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Archive for the ‘social network’ 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 »

The net worth of your network

Posted by Sri Subramanian (@whosissri) on July 30, 2011

Social currency, in spite of the word social in there, is not online presence. It is simply the power of one’s network – online or offline. It did not have a fancy name, but was recognized since my grandfather’s days as:

  • People who you don’t know have the power to shape your future. Get to know them, and be known by them.
  • Build a supportive community around you of people you like, and who like you.
  • People who know of you, don’t always know you. Share who you are, what you have done, and what you want to do. It will help them know and help you.
  • Learn that building relationships starts with small meaningful encounters that go well, and leave a positive impression.
  • Help others. Your good karma will come back to you when you least expect it.

Question: In today’s world of interconnected, geographically removed people, is this possible without an online presence?

Posted in social network, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Social Media Policy: Only Just the Start

Posted by Mark Bennett on June 4, 2011

I wrote a while ago that if you don’t already have a social media policy, then make one. Build it off of existing policies around communication, acceptable behavior, etc. but don’t just rely on those. There are enough issues around social media to warrant having a short and to the point policy.

Necessary but not sufficient condition

But while a social media policy is a necessary condition for minimizing the risks involved, it’s not sufficient for getting the most value out of social media. If policies are the only thing out there, people will either not participate or if they do, constrain themselves to only what’s “permitted.”

You need to move into how to effectively engage social media to improve the business.  That will improve over time, which means you need a way to learn from your social media efforts how to better engage with them. But you first have to start.

Where to begin?

Simply put, it comes down to answering “Why?” To be more precise, “why” in the context of improving the business. Why should employees, customers, and partners participate in your business’ social media? The more it aligns with the participants’ own interests, the better it acts to motivate them, but you really need to get your own objectives straight and communicate those.

To do that, figure out what ways to improve the business you think social media will help. There are a lot of business performance measures, some very specific and some very broad. The more you can determine a specific business performance measure that you can connect to the purported benefits of social media, the better. Remember that since you may need to make adjustments along the way, you need to measure results to get an idea if you are on the right track.

We’ll keep going on this thread in future posts. Stay tuned.

Photo by Magic Madzik

Posted in measurement, performance, social network, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Social Networks can help you not be a goof

Posted by Mark Bennett on April 19, 2011

Jason Seiden has a great post about how the very “opt-in” nature of social networks makes it easy to only join those networks that you feel comfortable in, leaving you unprotected from errors in thinking.

This reminded me I was going to write how social networks can actually help protect you from errors in thinking. We’re both right 🙂 because the answer isn’t in the tool, but how we use it (as is usually the case.)

It Takes Every Kind of People

The error in thinking* is that we tend to blame others’ behavior when things go wrong for them, but tend to blame the situation when things go wrong for us. Simply put, we are quick to judge others, we overly focus on people vs. circumstances, and we are sometimes lazy if we have to think too much in trying to sort it all out.

How can a social network help?

  • First, if you are getting a good feed of the *situation* people are facing and not just their opinions, you’ll have a better understanding of their circumstances should something go wrong. This is where useful status updates in your Activity Stream can really help.
  • Second, if you take the effort to build and maintain a diverse network, you’ll have more varied perspectives on the situation, creative ways to handle it, and better insight into unseen factors.
  • Finally, your network can do some of the thinking for you so you can really step back and grasp the bigger picture. By having your network take on some of the cognitive load, you’ll have more energy to think things through.

Don’t Surround Yourself With Yourself

The payoff for you is that these things will make you better prepared, wider experienced, and less vulnerable to bias – provided you invest in your network. Make it diverse, encourage the sharing of context as well as just content, and ask for ideas and thinking, not just facts and figures.

Jason provides an important warning: like any technology, social networks amplify our characteristics; they do not guarantee goodness. Apply these powerful tools with careful purpose and intent.

*The Fundamental Attribution Error – called “Fundamental” because a lot of social psychology hinges on studies and thinking about this bias.

Photo by Stewf

Posted in cognitive bias, social network | 2 Comments »

Social Media Policy: Just Do It

Posted by Mark Bennett on April 15, 2011

If your company doesn’t have a social media policy, make one.

Start now.

Why should your company have a social media policy? What makes a good one? Why should you care?

Think about all the stories you’ve seen of the damage caused by the thoughtless tweet, the ill-considered Facebook page, the revenge-minded YouTube video, or the “anonymous” comment-rant on a blog. Even though a policy won’t guarantee protection, especially from malicious intent, it puts into place a foundation from which individuals and organization can make decisions on how to act.

Other policies are not enough

The key thing about a social media policy is that even though it can (and should) be based on already (hopefully) existing communication, acceptable use, ethics and business conduct, information protection, copyright, anti-discrimination, harassment-free workplace, etc. policies, you can’t rely on them to guide behavior on social media. It certainly helps to shorten your social media policy, though, so use them as your foundation.

Why aren’t those policies enough? Social media is blurring the line between personal and business life. As much as some people might want to keep these two separate in social media, the platforms have made this incredibly difficult. So, while someone might think, “Oh, what I say about work to my friends on Facebook is just amongst us”, it just isn’t the case. Or, “My tweet about the town where my customer’s office is located will be understood as not to be taken offensively.” Or, “No one will know that my anonymous comment on an analyst’s blog came from me.” You get the idea. People are still getting used to how quickly what they say will be circulated across the web and interpreted, analyzed, misquoted, and so on.

Keep it simple

What makes a good social media policy then? Why does it matter? It should be as brief as possible and not try to go into strategies for effective use, which platforms to use, etc. Otherwise, its purpose will be unclear (or unread.)

Here’s a brief checklist of what to consider:

  1. Use and reference your existing policies as previously listed. Explain why there needs to be a few more items in order to cover social media, to protect both the individual as well as the company.
  2. Right after that, make sure you cover disclaimers. No one is an official spokesperson unless trained/designated to be one. All others must state that their views are their own and do not represent those of the company. Even so, of course, the rest of the policy is about how the world will still see their behavior as a reflection on the company.
  3. Take the time to cover “Common Sense.” Don’t just say, “Apply Common Sense.” Go into a little bit about how social media is not as private as people might assume. That competitors will actually go out there and look for things your employees are saying. That what they think might be held as a common belief or value might be true in their local region (or just their house), but not elsewhere in the world.
  4. Emphasize respect and civility as key in making social media productive. It doesn’t mean you aren’t standing up for your position just because you are being polite about it. Do not start flame wars and do not get sucked into one.
  5. Honor copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, etc. of all, not just your own organization.
  6. Even though individuals can’t expect privacy themselves, they should honor the privacy of others.
  7. Be transparent in your relationships, affiliations, etc. when it does not violate confidentiality and others’ privacy.
  8. Don’t be anonymous. It usually doesn’t work and besides, it defeats why you are on social media. Whistleblowers and human rights activists may need to be anonymous, but that is a special case and goes beyond what a social media policy typically covers.
  9. Get permission from others before using their content and ideas.
  10. Admit mistakes when they happen and apologize. Somewhere along the way, even with a policy, someone will make a mistake.

Is that it? To get a social media policy in place, yes. You do not want to overcomplicate things. It will make it take too long and people won’t read it. You also don’t want to burden everybody with so many rules that they end up not even using social media out of fear.

What about all the stuff about how social media should be used to benefit the business? That’s something that should be covered outside of the policy. The policy is the foundation. Get it done. Cover effective social media use in training, coaching, guidelines, sharing of practices, etc. We’ll address that in a future post.

Posted in social network, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

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.


* (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 »

Celebrating Mothers Day and giving back

Posted by Angela Doyle on May 24, 2010

I have just got home from celebrating Mothers Day in a special way.  I’ve been undertaking conservation volunteering at a local urban bushcare site in Sydney.  As I was walking to the site this morning  I suddenly realized what a great gift and privilege it was not just to send love to my own Mother, Grandmothers and Mothers of the world (both alive and deceased) but to be able to give back to Mother Earth who continually provides for us all.  I’ve been volunteering at this particular site for nearly one and half years and work with an extremely wise and knowledgeable supervisor who gives of his own time, unpaid, to create a wonderful place for the local community and a vital oasis in the local urban area for plants and wildlife.

I’ve had the wonderful fortune of being able to undertake volunteering both as a personal interest but also within the corporate setting as I’ve travelled for work over the past twelve months.  I’ve had many memorable experiences ranging from conservation and organic farming projects in Australia, UK, Iceland and California, packaging food for the poor in Oakland, Northern California;   to attending schools for under privileged and HIV positive children in India.

A common thread that I observe coming through in all these experiences is that as volunteers we are able to fulfil an innate need that we all have to give back to others and to feel that we have a purpose and are able to make a positive contribution.  In volunteering we give back with no expectation of material gain and this is in itself is very uplifting.  Through participating we do something for others and we look outside of ourselves.

In the corporate context volunteering provides an opportunity for team members to step out of their normal job function and to pursue new skills and roles.  It is also a chance for us to learn about our teams and peers in a different way outside of the usual hierarchy at work.  Personally I’ve discovered many wonderful things about work colleagues when I’ve seen them operating in a volunteer context.  Knowing these things has changed the way that we now interact in a work setting.

I also find that participating in volunteering gives many valuable lessons on leadership and interacting in a group context.  For example observing:  how the leader interacts with volunteers and motivates them to engage in the project;  the approach the leader might take to responding to obstacles or signficiant challenges;  ways that are taken to impart knowledge and wisdom to the broader community;  the communication  style of the leader and other volunteers;  the leader and team’s commitment to making a difference;  and humility as there is so much that we don’t know and once you start volunteering you start to have a little appreciation of this.

I find that all the learnings that I gain through the volunteering can in turn be taken back to enrich other parts of my personal and professional life.

Posted in leadership, passion, social network, talentedapps, Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

Why Does Passion Drive Pull?

Posted by Mark Bennett on May 7, 2010

We’re all, individuals as well as businesses, feeling increasing levels of stress. Competition is intensifying, the pressure to perform continues to rise, yet current approaches we use provide further diminishing returns so even maintaining our current performance is difficult these days. With increased stress, relationships deteriorate and fear begins to take over. With that fear, people turn inward and the cycle just gets worse. How can we turn things around? How could something like “passion” be part of the solution?

Passion is not just nice to have in your workforce; it will make the difference between businesses succeeding vs. falling further behind as competition continues to intensify. Meg, Amy, Vivian, Paul and I attended an excellent Churchill Club event Tuesday evening with Tim O’Reilly interviewing “The Power of Pull” authors John Hagel III and John Seely Brown. They talked about how vital passion is in making “Pull” work and what companies can do to keep passion alive in their employees. They described a few things about passionate workers, but I’ll focus on one that has a lot to do with how “The Power of Pull” can help companies and individuals not just cope, but thrive in a world of accelerating change.

Passionate workers are often the most connected and collaborative. Something about that passion makes them want to find others to share that passion with. In turn, those connections and collaborations help attract resources to where they are best suited and put to use in achieving performance. This works for the individuals, their teams, and their organizations. Passionate workers are curious as well and have found connections and collaboration excellent ways to find out more about their company and its business model.

Passion is shared, but people experience it in their own individual way. This is where the power of shared purpose combined with diverse contribution makes itself felt. The shared purpose is a shared belief, a shared passion, a compelling emotion that motivates each person to do their very best in the best way they now how and the results are proof of that belief. The shared passion attracts more talent that also shares the same passion and this in turn creates even more knowledge.

That’s the takeaway – passion flourishes in networks and drives their creation as well. Passionate workers collaborate and leverage each other’s knowledge in these networks. They pull resources and creative energy to the places that allow them to achieve their purpose, the “why” at the center of the golden circle. This purposeful collaboration drives their individual and team performance as well as the performance of their organization to levels higher than ever before.

Posted in passion, pull, social network, Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

What’s So Funny ‘Bout Tweets, Posts, and Understanding?

Posted by Mark Bennett on April 26, 2010

So where are the strong, and who are the trusted?

How much has your experience with social media like blogs and networks helped you understand things better? I’m not saying you had to agree with someone else, just that you had a better idea where they were coming from. Didn’t that help you have a more complete picture of the overall situation? Didn’t that improve your thinking and as a result, your ability to get things done or come up with a better solution?

Just as how your experience with networks outside of work can help you understand more about others, so too can your experience with your network at work help you understand more about what other folks in your company are doing, what they are up against, their frustrations, as well as their vision. Again, you don’t have to agree with them; it’s about understanding them more so that you can be better in your thinking, consider more perspectives, etc.

So how to foster that understanding? The challenge is that this understanding requires looking at your connections as more than just nodes on a network; you also must factor in their humanity.

If it’s about humans, it’s about relationships

What makes it hard and keeps a lot of folks unwilling to factor in the other person’s humanity, particularly in business, is that humans are complex. Roles, expertise, functions, etc. are not nearly as complicated. Most of the complication people try to avoid is around that most human of attributes: emotions. Sometimes, as Jason Seiden just pointed out, you don’t even know what emotion you are observing in the other person. Are they mad? Frustrated? Distracted? Then, you don’t know what the context of the emotion is. Are they mad at me? Someone else? Are they frustrated about some larger issue they see? What does it mean?

So unsurprisingly, a lot of people just give up and say, “You know what, I’m just going to do my job, get the info I need, tell folks what I think needs to be done, and that’s it.” Just get in, get what you need, and get out seems the simplest approach and least likely to cause problems. Here’s the catch – using that approach with your social network can just as easily cause the problems you’re trying to avoid. People aren’t dumb and they will see what you are doing and they wouldn’t be out of line to at least resent that you are using a social medium to basically use or manipulate people.

Besides, you are also missing out on getting a better understanding of the people in your network, where they are coming from, and how they see things are. Which means: you’re also missing the bigger picture.

Core Concerns, not Kumbaya

What if you had a way to still acknowledge emotions and what if that also helped you get a better understanding of the people in your network and as a result, get you what you wanted? I’m going to pull in some advice that’s primarily directed to negotiators, but also applies to relationships*, both personal as well as business, and will serve you well in your social network at work.

This advice comes from Roger Fisher, of “Getting to Yes” fame, and his colleague Daniel Shapiro, from their book, “Beyond Reason.” They suggest that rather than trying to stop having emotions, ignoring them, or attempting to decipher them directly, instead try to address what boils down to the Five Core Concerns that give rise to many of the emotions we see. This way, we can still acknowledge the impact of emotions (and maybe even benefit from them – think excitement, hope, etc.) and enrich our relationships as well as our understanding.

Here are the Five Core Concerns to consider, and by doing so, will help your relationships in your networks, both inside and outside of work. In turn, you’ll get better understanding:

  1. Appreciation: Really find merit in the other person’s thinking and then show it. They will see that and that will raise your credibility with them immensely. Guess what? You might come away with better understanding by looking at things their way for a minute.
  2. Affiliation: Find common ground or interests that you can be colleagues on, rather than adversaries. This is about finding where you both agree so that you can get motivated to help each other in that area at least, which promotes more understanding.
  3. Autonomy:  Recognize and respect that the other person doesn’t have to do what you say or agree with you. Applying pressure to change that will backfire at least in the long run. Besides, if they can’t express their opinions or say what they would do if they could, etc. you miss out on the bigger picture.
  4. Status: Show each person, that while perhaps not having as much “prestige” as everyone else, or as grand a title, they are nevertheless important in their own right. They have a particular expertise, some knowledge, function, thinking, or opinion that is unique and valuable. Understanding this in order to communicate it to your network gives you (and them) a better understanding of the bigger picture.
  5. Role: In addition to the above, make sure people in your network know how what they are doing matters to you and what you’re trying to do. Figuring this out gives you (and your network) a better overall understanding.

*Think about it, unless a negotiation is very, very quick and you’ll never deal with that person (or people they know) ever again, then it really *is* about relationships.

Photo by volume12

Posted in community, social network, Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

Does your email make you look like a 3rd grader?

Posted by Vivian Wong on April 23, 2010


I love the convenience of modern technology – including text messaging and instant messaging.

While I still enjoy phone conversations, I tend to text people when my reason for contacting them is short and sweet, such as “C u in 5 @ XYZ”. I find texting wonderful because it is less intrusive than a phone call and I don’t need to beat around the bush especially with people I know very well.

But it’s one thing to use shorthand and abbreviations in a text message, it’s another when you to use them in official business emails.

Today I received an email from a candidate I interviewed last week. Let’s call him “Fred”. Fred  interviewed well but his email today did not leave a positive impression on me:

“Hi Vivian,I hope you have reached a decision for the job posting. Do u have any updates either way for me?? pl. Let me know. thx

This is the very first email Fred sends me, and he can’t be bothered to spell out “you”, “please” and “thanks”?

I couldn’t help but wonder if Fred has adequate written communication skills?  Does he code the same way he writes his emails? Fred could very well be a top notch employee, but his “half and half”  email-text message made him look sloppy.

Perhaps I am just old fashioned and prefer business emails to look like… well business emails. Not text messages.

What about you? What do you think about sending or receiving “text message like” business emails?

Posted in candidate, recruiting, social network, Uncategorized | Tagged: | 14 Comments »