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Archive for the ‘collaboration’ Category

Be careful of Social Cargo Cults!

Posted by Mark Bennett on August 16, 2011

“When you believe in things you don’t understand, then you suffer.”

- Superstition, by Stevie Wonder

We’re seeing rapidly increasing adoption of social business technologies by more and more companies. Not just Social CRM, which has been out for a while, but now the internal adoption of these technologies as well, to help with collaboration, information sharing, innovation, and so on.

The temptation is to rush in so that you don’t fall behind your competition that is already using these technologies. But before you do that, take some time to think about what you’re really trying to achieve.

Field of Dreams?

A too-common approach for internal social business roll-out is “Build it and they will come.” That is, no real specific purpose is outlined, other than, “These tools will help you collaborate, so go forth and collaborate!” The company then hopes that employees will join in, productivity will increase, innovations will grow, etc. The trouble with this is that it will very likely result in disappointment, both for the company as well as the employees.

Why? It’s because this is the “Social Cargo Cult” approach.* Companies hear about their competition using social technologies internally, they see their competition doing well or better than they are, they hear success stories around social business, and they conclude, “We must use social as well!” But they don’t understand why.

So what to do to avoid this problem? First, come up with a specific purpose or objective you think can be achieved through the usage of social technologies within your company. This purpose becomes your testable hypothesis upon which you will build a better understanding going forward of what social technologies can do to help your business and how to best use them. You need to determine if you are getting a positive result from using social technologies (i.e. “moving the needle.”)

For example, you could target faster project completion times as the benefit. You may only be able to estimate what the improvement in completion times were, but it can be done and it will give you at least some understanding of whether there was a benefit and how much. You might target an improvement in product quality, problem turnaround time, design revisions, etc. The point is identify something where a result can be measured and compared with some degree of confidence.

Now that you have a targeted measure you’ve identified, you’ll want to communicate that to everyone involved as well. Why? Because you want the people you are trying to get to participate to understand the expected benefit. If they don’t respond or they drop out, then you can take that fact as a hint that either the benefit doesn’t motivate them to participate or that the technologies are not delivering on the anticipated benefit. Either way, you are getting information that you can operate on, so rethink what the benefit is, your use of the technology, or both.

Is this Heaven?

To sum up, defining the purpose that drives your use of social technologies both provides you with a measure of whether it’s working as well as a reason for people to participate. And if either of these things aren’t happening, you can try something different and test it out. Without it, you are left with just hoping that good things will happen, as if by magic.

* “Cargo Cult” refers to a social science phenomenon where isolated cultures have been exposed suddenly to advanced technologies that provide some kind of benefit to them (usually as a side-effect.) The culture cannot grasp all the complexities involved and they end up doing what most humans do – they conclude that the attributes they observe are the key factors that drive resulting benefits. They then attempt to recreate those observable attributes themselves to obtain the same benefits, but to no avail; they did not fulfill all the right requirements sufficiently to get the desired results.

Posted in collaboration, performance, social network, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Dune, the Maginot Line, and Wikileaks

Posted by Mark Bennett on December 28, 2010

How comfortable are you with sharing data within your organization these days?

The news surrounding Wikileaks, especially the possibility of it extending to the corporate world, has put a chill into the notion of using technology to increase sharing and dissemination of data. It was, after all, efforts to improve sharing of information across various government agencies that enabled just one individual to access huge amounts of sensitive data that then ended up being made public.

What can be done?

Meet the Mentat

In Frank Herbert’s “Dune”, addressing the vulnerability of technology was taken to the extreme. Rather than trusting important information storage and calculations to machines that could be compromised*, human “mentats” were used. These were individuals trained to have superhuman cognitive and analytical abilities and basically removed the technology factor and its inherent weakness from the equation completely. But the value was still there; the need for it had not gone away.

Well, we can’t train mentats yet, so we’re stuck with computers, networks, etc. to provide the storage, analysis, and collaboration value we need to be competitive. But we’ve seen already just how vulnerable we are when these systems are compromised. We store so much information in these systems, both for the ability to recall it when we need it as well as to gain powerful insights through analysis of it. We also get huge value from collaboration technologies, but they can also make us susceptible.

So what to do? If we can’t eliminate the technology, should we instead look for that perfect technological solution?

Fighting the Last War

The Maginot Line was built after World War I, with the memory of the horrific casualty rates of trench warfare etched into strategists’ minds. The technology of rifles, machine guns, and artillery had reached peak lethality, so the mindset of “defensive” technologies took hold. What followed was intense research into creating an impenetrable defense to virtually “guarantee” that the enemy could not attack successfully. The technology was impressive, but ultimately ineffective, because the ways used to defeat it never came into the thinking of its design.

So it is that much of the mindset around information security is about trying to set up impenetrable defenses to “guarantee” the security of sensitive information. Well, just as the Maginot Line proved less than effective during the subsequent blitzkrieg warfare of World War II, so it is that current information (and airport, etc.) security measures and strategies frequently turn out to be not as effective as we would like. Instead, we see what seems to be a lot of “reactive” steps, such as forbidding removable media, backscatter x-ray, etc. put into place after the proverbial horse had left the barn.

But this doesn’t mean technology has no part to play, either.

Technology + Mindset

So let’s bring a science fiction novel, a military misstep, and current events together. The point is that neither eliminating technology nor just depending on technology is the answer. We must instead constantly be questioning our mindset regarding information security and technology’s role in it. Whatever the technology, it is ultimately people, their thinking, and how they apply technology that determines the success of security, or the lack thereof.

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*or worse, turn against their human masters (but that’s not an issue for us to concern ourselves with, yet.)

Dune cover via Wikipedia

Hochwald historic photo via Wikipedia

 

Posted in collaboration, security, technology | 4 Comments »

Keep blogging!

Posted by Anders Northeved on October 27, 2010

There are many good reasons why people blog.

If it is an internal blog it will promote knowledge sharing within your organization and help your organization perform better.

If it is an external blog you will promote your own organization and help other people understand and appreciate what you do.

It is one of the pieces in the puzzle of building your own brand as described in Ravi’s posting.

You get feedback from people on a topic you find interesting. So you are not only giving information but also receiving new perspectives on a topic that interest you.

It gives you a good feeling in your stomach and a boost for your self confidence knowing that you write something others are interested in reading.

And in general: If you have some piece of information you think others could benefit from – why not share it?

All these reasons – and probably a couple I’ve forgot – was what got me starting posting to different blogs in the first place.
Having done this for some time now I have found all of the above to be true, but I have also found that blogging brings one benefit I didn’t expect…

I have experienced that blogging makes you think longer – and harder – about the topics you blog on.
Whenever you think about something new or see things in a new light you might say to yourself: “This might be a topic for a posting” and then something interesting happens:
You start organizing things in your head, you start thinking about headlines and keywords and all of a sudden you have organized and articulated the topic in a much better way than if you had not wanted to create a blog on the topic.
Knowing other people are going to read, think and respond to what you write makes you think longer, harder – and better – and that can never be a bad thing!

So don’t despair if you only have one reader for your posting – you will still benefit from creating it.

Just realized that if I had not been posting on this blog the brainwave I got the other day while I was out running: “why do people blog?” would have stayed just that  – a brainwave.

Posted in collaboration, communication, community, Uncategorized | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

A Lever That Won’t Break

Posted by Mark Bennett on June 29, 2010

The Power of Pull covers a lot of interesting ideas about new ways to look at business and work, but one thing it brought up that I thought was very insightful has to do with levers.

Levers are a very handy tool and we use them all the time without thinking very much about them. If you’ve used scissors, nail clippers, tweezers, a crowbar, a hammer, or a wrench, you’ve used a lever. You push, squeeze, or pull a lever and you can now lift something heavier, cut something tougher, or turn something tighter than you normally could.

Sometimes though, if you push, squeeze, or pull too hard trying to lift something too heavy or cut something too tough, the lever can break. Cut something tough with cheap scissors and they break. Try to lift too heavy a boulder with a cheap or rotting 2×4, and it snaps.

Levers in Business

Debt is a kind of lever for business – with some of your own money and by also taking on debt, you can control more assets than with just your money alone. If you’ve ever put money down on a mortgage you’ve used debt as a financial lever.*

So, businesses use debt as a lever to create more value than they would without the debt. Well, as we’ve seen during this recent economic crisis, financial levers can break, with some pretty nasty consequences.

What if there was another kind of lever we could apply in business that didn’t break? What if it actually became stronger the more you applied it?

The lever that won’t break is Talent. Talent can actually become stronger when it is applied to a challenge, provided the company knows how to turn that challenge into an opportunity for collaboration and development.

Talent is a lever when it collaborates to overcome the challenge. When your talent collaborates, people are gaining the benefits of each others’ knowledge and experience without having to “go it alone” and figure it all out themselves.

As a result, the company creates more value than if people didn’t collaborate. In addition, the collaboration results in more development of the talent than otherwise would have occurred without collaboration.

Collaboration and the “Why”

But the collaboration I’m talking about is not just things like simple process decomposition.  It’s more than just task breakdown, with people performing their particular piece so some larger thing gets done.

It’s also more than people or teams simply exchanging information about facts and figures, plans and forecasts, process steps, etc. – that isn’t what I’m talking about either. You can write that kind of knowledge down and most of the time someone can pick it up and use it without ever having met you or discussed it with you.

The knowledge we’re talking about is the deeper knowledge of “why” – why we are doing something, why something works better one way versus another, and why something is important to consider. This knowledge can only really be exchanged or shared through a deeper level of collaboration.**

Talent, when it collaborates at that deeper level to achieve a shared purpose, provides capability leverage. Because now your company delivers more real value from your employees collaborating than if they had worked alone.

To reiterate, Talent that collaborates is the company’s lever.

And this is a lever that won’t break.

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* (Finance background) Financial leverage in a nutshell is the notion that you can reap larger returns on equity if you borrow at a lower interest rate than what your investment would return normally. You would borrow funds and you use those funds to increase assets (e.g. build a factory) or reduce outstanding equity (e.g. do a stock buyback.) In business, leverage, and its impact on return on equity (ROE), is represented by the (assets/equity) term in the famous Du Pont analysis equation:

(net income/equity) = (net income/sales) * (sales/assets) * (assets/equity)

You can see that increasing the ratio of assets to equity (by increasing debt), increases ROE (net income/equity).

So why not “leverage that sucker to the max”, you ask? That indeed is what financial institutions do – they are typically very highly leveraged. But what’s missing in the Du Pont equation is the notion of Risk. A company’s return on assets, i.e. (net income/assets) is never certain and if it falls below the interest rate far enough, long enough, or for debt levels large enough, the company can go under (i.e. the financial lever snaps.)

** (Epistemology background) This is the difference between “tacit knowledge” vs. “explicit knowledge.” “Tacit knowledge” is very hard to just write down and have somebody else just pick up and really “know” it. For example, designing complex machinery, riding a bike, or making that perfect soufflé all require things such as: time, teaching, practice, or mentoring. You often need a deep level of collaboration to transfer that  knowledge, or at least to make it happen faster. “Explicit knowledge” doesn’t need that collaboration nearly as much. For example, the elevation of Denver, the recommended torque for an engine bolt, and the process steps for turning on the air conditioner are all fairly straightforward facts or processes to communicate to others.

Photo by hans s

Posted in collaboration, development, finance, pull, social network, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Try bagging spuds to increase employee engagement

Posted by Louise Barnfield on February 20, 2010

For me, one of the most meaningful and satisfying goals that Meg sets her team each year is that of Community Service.

As a team, we’ve participated in a number of local events each year, helping at various food banks, and local shelter housing projects. I am always blown away by how much we can achieve in a very short time when we work together as a team.

This week we returned to Alameda County Community Food Bank (ACCFB), this time bagging spuds! Working together for just a couple of hours, we bagged 14,000lbs of potatoes, the equivalent of 11,000 meals’-worth. That felt pretty good…until we realized that through their various programs, ACCFB now distribute enough food for 300,000 meals weekly. This put our contribution in perspective, and showed us how much the community needs help from groups such as ours, in order to meet the demand – a demand that has almost doubled in the past 18 months as a direct result of the current economic climate.

This week’s event had an added bonus, since a number of colleagues were visiting HQ, some for the first time, from a variety of states and countries. With such a dispersed global team, we rarely have the opportunity to meet in person, and particularly to get to know new faces as our team grows. Several mentioned how much they appreciated participating in this event during their visit.

Many of us had been cooped up in a conference room for three very full days, and were feeling the effects of brain-overload. So, a complete diversion for a couple of hours, performing a manual task, conversing with friends and colleagues while at the same time doing something meaningful and helpful for others, did us all a power of good.

After each event, we gather somewhere locally for a ‘happy hour’ – another chance to chat with colleagues, and also to acknowledge our gratitude for our own more fortunate circumstances. The camaraderie that this instills benefits the whole organization, as the team spirit that it fosters spills over into our day-to-day collaboration at work.

I feel fortunate that Meg recognizes the value of giving our time and effort for the good of the community, and the beneficial effect it has on our team. Earlier this year, she blogged about her experience with colleagues as guests on Compassionate HR Blog Radio, discussing the various volunteer projects we have taken on in the past year, and in particular how we have been supported by Oracle to do so.

As they pointed out, the volunteering projects that we undertake are as much a benefit to us as individuals, and to our organization, as they are to the community. It is true that we have the satisfaction of accomplishing something meaningful together as a team, which increases employee engagement and encourages closer working relationships.

So, instead of trudging into the office in ‘Friday mode’, brain-dead from a week of meetings, I spent today catching up on tasks with more enthusiasm and with a far lighter frame-of-mind, thanks to our rewarding team ‘down-time’.

A big shout-out to two other TalentedApps contributors, Vivian and Keshav – I am so thankful that you guys never tire of organizing our crowd for these events! :-)

Photo: Anupma Sud

Posted in collaboration, engagement, goals, teams, Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

Some Great Books from 2009

Posted by Mark Bennett on January 3, 2010

Here are some very good books and if you haven’t read them yet, you might want to check them out. The list is restricted to books published in 2009 that I read (there are several others published in 2009 that I still have on my reading list). The list is grouped somewhat by topic. Enjoy!

Enterprise 2.0 / Collaboration

Driving Results through Social Networks: How Top Organizations Leverage Networks for Performance and Growth by Rob Cross and Robert J. Thomas

I referred to this book in Not One of Us, When More Isn’t Always Better, and Is Bacon at the Center of the Universe? It covers the whole range of scale from individual performance and productivity impact of collaboration to the impact of collaboration on organization innovation, projects, and processes as well as the impact of organization culture and strategy on collaboration. There are many solid use cases provided. Cross focuses on social network analysis as a way to understand how information flows through an organization, how it goes into decision making, etc. I wrote about his work being done through manual surveys at Fortune 500 companies prior to leveraging social networking software two years ago in Finding Value in Enterprise Social Networks.

Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results by Morten T. Hansen

I wrote about this book in When More Isn’t Always Better. It is primarily focused on large-scale collaboration and paints it in the starker colors of “good vs. bad” collaboration, highlighting the hidden costs of collaboration without some kind of business purpose and understanding of tradeoffs. Hansen lays out the hidden traps companies fall into with collaboration, identifies the barriers to collaboration, and three levers to avoid the traps and overcome the barriers. It has many use cases as well. Oliver Marks has a great post about this research and our colleague Christine found this great Economist article about the book. Hansen recently wrote about collaboration failure in the intelligence community due to persistent issues regarding incentives, workforce mix, and talent mobility in this Harvard Business Review article.

Enterprise 2.0: New Collaborative Tools for Your Organization’s Toughest Challenges by Andrew McAfee

McAfee coined the term “Enterprise 2.0” a while back as a way to identify not just the technologies of Web 2.0, but the way in which organizations would use them to get improvements in productivity, innovation, etc. I wrote about McAfee’s work two years ago in Finding Value in Enterprise Social Networks. McAfee has a great way of presenting four different, real business value based use cases that were not being addressed adequately by existing (pre Web 2.0) collaboration technologies (i.e. “Groupware” and “Knowledge Management”), then sort of leaves you hanging (a great “sticky idea” mechanism), then introduces the concepts of Web 2.0 in an accessible, non-techy way, and finally comes back around to show how the four use cases were successfully addressed by various Web 2.0 tools. Furthermore, each of the use cases focuses on a particular level of interaction from close-knit workgroups out to people with shared interests who may not even know each other.

Social Media at Work: How Networking Tools Propel Organizational Performance by Arthur L. Jue, Jackie Alcade Marr, and Mary Ellen Kassotakis

I wrote about this book being published in Talking about OraTweet in Social Media at Work. This book is similar to McAfee’s in that it is less about the technologies themselves as it is about how companies can best adopt and exploit them to gain competitive advantage through increased productivity, innovation, and engagement. This book is also loaded with relevant, real-life use cases that demonstrate how Web 2.0 tools were able to address a tricky problem, trigger innovation more rapidly, etc. It also addresses the organizational adoption issues head-on, such a threats to power and status quo and offers advice on how to tackle those issues.

Risk

The Failure of Risk Management: Why It’s Broken and How to Fix It by Douglas W. Hubbard

I referred to this book in HR: Why Improve Your Analytical Intelligence? and HR: Why Broaden Your Risk Perspective? Hubbard’s book is an eye-opener about how badly most companies are handling risk, due in large part to misguided comfort in following supposed “best practices.” Hubbard pulls no punches and is especially vehement in targeting “fluffy” risk analysis approaches that use things like “heat maps” that are based on “scoring.” His main objection is that these approaches have no way to be really tested as to whether they work because there really isn’t a testable measurement being used. He refutes those who object by saying that some things just aren’t measureable by providing examples of how to do it (some of which are taken from his previous book, How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business.)

The Flaw of Averages: Why We Underestimate Risk in the Face of Uncertainty by Sam L. Savage

I also referred to this book in HR: Why Broaden Your Risk Perspective?. It’s a great companion book to Hubbard’s but takes a lighter approach. The first thing that Savage does is dispense with the arcane terms used so often in statistics that drive most people away. He correctly identifies that as a leading cause for why so many people miss out who could benefit from actually understanding what statistics really has to say about uncertainty and risk. He then goes into a whole series of examples to show what he means about how people get themselves into trouble. The book weighs in at 360+ pages, but it’s divided into 47 bite-sized chapters, some of which he signals can be skipped if you don’t want to do math.

Workforce Strategy

The Differentiated Workforce: Transforming Talent into Strategic Impact by Brian E. Becker, Mark A. Huselid, and Richard W. Beatty

I wrote about this book in HR: Why Improve Your Analytical Intelligence? It is a continuation of their “HR Scorecard” and “Workforce Scorecard” books, although reading them is not a prerequisite, nor is the book a rehash of the previous material. Instead, it introduces enough of the basics from them and expands on them to focus on how to best invest in your workforce so as to maximize its impact on your strategic success. In many ways, I saw this book as a companion to Beyond HR: The New Science of Human Capital by John W. Boudreau and Peter M. Ramstad. Between the two, you’ll have an excellent framework from which to construct or modify your HR strategy.

Photo by by mrkathika

Posted in book reviews, collaboration, risk, social network, Uncategorized, web2.0, workforce strategy | Tagged: | 7 Comments »

One, but not the same

Posted by Mark Bennett on July 3, 2009

3220803117_22cf199b2f_mThis weekend marks the anniversary of the birth of a nation whose motto is about unity of purpose while acknowledging the differences in those who contribute to that purpose. That’s a very interesting duality that effective networks share; each person in the network has unique capabilities and individual goals, and different ways in which they contribute, but the network is unified in purpose.

As social networking tools gain acceptance in the enterprise, folks are recognizing that first, networks have always existed inside companies and second, that these network tools are more about making the networks more visible and more easily acted upon and utilized. As a result, when properly used, these tools accelerate productivity, innovation and engagement. However, like any tools, used improperly, these tools can damage those objectives as well.

Previously, we discussed how networks are inherently “opt-in” since they are usually not formal organizational structures. This means social factors such as trust play a large role in whether people will participate and make the network effective. But even after you achieve participation, the potential to wreck the network still exists in subtle and insidious ways.

One way is in the very structure of networks themselves. We know that the more connections that exist in a network, the higher the likelihood of information finding its way to the right person. Of course, everybody knows you can’t have ridiculously high levels of connections (although whether the number in 150+ or 1,500+ is debated) but is it right to assume that people in the network who have a significantly lower number of connections than others are somehow not as effective (or vice-versa?) As Steve Boese commented on a previous post, simply measuring the number (or extent) of connections doesn’t really tell you whether or not it’s working; it depends on the role or the person’s objectives. It can go beyond that as well; in some roles, some individuals might simply be more effective having only a tight set of connections with just a few of which reach outside their close circle of colleagues. Now, imagine a manager who simply measures effective use of the network by number and extent of connections dinging that individual for not having a high enough “social score.” Why risk their departure or reduced participation if the individual was an expert in a particularly strategic area and had contributed perfectly well through a “bridge” connection into the network?

What’s a better way? Managers need to look at the big picture and understand first what the purpose of the various networks are that their employees are members of. In that context, the manager can than understand what role an employee has in that network and then coach the employee if it seems that either the network is not getting what it needs, or even more effectively, if the employee is feeling they aren’t getting the most use from the network.

The most energetic proponents of network tools in the enterprise are not surprisingly heavy users of these tools. As such, they can easily fall into the perfectly natural human behavior of thinking other participants should be just as active, or more subtlety, not pay effective attention to those who aren’t as active. They can unwittingly alienate the very kind of employee that otherwise might not have had as much voice or impact on the success of the company from using the very tool that would have overcome the obstacle of organization structure, etc. Especially during the delicate initial phase of encouraging the use of network tools, it’s a good idea to look out for the non-productive effects of social pressure. As the culture becomes more familiar with their use, social norms will start to take effect and help people understand the different ways everyone contributes. Gradually, job and role requirements can then be added where appropriate in order to more clearly communicate expectations and guide career development.

Photo by: pursuethepassion

Posted in collaboration, community, engagement, Innovation, social network | 8 Comments »

Is Bacon at the Center of the Universe?

Posted by Mark Bennett on June 7, 2009

25638155_8b49c310dd_o

Not here either.

No, this isn’t a cosmological question regarding pork products, but really about Kevin Bacon and his position in the Movie Universe. Although not at the center, he is closer than a lot of other actors. Understanding the principles behind this can help us find ways to develop talent more quickly and effectively, which benefits both the employee as well as the employer.

We already discussed the principles that show how social networks can help form “weak ties” that foster innovation and breakthrough thinking. It turns out that the book, Driving Results Through Social Networks points out another principle* from the game, “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” It can help shed light on how networks and how they are developed can contribute to the success of high performers. This is achieved by building the right kind of network, which not only benefits the individual (and thereby serves to motivate them to put effort into this activity), but there’s a big payoff for the organization as well with these better-built networks.

Authors Cross and Thomas point out that being more central in a network (where the network is the total of all the people and their connections to each other) typically means having more numerous and diverse contacts and therefore closer access to a greater number and wider variety of information, ideas, resources, and opportunities. Note that it’s the combination of number and diversity that generally lead to this. For example, having a huge number of connections to a very narrow segment of a network probably means the connections are highly overlapping, which limits access to the rest of the network.

By having that closer access, an individual can more effectively tap into the network in order to achieve more than they otherwise would, be it goals, career development, etc. In turn, the company gets more productivity, increased innovation, and enhanced engagement from having employees more effectively connected.

There is a danger in looking at this single-minded. For example, grading everyone on a one size fits all “centrality score” is apt to backfire. How central in a network one is helps some individuals more than others based on their role, for instance. The definition of the network as all the people and their connections leaves open some questions. In some cases, you may not want to include every department in the company, but rather the pertinent departments from across all the business units. For some individuals, it makes sense to include more external networks, like industry groups, along with the key groups within the organization. Other individuals might be very central in a particularly intense area of expertise within the company. Remember that all the members of the network contribute to it in a wide variety of ways and it doesn’t serve any purpose to try to force everyone to be the same – that defeats the very usefulness of the network itself.

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*Briefly, the principle works like this: while there are a large number of actors, there are hardly any that are more than 3 “steps” away from Kevin Bacon (he is only two steps or less away from almost 25% and three steps or less away from almost 90%). By having so few steps to so many other actors, Kevin is better positioned than the average actor to find out about and exploit an opportunity. Of course, we all know his talent, experience, “look”, etc. all affect whether an opportunity will be opened to him, but a moment’s reflection tells us that these “connections” (to use the cliché) have a big impact as well.

How does this work and how did his network develop this way? Those two are related. By virtue of a combination of the total number of stars with whom he worked as well as who those stars were and with whom they’ve worked, Kevin has a network that reaches relatively quickly to a greater share of actors. This came about by his choices on what movies to star in and/or with whom to work. It’s likely that there is more diversity in the genres, cast, etc. in each of those choices. In contrast, other actors, whether due to type casting or personal preference, had made more narrow selections and their networks are “skewed” towards one area of the network. For example, someone might select for or get typecast as the slapstick comedian or the horror movie queen, and that would restrict the other actors they work with, reducing the share of the total network they have access to, and in turn impact the kinds of opportunities they get.

Photo: Sean Munson

At the time, I thought this was an interesting way to label their crosswalks. It turns out there’s more too it: “On September 25, 2004 Wallace’s Mayor Ron Garitone proclaimed Wallace to be the center of the Universe. Specifically, a sewer access cover was declared to be the precise location of the center of the Universe. A specially made manhole cover was made to mark the spot. It bears the words ‘Center of the Universe. Wallace, Idaho.’”

(Fly to in Google Earth | See in Yuan.CC Maps)

Posted in analytics, Career Development, collaboration, engagement, Innovation, productivity, social network, Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

When More Isn’t Always Better

Posted by Mark Bennett on May 26, 2009

431286183_372863bb1d_oThere have been a series of excellent posts, particularly Yuri’s, the last month dealing with the issue of getting value from Enterprise 2.0. Some companies are finding value while some are not having as much success doing so. Part of the problem is that there is an error in assuming that more collaboration is always better, when what’s really needed is more effective collaboration. As Hutch Carpenter points out, collaboration itself is not a benefit, but rather a means to an end. The objectives a company might be after vary greatly and could include higher productivity, enhanced innovation, increased employee engagement, etc. which in turn deliver business results in the form of increased revenue or lower costs (i.e. more profit). Collaboration is effective when it supports those objectives and results.

It’s possible to have collaboration that’s not effective. This can range from small-scale collaboration problems such as an overloaded key technical resource that becomes a bottleneck to the progress of several dependent teams to full-blown turf wars between two departments that results in a huge project being cancelled because the window of opportunity passes.

Collaboration tools by themselves don’t cause these ineffective, or even destructive, collaboration problems and by themselves won’t solve them either. However, these tools can be used by an organization that wants to address these types of problems, as part of the process. For example, they can help identify where overloaded key resources are and how to offload work to somewhere else. They can help find where the breakdown and conflict between two departments is centered so that it can be addressed (e.g. not starting the joint project at all under the current conditions, better prepare the organizations prior to project start, adjust the respective objectives of each department, etc.)

The point is that the tools and platforms in Enterprise 2.0 are only as effective as the organization is motivated and prepared to put them to good use. That use could be either or both addressing current obstacles to effective collaboration as well as enhancing current collaborations. What’s great about these tools and platforms, but sometimes overlooked, is that not only can they enhance collaboration, but they also can measure it. Organizations can use this measurement to find and test ways to make collaboration more effective. And that requires motivation and action by the organization and its leadership.

Two excellent books that are out now that cover these issues are:

Driving Results Through Social Networks: How Top Organizations Leverage Networks for Performance and Growth by Rob Cross and Robert J. Thomas – This covers the whole range of scale from individual performance and productivity impact of collaboration to the impact of collaboration on organization innovation, projects, and processes as well as the impact of organization culture and strategy on collaboration. There are many solid use cases provided.

Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results by Morten T. Hansen – This is primarily focused on large-scale collaboration and paints it in the starker colors of “good vs. bad” collaboration. Hansen lays out the hidden traps companies fall into with collaboration, identifies the barriers to collaboration, and three levers to avoid the traps and overcome the barriers. It has many use cases as well. Oliver Marks has a great post about this research and our colleague Christine found this great Economist article about the book.

Photo: barnism

Posted in collaboration, Innovation, leadership, performance, productivity, Uncategorized, web2.0 | 4 Comments »

 
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