My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 103009

From the home office, waiting for the Great Pumpkin in the pumpkin patch…

#1: NIH grants $12mm to create a national, Facebook-like social network for scientists Goal? Find collaborators

#2: RT @jowyang Ritz Carlton’s mktg chief says hotel mgt at each property spends 1 hour reviewing online convos each am –even tweets #forbescmo

#3: The Time I was Written Up for Blogging by @tacanderson Lesson on employees and social media

#4: Skating to where the puck will be – Apple & advertising Apple has offered to rebuild a Chicago mass transit stop?

#5: Very cool: Los Angeles adopts Google e-mail system for 30,000 city employees Cloud makes inroads #saas

#6: 84% of firms say #innovation is important to firm success. 51% of firms do not have anyone who is steering the innovation ship. #iai09inno

#7: 10 examples of minimum viable products Cool list of minimalist approaches to engage customers & build product

#8: Stuck trying to write that next blog post? 100 Ways to Find Ideas for Your Blog Posts from the LifeSnips blog

#9: Geek alert! RT @PaulSloane: @DougCornelius RT Awesome T-Shirts for twins:

#10: OK, figure this one out. @gaberivera created a tweet that links to itself. See for yourself:

Bonus just for this week…

#11: Small change to my Twitter bio…I’m now VP of Product at Spigit. Carry on…

Innovation ROI – Why Every Enterprise 2.0-Enabled Connection Counts

In a recent post on the Spigit blog, Study – Collaborative Networks Produce Better Ideas, I described the research of Professor Ronald Burt. He found that employees who are better connected across the organization generate higher quality ideas than those with limited connections. Wider access to the ideas, knowledge, experiences and judgment of colleagues makes employees stronger in innovation.

I posted this write-up in the Continuous Innovation group on LinkedIn. One person made this observation:

Need to keep in mind that collaborative networks have little to do with technology. There are certain personality types that keep the organization connected. The proportions of those people in an organization is related to the specific corporate culture.

There’s a good alternative perspective. That really, the same people that connect via collaborative networks are those that would be doing it in an offline world as well. The rest of the employee population likely continues to work in a more insular world.

I see it differently though. First, I agree that there are people with natural connector personalities. They would span the different parts of the organization no matter what. Anyone think David Armano wouldn’t be one of those types?

But not everyone need be an uber connector to see benefits from plugging into a more connected network. My personal experience on sites like Twitter and FriendFeed tells me that everyone benefits from these online social networks. We may not all be uber connectors, but we do increase our degree of connectedness.

The graph below is my concept for how this effect manifests:

Offline vs online degree of connectedness
Assume a population of employees: 25 in this hypothetical example. The blue line is the level of connectedness for employees working the way they have for decades. Your connections tend to be local and departmental, with some tenure you gain a larger informal network. In Professor Burt’s terms, most workers are relatively insular in terms of who they access for information and ideas. But some broker connections across different corporate “tribes”.

The red line represents the level of corporate connectedness for employees including the ability to find others online. To me, this is a no-brainer. Of course people are going to connect with others they wouldn’t have otherwise. The number, diversity and depth of connections increase.

The gray zone between the red and blue lines represent that improvement. Some people won’t get too much increase. They really are in-person types of connectors. But others thrive in the online environment. They have more specific interests, and didn’t know who else in the organization held them. Through the social software, they find more people with interests similar to theirs. Or at least with experience relevant to their interests.

Don’t need to be an uber connector there. Just need to be able to make connections.

Next…the ROI math.

The Natural Logarithm Method

Take a look at the graph below. It shows the scatter plot of how ideas were rated for different employees (Y axis). The X axis represents the degree of connectedness for employees, based on actual social network analysis conducted by Professor Burt in his study:

Measuring Innovation ROI from E2.0 Connections

The scatter plots show that employees who have a high diversity of connections across the organization provided higher quality ideas. The converse holds true as well.

Regression shows the equation that represents the observations:

Value of Idea = 5.51 – 0.91 * ln(Level of Network Constraint)

The equation shows that, on average, every increase in a person’s level of connectedness with different parts of the organization produces higher quality ideas. Note the natural log curve. The effect increases as connectedness improves. What I like about that is that the benefits increase, even if the work of increasing employees’ network diversity gets more difficult as you try to connect those last holdout groups.

Extrapolate the effect out to the organization at large. Raising the overall level of workforce connectedness will have a salutary effect on the average quality of ideas generated. In an era of ever higher levels of market volatility, improving the organizational “innovation IQ” is a critical aspect of surviving and thriving.

One thought on the accelerating benefit – increased idea quality – as connectedness improves. In a large population, would this have any correlation to network effects?

It’s not perfect, but Professor Burt’s analysis demonstrates a strong ROI basis for leveraging social software to increase the diversity of connections.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 102309

From the home office in Kabul, Afghanistan…

#1: Twitter’s Web Traffic Flatlines …while Facebook continues to grow.

#2: Initial take on MSFT’s Twitter integration (…that is sweet! Now will they show tweets beyond the last 3 days?

#3: RT @danschawbel REPORT: 65.6% of CMO’s feel that social media should be done in-house

#4: If the Enterprise 2.0 crowd wanted to share a link, my guess for the top 5 services: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Posterous, Yammer. Agree?

#5: Study – Collaborative Networks Produce Better Ideas (via Spigit blog) #e20 #innovation

#6: Interesting point from #spc09 – SharePoint is a critical driver of MSFT’s future growth. #e20

#7: Two SharePoint 2010 articles – RWW | @olivermarks – paint a good picture of its #e20 initiatives

#8: Southwest Airlines is running a “test lab” of ecofriendly products on its new Green Plane

#9: RT @Cubba: @bhc3 I thought this was timely based on our conversation at Patsy’s; = “10 Tips for Retrosexing on FB”

#10: – It’s pumpkin patch time! Kids have their own. #halloween

Would You Manage CRM with a Wiki?

Or human resources with a blog? How about project management with forums?

Funny questions to ask, no doubt. Of course it’s not possible to effectively address many of the critical business functions using basic Enterprise 2.0 tools. Yet when it comes to social software, it often seems that the only game in town is to be a provider of such tools. For instance, Gartner’s Social Software Magic Quadrant requires that vendors have wikis, blogs and forums to be considered (side note – for the record, Spigit has all three social software tools and more).

I am fully on board that there are great opportunities for new types of communication, collaboration and information discovery in these tools. For instance, see my post, Microblogging Will Marginalize Corporate Email.

But there’s an enormous opportunity for applying the ethos and value of  ‘social’, ‘transparency’ and ‘collaboration’ to a wider range of business processes. Key here is not to force specific processes into a general purpose tool, but to bring social software ethos to longstanding enterprise activities.

Hmm…sounds Dachis Group-like (“social business design”), eh?

Activity-Specific Social Applications

In the recent Gartner Social Software Hype Cycle, analyst Anthony Bradley introduced a new category, Activity-Specific Social Applications:

“As social software implementations mature, application patterns are evolving, and the software industry is responding with activity-centric social application offerings rather than with generic social software capability suites. Delivering a targeted social solution with a general purpose social tool (such as wikis and blogs) can involve significant development, configuration, and templating effort.”

Bradley has identified the next opportunity in enterprise social social software. Integrating the valuable characteristics of social software into the in-the-flow activities that make up our days. As a percentage of employees’ time, activity-specific social applications will be quite large.

Back in March 2009, Sameer Patel wrote, don’t confuse Enterprise 2.0 with social computing concepts. He was making this exact point, and included this illustrative diagram:

Credit: Sameer Patel, Span Strategies

Credit: Sameer Patel, Span Strategies

His point is that the left side are tools, whereas the right side are results-based activities. Key here is to create applications aligned with the processes for those activities. That means going deeper than a general purpose tool.

Successful Applications Will Be Designed for Results

So back to the original question. Would you manage CRM with a wiki? Could you? Perhaps there’s a geek hack to do this, but for mainstream business, the answer is ‘no’. Customer relationship management includes:

  • Case management
  • Customer revenue analytics
  • Sales pipeline
  • Individual prospect opportunity workflow
  • And lots of other stuff

It would be really hard to use generic off-the-shelf social software to deliver the above functionality. Yet, going back in time, here’s what was prescribed for CRM success in April 2002:

People [who fail] don’t integrate CRM into the other parts of their business or implement CRM as a stand-alone and don’t have it communicate with core systems. A bigger and more frequent stumbling block is forgetting to address the people issues around a CRM implementation. In almost all of the cases we described earlier, CRM is a behavior modification tool.

There is a need for the “hard” functions that CRM can provide, like case management, campaigns and analytics. But that’s not enough (e.g. see social CRM), and enabling the customer-centric firm seems to require a good bit of what makes Enterprise 2.0 tick: cross-organizational perspectives, contributions from different departments, a more collaborative orientation to an end-goal. Integrate CRM into “other parts of their business”.

Wikis, by themselves, don’t provide the necessary CRM functions that are table stakes to be useful for companies. But CRM platforms could benefit from integrating more social software tools and conventions.

And that’s the case for a lot of the current processes that define companies today. They aren’t going to be addressed by off-the-shelf generic social software tools. But they benefit by incorporation of social software tools.

“Activity-specific social applications”. A few examples:

Dachis Group talks about social business design as “the intentional creation of dynamic and socially calibrated systems, process, and culture.” Indeed, there’s a huge opportunity to apply social software to the multitude of applications and processes that make up organizations, beyond the insertion of standalone generic tools.

Watch this space.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 101609

From the home office in a balloon 7,000 feet above Colorado…

#1: Well, this was unexpected. The Spigit funding news has hit Techmeme #e20 #innovation

#2: LinkedIn: 50 million professionals worldwide “Last million took only 12 days” Wow. Tipping point?

#3: RT @mwalsh: Seth’s best post of the year – get over yourselves…you’re not that cool, interesting or smart.

#4: Is Social Media the New Cigarette? asks @billives Looking at social media addiction

#5: RT @nyike First Jive, now Spigit building #e20 and collaborative functionality on top of Sharepoint

#6: Within firms, collaboration technologies are dictated by most powerful person involved in the collab by @amcafee

#7: Just as interesting as this WSJ piece is, Why Email No Longer Rules… are the skeptical cmts left by readers #e20

#8: If companies like $GOOG and $MMM excel and incl employee 15-20% personal time for innovation, why haven’t others adopted same?

#9: Wind farm firm makes sure its wind mills are 30 miles away from nearest Starbucks. Why? Best way to avoid NIMBY’s

#10: When a company gets funding, all sorts of interesting “opportunities” emerge. Just got a solicitation for Spigit to sponsor a NASCAR driver.

Warburg Pincus Invests $10 Million in Spigit

Warburg Pincus SpigitWell, this is pretty cool. I’m pleased to announce that Spigit has received a $10 million equity investment from Warburg Pincus. The investment will be used for the usual things a growing start-up needs: product development, sales and marketing and program management. Here’s coverage in the New York Times and TechCrunch.

I’ve been with Spigit for 6 1/2 months, during which time I’ve seen firsthand how things have progressed. Both the company and me.

If you’ve ever checked my bio, you’ll know I worked in investment banking from 1996 to 2000. If not for a banking merger that shut down my San Francisco office, I’d likely still be there as a Managing Director, doing financings for companies.

OK, wait. Considering the recent financial market collapse, let me rethink that…

Rather, I moved into technology. And let me tell you, it ain’t easy making the transition from banking to technology. You have zero geek cred (note the name of this blog). Since 2000, I’ve worked for several small technology start-ups. From each of them, I’ve learned a lot. I will say that in Spigit I’ve found a place that nicely combines my MBA company performance orientation with my social software enthusiasm. Innovation management meets Enterprise 2.0.

The team at Spigit is a hard-working one. I’m impressed with the seriousness of purpose each of them brings to the job every day. When we closed the funding this week, our CEO Paul Pluschkell got a couple bottles of champagne for a company toast. After we drank a bit of champagne (not too much, customers reading this blog…), everyone quickly went back to their desks to do work. Dorks. :-p

Which is appropriate. There’s a lot of work to do. I’m looking forward to it.

Here’s to the Passionate Creatives

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Apple ad, “Think Different”, 1997

Why did Apple’s ad resonate so well with you? After all, how much time do we spend disagreeing. Admit how happy it can make you when your manager praises you for executing well on an assignment. I know I feel it. No “think different”. More like “think excellence”.

But that Apple ad. It was damn good, wasn’t it? Seemed to reach inside us to something else beside the praise we get for doing an assigned job well. It was celebrating some thing in each of us.

John Hagel recently wrote A Labor Day Manifesto for a New World. The post is a call to action for work that better fits our human nature. Our desire for creating better ways to address problems, in ways that fit our personality, interests and skills. To reach our full potential. We’re not all doing this though.

Hagel terms people whose personalities and drive are based on making situations better than what currently exists as “passionate creatives”. There have always been these types, but recent changes in the global economy and shifting market dynamics (e.g. digital technology rewriting one industry after another) are increasing their importance.

Passionate creatives exist within organizations, and as independent entrepreneurs. For those inside firms, Hagel notes:

They experience deep frustration today with the institutional barriers that have been put in their way as they seek to more effectively achieve their full potential.  They want and need platforms that can help them connect with others and drive performance to new levels.

For many of us, even if we wouldn’t label ourselves “passionate creatives”, the point about frustration resonates. How often have you had an idea, but can’t attention for it, nor resources, nor figure out who else to work with? I’ve had jobs like that in the past. You know some things are not working well, and you can see how to improve the product/delivery/business model. But you can’t make headway on iterating through new possibilities.

Hagel’s manifesto is a great read. I want to hit on two points I take away from it:

  • What is the role of “passionate creativity” in daily work?
  • The gathering of passionate creatives at the edges and the accelerating rate of change in markets

The Role of Passionate Creativity in Work

Very few of us get to live a life of unfettered passionate creativity. The realities of the mundane trump the thrill of the new. And that’s not a fault of the system. If all we did was work on new stuff, there’d be no stability and no scalability. More like mass economic anarchy.

But that’s too heavy handed a look at it. We can be quite productive and help our companies, and careers, while working on tasks that hit our passionate creative sweet spot. A good question to ask is, how much of this passionate creativity infuses our work days?

Work imbued with passionate creativity

Take a look at those two Venn Diagrams. They’re saying different things. The left one says that we all have to execute on tasks assigned by others, or assigned by ourselves for the role we fill. In some of that work, we’ll have the opportunity to reach deeper, to deliver creativity on an activity that animates us. But the primary focus is executing on the plans and processes already in place.

The right one indicates a job which is dominated by passionate creativity. Hagel’s call-to-action is more aligned here. We work primarily on things which stimulate and energize us regularly. But there is a twist to this notion. It doesn’t mean spending one’s time on only starry-eyed big picture thinking, producing little of tangible value for your organization. It includes work by those “who are searching for new and creative ways to do the most ‘routine’ tasks.”

Which model of work are we likely to see arise in the next decade or two? Both. Neither. Yes.

Hagel’s manifesto is not so much a clear-eyed plan for rearranging organizations. Rather, it’s a wake-up call to the corporate world that the nature of work and what employees seek is changing. As he says:

Why will more and more people evolve into passionate creatives? Because we live in a world that is shifting inexorably from an obsession with efficiency to an obsession with learning.  We have come to call this the Big Shift.

In that statement, I draw some conclusions that relate which model above will emerge. First, note that the Big Shift is a shift in “obsessions”. From efficiency to learning. That’s a shift in attention, and in resources. It’s a shift in the dynamics of the supply side of the equation.

What hasn’t shifted is the demand side of the equation. Consumers worldwide still depend on the massive efficiencies that Tayloresque methodologies have brought to our economy.

So there’s the quandary: if we’re all working on things that inflame our passionate creativity, who is minding the massive scalability store?

My sense is that the Venn Diagram on the left is closer to what we’ll see. Enlightened companies will follow the examples set by Google and 3M, encouraging employees to pursue initiatives outside their regular routines. This does a couple things:

  • It provides an outlet for growing passionate creativity on a wider basis
  • Some of those initiatives will turn into full-fledged projects

The second point then lets employees live a life in the right-side Venn Diagram.

Passionate Creatives at the Edges

Another point Hagel makes is that passionate creatives tend to occupy spaces that are “edges”:

Passionate creatives are everywhere among us, but they are not evenly distributed. They tend to gather on the edges where unmet needs intersect with unexploited capabilities.  Edges are fertile seedbeds for innovation.

Reading this, I was struck by how well this fits with the observation that Gary Hamel made. The pace of change in markets is faster now than it ever has been in history. What this means is that Hagel’s edges – unmet needs intersect with unexploited capabilities – will be more frequently found.

Companies need to get better in pivoting to meet changes in their markets. And this keeps CEOs up at night. IBM surveyed global CEOs in 2008, asking them about their view of changes in their markets. The results are eye-opening:

Collectively, CEOs set their organization’s ability to manage change 22 percentage points lower than their expectations for the level of change they will have to manage — a ‘change gap’ that is widening.

A wide ‘change gap’ there, isn’t it? If Hamel identifies the problem companies face, Hagel identifies the types of workers who will make a difference in addressing the problem. The passionate creatives.

The edges are places of opportunity and uncertainty. It’s hard to know what the demand dynamics are, and existing infrastructure and processes don’t address the changing market needs. New alternatives are emerging, it’s time for fresh approaches by existing firms.

Companies are best-served by allowing employees who are attracted to these changes to pursue innovative ways to address them. Why? They get energy. They get an experimenter’s mentality. They get a happier workforce. Let employees exercise some form of self-organization to accomplish this.

The alternative may be incumbent staffers who have fallen into routines, or have reason to protect the status quo. This does not help companies address rising levels of volatility. Free the passionate creatives!

Passionate Creativity Will Fall on a Spectrum

My sense is that work will evolve, over years and decades, to allow people to shift attention to work that energizes them more fully. It will happen on a spectrum, with daily jobs that fall between those two Venn Diagrams above. Society cannot get away from the requirements of predictability, efficiency and scalability. We’re all going to have elements of our jobs that are routine.

I think Hagel’s post is right on though. It will be a slow change where companies integrate the existing passionate creatives more effectively, and develop the passionate creativity in all employees. Companies doing it well will need to celebrated and publicized repeatedly for the value to be understood more widely in the market.Over time, we’ll see the change.

Note what G. Michael Maddock and Raphael Louis Vitón wrote in this recent Business Week article. Passionate creatives like to “follow the challenges”:

Stop and think about the last truly great person who left your organization. First think about what made that employee great. We bet you name such characteristics as action-oriented, driven, passionate, fun, and genuine.

Now think about where that worker went. Chances are, to a position with a perceived promise of putting his or her talents to better use—moving into a role with greater challenges and opportunities to learn and make a difference. It wasn’t about money.

It will happen. Here’s to the passionate creatives.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.


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