social stopped being an entity, in of itself, and started to be woven into the fabric of management processes for industries and companies.  For example in Health 2.0, combining an understanding of social analytics within healthcare can provide greater understanding of patient needs and possibly better patient outcomes.  I think this is “healthy” evolution in the space so we get away from the minutia around PR exploits and understand how to harness community interactions and dynamics to achieve more relevant outcomes.

SXSW is always an enriching experience but holy cow it’s exhausting.  I noticed that many of the panels and sessions, which have exploded in variety and number, have taken on a distinctly practical component focusing on tacit knowledge sharing, that’s good.  The issue I experienced was that sessions I happened to be interested in were never co-located, so it became a lesson in expeditious planning and opportunity cost.  As opposed to CES, which was confined to the Las Vegas Convention Center and, I believe, had a larger attendance, SXSW takes place across downtown Austin.   So if you wanted to see a panel say at the ATT conference center, close to UT Austin, and you’re at the convention center, you better plan it out carefully otherwise don’t bother since you won’t get in.  With all the apps available, I was surprised there was not one that provided real time updates on session attendance.  I think this would be more valuable than an app that lets you know about other users that might be nearby.

Carnegie Mellon had a fairly sizable presence with faculty, students and staff.   We put on an event that included a panel on big data analytics.  It was an interesting discussion around how the exhaust of information from social interactions is resulting in an explosion of unstructured information providing new insights to corporation but also the development of new market opportunities e.g just look at the development of computational journalism.  The problem is that social data along with open data, structured data, mobile data, sensor data, etc. (you get the point..) is really difficult to  aggregate, understand, filter and obtain actionable intelligence.

I normally don’t go into the exhibit area and try to concentrate on one to one networking but I did wander in partially out of necessity.  When you are continually texting, checking in, accessing the official SXSW app, mapping your location, etc. you can drain down your cell battery pretty quick, go figure.  So, on the advice of a colleague, I went in to pick up a Mophie, which in my mind was a lifesaver.  Highly recommended..

One of the more interesting panels I attended was not about technology at all but around the idea of serendipity and how inconsequential events can collide to create fortuitous innovation.   The panel hosted by Rawn Shah from IBM was well thought out, attended and it was a nice change of pace to focus on the benefit of personal interactions not just social or technological, but people connecting with people.

I don’t know if SXSW is getting too “big for its britches” but within interactive, there seems to be several sub-conferences that can spin out focusing on different industries –entertainment, education, social innovation, etc or even components of the social space – analytics, security, privacy, etc.  Recently, I started going to the E2.0 conference which is a smaller conference focusing on social within the enterprise and it was tremendously valuable for me.  However, if you are going to go to one conference that bring all the elements of social together, SXSW still remains a must attend event, which is one of the reasons I will keep going with my mophie fully charged, running like a madman from one session to another….

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Confessions of a digital narcissist….

I am a digital narcissist. There, I admitted it.  Perhaps, we all have a little bit of narcissism in us.  Not the bad kind, where ego and attention are a character flaw involving vanity, selfishness, arrogance, entitlement, etc.  I’m talking more about the healthier sort of narcissism where we crave some amount of recognition for our work, our contribution to society, or even our ability to entertain our social circles.  In a sense, it is the opposite of insecurity.  You can trust me on this one. You are reading about a guy who dealt with insecurity issues his entire life.  So, it feels good to have your post commented on, see your quote and name in a story, get an “atta boy” or “atta girl” for something you did that added value, whatever it might be.  To be recognized by your peers as a knowledge leader is a means for you to shoo away those insecure feelings at least for the time being.

Andy Warhol coined the phrase that in the future, we will all be world famous for 15 minutes, which was later truncated to indicate that everyone gets 15 minutes of fame, but what does “fame” mean.  Is it constrained to your social circle, group or team, organization, neighborhood association or is it something larger like a society, a region, perhaps the entire world?  Many of us will never attain the latter, books will not be written about us nor movies depicting our life.  However, recognition is still critical.  In fact, it factors into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs where the 4th tier deals with self-esteem.  As my colleague, Jesse Schell described in his lecture on “The Pleasure Principle” one of the reasons why games work focuses on Self Determination Theory (SDT).  SDT argues that Autonomy, Competence and Relatedness are required to foster high quality motivation and engagement for activities.  OK, so you have self-esteem and competence as 2 critical needs for motivated healthy individuals.

Unfortunately, this does not translate well into the enterprise.  We often see silos of data, closely guarded information, and collaboration relegated to channels like e-mail not over open platforms.  Why?  Knowledge, especially at the ideation stage, is hard to operationalize and measure.  From an employee perspective, it’s viewed as putting yourself out there especially for reproach.  In addition, sometime the payback is not in line with the risk.  One reason for this might be that it’s hard to track the flow of knowledge and the contributions within an organization.  Knowledge management systems are phasing out and being replace with more socially oriented software.  However in order for these tools to be effective we need to take a look at the culture of sharing within the organization and identify the motivational factors and incentive structure.  If your incentive structure is not aligned with your employee’s expectations than knowledge sharing breaks down.

So how can you “attribute” value creation back to the multitude of folks that worked on a project or even all the way back to the person(s) who first voiced the idea?  What should their incentives look like?  Recognition, monetary incentive, promotion, name on a plaque, new significant title?  I think some smart folks should develop a system that tracks knowledge across an organization real-time, in a visual fashion so that anyone can quickly understand it.  It would attribute value back to the source(s) and weigh contribution accordingly.  It would also show how knowledge evolves and morphs associated with connection points and different skillsets.  Users view their particular dashboard to understand where their idea/contribution lies in the innovation funnel and allows them the potential to jump back into the discussion.  I think this would be a powerful motivator to accelerate sharing and advance collaboration within the enterprise.  Now if only I could find some smart students to help me build it, hmmmm???

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