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Time for some ‘IDEA SEX’

February 3, 2012 Leave a comment

The most valuable asset of every organization for the future is brainpower, despite the fact that “employees do not show up as an asset on the bottom line” (Crager, 2002).

With this in mind it is easy to see why the focus of ‘Social Business’ or Enterprise 2.0 technology is on people and their profiles and often why they are so close in functionality to consumer tools. I don’t agree with this approach, Once a company has gone past the initial start-up phase those that remain successful understand that it is the collective efforts of individuals working together as teams that makes the difference. as the idiom ‘No one is indispensable’ is typically the case. This got me thinking about a great TED talk I saw some time ago by Matt Ridley (see it here). I wholeheartedly agree with this view, and there are plenty of examples of this in everyday life. I’d go as far as suggesting that the history of human success is the story of specialism when combined with contextual collaboration – let people focus on what they are good at and make sure there are easy ways for them to ‘connect’ with each other in the correct context. This is how we work.

Some great examples of how teams innovate and evolve we see or use every day – take GPS for example, the story goes that it all started one morning when some Physicists at the Applied Physics Lab at John Hopkins University were in the cafeteria talking about the successful launch and orbiting of Sputnik, they wanted to know if they could ‘hear it’, from that they wondered if they could work out its location, and eventually their boss (Frank McClure) asked them if they could reverse this process, to find out the location of an earth based object from an orbiting satellite and GPS was borne.

These coffee machine moments, or team meetings are the real lifeblood of organisations – however there is a belief that innovation is down to the ‘lone hero’, or a particular genius, that scientific breakthroughs happen by chance discovery, flash of insight, the rock star scientist having a ‘Eureka’ moment. This really isn’t how people work or think, the psychologist Dr. Kevin Dunbar spent extended periods of time (four months to a year) in molecular biology and immunology laboratories, videotaping and audio taping scientists at work in their labs all over the world., his team found that scientists would most often make advances in their lab meetings and by discussion with their peers. It was only with the birth of trade routes, commerce and urbanisation that, as a species humans were able to leverage specialist knowledge and skills and invent.

In my own work I have seen on numerous occasions that by implementing a topic and  team based approach to collaboration an organisation can yield tremendous rewards. One example was when we did a pilot with one company: they had a sales and trading team that was truly global, the pilot was to see if getting people to share what they were working on and discussing their activity with others, who were doing similar roles, but were dispersed geographically would give them a competitive advantage. The answer was given to them when a single trade generated enough profit to pay for the entire implementation (worth hundreds of thousands of dollars). The reason for this was that the new ‘TEAM’ were able to capture local specialist knowledge and apply it globally.

The is an ‘I’ in TEAM – A successful team is made up of individuals – but it requires them being given the tools to collaborate effortlessly (and informally) to avoid key man dependencies. . For proponents of enterprise 2.0 or social business it is vital that real-time contextual communication is put at the centre of these efforts.

 

If you would like to know more about how we have been helping organisations solve these issues please take a look at FCG.

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Attack of the clones.

January 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Consumers/employees now have better gadgets than can be provided by their companies and their UX expectation is increasingly being set in the consumer world – after all if you are building software (or hardware) the bar for things like security is much lower.  Just walk past any Starbucks to see how many people are sitting there with their MacBook Air or iPad. This is great in many ways as it is making all of us working in the enterprise world up our game and go back to what is most important – the USER! However this can also be dangerous take a look at what is happening in the enterprise 2.0 space at the moment – ATTACK OF THE CLONES. Every corporate social network vendor out there is doing the same thing – copying facebook. Am I the only one who has noticed this? It is sort of like the windows 3.1 days when pretty much every desktop application looked the same and had the same way of interacting. There is a distinct lack of originality out there – Good artists may well copy but come on.

Let’s for the sake of argument say that this is the only way a social business platform should be implemented why is everyone so sure that this is what is needed? Look t the statistics posted by facebook at the f8 developer conference – they were very impressive:

  • 50% users log in every day 
  • The average Facebook user spends 20 minutes on his or her account during each visit.
  • The average user has 130 friends and is connected to 80 pages, events and groups.
  • 91% of online American adults (approx. 129 million)access some form of social media each month. (Experian 2011 Social Media consumer report)
  • 98% of 18- to 24-year-olds access social accounts monthly 800Million or so users, 50% of users logging in daily

Now let’s compare that against enterprise adoption (where possible – from what figures I’ve managed to find).

  • “Just 22% of social software users tell us the technologies are vital to their jobs –Forrester
  • “We have anywhere from 10% to 20% of our employees logged onto Yammer at any given time.” -IGN Entertainment
  • ‘ What is interesting, however, is the fairly low estimates of actual adoption by Forrester, citing that only 12 percent of information workers are provided with enterprise social collaboration software, while just 8 percent of them use it once a week.’ – Dion Hinchcliffe – ZDnet.

Already I’d say the numbers aren’t looking hot… what good is a collaboration tool if you’ve not got anyone to collaborate with? I’ve no got the statistics on email usage but I would hazard a guess that 100% of workers who have an email account (for business purposes) access their email every day. That is what Social business tools should be seeing if they are doing their jobs right. These should be the first thing that is launched in the morning and the last thing that is turned off. As for ROI – it is often difficult to get hard ROI figures but if done correctly Enterprise2.0 will produce genuine ROI –

“ Intangible assets such as knowledge and technology seldom have a direct impact on financial outcomes such as increased revenues, lowered costs, and higher profits.  Improvements in intangible assets affect financial outcomes through chains of cause-and-effect relationships.“ – Bob Kaplan and David Norton – Strategy Maps

My suggestion to find out if it’s working at your organisation, try turning it off and se what happens – if people start shouting or calling meetings about it then you know that you have reached a tipping point and that the tool has become part of the organisational DNA.