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Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category

Coffee, cupcakes, easter eggs, and innovation

Posted by Louise Barnfield on April 12, 2011

I have very mixed feelings as I retire from Oracle at the end of this week after 21+ years!

Moon over Oracle

On the one hand, since it’s my choice, I’m excited for what my very different future holds; on the other, I know I shall miss seeing so many people, who have become more friends than work colleagues, on a day-to-day basis.

Over the past few weeks, as I drive to the office each day and our HQ campus comes into view, I’ve found myself nostalgically focusing on the impressively architected buildings whose exteriors still look fresh and contemporary, and a darn sight more fresh and contemporary than I feel, after 22 years. The same goes for the interior decor and facilities. I know there are plenty of unsung heroes who keep our entire campus ticking along, unnoticed and often unappreciated by most of us, but, since I can’t hope to recognize everyone in one blog post, here’s a shout out to someone who’s responsible for one of the areas I’ll miss more than many: our 3OP Café, which houses the campus café and bakery, and which (a happy coincidence for me) is in the same building as my own office, 300 Oracle Parkway.

The Café, though once a fairly insignificant portion of a large and varied restaurant, has taken on a character all its own over the past few years, under the leadership of Ian Farrell.

Ian is a shining example of passion, innovation, and creativity – all characteristics that our TalentedApps bloggers frequently praise, encourage, and admire – and, as a thoroughly decent, caring member of the human race, he has even found a way to donate his skills for a worthy cause, such as baking a vast quantity of cakes, cookies, and tarts to benefit the recent Bakesale for Japan!

The photos speak for themselves, yet don’t come close to representing all that Ian has achieved. He came to Oracle five years ago as Executive Pastry Chef for Bon Appétit, our corporate caterers, with a remit to develop new programs and to change the quality of the desserts and bakery. He is now responsible for all the dessert catering for our Customer Visitor Center, and for our three main campuses in the area: Redwood Shores HQ, Pleasanton, and Santa Clara. However, for many employees, the 3OP Café remains our primary window into his world of creativity.

From time to time, I’ve exchanged a few words of appreciation with Ian, but it was only recently, as I reflected on the many changes that I’ve witnessed in the Café, that I truly appreciated the scale of his achievements. Here are a few of his innovations over the past few years:

  • Truffles – Ian’s an experienced chocolatier and takes great pride in the quality of his ingredients (sorry but, as a Brit, I have a very critical palate for chocolate that does not include the more common US offerings!), and the fact that he uses Fair Trade certified Cordillera baking chocolate from Colombia. He started packaging his truffles for special occasions and holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, but they are now available and in high demand at any time of year.
  • Chocolate specialty creations – The high-heeled shoes (a Valentine favorite apparently) were inspired by The Devil Wears Prada, and working at Oracle evidently provided his inspiration for the chocolate laptops and cell phones. His chocolate sleds filled with a variety of cookies and treats were extremely popular last winter, and his Easter eggs are now selling like hot cakes (‘scuse the pun!).
  • Cake designs to order – Ian is a master at designing and executing fondant cakes, all the more impressive for being a self-taught skill. Many of his first-time cake designs were ideas requested by customers, and he has now built quite an amazing portfolio of photographs. Customers can order an existing design, use the photographs as inspiration for their own ideas, or simply peruse the photographs to give them a smile while waiting for their latte or cappuccino.
  • Breads – There is now a range of artisan breads to order, and an entire cabinet dedicated to their display.
  • Sugar creations – One of his most skillful accomplishments, and possibly one of the least appreciated in terms of the time and skill required, are his 3D sugar creations. At various times of year, one or more of his designs makes an appearance…a Halloween haunted castle with intricate turrets surrounded by bats and cobwebs, or a holiday train dusted with snow and bulging with cheerful passengers. His artistry and attention to detail always fascinate me.
  • Classes – Ian’s baking classes for employees are becoming increasingly popular. What a great way to collaborate with friends and colleagues while learning a new skill, such as creating and decorating Easter eggs.
  • Social media – Ian enthusiastically embraced the world of online communication a couple of years ago, and frequently highlights the Café activities and offerings through his Twitter account and Facebook page, 300 Sweet Treats. Those of us who follow him are the first to learn of the day’s specials, and are reminded to buy our fresh-baked bread on Fridays.

In terms of smart marketing and business acumen, increasing the variety of product, the display cabinets, and the online communication has no doubt been a huge success but, personally, what I appreciate most of all is the appearance of our Café, and the sheer entertainment value of the displays. Thank you for your passion, Ian, and for always making me smile!

I’m relieved that I will still be able to enjoy the 3OP Café when I leave, as it’s in an open area of the building. So I, and you if you’re local, can visit for a coffee, admire the ever-changing displays, and maybe buy my old man some truffles (I can always hope he’ll share)!

P.S. Since this appears to be my parting post for TalentedApps, I will add that it has truly been a privilege to be a member of such a passionate team of bloggers. I shall continue to read, learn, and be inspired and entertained by their posts, as well as those of our close counterparts in the HR blogging community. Onwards and Upwards, and best wishes to you all!

Photo: “Moon over Oracle”
Source: Flickr.com
Credit: Not Quite a Photographr

Posted in Innovation, passion, Uncategorized | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

Now we can – but are we ready?

Posted by Anders Northeved on February 19, 2011

I will admit it – I’m a gadget and “new thing freak”.

If anything new is better, cooler … or just nearly as good compared to what I have, I have no problem convincing myself, my wallet and my surroundings that I simply MUST have it.

But not everyone is like this (probably a good thing) – and all of us working with developing new things; making existing products better; changing organizations or managing a group of people should be very aware of this!

Often when a new product or a new way of doing things becomes a success, we think it is because we are now able to do it from a technical or theoretical perspective.

But things only become a success when we are ready for it in our heads!
Let me give you a couple of examples:

  • Facebook became an overnight success because this kind of social software became available – WRONG (social software sites have been here for several years – anybody remembers MySpace?)
  • The Internet became a success because we made huge progress in network technology – WRONG (the Internet existed for several decades before anyone noticed)
  • e-learning became a success because we developed fantastic pedagogical principles and got the bandwidth to publish it – WRONG (e-learning lived for 20 years before becoming a widespread phenomenon)

These examples show us that until we are ready it doesn’t matter if we can.
Unfortunately I don’t have the recipe for deciding when someone is ready for something (would be worth a dollar or two…) but I still think this is important to think about when we are contemplating launching a new product or a new way of doing things.

So how can we use this realization in our daily lives?
Before launching something new try to put yourself in the place of whoever you are targeting.
How would you feel? Would you really like to buy it? Would you really like to upgrade to the new version? Would you really like to do things this new way?
If your gut feeling says “no”, then you might reconsider what you are doing, there might not be anything wrong with it – people might just not be ready!

PS: I’m happy to say that my gut feeling still tells me that our next new software release will be a huge success 😉

PPS: Don’t let this stop you from doing something new – good progress has made us what we are and we  need more of it – and for the more questionable items there are always us “new thing freaks”…

Posted in hr transformation, Innovation | 1 Comment »

Making more Top Talent with better job fit

Posted by Meg Bear on October 16, 2009

TRAs a Maximizer theme the concept of Top Talent is an especially personal one.   In fact, I have managed to get a team of directs that are all Achievers, which was something I knew about them, before I even knew there was such a theme.

When I think about using a Talent solution to get business value, I have to know what business leaders want.  What keeps a business leader up at night? Is it wondering if their team will meet their Performance bell curve?  Or if they will be using a 3 or 5 point rating scale?  I’m guessing not.  In fact the entire performance process is a means to an end, to a business person (or conversely a PITA but I’d rather not cover that part in this blog).

What a business leader wants is to be successful.  Successful in their business, seen as capable to their leadership and exceeding on their objectives.  For business leaders to scale they need teams who are able to deliver for them.  Here is where we get back to top talent and job fit.

When people are doing the job that is best suited to their strengths, they become top talent.  Making that connection between individual motivation and job role is not just a touchy-feely ideal, it’s smart business.

The better I can position people to do what they do best, the more they do for me. The more they do for me, the more I can do for my boss and my organization.  So, to me as a business leader, the more top talent I have the more successful I am.

So what I want from a talent solution, is to help me get people aligned into job roles based upon their strengths.  When I can do this, I get all the goodness from the rest of the talent strategies.  Goal alignment and attainment become easy,  engagement improves and overall output  is optimized.

To make all this work for me, I need more data.  I need data that I have never captured before.  Not just your competencies but your strengths.  Not just your career plan, but your motivations.  The more rich data I have, the better job I can do getting people to become top talent.

So now we are back to systems and scale.  Systems today have a better ability to gather and make use of data.  With the rise of social software, and a heightened awareness of the importance of a personal brand, people are volunteering more data than ever before.

These are exciting times for those of us who are allowed to find unique opportunities between technology and business. For awhile now I’ve been anticipating a shift in what defines a talent solution.  Initially I thought it was just my own personal boredom with having done this for so long, but now I realize that what I have really been doing is a lot of thin slicing to get to the most obvious of “a ha” conclusions.

The job of a talent solution is not really to measure talent.  The goal of a talent solution is to use the measurement of talent to drive better business results.  If you are just doing the former and not getting the latter you are missing out.  It’s time to think bigger about what can and should be possible with technology.

Are you doing that today?  Is that your talent strategy?  If not why not?  What is your plan?  Hit me with the comments and give me your ideas, I promise to use them for your benefit.

Posted in Career Development, engagement, Innovation, Job Fit, leadership, performance, profiles, social network, talent review, top talent, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | 9 Comments »

Talking About OraTweet in Social Media at Work

Posted by Mark Bennett on September 25, 2009

front cover - AJ

Jake from our friends at AppsLab, posted earlier this week about the soon-to-be-released book, Social Media at Work: How Networking Tools Propel Organizational Performance. It’s authored by three of our Oracle colleagues who specialize in organizational development: Arthur L. Jue, Jackie Alcade Marr, and Mary Ellen Kassotakis. Connect is cited frequently and there are quotes from both Paul and Jake.

There’s a quote in the book from me related to how we use OraTweet, written by Noel Portugal, internally to help developers improve their productivity. I had first written about OraTweet a year ago in a post describing how companies were finding business value in using Twitter, both externally as well as internally.

Arthur, Jackie and Mary Ellen have put together a practical, use case-based guide that provides strategies for how to effectively deploy these tools in order to achieve your productivity, innovation, development and engagement objectives.

If you are attending the upcoming Oracle OpenWorld, you can find the authors at two 30 minute book signing slots:  Tuesday 1:00 – 1:30, and Thursday 1:30 – 2:00. The book is available for preorder now and should hit store shelves mid-October.

Posted in engagement, Innovation, productivity, Uncategorized, web2.0 | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

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


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.


*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 »

Are you a talent magnet?

Posted by Justin Field on May 26, 2009

I was reading materials on performance management and came across the concept of being a talent magnet.  We know that we want to retain top talent and we do a lot of good things to keep high potential / high performers in the organisation.  But taking the organisation perspective, and particularly the manager perspective, do you, as a manager have a good track record of retaining high potential / high performing employees?  Are you a talent magnet?

A manager who is a talent magnet will, over time, develop a reputation for leading high performance teams and for developing and retaining key employees.  The organisation will know this and respect them for this. 

Managers who lose talent, or who develop a reputation for driving talent away from their teams, will naturally end up with mediocre or low performing teams. 

I am hoping that we can find a good way to measure this, as a talent metric:  talent magnetism.  If you have a good idea of developing a metric for this, leave a comment on this post.  Personally I am thinking about the rate of loss of top talent, over a five year period (or some similar rolling average).  I think a long time frame, like five years, is really required in order to see the true trend regarding a manager’s track record.

Posted in engagement, Innovation, performance, top talent | 5 Comments »

What Does Kevin Bacon Think of Our Innovation?

Posted by Mark Bennett on May 9, 2009


No, this isn’t a pitch to start letting Hollywood stars provide input into your innovation process. We’ve already seen what happens with ill-considered application of Hollywood business models. Rather, you’ve probably heard of the game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” and how it sprung up from the concept of “Six Degrees of Separation.” While the game is amusing in its own right and the concept behind it is primarily around the “small world phenomenon”, it also can help us understand a bit more how social networks can deliver business value by helping overcome the obstacles that hinder innovation.

You may have heard about how social networks can help us cut across the formal hierarchy through the “power of weak ties.” But something that puzzles people, especially those new to social networks, is how “weak ties” can develop when you mostly start off just managing your “strong ties.” That is, you invite people or accept invitations to connect with people you already work with or have worked with, so it would follow you’ve simply captured your highly-overlapped, frequently-contacted, close-knit circles of friends and colleagues. How do you break out of that circular problem? What drives the building of connections to those less-frequently contacted people that can be such a great source and resource for innovation? Furthermore, what about the people you’ve never connected to who might be the key to a successful innovation?

The Game

So, back to Kevin Bacon. In the game, you try to connect Kevin Bacon to another actor in as few steps as possible, where a step is defined as where two actors starred in a movie together. You win if you come up with the shortest path to connect the two actors (a.k.a. the Bacon Number.) For example, someone randomly selects Richard Burton. You could come up with the path:

  • Richard Burton starred with Robert Wagner in “The Longest Day”
  • Robert Wagner starred with Kevin Bacon in “Wild Things”

This is a path with a Bacon Number of 2. (Kevin Bacon has a Bacon Number of zero.) So what does this have to do with “weak ties” and business value from social networks? Let’s say that when Richard Burton was alive, he kept in contact with Robert Wagner all the years since they had worked together in “The Longest Day.” Robert learns from Richard that a project he’s involved in is in need of someone that Robert thinks Kevin is a perfect fit for. He sets up an introduction and even if nothing comes of it, Richard and Kevin might have found enough in common that they keep in casual contact. This situation plays out all the time on LinkedIn and it can happen inside a company as well. That is, someone you know knows someone who wants to talk with you or can help you with your problem, etc.

The Power of Activity Streams

In this case, Robert acted somewhat as a network “broker” in that he travelled in two other people’s networks, saw an opportunity for mutual benefit, and introduced them to each other. But you don’t have to have to rely on a network broker in order to form “weak ties.” On networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. there is an “Activity Stream” that displays what people in your network are doing. Sometimes those updates can be about your connection’s activity involving another person who is not in your network. These updates might have enough context that they’ll trigger you to reach out either to your connection to learn more about the other person and what they are involved in, or even skip that by looking at that person’s profile and other information.

A direct request or search for expertise can be another source for the creation of a “weak tie.” For example, you might send a question out to your network, it gets routed by one of your connections to someone they know (and possibly re-forwarded from there as well) and when the answer finally comes back, you might develop a “weak tie” to the person who answered your question. Another example might be a “social search” that combines your network into a search for expertise and returns someone who isn’t a direct connection, but rather a connection to a connection, etc. From there you might create a “weak tie.”

Twitter, of Course

We mentioned previously how Twitter is a kind of Activity Stream where most people only display the “tweets” (i.e. updates) from people they are following (sort of a one-way connection.) How can “weak ties” form here?

  • Re-tweeting: The people someone follows can in turn be following other people and they can “re-tweet” interesting updates they receive on to their followers. This might trigger a person to follow the original source of the update.
  • Hashtags: People will insert “#<topic>” into their updates if they want to connect the tweet to a particular topic. People can then search tweets for that topic and find people who they might want to follow.
  • Replies: People can reply to a message from someone they follow using “@<user>”. Their followers will see that reply and this “discussion” might trigger them to follow the other person.

One thing to note is that many of these approaches to forming “weak ties” are enriched via enterprise integration by combining what people are doing in their respective networks as well as what they are updating (e.g. goals, competencies, etc.) or working off of (e.g. worklists) in the enterprise system. Separately, each has useful information, but together they create a powerful combination by reinforcing each other.

Photo: Matt Leclair

Posted in Innovation, social network, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Vague, but exciting

Posted by Mark Bennett on May 6, 2009

www1While it was two months ago that folks celebrated the 20-year anniversary of the submission of Tim Berners-Lee’s paper that proposed what would become the World Wide Web, a hat tip to our colleague Jasbir Grewal for the link, reminding us to thank those responsible for making our blog possible. Thanks also for a good example of the way innovations typically come to be.

Tim’s supervisor, Mike Sendall, wrote the comment, “Vague, but exciting” on the paper, which captures so much in just three words what frequently occurs in the process of innovation. A problem existed at CERN, where Tim worked. He had an idea for how to address the problem. The idea had a certain appeal, but it was built on top of things that were either very new themselves or that still had to be worked out, so it remained to be seen whether the proposal could really work. In other words, there was no, “Aha, of course, this is exactly what needs to be done! Thank you, Tim!”

20 years later, even though we see a lot of problems still to be worked out with the World Wide Web, the default view looking back in time is typically, “Of course, any fool can see how the internet and the need to come up with a way to organize data on it as a web of associated documents, naturally leads to the notion of a hypertext protocol, blah, blah…” This is the same kind of trick our minds play on us regarding ATM machines, cars, telephones, etc. Once we get over the adoption of an innovation (which is itself no mean feat), it’s like a cascade of switches suddenly flip in our brains that rationalize why it was always a great idea and destiny for it to have happened. It’s how we cope with change. It’s not very different with political and societal change. We (as a general population) resist and resist, a breakthrough occurs, and then we’re all, “Well, yeah, can you believe how dumb/prejudiced/naive we were?” Our minds then typically focus on what’s wrong now and who’s going to fix it.

The problem is that this sets us to thinking about innovation the wrong way, because our memory of how innovations we experience today came to be is often flawed. This flaw can then blind us to approaches that help foster innovation. It’s comments like, “Vague, but exciting” written on 20-year old proposals, which serve to remind us of how hard and uncertain the process of innovation can really be.

Posted in Innovation, Uncategorized, world wide web | 6 Comments »