Thursday, April 29, 2010

2001: A Social Technologies Odyssey



I just uploaded this animated movie to Youtube. The movie was produced by some of my very talented colleagues at Kabel New Media in 2001, for a sales pitch that we later won (the pitch was for developing a mobile web portal for a large Swedish Telecom company).

A lot of our projects during that time were about developing and launching mobile and social web solutions. As you can see, the movie is all about easy-to-use social technologies and the vision of connecting people across the world. Then came the burst of the dotcom bubble...

When looking at this movie today, it seems as everything we envisioned at that time has more or less become true. It shows that what we were lacking those days 10 years ago was not realistic vision, but rather an understanding about what would be a realistic pace of change. Young and naive, you might say. But not without vision.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Don't expect too much from Enterprise 2.0

(Subtext: Culture comes first, technology second)

Be sure not to expect too much from Enterprise 2.0. At least not in the short run and from individual technology-driven initiatives.

A real and truly successful implementation of Enterprise 2.0 must be the result of concious and careful choices, supporting a transformation that has already been initiated. The transformation must guided by great leadership, carried out as an evolutionary process by the right people who know exactly what to do and what to stop and avoid doing.

These are some of the lesson we can learn from what author Jim Collins has identified turn companies from good companies to great companies:
  • Good-to-great companies focus on what not to do and what to stop doing equally as much as they focus on what they do.
  • Technology can accelerate a transformation, but it cannot cause a transformation. The good-to-great companies used technology to accelerate a transformation which was started by a concious choice. Good-to-great companies think differently about the role of technology. Although they don't use technology to ignite a transformation, they are pioneers in the application of carefully selected technologies.
  • Under the right conditions, the problems of commitment, alignment, motivate and change largely melt away.
  • Mediocrity result first and foremost from management failure, not technological failure.
  • The good-to-great companies produced a truly revolutionary leap in results, but not by a revolutionary process.
  • People are not your most important asset. The right people are. Great vision without great people is irrelevant.
It is likely that most Enterprise 2.0 initiatives currently taking place won't produce radical business improvements. The reason is simple; they are not trying to accelerate a transformation that has already been initiatied, but rather trying to initiate one. They might produce a few insights that might eventually lead to a transformation, but Enterprise 2.0 won't help to produce radical value until carefully selected 2.0 / social principles, practices and technologies are being applied to accelerate an already initiated transformation.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

We don't lack for information. We lack for incentives


Some food for thought from the February 2010 issue of Wired:
"…the paradox of behavior change: We know what we are supposed to do, but we find all sorts of reasons not to do it. As a result, more than 85 percent of Americans don't eat enough fruit and vegetables, two-thirds are overweight - and 20 percent continue to smoke cigarettes. We don't lack for information. We lack for incentives."
With the term "incentive", we usually mean some kind of reward for a specific behavior that is designed to encourage that behavior. As Rick Mans pointed out in a comment to this post, extrinsic rewards (sticks & carrots) are often not enough to motivate us to change. He pointed me to the interview below with Dan Pink where Dan talks about Motivation 3.0. Well worth watching and listening to.



We could also choose to use a broader definition of the term "incentive", such as this definition that defines it as "a positive motivational influence". I think that the author of the Wired article cited above was thinking of the term more in this way. Then an incentive would be any cognitive factor that has an effect on our behavior, even intrinsic motivations such as the satisfaction that we can get from simply completing a task, or learning something new. I found this paper by David Beswick about intrinsic and extrinsic sources of motivation worth a read:
Most people will find at least some satisfaction in simply doing the work. They might say, for example, that they found it "interesting". For most people there is also some satisfaction in rewards which are contingent upon performance in the task. The balance of these intrinsic and extrinsic sources of satisfaction varies from one person to another and between different situations...
Let's just conclude that every situation is different, and requires some kind of mix between intrinsic and extrinsic sources of motivation.

Authentic concerns about social media - Part 2

"Why do you think I would want my employees to waste their valuable time on Facebook?"
This is a question that I have heard many times, expressed in different ways but always with the same subtext: “Social networking is about socializing with friends and it has no place at work - it affects employee productivity negatively” (it's always managers who express this kind of concern - I’ve never heard this kind of question from anyone that hasn’t a management position).

Anyway, I would answer something like this…

Facebook is a very popular social networking site that people primarily use for getting and keeping in touch with their friends, and making new friends. It might be that Facebook affects productivity negatively, or it might not have a negative effect – some studies even prove that some use might have a positive effect on employee productivity. In the end, it is all a matter of how and how much people use Facebook.

On the web, there are many other social networking sites on the web which primarily serve other purposes. You've probably heard about and might even be using LinkedIn, a social networking site that most people use to connect to and keep in touch with people for professional purposes, often people they think might be helpful in their future careers.

A social networking site that is intended to be used by employees within a business will without a doubt be used primarily for professional networking – networking that is in some way or another related to the work that people are employed to do. To make this clear, many organizations that implement social networking solutions actually prefer to use the term "professional networking" instead of "social networking".

Informal networks have always been important for getting work done. As knowledge work increases in importance and it is highly collaborative by nature, so does the importance of informal networks. Social networks are in a way just a description of these informal networks. In fact, a recent study by NEHRA (The Northeast Human Resources Association) from May 2009 proves that informal networks are linked to the success of change initiatives; 93% of successful change initiatives were led by leaders with strong or very strong personal networks, while 73% of less successful change initiatives were led by people described as having moderate or weak personal networks.

As a manager, you most likely understand the power of having a rich and strong professional network. It has helped you many times in your career and daily work. Most people, let's assume the vast majority, in your organization does not have the same opportunities and time to build and nurture a professional network as you do, or other managers, sales people and the like. Social networking sites - or professional networking sites if you like - provide the opportunity to build and nurture a professional network to a fraction of the cost of doing it in real life. It is in your interest that your employees build and nurture their professional networks since it allows them to deliver better results faster if they do.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Now also blogging at aiimcommunities.org

I’m happy to announce that I've been given the opportunity to blog for AIIM’s newly launched Enterprise 2.0 community at aiimcommunities.org. I will publish a new blog post tomorrow, and these are the ones I’ve published so far:


Tomorrows post will be about information security…fun stuff ;-)

There are many great posts already, by Enterprise 2.0 experts such as Dion Hinchcliffe and Bertrand Duperrin. Let just say that I'm much honored to be blogging together with such great people in the Enterprise 2.0 space. I hope you find the time to explore the community and register so that you can join the conversation.

If you want a quick introduction, this is from the community's Enterprise 2.0 Manifesto:
Organizations are looking at ways to better share information, and also have staff learn from each other. We want to benefit from the collective intelligence of the organization, and information must be available when, where, and how workers need it. We can’t afford office workers wasting time on wading through digital landfills to find important information or losing knowledge when staff leaves or retires.
Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emerging social computing and business practices to provide rapid and agile collaboration, information sharing, and emergence in the extended enterprise. Enterprise 2.0 is (or should be) a key component of your business strategy from today forward. Everyone within every organization could work together more effectively.

Friday, April 16, 2010

How an organization can learn from internal social media

An organization can learn a great deal about how it performs and how it can improve its business simply by listening to its employees. Internal social media such as blogs, micro-blogging and social networking provides every employee with a voice and the possibility to reach out to anyone within the organization. From management's point of view, internal social media provides an unpreceeded possibility for them to listen to and learn from employees. Here's a simple description of what's needed to use these possibilities. 

Establish the platform
  1. Provide employees with a platform that makes it fun and easy for them to find, connect, communicate, interact and share things with each other regardless of their location, organization, or position. 
  2. Provide clear policies and guidelines that define the game plan, defining both freedom and responsibilities - what do you want them to do, what do you not want them to do? 
  3. Encourage employees to use the platform, using whatever works to encourage adoption. Be creative, and do it the way employees want it.
Start learning
  1. Listen - Continuously listen to employee-to-employee conversations on blogs, micro-blogs etc to learn about employees’ concerns, fears, ideas, and so on  - what you listen to and how you listen depends on your purpose and area of interest
  2. Analyze - Identify, assemble and analyze information that might need to be acted on
  3. Act - Decide how to act (or not act) on the information you have aquired, and act
  4. Communicate - Communicate the decisions and actions to employees, what you are doing, when and why
  5. Learn - Learn how decisions and actions are received by employees from the feedback and conversations, and use this information to improve decisions and actions

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Authentic concerns about social media - Part 1

This is the first in a series of blog posts where I will address authentic concerns about social media that I have encountered. Here comes the first one:
"What would it look like if everybody would say what's on their minds?"
It's quite ironic (or scary) that this concern was expressed by a CEO of a small communication agency (regarding the suggestion to start using an internal micro-blogging platform so that employees located at different offices could get to know each other better and help each other out whenever needed).

So, how do you answer such a question?

This is how my answer would look like.

Social media allows people to meet virtually, in public spaces, where anyone can listen in to and, if they want to, join a conversation.

Numerous studies have concluded that the kind of informal meetings that occur spontaneously by the water cooler, or in the corridor, are the most effective ways to exchange knowledge, ideas, news, experiences, and so forth. These are examples of places where we can meet and talk to each other (socialize) in informal ways. When we do, we tell and listen to stories that in some way relate to our own experiences. Story telling has always been a effective way for us to exchange knowledge and different kinds of information, such as what is going on and who's doing what.

It is very unlikely that conversations taking place on an open platform will be trivial, negative and about non work-related things. These things are typically said in private, using channels such as mail, phone and face-to-face meetings behind closed doors. It just doesn't make sense to do it in public - unless you really want to reach out with a message.

Internal social media (or social software if you like) such as micro-blogging platforms allow anyone to share anything about anything with anyone within the organization or enterprise across time, location, organization, and positions. Contrast this to something that's being said in a meeting room and which usually isn't made accessible in an easy way to anyone outside the meeting room.

Social media also makes sharing easier. The reach, interactivity, immediacy, and ease of use of social media tools such as micro-blogging lowers any barriers to sharing to close to zero. Behavioral and cultural barriers such as fear of being misunderstood by peers and managers, unwillingness to share information due to internal competition, and so on might still exist, but that is something that can't be changed by technology itself. The point is that if you remove technological barriers and makes sharing as easy as on the web, you know what you need to work with.

To sum up, it is common to overestimate the risk and consequences of employees using internal social media for nonsense or non work-related purposes, and it is common to underestimate the risk and consequences of employees not being able to share information that can be of great value to others.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Forget about copying best practices

By the time a best practice has been transferred from one company to another, it's most likely no longer a "best" practice. In a static world maybe, but not in the world we live in. At best, it will be a "great" practice, but more likely it will just be a "good" practice. And as it is transferred to more and more companies, it will eventually turn into a "common" practice, which can mean anything from great to bad - it's just something a lot of companies use. Some companies seem to satisfied with that, but they really shouldn't. Why settle for anything less than the best?

Companies that offer best practices to customers are trying to sell something that can't deliver what it promises. The dilemma is, of course, that most customers won't pay that much for something that is labeled as just "great" or "good".They expect "the best", and best practices promises just that. They promise exclusiveness, something unique. But a copy of something is not either exclusive or unique. It's just a copy.

If you are looking for best practices, then you should try to develop these best practices yourself. You sure need to study the practices of other companies, and you might need to turn to someone who has the skills and experiences which are needed. But don't ever expect that you can buy a best practice off-the-shelf as if it was a commodity. It's not that easy to become the best at something.

So, go look for inspiration and help if you need to, but try to forget about copying best practices.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Avoid bureaucracy and create a culture of discipline

I have just read "Good to Great" by Jim Collins in the shades of some
palm trees in a very hot and sunny Egypt and feel a need to share a
few sentences from the book that I think captures the very essence of
it:

"...the purpose of bureaucracy is to compensate for incompetence and
lack of discipline - a problem that largely goes away if you have the
right people in the first place. Most companies build their
burreaucratic rules to manage the small percentage of wrong people on
the bus, which increases the need for more bureaucracy to compensate
for incompetence and lack of discipline, which then further drives the
right people away, and so forth...Avoid bureaucracy and instead create
a culture of discipline. When you put these two complementary forces
together - a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship -
you get a magic alchemy of superior performance and sustained results."

I will return shortly with a number of fresh post on this and related
subjects. Until then - Happy Holidays!