13th September 2007

The Age of Individualism…

I was in a session today with colleagues across the industry put on by the Consortium for Service Innovation.  Much of our agenda was around the impact of online communities and social media on knowledge centered support environments.  As you dig into the impact of web2.0 in this space, the dialog naturally branched in many interesting directions including:

  • Community segmentation
  • The role of emotions and conflict in online communities
  • The impact on call centers and traditional knowledge management
  • Tools and technologies
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Organizational change management
  • …and more

It was on this last point of organizational change management where we discussed what the indicators of a "flat company" might be (related recent post).  The more we discussed, the more it seemed we were discussing a new business age…what seemed to me to be an "Age of Individualism."  I’ve talked about something related as consumerism meaning "consumer empowerment," but this term really has a different definition and doesn’t work well globally.

I liked the phrase "Age of Individualism" when I said it.  I wrote it down and thought, ah, there’s a blog post.  Turns out, I’m hardly the first (once again) to have this particular thought.  A quick online search found a nicely written piece by Micro Persuasion blogger Steve Rubel I recommend reading.

At any rate, nice piece Steve.



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13th August 2007

The World is Flat - your company isn’t. Uh oh…

In The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman explores the impact of globalization on economics, business and competitive marketplaces.  It’s a worthwhile read that has been reviewed by many bloggers - so I won’t here.  In the book, Friedman outline’s the 10 drivers of flattening and the more recent convergence of these flatteners driving even more rapid change in the industry.

This whole line of thinking has had me thinking about issues of governance, decision making and innovation velocity.  The principles of a flat world can give you strategic advantage, but "flat companies" will WIN in the flat world. 

So, what are the signs of an organization that is not flat?

  • How many people between the "front line" and the CEO (span of control and org depth)?
  • How close are executives to customer listening systems - and how accountable are they held for the results?
  • How difficult is cross functional collaboration? (test:  "us or them" speak vs "we" speak)
  • How fast (if at all) do ideas flow from the front line to the decision makers (CXOs)? 
  • How many people need to be in a room to make a decision?
  • How quickly can you respond to competitive pressures and or changes in the marketplace?

I’m sure this is not comprehensive and would love to see you add to the list.

Keep in mind, a flat organization is not a democracy - success is still dependent on strong and empowered leadership.  I think the question is how quickly and accurately leaders are provided with the inputs necessary to make decisions.  And once made, how efficiently do those decisions flow back out and turn into action at the front line.


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posted in General Community Discussion, Voice of Customer, Web 2.0 and corporate HR, online communities, web 2.0 | 4 Comments

20th May 2007

Gen Y, Social Media and the workforce of the future…

In Corporate Transparency I blogged about how Gen Y will change the workplace and how the defacto web 2.0 workstyle of this emerging demographic will change the workforce.

In Exploring Communities and Corporate HR I discussed the disconnect between traditional, largely internally focused, HR processes for talent management and organizational design and the emerging workforce that is anything by hierarchical by design.

Today, in the Seattle Times, I came across the following article:  Generation Y plays games on the job.  It makes for an interesting followup to these earlier posts, describing how a number of companies are using new media by design:

  • Cold Stone Creamery using game simulators to deliver in-store training for new hires.
  • Nike’s "Sports Knowledge Underground" interactive program for teaching basic sales skills and product information - with a version coming for delivery on PDAs, IPods, and cellphones.
  • Cisco’s use of gaming to enhance math skills to support their networking business objectives
  • E&Y using video blogging to provide an "intern’s eye view" to perspective recruits

All of these examples really just focused on what I would call employee acquisition and readiness, but good evidence of the trend to come.

Seen any other good examples worth sharing?


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12th March 2007

Are you CURIOUS enough to be a Web 2.0 Leader??

It’s a fair question whatever your personal or professional pursuit.  I’ve thought about it a lot the past month as I’ve become a more "semi-public" persona around community work.  I’ve also been thinking about this because at Microsoft, this is the time of year we go through a process called Mid Year Career Discussions.  This is a formal process where every employee pulls together and reviews their own personal development plan.  So, advice for the day…or I should say…your critical personal question:  Are you curious enough to drive community work? 

If my blog is the only blog you read on the topic, the answer is definitely no - not curious enough…check my links for fellow recommended bloggers.

Next, are you playing with "stuff?"  Trying things out?  Forming opinions?  Right or wrong - at least getting your hands dirty enough to speak first hand about them?  Below are some the things I’ve been trying and/or using to various degrees.  What follows is NOT really a product/service review - with many, I’m hardly far enough along the path to have firm opinions yet.  But, I have included a few "impressions."  I hope you might point me at other things to try and/or comment back on your opinions of these and other resources.

So, here goes:

Ning - I recently posted about Ning - I’m leaning towards an "I don’t care" point of view.  I like the concept and usability.  But I’m struggling with the idea of all these different social sites for personal community building.  The "killer app" for social networking is the network - critical mass of engaged participants.  It’s not the UI (or craigslist wouldn’t be so awesome!!).  For what I’m interested in, the destination that houses the community seems irrelevant.  If the content is good, I’ll grab the feed and participate as interested.

- hmm - still playing…click the link and help me think more on this one.  I give it some points for being different and potentially fun - kind of a group IM, but not so invasive!!  Don’t think it will change my life and to be determined if it just becomes a fad and then disinteresting as life gets busy.

- For me, I would call it "mywaste."  I had to try it out.  I’m too old and maybe too married to appreciate it.  I set up a profile (married, kids, looking for business networking).  Within 48 hrs, I had been contacted by someone looking for a "relationship" (yes, you know what I mean!!) and the largest ads appearing on my page were "Meet Singles in Redmond."  Myspace makes me feel dirty.  And yes, I know I’m not the target demographic for myspace.

Wallop - kinda interesting…I do like the UI, though like my comment above regarding Ning, the UI won’t win me over.  This is a closed beta, so may not be easy for you to tour.  What seems different to me (and better than ning or myspace or…) is that it feels like my community there is My Community.   Think of it this way.  In Ning, I feel like a hotel guest.  I have a room amongst a whole bunch of other co-habitants with whom I may or may not share any interest.  Wallop feels more like a home.  I invite in who I want and the rest can be fairly invisible to me.  I kinda like that.

delicious - Changing gears - I’m all for social bookmarking - looking forward to consolidation/aggregation around this.  Anything that helps groups of like interested people swarm to more interesting/valuable content I’m in favor of.  For what I am interested in most, this is more useful to me than a search engine.

technorati - I like Technorati.  I tend to use it as a tool for being a "gracious guest."  Meaning, I look for people who have linked to me and I go visit them.  I say thanks and more often than not find that I just found someone else who I’m interested in following.

mybloglog - I quickly lost interest…someone tell me what I missed.

Digg / coRank - I really like this concept.  I was surprised by the traffic that found me once I added Digg on some of my posts.  I really thought that given my niche that my Digg ratings (7 is my all time high on a post) would always leave me invisible in Digg.  I stand corrected.  Clearly people are using Digg to search topics and nav to sites of interest.  I still think these services are too expensive.  As a blogger I don’t like taking the extra steps to use Digg or coRank.  I look forward to an alternative.

- what’s not to like.  I will add a lot more photos the next few weeks from the MVP Summit.

- I like facebook, though likely not enough to use it much.  I mean really, why do I want profiles, friends and photos in so many different places?  It’s a hassle.  I will use this passively to network, but likely will need to be pulled there, vs proactively going there.

- Full of recruiters!!!  But I guess that is to be expected.  Join my network if interested.   On the surface, I think Facebook might be a "better" Linkedin, but I can’t yet say enough better that it is worth the time it would take to move over and I don’t really want two of them!!

OpenID - Still not sure why Microsoft took so much grief years ago over Hailstorm.  I wish I had it now.  I feel like every new social site that opens requires me to goldrush to it to get my same ID so I don’t have to keep track of different ones.  I hate that not all sites require or even support "hard" passwords (special characters) as it means I maintain multiple passwords.  I like the idea of OpenID - I think it will fail though.  I signed up anyway and wish them well - goldrush!!

cocomment - I like it a lot, but for whatever reason don’t use it really religiously.  For those of you that occasionally post in others blogs and think: "how am I going to remember to go back here to follow this conversation?"  CoComment is for you.  Very useful for this, but, as I said, I don’t find myself using it religiously.  If I’m that into the conversation I’ll grab the feed and hang on for awhile.

MSN Spaces - a beautiful thing for ease of use.  Bar none - Microsoft employee bias out front - it rocks for ease of use.  see my post on why I left spaces for wordpress here.

LiveQnA - Nice.  I use it infrequently and for very random things, but I like it.  Example.  I have a home deep fryer.  My wife asked me how we get rid of the left over oil we change every once in awhile…I checked the book: nothing.  Quick online search: nothing that helpful.  Posted the question in LiveQnA:  6-7 answers in a few hours - several good, one we used.

Wordpress - Truthfully, I have not looked a lot at others, so no comparison here…but I am happy with it.  Made MUCH more happy through the use of Live Writer. 

There are others, but these are the ones most top of mind as of late.  Feel free to add.


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3rd March 2007

Communities, "Smart Mobs" and a followup to the HR discussion…

As a followup to my earlier post on Exploring Communties and Corporate HR, I thought this a worthwhile discovery to share (thank you Smartmobs.)  There’s an interesting article in Business Week on Co-working.  The concept is not particularly new, but I like the community nature for its motivation and the potential for new ventures that comes from people co-habitating in these sorts of environments. Check out the co-working wiki for information about efforts in your local area.

This article got me thinking about my own work habits.  Some people are very successful at working productively at home, I’m not.  Now, I didn’t say I don’t work at home - just ask my wife about my mistress - my Toshiba laptop!  But I’m not super productive at home, it’s more likely that I’m treading water in my inbox vs doing really proactive work.  Likewise, there are certain tasks I find hard to do in the often interupt driven nature of an office environment.  Examples here include research based reading, writing employee performance reviews, doing long range planning…oddly enough, it is often the work I would describe as "thinking."  In fact, have you ever been sitting at your desk just thinking, and had someone walk by your office, look in and see you, and suddenly there is this awkward moment where you feel like you should defend why you look like your are just sitting there??

Just sitting and thinking may be the most valuable thing you can do that you aren’t doing enough of today.  I frequently schedule time to simply dissappear into my "mobile office" which has become one of 3 preferred wireless enabled Starbucks in the area.

I don’t think I’ll personally get on the co-working train, but I like the idea and if I ran my own business I think this would be an amazing resource to take advantage of.  One of the things I don’t like about my "mobile office" is I have no interest in connecting with others while in the coffee shop - it’s too random a group and I’m there to think after all.  However, I like the notion of the co-working venue where others are there to work but you likely share common interests - in that environment I would want to form relationships and it would feel additive to me, not like a distraction.

One semi-related internal Microsoft story on this.  Many of our Subsidiary locations in Europe have an "open office" plan.  What this means is that no one has truly set space/offices, but it is all open/shared.  The first time I experienced this was at the Microsoft UK office in Reading.  Frankly, I was confused.  This is a big office - hundreds of employees - and everywhere you looked people where gathered in little clusters talking.  It felt very distracting at first - almost noisy.  I remember thinking…"what are these people doing??  Don’t they have work to do?"  By the end the first day, where all my meetings were held the same way, I was sold on the idea.  Like any organization, the hierarchy still existed, but it felt more transparent, more open.  The conversations everywhere stopped being noise and became buzz.  It was kind of exciting.  Something you just have to experience.

So, I thought all of this interesting food for thought on the how Gen Y workstyles, Web 2.0 lifestyles and HR functions relate to the way business gets done in the future.

Enjoyed this read…Digg it here!



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28th February 2007

Exploring communities and corporate HR…

Ever notice that is loaded with Recruiters??  That’s not the point of this post, but I think we can all agree that the recruiting function of HR has long since discovered communities as an avenue for adding talent to organizations.   But recruiting is only one small part of the HR function.  What about talent management and organizational design?

Wikinomics got me thinking more about this HR connection.  The obvious assertion in the book is that there will always be more smart people outside your company than inside your company.  It goes on to claim that volunteers will self-organize in more efficient ways than managers can accomplish inside hierarchical organizational structures.  I don’t know if I buy this, but the possibility that it is true should be enough to make your consider the implications.  I will buy that volunteers are frequently more motivated than paid professionals - there is a natural difference in motivation.  Think about your own volunteer efforts and test this.

So, how should HR think about this.  I’m not sure I know the answer, but it is high time to engage in the coversation.  I think you can safely say that talent management and organizational design are dramatically different in the Web 2.0 world and the traditional, largely internally focused (except recruiting), role of HR will be tested by this evolution.  Product and services insight gathering is certainly low hanging fruit already underway, but I think that is just the beginning.  External participation through co-production, co-development and user generated content are big opportunities.  That said, don’t get me wrong when I say "opportunities".  It isn’t long term market advantage for those companies that do this well, it’s market relevance, as this is the way business WILL be done in the future.  There will be benefits for fast and first movers and I think harsh penalties for those who don’t move.

I’d love your thoughts and examples on this!!  In the end, this may be one of the most core issues to how your company might think about communities and the impact of Web 2.0.

I wonder, can large, traditional organizations facilitate self-organizing principles?

Oh…and remember, if you liked this…"Digg it!!"



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posted in Business Strategy, General Community Discussion, Social Media, Web 2.0 and corporate HR, online communities, web 2.0 | 7 Comments

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