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
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