Friday, April 27, 2012

Innovation: Decentralized & Internally Networked

How do you structure an organization to optimize innovation?  What are the most effective innovation pathways and processes?  Who is responsible for innovation?

Does any of that matter???

I recently participated in a conference on driving corporate innovation, and all of those business considerations - and a few more - were presented and discussed and analyzed.  I think they miss the point.

Innovative organizations today no longer try to structure and schedule innovation.  Instead, they respect the emergence of the individual within the organization, and they create a culture and environment that supports individual actions.  According to Gartner, the "Managed Anarchy Model" yields significantly more great ideas over time than does the Conventional Model; natural selection rather than management selection.

Individual behavior and corporate culture are facing increasing dissonance.  Gen Y has become famous for not following the established corporate rules, for being tethered to technology, for lack of loyalty to corporate employers.  But Gen Yers are also actively involved in social issues; they want to follow their instincts and passions and creatively change the world.  Aren't those great innovation characteristics?  Corporations need to tap into that individual drive.

With the prevalence of social technologies outside the corporate walls, individuals have learned to find like-minded people outside the usual channels.  They share ideas, pull information and insight from diverse groups, and create new partnerships as needed.

Individuals want to bring these characteristics into the workplace.  They want to self-select ideas and communities for collaboration within corporate walls.  Internal social platforms enable them to do so.  They help organizations become social businesses, from the inside out. 

Internal social technologies allow companies to decentralize innovation.  Social technologies facilitate innovation.  They drill holes in the silos.  They enable fresh conversations and exchanges of ideas.  And they are fluid.
IBM is at the forefront of using internal social technologies to drive innovation.  Conversations and ideas are sparked by over 17,000 internal blogs, 1 million daily page views of internal wikis and internal information storing websites, employee profiles on IBM Connections, and 15,000,000 downloads of employee-generated videos/podcasts.

50 IBM innovation jams have occurred over the past 10 years.  Back in 2006, IBM brought folks together in a jam to discuss more than 50 research projects in the company.  Projects voted into the top 10 became incubator businesses funded with $100M.

IBM Smarter Planet sprang from grass-roots, community discussions.

Smaller organizations with more limited technologies can benefit as well.  I worked with a medium-sized retail establishment that wanted to add social media to its marketing.  We started, however, by implementing a simple, free internal social platform and creating a cross-functional, cross-department core social media team.  Over the past 6 months, the cross-talk and new perspectives have dramatically accelerated innovation - from tactical improvements to the creation of an organization-wide "green" effort.

Internal social technology helps define innovation as a cultural norm and drive innovation into everyone's job. Employees behaving like individuals are the primary source of  innovation.  Let's not box them in.

Has internal social technology changed innovation for you?

Related posts of interest:
The Objective of Social Media is Lifestyle
Social Media and Innovation in IBM
IBM's Social Business Transformation

Monday, March 12, 2012

ROI of Internal Social Networks? Zero if the Network isn't Used

Just about a year ago, I discussed the factors driving ROI of internal social media networks.  But most companies are NOT realizing the benefits they expected.  The reason is fairly simple.   

Employees aren't showing up.

The InformationWeek 2012 study of enterprise social networking revealed that 87% of participants had an internal social network.  Only 13% rated the usage success as excellent.  The likelihood that a company viewed its success as average to poor?  A chilling 62%.

What makes an internal social network successful?  There are many details, approaches, and stories to success.  Primarily, though, a company has to embrace the change that the network will both enable and cause.  A social network functions most effectively within a social business; it does not attract adoption within the old, bureaucratic, staunchly hierarchical business models.  What's critical to success and what standard thinking doesn't work?  Here are my top 5:

  1.  Flexibility, not strategic goals - Having a strategy and an objective for implementing an internal social network is important, but flexibility is more important.  By their very nature, social networks evolve and adapt and find their own reasons-to-be.  Organizations too focused on achieving a specific goal, on determining ahead of time how the network will be used, tend to flounder.  The social network becomes just another system that employees need to use; it becomes a burden rather than a benefit.  Deloitte Australia, a winner of the Forrester Groundswell Award, began using Yammer because they thought it looked "cool."  Three years later, Pete Williams, CEO Deloitte Digital, says "we're finding new value in the tool everyday."
  2. Leadership, not grassroots Social media is the tool of the 99%, and successful internal social networks flatten hierarchy.  Social networks do not flourish under a command and control management model, but they do require leadership.  The active involvement of senior executives is critical to the effectiveness and usage of the system.  Unisys CEO Ed Coleman was an early adopter in the company, using the social network to communicate with employees, to listen, and to engage.  His executive team quickly followed, and employees began to use the network and then began to develop new uses for it.  Internal social networks, like external social networks, emphasize respect and collaboration across all levels.  Leadership needs to be willing to engage with employees without fear.  Deloitte Australia CEO Giam Swiegers talks about a first year analyst who challenged his point of view, and the debate was visible to all employees.  Swiegers liked knowing what employees were thinking and appreciated having the opportunity to discuss the issues; the ability to engage with leadership drives loyalty in employees.
  3. Organic Evolution, not controlled growth - Staying up-to-date with the latest in social media is a challenge; new applications and uses appear frequently, because users keep trying out their ideas - and some stick.  It's the same with internal networks.  Should an executive team have some idea of how a network might be used before implementation?  Of course.  But then let it evolve.  "People are trying to rationalize, police, and control the tool," says Chris Laping, CIO of Red Robin restaurant chain, but "the power of information technology is sharing information.  What we naturally do with systems is lock them down, which prevents us from sharing information."  As more employees join a network, uses and needs also change.  Smaller groups form around projects or interests; new connections drive new ideas.  Users need to be able to adapt the network to meet their needs.
  4. Communities of Interest, not just work - Employees with friends at work are happier and more productive (lots of data on this issue that I will spare you at the moment), and work issues are often intertwined with personal considerations.  Many companies strictly limit internal social networks to looking up data, working with project teams, or posting official pronouncements.  Yet communities of interest create friendships, help develop new policies and introduce new perspectives, and often both align with and drive corporate objectives.  Deloitte Australia employees have created a variety of communities of interest, from a "Mums Group" to "Audit Specialists."  At IBM, the gap between employee-produced content and corporate-produced content is large and still growing.  Leaders need to be actively engaged with the network, but users need to have a strong hand in shaping it.
  5. Operational Virtue - Less controversial than the 4 points above, but also important; an internal social network must operate well in 3 ways.
    • Ease of Use - If the system is not largely intuitive, if employees need a separate sign-on, or if the network does not integrate with e-mail and other critical enterprise platforms, employees will stay away.  The internal social network must be user friendly and agile, not cumbersome.
    • Productivity - Social networks should improve the daily work of employees.  Project teams might work more efficiently and with greater speed; employees might be able to locate information more easily; work flows might be streamlined.  Not only should a social network create greater engagement and community, it should enable employees to be more productive.
    • Measurement - While the uses of a social network will morph over time, it is always important to measure the real business results.  A McKinsey survey found that social business reduces time to market by 20% and increases the number of innovations by 20% on average.  Several companies that I have worked with have measured decreases in the amount of time spent finding information and, as a result, more efficient workflows.  Measurement is critical.  It just needs to evolve with the usage.   
What have been your keys to success?  What have been your pitfalls?

Related and of interest:
The ROI of Internal Social Media Networks
Behavioral Change Before ROI
IBM's Journey to Social Business
Deloitte Australia: A Yammer Customer Case Study
Increase Your Company's Productivity with Social Media

Monday, February 13, 2012

PR? Or Did Komen Forget Social Businesses are Built on Culture and Community?

The Huff Post headline read "Bad PR Move, Susan G. Komen."  The Washington Post called it a "PR fiasco."  But was it really a PR crisis?  Where was the internal community that should have been a cohesive unit?  Where was the engagement of the broader external community they have cultivated?

Doug Poretz asked a good question:

How could an organization with such a stellar reputation and such deep grassroots support, become so dramatically stupid and incompetent so suddenly? (

The answer, of course, is that nothing happened suddenly.  The public melt-down reflects a culture that lacks internal cohesion and fails to engage communally with its external supporters.

Social business is about people and community - and it starts inside an organization.  Komen executives from within the corporate ranks as well as among the local affiliates not only resigned in protest over the announcement that Komen was halting funding to Planned Parenthood, but they did so with public statements of surprise and outrage.  They did not support the organization they represented.  The internal cohesion and coordination of a social business was lacking.

The Komen Foundation is built on grass-roots advocates, on ardent supporters who spread the word, on passion.  It is built on community.  But the Planned Parenthood decision exposed an organization that seems to operate internally in an unsocial, me-versus-you, hierarchical manner.  Individuals, not community, seem to dominate.

When internal community is weak, the external segment of the community founders as well.  Komen supporters still believed in breast cancer awareness and research, but could they believe in the Komen Foundation?

In contrast, Planned Parenthood engaged their community.  And social networks worked.  According to the Washington Post, the response was swift and strong.  More than 2,000 people shared Planned Parenthood's Facebook post; over 32,000 new fans joined the Planned Parenthood Facebook page in 4 days; Twitter users sent over 1.3 million tweets referencing Planned Parenthood.  Planned Parenthood reached out to their community and asked for their involvement, and the community responded.  Many voices created a loud statement; people signed petitions; they donated money.  Activity was coordinated and connected; social at its best.

Particularly in non-profit social businesses, success depends on the engagement of a passionate, coordinated community.  Lose the organizational passion, lose the community, and the social impact of your message is fleeting.

How have you grown and maintained your community internally as well as externally?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

You Don't Need a Social Media Strategy

Jumping into social media without a strategy and plan is not a good idea.  But do you need a stand-alone SOCIAL MEDIA strategy?  What distinguishes a social media strategy?  Is it a communications strategy?  A marketing strategy?  An engagement strategy?  (And what do you mean by an engagement strategy?)

You don't need a social media strategy.  You need a business strategy.  And you need a transition strategy to help your organization and employees embrace new, more effective ways of operating.  Those new means include social media, and exploring the value of becoming a social business.

When I work with organizations to develop social media strategies, the strategies have two distinct areas of focus.

The first, and most important, follows Clover Architecture.  The biggest hurdles for successfully using social media align with the 3 big leaves of clover architecture: culture, leadership and governance.  Technology, the fourth and smaller leaf of the four leaf clover, is the fourth area of a social media strategy.

The second part of a social media strategy involves developing and aligning a plan with the overall business strategy.  We begin by considering 3 issues:

1.  Objectives - What are the organization's objectives and how will you use social media to help you achieve them?

2.  Customers and Audiences - What are the characteristics of your target audiences?  How do those audiences use social media?  Where do they currently hang out on-line?  How can you best reach and engage with them?

3.  Resources - Who in your organization interacts with customers?  Where is there wiggle room?  (Yes, there is always wiggle room.  If you have customer-facing staff, there are unplanned times when the retail lines are non-existent or the customer service lines are not ringing.  Customers follow their own timelines, which are often not those you planned!)

Only THEN do we define social media activities and tools and execution plans.

It's easy to create a plan.  It's hard to create a plan to implement your overall strategy and impact your business.  

Let me know what have been your keys to social media strategy success. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

B2B Social Media - Content and Culture

I am a "huge" believer that statistics show whatever we want.  (I have quoted Twain before, bit it's still one of my favorites: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.")  But when statistics support my personal observations and experience, I have to believe.  The use of social media by B2B companies is growing, is proving far more prevalent, and far more valuable than generally recognized.

What intrigues me, though, is how the effective use of B2B social media differs from the higher profile B2C usage.  Content drives B2B social media, content that allows people access to a company's expertise, leading views, and unique insights.  Social media not only puts a face to the corporate wall, but exposes a deeper understanding of the skills, talents and brains that make up the company.

Social media enables B2B companies to claim and demonstrate their position in the marketplace.  What makes the company different?  Why should we partner?  What is the competitive edge you bring?  Simply retweeting articles written by others or developing a fun Facebook page does not create the necessary demonstration of who you are.

Focus Research's 2011 Benchmark Study highlighted the importance of thoughtful content.  B2B marketers ranked blogs, webinars, white papers and videos as more valuable for directly supporting marketing objectives than did B2C companies.  User/peer-created content and data-driven research reports were more valuable to the B2C companies.

Corporate blogging is the primary purveyor of new content and has tremendous impact in the B2B space.  B2B companies that blog generate 67% more leads per month than those who do not according to Hubspot (State of Inbound Marketing Lead Generation Report, 2010).  Hubspot also found that companies that blog more than 4X a week see the greatest increase in traffic and leads.

Nice.  But how does a company already stretched for resources blog that often?

This is when culture enables social media.

Too many companies are afraid to let their experts "talk."  Materials need to be vetted through the PR or Communications or Marketing or Social Media Department.  The tone has to be "right."  The spin has to be "right."  The message has to align with the corporate message.

Those companies don't trust their own culture; they don't trust the individual voices of their employees to harmonize.  Trust comes from culture.  A social culture is a necessary enabler of an effective B2B social media strategy.    

Blogging is how companies share their thinking, their knowledge and the depth of their expertise.  A blog post needs a genuine voice.  It needs the person who has the knowledge to write the blog.  Most companies have a number of "mile deep" experts, but few experts have the time to author a blog.  Most, however, can find the time to write a post every couple of weeks.  And that is the approach many of my most successful clients have taken - a shared blog.  Each person writes every few weeks on a particular subject, sometimes on seemingly esoteric topics.

This approach works for the bloggers as well.  Putting pictures, brief bios, contact information and expertise on the web site as well as on the blog helps the bloggers to raise their professional profiles.  That practice also turns the company from a building into a group of people, individuals with personalities whom prospective buyers can reach out and contact - and with whom they can establish relationships.  Deep experts and passionate employees are the new front line.

People learn about one another internally from blogs as well.  A social culture not only drives lead generation and revenue, it also improves corporate loyalty and productivity.

Content and culture.  They need each other.

Related articles you might like to read:
12 Tweetable Statistics Prove B2B Social Media Rocks:
Mature Companies Need to Break the Rules:
Corporate Culture and Leadership are Inextricably Bound Together

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Reluctant Leader - Corporate Culture & Leadership are Inextricably Bound Together

"Culture" seems to be growing in importance as a corporate buzz word.  Tony Hsieh famously made it the key to the success of Zappos.  Nordstrom differentiated on their culture of service years ago ("Hire the smile; teach the skill.")  It is one of my 4 leaves of the clover architecture of successful social media.  Culture is what makes companies great and what makes employees great ambassadors.

But the often exclusive focus on culture can be misleading and even damaging.  Culture change without passionate leadership is often chaotic and often a failure.  When a leader advocates or embraces change, the critical first followers can step up quickly, pulling along with them subsequent waves of followers.  I have seen Derek Sivers' wonderful TED talk on leadership ("How to Start a Movement") numerous times, and while we can debate whether the "lone nut" or the first follower is the true driver of change (there is no first follower if the lone nut doesn't first show the way!), culture change requires those one or two people out front.  

Culture change doesn't have to be explosive; sometimes it is evolutionary.  Some of the most difficult changes happen where the existing culture is not toxic, but positive.  Those changes require a leader with the vision to fight FOR, not just AGAINST.

One of my clients is struggling with the problem of a positive culture and a reluctant-to-change leader right now.  The corporate culture is social media friendly - warm, open and supportive.  However, the CEO doesn't understand social media.  (Those of us who work in social media sometimes forget that not everyone tweets, blogs, and shares over digital networks.)  She is coping with a stretched staff, a lot of exciting changes to products and services being offered, and a fear of diverting attention and resources by engaging in social media.  

Because the target market skews to young adults, she intellectually believes that she "has to" get into social media.  Her managers are eager and several are social media savvy; we have developed a great social media strategy; benefits are tied to corporate objectives.  But she can't let her team move forward in this space.  It's too alien.  Too scary.

So we are trashing the overall social media strategy for now and substituting a two-pronged approach.
  • Cultural immersion for the CEO
  • Narrow focus beta trial
Cultural immersion is a lot like language immersion in elementary school.  We are setting up the CEO on Facebook so she can play around.  We are showing her, in one-on-one sessions, how to navigate Twitter and find what interests her.  We are getting her comfortable with social media - not just intellectually, but practically and tactically.  Leaders need to touch it, to feel it, to use it in order to lead - or to allow - a revolution.

Rather than a broad  social media strategy that stretches across culture, governance, technology, implementation...we are focusing narrowly to start.  We have selected one new service where we will integrate social media.  Limited scope.  Limited number of staff.  Limited impact on total operations.  A great opportunity to showcase the costs and benefits of incorporating social media.

The CEO has been a good leader and has created a strong culture.  But as social media increasingly becomes an imperative for her business, she needs to learn again how to charge forward, how to leave her comfort and reluctance behind.

Peter Drucker's comment that "culture eats strategy for breakfast" is popping up everywhere these days.  Perhaps more relevant to the reluctant social media leader is Drucker's comment that "The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday's logic." 

Relevant posts you might like to read: 
Clover Architecture - the 4 Leaves of Extraordinary Social Media,
Don't Follow the Rules - 3 Contrary Actions to Create a High Performance, Social Media Culture,
Passionate Leadership,

Friday, September 30, 2011

Flash Mobs Infiltrate Business (Schools)

Not long after I wrote about why businesses should use flash mobs internally, I received an e-newsletter from the Stanford Graduate School of Business (my alma mater) with a link to this video: Flash Mob Marks Opening of Knight Management Center 

A flash mob at a venerable business school!  And a posted comment that read:

"These guys are business students?  Really?  I would never have guessed...."

Exactly the point.

Businesses need to change because future employees and customers are changing how they act and how they interact.  Business cultures need to change to reflect the changing behaviors and perspectives of employees.  Those organizations that embrace being a social business will out-compete the others.  They will relate to employees and customers by paying attention to everyone, by being one among many in the ecosystem.  They will attract and retain better employees; they will open up, worry less about appearances, and actively engage.  You can’t participate in a flash mob and worry too much about perfection.  Make a mistake?  Catch on and catch up.

The Stanford students celebrated their new building through a demonstration of community.   Their flash mob exemplified why companies need to break the rules and evolve their cultures.  Remember the changes?

  • Don't reward results - reward new behavior
  • Don't optimize current operating processes and procedures - revolutionize!
  • Don't hire for cultural fit - hire the future, not the status quo
These students ARE the future of business.  They are already making clear the social business values they embrace.

Related posts:
Flash Mobs! Corporate Culture Change?
Mature Companies Need to Break the Rules: