Sunday, December 14, 2008

Nine Shift and our Future.

Some interesting thoughts via Harold Jarche on the changes we might see in the next 20 years. In just twenty years, between 2000 and 2020, some 75% of our lives will change dramatically. We know this because it happened once before. Between 1900 and 1920, life changed.

Nine Shift explores the uncanny parallels between today and 100 years ago, examining the changes between the two transition periods and the forces that restructure society in the new economic era.

What Nine Shift Means?

The term "nine shift" is used to describe the great changes taking place in our lives right now. What we are experiencing in how we use our time and how we experience life derives from the phenomenon that nine hours in your day will be spent entirely differently in 2020 than they were spent in 2000.
There are 24 hours in a day. We have no real discretion with roughly 12 of those hours. We need to eat, sleep, and do a few other necessary chores in order to maintain our existence. That hasn't changed much through the centuries, so far.

That leaves approximately 12 hours a day where we, as individuals, do have some discretion. That includes work time, play time, and family time.

Of those 12 hours, about 75%, or 9 hours, will be spent totally differently a few years from now than they were spent just a few years ago. Not everything will change, but 75% of life is in the process of changing right now.

The same kind of change occurred between 1900 and 1920 as well. Frederick Allen called it "the big change" in his 1952 book by the same title.(1) We call it a nine shift.

What this means is that nine hours in your day will be spent entirely differently in 2020 than they were spent in 2000. That is an enormous change. That is a nine shift.

Here are the predicted shifts from Nine Shift

People work from home.
Intranets replace offices.
Networks replace pyramids
Trains replace cars
Dense neighborhoods replace suburbs
New social infrastructures evolve.
Cheating becomes collaboration.
Half of all learning is online.
Education becomes web-based.

This is an audio interview with Jay Townley and Russell Wright of Theme Zoom LLC about the concept of Nine Shift.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Venturesome Economy

President-elect Obama's commitment to maintain America’s technology leadership in the world, through an increase in public funding of basic research, has coincided with the publication of a new book on innovation, The Venturesome Economy, which questions the value of such an approach while in Ireland, billions of euros continue to be spent on university research in pursuit of the goal to become a "world class knowledge economy" by 2013

Amar Bhidé, an Indian-born professor at the Columbia Business School, argues in The Venturesome Economy, that while innovation typically comes from scientists and engineers, the obsession with the number of US doctorates and technical graduates compared with the rising numbers in China and India, is misplaced because the “high-level” inventions and ideas cannot be easily contained within national borders and Asia cannot prevent America from capitalizing on their inventions with better business models.

Bhidé says when breakthrough ideas know no borders, a nation’s capacity to exploit cutting-edge research regardless of where it originates is crucial: America's venturesome consumption—the willingness and ability of its businesses and consumers to effectively use products and technologies derived from scientific research—is far more important than its share of such research. In fact, Prof Bhidé says a venturesome economy benefits from an increase in research produced abroad: the success of Apple’s iPod, for instance, owes much to technologies developed in Asia and Europe.

Many players—entrepreneurs, managers, financiers, salesmen, consumers, and not just a few brilliant scientists and engineers—have kept the US at the forefront of the innovation game. As long as their venturesome spirit remains alive and well, America need not fear advances abroad. The Venturesome Economy explains why—and how it can keep it that way.

Bhidé says his study shows how mid-level players combine and extend higher-level innovations. The VC-backed businesses use different people and procedures than the typical lab doing high-level research: They employ a much smaller proportion of PhDs in their technical staff, and their overall workforces contain a larger proportion of managers and sales and marketing staff. In contrast to the physicists who developed the modern transistor inside the precincts of Bell Labs, the development teams of many of the VC-backed businesses he studied had a close, ongoing relationship with users. Communication and persuasion were as crucial as technical virtuosity, and the technical tasks themselves involved more ad hoc improvisation than classical scientific experimentation.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Canadian CIO's Upbeat on Market Conditions

Last night, I had the pleasure of speaking to the CIO Toronto Association which had about 30 members out last night to an evening to discuss the challenges of the current economy as well as the options organizations have in play - ie: Creating Value or Cost Cutting.

We did a poll with the help of IBM using rapid decision making toolkits and learned with this small sample group of Canadian CIOs that their focus currently is on these areas:

* 64% have been taking a balanced cost cutting and growth approach to the economic crisis, vs 21% focusing primarily on cost cutting, and 14% focusing on innovation and growth.
*Relative to their company's innovative culture, 35% felt that they have been "moderately successful" while 36% felt that their companies were either complacent or in the infancy stage.
*40% felt that they would likely see an IT budget cut next year.
*Nobody felt that they would be getting a budget cut of 15% or more next year (while in the European study, 29% felt they would have a budget cut of more than 15%).
80% felt that the regulatory frameworks (like SOX/Basel) would not help them to identify and measure risk.
*And about 2/3 of the audience felt that the financial crisis would: Add more importance to IT Governance,Give more prominence to long term IS investments, and
Confer more weight to the IT function.

The Canadian CIOs at this session remain confident about 2009 adn their IT budgets, increasing, vs remaining flat. However, everyone appreciates and recognizes that if the market collapses further in Q1 with further risks in the manufacturing, automotive, and financial services sector that the outlook could shift rapidly. But Q1 is off to a positive outlook by this group of Canadian CIOs.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Canadian Firms Shun Social Media Tools - UGH!

Canadian firms shun social media toolsThough Canadian firms agree that social networking tools bring benefits, they still lag in embracing them.

WHILE CANADIAN COMPANIES ARE FULLY AWARE THAT SOCIAL MEDIA TOOLS CAN IMPROVE CUSTOMER SERVICE AND INCREASE SALES, such tools continue to remain absent in the business space, according to a recent study commissioned by global IT consultancy Avanade.

The survey found that 68 per cent of Canadian companies view social networking as the next step in collaborative activities and technology for a business, while about 40 per cent fear that they will lose customers to companies that are embracing the use of social networking technology.

Roughly 78 per cent of Canadian companies surveyed believe social media tools are beneficial for improving feedback and reducing customer support time; 89 per cent feel such tools create the perception of a positive, forward-looking company.

Canadian companies also feel that social media tools will inevitably enter the workplace, whether welcomed or not. Of the companies surveyed, 87 per cent agree they will be “forced to increase the use of social networking media and technology” in order to meet the needs of younger employees. And 83 per cent say social networking, if not proactively managed, will “come into the business by stealth.”

Yet companies continue to resist incorporating them into the workplace. “Most companies have no formal plans to manage the adoption of social media (such as instant messaging, blogs, wikis and social networking) or leverage its benefits,” the survey reports. Only 16 per cent of Canadian companies “have a fully implemented strategy for integrating social computing for employees.”

Security (83 per cent), apathy (50 per cent) and unproven technology (61 per cent) are the top three reasons Canadian companies are resisting social media tools, according to Stéphane Gagnon, Business Solutions Advisor, CRM, Avanade Canada.

In a recent study on Web 2.0 tools used at Canadian enterprises for internal employee communication, Robert Half Technology also found the majority of companies surveyed do not use or have any plans to use social media tools in their workplace.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Younger Generation of Customers Less Loyal to Banks

Banks Must Shift Gears to Attract and Retain Gen X and Gen Y

Banks’ most loyal customers are their oldest customers, while Gens Y and X are the retail banking customers of the future. They’re also the least loyal and hardest to please, according to a recent Maritz® Poll. The results revealed more than half of Gen Y (61 percent) and Gen X (53 percent) respondents have considered changing or actually have changed their primary banking institutions in the past two years, compared with 20 percent of Silent Generation and 37 percent of Baby Boomer customers.

“For the most part, the current customer experience model at banks caters to the Silent Generation and Boomers, who more frequently bank in-person at branches. But, younger generation customers are much more mobile and rely more heavily on online interactions,” says Thad Peterson, division vice president, sector strategy and solutions for Maritz’ financial services sector.

“The banks’ most unstable relationships exist with younger customers, because younger people often haven’t settled into a stable financial pattern yet,” explains Peterson. “Banks looking to build long-term relationships with Gen Y and Gen X customers need to think about three basic steps:

#1) Attracting Gen Y and Gen X as customers in the first place – Locational convenience has always been the primary tool for attracting new banking customers. That’s no different with Gen X and Y, but the definition of locational convenience is changing. Now it includes online and mobile and they expect anytime anywhere banking. Banks need a strategy to attract and retain prospective customers who rarely step into a banking office.

#2) Identifying and offering products and services that give young people roots at the bank – like providing incentives for online bill paying services and debit rewards programs.

#3) Treating them the way they want to be treated. Ensure that the customer experience is appropriate for Gen X and Gen Y, and consistent at all major bank touch points.”

In general, the survey results show that younger people can be more impatient, less tolerant and just plain harder to please than their Baby Boomer and Silent Generation cohorts. The survey, which looked at customer satisfaction and loyalty among retail banks, found that younger customers also are more likely than older customers to find fault or have problems with their primary banking institutions:

• 37 percent of Gen Y and 36 percent of Gen X believe they would get better customer service at a different bank, compared with only 24 percent of Boomer and 16 percent of Silent Generation respondents.
• 22 percent of Gen Y and 21 percent of Gen X reported being upset in the past year about high fees, whereas only 14 percent of Boomer and six percent of the Silent Generation respondents reported the same.
• 18 percent of Gen Y and 17 percent of Gen X reported being upset about a lack of ATM locations, compared with only 11 percent of Boomer and three percent of Silent Generation respondents.

So How Do You Woo the Gen X and Gen Y Customer?

It is no longer uncommon practice for businesses to reach out via social media in an attempt to attract these younger customers. Even companies like American Express and Bank of America are using social media networks like Facebook to try to connect with Gen Ys. Peterson advises companies against relying too heavily on social media as a way to initially reach younger customers.

“Using Facebook to attract new customers is like standing in a corner passing out business cards at a cocktail party,” says Peterson. “If you don’t have a genuine relationship with them, all you are going to accomplish is to diminish the value of your brand to that individual.”

If social media isn’t the way to the “promised land” of Gen X and Y’s loyalty, then what is? Peterson has some suggestions:

• Be the source for their first primary debit card – Gen X and Y comprise the debit card generation.
• Highly incent them to migrate to online banking with a significant reward for paying bills online.
• Make sure front-line employees are treating Gen X and Y the way they want to be treated and can solve problems on the spot – a key to securing lifelong patrons.
• Stay in tune with how younger customers want to connect – online banking, bill pay and mobile banking are three customer touchpoints that must be state-of-the-art and part of every bank’s overall customer experience.

Peterson notes that Washington Mutual is one institution that successfully caters to the needs of younger customers. WaMu no longer requires a signature to open a checking account. The bank simply uses the first signed check as the authorization signature – incenting new customers to do business with the bank by simplifying the process and eliminating a trip to the bank. It appeals to the Gen X and Y customer desire to just “get it done,” says Peterson.

“Banks need to listen to the younger generations,” says Peterson. “It’s critical for them to stay ahead of the curve and build good relations with younger customers. After all, they’re the future of the bank.”

Monday, December 1, 2008

Perspectives on Disruptive Innovation

When I read this recent article in 'Disruptive Innovation'November 12, 2008 in Knowledge@Wharton - I knew I had to ensure this PDF file content was shared on my blog. This one really resonated with me. Enjoy the great read!

While globalization has witnessed the decline of U.S. dominance in manufacturing, energy and even finance, one thing had long been presumed unassailable: Good old American ingenuity.

Now it appears that's not safe, either. China, whose industries have been envied in the West more for their tenacity than their ingenuity, has established a multi-year framework to become more innovative and, therefore, competitive. So has Singapore. Finland is merging its top business school, design school and technology school to create a multi-disciplinary "university of innovation" next year.

Council members of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering have "expressed concern that a weakening of science and technology in the United States would inevitably degrade its social and economic conditions and in particular erode the ability of its citizens to compete for high-quality jobs," according to a 600-page report from the National Academies published in 2007 and titled, "Rising Above the Gathering Storm."

The wild card these days is what will happen to innovation -- the advance of progressive ideas in science, technology and business -- now that the world economy is in a tailspin.

The conventional wisdom might suggest that business, government and academia will be less willing to invest in the risk-taking and short-term costs that come with the territory of innovating. Yet Paul J.H. Schoemaker, research director for the Mack Center for Technological Innovation, suggests that, for some companies, the economic crisis can actually provide an innovation platform. "The crisis has multiple impacts," Schoemaker says. "Loss of revenue and profit will at first instill a cost cutting mentality, which is not good for innovation. But if the patient is bleeding you need to stop that first.

Then, however, a phase starts where leaders ask which parts of their business model are weak (and perhaps unsustainable) and that, in turn, can lead to restructuring and reinvention."

He also cautions against too much caution -- over-reliance on incremental innovation versus transformative, or "disruptive," innovation. In innovation circles, the two have come to be differentiated as "little i" and "Big I" innovation. "The largest gains in business come from more daring innovations that challenge the paradigm and the organization," Schoemaker says.

The Business of Being Disruptive

While "disruptive innovation" has enjoyed office buzz-phrase status for only about a decade, the idea is quite old: Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter had it in mind when he borrowed the phrase "creative destruction" to describe his theories of how entrepreneurs sustain the capitalist system.

So just how does an entrepreneur or business go about being "disruptive?" How does one convince investors or top brass of a radical idea's worth?

One person who knows something about bringing disruptive innovations to market is Jeong Kim, president of Bell Labs at Alcatel-Lucent and a successful tech entrepreneur. He offered some suggestions in a recent presentation titled, "Paving the Way for Disruptive Innovation," that was part of the Executive Master's in Technology Management (EMTM) program's ongoing lecture series: Aligning Emerging Technology and Business.

Among the most critical assets one can possess, he says, is company-wide recognition that disruptive innovation is actually important. In a company that's already successful -- or one with layers of bureaucracy that hinder new ideas -- this can prove difficult. The firm also mustcommit itself to research. "Disruptive research is absolutely critical, especially in the technology space." Furthermore, it is not enough to simply have brilliant engineers. Without competent management on the business side, the most elegant technology can wind up on the scrap heap of business history, or even worse, usurped by a competitor: "Disruptive innovation is not sufficient," says Kim. "You can [cite] numerous examples of companies that came up with [new] technology but eventually were displaced by somebody else."

In the innovator's lingo, these "somebody elses" are known as "fast followers" -- that is, companies with better funding or sharper management who were able to exploit a technology more quickly and effectively in the marketplace than the original creator. "You like to be the first to develop technologies," Kim says. "But the more flexible, the more innovative in terms of business model that the company is, the longer you can maintain advantage."

That point gives rise to the question: What is the best business model for fostering innovation? As it turns out, numerous decision-making tools exist to help firms systematically manage an innovation program, says Schoemaker, co-author of a book titled, Wharton on Managing Emerging Technologies.

According to Schoemaker, when it comes to innovating, the analogy is to firing a shotgun, not a rifle. Given the high failure rate of innovative projects, companies are smart to develop an array of possible situations and contingencies, rather than pin all their hopes on one plan. "Sticking to our knitting" might appear to be a sound business cliché -- it worked for a lot of companies that survived the era. But Schoemaker and other innovation gurus advocate looking at areas adjacent to one's main business as fertile soil for innovative breakthroughs.

Why an Economic Crisis Could Be the Right Time for Companies to Engage in 'Disruptive Innovation': Knowledge@Wharton

Old-fashioned, linear approaches that rely on standard measurement schemes are often outdated if relied upon solely. "By examining a company's growth gap, developing scenarios, exploring adjacencies and venturing more into blue oceans, companies can reap greater benefits," Schoemaker says.("Blue ocean" is innovator-speak for unrealized, and therefore uncontested, markets.)"The investment approach,however, has to emphasize more of an options and portfolio strategy rather than static NPV (Net Present Value valuation method)."

Wharton management professor Mary Benner sees the "stick to our knitting" syndrome as impinging on large companies' ability to react to competitive threats. "I find that firms' innovation into radically new technologies or new markets can seem to shareholders and securities analysts like too great a departure from their expectations for these firms. Investors and analysts often prefer that firms maximize shareholder value by 'sticking to their knitting.'

The result is that large firms, particularly those expected to have stable, predictable earnings and dividend payments -- i.e., "income stocks" -- are not likely to be rewarded by the stock market for entering new technologies or undertaking radical innovation, and instead may be punished by reductions in stock price and market value."

A prime example she has found in her own research, she noted, is Verizon Communications, the giant telecommunications firm. Stock analysts questioned Verizon's large capital outlays on FiOS, a high-volume fiber-optic network intended to counter a "triple-play" threat to its business posed by Comcast's cable television, high-speed Internet and voice-over-Internet phone service."Recent research suggests the stock market is not good at valuing intangibles, uncertain innovation or technological change," Benner says. "What this means for large, publicly traded firms is that they may face a disadvantage in engaging in radical innovation, and this innovation may instead take place in venture capital-funded startups."

Indeed, outsourcing of innovation itself could turn out to be the wave of the not-so-distant future. "Particularly in the pharmaceutical area, there has been a focus on how firms acquire innovation that has been undertaken by small, privately funded firms such as biotech startups," Benner says. "It may be that the locus of much really radical innovation is shifting outside of the large organizations to small start-ups."

That points to a "big trend" emerging in product development, so called "Open Innovation," according to Wharton marketing professor George S. Day, co-director of the Mack Center for Technological Innovation and co-author of Wharton on Managing Emerging Technologies. Open Innovation, also known as "crowdsourcing," entails collaborating with partners to solve business problems.

The archetype of that model is Waltham, Mass.-based InnoCentive. It matches corporate "seekers" who have science, engineering and business problems with amateur "solvers" worldwide. The "solvers" then compete -- for bragging rights and often token rewards -- to provide the best answers to the corporate problems. "Most companies are not looking for a big innovation they can knock out of the ballpark," Day says. Rather, they want a relatively quick fix for a specific piece of a larger puzzle.

For firms that want the "secret sauce" to always come from in-house, previous success can present a huge roadblock to innovation, according to Kim. The problem is that success creates a virtual construct, a paradigm of "How to Do Things," inside of which new thinking cannot flourish. Kim calls it "The Curse of Knowledge." Cross-discipline teaming "is one way of breaking the Curse of Knowledge," he says. Anotheris "experience pairing," or matching a senior employee with an individual who has considerably less experience, but a fresh perspective on how to solve problems.

An incredible opportunity to innovate disruptively lies in the problem of information overload, says Kim. Knowledge is being created at a far faster rate than any one human can ever hope to assimilate. The flip side is that we constantly filter out vast stores of data because we are bombarded with information like never before in history.To prove his point, Kim showed audience members a movie clip that repeated an old psychology experiment. Two teams, one dressed in white, the other in black, dribbled basketballs and passed them back and forth. Audience members were told to count the number of passes made by the black-shirted players. A few of the students missed the person in the gorilla suit who nonchalantly walked through the middle of the scene, because they were not looking for it. "I can assure you that all of you saw the gorilla. But some people processed it, stored it, some people missed it. You were looking for a particular thing."

Seven Hours of Whitewater Rafting

The term "disruptive technology" went viral in the late 1990s after the release of Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen's book, The Innovator's Dilemma. But in practice, Bell Laboratories has served as an incubator of paradigm-shifting, "disruptive" innovations since its creation in 1925 as a joint venture of AT&T and Western Electric. Researchers at northern New Jersey-based Bell Labs have won six Nobel Prizes and take credit for an inventory of innovations: The photovoltaic cell, the silicon-based transistor, statistical process control, the UNIX operating system, the C programming language, digital cell phone technology and wireless local area networks are just a few of the better-recognized innovations that have taken shape there.

Today, Kim said, Bell Labs researchers are working on similarly ground-breaking technologies. They are developing, for instance, a liquid sensor that can be transformed to any shape by applying voltage -- Kim envisions it being used as a zoomable lens. The division is also using nanotechnology to create 3-D images. "You have seen, in science fiction movies, 3-D holographic movie images? It can be done.

It can bedone using these technologies today. It's just not very cost effective."
Kim offered a case study from Alcatel-Lucent -- Lucent Technologies at the time -- on how to inject a spirit of disruptive innovation into an existing and stagnant culture. Lucent's optical networking division was severely underperforming and the company fired the unit's top managers. "I was really convinced that the reason I was put in there was that nobody else would do it, and they needed somebody to blame," says Kim.

The division was moribund: Financial results were disappointing and morale was low. Kim shook up the management team and took the survivors to an off-site retreat that featured whitewater rafting. "First thing they do is say, 'Why are we doing this ...?' After a while, they get really bored." The exercise, intended to foster teamwork and cooperation, was designed with the help of a psychologist. Instead of cooperating, the managers began splashing one another with their oars, "like little kids."

But the exercise-psychology experiment wasn't over at the end of the rafting run. "After six or seven hours of whitewater rafting like this,they were tired." That evening over dinner, people let their "at-work" guardedness down and spent time learning about one another.The next day included all the off-site strategizing and white board sessions one might expect, but Kim says the interaction was more genuine and productive than if they had met as they were previously, a grouping of near strangers. In the first quarter following that meeting, he says, the group posted revenues of $510 million, $560 million the next quarter, then $730 million, then $970million. The point, he adds, is that "teamwork is so critical for the success of a company."

Kim's advice for jumpstarting disruptive innovation is not exactly revolutionary, though it can seem exceedingly rare when many companies still think quarter-to quarter and employees take a similarly short-ranged view.

Not even storied Bell Labs, it seems, is immune from the pressure to produce quickly exploitable technology. In a shock to the science world,Alcatel-Lucent all but shuttered its funding for the Lab's basic physics research over the summer. Company officials said the move was done to align the Lab more closely with the parent company's commercial pursuits in wireless, optics, networking and computer science. Or, as Alcatel-Lucent spokesman Peter Benedict told Wired Magazine in August, "In the new innovation model, research needs to keep addressing the needs of the mother company."

Basic research investigates the most fundamental of scientific questions and has no direct commercial application. At the same time, it has laid the groundwork for most of the modern technological conveniences we enjoy today, including commercial aviation, the GPS system and lasers.

"You have to make an investment in capital, human knowledge and networking," says Kim. "That's the way to get ahead."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Dow Chemical Takes Advantage of Social Networks

Trish Bharwada of The Dow Chemical Company. Trish manages My Dow Network, a web-based online membership service launched in 2007 that targets retirees and former employees of Dow.

This is how the official news release describes My Dow Network:

The closed, online community allows users to expand their professional networks, renew old friendships, stay connected with the latest Dow information, and explore new job opportunities. It also keeps Dow connected to a larger talent pool, fuels collaboration and innovation, and facilitates a diverse and inclusive work environment.

Dow is targeting long-term employees who have retired or left the company. 5,000 out of 40,000 have joined the network so far. Initial services include news about the company as well as information about part time and full time job opportunities.

Trish says that these employees already have a history with the company and still have a “role to play with Dow.” Some are in a position to continue their involvement through part time or full time work with Dow that they learn about through the network, while others can assist by referring others to the company.

Eventually, Trish says, the network will incorporate “social networking” features such as forums and discussion groups that enable members to communicate and form relationships with each other.

My Dow Network, she says, is part of a Dow-wide effort to expand involvement in company affairs by all groups related to Dow, with groups and a variety of web based efforts focusing on company news, corporate events, job postings, gay/lesbian affairs, and other company related activities.

My Dow Network’s focus on retirees is part of Dow’s comprehensive plan to engage electronically with employees at all stages of their careers. Trish and I also discussed several issues that need to be addressed:

Some retirees have only dial-up web access. This places some restrictions on potential website functionality.

When considering expansion of the network to non-U.S. retirees, different rules and regulations regarding privacy and employee information need to be taken into account.
My Dow Network’s member recruits already have an existing set of expectations regarding Dow given their years of working there. This creates expectations for services and network features that may be different from younger or new recruits without a long Dow history.

Current hiring and HR managers still need to work out how best to integrate potential input from retirees, many of whom are very qualified technically for project and contract work.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Sample Action Plan for Business Blogging

My dear colleague and friend, Dr. Bill Ives is one of the top bloggers in NA on areas related to Knowledge Management. He wrote an exccellent post on November 05, 2008, focused on a Sample Action Plan for Business Blogging. You can access more information about Bill Ives at his blog site. This post is reposted below for your convenience.

My day job is to help companies with their market facing blogs. I have not talked much about these services on this blog. So this is one of the few promotional pieces I will provide. In this post, I will share a sample high-level action plan from these efforts.

A blogging strategy needs to adapt to the business goals and culture of the organization so it should be implemented in a very flexible manner. Listed below are a set of sample suggested steps and a sequence. I work together with clients to refine these actions to best support their individual goals. Sample initial action steps are listed under each main step. These steps are covered in detail in the customized best practice blogging guides that I provide to clients. I target these guides to the issues that individual clients face and cover the state of the blogosphere in their niche, along with other requested issues.

Phase One: Setting up the Blog and Getting it Ready for Prime Time. Before you start to promote the blog you will want to get it in decent shape. Here is what needs to be done.

Ensure the Blogging Strategy is Aligned with Business Strategy – review the business objectives of the blog and how they fit within your firm’s overall marketing and business strategies.

1. Decide on a descriptive name for the blog and write a two sentence description to go along with this name.

2. Pick the content coverage of the blog and consider the types of posts you will write. This can be enhanced and modified as you continue.

3. Write the “about this blog section” which covers your objectives, content coverage and any relevant policy issues.

4. Decide and name the major categories of content, or themes, that will be covered in the blog. Make sure they align with your key words and all the significant key words are covered. You can add more later.

5. Pick the original bloggers. Match expertise with selected themes. This group can be extended later.

Design Blog to Optimize Search Results and Reader Experience – create blog design and navigation, add features such as expanded and multiple blog rolls, and recent posts.

6. Select blogging platform, create blog design, features and navigation and set up the blog.

Create Initial Blog Posts that Optimize Search Engine Results for Desired Themes – most new readers are reached through search engines – learn to think like a search engine to optimize results for desired themes.

7. Refine list of key words, group them, and prioritize them.

8. To optimize search results for the key words, apply principles of search engine optimization without trying to game the system.

9. Apply best practices for blog post content, style, and types.
Phase Two: Promoting the Blog and Ongoing Improvement
Once the blog is set up in a way that you feel comfortable and there is some initial quality content (posts) you can begin the promotion process. New content needs to be added on a regular and consistent basis.

Register Blog with Relevant Blog Sites, Add Connections to These Sites, Provide Viral Marketing Features, and Ensure RSS Feeds are Notified – claim blog on Technorati, add it to blog directories, consider features like email to a friend, make sure all key RSS directories are pinged.

11. Decide on the blog registration sites and directory to align with and complete the registration and directories that you select.

12. Add links to blog submission and bookmarking sites that reflect desired themes and encourage exploration.

13. Consider adding widgets related to the sites you select.

Connect with Key Bloggers in Market – determine the key external bloggers on your selected themes, add them to blog rolls, comment on their blogs, write about what they are doing and link to them, join the market conversations

14. Discover the key bloggers in your market niche. Make them the foundation of your blog roll. Consider multiple blog rolls on specific themes. When you write about other bloggers and link to them, be sure they are on your blog roll.

15. After the other suggestions to the blog have been implemented, reach out to the key bloggers you have identified, comment on their blogs, write blog posts that comment on what they write and expand their ideas.

16. Be sure to practice reciprocity whenever a blogger you respect writes about you. Monitor trackbacks and incoming site referrals.

17. Create a group or several groups of key blogs in an RSS reader to monitor what the key bloggers are saying and look for opportunities to write about them.

Make use of Blog Submission, Aggregation, Social Networking, and Bookmarking Sites – allow readers easy means to submit blog posts to these sites and submit selected posts.

18. Explore ways to make use of social networking participation (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn) to promote and support the blog.

19. After the other suggestions to the blog have been implemented, get involved with the relevant content sharing sites (e.g., Social Media Today).

20. Go ahead and add the widgets that allow readers to submit posts as part of the initial effort.

Monitor Results and Make Adjustments – conduct experiments and look at the results, monitor why people come to the blog.

21. Use tools such as Site Meter, Feedburner statistics, Google Analytics, and Technorati to monitor results amd make adjustments to the blog.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Innovation in Virtual Worlds - Strap Up - New Virtual Economics

Virtual Worlds Creating New Market Dynamics

Just like blogging and the ability to comment on news items online are, in essence, popularizing and decentralizing the news industry, so too are virtual worlds popularizing and decentralizing the gaming, meeting, and 3D graphic design industries, reports In-Stat (

Virtual worlds-especially the 3D kinds-are classified under the Web 3.0 category because of their profound ability to integrate multiple types of content, information sources, and feeds into one highly engaging and interactive format, the high-tech market research firm says. Virtual worlds are online, computer-generated simulations of life-like or fantasy environments where users guide their "avatar," or digital representation of their physical selves, to accomplish various goals.

Evidence supports the conclusion that the 'killer application' that is critical to virtual worlds-and, by extension, to Web 3.0-is, in fact, already here and it is none other than social networking.

Recent research has found the following:

*Total registered users of virtual worlds are expected to exceed
1 billion and total revenue is expected to exceed US $3 billion by 2012.

*70% of the more than 300 million registered users of virtual
worlds are younger than 18.

*Virtual world companies earn close to 90% of their revenue from
the sale of virtual items, currency, land, and fees associated with these items.

The Ten Pound Gorilla is Second Life, and my firm has been researching the evolution of the brands in SL for over two years and we will soon be bringing to market an unprecedented research assessment of over 60 leading brands in SL.What is clear from the initial research is - the Good, The Bad, and The Ugly are very evident in SL. The failures of so many great companies in understanding the community dynamics and continual requirement for content refreshing with engaging, and entertaining experiences is disappointing.

The reality of the new world is based on collaboration economics, or the network effect, or now easily dubbed crowd sourcing economics.

Wealth will be created from companies that create community experiences that are deeply embedded into all their business processes. Business engagement practices are now undergoing a steady evolution. With the Gen Virtuals growing up and hard wired to WebKinz, Club Penguin,, etc.....the integrated experiences of working with our avatar personas will simply be universal in time.

Wake Up Call.

Is your company starting to experiment with Virtual Worlds? Do you understand what they are? If not, give us a call, and we welcome help you develop your business models more effectively in this area.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Facebook Perspectives.

Toronto has over a million Facebook users and is one of the largest social networking communities globally. With over 120 million active users globally, Facebook is the 4th most trafficked website in teh world, and the most trafficked social media site in the worls (ComScore). Over 55,000 users, work related, college and high school networks use Facebook. However, more than 50% of the users are college graduates.

Some Key Facts

It holds some amazing photo reach as well as it is also the No. 1 photo sharing application on the Web (comScore)

* More than 10 billion photos uploaded to the site
* More than 30 million photos uploaded daily
* More than 6 million active user groups on the site

International Growth

In a little over five months, Fcaebook has released the site in more than 20languages, including Spanish, French, German, Russian and Korean.


* More than 400,000 developers and entrepreneurs
* Over 24,000 applications have been built on Facebook Platform
* 140 new applications added per day
* More than 95% of Facebook members have used at least one application built on Facebook Platform
* 25m users, growing 3% per week, which is 100,000 new users per day (up from 7.5m users in July 2007), projected to reach 50m by end of 2007

Other Interesting Facts:

* 1% of all time spent on the internet is Facebook
* 50% of registered users come back to the site every day.
* 60 billion page views per month, 50 pages per user every day
* 6th most trafficked site in the U.S
* 1 bn photos hosted on the site, 6m uploaded each deay, 70k photos served per second, making facebook the biggest photo sharing site on the web
* 1-2m people are on facebook simultaneously at any one time
* $100m per year advertising deal with Microsoft
* Internal valuation of $8bn, based on projected revenues of $1bn p.a. by 2015

How are companies using Facebook?

TD Canada is using Faceboook as a recruiting tool for Gen X and Y Talent, as well as to offer linkages to retail banking services for student loans - all with the long term view of hooking this next generation of talent's wallets and sales growth for upselling long term mortgages, wealth management services etc - in the preparation for this generation to inherit millions from the Baby Boomers - creating the richest generation in history. JP Morgan is also using Facebook actively for external recruiting as well.

Many companies have chosen not to deploy Facebook behind the firewall - especially in highly regulated insutries. However, there are now new solutions that solve these concerns and are being pioneered at JP Morgan and Bank of America. Helix is currently helping global banks deploy security safe Facebook solutions and build applications to meet client needs.

For more information, please contact

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Networking Pays off on Income Levels

Networks Have Economic Value

In economics and business, a network effect (also called network externality) is the effect that one user of a good or service has on the value of that product to other users.The classic example is the telephone. The more people own telephones, the more valuable the telephone is to each owner. This creates a positive externality because a user may purchase their phone without intending to create value for other users, but does so in any case.

The expression "network effect" is applied most commonly to positive network externalities as in the case of the telephone. Negative network externalities can also occur, where more users make a product less valuable, but are more commonly referred to as "congestion" (as in traffic congestion or network congestion).

Over time, positive network effects can create a bandwagon effect as the network becomes more valuable and more people join, in a positive feedback loop. (Source WikiEnclopedia).

Social Media Network Linked In Proves Value

Research findings by Anderson Analytics confirms what everyone already

* Nearly 60% of users have incomes of $93,000 or more.
*Executives with an average income of $104,000 make up 28% of the 2,000 random users polled for the study. Another 30% are self-identified “consultants” with an average income of $93,000.
*People with lots of connections tend to make more money, according to the study - those with incomes between $200-$350k were seven times more likely to have at least 150 connections than lower income users.

The study segmented users into four categories: executives (28%),
networkers/consultants (30%), late adopters (22%) (not sure what this is) and “exploring options (20%.

Does this mean we need to stop wasting time on Facebook and MySpace. If one adds a couple of hundred connections, does this mean they will be earning $350K plus.

When people join the network, they are given more options than simply connecting; the network is worth the sum of associations and actions that are allowed in the network. We must instead think of network value in terms of a network effect multiplier, as the actual value a network adds to an application is under the direct control of the application designers.

flickr Value

Flickr is a socially-enabled application built around photographs. Stripped of flickr's social tools, the service would provide a core value to its users - it would be a very high quality image host and archive. This core value is the "real" economic value of the product; this theory is consistent because flickr users have proven willing to pay for their services.

Flickr is also a socially-enabled tool, allowing users to connect around photographs. The social actions that can be taken in flickr are fairly limited; comments, page views, connections, groups and pools - these are fairly "commodity" social tools (in a sense, all of the social actions are native to the users as they have been previously pioneered). This is lightweight social networking, with very low barriers of entry; the network effect is light as well. To understand the final value of flickr, we multiply the core value by the network effect value (the network effect multiplier).

Facebook Value

As a contrast, consider Facebook. Facebook's core value is quite low. When you log onto Facebook you get a profile, a message box that doesn't interoperate with the rest of the world, some limited image hosting, etc., some downloadable widgets, a fun wall, etc. However, the network effects of Facebook are tremendous. The size of the network and myriad uses of the network create a network effect multiplier that is much greater than flickr's.


As social networking becomes commoditized, as more and more sites make social a part of their experience, the value-add of embracing social will need to be quantified. The key to understanding this is knowing that the value provided by the network is variable, and the outcome value of the service is contingent on the core value and the network effect multiplier.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Blogging - Some Perspectives

What is a Blog?

A blog (a contraction of the term " Web log") is a website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video.

Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs. As of December 2007, blog search engine Technorati was tracking more than 112 million blogs.

One of the best bloggers I know of is Dr. Bill Ives, who writes regular tips and techniques on Knowledge Management, Web 2.0 and other perspectives on how to improve knowledge practices. Just think some of the best knowledge is only a few key strokes away by tapping into innovative blogging leaders like Bill. I had the pleasure of working with Bill when we were together at Accenture, a prince of a man, and a wonderful visionary leader.

5 Key Tips to develop an effective Blogging Strategy

Step 1: Define your Blog Site’s Goals (What are you trying to do and how will you achieve it)

One of the most important decisions in starting to write a blog is deciding what you are trying to achieve with your blog.

In my case, my blog is on Innovation and Transformation related topics as this is what I am most passionate about, and also this is where I have spent the last 20 years of my career in helping large global multi-nationals or early stage companies innovate more successfully.

Step 2: Identify who you are targetting to be your audience.

Being clear about who you want to read your blog will require linkages with other bloggers writing about topics that are relevant to your blog to enable cross linkage opportunities and increase traffic flows. This takes time and effort, and promoting your blog on your email is also an effective technique to get the message out to relevant people you want to connect with. Registering your blog on blog aggregator sites is also important, sites like Technocrati, Blogger, etc.

Step 3: Decide on the Visual Layout and Branding requirements of your site.

Draw wireframes (rough sketches to experiment with element placement and layout) Helpful programs to do this are OmniGraffle (Mac Only) to help play with your site layout. I went with Google eBlogger as it allowed me to easily drag and drop layout requirements and I did not need any technical help. Highly recommended.

Other Key Blogging Tips include:

* Recognize Reader Attention Span is Limited. A typical web reader has a short attention span when it comes to reading content online. Average blog readers stay 96 seconds per blog. So keep your content length down to a level to between 250-1000 words.

* Get RSS Readers' Attention - titles have the ability to grab the attention of those following your blog via RSS in news aggregators. Even if your feeds are full post feeds rather than excerpts, it’s likely that most news aggregator readers scan the titles of posts for things that interest them rather than reading full text. The same principle is true in other indexes and directories like: Technorati,, digg etc

* Get Started Developing regular writing habits is critical. hard to do but necessary. Builds confidence. Builds New Networks. Creates new conversations. Your memory is forever captured.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Leading Transformational Change

Complex Change Initiatives Usually Fail

Despite all the rhetoric, books, effort, and money thrown into change efforts in organizations today, most fail. Mega-consulting firms Arthur D. Little and McKinsey & Co. have studied hundreds of companies that entered Total Quality Management programs, but about two-thirds "grind to a halt because of their failure to produce
the hoped-for results". Efforts at "reengineering" fared worse, with a 70% failure rate.

Peter Senge puts it quite starkly in his 1999 book "Dance of Change": "this failure to sustain significant change recurs again and again despite substantial resources committed to the change effort (many are bankrolled by top management), talented and committed people "driving the change", and high stakes. In fact, executives feeling an urgent need for change are right; companies that fail to sustain significant change end up facing crises. By then, their options are greatly reduced, and even after heroic efforts they often decline".

This seems a bleak appraisal for any organization. Yet the equally important learning is that change efforts are still important to face.... and the sooner the better.

A few more facts:

* 70% of merger/integration initiatives don’t live up to goals
* 50-80% failure rate in Business Reengineering Projects
* Only 9% of IT projects in large organizations are on time and on budget – and even then only 42% of proposed features are included

So how can one be successful in Leading Transformaitonal Change.

First, Lead but Let Go of Control. Successful change leaders exhibit the following leadership behaviors:

** Prepare themselves intellectually and emotionally
** Clarify the outcomes and a non-negotiable core
** Let the rest emerge by growing shared vision and action
** Build relationships up, down and across the system(s)
** Go with those who are ready to go
** Don’t expect the perfect answer in the first step

What else can leaders do to successfully Transform their organizations successfully?

1. Engage managers and key employees in designing and rolling out the change program.

Invite a keys managers and employees whom exhibit strong change agency and supportive behaviors that are: forward-thinking, respected by their peers to contribute ideas at the outset.

To get their attention and commitment, it is important that they be freed from the operating roles they have for a period of time to focus effectively and execute the change program. Overlay roles simply do not work well. This demonstrates genuine leadership support when key leaders are reassigned to help on transformational or turnaround needs. This also encourages them to advocate for the change once they’re back in their day to day operating roles.

Once the program is designed and ready for rollout, experienced employees can also help execute the program by defining the more detailed process changes at certain customer touch points or defining specific roles for different types of site employees.

2. Direct the change in a meaningful way.

Whatever the ultimate goal of a major change effort—increased customer visits, lower costs, or improved profitability—employees need to understand what it will also mean for them personally. It is critical that senior executives articulate how the proposed change will benefit workers and affect their day-to-day activities.

How leaders communicate matters is as much as the content of the message. Executives may want to discuss the change program first with operational managers, as a sign of respect for their role and a way to cascade the message through the ranks.

During those conversations, it’s vital that executives demonstrate enthusiasm and support for the required changes. Saying one thing in public forums and in private conversations being inconsistent erodes leadership confidence and risks more transformation programs. Leaders need to be coached on the importance of their behavior during difficult change programs.

In turn, the operating managers will need to openly discuss the change plans with their employees as a group. This ensures that all employees receive the same message, and gives them the opportunity to raise questions and concerns publicly, neutralizing employees who may criticize the change or try to undermine the effort behind the scenes. Conversations in smaller groups or one-on-one can follow in order to reinforce messages, answer questions not discussed in the larger group setting, and address specific individual challenges.

3. Give people time to change.

Expecting everyone to embrace the new change immediately is simply not realistic. People accept change at different speeds and exhibit different behaviors. Sustained behavioral change takes time and repetition, depending on the nature of the change, the company’s culture, the adroitness of management, and each employee’s receptivity and ability. Employees will need comprehensive training on the new processes required, as well as the time to practice, learn from mistakes, and try again

Don’t overload employees with too many big changes at once. Instead, give them the latitude to get used to a few new processes and then to introduce a few more once they’ve mastered the first set.

4. Constantly reinforce expectations.

Behavioral change requires continual reinforcement, particularly among employees who tend to resist such efforts. Emphasize the importance and value of a large-scale initiative through communication vehicles such as company-wide announcements, meetings, and everyday conversations with site managers

Operational Managers can also provide reinforcement in other ways as well. At every meeting, they can ask employees to talk about how they’re doing with executing the change and invite them to help one another work through challenges. Managers should spend time observing employees in action and providing real-time coaching during the shift; this provides employees with tangible examples of their mistakes and the specific remedial steps required to improve their execution.

Managers can also establish a certification program, through which employees who have already mastered the new processes work sideby- side as coaches with their colleagues onsite. These individuals can demonstrate how to execute new activities, monitor fellow employees’ behavior, and address any questions and concerns—all with the goal of achieving consistency across sites. As these employees reach a certain level of proficiency, they also become certified as mentors and coaches.

Reinforcement also means being firm about expectations. Leaders and managers can be open to suggestions on how to make improvements. However, they must send a clear message that carrying out the desired change is not negotiable.

5. Prove and share results.

Naysayers seldom embrace a change program until they hear about and see positive reactions from their peers. Therefore, leaders must measure the results of a change effort from the outset and present those successes to skeptics and supporters alike. Possible results range from increased sales and numbers of new customers, to higher mystery shopping or customer satisfaction scores, to the winning of industry awards. Identify and establish key metrics of success early in the process and begin tracking them before implementation as a baseline for improvement. While overall results are important, one should also rigorously monitor and share the information at the site level, so that individuals and teams can understand how they are doing.

6. Make success and failure matter.

At all locations, managers can encourage employees to change by offering rewards and recognition for individual performance. These could be given on the spot, when a manager observes an employee delivering exceptional service to a customer or flawlessly executing a new activity. Rewards might include a gift certificate to a local store, a free lunch, or a small cash reward. Alternatively, larger rewards including extra vacation days, a monetary bonus, or a job promotion could go to employees demonstrating sustained performance over time, such as the highest average customer satisfaction ranking or the fastest path to certification.

While individual recognition is important, shared rewards can be even more powerful. A company can initiate a “Customer Satisfaction Drive” contest across sites and award winning teams with trips, bonuses, and other prizes. Or the best teams may simply win bragging rights and an article in the company newsletter. Engaging different sites in competition encourages employees to work together, both by coaching one another to improve and by taking each other to task for not making the desired changes.

Leaders can also use bonuses to push site managers to drive change at their locations. During implementation, these rewards may be tied to successful execution of specific stages in the implementation plan. More substantial rewards, however, typically are linked to sustained improved performance across a set of core metrics.

Managers who have a stake in the effort’s success will likely be more motivated to lead change. A national convenience store operator, as part of a major effort to improve customer service, launched a new rewards and recognition program that acknowledged site, team, and individual contributions to the business. Frequent rewards helped focus employees on the current wave of implementation.

Financial incentives rewarded overall site performance on a set of financial and customer metrics, while still maintaining control metrics such as inventory and staffing levels. Including both positive and negative elements in the reward system ensured that managers did not drive positive results using the wrong behaviors—for example, over-staffing cash registers to completely eliminate lines and boost customer satisfaction scores. Managers whose locations consistently underperformed against service targets were either demoted or removed from their jobs.

The flip side of this equation is also true. Leaders must also make failure matter by, for instance, reducing bonuses for site managers whose stores or restaurants fall short of targets or dismissing managers or employees who consistently fail to meet the new goals. These actions send the message that refusal to change will not be tolerated.

7. Weave the change into the culture.

Getting a major initiative to stick means ensuring that employees embody the changes that leaders want to see. Change agents at three levels can help weave new processes into the company’s culture:

• Senior leaders need to publicly demonstrate their support of change by participating in kick-off meetings and market rallies and by making frequent visits to offices and to customers. They can also empower managers and employees to handle customer issues on-site.

• Operational leaders can also focus employees on desired new behaviors. They can also act as the conduit for feedback between senior leaders and the field. Because it is tough to drive change from behind a desk, operational leaders should get out in the field to observe and model desired behaviors. They should have frequent conversations with site managers to track progress against targets, ensure that sites are hiring the right employees, and regularly celebrate success.

•Site managers and experienced employees in the field must provide explicit guidance and performance feedback to other site personnel. They can also promote the change initiative in conversations and routine activities. One company implementing new processes for interacting with customers instituted a “customer moment” at the beginning of every employee gathering, whether at headquarters or the site level, when employees were asked to share their personal experiences with good and bad customer service and explain what they learned from the situation.

Executives must get operating managers and their most experienced employees on board, as these are the people who are most critical to the effort, and must shift them from skeptics to dedicated change agents. The process takes patience and substantial effort, but the payoff is well worth the investment: large-scale change that generates sustained competitive advantage.

Research Sources: Oliver Wyman

Friday, October 31, 2008

Leadership When the Going Gets Rough

Leadership in Times of Uncertainty

Today the pace of change continues to accelerate, and reviewing the recent market dynamics one only sees the endless stream of negativity in the markets as the global markets content with the financial upheaval of unprecedented magnitude.

Although there are tremendously high levels of uncertainty, strong leaders emerge to restore confidence when volatility in markets are everywhere. It is important during these challenging times to lead more than ever.

It is important for chief leaders to demonstrate confidence, positive energy and not personify feelings of helplessness and apprehension fostered by these events. More importantly offering the gift of wisdom and guidance in day to day conversations is very important to sail through these new and unchartered waters.

The prudent CEO may ask, “What can I do to help my organization cope with what has happened and help them prepare for what is to come?” This type of leader appreciates that the dynamics of current events are unique and may need to tackled differently.

Four key concepts you may find useful when leading people during times of uncertainty are: Inform, Connect, Guide, and Unite. These thoughts have been cultivated from RHR International in their leadership center. Helix has added our perspectievs to these four leadership unifying behaviors based on our experiences in helping companies innovation and lead complexity and transformational programs.

Happy Halloween and Sending Everyone a BIG BOO :)


As people struggle to make sense of a new situation, they are particularly hungry for information and analysis during the opening stages. For this reason, you may find that they are most open to communication efforts delivered at the onset. Seizing early opportunities to share available information can have greater impact than waiting to deliver “perfect” news at a later date.

For obvious reasons, honesty is critical in such communications. Leaders must candidly acknowledge the downsides and the unknowns. This will create credibility when painting a picture of their organization’s strengths and encouraging people to focus on the solid fundamentals. Most importantly, it is the leader’s job to help people make sense of the changing conditions, anticipate the likely scenarios ahead, and make up their own minds about how to best deal with these situations.

TIP:» Communicate early and frequently. The risk of over-communicating is far less important than leaving the field open to catastrophic rumors. Embrace humility. Tell the truth; over-promising is only likely to backfire. Emphasize that recovery is a marathon, not a sprint.


It is important to generate a feeling of trust with your employees. This will not happen if your communications appear remote or artificial. People need to feel a highly personal presence and connection. Senior executives who reach out to their employees and foster warmth and support will be seen as a credible source of reassurance and information.

On the personal side, leaders need to acknowledge that they, too, are affected. Saying it is no sign of weakness. On the contrary, it signals that they are in touch with their own feelings and with others as fellow human beings. Everyone, including senior executives, may need to seek out support – from friends, family members, mentors and counselors.

TIP:» If and when dramatic events occur, give people opportunities to safely express their emotions. Reach out to employees on a personal basis. Get out of your office and into the hallway. Be there for them. Encourage everyone to do the same.


During periods of uncertainty, more than at any other time, people want strong leaders who are comfortable giving direction on what to do and what not to do. However, too early or inconsiderate calls to “Put this behind us” and “Get back to work” will probably be counterproductive. Talking about the long-term visions and strategies of the company will not be effective when people are bracing for further bad news, or emotionally recovering from previous disclosures.

You may find it beneficial to start with more basic elements. The first step is to provide clear guidance on business-critical priorities that everyone can rally around and contribute to. As those concerns are being addressed, invite people to think of the unique skills and qualities that have kept them in business with their internal or external customers. How can they leverage those and make a difference to others who are dealing with the same issues?

TIP:» Give steady guidance. Focus on the concrete steps on which all employees can align. Empower them to be part of the solution within that framework. Patiently hammer your message – its stability may be as important as its content.


Turbulent times remind us of the importance of human community. People value it. They need to rally behind those things that bind them together. Leaders can pull their employees closer to the company by reinforcing what makes them a unique group. Chief executives can help crystallize these feelings to energize a group towards joint action. You may find that actively dealing with a difficult situation will actually enhance a sense of togetherness and resilience as a community.

The leader who taps into well-felt aspects of who people are and how they function sends a strong message in times of uncertainty: “What we’re doing now validates what we’ve always done; we can adapt to change and still be true to who we are.”

TIP:» Celebrate who you are as a business community. Emphasize connectedness to your industry, your company, your customers, and one another.

About Customers

The concepts outlined above also apply to your customers. Executives up to the highest level must not be afraid to pick up the phone and let customers know that the organization is there for them and will be of whatever help it can be. Customers need to know they have a partner who will be on their side in turbulent times.

TIP:» Reach out to your customers on a regular basis. Maintain relationships even when no concrete business is discussed.

The Importance of Leadership

In uncertain times, it is essential to bridge the conceptual difference between “leading” and “managing.” Organizations need leaders to show the way forward and instill a sense of energy and inspiration. They need the same leaders to be visibly involved, making sure that visions are translated into concrete and sensible action plans, and that those programs are actively pursued and followed through.

TIP:» Create a separate “decision room” where your management team can discuss all options frankly and flexibly, then stick to a common message towards employees and the external world.

Final Thoughts

More turbulent and rough times would appear to be ahead of us. In all probability, uncertainty will remain at high levels, exacting its toll on individuals and businesses. Because of this, the people in your organization will be looking for direction more than ever. Rising up to that challenge is the essence of individual leadership. Whatever happens, forward-looking energy, honesty and connectedness to others will be key lasting assets, valuable long after this current period of uncertainty is in the past.

People under stress react in predictable manners. Following is a list of behaviors you may observe in your employees in reaction to current economic events:

• Lack of focus

• Decreased productivity

• Heightened conflicts

• High increase in rumor mill output

• Increase in internal competition

• Increase in silo mentality (both in function and level)

• Reduced communication

• Delays in analysis

• Increased paranoia

• Lack of motivation

• Emotional outbursts

• Significant increase in questions (but not the Big Question)

• Frequent sick days

• Job searching at work

These behaviors are typical during times of anxiety and are impossible to eradicate. However, their effect can be mitigated by addressing the guidelines outlined in this article.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Innovation Perspectives

Innovation is a messy reality!.

When I ask executives to define innovation, I typically get different answers. It is not a well defined process - like Total Quality Improvement or 6 Sigma, and only 4% of major innovation programs ever succeed.

With the majority of CEO's globally reinforcing the importance of innovation to their growth objectives, it would make good sense for companies to have a clear definition of innovation that all employees understand and can rally around. Yet when you peak under the covers -- few employees can define innovation - let alone find each executive in the board room having the same mantra in harmony.

One definition that we like at Helix is innovation is the set of capabilities that allows for the continued realization of a desired future. Innovation is a transformation process, and it blossoms when it supports diversity.

A major problem holding us back in educating executives effectively is that Innovation is an integrated discipline requiring expertise in: Business, IT, Cultural Anthropology, Complexity Science, Learning and Development, Psychology and Sociology etc.

A few bright lights in play are Finland's Alto University as they have consolidated their faculties or Art & Architecture, Business and IT to help position themselves to develop innovation skills and know-how to meet future business demands. Also to watch is Shanghai's new innovation university.

For innovation to flourish, there are 3 key inputs: talent, resources, and infrastructure. Countries like Singapore have very aggressive talent attraction practices and are striving to source 25% of the world's best talent to its country,they are creating a focused talent factory and offering compensation packages and offers unprecedented and simply too hard to resists. Recently a Head of Cancer Research, and Vice Chancellor of Medicine overseeing Genomics research was lured to Singapore with a salary offer of 5x greater than his current compensation -plus a new lab, and no longer has to write research grants - the $$$ reservoir is simply there for him to tap into.

An innovation lifecycle needs to also be in clearly developed and institutionalized. The basic lifecycle includes: Strategy, Design, Develop, Prototype, Go Live and Commercialize.

The world depends on its ability to shore up innovation capacity and life is not as simple as it was after World War II where the really only global innovation game in play was the USA, where in 1946 NA producted more than 50% of the industrial output of the world. However, in 2008 - this is a very different situation.

Some alarming dynamics are in play though - as China will graduate more than 600,000 engineeers in 2008, India 200,000 and USA only 60,000 and likely Canada only 10-15,000. North America also has 1/3 of high school students that do not finish their high school education and in math and science, the USA is now ranked 23 or 24th place in competency assessments on a global basis.

For NA CEO's to develop stronger innovation capabilities, they need to stop using the rhetoric and live the cultural realities required to enable innovation to flourish. Year over year - we have declining innovation capabilities - it is about time that we realized the economic implications.

Perhaps the collapse in the financial markets will help spur a wake-up call.

In the meantime, we will do our best to help our clients get themselves positioned for innovation sustaining capacity as we march forward into 2009.

To contact Dr. Cindy Gordon, reg: this article, post your comments. We always welcome a comment or two back.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Innovations and Networking Value

With over 96% of innovations failing, and the top two areas to yield innovation results are: 1) Business Model Innovation and 2) Networking.

What is the signficance of networking(Value Networks) to support Innovation and Growth? First, let's define what is a value based network.

A Value network is a complex set of social and technical esources. Value Networks work together via relationships to create social goods (public) or (economic value). This value takes the form of knowledge and other intangibles and/or financial value. Value networks exhibit interdependence. They account for the overall worth of products and services. Companies have both internal and external value networks. External facing networks include customers or recipients, intermediaries, stakeholders, complementors, open innovation networks and suppliers. Internal value networks focus on key activities, processes and relationships that cut across internal boundaries, such as order fulfillment, innovation, lead processing, or customer support. Value is created through exchange and the relationships between roles.

For firms to leverage the external creative potential, they need to shift their focus from firm-centric innovation to network-centric innovation. Nambisan & Sawhney in their Book The Global Brain describe network-centric innovation as an externally focused approach to innovation that relies on harnessing the resources and capabilities of external networks and communities to amplify or enhance innovation reach, innovation speed, and the quality of innovation outcomes.

The underlying concept of network-centric innovation is network-centricity: the emphasis on the network as the focal point and the associated opportunity to extend, optimize, and/or enhance the value of a stand-alone entity or activity by making it more intelligent, adaptive, and personalized. In the context of innovation, such network-centricity helps individual innovation partners to enhance the value of their contributions, and in turn, the overall innovation outcome.

In The Global Brain, the authors also describe four defining principles of network-centric innovation: shared goals, shared “world-view”, social knowledge creation, and architecture of participation. These four principles are consistent with the historical roots of network- centric innovation in the Open Source movement and in the concept of Business Ecosystems.

Another must read book on Innovation is “Innovation to the Core: A Blueprint for Transforming the Way Your Company Innovates” by Peter Skarzynski and Rowan Gibson.) According to Peter Skarzynski and Rowan Gibson, one of three critical preconditions for making breakthroughs happen is maximizing diversity. A lot of discussion is going on in corporate circles these days about ethnic, racial, and gender diversity. If it’s not a big deal in your own company or geographic region yet, chances are it soon will be. Compliance with government legislation and political correctness are not the only issues driving this new push for diversity. It’s also very much about the globalization of business. It’s about the need to understand and leverage the rapidly changing demographics of customers, markets, and employees around the world. Luke Visconti, partner and cofounder of Diversity Inc magazine, says, “If you want to compete globally, you have to understand that 80% of the globe isn’t white and 50% isn’t rnale.” That’s a big reason why a string of global companies-from PepsiCo to P&G to GE-have made it a strategic priority to diversify and globalize their leadership teams.

However, what is really crucial in the composition of innovation teams is not just the ability to connect various genders, races, cultures, and ethnicities; it’s the ability to connect people with different skill sets, capabilities, and perspectives.

In summary, Innovation relies on network intelligence or the collective wisdom of key stakeholders.
Social mediated toolkits like Igloo provide the new beginnings of corporate networking tools that can finally make the visions of knowledge management a stronger reality as the toolkits are shifting to enable rapid creation of teams to share in ways we only dreamed of.

Of course, the will to share and reward or cultural systems need to be in place, although many gaps on this front, I am encouraged by the open and transparency of the Gen X and Y's in their willingness and speed to collaborate.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Innovations for Tracking Social Media Trends

With the rapid innovation growth of social mediated solutions, executives world-wide need solutions to track the trends of their brands across leading solutions like:

Facebook, MySpace, You Tube, Delicious, Digg, and now even your Twitters....

let alone the blog market with a new blog added to the www web every 5 seconds...the growth is simply staggering. When are we working with our clients, they always ask who should we partner with to understand the impact of the conversations taking place across the full spectrum of social media vehicles.

Two companies that we digging into currently to learn more about solutions for our clients are:

Cision,a leading provider of media research, distribution, monitoring and analysis services, today introduced the industry’s most comprehensive suite of social media monitoring services, empowering Cision clients to monitor in real-time and understand the impact of the conversations taking place across the full spectrum of social media vehicles.

Cision Social Media Dashboard, a self-service, online portal that delivers real-time access to social media coverage, plus analysis and reporting tools that allow communications professionals to understand the impact of social media activity and to take action based on those insights. Cision Social Media Daily Reports, detailed, twice-daily email reports that monitor all relevant social media coverage, with direct links to the online posts.

Both services monitor public content on the full breadth of social media outlets, including social networking sites (including MySpace), microblogs (e.g. Twitter), video- and image-sharing sites (including YouTube and Flickr), online forums and opinion sites, and LinkedIn Answers. In addition to English-language sites, the services monitor social media across multiple languages, including Spanish, French, Italian, German, simple Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Russian.

Clients utilizing the new social media monitoring services along with the CisionPoint on-demand research, distribution, monitoring and analysis dashboard services will have the industry’s most comprehensive real-time monitoring capability.

“Cision customers already enjoyed a competitive advantage from our ability to help them identify and monitor the myriad of important blogs and online outlets that cover them, their competition and their industry,” said Joe Bernardo, President and CEO of Cision North America. “With these enhanced services from Radian6, Cision now offers the only monitoring solution that covers social networks, microblogs and the entire social media landscape – and the only service that combines that with print, broadcast, and online news monitoring – all from a single industry partner.”

“Cision is clearly recognized as the world leader in providing media research, monitoring and analysis services and we look forward to expanding that leadership within social media,” said Marcel LeBrun, CEO of Radian6.

The social media daily reports provide a cost-effective solution for staying current on social media coverage – along with the ability to respond appropriately. The Cision Social Media real-time Dashboard offers the ability to analyze, share and report this data in a variety of formats as well as identify key influencers. The dashboard furnishes additional insights through its unique “metadata,” such as comment count, unique commenters and an “engagement score,” which quantifies the extent to which commenters are engaged on a specific piece of content.

The services will monitor over 100 million blogs, tens of thousands of online forums, over 20,000 online media sources, over 450 leading rich media sites, top microblogging sites such as Twitter and Friendfeed, and LinkedIn. They extend Cision’s global leadership in delivering media research, distribution, monitoring and measurement to the public relations industry.


About Radian6 Technologies
Radian6 provides the leading social media-monitoring platform for marketing, communications and customer support professionals. The company's flexible dashboard enables monitoring all forms of social media with results appearing in real-time as discovered. Various analysis widgets give users the ability to uncover the top influencers as well as which conversations are having an impact online. Visit for more information.

About Cision
Cision ( improves clients' performance through integrated services and software solutions for reputation and campaign management, media monitoring and research of media contacts. Cision AB is quoted on the Nordic Exchange and has approximately 17,000 shareholders. The company has around 2,600 employees and a turnover of SEK 1.9 billion in 2007. Cision operates in the US, UK, Sweden, Canada, Germany, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Portugal, Lithuania, the Netherlands and China and has partners in another 125 countries.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Strategies for Successful Wiki Implementations

By 2009, at least 50 percent of organizations will use wikis as important work collaboration tools -- will your organization be in that number?

With over 75% of the global assets tied up in knowledge assets, having access to increased solutions to improve collaboration productivity is a key growth factor for organizations that want to improve their innovation capacity.

Businesses must enlist technologies that will help workers stay connected while they collaborate on internal projects.

One tool receiving greater consideration in 2008 is wiki technology, according to a new study completed by the Society for Information Management's Advanced Practices Council (APC).

A wiki is a writable web that every approved user can edit. Originally designed for online collaboration among loosely affiliated software developers, wiki technology is moving into the mainstream corporate IT infrastructure. Some firms have used wikis since the late 1990s. Moreover, the success of Wikipedia is placing wikis squarely on the CIO's radar screen.

When considering use of wikis, CIOs should keep in mind that in reality, a large number of companies may already have employees using wikis for work purposes without the authority to do so.

The APC commissioned research this year to help its members plan better for 2008. It asked:

* How are wikis used now in corporations?
* What's the value wikis present?
* What are the barriers to implementing wikis corporate-wide?
* What are the best practices for sustaining wikis?

After surveying more than 160 active corporate wiki users, the APC study identified seven strategies to be followed in 2008 to ensure the sustainability and value of a corporate wiki:

1. Integrate the wiki as one of several important tools in an organization's IT collaboration architecture.

2. Understand the wiki "rules of conduct" and ensure they are monitored and enforced.

3. Optimize the use of wikis for collaborative knowledge creation across geographically dispersed employees, and for crossing divisional or functional boundaries, in order to gain insights from people not previously connected.

4. Assign a champion to each wiki and have that champion observe contributions that people make to the wiki; the champion will help foster employees who adopt the important "shaper" role within the wiki.

5. Recognize that the most difficult barrier to cross in sustaining a wiki is convincing people to edit others' work; organizations should ask their champion and managers to help with this.

6. Recognize that a significant value of wikis comes from embedding small software programs into the wiki that structure repetitive behavior. Some include organizing meeting minutes, rolling up project status or scheduling meetings. Ask wiki participants to keep watching for repetitive activity to evolve and enhance wiki technology.

7. Understand wikis are best used in work cultures that encourage collaboration. Without an appropriate fit with the workplace culture, wiki technology will be of limited value in sharing knowledge, ideas and practices.

The disruptive nature of wiki-based knowledge management may not be appropriate for all organizations. Those with traditional hierarchical information sharing approaches will not "get it."

Some organizations in industries with little turbulence and low information intensiveness will not have much need for wikis. Nevertheless, a large number of organizations can benefit from a wiki approach to knowledge management, whether in small project teams or through an Intranet.

The APC researchers predict many more organizations will start using wikis in 2008, confirming Gartner's earlier predictions (Gartner, 2005) that by 2009, at least 50 percent of organizations will use wikis as important work collaboration tools.

Helix has been supporting client's wiki deployments for over 4 years, and was an early adopter using these tools internally, we have found that it is critical to ensure that the wiki toolkits are easy to use, and allow end users to work as close to their experiences with Microsoft Office as possible. Microsoft offers a wiki solution in their sharepoint version 7(Moss) version however it is very rudimentary in nature.

We recommend to our clients they use the Atlassian Wiki solution as it integrates with Microsoft, but provides more rich functionality to satisfy both basic and more advanced user needs.

Wiki corporate solutions are numerous, but have a tendency to cluster in these key areas:

1.) Project Management/or Collaboration Needs
2.) Product and Solutions Planning Needs
3.) Wiki like Encyclopedias (like WikiPedia) tailored to specific functional or corporate knowledge/lexicon.
4.) Communities of Practice to share specific knowledge or share interests

Wikis can either be open or closed, with ease of permission setting.

What is always important is to understand the nature of the content being leveraged in a wiki, and if the content has a major risk to ensuring after the creation process is completed, often the final versions are moved to a more secure document management environment.

Wikis are easy to use, deploy and help support end users with increasing toolkits to support their collaboration needs. Will your organization be introducing wikis effectively and what are the concerns that you have on your mind?

Let's continue the wiki dialogue!.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Social Media Returns

There are essentially four different types of return that you can expect from a successful social media marketing campaign: links, mindshare/branding, sales and consumer interaction.

Below, is a look at each type of return and how you can tap into it, depending on your goals.


Using social media for link building is most popular for good reason. Using social news sites as a platform to spread your content (linkbait) can effectively produce hundreds or thousands of new inbound links to your site. Compare that with paying or begging for links, and you can quickly see why linkbaiting is going mainstream, at least within our community.

The objective here is to produce a piece of remarkable content that will spread virally and naturally collect links. The big social news sites already have millions of users, so the idea is to leverage these sites to get your story popular enough so that it’s exposed to their user base. A popular piece of content on these sites is seen by tens of thousands of hungry bloggers looking for stories to blog about.

Sites that are best for building link are Digg, Delicious, Netscape, and Reddit (see Forget ABCs - The Social Media Alphabet Is DNRS and More Letters Of The Social Media Alphabet to learn more about these sites and others mentioned below).

Mindshare & Branding

Social media marketing goes beyond just traffic and links. It is also great for creating mindshare, branding initiatives, and brand awareness. It doesn’t matter if you have a new brand or one that is well established, using social media can help build or strengthen it.

Social media is also part of a brand experience when users interact in these channels. If the experience is positive, high-energy, interesting or funny, all of these elements will support a unique brand experience and support ongoing initiatives in this area. Positive or negative experiences here can really have an impact on a brand.

A few examples of positive experiences include funny videos, useful content, flash games, and contests based on user participation. Each of these methods help engage a deeper dialogue or interaction with the consumer and can help get closer to the customer.

Current Best sites for creating mindshare are: YouTube, Facebook, and MySpace. Igloo, an emerging corporate social networking software platform is excellent for profit and not for profit mindshare experiences integrating many diverse capabilities of a strong web 2.0 environment.


The bottom line for many marketing campaigns is to bring an increase in sales. Sometimes this is done directly and sometimes it is a very indirect process. It is very hard to create a social media marketing campaign that will result in direct sales. This is because you’re reaching consumers in a non-purchasing stage of the cycle. It contrasts from standard SEO where consumers are looking for what you’re selling and at the point of purchase already. Social media is less intrusive, and part of the reason people engage is because there’s more there than just a selling message. Any content piece with a strong selling message will not be received well or successful.

The best way to generate sales through social media is to show how good your product is in a creative way and compelling way. Blendtec, for example, has created a campaign called Will it Blend?, where they take various consumer items that you would think are impossible to blend and they blend them. This shows off their product is in a way that is compelling for the consumer to watch. Since the launch of the campaign in November, sales for the company have quadrupled.

Sites that are best for direct sales are MySpace, YouTube, or any highly targeted social site.

Customer Interaction

There are a lot of benefits to interacting with your customers through social media. Some of these include improving products or services, establishing trust, being viewed as the authority in your space and creating evangelists.

The most common form of customer interaction in social media is done through blogging. With a blog, your goal should be to establish an open dialogue with your customers. This means that should allow comments on the blog, and you should also be participating on other relevant blogs.

Blogging is not the only way to interact with your customers in social media. Consider reaching out to them in the communities where they hang out but be sure tread lightly as they can very easily have the opposite effect you are hoping for. Remember, social media is somewhere that consumers feel safe from marketers, so you need to have the right approach.

Another strategy is to build white label social media sites for your customers with topics focused around your brand or industry. Examples of these include: Guitar Center’s King of the Blues, Dell’s IdeaStorm and My Barack Obama.

These are all breakdowns for some of the ways social media marketing can be effective today. The environment is still evolving and growing. As we see more participation in different ways, the landscape will pose even more opportunity for marketing.

Source Recognition: Cameron Olthuis The Let’s Get Social column

Friday, October 17, 2008

Social Capital Markets 2008 Conference Highlights

The Social Capital Markets 2008 conference interesting bits so far from the SoCap08 blog.

Sean Stannard-Stockton of Tactical Philanthropy:

...I ran into an acquaintence who works for the The Institute for the Future. She was explaining to me that trends take 30-50 years to play out. So the Internet was first developed in the 1960’s, but it took 30 years for the internet to go mainstream and yet we’re still likely 10+ years from the Internet being fully “mature” in its growth cycle. I think the same is true in social investing. The first socially responsible investment fund was launched in the 1970’s, so we’re now 30 years into the trend. I have the sense (and the panel today was a nice affirmation) that we’re hitting the “knee in the curve” of growth in social investing. But that means that if you compared our industries to the growth path of the Internet, we’re probably sitting at around 1995.

Xavier Helgesen of BetterWorld Blog:

David Murphy, CEO of Better World Books, and yours truly are speaking at the inaugural Social Capital Markets in San Francisco. This is truly a landmark event - the first conference I’ve ever heard of based on investing with a social impact...David stressed the point about building a long-term relationship with a funding source. At Better World Books, we knew the team at Good Capital for nearly 18 months before we agreed to a deal where they would invest to help grow Better World Books. Over that time, we grew a level of trust and a depth of personal relationships.

Rob Katz of

What is democratic capital, and why should the base of the pyramid community care? Well, on a very basic level, the democratic capital panel is all about giving investors and borrowers the power to connect directly, without the intermediation of too many financial institutions. This person-to-person connection takes the shape of four panelists and their social enterprises:

Robert Chatwani, WorldofGood
Mads Kjaer, MyC4
Premal Shah, Kiva
Tracey Pettingill-Turner, MicroPlace

The panel’s relevance to base of the pyramid strategy and practice is clear. Each of the panelists is working to get capital to BoP enterprises – in similar but different ways...To me, the significance of this panel is the fact that it’s taking place. There are four fully-baked social enterprises working to get capital to the BoP. Think about that – as recently as two years ago, there was Kiva and…Kiva. That there’s a dynamic market, with slightly differentiated product offerings, speaks to the interest in social investing and to the ability of Kiva to tell amazing stories, which have motivated hundreds of thousands of lenders to check them out as well as MicroPlace, MyC4 and now WorldofGood.

Will four be enough? Unlikely. Let’s hope this isn’t the last we hear from these entrepreneurs.
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