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.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Looking for Leadership? Invest in your Networks

Looking for Leadership? Invest in Your Networks

I liked this post so much that I am reposting this.

Lincoln and Roosevelt are heralded as great American leaders in times of crisis, and their vision and fortitude are recognized as drivers of their historic accomplishments. However, we think their greatness had far more to do with their abilities to be catalysts for network effects.

If we’re right, it reveals a very different interpretation of the calls we’re hearing for “leadership” to restore confidence in our economic system. In fact, there’s a good chance that no government policy gesture or announcement will mollify the worries of businesses and consumers, let alone stabilize the markets.

Confidence must emerge from the networks in which we all participate. We need to lead ourselves.

This raises intriguing issues and opportunities for corporate marketers looking to craft a way forward.

“In times of uncertainty consumers rely more on trusted relationships when making purchasing decisions,” says Dr. Brent Simpson, an expert at the University of South Carolina who specializes in understanding how social order is formed.

Stanford University’s Matt Jackson, a leading social network theorist, adds: “People’s friends and trusted social relationships are important in influencing their behavior, and people learn from and emulate their friends. Attitude certainly can play into that, especially in turbulent times.”

So what does this mean for businesses directly impacted by the financial crisis, like banks, brokerages, and insurance companies, as well as any consumer business facing the prospect of declining (or less profitable) sales?

First and foremost, you can’t brand your way out of it. You can’t rely spin doctors to declare your path through the crisis; your customers must see and verify it. While your hired guns are hatching ads and press releases to statically “position” the situation, your networks are trading information and defining it in real-time.

And that information, whether accurate or not, has absolutely nothing to do with how the brand has been envisioned, promised, or promoted. Every network is founded upon the tangible realities of action and reaction, just as the mechanism of their function is cause and effect.

How do you empower these networks to step up and lead?

* Know your networks. Invest in software to map connections between people and content.

* Move your enterprise closer to customers, employees, partners and investors. In the past we talked about flattening hierarchies; now it is time to integrate internal & external sources of value.

* Trust opportunities that emerge from the exchange (don’t just talk, and certainly don’t lecture).

* Make information a utility as ubiquitous as electrical light. If what you share isn’t affirmed and forwarded, don’t repeat it…instead, recast or reimagine it, and find new ways to prove it to your networks.

* Demand feedback and ideas.

* Stop looking for ‘home runs’ and play ‘singles and doubles’ by finding small wins, frequent trials. Make constant adjustments. Allocate resources towinners and abandon losers without blame.

The larger revelation of today’s various crises is that the era of symbolic branding is waning, if not over. The woes of the financial institutions have graphically illustrated to us why.

It was always untenable for lenders to ignore the details of weak/bad relationships and to expect instead that homes or property (i.e. commodities) would appreciate in value with no accord to the strength of home owners (i.e. the source of value that differentiated the commodity). Instead of accessing and fostering the relationship to make the loan a better product, the banker chooses to focus on the derivatives.

All businesses face similar risks. From toothpaste to software services, consumer brands invite significant downside threats when they focus on manufactured identify and perception, and not on the drivers of true business strength: connection, interaction, involvement, collaboration, consumption and the other aspects of human behavior.

There are no brands, or businesses, without the networks of people who make them real. It is in, and through, the behaviors of these networks that the Lincolns and Roosevelts for our business and social communities will ultimately arise.

Jonathan Salem Baskin and Michael Cayley met through the concurrent release of their manifestos in the 50th issue of ChangeThis.

Jonathan Salem Baskin recently released the book Branding Only Works on Cattle. This post also appears on Jonathan’s blog at

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Knowledge Management and Value of Web 2.0

Knowledge Management is a management discipline that continues to evolve in theory and practice.

In simple terms, KM is best defined as the body of understanding and skills that is mentally constructed by people. Knowledge is increased through interaction with information (typically generated from other people).

There are typically three major types of knowledge:

1.) Embodied or tactit or implicit knowledge: Undocumented information in human beings such as intuition, empathy, experience know-how, mental models, artifcacts, values, and norms that enables us to make decisions
2.) Represented knowledge often called expicit or codified, or tangible knowledge: This is knowledge that is mostly contained in data, and documented information that is rightly the basis for such decision-making.
3.) Embedded knowledge: is the knowledge that exists in processes, products, rules and procedures - also called explicit, or codified or tangible knowledge.

While the term, knowledge management is popular, there are many interpretations and more importantly - many misunderstandings of what KM means. KM is not the mechanical organization of knowledge; nor is KM solely about content. KM is a system and a process, and not just about content. It is also about culture as culture creates the context for knowledge to effectively be cultivated and to flow effectively.

I look at KM as a multi-disciplinary approach to achieving an organization's objectives, by making the best use of knowledge - it focuses on processes such as acquiring, creating and sharing knowledge, and the cultural and technical foundations that support them. The aim of KM is to align knowledge processes with organizational objectives.

The reasons why organizations commit to KM include:
1.) To improve the quality of available knowledge within the enterprise and share it across operating units;
2.) To improve responses to competitive forces;
3.) To reduce or control costs;
4.) To accelerate the rates of innovation within an enterprise
5.) To reduce the loss of intellectual assets caused by turnover in employees.

The value that Web 2.0 and Social Mediated Technologies provide to KM programs is that they create an enabling collaborating infrastructure to help people, communities and social networks to adaptively generate knowledge in real time.

These adapative free-flowing toolkits allow people to self-declare their interests and for the natural organic process of interest swarming to take place. In other words, people gravitate to the topics, themes, discussions of most interest to them, as well as being able to search for profiles, or interest areas that specifically map to an individuals' interest. Web 2.0 provides for a more open, transparent and organic form of communication which accelerates organizations ability to support and further achieve the KM organizational goals summarized above.

Sometimes I hear people say knowledge management is dead - which only reaffirms how misinformed people are in understanding the science of knowledge diffusion theory which is rooted in cultural anthropology which deeply looks at how knowledge is formed and flows.

Knowledge is what allows us to innovate and grow, and without it's capabilities and generative power - we would not evolve as a human species. Web 2.0 and Social mediated approaches are simply toolkits that accelerate our ability to share knowledge and create communities of interest relevant to our goals, and needs.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Service Excellence and its importance on Innovation

Innovation is a top global priority, and in the pressing market in play, keeping your business model differentiated and continuing to demonstrate value will be a key success factor for organizations growth.

We now understand that product innovation although key is highly replicable in reverse engineering. A consistent drum beat for optimization is in the service excellence arena.

Service Excellence is a strong indicator of customer loyalty.

Loyalty is about building sustainable relationships through an emotional connection. Emotional elements drive loyalty. While we talk about loyalty as an important business outcome we don’t talk enough about the powerful underlying emotions that create loyalty.

Emotions are difficult to define. Fisher and Shapiro (see “Beyond Reason”) have identified a powerful, five element framework to deal with emotions. Jamil Mahuad, used the core concerns framework to help resolve a fifty-year boundary dispute between Peru-Ecuador. We can see emotions at play in sustainable relationships, with customers, between customers in online communities and perhaps most importantly with employees.

The five core concerns are:

·Appreciation our contribution, opinions and feelings are acknowledged

·Affiliation we are treated as a colleague in a community we care about

·Autonomy we are respected for our freedom to make decisions on important matters

·Status our standing or reputation, based on past accomplishment, is acknowledged

·Role our role is fulfilling or meaningful

These five concerns stimulate emotions that align with the same observations that Hertzberg makes in one of our most often referenced HBR articles “One More Time; How do you Motivate Employees?” Hertzberg’s research showed that a sense of accomplishment and recognition are the two strongest motivators followed by responsibility and interesting work.

How good are we at paying attention to these emotional elements at work, in our service organizations?

There is now a well understood body of research that motivated and satisfied employees build stronger customer relationships. In other words - “People are people first – independent of their role”. This gets at the idea that in a services model loyal employees will create loyal customers. Or stated another way – we should think about and treat our employees the same way we would treat our customers to be successful in innovating more effectively.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Innovation and Culture - Getting a Baseline is Key to Your Innovation Strategy Execution


Every organization has a unique culture that supports an organization's capacity to execute. Cultural capacity from one organization to another vaires in its: form, degree, depth, speed, and self- learning mechanisms. An organization's culture is not always unified but an institutional culture is the “collective personality” of your organization. An organization’s culture consists of deeply imbedded values, beliefs, philosophies, attitudes, and operating norms, artifacts, symbols, essentially boils down to “how things are done around here - that are more often than not captured in stories.”

One of the initial steps any organizational leader that wants to tap into developing an innovative culture to improve their current state. Having a position on currrent state innovation health will be a key success factor. Below is an extract of some of Helix's Innovation and Culture assessment web enabled tools to help provide the leadership forum participatns with a snapshot self assessment that can provide some quidance on how innovation is working in the context of your organizational boundaries. I like this as managers can also use this to have a conversation with their team(s) and facilitate increased awareness of strengths or gaps in working teams.

The most important factor in getting underway is simply to start with a learning orientation and having a conversation. Love to hear how this goes if you use some of these questions, if you want more information on more robust toolkits to measure innovation, just ping me

Innovation Culture Assessment

1. Do employees have a clear understanding of what innovation simply means? Does your organization’s vision, mission, and key strategies align to innovation capacity development? How would you describe the current innovation culture of your organization?What would you change to make it stronger to support innovation development?

2. How supportive is your culture to these behaviors: a) risk-taking, b) continual ambiguity, c) responsive implementation of ideas? d.)tolerance for failure e.)curiousity and experimentation? f.) complexity and non linear thinking? g.)openness and transparency? h.) knowledge sharing i.) Tolerance for reflection and holding still vs rushing everywhere? j.) enabling high performance teams and empowerment...

3.What are the real motivating factors that your organization uses to recognize individual and team activities? What effect(s) do they have on employees being more creative and proactive? Do you have any visible innovation awards?

4.What are your organizations' policies, rules, procedures, norms, methods, and leadership behaviors that inhibit innovation? How can they be eliminated, minimized, or modified?

5.What factors or types of “successes” determine how front-line employees, managers, and executives are recognized, rewarded, and promoted?What are your people penalized for? How does or has this impacted your on-going innovative efforts?

6.How does your organization view: a) daring (even far-fetched) ideas, b) ultra-visionary concepts, c) calculated risk-taking, and d) unavoidable mistakes from creative endeavors that didn’t pan out? Is failure generally seen as a learning or a (career) limiting experience?

7.How does your organization deal with frequent change? Historically, what’s been the resulting consequences and impact? What causes change and who typically drives it?How is change planned and executed?

8.What is the ratio between your employees focusing on problem-solving (“fighting fires”) or ("continuous improvement') vs opportunity-seeking (exploring for breakthroughh or disruptive, major changes and new opportunities) for your organization?

9. Do employees feel appreciated for their ideas and recommendations? Do they perceive their personal benefits to be aligned with your vision for innovation capacity/skills development? What causes employees to stop their flow of ideas and drop out from actively pursuing innovation?

10. Does your organization have a structured innovative process that’s regularly used to generate ideas (from mild to wild) and implement them effectively and efficiently? How do your track your ideation process and is this an accessible process to all employees, and managed, measured effectively? How much flexibility do people have in going outside of their normal job descriptions? (Note Helix has ideation capture sw that is world class).

11. Who typically comes up with ideas? How are they usually created--by individuals or teams, in formal brainstorming sessions, or informally and spontaneously? What percentage of ideas are implemented and how long does it generally take? How are potentially blockbuster ideas evaluated?

12. How would you describe the overall communication climate in your organization? To what extent is it open, honest, frank, positive, and supportive versus closed, adversarial, or chain-of-command driven, for example? How does communication affect the way people react to ideas and work together to approve, and implement them?

13. To what extent does your organization invest in sufficient employee training for: a) creative problem-solving, b) imaginative thinking, c) innovation concepts and application, and d) synergistic team-building techniques? Are employees given adequate resources (materials, time, funds, etc.) to pursue steady innovation?

14.Are team operating standards and individual performance criteria specific and clear enough to guide creative activity? Are they periodically reviewed and modified?

15. Is your organization more forward-looking than dwelling on previous successes and doing the same, even with diminishing returns? Does your culture permit a carefully tuned balance between short-term returns (tactical mode) and investments of time and energy for long-term gains (strategic mode)?


Culture is a major determinant of an organization’s ability and desire to innovate. Understanding what your culture is now, and how it needs to evolve, will help map out a way to produce even higher octane levels of performance in your organization, whatever its size and makeup may be. So, how do you rate your organization’s culture as it relates to innovation?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Web 2.0 New Business Models

In the first wave of the Web - called Web 1.0, this was all about publishing pages. Documents were the metaphor. And the first business model was the media model. posted the first banner ad in 1994. Targeting became the way to improve CPMs and response rates -- first by keyword in 1996 then by behavior in 1997. The CPM models of Excite, Lycos, Infoseek, AltaVista and Yahoo of Web 1.0 was replaced by the CPC model by Google and (later acquired by Yahoo). But the value driver remained the same -- human interaction with the web site, shifting from viewing to clicking.

Lots of new trends are part of this composite called Web 2.0 -- RSS, tagging, AJAX, blogging, wikis, podcasting, social mediated networking -- to name a few. The familiar names are: Facebook, MySpace, Linked In, You Tube, etc... However, most companies need to understand the implications on innovation capabilities as a result of Web 2.0 and the risks for not getting on board to learn early and take advantage of new reach practices - now being dubbed crowd sourcing.

I think most smart executives understand that the atomization of web content and the growing ability to query by machine rather than by humans will continue to increase in intelligence. Web services has been the 'next big thing' in IT for about five years now. The complexity of legacy applications, legacy systems, and legacy vendors has pushed Web Services into an alphabet soup of standards.

Meanwhile leaders (Google, Yahoo, MSN) in the consumer Internet have begun publishing simple procedural descriptions of how their web site can be invoked by a machine, rather than a human. And some interesting mashups have resulted. The initial mashups are mostly visualizations of one site's data on another site's maps. Examples are joins of Craigslist and Chicagocrime on Google maps.

New Models for Web 2.0

As a prior Venture Capitalist and now a Business Innovation strategist, one thing I have learned (the hard way) is that the current model often morphs into the new model. Rarely does a new model replace the old model in a wholesale manner.Some of the models to watch unfold on the innovation front are:

1. Micropayments

The dominant feature of the Web 1.0 'media' model is that it is free to the end user. If this could change, it would all be simple. Every site could publish the value (price) of a query by a machine and the application could collect this from the user.

Rocket J. Squirrel, "That trick never works."
Bullwinkle T. Moose, "This time for sure...Presto!...I gotta get another hat."

Micropayments have been around the corner for ten years - Digicash, Cybercash, etc. But user-pay systems only work for high-value and/or exclusive goods. So, user-pay models will be out there, but they will probably be a small minority of the transactional mashups in B2C markets. However, in Canada, our first micro-lending business model launched is Community Lend, founded by Michael Garrity. Michael will be speaking on Nov 4th in Toronto on "new social media models for old economy businesses," with other canadian innovation leaders, Smart Hippo, and Points International at a Web 2.0 Canadian Luncheon Series, that I am chairing with Research Capital. For information on this, just email me at

2. Shared Value

A variation on the advertiser-pay model would be to allocate revenue from a Cost-per-X (click, action, call, etc.) event across the mashup production chain. But this still has a serious problem. The problem is one of allocation across multiple players. If a mashup has 3 websites and results in a $1.00 action, how should the $1.00 be allocated? In absolute amounts or pro rata? The absolute sum may exceed $1. The pro rata model is subject to gaming by sites setting artificially high prices.

3. New Revenue Networks

My personal bet is that the YHOO, GOOG, and now ASKJ ad networks will solve this problem by bundling (1) contracts to police gaming and (2) payment settlement systems to enable the shared value model. If so, they will initially 'host' the mashups and extract the lion's share of the value for aggregating the users and enabling the settlement. They will eventually syndicate this model to mashups all over the web, using the same settlement network model.


There are many new business models unfolding to support Web 2.0, we will regularly comment on these innovation approaches to help fuel know-how for our innovation leadership community.
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