All comments posted on this blog do not reflect the opinions of any organization that I am affiliated with. These are my personal perspectives only.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Beyond Serendipity for Enterprise 2.0

While reading John Tropea's excellent post on "harmonising formal processes and ad-hoc work", which contains references to some of my favourite E2.0 bloggers like Bertrand Duperrin & Bill Ives, I was inspired to write something which some of the E2.0 community may find controversial. I believe that the emphasis on serendipity and emergence as cornerstones of enterprise 2.0 actually inhibits the potential of social computing technologies to drive greater value.

But Rex, surely you aren't arguing that emergence isn't a defining element of E2.0 are you? After all, according to the father of the E2.0 term, Andrew Mcaffee, Enterprise 2.0 is defined as "the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers." where "Emergent means that the software is freeform, and that it contains mechanisms to let the patterns and structure inherent in people’s interactions become visible over time."

I would argue that emergence is a benefit, but it's only the first step. Perhaps I should refer to this as Enterprise 2.1 a shift from emergence to social engineering. Social engineering, not in the IT security sense, or Machiavellian sense, but as a means to better focus and harness intellectual capital for specific business purposes. Let me give you an analogy between E1.0, E2.0 and E2.1.

Think of ideas and collaboration benefits as pearls.

Enterprise 1.0, would suggest that only specialized, trained individuals with the resources knew how to find pearls (i.e. where to dive, specialized equipment, knowledge on how to abstract the pearl from the shelled mollusk, etc.).

Enterprise 2.0 suggests that we can simplify and remove some of the "specialization" barriers to enable more people to search for pearls. Perhaps the knowledge is more accessible, the technology becomes simpler and less expensive, etc... This would mean, more people can participate, and we could search more places increasing the likelihood of finding those pearls. People could find pearls in areas never previously considered. This is better but it can be even better.

Enterprise 2.1 would suggest that rather than "serendipitously" finding pearls, that we coordinate our efforts to actually create pearl farms. Specifically designed environments optimally enhanced to increase the likelihood for shelled mollusks to produce "prefect" pearls. So rather than "hoping" that pearls will be found, we can learn how pearls are produced and create the right climate and engineer ways to mass produce pearls.

But how? Well, there are several aspects to consider and I would suggest starting with the engagement factors (motivation/desire, opportunity, capability). Each of the factors needs to be reviewed within context of your organization, and appropriate actions taken to leverage opportunities to improve employee engagement for specific business objectives.

In my past, I was involved with a sales department that read a great article on "wikis". They approached me and asked for assistance in building a "Wiki Sales Manual" designed by sales people for sales people. The logic was that the sales team were the closest to the customer, best understood the details of the products & services being sold, and had the breadth of experience to create this living "wiki sales manual". The sales team was frustrated with the marketing team who were a couple steps removed from the end customer and were the ones currently responsible for building theses sales manuals which became obsolete quickly.

On the surface, it sounds logical. But when we look at the engagement factors, we quickly see that implementing such a wiki without changing processes and building new processes would lead to failure. In this example, the sales team were compensated in a somewhat competitive mode where the top sales people were rewarded "more". Reputation was an important prestigious thing. The best sales people, liked to be known as "the best sales people". The challenge we have with a "wiki sales manual" would be that people most knowledgeable were actually dis-incented to contribute their expertise. Why contribute to this wiki if it could jeopardize one's reputation and possibly even their salary? Where's the motivation? Strike 1...

Every moment spent updating a manual, from the eyes of the sales people was a minute NOT spent selling, and building relations. There was simply no "opportunity" or time to contribute even if they were motivated to do so. Strike 2...

And furthermore, the skills of a sales person may not lend itself well to documentation and training. So even if they were motivated and had the opportunity, they may not have had the capability to actually update the wiki. Strike 3...

Without social engineering and modifying processes, models, policies and education, the initiative was doomed to fail before it even started.

Another example of social engineering is the concept of a JAM session. This on-line collaborative event leverages various social media tools for mass collaboration but focuses participants on a specific challenge or issue. Borrowing heavily from facilitation techniques, these events are socially engineered to maximize business value.

For example techniques such as time-boxing is used to maximize interaction and create sense of urgency, facilitator interjection is used to clarify concepts, drill deeper, enhance participation, and provide focus and pre-event design work around what questions to ask, who to invite, how to ask it, and what to do with the answers are all engineered to improve the quality of collaboration and the speed to which a business can realize value.

There seems to be a belief that by just letting all conversation flow in blogs, tweets, forums, wiki's, etc..., that corporations will find great nuggets of insight, that people will connect and come up with great ideas, that agility and holistic understanding will be natural outcomes. Although this may be true, we don't need to leave it at that.

Proper social engineering in leveraging social technologies can enable organization to focus the potential of their employees & business partners to drive specific business value of higher quality and in shorter time frames. This requires and understanding the engagement factors (motivation, opportunity, capability) and taking initiative to design and facilitate within the environment.

Friday, December 18, 2009

How Does Change Happen?

Jennifer Corriero, co-founder and Executive Director of TakingITGlobal, a non-profit organization with the aim of fostering cross-cultural dialogue, strengthening the capacity of youth as leaders and increasing awareness and involvement in global issues through the use of technology, recently wrote a poem entitled How Does Change Happen.

I thought I would share it with you as I felt it reinforces how hard change is, and how we can't really think out of the box because the box is the culmination of our experiences and education.


How does change happen?

By Jennifer Corriero

POLICY says the policy maker
MARKETS says the business manager
MASS MOBILIZATION says the organizer

DIALOGUE says the convenor
SYSTEMS CHANGE says the academic
IMAGINATION says the artist

INVENTION says the scientist
INNOVATION says the technologist
INVESTMENT says the banker

DESIGN says the architect
ENLIGHTENMENT says the spiritual guide
LEGAL FRAMEWORKS says the lawyer

CONVICTION says the leader
EDUCATION says the teacher
REVOLUTION says the activist

DATA says the analyst
CRISIS says the journalist
ACTION says the entrepreneur

HOPE says the dreamer
NETWORKS says the connector
INSPIRATION says the storyteller

LOVE says the mother
ASPIRATION says the father
LAUGHTER says the child
POSSIBILITY says the youth
REFLECTION says the elder

And so we ask ourselves
Where we stand, where we shine and where we fly.
We ask whether or not
we are defined
by the roles we take
or the collective outcomes that emerge
when our efforts and beliefs collide.

Is it magic or tragic that we disagree?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Maximizing Business Value from Enterprise 2.0 through Fun & Motivation

When discussing E2.0, I often hear "Shouldn't we just implement these social tools and simply let business value "emerge"? My answer is NO, not if you want to maximize business value.

I am a strong believer that organizations, should focus and facilitate the use of these tools in order to maximize organizational benefits. To drive value, I've often referred to the engagement factors and in this post I wanted to focus on one of the factors, "Motivation".

How do we address motivation? Do we adopt the "build it and they will come" approach? No. But what about Wikipedia? it seems like complete "self-organization" has made it successful. But consider that only 1% of the people who visit Wikipedia actually contribute content. That's alright with a population set of the world, but 1% of your company may not be enough and if you have specific objectives you may need to motivate others to participate.

So what then? Should we use traditional motivation tactics (i.e. Carrots & Sticks)? For example, should we give bigger monetary bonuses or incentives to those who leverage social computing technologies to solve problems or provide innovative solutions? The answer yet again is surprisingly, NO.

In fact, bigger incentives causes worse results for cognitive tasks. Dan Pink has an excellent video that summarizes why this is, and has references to research by economists from MIT, Carnegie Mellon and sponsored by the US Federal Reserve Bank along with research by the London School of Economics which reviewed 51 studies on pay for performance. The bottom line is that pay for performance has a NEGATIVE impact on even "rudimentary" cognitive tasks.

Ok, so what then? Dan talks about a framework to address motivation but I wanted to remind you about that one motivator which is "fun"! Although it's been several several years since I've actually written code, I have to say that there was something fun about being able to solve tough bugs and problems which would motivate me to keep pushing at the resolution. The folks that update Linux aren't doing it for the money, so what motivates them?

Fun, as a design principle shouldn't be overlooked as it impacts the application design from look and feel, through context, content and process. It also should be addressed when designing events leveraging social computing technologies.

In a previous life, I had the opportunity to build a YouTube like environment to address concerns with recruitment and retention. Employees were allowed to do short snippets of why they loved working at their job. The results were amazing, for in a 2 week period the 3000 employees generated ~100 videos that were watched approximately 15,000 times. That's on average 5 videos watched per employee about why people love their jobs. 5 times employees choose to listen to these messages and engage. It was fun.

The power of fun is often forgotten. Perhaps it's because people still see work and fun as two separate things. After all, isn't the opposite of work, "play"? To illustrate how "fun" can be used to drive a specific outcome, there is a brilliant campaign underway by Volkswagan that does exactly that. Below is just one of their viral videos. So as you're having fun watching this video, just consider how you might be able to apply to this to your social computing endeavours...

Friday, March 6, 2009

E2.0 Evangelism & The Curse of Knowledge

Have you ever been in a presentation, where the speaker was obviously an expert but they just couldn't convey their ideas to the audience leaving them confused and uninspired?

In the past, I've written about the challenges of being an expert. Expertise can limit our ability to be radically creative and open to suggestion causing us to miss opportunities for disruptive innovation. There has been some great research in this area by William Torbert and David Rooke that looks at "experts" in the context of one of the seven ways people lead. Here is a quotation from their HBR Article, "Seven Transformations of Leadership"

"Experts are great individual contributors because of their pursuit of continuous improvement, efficiency, and perfection. But as managers, they can be problematic because they are so completely sure they are right. They will frequently treat the opinion of people less expert than themselves with contempt."

"Expertise" has several implications to the social computing world, including the long-tail value of "non-experts", self-organization, and creating a collaboration culture. In this post however, I thought I'd talk to the specific challenges expertise has on our ability to communicate and inspire.

The term "curse of knowledge" is one I borrowed from the Heath brothers, Chip and Dan who put out the very popular book, "Made to Stick: Why some ideas survive and others die". It's a great book, and quite practical. In their research, they examine why some concepts (even completely false ones) are memorable and others are forgotten (even the best, most innovative ideas).

Chip & Dan demonstrate through examples how the more you know, the harder it is to "not know" or remember what it was like to not understand. An experts' communications can become crammed with details that the casual recipient either doesn't understand, doesn't care about, or will soon forget anyways due to information overload.

For those trying to promote a culture of collaboration, and the adoption of Enterprise 2.0 technology, we can become victims of our own knowledge. Sometimes this manifests itself as a laundry list of different technologies, often accompanied by a list of technical terms and a series of acronyms. Sometimes we drive into extreme detail on theory and academic research. Sure, to other social computing enthusiasts the concept of weak ties and centrality in social networks may be fascinating but will this win over the masses?

So what would Chip & Dan recommend to E2.0 evangelists looking to create a compelling message that is "sticky"? Well, they summarize the key principles of memorable messages in the acronym SUCCES.

Simple — find the core of any idea. Focus on that.
Unexpected — grab people's attention by surprising them
Concrete — make sure an idea is real and not too theoretical
Credibility — give an idea believability allow people to test it themselves.
Emotion — help people see the importance of an idea by tapping emotions
Stories — Stories are great ways to achieve all above.

I try to incorporate these principles when crafting communications, to help inspire folks around the potential of social computing and collaboration. Hopefully it'll help you too. If you have stories that have worked for you I'd love to hear them!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

What I've been up to...

It's been quite some time since my last post and for those of you that have been asking, I thought I'd write an update on what I am up to these days.

In Mid-January I took on an exciting opportunity as Technical Director - e-Collaboration and Content Management at Research in Motion (RIM). It's simply such a great opportunity to continue my journey into the collaboration space and further extend my work in social computing, along with aspects of content management.

I can't go into any details of the specifics but I am extremely excited to get this opportunity. Perhaps in another post, I'll talk a little about how structured and unstructured content can intersect and diverge.

Leaving Bell was difficult but I know the collaboration areas are in the hands of some very capable people, and will undoubtedly continue to thrive.

Wrapping up my time with Bell, and starting my new role has kept me extremely busy not to mention all the fun winter activites with the family which seem to consume any time I have outside work (my excuse for not keeping up with my blogging).

That's it for now. If there are topics you think I should write about please feel free to drop me a line.