Town Hall Meetings: Interactive & Collaborative

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Town Hall Meetings- they happen in every company in every office around the world at least once a year...  normally reserved for the leaders to drone on endlessly about the company. It is time to re-invent the town hall by making it interactive and collaborative with useful outcomes. Here is a Cost, Interactivity matrix with dozens of ideas on how to make your next company get together more interesting. (Prezi Presentation - click the arrow to move through or just zoom around to the points that interest you!) 



If you liked this, you might be interested in our Panel Discussion Guide, Interactive Exercises Guides or contribute your own by following the directions at the top of our Circle Up Guides!

Simple Collaboration Tips and Tricks

Posted on by Brandon Klein


For many of us, being a business person is the opportunity to show off our knowledge and expertise, providing answers to their challenging problems.


At the same time, we also have to find ways to collaborate with and facilitate work with the client, making sure that the knowledge and the improvements will continue to live and grow with the client after we've left. 


Here are some principles that may apply to any type of collaborative environment:


- Before a meeting, send out the questions
- When preparing for meetings, we are good at creating a set of objectives.  But also take the time to convert them into a set of questions that have to be answered 
- Send those questions out to the meeting invitees beforehand, setting the expectation that we intend to answer them, not just discuss them
- Ask invitees to come armed with their point of view on these questions 
- Starting a meeting with an individual exercise
- Begin the meeting by taking a few minutes for each participant to write down their input on the questions you sent out beforehand.  Use flip chart paper, so everyone can see it
-Then have each participant present their material 
- You will discover the areas where they already agree, and don’t need to spend further time getting into “violent agreement”  
- You will discover what the points of view are where they don’t agree, and can focus the meeting on those.
This also ensures that everyone “has their say,” and that ideas matter more than where those ideas came from 
- Get the work up on the wall. When work is displayed out in the open, the entire team is better able to engage with it
- Don’t hide project work/draft deliverables in computer screens.  Get it on the team room wall where everyone can see it and interact with it 
- Use the walls of your room to create a “memory” of their project to date and to post interesting/provocative materials 
- You can create “horse blankets” with brown paper to display a PowerPoint deck, depict process flow diagrams, post project updates, etc.  
- Constantly update what you have!  Keep all the work visible! When the work is visible, it is much easier to engage with
- “Lather, rinse, repeat.” Iteration is the process of taking multiple, rapid cuts of detailed work.  It creates that work faster and produces better quality than trying to do the entire piece in one long burn.
- Lather - Ask yourself if there is any way to structure the project into a series of short term deliverables (one week maximum).  This gives you regular project “check points” and team deadlines 
- Rinse – Report or post the latest version of the work so that you have ‘delivered’ a product.  Get feedback, a review or just a good night’s sleep.  Also, make early versions of later solutions.  Ask yourself how to pull work from a subsequent phase into the current one 
- Repeat - Regularly return to the most recent iteration to revise it and add another level of detail.  
An iterated “storyboard” of a presentation under creation is a powerful tool—print and post your materials every hour for review.  This requires a strict cut-off!
- Less PowerPoint is more (Not PowerPoint the software, but PowerPoint the LCD projector.)  
PowerPoint is an excellent tool for “one-way” presentations.  But it is not effective at fostering interactive discussions.  We tend to add details and polish slides instead of thinking of what we want to accomplish when a “deck” is being created.  We tend to run through a presentation as a speech instead of a dialogue.
Ask yourself – is there some way I can do it without PowerPoint?  How can we be more interactive?
A dynamic speaker with a flipchart can make a better impression.  Some of the best “orals” presentations used only a few plotter-sized posters.
- If you have a deck, print it, post all the slides and do a “poster session.”  
- Nobody is more limited than the expert
- Subject matter specialists are an important source of information.  But, sometimes they can’t think “outside the box” of what they believe to be true. So, don’t invite ‘experts’ to define what your project can/can’t do.  
Your team will ask better questions and be more creative if they ignore the experts and create what needs to be created.  
“Man who says something cannot be done should not get in the way of man who is doing it.”  --Confucius
- Read weirdly widely - Consultants need to be well-versed and current on their industry or functional specialty. But fresh ideas and inspiration often come from outside your area of expertise, by understanding how others approached a problem or providing fresh ways of thinking.
- So read, study, and travel widely.  Topics as diverse as art, gardening, history, community service, anatomy, music, sports, etc. can be of value.  Often it is the “weird” or “fringe” knowledge that yields the best insights.
One client, struggling with too much to accomplish with too few resources, drew inspiration from how Cortez conquered the Aztec Empire and adapted his “leverage techniques.”  Another created a “Lion King” single frame model to explain their business approach.
- Integrating Work Streams. We are very good at structuring work into “work streams.”  But they tend to turn into a different variation of silos, and don’t integrate well.
- Set up “integration events” such as simulations, poster shows, ambassadors, or other techniques to foster cross-team sharing.  “High frequency, low amplitude” connections are best (frequent, low-key contacts).
Wherever there is an integration touch point (such as data passing between two processes in a system design), create a hand-off template that specifies what each group will give/get from the other.  Force each team to agree on the hand-offs.
- “Think globally, act locally” is your watchword.  It is easy for teams to sub-optimize if they are not keeping the big picture in mind.
- Simulations help anticipate problems Ask yourself how to simulate the dynamics of the work your team is doing.  Simulations can highlight unanticipated market challenges or systemic issues. One project team did an “E-commerce Market Simulation” that flagged a critical channel conflict. Another team did a “process walk” following data through a systems design (sort of a pre-conference room pilot) that identified 212 issues to resolve. A third team used agent-based simulations to discover a bifurcated market in biotech drug sales that translated into sales opportunities
- Finding problems when you simulate is success!  You can’t fix the problems you don’t know about
- Different vantage points – discovery requires movement
- Physical travel, visiting another company or organization, perception of a journey within the project, seeing the problem “at a distance” are all helpful. A “field trip” to other organizations broadens the client’s perspective and suggests potential ideas. An account team “field trip” to other projects can widen perspective and view on the challenges facing one’s own project 

Collaboration Klout & Knowledge

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Collaboration had its most 'discussed' two months in history (at least by what's traceable online) 

Here are some of the finest examples of collaboration proliferation online:

Work Awesome:
Resource for people who love what they do, and want to become awesome at it. It’s a blog for people who want to be awesome at work. It’s also a blog for people who want to be awesome at what they’re passionate about. Whether it’s the music you’re making in your home studio or the freelance business you’ve always wanted to start, or even (of course) your job, we’ve got it.  We’re going to teach our readers about starting things, completing things and trying new things – and be “awesomely productive” when doing so.

Capture and share your inner most creative genius with a little help of some tech and up to 4 friends
Think digital post-its and multiple screens (be sure to watch the video to see it in action) 

Track your Collaboration:
We all have a tendency to learn up to a point, we get comfortable and keep chugging along rarely investing in our ongoing education. I call it the slow but sure path to irrelevancy. Let me share my prescription for avoiding irrelevancy: Try new things... (highly analytical article) 

Pipl & Klout & Listorious & DemandBase & Google Me Laugh 
Know more about who you know and who they know and how much influence they have over who they know and connect what they know to what others know so you know what they know, even before they know...

Insurance companies will influence your rates because they collaborate with your online social profiles
What? Yes, it's true. The collaborative world is getting incredibly connected.  

Collaboration in Learning
We learn by example and by direct experience because there are real limits to the adequacy of verbal instruction. Malcolm Gladwell in "Blink" Change is coming to the world of education... 

When Data collaborates and then shows itself for human improvement:  
The Ushahidi platform relies on distributed data collected via text message, email, and web that is then visualized on a map or timeline. The project first began as a way to help track citizen reports of post-election violence in Kenya in 2007. Since then, Meier suggests in his talk, Ushahidi has been used by numerous organizations around the world for a variety of situations. 

Never forget the power of games in collaboration & making the world a better place:
Games like World of Warcraft give players the means to save worlds, and incentive to learn the habits of heroes. What if we could harness this gamer power to solve real-world problems? Jane McGonigal says we can, and explains how.

Web collaboration is changing the way the government is doing business:
There has been plenty of discussion about how governments are using online collaboration to engage with the general public and open up their vast amounts of data to collaborators. The interagency collaboration occurring behind government firewalls using wikis and blogs is also well-publicized. A topic that’s received less attention are the ways that social media and the principles of openness, collaboration, and authenticity are transforming how the government does business. How is social media changing the government contracting process? That’s the $500 billion+ question. 

Collaborate through scavenger hunts and your phone:
SCVNGR is a game. And playing is easy. Go places. Do challenges. Earn points! That’s the core of it, but there’s a whole lot more. Discover cool new places. Do exciting new things. Share what you’re up to with your friends. Unlock badges (and even real world rewards) by doing quick, fun challenges at your favorite places as you go about your daily life.

Google Wave becomes more collaborative and friendly - might be worth using now:
A "WaveThis" button that lets the visitors to this blog (that's you!) easily discuss this blog post with their friends and coworkers in a small group. It's less public than broadcast tools and more interactive than using email. When you click the "WaveThis" button, it will copy the title and URL of this post and drop it in a new wave. Then, you can add your friends to the wave to start discussing. Try it out! 

Cloud computing is taking over online collaboration:
Great visual to see just how powerful the Cloud is becoming...  

21st century collaboration survival skills- Foresight:
- critical thinking concerning long term development
- debate and effort to create wider participatory democracy
- shaping the future, especially by influencing public policy

Goodbye to the office:
Factories used to be arranged in a straight line. That's because there was one steam engine, and it turned a shaft. All the machines were set up along the shaft, with a belt giving each of them power. The office needed to be right next to this building, so management could monitor what was going on. 



Customer, Employee & Technology Collaboration

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Original image by erin_malone

Inspiring a better way to work isn't just a euphemism for 'work harder' or 'collaborate better' or 'be social this way'. It is intended as simply place where people can share ideas, examples, exercises for a better work environment, that is infinitely (hopefully) more collaborative.

An important way to achieve this is through technology... using less of it, well using less of it in the traditional sense. More technology in the cloud means less in your hands and more importantly less than you have to think about. Social CRM is part of the collaborative solution...

Social CRM is not a platform or a technology—it represents a cultural phenomenon that organizations must embrace if they are to leverage social media within their CRM processes.  When social media is integrated properly within multiple layers of your organization (and not only with your CRM system), it enables fluid conversation between your brand and your customer.  This conversation fosters greater transparency and helps a business gain trust of its customers and is therefore mutually beneficial.  This re-imagining of the customer-centric ecosystem reinforces the fact that increasingly the customer is in control.  Indeed, this ecosystem can be beneficial to the business as well, with the proviso that the business is able to leverage the collective intelligence of its customer base and build trust and intimacy with its prospects even before they become its customers.  This public ecosystem can be harnessed to deepen relationships with existing clients and prospects and to provide thought leadership in an increasingly competitive marketplace.  This social interaction, however, has more to do with the transparency and intimacy that your business has developed with your customers and less to do with your CRM.

The Social CRM process therefore can be broken down into the following steps. Your employees:

  1. collect user feedback from the social community;
  2. enrich the organization’s CRM system with the information collected, expanding user profiles of specific customers;
  3. determine what actionable insights can be drawn from the new information that has come to light for specific customers (leading to micro response) and larger customer pool with similar needs (leading to macro response);
  4. respond to not only to the specific customers impacted or being proactively targeted, but to the entire community with feedback and solutions.

What is the Significance of “Social” in Social CRM?

With all the hype surrounding social media, there is a great deal of confusion about the intent and the meaning of Social CRM.  The term gets used without understanding or emphasizing that CRM is still driven primarily by technology.  Social is not an adjective that modifies the noun CRM.  Instead, “social” complements CRM technology and is better written as “Social + CRM”.  This is the context of Paul Greenberg’s controversial comment:

In my response to Bob Thompson’s superb discussion on the Altimeter Group’s Social CRM Pioneers Google Group, “Does Social CRM Need Social Media”, I said emphatically no.

He goes on to explain that “social media is not the only technology involved in a Social CRM implementation.”  He is right to consider the continued importance of operational and transactional technologies such as a customer record.  Customer transactional data and analytics that provide insight into customers and how your employees relate to your customers cannot be supplanted by the hegemony of the social media discourse.  The transaction history is just as important as before and so are analytics because they can enable an organization to identify future trends.  Your customer’s social interactions can never replace the need to record customer transactions.

Contesting the Death of Traditional CRM


Cisco has spent a great deal of time and money to make all of this a reality. In fact, they have gone so far as creating a whole architecture for this 'new' type of collaboration.

Read about Cisco's Collaboration Architecture


Virtual & Social Collaboration: A Full Report

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Magic quadrants, fully in depth research reports... It is hard to ascertain their true value to improved collaboration in your work place. The view of the authors of this site is that these tools are only marginally successful with out a comparable investment in off-line collaboration methodologies and actions. 

You can get your own copy of the Gartner report here. And  here (1MB) is the latest Virtual Collaboration Report. 


There Are No More Blind Dates; Collaborate Online First

Posted on by Brandon Klein

The socially powered Web has become the tool of choice to find business and personal information about the people, products, services, and companies we are considering doing business with. Because people know they can do a quick bit of research and often discover additional information before making purchase decisions, it’s become a standard part of the process for both buyer and seller.

This creates tremendous opportunity while raising the bar for anyone that sells a product or service.

There are no more blind dates. Your prospects can know more about you, your products, your company and your solutions than you with very little work. And the same holds true – you can and should know all about a prospect’s challenges, strategies, peers, and constraints before you ever pick up the phone to call them.

Social media and search have irreversibly merged the worlds of sales and marketing. Where the marketing message and the sales relationship building tactics begin and end is a moving target and you must adopt a new set of marketing related behaviors to thrive in this new order.

There are two distinct paths, find and be found, you must develop whether you are creating a marketing focused lead conversion system or you are a remote salesperson trying to become more effective and valuable to your customers. Many organizations are using new tools such as LinkedIn to find and connect with prospects, but they are missing the ability to go deep into the world of the prospect in order to understand their needs and priorities. Few sales organizations, however, understand that prospects are using the web to discover more and more about the individual making the sales call. After all, that may be the person they need to trust to ensure what was promised gets delivered.

Today’s marketing and sales teams must work together to master both.


  • You must create and deploy simple listening routines
  • You must get very good at understanding how to network online
  • You must know more about the industry, company, prospect and challenges than your competitors
  • You must learn how to filter and aggregate the sea of information to turn it into context and value

Be Found

  • You must claim lots of digital real estate and profiles in your name and that of the company
  • You must start to produce your own expert content and engage your customers to do the same
  • You must connect with and be a connector for your customer community
  • You must own 10 of the first results in Google for your name

You must own and grow both of the above skill sets in order to be the most effective marketer or sales person. It’s no longer enough to have a great product or solution. Getting in front of the right prospect in an environment where you have credibility has become very difficult. Even if you manage to do so, the final decision to go with your solution may ride on what a prospect finds online just before they push the buy button.

Cross posted in conjunction with Duct Tape Marketing

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Enterprise 2.0 Collaboration ROI

Posted on by Brandon Klein

You may be familiar with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. It's a theory Abraham Maslow proposed in 1943, that provides a pecking order of human needs. At the bottom of the pyramid are physiological needs: breathing, food water, etc. The fundamentals needed for basic survival. The needs then climb the pyramid, becoming more intangible as one goes along: safety, love/belonging, esteem, self-actualization.

The theory's structure of moving from tangible/tactical needs to those that are intangible and more impactful is actually well suited for another purpose. That of the software decision-maker inside companies...

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Enterprise 2.0 ROI

The decision to purchase an enterprise software application is one that generally demands a variety of different views about benefits. Because with most enterprise systems - Enterprise 2.0 included - there are a variety of benefits:

maslow's hierarchy of enterprise 2.0 roi

Working our way from the bottom up...

Cost Savings

Saving money is one of the easier ways for an enterprise decision-maker to justify an investment. The savings can more than offset the costs of a enterprise system. This correlates to Maslow's original hierarchy of physiological needs. The dollars saved cover the cost to purchase.

Saving money occurs in multiple ways when it comes to software. While a traditional measure is that the new application replaces a more expensive one, that's a benefit that doesn't scale. A stronger benefit is one which opens up a pipeline of new cost-cutting and operational efficiency measures. A favorite quote about cost-cutting ROI at Spigit (disclosure: I work @ Spigit) is this one:

Another event for store managers focused on cutting costs and improving customer service. One idea from that event will save the company $8 million. "IT and senior VPs ask how we measure ROI for Spigit," the director says. With numbers like that, the answer is easy.

You've covered the lowest level ROI needs with this one, the benefit that is easiest to see and measure. The importance of this should not be underestimated. However, it's also the benefit with the lowest impact on the organization.

Revenue Generation

Next rung up the ROI hierarchy is creating new revenue. In this case, the benefit is more localized to new products and services, as opposed to entirely markets. Increasing the top line is great for the social software ROI calculation. It's not surprising to see the social CRM space heating up.

Getting ideas from employees and customers that lead to new revenue-generating products is a solid business case for Enterprise 2.0. Employees have ideas, but have lacked effective means of making them known to a wider audience. This cartoon highlights the issue:

emailed idea = idea flushed down toilet

Customers have great ideas, and provide great direction for new products. They also love to hear about your new product concepts, and will gladly offer feedback.

The reason revenue generation is above cost-cutting is that there is an increased level of uncertainty as to how the revenue will come about, from which idea. Still, this is a solid level that deeply satisfies the ROI needs of companies.

Customer Satisfaction

Happy customers. What every great company wants and continually works for. Anyone with experience on the "front lines" of a company understands the importance of this. Enterprise 2.0 platforms that help companies find ways to increase customer satisfaction hit on an important need for companies.

Having customers suggest their ideas is a valuable approach to improving products and ideas. With an eye toward higher satisfaction and lower churn.

There's also a new factor emerging: social media. Customers who are unhappy can create publicity problems for companies, an issue Jeremiah Owyang takes head on with his post, Companies Should Factor ‘Social Influence’ Into Total Customer Value.

The other value of engaging customers is that while their ideas may be incremental, there may be patterns companies can pick up in what the customers are proposing. In other words, look beyond the tactical feature or service idea, and see what "job" the customer has for your offering.

This benefit scales well, and is of high value to companies. It does have a softer ROI story, however.

Employee Satisfaction

Enterprise 2.0 has more highly engaged and connected employees at its core. The ability to make a more substantive impact. The ability to find that right person to help with an idea or project. The aha moments of discovering information you need. Making connections with people who see the possibilities you do. The ability to carve out a basis for recognition more broadly than has been available previously.

All of these relate to the issue of more satisfied employees. Now a social software application cannot on its own get you there. But it can play an important role in making that goal a reality. In Ideas Are Core to Enterprise 2.0, four elements of ideas are identified relating to higher employee engagement:

  1. Ideas are me
  2. Ideas Are the Basis for Finding Like-Minded Colleagues
  3. Ideas Are Social Objects
  4. Ideas Become Projects

Now the benefit of employee satisfaction is moving higher up the pyramid. Which means its measurability is limited. But it also means its impact is higher. On the Knowledge@Wharton site, the research of Alex Edmans on valuing intangibles is presented (requires free registration). One finding:

Edmans examines the stock returns of companies with high employee satisfaction and compares them to various benchmarks -- the broader market, peer firms in the same industry, and companies with similar characteristics. His research indicates that firms cited as good places to work earn returns that are more than double those of the overall market. Companies on Fortune magazine's annual list of the "100 Best Companies to Work for in America" between 1998 and 2005 returned 14% per year, compared to 6% a year for the overall market, according to Edmans. The results also hold up using an earlier version of the survey that dates back to 1984.

It may not work well on a spreadsheet, but the impact is felt in organizations. And employee satisfaction is a higher level, emotional benefit for companies in the Maslow's Hierarchy for Enterprise 2.0 ROI.

Cross-Organization Collaboration

An important objective of companies to getting employees to work together. It's not enough to have the expertise and experience resident in employees. People need to work together to achieve the various objectives of a company.

Cross-organization collaboration does three things:

  1. Improves outcomes as a diversity of knowledge and perspectives are brought to bear
  2. Strengthen bonds for the next initiative an employee works on
  3. Reduces cases of duplicative efforts and unnecessarily starting from scratch

As has been discussed here previously, people with access to a wider range of viewpoints consistently produce higher quality ideas. That only happens when the full intellectual power of employees can be tapped through collaborative networks.

Andrew McAfee's bulls eye shows the different strength of connections each worker has inside organizations:


There is a tremendous opportunity for organizations to help their employees increase the closer ties and extract much more value from those who are in the outer rings away from one's strong ties. Because for most workers, those outer rings are practically non-existent.

We're getting pretty high up on Maslow's ROI Hierarchy. The previous level of employee satisfaction was more emotional. This level weaves in intellectual benefits as well.

Innovation Culture

Innovations that arise from a social software initiative can be measured; indeed they are the most tangible ROI of Enterprise 2.0. As Intel's Laurie Buczek wrote about her company's Enterprise 2.0 efforts:

Where we did quickly find quantifiable business value during an ideation proof of concept.  Ideas that are discovered and turned into action have produced dollarized return of business value.  Where we are finding it tougher to quantify is determining improvements in team collaboration, communication, individual productivity and the softer side of enterprise 2.0.

What's harder to measure is this: how deep is a company's innovation culture? This is a culture where the nine principles of innovation management flourish inside an organization:

  1. Innovation benefits from a range of perspectives
  2. Four of the most damaging words an employee can say: "Aww, forget about it".
  3. Allow some freedom to try things that don't work
  4. Create a culture of constant choices
  5. Looking at innovation as a discipline
  6. Focus employees' innovation priorities
  7. Recognize innovation as a funnel with valuable leaks
  8. Establish a common platform for innovation
  9. Innovation must be more than purely emergent, disorganized and viral

The value of creating a sustainable innovation culture - as opposed to a series of one-off innovations - is distinctly covered by by the top consulting firm Boston Consulting Group. Companies that are the innovation leaders in their industries generate 430 basis points more in shareholder returns than do average companies (link to pdf report).

We're talking culture here, and in purely in that sense, it's a soft ROI discussion. But the end-results are quite measurable and powerful for this part of Maslow's ROI Hierarchy. Combined with executive commitment, strong incentives and a can-do attitude, social software like Spigit becomes a critical tool for helping companies achieve an innovation culture.

Organizational Agility

This is the equivalent of self-actualization, the top of Maslow's needs hierarchy. Companies that have achieved the other benefits - hard to soft - will find they have a much higher level of organizational agility. Organizational agility includes:

  • Seeing changes in the market faster
  • Shifting resources in response to new opportunities
  • Mixing incremental and disruptive innovation
  • Moving on from initiatives, programs,markets, products that no longer work
  • Employees can recognize opportunities and threats themselves, and act accordingly

Gary Hamel has been doing a masterful job the past few years of covering the need for organizations to be more agile. He frames the issue in terms of looking at the pace of change in the world compared to traditional management models:

gary hamel - pace of change increasing while  management models stay same

On the left, a conceptual chart outlines something many of us instinctively feel. The pace of change in our world is increasing. As Gary Hamel noted, year-to-year volatility in company earnings have been increasing exponentially the last 40 years. Those changes are manifestations of what we all experience. At the Spigit Customer Summit, he put it well when he said:

What a company did in the past is now less predictive of its future.

Business Week in 2004 ran an article that nicely demonstrated the acceleration of change. It included these points:

  • The number of Fortune 300 CEOs with six years’ tenure in that role has decreased from 57 percent in 1980 to 38 percent in 2001.
  • In 1991, the number of new household, health, beauty, food, and beverage products totaled 15,400. In 2001, that number had more than doubled to a record 32,025.
  • From 1972 to 1987, the U.S. government deleted 50 industries from its standard industrial classification. From 1987 to 1997, it deleted 500. At the same time, the government added or redefined 200 industries from 1972 to 1987, and almost 1,000 from 1987 to 1997.
  • In 1978, about 10,000 firms were failing annually, and this number had been stable since 1950. By 1986, 60,000 firms were failing annually, and by 1998 that number had risen to roughly 73,000.
  • From 1950 to 2000, variability in S&P 500 stock prices increased more than tenfold. Through the decades of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, days on which the market fluctuated by three percent or more were rare — it happened less than twice a year. For the past two years it happened almost twice a month.

The right side of the model discusses several management thinkers from decades ago. The point Hamel is making is that companies need to be organized to better addres increasing volatility and complexity.

Organizational agility - software alone doesn't make it happen. But lacking a platform to tap the ideas, judgment and real-time radar of employees means companies will not achieve it either.

This is the company, self-actualized.

(Originally posted on Cloud Ave and cross-posted @ the Spigit Blog)

Collaboration Isn't Email

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Business Insider graphic showing how social software is more common that email now.There is a great divide happening.

We are collaborating online in a completely different ways from off-line. We are pushing the boundaries of what is possible in virtual collaboration with our actions and our financial investments.

Virtual collaboration started with email, which was actually just really fast letters. Virtual collaboration today is so immersive, it is re-defining what collaboration even means.

But we still collaborate THE SAME EXACT WAY on work, on projects, on ideas... when we are face-to-face. Just as social collaboration has become the default way of communicating (see chart above) BECAUSE OF countless billions of marketing, technology and financial investments, where is the investment in improving how we collaborate together in person?

- Where are the investments to improving collaboration in meetings
- Where are the apps that lock you out of PowerPoint so you can actually get something done
- Where are the startups that redefine 8 people working around a table with singular goals
- Where are the software programs that turn off electronics when you are having a human to human conversation
- Where are the carpenters to destroy the windowless conference rooms
- ...


Bring Tim To Speed Up Meetings

Posted on by Brandon Klein

There have been few inventions that actually improve meetings and collaboration during them. I am sure you have heard/tried them all.

- No shoes
- Charity tip jar
- Tardy dance
- Standing room only
- 20 second auto-advancing PowerPoint slides
- Cell phone signal blocker

The list could go on and on. But finally (and no, this isn't from The Onion) there is Bring Tim. Here is a quick video about it:

Cisco: Collaboration ROI Proof!

Posted on by Brandon Klein

In the last decade, the Internet, mobile, and broadband technologies redefined our way of life. Collaboration tools have become business-critical, adding value in many ways. Cisco has presented a framework for assessing the return on a collaboration investment across three areas:

- Operational Return on Investment (ROI): Achieved by reducing and/or avoiding costs
- Productivity ROI: Realized through more efficient processes, faster time to market, and reduced cycle time
- Strategic ROI: Leading to business transformation and strategic advantage

We have moved from the first generation of collaboration focused on individuals within a single company to more advanced tools that facilitate social sessions across organizations. Now more than ever, a network-centric approach is essential to maximizing the benefits of today’s collaboration technology.


Download the full PDF report


Is collaboration worth it? The research says, yes. To measure the full return on collaboration, business leaders should consider results across three areas: operational ROI, productivity ROI, and strategic ROI. A modest level of collaboration results in moderate performance gains; however, progressively better collaboration yields progressively better performance and returns. Now is the time to plan your collaboration strategy. Pioneers in financial services, healthcare, education, and other industries already are defining new enterprise standards in their industries. Don’t miss the opportunity to be an innovative collaboration leader.

6 Tips For Open Collaboration - A Perspective

Posted on by Brandon Klein

My name is Alpha and my interests is in open collaboration – emergent, non-hierarchical, collaborative, open, networked, gift economy complex adaptive systems and how to grow these open collaboration projects – projects like Burning Man, Wikipedia, United Religions Initiative, open source software, and the Transition Town movement.

There are many factors that have to gel to allow a collective intelligence to emerge and produce something. My spidey senses were awakened and as I watched and then participated in this Junto and emergentbydesign phenomena I began to get a sense of what she was doing. Here are some of my observations :

1. Taking the time to reply to people - Whenever someone tweeted or commented she would reply. This allows the conversation and the relationship to build

2. See things from anothers perspective Venessa had a beautiful ability to understand how the other person was thinking. She would see things from another’s perspective and be able to engage whilst holding both hers and the others perspective. This allowed the comment section to have a good flow on her site. People felt heard and were interested in further engagement. Even when she disagreed with the other person, there was a sense that the space could hold differing opinions.

Personally I was used to spending trying and fitting other’s people thoughts into my framework, and then trying to language my own thoughts so that others could understand it. But I spent a lot less time trying to understand how the other was thinking initially. Trying to see things from others perspectives is something I had tried and do more of over the last year, and now inspired by Venessa I focused on it even more. I did find it kind of hard – I had to put aside my thoughts for a moment, and figure out all the assumptions and worldview the other was coming in with and then see how they built their thoughts on top of that. But like many things that are initially hard I seemed to begin to get better at it as I practiced. And emotionally I found more stability in talking to people, I wasn’t so quickly reactive.

3. Invite others to join in – How do you get people to participate in your open collaboration/open source project? The answer lies in issuing the right invitation at the right time.

I had been reading Venessa’s blog and the comments on it for awhile but had never left a comment myself. Perhaps it felt a little disconnected. Whilst Venessa had sent me a friendly tweet once, it still felt like this was simply some strangers blog on the net that I had did not have much connection to. But we exchanged some more tweets, I got a tweet from her inviting me to post a comment to the unfolding Junto project. And so I posted. Having to think about what thoughts I would add to the project and adding them to the comment section I then began to feel more part of the mix. And I was now cross-fertilizing with others in this emergent vortex.

4. Reach out and connect. Build the human connection. – Having made these initial forays she then suggested we might meet when she came out to the west coast.

I met her at the Caltrain station and then we went to a nearby cafe to chat. She was younger than I thought (somehow when I read really intelligent thinkers I imagine them older than they are) , vibrant, and friendly. She seemed really nice, someone I would hang out with even if she wasn’t doing all these cool worldchanging projects. I am an energy worker/healer and can see and feel energies, and there was a kind of glow around her, and a sparkle to her whole field. On hanging out with her I could also see she had a whole spiritually awake side to her too and that she was growing quite fast as this Junto and emergentbydesign project unfolded.

And now that she and I are friends I am much more likely to contribute and be part of the openly collaborative Junto project.

As Venessa has been reiterating in some of her posts, the point really is about the human connection. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in thinking about social architectures and social design I begin to think that is the endpoint. But really the endpoint is the human connection.

5. Having conversations awakens the collective intelligence of the system to grow itself.-

The day I met her at the cafe she also was visiting a number of others in San Francisco that she had met through twitter and her blog. By talking to people in person and online many interesting ideas, concepts, directions emerge. These conversations she was having with everyone helps bring in new resources and paths for the Junto project to grow.

There is an interesting field in complex systems theory called cellular automata. Imagine all these little interconnected cells interacting with their neighbours in rule-based ways. The sum connection of all these interactions can birth really complex phenomena even if the initial local interaction rules are very simple. The local interactions interact in a systems way to birth global patterns.

So it is with conversations, the interaction of all these local conversations can birth complex new patterns at the open collaborative project level.

6. Be vulnerable and allow yourself to be transformed.-

One of the most beautiful things about following the Junto/emergentbydesign project is to see Venessa open up, share deeply. To see herself in her humanness. And to watch the transformation in her as she opens her being, and connects on a deep level with others.

And really thats probably the real reason to do open collaboration projects – to transform individually and collectively into higher states of being.

…. Originally posted on Open Collaboration

45 Minute Meeting Movement

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Every once in a while, a corporate campaign can have a significant impact on collaboration. Case in point is TimeBridge.* Their latest promotion is called the "45-Minute Meeting Movement."—a movement to champion more efficient meetings.
Instead of scheduling your next meeting for an hour, try 45 minutes. You will notice the difference! 
Mike Song' book, "The Hamster Revolution for Meetings", reports that meeting attendees claim 43% of meeting time is wasted. When you consider the average professional is in 463 meetings a year, that is a very poor collaboration performance record.
TimeBridge is also sponsoring a Twitter conversation with #45minmtg. Please join the conversation. 
Read more about meetings and how they can be more effective and collaborative in our Meetings Tag
*TimeBridge is a web application that makes it incredibly easy to schedule and lead great meetings—and follow up after you meet. Think of us as your calendar-wrangling, agenda-making, note-taking, team-motivating, secret weapon in the battle against workplace inefficiency.

Action Templates for Better Collaboration

Posted on by Robin Brooking


Sometimes the most useful way to get people to collaborate together is to give them a piece of paper or wall or document that has pre-determined fields that they need to fill out. It doesn't get much simpler or more effective than this. 


1) The simplest is to just put a matrix in PowerPoint with the objectives you are trying to reach. Download an example PowerPoint template here


2) If you want to spice it up a little (haha) you can create a graphical template to encourage people to put more time into their work and presentation of it. 


3) Perhaps the most effective is when you use an entire whiteboard or flip charts or foam core and create a full  size template on this. This encourages the whole team to work together on the answers and then present in one consistent format. 


Have any other ideas? Let us and our readers know in the comments section below. 

One Click Collaboration: Forums

Posted on by Brandon Klein

It is worth mentioning that forums are one of the oldest forms of communicating online and one of the most powerful passive expressions of collaboration on the market. There are countless forums on topics, and one could argue that comments and tweeting are a form of forum! What if you brought it all together with your Facebook account, Gmail account etc. and were able to have a collaborative forum within seconds on anything? has the solution. Here it is in action, definitely worth looking at!

get your own embeddable forum with Talki


Cool Tools for Collaboration?

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Why is it that cool, new tools seem to make us all want to be more collaborative?

Can they effectively make a difference? It has been proven that collaborative software can yield a significant ROI, but to effectively encourage collaboration within a company, are these 'toys' really necessary?

Day-to-day, this 'hysteria' can be seen by the thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of iPad promotions touted on company's websites, from CNET and Amazon to the Florida Department of Education. Is it simply a quick gimmick to gain attention for their product/service by tying it to the current phenomenon, or is there an inherent link between the new technology and their offering, that actually encourages superior collaboration?

As expected, there are success stories at the high end of the scale. For example, everyone is familiar with the ultimate collaboration/interaction tool, the Smart Board, or the Collaboration Wall depending on your term of preference. Check it out in action on this video, or see it in action every day on CNN.

This is created by Perceptive Pixel and is too expensive for almost any individual or small company. There are countless other companies offering similar offerings, but none that can match Perceptive Pixel. 

But then Apple comes along with the iPad and suddenly this exclusive high end collaborative tool is now revolutionizing the masses. Hospitals are buying them in the hundreds because they are perceived to make their doctors more efficient, collaborative and patient focused: "This is going to make my day easier and patient safety better."  Small companies are jumping on board to impress their clients and individuals are purchasing this flashy, new toy, claiming it to be less expensive then buying a new computer while also touting it as the future of education for their young kids.

When you pair this touch, surface, interactive computing with the thousands of business applications that are being built to directly impact our work effectiveness and interpersonal collaboration (as well as revolutionize industries), we're left to wonder what the long-term social ramifications might be...But that's probably best saved for another post!



For now, enjoy the toys, (I mean collaboration tools!) and share your thoughts on how you think they might make us more or less collaborative. Only time will tell.


Ode to IBM and Collaboration

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Often stodgy Big Blue deserves a little credit now and again. Not only is their LotusLive suite one of the best online collaboration software products available, but they just bought CastIron which brings all the best collaboration software and traditional business software together in one package. And to top it off, they are pioneering collaborative environments, social software and interactive visualization through their Watson Research Center.

They also have some of the best internal policies as well. Did you know that they now reimburse employees with cash to switch to Macs! It is more economical for them as a company to have their employees using machines that are much more reliable and don't cause call to the technical support hotline. Hard to believe, but true. They also have some of the best internal social software networking available. Perhaps we will see a case study from them one day.

Here is a take on some of their work:



Social Software
We are exploring new collaboration software that builds on underlying social networks to provide powerful new ways to find people, groups, and manage information. Several projects are underway, including Beehive, a social networking site designed to help employees connect, team build, and learn about each other. In a second project, Cattail , we leverage social affordances to provide easy-to-use personal file sharing and information discovery. We continue to explore the benefits of social tagging and the benefits of socially-enabled search.

Collaborative Environments
Our goal is to invent new collaboration software by designing and building applications to support work in both small groups and large organizations. The Collaborative Reasoning project focuses on supporting a group of people that is collecting, understanding and jointly reasoning about incoming information. The current use case for this work is detecting computer and network intrusions. In our work on Bluegrass and, more recently, Olympus, we have been trying to understand the business value of virtual worlds and avatars. In Olympus, a simple Flash-based virtual world is used in conjunction with the Unyte eMeeting service. In 2009, we will be investigating whether and how this new feature affects the eMeeting experience. Finally, the Ensemble project is applying social networking concepts to application development.

Interactive Visualization
Interactive visualizations help people see and exchange information in novel ways. Many Eyes exemplifies our design goal of transforming visualization from a solitary activity into a collaborative one. Other application areas are on-line discussions, email archives, social networks, software development, and executive decision support tools.




Collaboration and Trust

Posted on by Brandon Klein

The more you delve into the details of collaboration, the more apparent it becomes that TRUST is central to everything. Whether the person you are working with, or the computer that holds your data, everything needs to be trusted for you to succeed. Charlie Green, the undisputed Trust writer and speaker chose his seven favorite posts related to trust and collaboration. Enjoy!

1. Collaboration is the New Competition--Isn't It?   

2. A Tendency to Blame and an Inability to Confront

3. The Problem with B-schools is the Problem with Business

4. Why "Corporate Ethics" Is Usually an Oxymoron

5. Trust, Trusting and Trustworthiness

6. Four Principles of Organizational Trust: How to Make Your Company Trustworthy

7. Collaboration as a Strategy, Not a Tactic

8. Buddhist Capitalism

Collaboration Experiences: 1004

Posted on by Brandon Klein

 In the late 90’s, this Fortune 100 company and us began investigating a model for jointly creating a shared services entity (SSE) to reduce the client’s controllable costs in one of their business units.  This investigation involves three main phases that will drive toward a decision on whether or not to implement the SSE. This decision will not be made until a business case can be developed. Each of the three phases of the initial investigation have a “Go/No Go” decision associated with them. Part of Phase 2’s due diligence process was to hold a collaborative workshop.

The purpose of the event was to gain an understanding of the options available to the client. The session focused on allowing the leadership teams from the largest four business units to begin considering the requirements for a successful SSE as well as the implications to their businesses.

The event educated the participants about the capabilities and uses of a shared service entity, and then had them explore how the concept could be applied within the Client.  

The market based future state requirements for the session where defined for the participants as;
    reduce the controllable costs by $40M on day one.
    increase productivity of the system by 13%.
    create a new operating model that includes an SSE.
    bring clarity to the options associated with the SSE. Specifically, the participants were asked to consider:
    what would be in scope of the SSE,
    what a migration strategy would look like,
    what infrastructure would be required, and
    what the possible future state implications to the businesses.
    highlight radical solutions.

The participants were specifically told not to focus on the selection of an Enterprise Resource Planning [ERP] package, or the validity of a joint venture as part of the solution.  The participants worked through the exercises of the three days and had several in-sights into their businesses as they worked to answer the design challenge before them.

The participants met all of their defined deliverables, and a decision was made to continue with the due diligence on the SSE.  Also, several of the unspoken questions where answered during the session for the project team.

1.    The group defined the implications of what the business(es) would look like if the $40M cost efficiency and 13% productivity where met.  To meet this challenge, the group realized that the majority of the processes would eventually be shared, leaving a smaller number of processes to be managed by a merged entity.  This combined business would drive revenue growth for two reason, a focus on specific market/industry segments, and a focus on market offerings derived from the synergy’s among the different old products and services.
2.    Participants defined what was in scope for the SSE based on the future state requirements.  Working through several iterations of defining the scope, the participants realized that many of the processes they each believed were custom to their business unit actually where not that custom.  The initial in-scope processes will not require merging of any of the business units and should produce $10-14M in cost reduction.  On his point, the EVP with oversight of the SSE decided to continue the due diligence process.
3.    The participants defined a three wave migration strategy to move the businesses to the new future state.  The main differentiator between the waves was the technology implementation required to support the combined processes.  These technologies include an as yet undefined ERP solution as well as other call center related infrastructure.
4.    A communication and transition management architecture where created.
5.    Agreement by the business unit CEO’s around the value of the SSE project was achieved.  All of the CEO’s stated that the new merged business unit was the appropriate way for the company to go.

Client Cultural Notes
Two cultural notes about the client.  First, the backbone of the clients business strategy is to have a large number of stand alone business units/profit centers that are only required to deliver the bottom line to the parent company.  This business model has worked very well for the client during the 80 & 90’s throughout the world.  By its design, this system is not as efficient as other business models, and the client knows and accepts this.  They have decided to trade off business efficiency for the ability to grow rapidly.  Secondly, the client also is used to coming together for three days in a session they call the “Workout.”  Their ‘Workout Processes’ is designed so that an events sponsor(s) charges a group to solve a business problem in three days, then the sponsor leaves the space.  The participants are then “facilitated” and a series of decisions are made by the group.  At the end of the session the sponsor(s) return and listen to the decisions the group has made and immediately decides if the decisions are accepted or rejected.

Straw Dog
Day 1
    1    8:00    -    9:00    Introduction
                        Word from Executive Sponsor

    2a    9:00    -    9:45    Finding Synergies - Yellow Page advertisements.
    2b    9:45    -    10:10    Report Out

    3a    10:10    -    10:40    Take-A-Panel
    3b    10:40    -    11:15    Share-A-Panel
    3c    11:15    -    11:55    Synthesis

    4a    11:55    -    12:45    Metaphors Read
Mars Pathfinder
How Buildings Learn
High Performance Teams
Hive Insects
Speed to Delivery
    4b    12:45    -    13:45    Discuss
    4c    13:45    -    14:25    Apply
    4d    14:25    -    16:00    Report Out

    5    16:00    -    17:40    Trade Shows

    6a    17:40    -    18:10    Leading Practices Read
Core Competency vs. Outsourcing
Organizational Development & Design
Managing Change
Building & Managing Relationships
Customer Connections
Shared Service Centers & Finance Reengineering
    6b    18:10    -    18:40    Discuss
    6c    18:40    -    19:10    Apply
    6d    19:10    -    20:00    Model Shop

Day Two
    6e    8:00    -    9:00    Report Out

    7a    9:00    -    12:30    Design Challenges
    7b    12:30    -    14:00    Report Out

    8a    14:00    -    16:30    Build-A-There
    8b    16:30    -    18:00    Report Out
Day Three
    9    7:00    -    10:00    Synthesis

    10a    10:00    -    17:00    Go to Work
    10b    17:00    -    18:00    Report Out

20/20 Hindsight
Lessons Learned [a.k.a. 20/20 Hindsight]
1.    Give the client the session.  Before the actual event, we told the engagement/deal partner who was paying for the event that the event should be in the clients name, and not some joint title with THE ENGAGEMENT TEAM. The point here was that Dan wanted the client to own the session, not THE ENGAGEMENT TEAM.  It was a subtle, yet significant way to get the client to own the session.  Only CLIENT sponsors spoke a the introduction.  THE ENGAGEMENT TEAM took a back seat role from an executive sponsor role.  The sponsor team was evenly made up of people from CLIENT and THE ENGAGEMENT TEAM.
2.    Why would a client do a JV with THE ENGAGEMENT TEAM? The reason this company wants to do a JV with THE ENGAGEMENT TEAM is to get the efficiencies immediately, but pay for them over time as business expenses.  This was a revelation to me, being someone who is business challenged.  I’m not sure if this is a common reason for doing a JV, or if this is because this approach is identical to how CLIENT goes to market in the business sectors it serves.  I also don’t think that knowing this up front would have made a huge difference in the design of the event. I would suggest figuring out what the win-win looks like for the client and THE ENGAGEMENT TEAM before the session.
3.    Doing the back room deal.  At the end of the second day, during the last module, several THE ENGAGEMENT TEAM people were sanctioned to go off and determine how much savings would be created using the latest iteration of the processes defines as “Within Scope.”  This was done with the full support of the sponsor team.  The team only reported out to the sponsor team.  This was a very important fact to have as we began day three.  The “Within Scope” document contained 95% of all of the things that we thought would be in there going into the session.  It wasn’t until the participants could rationalize the fact that the SSE defined by the current “Within Scope” document did not meet the $40M savings challenge that they really challenged their operating assumptions. This lead to creation of a new business model for the group on the Act day, and a room full of insights.
4.    Facing the unknown.  During the Scan Day Metaphors Report Out, the participants defined the Focus day work. Coming into the event, there was allot of confusion and misunderstanding about the SSE, and all of the unasked questions came out during the Metaphors exercise.  First of all, we had two of the business unit CEO’s give their teams reports.  What we heard from them was that they were looking for help and understanding before they could act and make a decision.  The other reports all had people saying that leadership was the most important characteristic, and that the leadership team’s just wanted clear direction.  We took this information an incorporated it into our design of day two - we made both groups face their fears.  The Design Challenge that kicked off day two had two specific tracks.  

The CEO’s where each placed in a team comprised of THE ENGAGEMENT TEAM Shared Services experts and CLIENT people who were not from their organizations.  Theses teams were given ownership of the SSE, and had to explain how they made it successful.  The idea being that the CEO’s would learn from the THE ENGAGEMENT TEAM experts about shared services, begin to understand the business model of an SSE, and bring the voice of the supplier into the conversation.

The remaining participants were placed in their leadership teams for the four business units.  The remaining THE ENGAGEMENT TEAM participants were spread across these teams.  For example, the XYZ Leadership team, minus the CEO, was put in a team together and then supplemented with THE ENGAGEMENT TEAM folks and told that they were now responsible for all of the dealings with the SSE for their business.  They then had to explain how they had built and managed the successful transition and on-going use of the SSE.  The idea here was that the teams had to step up to the leadership challenge themselves, define for themselves what could be shared and what couldn’t, and bring the voice of the customer into the conversation.

This really worked for this group.  After this report, everyone was open to the Build A There assignment, and breakthroughs began to happen.

Change Your Calendar, Change Your Life

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Image by Johnson BanksImage by Oscar Diaz

Is your time confined to the grid of your calendar or does your calendar enhance your approach to time?

What does your calendar look like?  It probably has 15 lines that combine to make around 30 boxes. Day by day even hour by hour, the important events, commitments and appointments in your life are confined to a basic grid.   

When we work within the constraints of the typical, the typical ensues. 

Have you ever tried to get creative with your calendar?  To ditch the monthly refrigerator grid that your accountant sends each year?  Or the dwarf sized pixels on your blackberry?

No matter what your calendar looks like, it has an underlying base of data that is standard and un-arguable. Hour >Day >Week > Month > Year.  

Having a baseline of data as a foundation for collaboration is paramount

As Josh Jones-Disworth says "Conducting business at the data level is not a practice for the future. It is a core competency, today... the democratization of data is the natural next step. For example, we’ve had heart rate monitors for some time now. We have scales in the bathroom, speedometers (and more recently fuel efficiency measures) in the car, and all manner of time sheets in the workplace. Every day, we gather vast amounts of data about ourselves, and vast amounts of data are gathered for us (and about us). Kevin Kelly refers to this as the quantified self. We are in many respects surrounded by gauges and dashboards, tachometers and GPS devices, calorie counters and performance metrics. Data mining and data journalism and data-driven application development, and now, data marketing and data-based business practices, are logical extensions." Read the whole article at Mashable.  

But in our daily work lives, it is rare that we use this base line of data to make decisions. A simple example of this is Avinash Kausnik. He is Google's Analytics Evangelist, and his job is to simply evangelize the use of data based decisions. He explains how to use analytics, but comes up against his biggest (and everyone who aggregates the analytics for their companies...) roadblocks; the executives who don't understand it and don't pay attention to it.

We keep track of companies that use specific collaboration methodologies to try and begin a baseline or foundation on how to collaborate better. We are starting to publish collaboration experiences that share historical analysis of what works well and what doesn't when collaborating in large groups. 

THREE examples from recent news highlight the gradual shift (hopefully) to more interactive, data and creativity based collaborations in the future. 


Rethinking Business School

“I think there’s a feeling that people need to sharpen their thinking skills, whether it’s questioning assumptions, or looking at problems from multiple points of view,” says David A. Garvin, a Harvard Business School professor who is co-author with Srikant M. Datar and Patrick G. Cullen of an upcoming book, “Rethinking the M.B.A.: Business Education at a Crossroads.”

Learning how to think critically — how to imaginatively frame questions and consider multiple perspectives — has historically been associated with a liberal arts education, not a business school curriculum, so this change represents something of a tectonic shift for business school leaders. Mr. Martin even describes his goal as a kind of “liberal arts M.B.A.”

Two years ago, for example, the Graduate School of Business at Stanford made a sweeping curriculum change that included more emphasis on multidisciplinary perspectives and understanding of cultural contexts.

Innovation, of course, is a business buzzword. So some business schools are embracing an innovation-oriented approach known as “design thinking.” Rotman has its “DesignWorks” department; Stanford has the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, known as the, where business students can take elective classes in design thinking. 



Recruit T-Shaped People

"We look for people who are so inquisitive about the world that they're willing to try to do what you do."

"Design thinking is inherently a prototyping process. Once you spot a promising idea, you build it. In a sense, we build to think."

Read more about this in a recent NY Times article.


Design Is Never Done

"Even after you've rolled out your new product, service, or process, you're just getting started. In almost every case, you move on to the next version, which is going to be better because you've had more time to think about it. The basic idea for the notebook computer came out of Ideo some 20 years ago: Ideo cofounder Bill Moggridge is listed on the patent for the design that lets you fold a screen over a keyboard. Since then, the laptop has been redesigned -- and greatly improved -- hundreds of times, because design is never done. The same goes for strategy. The market is always changing; your strategy needs to change with it. Since design thinking is inherently rooted in the world, it is ideally suited to helping your strategy evolve." 

The Prototype Tells a Story

"Prototyping is simultaneously an evaluative process -- it generates feedback and enables you to make midflight corrections -- and a storytelling process. It's a way of visually and viscerally describing your strategy."

Read more about prototyping and design in a recent FAST Company article.


And finally, think outside the CELL

We all use Excel (or Google Spreadsheets if you are really collaborative,) but what if we could crowdsource the information the we fill the cells with... would it be worth $0.05 worth of your time? What if we did the same thing for our calendars?


Virtual Collaboration & Change Management

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Guest Post by hnauheimer of Radical Inclusion

"If you want to build a wiki, don’t drum up people by sending them emails and adding them as users. Rather make them long for access to the important information your wiki contains." by Juliane Neumann, Radical Inclusion

Lately, our group has been reflecting on what it takes from an organization to implement effective Virtual Collaboration (VC) processes. The question is not a new one – the idea of collective Knowledge Management (KM) has been around since the dawn of the WWW (and even before), but the great visions have turned out to be disappointingly shallow promises. We have come to the point where the tools have reached such maturity, adaptability, and user-friendliness that we all cannot help but rub our eyes asking why the adoption rates of virtual collaboration are far below even the most pessimistic expectations.

How does collaboration and KM fit into the concept of VC?

Knowledge management (KM) comprises a range of strategies and practices used in an organization to identify, create, represent, distribute, and enable adoption of insights and experiences. Such insights and experiences comprise knowledge, either embodied in individuals or embedded in organizational processes or practice. (Source: Wikipedia).

Virtual Collaboration – Originated with the advent of video conferencing technologies provided over the internet. Two or more people working together to accomplish a task without the use of face to face interaction. Early examples of virtual collaboration include Audio Conferencing, Video Conferencing, or Computer mediated communication. With the advent of web 2.0 interactive capabilities virtual collaboration took on a much broader meaning, allowing for the full spectrum of activities and behaviors that are required for two or more people to come together and co-create new work through a process similar to stigmergy in living systems. (Source: Wikipedia)


We believe that this definition of VC is not broad enough. For us in Radical Inclusion, VC encompasses the whole spectrum of synchronous, near time and asynchronous tools and methods with which people can creat content, exchange ideas, work together on documents, make decisions, etc. without meeting face-to-face. In this sense, KM is mainly covering the asynchronous parts of VC.

So, the tools are there but people just don’t use them – why is that so? We believe it is for a multitude of reasons, including the following:

    * People driving VC and KM projects are not the potential beneficiaries of the VC tools. VC and KM are categorized as “IT issues”, and the users are rarely involved in design and implementation of the collaboration tools.
    * Knowledge and information are organizational currencies, and they are not given away for free. We share information when we get something in return, and knowledge can be a powerful asset in power play situations.
    * Collaboration is a question of trust and loyalties, and these ties don’t often follow official organizational structures. People have contradicting loyalties as most organizations have implicit and explicit organizational structures. Also, organizational boundaries in collaboration are not that clear as people adhere to and trust individuals and groups outside of the organization.
    * Collaboration is not encouraged. Few organizations have reward systems that encourage collaboration, and even fewer have a collaboration strategy.
    * Effective physical collaboration is different from effective virtual collaboration. Most organizations try to translate traditional forms of collaboration, i.e. face-to-face meetings, into virtual collaboration. Thinking that a face-to-face meeting is a pinnacle of collaboration neglects to take into account the new and different opportunities that synchronous, near time, and asynchronous VC tools offer. Virtual meetings that mirror face-to-face meeting processes end up being frustrating experiences because of technical shortcomings and poor virtual process skills.
    * General attitudes towards virtual collaboration are not favourable. VC is usually considered as a second-hand substitute for physical face-to-face meetings. Few people believe that they can be effective, efficient, and most of all, fun!

Hence, effective Virtual Collaboration is a question of organizational change, and in order to become an organization with effective VC processes, the organization needs to start from catalyzing a change process. However, there is no blueprint for a process of complex change, and no shortcut around the need to facilitate such a process. Here are a few principles that apply to a change journey:

   1. People do not resist change as a given. However, all people have concerns, purposes and circumstances that matter to them. If people feel that their issues are acknowledged and respected, they will support change.
   2. Change has its boundaries and limits. Change is partly given to us, and everything is not negotiable. There will always be conditions that we need to accept and work around. Also, we have to respect that usually the entire organization will not change.
   3. Problems become our friends little by little. We need to start small in the beginning of our change journey and improve the process along the way.
   4. Everybody needs to become an innovator. Widen the circle of involvement as much as possible and get people to buy in. Identify or create containers where new thinking emerges and smart systems can multiply.
   5. Multilevel communication about change is essential. Connect people to the content of the change and to each other by virtual and face-to-face means.

We have only just begun to understand what it takes to catalyze effective collaboration – in both the real and the virtual world!