Envisioning and shaping the future of work and business.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Interesting Enterprise 2.0 Readings - Week 4 2010

1:46:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg , No comments
I'm honored to now have an "Expert Profile" on the Enterprise20pen blog. Let me just say that I'm in very good company.

Anyway, here are some interesting Enterprise 2.0 readings from this week.

We can’t control what business topics and experiences people blog about, they blog on their own terms, we are lucky that they share at all…so we have to be happy. We cannot conscript people to blog only when it’s 100% usable now and will be re-used immediately…we are dealing with people here, not robots…people don’t like the big brother feel…people blog because there is an intrinsic motivation, not because they are told to.

People blog because connecting and dialogue is what we are about, we are social creatures…it fills this need.

Blogs smash silos, nurture transparency and flatter organisational conversations. People can be heard and have impact….your bosses boss, or a boss in another team can hear what you have to say…see my post, we are more than our job title describes. Blogs are great for talent retention, and being recognised…these are all intrinsic motivators.

Therefore it’s more than just knowledge sharing, it’s about people connecting and being fulfilled at work…therefore you cannot control the "Push".

The biggest challenge most companies are facing is that the value propositions for social networks are all soft,” explains Greg Lowe, who champions the use of Yammer and other social media at Alcatel-Lucent.

Services such as Yammer and Chatter create a more open workplace by letting people see what others are working on and encouraging sharing. The upshot is that good ideas can emerge from anywhere. This should be a reason for celebration rather than a cause for suspicion. “If you trust your employees, then you have nothing to worry about when deploying a social network,” says Eugene Lee, the chief executive of Socialtext.

The networks are also a great way to capture knowledge and identify experts on different subjects within an organisation. Mr Driessen at Océ says that many earlier knowledge-management systems were little more than boring collections of documents. Social networks are a huge improvement over them because they combine content with commentary from people whose know-how might previously not have been recognised.
The 2010 Edelman Global Trust Barometer released today might motivate you to take another look at your 2010 PR and social media strategy.

For the first time trust and transparency rank as important to corporate reputation as the quality of products and services. In fact, in the U.S. and in much of Western Europe, those two attributes rank higher than product quality—and far outrank financial returns.

“We’re seeing a vastly different set of factors driving reputation than we did 10 years ago” says Richard Edelman. “Trust is now an essential line of business to be developed and delivered.”

[I just picked one of the elevator pitches, there are four additional ones you should read]
4 – Middle Manager

Definition : Middle manager are basically in charge of the productive forces.

Role and responsibility : They are responsible for making sure that the teams produces what has been identified by top management and company strategy to make money. Quality, budget and productivity are their main concerns.

How E2.0 can help : : Knowledge Management. Technologies, process, methods : everything evolves as fast as hell and managers are bombarded with information. It is just no possible to keep up the pace.

Apprehension : Disintermediation. Losing control + command.

Strategy : Don’t talk about management radical changes but, rather, smooth shifts and how they align with standard principles of modern management. It is to show that their role may be just as important with Enterprise 2.0, but different. As Cristobal Conde puts it :

I think the role of the boss is to then work on those collaboration platforms, as opposed to being the one making the decisions. It’s more like the producer of the show, rather than being the lead.

Speech :

Hey how do you feel about the figures that managers spend 2 hours a day looking for data, with half the data they found is no value ? And spending 20% of the remaining time struggling with their e-mail box ?

My name is Joe Smith. May I invite you to a 45mns presentation (etc …)
My ability to organize information directly impacts my success. For me, information management is the key to daily productivity from researching to learning faster to keeping my email inbox empty...Here are ten of my favorite ways to manage information:

1. Factor reference from action
2. Create lists
3. Create collections
4. Put things where you look for them
5. Keep things flat
6. Organize long lists or folders using A-Z
7. Archive old things
8. Bubble up key things to the top
9. Know whether you’re optimizing for storing or retrieving
10. Create views

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Common and real concerns about internal micro-blogging

8:52:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg , No comments
Here are three authentic concerns from real world adoption of enterprise micro-blogging that my colleague Henrik Gustafsson has captured and which he also helped me answer. Some of these concerns might sound strange to long-time and frequent Twitter users, but you need to deal with these kinds of concerns when trying to facilitate broad adoption within an enterprise.

1. Platform hijack

“A few very active people have hijacked our internal micro-blogging platform”

Can a free and open platform such as a micro-blogging platform be hijacked by a few individuals?

My answer to this is no. And yes.

I answer no because the platform as such does not exclude people who want to participate. Anyone can grab the mike and join the conversation, or start a new one.

I answer yes because even though the platform does not impose any restrictions to participate, we might impose these kinds of restrictions by our attitudes and behaviors as individuals and/or collective. Though, the subjective feeling of not being included that some individuals might have does not necessarily mean that other people deliberately exclude them or don’t want them to participate.

The fact that some people are more active than others is no surprise and nothing strange. This is illustrated by the 90-9-1 principle, which claims that in social groups, some people participate more actively than others. Social participation tends to follow a 90-9-1 rule ((cc) Jake McKee & 90-9-1.com):

Everyone is free to participate if they want to, and choose how they want to participate. If someone just wants to listen, then fine. If someone wants to create, then just do it.

2. Emergent spam

”Some posts are beginning to look like spam.”

Does spam exist on a platform where it is each individual who chooses whom to follow and listen to, and where you can use tags to filter out the stuff that is relevant to you?

Yes, it does. Temporarily, until you adjust and fine-tune your filters. That is something you must learn to do, and to continuously. If someone you follow is mostly babbling about stuff you don’t really interested in, then unfollow that person. No damage done. Someone might start following you, and then choose to unfollow you. You need to do the same if you want to avoid a feeling of information overload (or spam if you like). That is the name of the game, and what you are doing is just calibrating your filters.

Anyone is free to opt in and opt out from any conversation that takes place in public. You need to choose which ones are important and valuable to you. No-one forces anyone to follow someone else. And you can’t (at least you shouldn’t) force anyone to follow you.

3. The risk of being misunderstood

“What if I will be misunderstood?”

All communication brings a risk of being misunderstood. That is because the purpose of the communication is to be understood. If the communication fails, it means per definition that you have been misunderstood.

The graphic “10 levels of intimacy” below by Ji Lee can be used to illustrate a communication continuum from the most intimate way to communicate to the least intimate.

Twitter, and most other micro-blogging platforms, is by this way of seeing it the least intimate way we have to communicate with each other. Whatever you communicate on this platform can seen by anyone; both people you don’t know and people you do know. This includes your boss, and even the CEO. Some people feel that they might say something that will haunt them throughout their career, that they will be misunderstood and will have no way to correct this. I’ve discussed this aspect in a previous post called “Internal micro-blogging can be intimidating”.

Even though micro-blogging is the least intimate way of communicating according to the graphic above and text is not a rich media, micro-blogging is also interactive and immediate. You can have a conversation and you can immediately clarify anything that might be misunderstood. Other people can help you do that by giving you feedback and clarifying your message in a dialog. The original message will also be displayed in context of your clarifications and the other pieces of the conversation. The end result of such a conversation is most likely a higher degree of understanding than what you can achieve with other common ways to communicate, such as email and SMS.

Most humans are risk-avert. We tend to overestimate the risks and underestimate the benefits. It is only natural that some of us are terrified by the risk of being misunderstood when using a new way to communicate. And they will be misunderstood, just like all the rest of us occasionally are. But those mistakes are soon both corrected and soon forgotten. Although we must all estimate the risk of being misunderstood and think about the ways how we can mitigate that risk, we should not forget to estimate the value of being understood and thereby maybe helping and being helped by others, and learning from each other so that we can perform better both as individuals, teams and collective.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Interesting Enterprise 2.0 Readings - Week 3 2010

What is changing is the extraordinary visibility of people’s actions and character and how others perceive them. One of the most valuable functions of the emerging ‘global brain’ that connects our insights is to make reputation more visible. For over a decade people have talked about how the internet is lowering transaction costs. Still today, the biggest single cost of business transactions is assessing the reputation of your potential business partner. Easier assessment of the reputation of suppliers will have a significant impact on the global economy.
Majority of information on the Internet is worthless to majority of people. This obscures the transformative change going on at the moment. People store less and less information “inside”, inside computers, in private folders or in memory because there is a new, better alternative: In the always on, always connected world, information is available “outside” on the Internet, easier and even cheaper, with considerably smaller search costs. This is causing a fundamental shift to the way we manage information, use our ICT-tools, or understand the competencies needed in the knowledge intensive economy.
The problem with traditional incentives, rewards and talk of motivating people, engaging and empowering them etc. is that this approaches the situation from a mindset of "doing things to people"...People see through this; they resist; they become cynical and it actually makes matters worse!..."Stop doing things to people and start to work with them!"
Collaboration technology can also be a vehicle for people to put forward their opinions and allow others to comment and discuss the merits of someone's positions. Technology doesn't care who you are or what your rank in the organization is. It dispassionately publishes your position to all, where it must stand on its own merits. It can be a great leveling device. Warrior states that NGCE "captures global opportunities, while eliminating the barriers of time, location, culture and language." I hope it also helps to eliminate barriers of power, position and the reluctance to voice your opinion.
Filler clearly wants milBook to be as open as possible, allowing military employees to share “official and sometimes sensitive information” in a way they hadn’t been able to do so before due to geography and rank...“We understand there is information that needs to be more secure, so we advise and offer the ability to label appropriately,” he said. “At this point we are seeing a nice variety of both open and closed groups so that is a nice surprise in a traditionally closed environment.”
The key thing in all of this, for me, is that whether we talk of knowledge sharing, transfer, or management, it only has value if it can result in action: new knowledge generation; new products; ideas; thoughts. But I think that action is more likely if we are open-minded about where it might arise. If we try and predict where it may be, and from which interactions it might come, I think it is most probable that no useful action and value will result in the long term.
The Big Shift cascades through all dimensions of our life. The Big Shift will also transform how we communicate with each other. We are moving from a world of deep analysis communicating explicit knowledge to a world of rich, personal narratives communicating tacit knowledge. Narratives powerfully help to shift perception from static objects to dynamic relationships.
To enable a collaborative culture, all arrows seem to point to a conclusion that Control Doesnt Scale, but that you have to balance best practices and starting structures to achieve the most fluid, most intuitive outcomes that facilitate collaboration rather than confuse it with starting structures (or lack thereof) that misalign the natural processes that are used to work in the flow of communication and collaborative content development.
Mitch McCrimmon: "Showing leadership"
When we think about leadership we envisage being in charge of a group, not how to show leadership viewed as a discrete act. This is hugely disempowering. First, we overlook occasional acts of leadership shown by people who don't have what it takes to BE a leader, including ourselves. Second, we put a halo on the heads of those who can be leaders, thus discounting their ineffective acts of leadership and expecting too much of them.
...rats understand the payoff matrix of the PD game and the strategy of the opponent. Importantly, our findings reveal that rats possess the necessary cognitive capacities for reciprocity-based cooperation to emerge in the context of a prisoner's dilemma.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Enterprise 2.0 and Collective Collaboration – Part II

9:22:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg , , 2 comments
To start with, let me set the scene for this post with a number of quotes:
Knowledge used to be understood as an internal property of an individual. Today knowledge should be seen as networked communication. The network is the amplifier of knowledge. This requires us to learn new ways of talking about education, reward systems and organizing in companies, and most of all, work itself. The process of communication is the process of knowing. You can only know what you are doing in conversation. If we want to influence the process of knowing we need to enable new habits of participation and new habits of communication." (Esko Kilpi)

“Data in the hands of a few makes for order; but data in the hands of many makes for endless possibilities.” (“The Whuffie Factor” by Tara Hunt)

Social media is about participation, getting the entire workforce engaged and creating synergies…it’s often the relationship between the parts, their interdependence, that makes a difference." (“Social Media at Work”, Jue, Marr & Kassotakis, 2009)

Each communication episode provides the potential for people to learn something new about their partners, make decisions, monitor the state of the work, take corrective action, and perform other joint activities. If the communication episode does not take place, then the information exchange and joint action will not occur.” (“Distributed work” by Pamela Hinds & Sara Kiesler)

"Social Media didn’t invent conversations, it only surfaced them." (Brian Solis)

“Throughout the primate world, social networks provide a fast conduit for innovation and information-sharing that help the group as a whole to adapt to its environment.” (“Glut - Mastering Information Through The Ages” by Alex Wright)
It sometimes happens that a number of people need to get together to collaborate towards a specific purpose and goal. These people might be from the same organizational unit and location, or from different organizational units and locations within and outside of the borders of an organization which is part of an enterprise. This is what most of us typically mean when we use the term “collaboration”. Sometimes we also use it to describe collaboration between organizations, but this is more of an abstraction level since collaboration always happen between people, and in such case between people from different organizations.

It takes a lot to make this kind of collaboration happen and become efficient and effective, especially when the team members are distributed in time and space and need to operate as a virtual team dependent on various technologies. This team needs to overcome barriers such as time, location, organization, culture, language, attitudes, behaviors…but I won’t get into details about those things in this post. Here I will focus on the concept of “collective collaboration”, a term which I tried to define in a previous post.

To become efficient and effective, the team needs to reach a common understanding about their purpose, objectives, tasks, roles, and so on. The only way to do this is by communicating with each other, and the richer, more interactive, and more frequent this communication is, the better are the chances for the team to reach and maintain this common understanding across time and space until their purpose is fulfilled. Obviously, it is easier to do this for a team consisting of people belonging to the same organizational unit, located in the same place, speaking the same language, sharing values etc than it is for a virtual team consisting of people with various backgrounds from different organizations from around the globe.

Over time, as the team members get to know each other better and develop a shared understanding of things, they are likely to become more efficient. They develop strong ties to each other. Their ideas, knowledge, attitudes and behavior will converge.

This also tends to lead to group think; the team members “try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas” (Wikipedia). Since they all share the more or less the same information, they eventually think more and more alike. This makes them dependent on a constant inflow of new and relevant information from their environment. Hence the need for collective collaboration; the kind of collaboration that allows the team to access all information they need from the environment – inside as well of outside of the organization they belong to - and thereby helping an enterprise avoiding such things as sub-optimization, redundant work, waste, bad decision-making.

So, the team members need to know what is going on elsewhere. Otherwise, they will most likely miss out on information that can be valuable to them and the common good of the enterprise. The problem here is that it is not easy to see and find out what is going on elsewhere in a large and distributed enterprise. Of course, we can use our informal network to become aware of other initiatives that we might depend on, but it is virtually impossible to use this network in an efficient way with traditional communication means such as phone calls, email, and face-to-face meetings. It requires a lot of hard detective work, so why would we spend time and energy on monitoring and listening to our environment unless we have a very specific and urgent problem we need help to solve?

It is also very unlikely that we will discover and get access to what happens elsewhere, including the information and knowledge possessed bt other teams and individuals, unless we openly share information with each other. If we share it in a public space where we could also filter out the kind information that might relevant to us, then we would have much have much greater changes of discovering valuable information without all the detective work that comes with using our informal networks with traditional methods such as face-to-face meetings and phone calls.

As openness and transparency of information increases, we won't only be able to discover new information that might be valuable to our team. We might also discover new people, connect with them, and share information directly with them. Social networking helps us extend, strengthen and use networks, providing the basic infrastructure which is needed for fast access and sharing of relevant information. Over time, we might develop enough trust in each other and develop the kind of strong ties we need to be able to collaborate in a team.

Over time, open, rich and frequent communication, sharing and interaction will help to build a sense of belonging and community, a feeling that we are all contributing to a common good. Then we might actually help each other even if it doesn’t bring any direct return to our team or us as individuals, other than the recognition we might get from our peers – and possibly increased social status within the community. This helps to build employee engagement, which makes us more motivated and productive as individuals.

For this to happen, it is that our contributions are recorded and visible to others. If our contributions are not seen, then we won’t be able to get the recognition we need to continue contributing. So, we need a platform that does that.

“Most current collaboration technologies, including email, instant messaging, and cell phone texting are what I call channels. They essentially keep communications private. People beyond the sender and receiver(s) can’t view the contents of information sent over channels, and usually don’t even know that communication has taken place. Information sent via channels isn’t widely visible, consultable, or searchable. And no record exists of who sent what to whom, so channels leave no trace of collaboration patterns."

"The new generation of collaboration technologies that are underpinning Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0, in contrast, are all platforms. They’re repositories of digital content where contributions are globally visible (everyone with access to the platform can see them) and persistent (they stick around, and so can be consulted and searched for). Access to platforms can be restricted (to, for example, only members of an R&D lab or a team working on a particular deal) so that proprietary content isn’t universally visible within a company, but the goal of a platform technology is to make content widely and perennially available to its members!”

When connected to each other, these Enterprise 2.0 platforms make up an eco-system of “information hubs” - blogs, wikis, communities, micro-blogging, media sharing, forums… - that allows us collect and maintain information in a collective way within an enterprise.

These hubs must be flexible to accommodate any kind of information that we need to share. Anyone must be allowed to access and contribute to these hubs, but participation must be voluntary. With easy access and authoring combined with the informal and organic way we maintain these information hubs, we ensure that threshold to participation is kept as low as possible so that we maximize the number of contributions.

By linking the hubs together, we are creating a user-generated, interlinked and rapidly adaptable body of knowledge which is open to everyone. The links combined with tags that we apply ourselves to the information makes it easier for us to organize the information, but also to find and discover relevant information with the use of filters.

With abundance of information, we need more than filters that allow us to narrow things down until we have relevant information. We also need a way to be alerted when there is something new for us. Instead of having to surf around and visit each and every information hub that might contain information that is relevant to us just to check if something is new, we can use signals in combination with filters to tell us when there is new relevant information available to us.

We also need a way to simplify consumption. Syndication does that for us. By making new information come to us instead of us coming to the information hubs, we save the time we otherwise would spend on navigating to different information hubs. If the information comes in a standardized format, we can also use one single way to interact with it. This means that our capacity to consume information greatly increases as we have to spend less time and energy on learning and remembering how to navigate on an information hub.

These are just some of the ways in which Enterprise 2.0 technologies and “mechanisms” can support collective collaboration within an enterprise. But the technology is just one side of the coin. To borrow the words of Larry Hawes:
"No business case will sell social software to a firm that doesn’t already value collaboration in its culture. If the ROI is needed to convince an organisation that collaboration is a good thing - then ROI is the least of your problems."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Enterprise 2.0 and Collective Collaboration – Part I

10:53:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg , 3 comments

The term "collaboration" is commonly used to describe the coordination of actions within a team, such as a business team or project team, that work towards a common goal. But I haven’t really found a good term or expression to describe the kind of collaboration that extends beyond the members of your closest team(s).

I had a good discussing about this subject with Laurence Hart (@piewords) on Twitter earlier today. We tried expressions such as “emergent collaboration”, “extended collaboration” or “enterprise collaboration”, but none of them felt right.

Laurence suggested that “the key may be to find the biggest flaw implied by collaboration and pick an adjective that is the opposite.” Good idea… the flaw I was trying to address was that when a team focuses too much on its own team-specific goals, it often leads to sub-optimization, waste, redundant work, bad decision-making, and so forth - stuff that all decrease the team's contributions to the common good. The team focuses on what is best for the team, not on what’s best for the enterprise as collective.

We both agreed it was worth taking “collective collaboration” for a spin.

The first thing I did after our discussion was to take a closer look at the definition of the term “collective” and I settled with this one from The Free Dictionary:

col·lec·tive (k-lktv)

1. Assembled into or viewed as a whole.

2. Of, relating to, characteristic of, or made by a number of people acting as a group: a collective decision.

Judging from this definition, the term “collective” could very well be used to describe an enterprise when seen as a number of people viewed as a whole. Tom Graves recently shared this definition of “enterprise” from the Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework via Twitter (@tetradian):

Enterprise: an organization (or cross-organizational entity) supporting a defined business scope and mission. An enterprise includes interdependent resources (people, organizations, and technology) who must coordinate their functions and share information in support of a common mission (or set of related missions).

The expression “collective collaboration” would then describe a situation when all the people in an enterprise, viewed as a whole, work together to support the defined mission of the enterprise, one where employees always have the common good in mind, whatever they do.

This might sound like Utopia; ideal but impracticable. However, the point here is merely that by improving collective collaboration, collaboration that goes beyond ones closest team(s), an enterprise can increase the sum of all contributions to the common good. It is not about achieving an ideal state, but rather about trying to minimize sub-optimization, duplicate work, waste, bad decision making, and so on that come as a result of teams focusing too much on their own goals.

Improving collective collaboration would require that the overall mission is clearly communicated and always present, but also that collective collaboration is reflected in values, objectives, practices and incentive models. This way, it will become a part of the culture of the enterprise. After having worked with IKEA for several years (an enterprise which actually consists of a multitude of organizations), I know how important this is (at the IKEA head office, you can't even go to the bathroom without seeing their mission and values).

The culture also needs to be characterized by participation, openness, trust, and recognition of all contributions by teams and individuals that increase the common good. These, to me, are all core Enterprise 2.0 principles.

In my next post, I will use a number of illustrations to illustrate how collective collaboration can be improved with the help from Enterprise 2.0 technologies.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How to switch to a new laptop in 5 minutes

1:20:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg , No comments
Switching to a new computer can be a painful experience, and my own previous experiences have been just that. I actually know quite a lot of people who prefer to stick with their old and low-performing computers simply because it is such a cumbersome task to switch to a new one.

I got my new work laptop, a Dell Latitude E4300, yesterday. For me, switching to a new (PC) computer has never been as easy and painless as this time. In total, it took me about 30 minutes to get productive on my new laptop, with all my content, applications and settings in place. The experience was totally frictionless. I send my grateful thanks to Cloud Computing and SaaS.

First of all, I am a frequent user of Google Docs. I also have a lot of info there, typically things such as ideas for new blog posts, notes, calculations, and lists (excluding my To-do-lists). Some time ago, I created a list in a Google Docs document listing all the apps I had installed on my laptop. I left out apps that I had installed but never really used. For each app, I added the link to a place from which I could download the latest version of the app.

Nowadays I manage all my files and documents in DropBox. I also use DropBox when collaborating on files with colleagues, and sometimes also with customers and partners. The DropBox desktop app makes file management really easy, but I get comfort in the thought of always being able to access, download and upload files via the DropBox web interface. I also have the DropBox iPhone app, which is very handy when I’m not sitting in front of my laptop and need to access and read/view documents or files.

For my to-do-lists I use Google Tasks, so I didn’t need to care about moving those. I also manage links to frequently used web-based tools and web resources as bookmarks in Google Chrome. The ones most frequently used are available in the toolbar, the rest are hidden in the Bookmarks menu.

All work emails, contacts and calendar events are stored on the Exchange server, so I didn't have to care about those things. I don't even use the Outlook desktop client, only Outlook Web Access (and mail, calendar and contacts on my iPhone), so I didn’t need to set that up on my new laptop.

For password management, I use the SplashID iPhone app. To simplify the task of entering passwords, I also have the desktop version of SplashID. This way, I can just copy-paste a password from iSplash when I need it.

This is what I did after starting my new laptop (with Windows 7) and logging on to the network:
  1. I opened Internet Explorer (for the first and last time), opened the document with my list of apps in Google Docs, downloaded Google Chrome and installed it.

  2. I started Chrome and synchronized my bookmarks. A few seconds later, I had access to all my frequently used web-based tools and resources.

  3. I downloaded and installed DropBox. After logging on, DropBox started to synchronize all files to my computer.
All in all, this took me about 5 minutes. I then spent about 20 minutes on downloading and installing apps in the background while working with other things. By that time, DropBox had already synchronized all my files to my new laptop. The last thing I did was unlinking my old laptop from DropBox.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Interesting Enterprise 2.0 Readings - Week 2 2010

8:42:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg , , , 1 comment
"Many organizations have now moved beyond the experimentation phase and begun embedding social media into the way they do business," said Victoria Mellor, CEO of Melcrum. "There is a fundamental shift happening with how information flows inside an organization. Peer-to-peer online networks are enabling real-time feedback from employees to inform decision-making, not to mention facilitating collaboration between remote workers," she added.
Top Management Must Be On Board – Although you hear about social media as a grassroots phenomenon on the internet, it is a different animal when it is grafted onto a corporate culture. Very little happens within an organization without top level support. They control the staffing, the communications channels and, above all, the budget.
There is only one objective in social media and it is common across all companies—even across the infamous divide between B2B and B2C: Create learning networks. And there is only one strategy for carrying out this objective: Find people who are good at developing and disseminating ideas to contribute to and facilitate those networks.
Social media are the tools that can help us develop emergent practices. They enable conversations between people separated by distance or time. The organizing framework for using social media for business is the learning network. Learning networks are not just for what we used to call training & development, but can also help us engage (not target) our markets.
...with the explosion of information, and flattening technologies starting with e-mail, I think that a CEO needs to focus more on the platform that enables collaboration, because employees already have all the data. They have access to everything. You have to work on the structure of collaboration. How do people get recognized? How do you establish a meritocracy in a highly dispersed environment?
Wal-Mart recently was able to cut a lot of costs through social networking strategies. “We conducted a blogging exercise on energy conservation,” he related. “We had more than 6,000 posts with ideas from employees, and saved millions in energy costs as a result.”
The open-ended nature of a weblog helps to capture emergent insights before they can be expressed systematically. In a way it is similar to brainstorming with post-its or to a spatial arrangement of papers on one’s desk: at early stages of developing ideas we can more easily say that something is relevant than to explain how exactly it connects to the rest.
People have always networked. Before the time of universities scholars depended largely on correspondence networks for the exchange of ideas. These communities, known as the Republic of Letters were the social media of the era, following astonishingly closely communication patterns of today...A “man of letters” may today be a man of tweets, blog posts and Facebook, but the principle is the same: The size and quality of the network matters.
When organizations adopt networked or team structures, they tuck these networks into existing managerial hierarchies. The basic hierarchical model and mindset remain in overall control. And, sometimes these networks themselves have what are called ‘worker hierarchies’ (Dean, 2007). These hierarchies can be more fluid than those outside the network, since people within the network/team often change leadership roles with each project. Ultimately, embedding networks or teams in to an organization can flatten the organization slightly, but not in a way that transforms the organizations or the employees’ overall influence within them.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Interesting Enterprise 2.0 Readings - Week 1 2010

11:15:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg , , No comments
Twitter is a communication platform that's comprised of just about 100 million people located around the world. And unlike any other network, when you're on Twitter, you're in the same room with every other person on Twitter. It's like a pulse of what people are collectively thinking about, and so in some ways, becoming a kind of global consciousness. We're connecting with peers around the globe and exchanging tips for business practices. We're connecting with educators and researchers and scientists and discovering new ways of teaching and learning. We're being exposed to each other's perspectives on the world, and our capacity for empathy is expanding.

Sure there's misinformation, spam, and useless junk too. Just like anywhere. It just means our ability to scan information and critically evaluate its validity will grow to be an ever more important skill.

If you're using social media as part of a new vision for your organization (social business design, social CRM) or as an addition to your personal learning network (PLN) or to empower people or to build and spread ideas, you get it. We're growing into a global human network, and we're able to begin constructing our own reality. 'The way things work' isn't set in stone, it's a social agreement. So many aspects of the way we work, the way we live, and the way we relate to each other are products of the systems that are currently in place. When we start experimenting with new ideas put together in new ways by new groups of people (and failing often), eventually we'll figure it out - it's how innovation happens. At so many levels, as a species, we are at a pivotal time in history where we can collectively design a new future.

Employees shouldn’t waste too much time on the intranet; social media wastes time; the Internet is a productivity drain. These are common refrains and concerns expressed by many executives, albeit the less educated ones, generally of an older generation, nearing or past retirement.

The exact same concerns were made about employee bathroom breaks, mealtimes, telephone use, etc. General Motors, that great stalwart of financial prudence, used to hire people to time employees when they used the bathroom.

“With Web 2.0 applications creeping into the enterprise — with or without IT approval — it's obvious that ingenious information workers will find tools to help them accomplish their work no matter where those tools come from,” says IDC.

...job satisfaction is just one return a company gets from networked employees. Zappos encourages its employees to network on the job, resulting in a reputation for stellar customer service. Employees engaged in their social networks can also reduce the cost and improve the quality of recruiting. It can surface issues the company needs to address. It can generate ideas for new products and services. It improves employee productivity.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, nonfarm business sector labor productivity increased in the third quarter of 2009 by 8.1%. That’s a far more credible number than the back-of-the-envelope calculations Pandora, Websense and other monitoring-and-blocking companies use in their scare campaigns. In fact, it reveals the productivity claims by these companies as an outright lie.

Yet these tactics continue to influence managers, as evidenced by the fact that most companies block access despite the fact that blocking is contrary to their own self interests.

Leaders need to realize that organizations that encourage their employees to network during work—guided by clear policies and improved business literacy—will experience success that eclipses that of organizations that block access.

It’s not a question of employee entitlements. It’s a question of smart business practices.

"5 ways towards more fun at work" by Gustav Jonsson:
1. Colleagues / People

The people you surround yourself with are always important. There's a difference between work and private life here; you don't always get to choose your colleagues the same way you choose your friends. But for me, the people around me is the single most important fun factor.

2. Openness

To have the "official" permission to speak ones mind is something that is concidered pretty obvious in society (democracy and such...), but how is the situation inside Your Corporation Walls? By allowing people to speak their minds it's my strong opinion that these open companies will innovate and ellaborate a whole lot more than others.

3. Extra curricular activities

To do stuff that is not directly work-related at work has always existed; anyone for teambuilding? But it does the job of bringing colleagues closer together, to talk about other stuff for a while.

4. Freedom with responsibilities

The above is a classic mantra from my upbringing in the Swedish school system. However I like it a lot. The individual can choose how to complete a task as long at it is done and in time. I am given huge freedom, but at the same time I have responsibilities. At work as well in society.

5. The right tools to get the work done

This is important from anyone from a construction worker to a webmaster. If you're not given great tools your capacity will suffer. In my off-work life I have a wide array of "tools" at my disposal to get my evenings and weekends to be as much fun as possible.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Winning with employee engagement

“Employee engagement, also called work engagement or worker engagement, is a business management concept. An "engaged employee" is one who is fully involved in, and enthusiastic about, his or her work, and thus will act in a way that furthers their organization's interests.” (Wikipedia)
As humans, we all need to feel that we are part of something larger than ourselves, that we are somehow contributing to a common good. When we feel that, we also become more motivated and our contributions will be greater, which in the end will benefit us all as well as ourselves as individuals.

During times of uncertainty and constant pressure to change and adapt to new conditions – which is nowadays more of a normal situation than an exception – our natural instinct as individuals is often to cling on to whatever we have, and to defend our positions against any threat. The strategy that many employ is simply to try to keep things the way they presently are, to maintain the status quo, and to be on their watch for any threats coming in their direction. Some will become completely passive, paralyzed by a fear that if they do anything at all, it will distract them or make them less alert to handle any incoming threat.

A paradox for employees today is that they really need to connect with and collaborate more with more people, and strengthen their personal networks if they are to deliver better results and strengthen our their positions. One problem they are facing when doing this is that most current incentive models do not reward employees helping their colleagues, unless there is a direct and measurable return on their contributions. Another problem is that many organizations fail at making the contributions that employees do outside of their own team visible, and thus if fails to recognize them. These problems put people in a kind of deadlock position. During uncertain times, most people will simply do what becomes visible and recognized by those who evaluate them, their managers. They will most likely also most be asked or commended by their managers to do so, because their managers are in a similar position as they will be judged by their managers on the visible contributions from the team they are managing (and so it goes on, all the way to the top).

When many people revert to this behavior, it can paralyze an entire organization. A business that is bleeding seriously, but that could be helped by the increased productivity, efficiency, and innovation than can come out of increasing employee engagement, would likely bleed to death if employee engagement decreases instead of increasing or at least remaining at previous levels. When individual employees stops to change and adapt at large numbers, the entire organization will crumble under the pressure from its constantly changing environment.

Today’s business landscape is harsh in most industries. Anything a business does that can be documented can also be copied. Chances are it will be copied by someone who can do what you do faster and cheaper than you, possibly also with higher quality. In a global world where imbalances in salaries, taxes, and other business conditions exist, it is more likely to happen than in a world where everyone has equal conditions. We see the effects of this imbalance all the time. Manufacturing companies in Western countries move their production to Asia and China. The Chinese move their production to African countries.

So…products, processes, systems, information, and even knowledge can be copied. This also means that these things are less likely to provide you with comparative advantage, at least for any long. You can do what you can to protect them from falling into the hands of others, but it will be a hopeless struggle that will divert your energy from what you really should do: create comparative advantage with the use of other means.

The things which can provide a comparative advantage to a business today are the things which are not so easily copied. These least “copy-friendly” things are intangible and seemingly “magic” stuff such as tacit knowledge, creativity, corporate culture, values, talent, motivation, synergies, relationships, reputation, brand…all of which are vary much dependant on the human capital that an organization possesses. To make the most of an organizations human capital, employee engagement is needed. Employee engagement must therefore be seen as the foundation of an organizations long-term success.

To be successful in the long term, businesses need to go from the all too common situation where every business unit or project works blindfolded, seeing only its own goals, resulting in suboptimization, waste and unleashed potential, to a situation where individual teams leverage each other for the benefit of the entire business, resulting in synergies, reuse and unlocking of the potential of all employees. Synergies must be created, something which can only be achieved by connecting the individual parts (people) in the right way. It is the relationships between the different parts that will make the difference, not adding more parts and focusing solely on the ability and performance of each individual part. In a business where comparative advantage is created by knowledge worker, the social capital of these knowledge workers will determine their ability to create synergies.

Of course, this is far from being the case in most organizations, especially those that have more than couple of dozen employees divided in two teams or more. The scalability problem start already at relatively small numbers. Anyone who has been part of a rapidly growing small business should be able to testify to this. Suddenly you don’t know everyone anymore. You definitely can’t meet everyone to have a chat at the water cooler to know what is going on and to exchange information and experiences. From this point, the average contribution from employee will decrease with every new recruit – no matter how talented that person is. The reason is the failure to scale inter-employee communication, something which hurts such things as collaboration, knowledge exchange, responsiveness, and innovation.

It just becomes harder to communicate, collaborate and get to know new people the bigger an organization gets. Nothing strange about that. But it also likely decreases employee engagement and thus decreases productivity and efficiency. To this day, I still haven’t experienced a single large organization where I have felt that the average employee is as engaged as the average employee in any of the small businesses that I have encountered.

Increasing employee engagement should be seen as one of the most critical strategies for organizations today, especially for large and distributed organizations which are highly dependant on knowledge work. They need to use all the means available to them to allow their employees to discover, connect, communicate, share and collaborate with each other. They also need to understand that current incentive models might decrease employee engagement, creating an internal competition that undermines their long-term success. Understanding what motivates people in addition to traditional incentives is important when rethinking their incentive models. Just think about the following excerpt from Daniel H Pink’s summary of Harvard professor Teresa Amabile's article in Harvard Business Review "HBR’s “10 Breakthrough Ideas for 2010.":
“The key to motivation . . . doesn't depend on elaborate incentive systems…on days when workers have the sense they’re making headway in their jobs, or when they receive support that helps them overcome obstacles, their emotions are most positive and their drive to succeed is at its peak…As for recognition, the diaries revealed that it does indeed motivate workers and lift their moods.”
It is my belief that the organizations which excel at enabling employee engagement will be winners in the long term. The reason is that employee engagement is absolutely necessary for fostering innovation, boosting productivity, and creating synergies in organizations which are increasingly dependant on knowledge work and the talent and collaborative ability of its workforce. Attracting, recruiting, developing and retaining talent is only one part of the equation. The other part is empowering the workforce by connecting talent and their ideas.

I really see no better alternative for how to engage employees in a large and distributed work force than to make them connect, communicate, collaborate, and share more with each other. This suggests that Enterprise 2.0 definitely has a key role for any organization which up for increasing employee engagement. For example, social software allows employees to be seen and heard wherever and whoever they are, making their contributions visible and recognized by their colleagues as well as their managers, all the way to top management. The usability, reach, immediacy and availability of the new communication and collaboration tools help us deal with the previously bad scalability of communication and organizing people.

For businesses seeing the benefits of increasing employee engagement, Enterprise 2.0 presents quite an opportunity - don’t you think?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Did you ever hear anyone shout "culture failure!"?

7:28:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg 2 comments
Today, we tend to apply process thinking as a default ”solution lens” to all problems, failures and challenges we encounter, even those which cannot be solved by process. When we hear about a failure, we point at a it and shout ”process failure!” without even thinking twice. Or we shout ”technology failure!” because we knew technology was somewhat involved.

But what if it's actually culture failure? How often do you hear anyone shout that out ("Guys, it's culture failure!") ? If someone point to culture failure, would you expect that person to try to do anything about it?

A culture failure is much more alarming and also much more unconfortable than a simple process or technology failure. It signals that something is fundamentally wrong, something which is very complex and hard to change. It means that you not only have to change your own attitudes and behaviors, but also those of your collegues, including management. You might need to change the entire incentive model, which in the end determines the bonus of your CEO. What is worse, you most likely also need to change the attitudes and behaviors of your CEO ("Impossible!").

So what would most people do when they start thinking in the direction of culture failure?

Answer: They stop thinking in that direction.

The reason is simple; we prefer to see simple causes and to apply simple solutions, because then we can manage to do something about them. If not all by ourselves so with a reasonable limited team effort. If it gets too big, we try to forget about it.

It is only natural that we rather revisit our processes and technologies than try to seek the root cause in our collective attitudes and behaviors. Maybe we can go as far as shuffling people around in an organizational change, inventing some new roles and titles, firing some butts and recruiting some new ones.

A flat tire on a bike can be fixed by process. It is a known, repeatable and thus predictable failure. This means that we can define a standard solution for it, and that we can define a process for how to apply the solution. We can educate bicycle repairmen, or even do it ourselves. The knowledge about the solution and the process can be easily transfered to almost anyone and anywhere where they ride bikes and are likely to experience flat tires.

But what about a failure that occurs in a much much more complex system, one that is constantly changing and where the components are humans, where the failure can happen anywhere and anytime, and where unpredictable human behavior is causing the failures? Would you send the bicycle repairman to find the cause of the failure and fix it? Or a process engineer?

Thanks to Tom Graves (@tetradian) for inspiration to this post via our conversation on Twitter.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Why 2009 was the year of Twitter

11:24:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg , , 1 comment
When I first registered my Twitter account – in September 2007 – I must admit I didn't get Twitter. I didn't see how Twitter could be used, probably because the only use I did see was people using it to tell others what they were doing without any real purpose behind it. What they said wasn't really interesting or usable to me, even if it what people I knew. They were writing insignificant things lacking a meaningful context ("eating a sandwich" or "working"). So my Twitter account remained inactive for almost a year.

The change that made me see real value in Twitter came about a year ago, when the people I had learnt to know and appreciate from their writings in blogs started to have conversations on Twitter. At that time, I had been a frequent blogger for a couple of years and had been conversating with other bloggers via my own blog and via the comments on their blogs. Gradually I noticed that the conversations which previously were held on blogs and blog comments were moving to Twitter. So I started following the people whose blogs I subscribed to on Twitter. I hadn't search for them before on Twitter, but now most of them exposed their Twitter name on their blogs.

On the Twitter platform, I observed that the conversations were much more frequent, personal, informal, interactive, positive, and open than in the "blogosphere". Despite the 140 character limit, they were actually getting richer. I also noted that people shared much more of the interesting things they had encountered than they did via their blogs (thanks to lower barrier to entry on Twitter).

From that point on, which is now almost a year ago, Twitter has rapidy evolved to my main platform for knowledge discovery and exchange, professional networking, and idea generation. The feeds I subscribe to via Google Reader are now complementary to the tweets from the people I follow on Twitter. This is evident from the fact that I check Twitter before Google Reader. This is a major change from just a year ago.

My blog is still very important to me. It is MY platform. It is where I develop thoughts and ideas further, where I sum up what I've learnt and experienced, and where I aggregate the best readings I've encountered via Twitter, Google Reader or elsewhere.

Twitter, on the other hand, is OUR platform. It’s the place where I and anyone else with a Twitter account can have conversations on equal terms. Twitter builds community and brings me closer to other interesting people and their ideas, wherever and whoever they are.

It’s simply fantastic. This is one of those stories I tell with a passion, and which makes me a true believer in the power of social software such as micro-blogging both outside and inside of organizations (the latter has special challenges). My lesson from using Twitter and getting value from it is the following:
  1. Find a purpose.
  2. Find people with common interests, and hopefully the same purpose.
  3. Learn the basic rules and "code of conduct" by observing others.
  4. Share thing that you find interesting and valuable.
  5. Start engaging with people you find interesting.
The following, which is partly out of your control, must also be fulfilled:
  1. Participation / the number of people who share the common interest or purpose must be big enough to give life to a thriving community.
  2. The community needs to be characterized by openness, trust and sharing.

Interesting Enterprise 2.0 Readings - Week 53 2009 2010

"The Transformation Decade" by David Houle:
Think about all that is going on in your life and in the world. The way we communicate has and will continue to change in form, appearance (our gadgets are vastly different that even five years ago) and character (how many of you text or tweet regularly versus even three years ago). The shape of our relationships is changing. The shape of how we work, how we live and how and in what we travel are all changing. The economy and the workplace are changing and being reshaped.

In the next ten years there will be a level of transformation probably unmatched in human history:
  • Humanity’s relationship to communication technology is rapidly changing and will bring on-going transformation socially, culturally and economically.
  • Media will be completely different that it is today. We are only at the initial creative destruction phase of it now.
  • Economic metrics will need to be transformed, both on national and global levels
  • How countries define defense will be transformed given the shape changing nature of our enemies and the threats that face us.
  • Energy and energy use will be transformed from the 20th century ways we look at it and use it still today. Alternative and renewable energy development and use will create great new wealth and will transform landscapes and how we live.
  • Education is no longer serving the needs of people and society; it will be transformed.
  • The medical breakthroughs around the corner will make 2010-2020 the most transformative decade in medical history.
  • The workplace will be transformed as the place part becomes less and less relevant. Human beings will only need to be in the same place to collaborate, as work is increasingly defined as collaborative.
  • The Internet and our rapid fire use of mobile digital devices to access it has created a pulsing, synaptic place of unprecedented interactivity that on a global scale is starting to feel like a global brain.
  1. In every industry, there are huge swathes of critical knowledge that have been commoditized—and what hasn’t yet been commoditized soon will be.
  2. Given that, we have to wave goodbye to the “knowledge economy” and say hello to the “creative economy.”
  3. What matters today is how fast a company can generate new insights and build new knowledge—of the sort that enhances customer value.
  4. To escape the curse of commoditization, a company has to be a game-changer, and that requires employees who are proactive, inventive and zealous.
  5. Problem is, you can’t command people to be enthusiastic, creative and passionate.
  6. These critical ingredients for success in the creative economy are gifts that people will bring to work each day only if they’re truly engaged. (Eric Raymond made this point way back in 2001 when he argued that in the new economy, “enjoyment predicts productivity.”)
Today, no leader can afford to be indifferent to the challenge of engaging employees in the work of creating the future. Engagement may have been optional in the past, but it’s pretty much the whole game today.
Forrester reports, “Most enterprises at least try to offer usable online experiences to their prospects and customers — but continue to inflict user-hostile internal systems upon their employees.”

They also found that there are few incentives to change established work habits that night increase productive usage. Since IT is often in charge of the intranet they think in terms of IT-centric intranet teams such as reduced storage costs rather that helping workers do their job better. IT is not usually measured on this.

Forrester wrote that the “symptoms of an ailing intranet are not hard to recognize: poor adoption, irritated users, failed tasks, and ingenious (but unproductive) workarounds in order to avoid the intranet altogether.”
To what extent is an external customer community different from an internal employee community?

Think about it, they serve similar goals:
  • Drive efficiency across the company, whether that is time, people or money
  • Drive self-service to lower burden on support staff
  • Quicker access to expertise to solve your problem or answer your question
  • Create a feeling of bonding with other community members and the company
... and they often suffer from similar (potential) problems:
  • Low community participation
  • Cost of running the community is too high, compared with the benefits
  • Lack of attention from senior people in the company
So why is it then that we don't put the same effort and value in social software / community solutions for our employees as we do for clients? Why is it that we want to have the best for our own children, but not for our own employees?

As the very famous Cluetrain Manifesto states "business is fundamentally human", so we need to stop treating employees as "resources" and start seeing them as clients with their own interests, desires and drivers. Once we made this mind shift, perhaps making the business case for focusing on user experience for internal intranet tools is more easier to make...
Yes, it’s that time again: time for New Year’s resolutions. Whether you make lots of resolutions, or none, try this exercise. Make one little resolution – something you know you can do. Like what? Jump every day. Sing in the morning. Make your bed...start small! One very small change can be enough to launch your happiness project