Silo (or Solo) – Collaboration – Social

I've lost count of how many years I've been dipping my toe into the collaboration waters. Certainly, it goes back at least to Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) thirty years ago. By 1988 this was formalised into a time/space grid, so that you had remote/colocated on one axis and synchronous/asynchronous on the other. Not a bad way to characterise many of the collaboration and social tools that abound today.

I mention all this because Agile Elephant's David Terrar invited me to a Future of Collaboration Conference triggered, in part, by the opportunities created by the convergence of cloud, social and mobile technologies. (To my mind, this equates to a transformation in reach and convenience.) Each speaker had ten minutes or so to share their vision. This was followed by a Q&A session and networking. The audience was also made up of industry people, so I expected the bullshit factor to be low. And it was.

Given my background, I wondered what I would learn. Let me list the participants and their roles, and then I'll tell you what I ended up thinking. I'll spare you the blow-by-blow details.

David Terrar chaired the event.

Speakers:

Jon Mell, Social Leader, IBM UK
Alan Patrick, Agile Elephant
David Moore, SAP
Simon Levene, Jive
Janet Parkinson, Agile Elephant
Chris Boorman, Huddle

Questioners (apart from David Terrar and me):

Phil Wainewright, Diginomica
Lucinda Carney, AdvanceChange

Baker Tilly, chartered accountants and business advisers, provided the accommodation and refreshments. (Lovely, thank you).

The first thing I noticed was the lack of evangelism, thank goodness. Quite often you turn up at these events and they're more like a religious revival meeting than a pragmatic look at business needs and applications. Okay – one chap said work should be fun, but he got a slight ribbing for that from some of the others. Work could become pleasant, fulfilling or rewarding maybe, but not fun. God forbid. (Mind you I quite often have fun when running training workshops, so I have some sympathy with his point of view.)

While 'email' and 'social' can be good in the right context, neither is much cop as a sole collaboration strategy. In fact two people branded email 'the enemy' of collaboration and another branded social on its own as 'a waste of time'.

Previous events have banged on about the need to change a company's culture or boasted of coming 'disruption'. Utterly unhelpful. This isn't how stuff gets done. Far better to introduce collaboration tools which fit business needs and, if possible, integrate it with what exists. Do this in a few key areas (with board level support, of course) and things start to catch on as others see (or are told about) the business benefits of these new ways of working.

Social – people communicating openly and freely (with business intent, of course) – isn't going to happen without trust and that doesn't come without knowing each other (usually through at least one face-to-face meeting, but relationships can form through voice, video and even, dare I say, email).

As collaboration, then social, activity spreads vertically and horizontally through an organisation, culture change will follow. When it extends beyond the company boundaries to partners and customers, it will alter the way the organisation listens, responds and collaborates. Silos will be breached and individuals will become more aligned and harmonised with business drivers.

Everyone – the company, the workforce, partners, customers and prospects will benefit. That's the promise. And it sounds good to me.

And now I'd better go, before I'm accused of being an evangelist.

Something for would-be writers and spokespeople

Videos

Tebbo's Tips

All the above are free.They help you get started with handling the media or with business writing.

I created them because organisations need to influence their prospects, customers and other stakeholders either indirectly through the media or directly through their own efforts, whether they're self-published (company website/blog) or through submission to a media company. (See Tom Foremski's EC=MC: Every Company is a Media Company if you want to read more.)

The top image links to two videos, each broken down (if you want) into eight mini-videos of approximately two to five minutes duration. The bottom two link to downloadable pocket-sized memory-joggers. (They're actually A4 and come with printing and folding instructions.) If you prefer, just go to tebbo.com which also includes some useful links.

I offer all of this free of charge. In one respect it's me 'giving back' and sharing my knowledge. In another, I hope they reflect favourably on me and my work and attract people who'd like me to work with them. They're all Creative Commons – share by all means, but please don't alter them.

The videos are hosted on YouTube and the memory joggers are hosted on Google Drive. I had some fun writing the delivery script for the Tebbo's Tips memory-joggers, but that's another story.

I hope you enjoy what you see. I showed a few of my more critical friends and they've been very kind.

I'm enormously grateful to Alison O'Leary for agreeing to work out some questions and grill me for the videos. And, of course, to all those customers, friends and colleagues that have helped me throughout a most enjoyable career. Which, incidentally, I hope is far from over.

Buying in store vs online: advice for stores from Graham Charlton

If I'm buying a commodity that I'm familiar with (or have had recommended), I usually get it from Amazon. If I'm in a tearing hurry, I get if from a shop. Rarely do I look at something in a shop and then buy it online. And, recently, the price differences/hassle factor often combine in the store's favour anyway.

A recent example is a mattress: next day free delivery and they took the old one away. And the company – Jones & Tomlin - had a brilliant website and price matched anyway. What wasn't to like?

But many retailers – and I know John Lewis suffers (suffered?) from this – are plagued by the 'touch and feel' and 'advice-seeking' brigades who then, having found what they want, go home and order from Amazon.

Graham Charlton, who I don't know, but who seems to talk a lot of sense on this subject has blogged about various strategies stores can adopt in his post, "13 ways for retailers to deal with the threat of showrooming".

Thought you might be interested. Lord knows what it has to do with my blog theme though. 

 

This is not breaking news… it’s already gone viral

Why does something happen just when you can't get to the computer?

Yesterday a man (you probably know who) appeared on the radio and tv in advance of his company's launch of a new product. No doubt he couldn't reveal too many details, so the interviews were theoretically too early. But then, if he'd tried to get on today, the news would have already gone round the world and the programmes would have been less interested.

So, he arrived with a set of inward-looking and content-free messages which he was determined to deliver. If anyone had advised him about bridging techniques or addressing the interests of his audience, his memory clearly failed him.

He answered every question with a non sequitur, usually involving words like unique, new, proposition, experience, essence and transformation.Oh yes, and he found it "exciting", several times. Completely forgetting perhaps that he's paid to be excited.

In the end, one of the presenters was so anxious to get something out of the interview that they offered an open goal, "Sell it to us then." And he talked about "managing to find the way to transition the essence …"

Handling the media is not rocket science but I accept it can be stressful. That's why you need to prepare. Know what you want to say and what you can say. Make sure it is of interest and, hopefully, benefit to the audience. Say it in concrete language that they understand. Know how to bridge (I call it transition – am I guilty of the same crime?) away from the awkward question and get onto something interesting to the audience.

My mate and highly regarded journalist/editor, Dick Pountain, came up with a form of words that would have got the interview off to a racing start and actually delivered value to the audience within a few seconds. Sadly I can't share those words because it would identify our miscreant.

How sticky are your labels?

(First published in "The Right Thing To Do?" 9th August)

As editor of "The Right Thing To Do?" I've tried to stay in the background but, due to a monumental workload elsewhere in recent weeks, I've failed to find a guest writer this week. So you've got me. Hope you don't mind.

As a subject I thought I'd look back at my own life and figure out what the most important lesson has been. And I reckon it's 'authenticity'. Whenever I've tried to be someone I'm not, I've ended up unhappy at best and stressed at worst.

The trouble is that companies quite often force you into these uncomfortable situations. And, without some kind of training – in management skills in my case before I secured my first managerial position – you either busk it and get away with it. Or you do what I did and try to satisfy everyone and end up so stressed my wife had to call a doctor. (I don't remember, but I was apparently banging my head against a wall at the time.)

Fortunately, I was able to resign fairly amicably and move on, to better things as it happened, but with some lessons learned in a very hard way. After that, instead of pretending I was some kind of superman, I tried to be more open and honest about things.

Sure, we have to pretend a bit. Some years later, when I became editor of a magazine, it was a massive departure for me. I didn't feel like an 'editor'. I lacked the authority of many of my writers. But I found that, because I had the label 'editor', people treated me like one and it took very little time to grow into the new role. One that was completely compatible with my skills, motivations and values.

Again, I was lucky. A fantastic publisher (Felix Dennis) gave me a wonderful feel for this new profession (I'd had a series of IT management jobs before largely switching to publishing) and, best of all, I was able to be 'me'.

How many people get that opportunity? How many people are labelled and feel obliged to live out those labels? 'Nerd', 'air head', 'superstar', 'disabled', 'tycoon', 'housewife' and so on. The only labels you need to conform to are those you choose for yourself. You have only one life and, while it might take courage to break free of the comfort of your label, if your inner self and your label are incompatible, you need to do something about it before the stress gets you.

If you want to hear and see someone who's learned this lesson in an astonishing and profound way, take a look at this TED video by Caroline Casey. She had two massive 'change moments' in her life, at 17 and at 26. The first threatened to bestow an accurate but unwelcome label on her, and her denial of it led to the second which was close to a breakdown. By then accepting what she was and acknowledging what she really wanted, she was able to perform what you and I might regard as miracles.

Enjoy!

 

Euan Semple’s “Manager’s Guide to the Social Web”

My holiday reading included Euan Semple's, Organizations Don't Tweet, People Do: A Manager's Guide to the Social WebIt inspired me to write a review which I'll also submit to Amazon.

Here goes:

SempleBookA simple question mark, for me, symbolises the difference between the old way and the new way of managing and working.

The old way is about command and control and hierarchies while the new is about personal responsibility and networks. The old way was predicated on authority (whether deserved or not) and the new way on inspiration.

The question mark I mentioned represents the difference between being closed (do it my way) and open (how do you think we should do this?).

Given a choice, who would you prefer to work for – someone who bosses you or someone who inspires you?

These, and numerous other thoughts, are what Euan Semple's "Guide to the Social Web" triggered. I reckon that if a book shifts your thinking in a significant way, then it's worthwhile. That makes Semple's book extremely worthwhile. It's a book about management thinking much more than a book about the tools available, although they can't be totally avoided. And it's rooted in practicalities, although you may find yourself resisting some of them. I'd say, "keep an open mind until you've read the whole book."

I'm someone who's been actively involved in social web stuff since just before I first met Euan in early 1985 and I've held several management jobs as well as being a writer and a columnist. (Yes, that's partly a disclosure – I interviewed Euan for a magazine article about his experience of introducing social networking tools to BBC employees and we've stayed in touch ever since. I also mention it to show that I have lived through the old way and the new way and have a certain perspective.) 

I've always, right until I read this book, been a bit wary of Euan's evangelistic tendencies. But he's drawn his conclusions from the university of hard knocks and tends, when conversation time is short, to be long on conclusions and short on explanations. But this excellent book changes all that. It is a book of profound depth which reveals his innermost thoughts on each of his conclusions and practical suggestions while staying humble enough to acknowledge that other ways may suit certain organisations.

He's convinced, though, that successful organisations will all adopt social tools to a greater or lesser degree. This book is a way to accelerate management's insight and understanding of what the social web means and the potential it holds for transforming the workplace. It is not a black and white book that says, "do this, or you're doomed". Semple knows that companies have their own systems and their own ways of doing things and, indeed, that social web tools can be complementary rather than replacements.

It is a business book, aimed at business managers. And it's written in a way that each short chapter is designed to stand alone and can be read on the train, in the bath or wherever else takes your fancy. This inevitably causes some minor repetition, which you notice if you read it straight through (as I did). And, one chapter left me slightly puzzled about something, but this was the topic of the very next chapter. So I was only puzzled for a few minutes.

Have I got any complaints about the book? Well one; I really don't like the white type on a grey background which is used to introduce each chapter. Anything bigger? Hmmm. I wondered why he didn't mention 'search' very much. Then I realised that he's much more in favour of asking questions and getting recommendations than wading through search results of variable quality.

 

The book is 296 pages, it's published by John Wiley & Sons.

ISBN-10: 1119950554. ISBN-13: 978-1119950554.

Online Marketing 101

If you need a crash course in online marketing, you could do worse than browse my recent collection of articles and blog posts by experts on the matter.

I had started off, a month ago, intending to investigate what's out there on the subject of 'web-based business to business collaboration' but, as I collected the links on Scoop.it, I found that 'marketing' was the theme that bound most of my discoveries together. Hence the title of this blog post.

When I was a journalist, I didn't really like having to interview marketing folk because they were too sanitised, too in control of their messages and hard to get real stories out of. (Good stories to a journalist are those which carry at least a hint of disclosure.)

However my Scoop.it investigations gave me a new respect for marketing, it really does seem to belong at the centre of B2B collaboration activities. 

Here's a snap of part of my Scoop.it collection (click on the image to see it full size):

B2BCollaboration1

It was 'curated' by looking at hundreds of suggestions from Scoop.it, reducing them to fifty or so, then throwing out the four or five that didn't live up to the promise of the extract.

The result is a neat little package of pieces, admittedly of variable quality, but all of which helped to round out my existing perceptions of how to approach online B2B collaboration.

Since so much work went into the curation, I thought it would be silly to keep it to myself.

See what you think. It's at http://www.scoop.it/t/b2bcollaboration

 

An evening with PR/Marketing Guru, Larry Weber

Back in May, I trotted off to meet with marketing/PR guru, Larry Weber and a bunch of other interesting people, including Jack Schofield (IT man at the Guardian for donkey's years and erstwhile competitor – we both edited PC magazines in the early eighties) and Bill Nichols an academic and marcomms/reputation consultant who, when Jack and I were competing, was Clive Sinclair's PR man. They were both on the speaker panel with Larry. The other notable people were in the lively audience.

The occasion was the UK launch of Larry's (then) most recent book: Everywhere. It's about social networking being at the heart of the future of business. He calls this 'anytime, anywhere' access the the fourth wave of computing. (I ought to know what the three earlier waves were, but I've forgotten. Maybe it was brains, internal networking and internet, or something.)

No surprises so far then. But I don't think Larry set out to surprise us particularly. More that he wants to share his familiarity with the subject matter in a non-frightening manner. After all, the people who really need his insights are those who are probably the most fearful of openness, transparency and genuine dialogue. You might think of them as the 'command and contol' brigade. While this has its place, it's probably not where the rubber of the corporation hits the road of the marketplace.

Sorry, I should be talking about Larry's evening. (And, if you're wondering why it's taken me so long, it's because I was suddenly pitchforked into a new company and I've been more than a tad busy. My conscience was pricked by a Facebook post about his recent presentation to the Public Relations Student Society of America. The headline of the post was "Social media's impact bigger than television's.")

At his book launch, he predicted that, by 2015, "you'll be hard pressed to find any newspapers or nightly news on TV." He says, "TV ads have got to die sometime." He may not always provide answers but he knows how to provoke fresh thinking. Let's hope the revenue replacement doesn't put the TV companies even deeper in hock to corporate sponsors.

With regard to the Fourth Generation thing, he told the story of how he sent off for brochures from all the prospective colleges for his daughter. She didn't look at one  of them. She'd already done her research online. Except she didn't refer to it as online. When Larry once said to her, "I'm going online", she replied "Oh Dad, we don't go online any more. We just are." Online, that is. And a lot of people reading this will know what she means. If you're not one of them, then it's likely that his book will interest you.

Another thing he talked about was Innocentive. Companies give it problems and money and it gets its community of 'solvers' to apply their brains. Larry gave examples of $100,000 here and $25,000 there. It's all online (of course). And the winning contributor exchanges their IP for the cash. That's a great commercial application of crowdsourcing. Related to this were his comments on how social networking allows for the intense, focused, sharing of knowledge. I think his book goes further and talks of micro-segmentation of the internet so that you can find a community and go deep into just about any subject that interests you.

He is very clear that successful companies (especially consumer-facing) will have to become radically transparent, be willing to share and also to stand for something that will resonate with customers and prospects. Core values that permeate the company's business. Larry doesn't claim it will be easy, but he sprinkles his conversation with stories old and new of how companies have turned on the proverbial dime. Dell, of course. BP to a certain extent. And so on.

I was quite taken with the idea that, "big sites will die under their own weight." He said this because he believes that all the power is now in the network. Not sure that a behemoth like IBM would totally agree with this sentiment, despite its strong advocacy of social networking values. With statements like this, the evangelist in Larry seems to pop out of the closet. (My views of evangelists are here.)

Let's turn to one of the other speakers, Bill Nichols. He scored a hole in one for me with his observation that "People respond to emotion and fairness."

I have the sense that the former has been faked and the latter missing for a long time.

If Larry and Bill are right, we would seem to be heading towards a better and much more harmonious world.

Let's hope so.

Homo Imitans. People do what we do, not what we say

The human body has two circulatory systems, the veinous and the lymphatic. They are connected, but largely independent.

Hi Leandro Herrero's latest book, Homo Imitans, reminded me that the body corporate also contains two circulatory systems, the hierarchy and the networks. And, while each plays an important role, the networks – rather like the lymphatic system of the body – have incredible power which is underestimated, if not ignored, in most organisations.

This is a mistake, says Dr Herrero, describing the two systems as 'World I' and 'World II'. His book is mostly about World II, with the occasional nod to the enabling and encouraging role of World I in enlightened organisations.

His fundamental thesis (building on his earlier Viral Change book, which I reviewed here) is that people are more inclined to change their behaviour by copying peers that they respect than commands from on high. And, since behaviour is the only thing that counts when it comes to real change inside organisations, this is where (change) management should be focusing its energies. Dr Herrero gives due credit to authors of social networking books which cover a lot of similar ground, but his talent is in directing his thoughts and guidance slap bang into the heart of organisations that want to change but don't know how. It is also, very occasionally, a 'sell' for his Viral ChangeTM practice, should you not want to go it alone.

Influence travels through networks completely independently of the company hierarchy and, in many cases, without the hierarchy even being aware of what's going on. In an organisational example, we saw it when Greg Dyke left the BBC after the stink around the 'sexing up' of the Iraq dossier – the crowds of staff, some in tears, seemed to appear out of nowhere but they were actually galvanised by the internal network.

In a non-corporate example, the recent rioting and looting in England came about largely through social networking and many people caught up in it were simply copying others who appeared to be 'getting away with it'. (The book contains a very useful 40-page annex which describes in detail many examples of social contagion with references to Dr Herrero's source material. It's called The Human Condition: a guide for the perplexed.)

All of which brings us back to the title of the book (Homo Imitans, if you've forgotten). We see what others do and we copy them. If others who respect or like us, see us doing something in a new way that makes sense to them, they copy us. If just three people copy what 'someone like them' is doing, then it's clear that such a social infection will quickly reach epidemic proportions.

The trick espoused by Dr Herrero is to find those key people in organsiations, wherever they are, and persuade them that a new way of behaving is good for them. (Obviously, it has to be good for the organisation, otherwise there's no point in doing it.) Much has been written about finding such 'champions' but less has been written about focusing on their behaviour.

Words alone are not enough. Dr Herrero likes to collect "Don't do that" posters which usually have little effect but can actually encourage whatever it is they're trying to stop. ("ABUSE OF STAFF WILL NOT BE TOLERATED", etc.) People will respond much more readily to what others do than to what they say.

The book is rich in structure and entertaining in style. It hammers home its messages and suggests new practices from a variety of perspectives. Each chapter reinforces what went before but, maybe because I've spent the the last 35 years as an enthusiast of behavioural psychology and the last seven deep in social networking, I felt I'd well and truly got the message before the end. Nevertheless, I notice I've still made margin notes right up to the last page.

I particularly like his encouraging penultimate paragraph:

"Viral ChangeTM … doesn't depend on behavioural sciences, network theory, social sciences, storytelling and leadership studies. Or even us as consultants!"

Leandro Herrero provides a wealth of persuasive examples and evidence which will help you make the case for socially-driven behavioural change in your own organisation.

Recommended.

What if climate models are wrong?

Plenty of people will argue for and against climate modelling. Some in far more detail than I’m able to understand.

One man who’s spent the latter part of his career challenging the modellers is Richard Lintzen, professor of meteorology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. According to an article in yesterday’s New York Times, his career is now winding down.

It doesn’t matter what ‘side’ of the climate debate you’re on, it’s important to keep up with all points of view. Especially expert points of view, like Lintzen’s.

He has problems with computer modelling. And I can’t say I blame him. I’ve worked in the computer business since 1966 and one of the first things I was taught was the importance of GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out.

Lintzen notes that not enough account is taken of the mitigating effects of cloud cover in the climate models. I’m guessing that’s not all that’s missing.

Call me simple-minded if you like, but I look at it like this: The Met Office, despite its ever-larger spend on modelling systems, keeps changing its mind about short-range weather forecasts. Maybe long-range climate models are more reliable, but I doubt it.

The climate debate is agonisingly difficult for everyone that cares about the future. And it certainly generates enough hot air to seriously impact the climate today. But, as a private individual with virtually no scientific training, there’s nothing I can do about the debate itself. So I subscribe to a ‘sustainability’ or ‘quadruple bottom line’ ethic which aims to balance economics, society, the individual and the environment.

And, yes, I put ‘economics’ first because it’s the lubricant for achieving many of the other results.

All organisations and individuals are capable of seeing whether their choices are, for example, polluting the land, sea or air or diminishing scarce resources. They are all capable of seeing how they can change their behaviour in order to reduce or, in some cases, eliminate their harm. The really clever ones may even find ways of delivering a net benefit to the environment.

It’s only by billions of us improving our choices today that we’ll leave a world worth living in for our children, grandchildren and their descendants.

Do we really need a heated debate based on computer models to shape our future? Aren’t the common sense arguments of sustainability for all going to get us to the same place? And probably more quickly.