Saturday, December 5, 2009

Blog Chat Chatter - Learning from Top Bloggers

Have you heard of Blogchat - a live conversation that takes place every Sunday night at 9:00 pm ET/8:00 pm CT between top bloggers across the country. The focus on the chat is sharing what's working well for them and providing advice to each other on bettering their blogs. The group always welcomes new bloggers and is exceptionally good at providing advice on getting started from both a personal and corporate perspective. The conversation is open to everyone - it really is like hanging out in a coffee shop at the end of the weekend to talk blogging with the best.

The conversation takes place via Twitter - BUT you do NOT need to have a Twitter account or be a Twitterer to listen in to the conversation and learn from it. If you go to this page on Sunday night, you'll be able to watch the chat first-hand and learn from some of the best in the business.

If you are on Twitter, the best way to participate is to download TweetDeck, create a column for #blogchat by searching #blogchat in the Twitter search field, and then watching the conversation unfold in real time. By having a Twitter account you'll be able to participate in the conversation - just be sure to add #blogchat to each tweet so that it shows up in the conversation stream.

Blogchat is led by Mack Collier, one of the preeminent bloggers and leaders in the social media marketing space. You can find him here:

Check this out - an opportunity to learn is always improved by connecting with others "doing IT."

Friday, December 4, 2009

Blogging Now Mainstream and Tips

A recent eMarketer study predicted that by 2012, 16% of the people in United States that use the internet will be blogging and 67% will also be reading blogs on a regular basis.

Some of your customers are very likely online right now discussing you via blogs and other social media channels. If there are conversations happening online that involve you and your business, can you really afford not to join those conversations?

I started to write a business blog about a year ago, I love to write the challenge is finding the time when one is juggling a career, a family and active in the community. Sometimes I am able to write 5 times a week and get 5 blogs out this week reflects this level of activity. Other weeks this is aspiration is impossible. I have come to the conclusion that I write when I can and try to add value to the conversation and not worry about the realities of my life's juggling act or disappointing anyone.

As I have come to appreciate the new social pheomena and its changing generational dynamics, I see that we are increasing our socialization competencies in new online ways. However, in my work I help large organizations make business sense of these new solutions and help to identify new ways to have a conversation with their target markets.

The first question is always the whopper Why Question?

1. Why start a blog? Why join Twitter, or Facebook, or Linked In, I can barefuly get what I need to get done in my working day. I usually just say do you need to have conversations with your customers your company your industry or your competitors. They usually stop and say yes, and I simply say well your customers are online having conversations and to reach them you need to think of increased online channel reach. The important point is each situation is unique, one blog strategy or approach does not apply to the next persons. Just because there is buzz - ensure you have a clear reason for going down the blogging path as it involves work already on jamm packed days..

2 – Who will do the blogging? Blogging is a lot of work. It's okay to have 2-3 writers handling the blogging communication. However, having your marketing organization and corproate PR handle all the blogs and screen all the content is over kill. Training orientation is needed to get people started, but the best way is to learn and get started. As your experience grows, your confidence will also grow and new ideas will emerge.

3 – What will be the focus of your blog? Make sure your blog will create valuable content for your readers. Get your focus set before your start. My interests are on innovation in the context of the future world of work, so I mix perspectives in my blog as this is what I like to write about and this is what our brand is about ... so find a writing groove that best works for you.

4 – What will be your blog’s comment policy? Get this down so your readers will know what’s expected of them, and when their comments will appear. Will you moderate comments, or let them go through immediately? If you’ll moderate, who is going to approve comments, and how will you ensure that it’s done in a timely basis? What specific terms will go into your policy?

5 – How will you measure the effectiveness of your blog? What metrics will you track to determine if your blog is a success? It could be traffic, or traffic sent back to your website, or reader engagement such as comments and/or links. But find some way to hold your blog accountable.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Venture Capital Perspectives in the Canadian Market

I spent over three years in the venture capital industry after being a lead partner at Accenture overseeing their change management practice for NE (North America) and it was one of the best career experiences one could hope for.

Learning the ropes of corporate finance and the challenges that an early stage entrepreneur goes through to secure equity financing - yet alone attempting to learn all the new buzz langugage such as: tranches, downrounds, warrants, accelerators, etc. was a terrific experience in expanding my knowledge of innovation and growth.

However with this new found knowledge... what is very worrisome as a Canadian is that...

In spite of the wonderful trajectory into the VC sector, the health of VC investing is devastatingly low in Canada. VC Financing in the third quarter of 2009 fell over 50% from the previous year to just $191 million. In fact, total VC investments could fall below the $1B mark this year for the first year since 1995 - the year Netscape went public and the internet gold rush unfolded.

The majority of Labour Sponsored funds in Canada also have had disappointing returns to their investors or limited partners, as many in 2009 put their funds to work in alternative sources of growth. For those that moved heavily into gold and metals - they made the right decision as gold is now trading at $1200 and some predict will hit $1500 an ounce in 2010.

So in tough times and depleting capital sources, some key takeways messages to help early stage CEOs are summarized in this next section.

For early stage entrepreneurs that need that appointment with a VC the best way still for them to have a pitch is to have a referral made by a trusted source. Whether this is a lawyer, an accountant, experienced enterpreneur, banker.... having credible advisors is critical to support the challenging climb that early stage CEO's must embrace with tenacity. The market for scarce capital has never been more challenging.

One of the most critical success factors is demonstrating scalability with confidence to investors especially when the odds of success are more challenging.

Something I have seen since my early days as a VC that still continues to impact CEO's is their naivity in valuation and being insistent in overvaluing their company when negotiating with potential investors.

To really understand what your company is really worth - you have to start with the principle that investors want five to ten times their money back in five years. So being able to be incredibly clear on the profitability model with a five year outlook and demonstrating payback credibility is a key hurdle to achieve.

For entrepreneurs, their smartest growth strategy is to find smart investors and lure them in due to their ability to create market growth value and have them drive results to achieve their return on investment.

These are just a few of the insights I learned in a relatively short time in this field, one day I may return to the venture capital market, but for now in Canada, helping CEO"s grow and innovate their corporate business models is where my personal energies are spent and those of my company.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Using Your Imagination with Social Media

Writing is never easy. Creating content is never easy.

However, creating a community or a following has never been simpler.

Today, we have so many new ways to connect online and create new connections and follow a passion or create a passion or now even create a wave with Google Wave.

It never ceases to amaze me that many companies are still struggling to take the social media leap and simply allow their talent to be creative and know they can trust them to all be writers on the web. Having an official one voice is out as large organizations continue to struggle to find the secret sauce of how to communicate effectively. We have always been oral as human - we just forgot how over the last few centuries. Digital social media is giving everyone an opportunity to rekindle their tribal roots and be heard in the crowd.

What they have not realized is creating content is getting easier and easier. You can now take pictures and upload them to Flickr, you can shoot your own videos and promote them on YouTube or even on Facebook. You can create your own audio programs (podcasts) and push them out to the world via iTunes, and you can simply your writing worries with a 140 character feed on Twitter.

The best way to get started is to simply share content - pick something that you are passionate about. In my case, I love to write and research and consultant on innovation and next generation business models. Just think about sharing what is uniquely special about You.

Think of your employees as a tribe and as humans we are very comfortable in passing down knowledge from elders to new employees. We have become very comfortable in using email to share knowledge unfortunately others cannot easily build off the conversations.

If you just like to read then learn to use bookmark services more effectively - like Delicious, Google Bookmarks, or Magnolia.

Don't forget all these tools not only tap your imagination but they also help you and your organizations get smarter.

We are no longer six degrees of separation rather more like one pixel.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Canadian Innovation Pride

We hear alot about Canada's lack of innovation, at the same time, we need to learn to celebrate more. For generations Canadians have a developed a quiet self confidence that runs deep into Canadian business and into the Canadian pysche of being conservative, not to boast, and generally being very likeable.

Recently Moody's Financial Post reported that Moody's had ranked Canadian banks as the best in the world for the second year in a row. Despite this standing, Canadian banks have been rebranding themselves for more global appeal, BMO vs Bank of Montreal, Toronto Dominion has become TD, and the Royal Bank of Canada branded as RBC. This serves the halo to project we are international and help driven our expansion capabilities.

Other great Canadian innovations come to mind like our Cirque du Soleil which is a brilliant mix of the arts with music, drama, dance, acrobats simply entertainment at his finest. This creative troupe has achieved world-wide recognition for its ingenuity and entertaining magic.

Flipping to the technology side of things.Most people do not know that the Java Technology Platform was invented by a Canadian. The popular WebSite Flickr was developed by Western Canadians based out of Vancouver. However like many Canadian companies it was bought by Yahoo and soon migrated its leadership and all of its content to American servers and relocated in the valley.

On the retail front we have Roots, Lulu Lemon -- all Retail successes which bring us comfort and a sense of wholeness. Although Tim Horton's is a Canadian coffee shop magnet - breaking into the USA for this innovation local child has not been so easy.

What are we known for as Canadians?

Canadians have quiet confidence. But we often do not take credit for the incredible innovations that we are known for. As business leaders we are not aggressive, or abrasive or domineering. We tend to respect and appreciate diversity and hence we are easily trusted with our global partners.

As we look forward to the new year approaching, Canadians yes need to increase their innovation capabiltiies every country does in the war for talent and war for economic growth - however, we should not also lose sight of our values that seek to embrace, and build enduring cultures.

Let's pause and celebrate what we have accomplished in the past and know next year that we will accomplish even more.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Innovation A Top Growth Priority Yet Management Shortcomings.

Three studies uncover opportunities for companies to make improvements in management of innovation process --

Innovation is a top priority for companies seeking to grow in the wake of the economic downturn, but flaws in managing innovation may hinder their progress, according to three studies released today by Accenture (NYSE:ACN).

In one study of more than 630 U.S. and U.K. executives, almost half (48 percent) of those surveyed said their companies had increased funding for innovation in the preceding six months, while one-third (33 percent) said their innovation funding remained the same.

Additionally, nearly nine out of 10 respondents (89 percent) said that innovation is as important, if not more important, than cost reduction to their company’s ability to achieve future growth.

However, the studies found several flaws in the corporate management of innovation, including:

· failure to learn from mistakes;
· widespread risk aversion;
· the need for more collaboration; and
· too much emphasis on making incremental improvements.

These are among the key findings that emerged from three studies conducted by Accenture in the first half of 2009. The U.S.-U.K. study queried executives across several industries, including automotive, banking, capital markets, consumer goods and services, electronics and high-tech, insurance, manufacturing, pharmaceutical and medical products, and retail. The second study focused on innovation in the consumer technology industry in North America, Europe and Asia. The third focused on the communications industry across the U.S. and Europe.

“Companies can’t afford to avoid risk; they must learn from their mistakes and make the bold moves required to grow their company and position it for the economic upturn,” said Mark Foster, Accenture’s group chief executive, Global Markets and Management Consulting. “Unfortunately, many companies don’t have the processes that would enable them to conduct the risk-benefit analysis required to comfortably make the decisions associated with pursuing big bets, which is why innovation oftentimes doesn’t deliver the silver bullet companies seek.”

“Managers must lead by example, collaborate across departments, communicate the business strategy down the line and inspire their teams to engineer the next category-defining product,” Foster said. “Companies that fail to do so may lose significant ground to competitors who understand the value of innovation and manage it well.”

In the most recent study, 50 percent of respondents in the U.S. and the U.K. reported that their most successful innovation has been development of a new product or service. Yet, 74 percent of the respondents said their companies pursue incremental improvements, such as line extensions, and two-thirds (66 percent) said their organizations have made short-term financial results a priority over long-term investments.

Additionally, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of U.S. respondents and nearly one-third (30 percent) of U.K. respondents said their organizations failed to learn from their mistakes.

Among the reasons respondents from both countries cited most frequently for new product or service launch failures were their inability to meet customer needs (57 percent), being late to market (54 percent) and incorrect pricing (52 percent). They also cited the lack of a new or unique customer-perceived value proposition (50 percent), supply chain issues (44 percent) and incorrect forecasting (43 percent).

One-third of the respondents (33 percent) also cited their inability to leverage new technology as a hurdle to innovation.

Consumer technology and communications, media and high-tech studies reveal similar findings
Many of the innovation-related challenges uncovered in the cross-industry study are similar to those Accenture found when it surveyed executives in the consumer technology and communications provider industries.

For the consumer technology study, Accenture interviewed executives who work for companies that generate nearly two-thirds of the industry’s annual global revenues. Typical of the results found in all three surveys, one executive said that about 60 percent of his company’s innovation pipeline was focused on incremental rather than breakthrough innovation. The study also revealed that business units typically work in silos, lack communications across departments and pursue innovation projects that impede collaboration. It also showed that employees are unwilling to collaborate because they fear the risk of someone else taking credit for their ideas.

One executive described the situation this way: “If companies are doing something truly innovative, they are probably going against existing business practices. Opposing forces will likely counteract them. Among some consumer technology firms there is the belief that if it’s innovative, everyone will embrace it, but often just the opposite happens.”

Meanwhile, communications, media and high-tech executives in the U.S. and Europe participating in the third of the three studies said their companies want to decrease the time required to launch new products and reduce development costs. In fact, 58 percent of the respondents said their companies’ new-product development budgets are plagued by cost overruns. And, 70 percent of the respondents said that as the economic downturn evolved, the development of at least some services and products was stopped – a decision that also reflected budget cuts and a shortage of people with the expertise to generate innovations or manage new-product development . The study also found that communications, high-tech and media firms in Europe will lead the way in new-product and service launches in the coming year.

Research Methodology

Study of U.S. and U.K. executives
Accenture commissioned an online survey in May 2009 of more than 630 vice presidents, directors and managers at large U.S. and U.K. companies across a broad range of industries, including automotive, banking, capital markets, consumer goods and services, electronics and high-tech, insurance, manufacturing, pharmaceutical and medical products, and retail. The purpose of the study was to gain further insights about management perceptions of innovation processes.

Study of consumer technology company executives

Accenture conducted in-depth, one-on-one interviews with executives at the director level and above from 28 of the world’s largest consumer technology companies worldwide to better understand the status of innovation across this industry sector. To qualify for inclusion in the study, respondents had to be a final decision-maker, highly involved in or part of a team that works on new product and service launches; part of the company that develops and sells technology to the consumer market; or in the corporate division involved with computer PC development, mobile handset development, or consumer electronics development, such as audio, video and gaming.

Study of communications, media and high-tech company executives
Accenture commissioned an online survey of 277 communications, media and high-tech executives in France, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. to identify the challenges these industries face related to new product innovation. Nearly two-thirds of those who responded (63 percent) work in telecommunications, 26 percent work in the high-tech sector, and 11 percent work in the media industry. The online survey explored the correlation between companies that meet or exceed their new-product launch plans and those committed to open innovation. The findings are contained in a February 2009 report.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Innovation Requires Canadian Leadership

Innovation in Canada is being impacted and threatening Canada's future as we are sending far fewer of our young people to university than almost all of our international rivals.

The statistics are shocking:

1.) The latest OECD numbers for 2007 suggest that when it comes to "tertiary type A" graduation rates (most commonly universities), Canada ranked 20th of 24 countries, ahead of only Hungary, Austria, Germany and Greece. Countries such as Poland, Portugal and the Slovak Republic left Canada far in their wake.

The OECD numbers also suggest that Canada's relative position has slipped badly over time -- we ranked fourth in the number of 55-64-yearolds with a university education, but 12th in the 25-34-year-old age bracket.

2.) Perhaps most worryingly, in advanced research programs, Canada is being lapped by the competition -- Portugal has nearly four times as many PhD or equivalent students; Finland has three times as many; while the U.K. and Australia have double the number.

3.) Alex Himelfarb, who was clerk of the privy council during the Martin government and is now director of the School of Public and International Affairs at York University's Glendon College, acknowledges that governments of all shades have been "constitutionally timid" when it comes to leading dialogue on the future of higher education. "We can fully respect the primacy of provinces -- Ottawa wouldn't regulate education or pretend it knows how to deliver it. But that doesn't mean it couldn't facilitate a dialogue."

3.) Ottawa is already involved in higher education through Human Resources and Skills Development Canada's Learning Branch, which administers the Canada Student Loans program, and Industry Canada. In recent years, Ottawa has broadened its involvement in higher education -- under the Liberals, through the Canada Research Chairs program, which is designed to attract and retain research professors; more recently, under the Conservatives, in the form of the $50,000-a-year Vanier Scholarships, which seek to draw world-class doctoral students.

4.) Canada's performance in this area, when compared to English language competitors such as Australia and the U.K., has been in the words of one recent report "only slightly better than abject."

5.) While Canada has attracted 2,600 students from India, Australia and the U.K. have attracted 10 times that many. The British spent $50-million in the past two years on promoting its Education U.K. brand while Canada's effort -- the new Edu-Canada brand -- has stuttered out of the gate.

The Educational Policy Institute's examination of the likely effects of recession on post-secondary education said that Canada's universities have thrown away inherent advantages -- such as quality of life and proximity to the United States -- because they don't seem to understand the value of a national brand in education and have chosen not to co-operate with one another in recruitment efforts.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Innovation and Consumer Trends

A recent report completed by BBDO and Proximity Canada trendspotters believe consumers will focus on affordable self-improvement in 2010. Their 10 key predictions are summarized below:

* Smart is cool: Intelligence will beat popularity or attractivness
* Frugalista power: Comparison shopping and hunting for deals will become a sport among consumers
* Less is more: Consumers will seek out products with longevity.
* IMBY (In my Backyard): Local products, and for national brands local marketing strategies, will be critical.
* Consumerpreneurs: Consumers will participate in the economy by making money from what they currently possess or create.
* The new eco-no-me: Brands could once get by simply by being "green." Now consumers will look for products with immediate personal benefit that just happen to do so good.
* My Digital Brand: personal videos, pictures, gaming scores, opinions, and outbursts have spawned "digital fame." BRand status will go to those most viewed, followed or talked about.
*Hyper "On:" Marketers who want to engage the consumer will need to ensure someone can respond to him or her right away.
* "A Pro-Am World" Professional-grade products such as power tools will continue to gain traction.
*Word of Mouse" More consumers will research a purchase or seek an opinion online before buying."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Innovation Behaviorial Challenges

In most companies, the nurturing of innovation, especially disruptive innovations that leads to major changes in the marketplace and within the business is more often a weakness of organizational culture vs a strength.

Some of the behaviors that I have experienced or observed in leading companies (Citicorp, Xerox, Nortel Networks, Bell Canada) that I have grown up in have consulted to has some of these key behaviorial challenges.


Innovation is one of the top mantras of CEO and senior executives. However, when one digs into the depth of innovation capabilities more often one finds that more company's pay lip service to innovation, than really have substantive programs. It would be politically incorrect not to embrace innovation—but they do little beyond that.

A few questions to probe into your organization:
1.) Does your organization have a unifed clear definition of innovation (one sentence) and everyone knows it?
2.)Does your organization have an innovation governance process and sustainability model?
3.) Does your culture have innovation as a core value, and it is systemically measured?

Unfortunately leadership at the top of the house have typically achieved these positions because of their consistency in achieving operational results, meeting sales objectives, improving products and services to keep up with competitors, supporting existing customers and acquiring new ones, managing mergers and acquisitions, achieving the required financial results quarter after quarter, etc.

Unfortunately as executives rise up in the organization, they transition from being a manager to being a leader.

Management is about business results and processes. Leadership is about people.

The key quality you need in good leadership is passion—the urgency to explore, tackle with tenacity and solve the complex problems that allorganizations face.

To do so, you need to be surrounded by talented people, and you need to find a way to transfer your passion to them, so they will buy into your vision, perform at the high and empowering levels, and come up with innovative ideas to solve the challenges of achieving the vision. Developing a culture of barrier busters creates incredible energy excitement and empowering dynamics.

Typically managers are very very good at executing tactical, incremental strategies to help achieve operating excellence. However, their skills are typically not looking in all directions all one once, they are typically highly focused vs curious and exploratory. They like to set a course and focus on the course, and often missed complex disruptive signals. Unfortunately high performing leaders are often not typically resilient or innovative leaders.

Operating managers who do not actively encourage new ideas and innovations in their organizations do so because of indifference. They will typically listen politely to your new idea, provide some encouragement, and offer good advice. If they are being honest, they will tell you they barely have the time, energy, and budget to help much beyond a pat on the back now and then.

In other cultures they nod like it is a good idea, smile and take no action, or work to deflate the value of your ideas. At Xerox, they call this "grin f..king" - and it is part of the cultural folklore that has impacted their ability to harness their innovations successfully. Many of Xerox's inventions were the first innovations - but their own cultures could not embrace and bring these capabilities to market successfully.

Unfortunately often reliability managers that like to keep the ship on course often reactive very negatitive to new ideas, especially if the idea comes from someone outside their own organization.

Some of them also exhibit characteristics that many of us would associate with being a bully.

Organizational Silo Isolation

Isolating people in organizational silos is one of the biggest obstacles to innovation. Companies that are serious about innovation do everything possible to break down silos and encourage communication and collaboration across the organization and beyond.

Fostering innovation is very hard, especially if the innovation is disruptive in nature.

A spirit of innovation and collaboration does not come naturally to an organization.

For such a spirit to take hold, it must become an integral part of the company's culture. None of this is easy, but it is what a company must do if it truly wants to create a healthy culture in which innovation can successfully flourish.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Canadians Love the Web but Online advertizing lags Canada's adoption: Why?

Canada has had one of the highest broadband penetration rates in the world.

More than half of the adult population is on Facebook in Canada. Nearly 70% of Canadians watch videos online, while the average Internet user in Canada spends about 60 hours online a month.

In fact, English speaking Canadians aged 18-34 spend more than a third of their time online, more than they spend listening to radio, watching television, or reading newspapers according to Interactive Advertizing Bureau of Canada (IAB).

Across all groups Canadians are spending an increasing amount of time online. But the advertising dollars are not following them.

Although online advertising revenue has quadrupled over the past 5 years to move than $1.6B in 2009, spending on digitial advertizing accounted for only 11% of the overall marketing budgets of Canadian companies. Other studies have projected lower penetration numbers.

In the USA, markets spend as much as 14% of their overall budgets on online marketing, while the number is closer to 20% in Australia and as high as 23% in the UK.

Canada has world class internet penetration. It is in the leading markets in the world. What is fascinating is that Canada is not as competitive a business market, which basically suggests that there is not as many businesses online because they are not competing for share against each other, or there are not enough businesses competing in certain areas.

What is clear is that the online adoption of businesss is not on part with the online adoption of consumers, which is a challenge for Canda in the long term.

Why is this?

1.) Are we not innovating fast enough in internet web based models?
2.) Are we just too conservative?

My perspective is that our consumer purchasing base is ready but our business executives are not moving their advertising spending dollars to the web rapidly enough - this is partially generational leadership web know-how, but also the risk adversity that Canadians often personify.

These are some of the innovation challenges for increased knowledge and simply internalizing the dominant form of advertizing reach is web - centric..... What would happen if you moved 80% of all your precious advertizing dollars to the web......?

Who is up for this challenge?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

CIO and Business Leadership: IBM Posts New Report Results

IBM's New CIO Study Results

IBM released its global 2009 CIO Results recently. The results determined that CIO’s in high growth companies focus on three primary goals, each of which has a pair of roles that the CIO successfully blends together.

See the executive results at:

Study Highlights

•IBM conducted more than 2,500 face-to-face interviews with CIOs in 78 countries and 19 industries. The CIOs were from organizations of all sizes. 90 percent of the CIOs believe IT will undergo moderate to significant change of the next few years due to changes in business models, budgets, and the economy. CIOs are currently spending 55 percent of the time addressing new business and technology initiatives, innovation, and non-technology business issues. CIOs in high growth companies feel they manage change successfully 50 percent more often than those in low growth companies. The high growth CIOs focus on making innovation real, raising the return on investment (ROI) in IT, and expanding business impact.

• CIOs that make innovation real are those that are insightful visionaries and able pragmatists while those that raise ROI are both savvy value creators and relentless cost cutters. Those CIOs that expand the business impact show the traits of collaborative business leaders and inspiring IT managers. The below spider chart shows the difference between high growth CIO characteristics (in green) and low growth CIO characteristics (in orange).

• Other findings were that many high growth CIOs had COOs in their organizations and more of them reported higher up in the organization. Visionary CIOs are twice as likely to be deeply involved in the business while other CIOs view themselves more as core technology providers. The top 10 visionary plan elements are business intelligence and analytics, virtualization, risk management and compliance, mobility solutions, customer and partner collaboration, self-service portals, application harmonization, business process management, SOA/Web services, and unified communications. High growth CIOs more readily recognize the strategic value of data and seek new ways to integrate, made available and deliver reliable, secure information to users. Nine of the 60 or so hours of the work week are spent cutting costs. By a 70 percent margin high growth CIOs over low growth ones create IT centers of excellence to help realize business and technology innovation.


We know first hand from our experiences at Helix that CEO’s are heavily dependent upon CIO’s to achieve their strategic and tactical objectives, and how well CIO’s deliver upon those objectives will have a major impact on the top and bottom lines. For IT executives to become successful business leaders, they must focus on the broader business and external market forces such as economic, industry and legislative factors and view IT as simply a capability to achieve business goals.

CIO’s need to be active in the business and striving to communicate clearly the investments relevant to supporting the lines business goals. Planning practices need to be tighly integrated with lines of business plans so clear line of sight can be measured for effective value alignment.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Girls Gain More Confidence and Interest in Technology After Participating in Computer Mania

Girls Gain More Confidence and Interest in Technology after Participating in Computer Mania Day, Study Finds

Baltimore, MD - Middle school girls who participated in Computer Mania Day for Girls (CMD) demonstrated improved attitudes about computers, had increased involvement with computers, had increased their consideration of technology-related careers, and had heightened self-confidence about their technical abilities according to the results of a study released today by the Multinational Development of Women in Technology (MDWIT).

The research team also included experts from the Center for Gender Equity based in Washington State and Loyola College in Maryland. The results indicate that boys’ confidence, attitude, and interest were also improved after attending the event.

The study results are based on an electronic survey of 2,720 children who attended Computer Mania Day between 2005 and 2008. The response rate was 11.2 percent. In addition to completing the survey, 26 respondents participated in phone interviews. A complete report on the study, including survey instruments and responses, can be found at .

According to National Science Foundation data, bachelor degree conferral in computer science for women has declined from 37% to 22% between 1985 to 2005. “If children, and particularly girls, are encouraged to consider exciting technical careers early in their education, they may well develop the positive self-efficacy needed for success,” said Claudia Morrell, CEO of MDWIT and a member of the research team.

Computer Mania Day for Girls is a one-day event that seeks to increase children’s awareness of and interest in career opportunities in information technology (IT) and engineering, and encourages them to take rigorous mathematics classes and elective technology classes. Participants, their parents, and teachers are provided with a host of technology-related activities, including both speaker-led and hands-on sessions that explore how to better engage girls and encourage their thinking in terms of technology, engineering, and mathematics.

“Computer Mania Day for Girls not only exposes students to new ideas, technologies and role models, but also addresses the peer pressure associated with technology education (as "not cool") by having an event with hundreds of other kids enjoying the same things,” says Greg Hodges, Corporate Director of Staffing at Northrop Grumman Corporation, a regular sponsor of the event and funder of the study.

The next CMD event will be held October 31, 2009 at Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale Campus.

The Multinational Development of Women in Technology (MDWIT) was founded as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization in 2007 to accelerate growth in the global knowledge economy. By combining women's latent potential with innovative ideas enabled through technology, all women, their families and communities prosper. The vision is operationalized through the promotion of girls’ interests in STEM and women's entry into and advancement in the technology workforce. The organization's leadership consists of a Board of Trustees composed of business professionals, education leaders, and high-tech entrepreneurs with more than 15 years of experience in achieving these goals.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Enterprise 2.0 Frameworks

My prior post defined Enterprise 2.0 and provided examples of different definitions. However, always underlying these perspectives are usually some key frameworks that help organizations to make sense of Enterprise 2.0 (web 2.0 approaches in the enterprise).


Harvard Professor Andrew McAffee says that Web 2.0 technologies are likely to have their biggest impact inside companies. He developed a framework called SLATES which stands for S(Search), L (Links), A (Authorship), T (Tags) E (Extensions), S (Signals).

The combined use of SLATES allows an enterprise to have an effective collaboration for generating effective Search and discovery outcomes.

Organizations use Links to connect information together into a meaningful information ecosystem using the model of the Web;

Proving low barrier social tools for public Authorship of enterprise content;

Tags are used to let users create emergent organizational structure;

Extensions allows users to spontaneously provide intelligenct content suggestions similar to Amazon's recommendation system, and:

Signals let users know when enterprise information they care about has been published or updates, such as when a Corporate RSS Feed or interest changes.


Another well known framework which expands upon SLATES dubbed by Dion Hinchcliffe used FLATNESSES as a fraemwork for F: Freeform, L: Links, A Authorship, T: Tagging, N: Network Oriented, S: Search, S: Social, E: Emergence, and S: Signals.

The basic premises of this framework is that to be considered a relevant 2.0 tool, a blog, or a wiki or a webcast, etc., must directly or partially intersect with one of more the FLATNESSES. For more information see:


A 2007 Burton Group report identified four elements of ensuring successful implementation of E2.0 into the enterprise. The following are very short summaries of the four key points.

Personal Value: The system must support and encourage use by individuals for their own personal reasons
Emergent: Must be informal and allow for serendipity.
Communal: Must avoid individual ownership and foster sharing and relationship building.
Platform Centric: open platforms that encourage the aggregation of data.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Enterprise 2.0 Perspectives on Innovation

Organizations world-wide are striving to evolve their workplaces, and take advantage of new social networking tools dubbed Web 2.0 or Enterprise 2.0 (if applied internally in an organization). Different organizations define E2.0 differently.

A sample of definitions are summarized below:

1.) AIIM - "Enterprise 2.0 is a system of web based technologies that provide rapid, and agile collaboration, information sharing, emergence and integrative capabilities in the extended enterprise."

2.)Andrew McAfee - defines Enterprise 2.0 as the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers.

Social software enables people to rendezvous, connect or collaborate through computer-mediated communication and to form online communities. (Wikipedia’s definition).

Platforms are digital environments in which contributions and interactions are globally visible and persistent over time.

Emergent means that the software is freeform, and that it contains mechanisms to let the patterns and structure inherent in people’s interactions become visible over time.

Freeform means that the software is most or all of the following:

*Free of up-front workflow
*Egalitarian, or indifferent to formal organizational identities
*Accepting of many types of data

3.) Wiki Encyclopedia defines Enterprise 2.0 as Enterprise social software (also known as or regarded as a major component of Enterprise 2.0), comprises social software as used in "enterprise" (business/commercial) contexts. It includes social and networked modifications to corporate intranets and other classic software platforms used by large companies to organize their communication. In contrast to traditional enterprise software, which imposes structure prior to use, enterprise social software tends to encourage use prior to providing structure.

4.)My definition (aka Dr. Cindy Gordon) is very simple. Enterprise 2.0 is simply bringing Web 2.0 ideas into the enterprise. The Web 2.0 premises are: user feedback and architecture supporting collaboration, harnessing collective intelligence, and enabling rapid agility (flexibility to change dynamically). Underlying these premises there needs to be trust making, reciprocity and knowledge sharing with a clear sense of purpose/value to ensure sustainability of the knowledge flows.


Enterprise 2.0 perspectives on some of the behaviors one can expect are summarized below and are taken from a variety of sources:

1.All ideas compete on equal footing
2.Contribution counts for more than credentials
3.Hierarchies are natural, not prescribed
4.Leaders serve rather than preside
5.Tasks are chosen, not assigned
6.Groups are self-defining and -organizing
7.Resources get attracted, not allocated
8.Power comes from sharing information, not hoarding it
9.Opinions compound and decisions are peer-reviewed
10.Users can veto most policy decisions
11.Intrinsic rewards matter most
12.Hackers are heroes

Some of the other key aspects of Enterprise 2.0 needs to be understanding the shift in Software delivery models which are characterized as: flexible, simple and lightweight. E2.0 will be created using an infinite combination of the latest - and possibly, some old-fashioned - ingredients, including the following:

Technologies - Open source, SOA/Web services (AJAX, RSS, blogs, wikis, tagging, social networking, and so on) Web 2.0, legacy and proprietary - or some combination
Development Models - Relying on in-house, outsourced or offshore resources - or any combination; pursuing a global development strategy; and/or pursuing co-creation with users, partners or both
Delivery Methods -Downloading individually; paying for a license; and/or, using on-demand/SaaS or via a service provider.

The next post will describe some of the more interesting Enterprise or Web 2.0 Frameworks used to communicate these constructs.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Organizational Agility and Collaboration

Digital Social Computing (Web 2.0) including toolkits like: blogs, podcasts, RSS, wikis, booking marking, tagging, microblogs (Twitter), Facebook, LinkedIn etc. are increasingly finding their way into the enterprise. Looming in the horizon virtual worlds solutions like Second Life are also being experimented upon increasingly. We see so much potential in this area we launched a new business line in this area

The promise is that these social computing tools will help knowledge workers collaborate more and get their work done more effectively and efficiently.

The strategic goals often programs are funded under are increasing and improving these areas:
*workforce productivity,
*employee engagement,
*talent attraction, development and retention,
*organizational agility,
*knowledge and intellectual asset/risk management.

Process Efficiencies can also be realized if there are fundamental shifts in how work is being processed.

We don't always see the careful process redesign (as is to be) underway across the enterprises in deploying these solutions. Often the ECM /Collaboration platforms are deployed, with the planning assumption that organizations will undertake in their functional areas process redesign shifts- however the most significant improvements will lie in horizontal improvements and redesigning organizational design/work flow constructs....even getting the behaviors working differently is critical so then process improvements can be mobilized.

A recent Economist Intelligent Unit global survey of over 350 exectutives examined recently the beneftis and challenges, and risks associated with creating a more agile organization.

The resulting paper, called "Organizational Agility: How Business can survive, and Thrive in Turbulent Times" had several key findings:

1.) 90% of the executives surveyed stated that organizational agility is critical for business success;
2.) 27% said that their organization is not agile enough to antiticpate fundamental marketplace shifts;
3.) 80% have taken steps to improve agility over the past 3 years, but 34% have not produced the intended results due to internal barriers.

The survey also found that companies are not pulling back on initiatives but see strategic investments in technology. Specifically the survey asked:

"In light of the economic downturn, what do you believe are your organization's priorities in terms of improving agility?" The top three reasons were:

1.) Improving process efficiency (38 percent)
2.) Improving knowledge management and information sharing processes (33 percent)
3.) Encouraging and extending collaboration across the business and beyond (30 percent).

Next generation enterprise content management (ECM) and digital social media (web 2.0) and collaboration solutions (IBM Lotus Connections, Microsoft SharePoint, Igloo) are all solutions that our firm works with in helping our clients advance their capabilities in increasing organizational agility and collaboration success outcomes.

Next generation ECM and collaboration platform solutions offer more intuitive search and discovery, document management, centralized retention management capabilities, collaboration support systems for project /working teams. If deployed effectively IT can centrally manage the lifecycle of content objects and move content off of desktops into the security, accessibility and scalability needs of the organization.

One of the most critical success factors we believe for sourcing and improving access to knowledge management is ensuring that organizational search capabilities are robust and strong, so users (like in Google) can easily find the most relevant results (whether it is a word file, or information about a subject matter expert.

To extend collaboration outcomes across the business and also enable numerous ecosystem knowledge flow capabilities will require quick, easy internal and external collaboration strategies that can be rapidly be deployed without heavy IT involvement.

The most important requirement will be open constructs enabling internal and external facing community workspaces to easily let contributors share and exchange ideas and activities.

This will required breaking down typically organizational and informational barriers to foster cross project visibility, and awareness for easy program management of projects.

The tone for this thinking can easily be set by a set of core collaboration operating principles that unify all aspects of the program so all executives have the same aligned vision and their words, names are clearly imprinted on the program so their is no ambiquity on the messaging.

One of the most frequently asked questions by our clients is how can we ensure agility with security? First it is important to understand that by unifying platform infrastructure and managing content as a lifecycle irrespective of platform or repository - then you can ensure that all content that is created is archived and management by a lifecyle to mitigate risk.

The good news is that next generation ECM platforms delivery security, retention and improved governance practices behind the scenes. They can enable anytime, anywhere access to content, while still securing content outside the enterprise via information rights.

Collaborate or Die is often used in the industry as the underlying message for speed to change in these areas.

However, when I dig into the organizational design and core values of the organizations and look for a deep systemic understanding of collaboration with linkages to agility, trust, knowledge sharing, reciprocity, team work, holistic thinking, etc....there are usually major gaps in thoughtful holistic thinking in the majority of these programs.

If you would like to contact us drop us a line as we are always workign on solving some of the most complex problems in these areas with international clients.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Effective Communication Generates ROI and Happier People

Some say the recession is behind us. Whether in good or bad times - what is important is effective communication in good or bad times.

Dr. Gary Latham, an organizational psychologist at the University of Rotman School of management views a lack of clear communication one of the key reasons for our current economic failures.

Bad news according to Gary needs to be relayed in a way that is factual, frank and avoid hype. If communication is based on fluff - people see through it. Avoiding terminology or softening the language often adds more pain to the process vs. short, to the point and clear.

Recently Starbucks came under blogging scrutiny with their message in an employee memo " As part of our commitment to transparency throughout this process, we wanted to inform you that approximately 100 non-store partners are being notified today that their positions have been eliminated."

The bloggers went to town on the memo mocking its ridiculous use of the term "non store partners" when referring to employee layoffs.

Effective communication is the lifeblood of a successful organization. It reinforces the organization’s vision, connects employees to the business, fosters process improvement, facilitates change and drives business results by changing employee behavior. No matter how you look at it, communication is an important part of the business landscape and cannot be taken for granted.

A study that is not too old that I like to promote is the 2003/2004 Watson Wyatt Communication ROI Study™ which clearly demonstrated the correlation between communication effectiveness, organizational turnover and financial performance.
The more recent 2005/2006 study confirmed their earlier study findings and went a step further, by showing that effective communication is a leading indicator of an organization’s financial performance.

Key Findings

1.) Companies that communicate effectively have a 19.4 percent higher market premium than companies that do not.

2.) Shareholder returns for organizations with the most effective communication were over 57 percent higher over the last five years (2000-2004) than were returns for firms with less effective communication.

3.) The 2005/2006 study found evidence that communication effectiveness is a leading indicator of financial performance.

4.) Firms that communicate effectively are 4.5 times more likely to report high levels of employee engagement versus firms that communicate less effectively.

5.) Companies that are highly effective communicators are 20 percent more likely to report lower turnover rates than their peers.

Other Survey Findings

* Two-thirds of the firms with high levels of communication effectiveness are asking their managers to take on a greater share of the communication responsibility, but few are giving them the tools and training to be successful.

*Global firms are not customizing their messages to meet local needs or cultural sensitivities.

*On average, firms within the financial and retail trade sectors rank among the most effective communicators. Health care, basic materials, telecommunications and other service companies rank among the least effective communicators.

In summary, organizations that develop strong employee engagement and communication practices generate higher ROI, develop strong employee and partner relationships, and fuels customer loyalty.

So how many MBA, CA, etc classes teach employee communications as a mandatory course? How many CEO's and C level executives when they are writing their board of director training programs take an employee communications mandatory module?

We know HR executives often don't get it right - is this because they too have not had sufficient training.

Increasing shareholder value is linked to Effective Employee Communication and Engagement Practices - time for reflection as this weakness impacts our Innovation and growth capabilities.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Perspectives on Trust Making for Leadership Growth

Charles Darwin had a good perspective on life when he wrote " It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."

However, what he failed to put in perspective that to adapt to change and build this type of resilence capability requires organizations to face new and unexpected challenges by developing skills in the art of trustmaking.

In today's market, the economic realities to many of our clients, friends, and colleagues seems daunting. What we do know is that organizations will always have a choice.

They can either respond proactively and efficiently or choose to remain in the status quo mode which is often characterized by a down ward spiral. Doing the same with less is usually a pathway that leads to mediocrity and certainly does not lead to innovation success.

What motivates people to change? What motivates leaders to lead and mentor? Why is trust making often so elusive? Why are business graduates not trained in trust and creating a culture of openness, transparency and candor?

We cannot expect people to follow in difficult times, unless leaders learn how to communicate authentically and honestly, and create organizations where this is the norm. I recently had an experience in my own firm, where a trusted partnering relationship was brought into our core operation, leveraged our credentials, and good will and relationships to secure business independently. The stress that dishonest people can drive into a business's operations was very evident, as the disappointment created such a sense of disillusionmnet as we experienced what dishonesty and lack of integrity emits into the human psyche - especially when core values are impacted.

What do you do in a situation like this? In our case, it was simple, the core values have to take precedence when ethical behaviors are in question and rapidly discontinue the relationship.

Unfortunately the yardstick that too often measures the performance of CEO's is their ability to create wealth and shareholder value for their investors.

However, the realities of short-term thinking in the latest rounds of busts have many business strategists and thought leaders - advising there is a better way.

Our belief at Helix and our research in creating stronger collaboration centric cultures is that to develop stronger corporate cultures where trust is a core value, means that leaders need to start practicing authentically trust making and trust sensing behaviors.

Rule One - Simply always tell the truth. Don't develop the weak behaviors by falling into the trap of telling people what they want to hear. Treat your colleagues as adults. Speaking straight talk is a key leadership foundation for developing trust in an organization's culture. Soon other's will follow. People appreciate knowing they can trust their superiors and know that they have their interests genuinely at heart.

Rule Two - Encourage others to speak honestly, and openly, irrespective of how difficult it is to speak the truth. It is often very difficult for others lower in the heirarchy to share bad news when they know their superiors want to hear good news. It is important as a leader to create the conditions for people to know they are respected for having for courage and know that taking risks are encouraged and supported.

Rule Three - Reward the change agents that are contrarians or challenge the status quo. Organizations do not innovate successfully if they fail to seed change agents that are catalysts for new ways of working and thinking. Ensure they are positioned so they can enable change vs spin their wheels and not be listened to - and leave disillusioned. Remember to recognize them in small ways - the simple thank-you's one can never say enough of especially in difficult times.

Rule Four - Diversify knowledge sources. It is important to reach into the organizational structure at all levels to hear first hand what is on the minds of employees, customers, suppliers and competitors so your own leadership understanding has the rich context. It is also important that people believe they are being listened to and heard, these footprints will be shared and also enhance your leadership credibility. Creating a culture of trust requires developing a strong listening culture and appreciated diversity in its richest context: gender, culture, thoughts, etc.

Rule Four - Acknowledge mistakes and move on. Don't bury mistakes, use them as learning opportunities. This gives everyone permission to do the same, and sends out signals that risk taking is really accepted. Clearly if mistakes are risks to the business and impact core values the actions taken need to be carefully thought through and advisors and peers /superiors/mentors can play an important reflection opportunity to ensure a culture fostering learning is sustainable.

Rule Five - Develop a culture where collaboration and knowledge sharing is free flowing. Most organizations like to hoard information as information and knowledge means power. Work hard to develop open environments to source rich knowledge, at the same time protecting the knowledge that requires more risk management. Financial reporting requires a stricter risk management process than for example access to project plans from diverse projects to develop stronger project management skills.

Rule Six - Develop clear value statements for transparency, trust, collaboration, and authenticity. Many executives use freely these words, but few have explicit leadership behaviors and learning programs to support employees. Hire people because they create a culture of trust making behaviors and are known for their honesty, integrity and candor.

Rule Seven - Weed out the behaviors irrespective of level that are not aligned to the core values. People do not suffer fools gladly - they can easily spot inconsistent leadership behaviors and when business judgements are clearly at risk, having a truthful conversation and making tough decisions that demonstrate you are serious about respecting and living your organization's core values will go a long way to building a stronger culture of trust making strength.

In my experience in business, it takes time to build trust and develop consistent leadership behaviors that support the continual flow of intelligence that enables true collaboration.

Perhaps the only messenger one should ever shoot is the one that arrived too late to tell the truth.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Employee Engagement Drives Innovation and Customer Loyalty

Engaged employees care about the future of the company and are willing to invest the discretionary effort Engaged employees feel a strong emotional bond to the organization that employs them.

Employee Engagement – Business Imperative to Innovation Results

A quick ‘Google’ search on Employee Engagement on the internet will reveal endless statistics, but here are just three from ISR, a Chicago based HR research firm which studied the engagement of 664,000 employees from 71 companies around the world.

ISR found that: operating income was up 19.2 percent in high engaged companies versus a decline of 32.7 percent in low engaged companies, 13.2 percent improvement in net income growth over a one-year period for companies with high employee engagement, and a 27.8 percent improvement in EPS growth in companies with high engagement.

Clearly though, not every employee or manager in an organization is engaged. In fact, the most commonly cited statistic (by Gallup) states that only 29% of employees are engaged, and have a feeling of passion and pride in their work and a desire to go the extra mile for their customers and company.

Gallup’s extensive research suggests that close to 60% of employees are not-engaged.

They are the middlemen and women who neither over perform nor under perform, but turn up each day to work. They do a job which is OK, but not at a level of excellence which is needed to make the organization world class, or have a dramatic positive impact on its bottom- line profits. The real opportunity for profit growth in any company comes from helping not-engaged employees become engaged.

More shockingly, Gallup suggests that as many as 17% of employees are actively disengaged, undoing the good work of engaged employees, sapping morale and spreading toxic energy throughout the organization.In a football team of 11 players, that is nearly 2 players who are damaging the team’s performance. What team could ever win with two toxic employees on board hampering its performance? In your own organization, you may be able to divide your staff into the same three categories. The percentages may differ a little, but it is likely that you will have employees who are engaged, not-engaged and actively disengaged.

Emotional Attachment to Jobs is Important

Employees engaged work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. People that are actively engaged help move the organization forward. 84% of highly engaged employees believe they can positively impact quality of their organization's products, compared with only 31% of the disengaged 72% of highly engaged employees believe they can positively affect customer service versus 27% of the disengaged. 68%of highly engaged employees believe they can positively impact costs in their job or unit, compared with just 19% of the disengaged

Engaged employees feel a strong emotional bond to the organization that employs them. This is associated with people demonstrating a willingness to recommend the organization to others and commit time and effort to help the organization succeed
It suggests that people are motivated by intrinsic factors (e.g. personal growth working to a common purpose, being part of a larger process) rather than simply focusing on extrinsic factors (e.g.. pay and reward.

Employee Involvement in Critical to Job Performance

Eileen Appelbaum and her colleagues (2000) studied 15 steel mills, 17 apparel manufacturers, and 10 electronic instrument and imaging equipment producers. Their purpose was to compare traditional production systems with flexible high-performance production systems involving teams, training, and incentive pay systems. In all three industries, the plants utilizing high-involvement practices showed superior performance. In addition, workers in the high-involvement plants showed more positive attitudes, including trust organizational commitment and intrinsic enjoyment of the work. The concept has gained popularity as various studies have demonstrated links with productivity. It is often linked to the notion of employee voice and empowerment.

Employee Commitment

It has been routinely found that employee engagement scores account for as much as half of the variance in customer satisfaction scores. This translates into millions of dollars for companies if they can improve their scores. Studies have statistically demonstrated that engaged employees are more productive, more profitable, more customer-focused, safer, and less likely to leave their employer.

Employees with the highest level of commitment perform 20% better and are 87% less likely to leave the organization, which indicates that engagement is linked to organizational performance

For example, at the beverage company of Molsons Coors it was found that engaged employees were five times less likely than non-engaged employees to have a safety incident and seven times less likely to have a lost-time safety incident. In fact, the average cost of a safety incident for an engaged employee was $63, compared with an average of $392 for a non-engaged employee. Consequently, through strengthening employee engagement, the company saved $1,721,760 in safety costs in 2002. In addition, savings were found in sales performance teams through engagement. In 2005, for example, low-engagement teams were seen falling behind engaged teams, with a difference in performance-related costs of low- versus high-engagement teams totaling $2,104,823.3 (Lockwood).

Life insurance industry

Two studies of employees in the life insurance industry examined the impact of employee perceptions that they had the power to make decisions, sufficient knowledge and information to do the job effectively, and rewards for high performance. Both studies included large samples of employees (3,570 employees in 49 organizations and 4,828 employees in 92 organizations). In both studies, high-involvement management practices were positively associated with employee morale, employee retention, and firm financial performance. Watson Wyatt found that high-commitment organizations (one with loyal and dedicated employees) out-performed those with low commitment by 47% in the 2000 study and by 200% in the 2002 study.


In a study of professional service firms, the Hay Group found that offices with engaged employees were up to 43% more productive. The most striking finding is the almost 52% gaps in operating incomes between companies with highly engaged employees and companies whose employees have low-engagement scores. High-engagement companies improved 19.2% while low-engagement companies declined 32.7% in operating income during the study period.

For example, New Century Financial Corporation, a U.S. specialty mortgage banking company, found that account executives in the wholesale division who were actively disengaged produced 28% less revenue than their colleagues who were engaged. Furthermore, those not engaged generated 23% less revenue than their engaged counterparts. Engaged employees also outperformed the not engaged and actively disengaged employees in other division. It comes as no surprise, then, that engaged employees have been statistically linked with innovation events and better problem solving.

Generating Engagement

Recent research has focused on developing a better understanding of how variables such as quality of work relationships and values of the organization interact and their link to important work outcome.84% of highly engaged employees believe they can positively impact the quality of their organization's products, compared with only 31 percent of the disengaged.

From the perspective of the employee, "outcomes" range from strong commitment to the isolation of oneself from the organization. The study done by the Gallup Management Journal has shown that only 29% of employees are actively engaged in their jobs. Those "engaged" employees work with passion and feel a strong connection to their company. About ⅔ of the business units scoring above the median on employee engagement also scored above the median on performance.

Moreover, 54% of employees are not engaged meaning that they go through each workday putting time but no passion into their work. Only about ⅓ of companies below the median on employee engagement scored above the median on performance.Access to a reliable model enables organizations to conduct valuidation tudies to establish the relationship of employee engagement to productivity/performance and other measures linked to effectiveness.

It is an important principle of industrial and organizational psychology (i.e. the application of psychological theories, research methods, and intervention strategies involving workplace issues) that validation studies should be anchored in reliable scales (i.e. organized and related groups of items) and not simply focus on individual elements in isolation. To understand how high levels of employee engagement affect organizational performance/productivity it is important to have an a priori model that demonstrates how the scales interact. There is also overlap between this concept and those relating to well being at work and the psychological contract.

As employee productivity is clearly connected with employee engagement, creating an environment that encourages employee engagement is considered to be essential in the effective management of human capital


* Employer engagement - A company's "commitment to improving the partnership between employees and...employer. Employers can stay engaged with their employees by actively seeking to understand and act on behalf of the expectations and preferences of their employees.

* Employee perceptions of job importance - According to a 2006 study by Gerard Seijts and Dan Crim, " employees attitude toward the job['s importance] and the company had the greatest impact on loyalty and customer service then all other employee factors combined.

* Employee clarity of job expectations - "If expectations are not clear and basic materials and equipment not provided, negative emotions such as boredom or resentment may result, and the employee may then become focused on surviving more than thinking about how he can help the organization succeed.”
* Career advancement/improvement opportunities - "Plant supervisors and managers indicated that many plant improvements were being made outside the suggestion system, where employees initiated changes in order to reap the bonuses generated by the subsequent cost savings."

* Regular feedback and dialogue with superiors - "Feedback is the key to giving employees a sense of where they’re going, but many organizations are remarkably bad at giving it." “What I really wanted to hear was 'Thanks. You did a good job.' But all my boss did was hand me a check.”

* Quality of working relationships with peers, superiors, and subordinates - "...if employees' relationship with their managers is fractured, then no amount of perks will persuade the employees to perform at top levels. Employee engagement is a direct reflection of how employees feel about their relationship with the boss.”

* Perceptions of the ethos and values of the organization - "'Inspiration and values' is the most important of the six drivers in our Engaged Performance model. Inspirational leadership is the ultimate perk. In its absence, [it] is unlikely to engage employees.”

* Effective Internal Employee Communications - which convey a clear description of "what's going on". "'If you accept that employees want to be involved in what they are doing then this trend is clear (from small businesses to large global organizations). The effect of poor internal communications is seen as its most destructive in global organisations which suffer from employee annexation- where the head office in one country is buoyant (since they are closest to the action, know what is going on, and are heavily engaged) but its annexes (who are furthest away from the action and know little about what is happening) are dis-engaged. In the worst case, employee annexation can be very destructive when the head office attributes the annex's low engagement to its poor performance... when its poor performance is really due to its poor communications.

* Reward to engage - Look at employee benefits and acknowledge the role of incentives. "An incentive to reward good work is a tried and test way of boosting staff morale and enhancing engagement." There are a range of tactics you can employ to ensure your incentive scheme hits the mark with your workforce such as: Setting realistic targets, selecting the right rewards for your incentive program communicating the scheme effectively and frequently, have lots of winners and reward all achievers, encouraging sustained effort, present awards publicly and evaluate the incentive scheme regularly.

The Importance of Managers on Employee Engagement

It's widely accepted that the greatest impact on whether an employee is engaged or not,comes from their relationship with their direct line-manager. The greatest impact on the line-manager’s level of engagement, comes from their own higher-level manager who sits above them. This manager/higher-level manager relationship carries on throughout the organization all the way up to the CEO’s office.

It goes without saying, you will forever struggle to have fully engaged employees unless you have fully engaged managers. According to Gallup, a disengaged manager is 3 times as likely to have disengaged employees working for them, than an engaged manager.

Research and one's own personal experience suggests that the impact managers have on the morale, performance and engagement of employees has a larger bearing on an employee’s attitude, commitment and drive than any other single influence in the organization. It is that linkage between line-manager.

The link between engaged employees, happy repeat and referral customers, and revenue and profit growth is conclusive. Statistics suggest that around 20% of employees are actively disengaged

For there to be engagement in your company, there has to be a two-way relationship, a bond and an understanding between managers and employees, at whatever level they are in your organization.

Unlike in personal relationships between friends and family where the connection evolves naturally, business relationships require a degree of framework, and a common language, so the employee has a better understanding of the company, and feels more involved in it.

Pathway to Results - Turn Your Managers into Mentors

The most effective way to create this relationship is for your managers to become mentors to their employees and proactively involve them in your business.This is something the ancient Chinese also understood, in the proverb, ‘Tell me and I willforget; Show me and I may remember; Involve me and I will understand.’

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Interesting Books to Read on Knowledge Management and Value Networks.

Below are some great books, referred to me recently by my friend John Maloney of the KM Cluster. The list is alphabetical order by author as they are all on target and worthwhile. All titles available on where you will find more details.

The Future of Knowledge: Increasing Prosperity through Value Networks, Verna Allee, Butterworth Heinemann, 2002.

Net Work: A Practical Guide to Creating and Sustaining Networks at Work and In the World, Patti Anklam, Butterworth Heinemann, 2007.

The Wealth of Networks: How Social Markets Transform Production and Freedom, Yochai Benkler, Yale University Press, 2006

The Rise of the Network Society (The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Volume 1), 2nd Edition, Manuel Castells, Wiley-Blackwell, 2000.

Open Business Models: How to Thrive in the New Innovation Landscape, Henry Chesbrough, Harvard Business School Press, 2006.

The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth, Clayton Christensen and Michael Raynor, Harvard Business School Press, 2003.

Driving Results through Social Networks: How Top Organizations Leverage Networks for Performance and Growth, Rob Cross and Robert Thomas, Jossey-Bass, 2009.

The Hidden Power of Social Networks: Understanding How Work Really Gets Done in Organizations, Rob Cross and Andrew Parker, Harvard Business School Press, 2004.

The Organizational Sweet Spot: Engaging the Innovative Dynamics of Your Social Networks, Charles Ehin, Springer 2009.

IT Governance in a Networked World: Multi-Sourcing Strategies and Social Capital in Corporate Computing, Laurence Lock Lee, Information Science Reference 2009.

The Keystone Advantage: What the Dynamics of Business Ecosystems Mean for Strategy, Innovation and Sustainability, Marco Iansiti and Roy Levien, Harvard Business School Press, 2004.

The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture. Mark C. Taylor, University of Chicago Press, 2003.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Innovation means Effective Employee Engagement

As the recession drags on, although there is now some optimism building in the Canadian markets, many in the USA are projecting a later recovery into Q4, 2010. Due to the current economic outlook, organizations start to drive more cost sensitive approaches to investments, change, innovation and also increase their internal communication practices to keep valued employees informed of their near term business realities.

With increased tensions in the external markets, internal tensions naturally also rise. In more difficult times, leaders start to intensify their focus on performance and results.

Recruiters say the single most critical means of managing through a downturn is the engagement of employees - a term often used and equally elusive. In tough times, when morale is low and people are looking potentially over their shoulders, employee engagement often suffers and gets reflected on the bottom line.

Employee engagement, confidence and positive energy is one of the single most reliable indicators of business performance. The basic concept is simple, but the implications are anything but.

A recent survey by Hiring Smart shows that the top 16% of performers in a company generate about 60% of the organization's revenues, while the bottom 16% cost the company about 20% in revenues.

An estimated 23% payroll expenses is unproductive because of low engagement, with only 20% of employees considering themselves "fully engaged" at work.

Getting employees and talent engaged effectively requires a considerable investment in human capital investment in key strategies that enable employee engagement ranging from effective intranet communication, ease of knowledge sharing, sourcing talent on demand easily leverage searcheable profiles linked to process ownership areas, to leveraging effective leadership development and training support opportunities.

There are many factors that have to be planned out effectively that understand the support systems of talent at different stages of career growth with any given manager, team, job and organization.

Organizations that understand that top management and top performers are the talent that are going to carry you through the tough times.

Talent spotting is as much as an art as a science and smart business leaders value their HR leaders and place demands on them to ensure effective employee engagement practices and processes are in place. When it comes to developing high potential talent, leaders need to be grounded and connected to lowers levels in their organizations.

A good read for managers is Leaders at All Levels by Ram Charan to help managers who lack the skills to spot top talent.

In summary, tough times call for employees who are committed to generating results - however, the solution is not adding more pressure on the precious talented workforce but removing barriers, and setting up support systems that allow them to remain energized, focused and committed during difficult times.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Virtual Worlds and Innovation(s).

We have spent the last two years researching, and developing virtual world experiences in numerous experiments internally and with clients - all with the goal to understand how Generation Virtuals will change and impact the future consumer/customer landscape.

Some of the interesting findings that we have determined are:

1.) Generation Virtuals (children ages 3-14) socialized on Habbo Hotel, Club Penguin, or WebKinz look at virtual worlds as an extension to their real worlds.
2.) Generation Virtuals will continue to have multiple personas intergrated into both their virtual experiences and real life experiences.
3.) Generation Virtuals love the multi-media, colorful and rich 3D interactive experiences and find 2D experiences on the web boring and lacking "fun factors."
4.) Generation Virtuals will choose customer experiences that leverage 3D "fun" experiences into traditional purchasing experiences.

The Entertainment Economy is rapidly evolving as Virtual Worlds continue to integrate with real world and digital intelligence content and distribution models(mobile, web, etc).

From our research, the Asian communities are rapidly leading in this evolution and for Innovation to occur more rapidly in Canada - Canadians must rapidly understand entertainment, artistic design, and social media experiences integrated into traditional processes. Governments are stimulating national policy to promote V worlds for eLearning and new solution delivery models, in particular in Singapore.

What we have seen in the Canadian environment is a very weak receptivity to Virtual Worlds in leveraging how these solutions can add value to the enterprise for eLearning, recruiting, employee on-boarding experiences, product development and many other solutions.

There are some bright lights slowly starting to emerge as companies like Rogers experiment with Virtual worlds to train their distributors in Second Life, the ten pound gorilla. Other companies like IBM are the most prolific in this space in Canada globally with over 33 islands. They are also leading the global virtual standards movements so objects developed in diverse virtual world environments can easily be transported from one VW platform to another to achieve increased ubequity.

The Ontario Government have also been successfully experimenting for recruiting new employees using second life learning experiences, however their continued marketing of their investments and community building efforts are not up to par to drive traffic to their websites and create sustainable community participation.

Helix is very committed to helping our clients develop successful business models that tap future capabilities. Virtual Worlds is one key enabling solution that as Canadians striving for increased innovation capacity need to learn 4 key things:

1.) What are these solutions?
2.) How can they be applied to the enterprise?
3.) What are the best practices,and lessons learned?
4.) How do I successfully get started?

We have recently issued our NEW Virtual World Research Report and it is available for purchase now at our new publishing center.

We also have developed a conference center that our clients can experiment in to learn how to use these solutions in a low risk learning lab environment, with instructional guides or event planning resources to support learning and growth for leveraging these new solutions.

Helix has also developed a NEW virtual worlds community to help our clients learn more about these capabilities.

We hope you will join us...and together we can learn how these new business models will shift current and future business models.

Call us at(647)477-6254 to learn more or post a blog comment.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Virtual World Valuation Perspectives on Second Life.

Analyst firm Next Up Research just published an extensive report on Linden Lab, the San Francisco company behind virtual world Second Life. Highlights are summarized below:

The research is based on aggregate data and is available on SharesPost, a site set up to trade shares of privately held companies (if you register, you can download the report for free from that page, or you can find other valuation reports on companies like Facebook and LinkedIn). The report goes rather deep into the valuation of the Linden Lab, which it pegs at somewhere between $658 million and 700 million.

Now that Linden Lab has been around for nearly 10 years, and with its product Second Life celebrating its sixth birthday since launching publicly in June 2003, we thought it would be a good idea to take a close look at the report and see how the company’s doing according to the analysts.

First of all, you may be wondering if anyone is still using Second Life at all. The answer is yes, and users are very active on there. During the past 30 days, one million users logged in, according to Second Life’s own statistics. In average time spent per user per week, Second Life in fact trounces all other MMORPGs, including World of Warcraft and Civilization IV. In another testament to the service’s apparent stickiness, the number of hours users spend on Second Life has been increasing steadily and is currently at historic highs, totaling approximately 124 million hours in the first quarter of this year.

More importantly, Next Up says in-world transactions have recovered after a significant drop in September 2007 - when gambling was banned in the virtual world - and has been steadily increasing ever since December 2007.

Which brings us to the valuation, or at least the estimated value Next Up claims Linden Lab is worth after running a couple of calculations. Using publicly-traded online gaming companies as a proxy, Next Up pegs the median enterprise value (EV)/ Revenue multiple for that group at 7.2x off of 2009 revenues. Subsequently applying this self-proclaimed “conservative” multiple of 7x to the estimated revenue of Linden Lab ($100 million for this year), the current target valuation amounts up to $700 million.

That seems like a stretch. In November 2007, the last time we asked ourselves how much Second Life is worth, we came out somewhere between $500 million and $1 billion. The current estimated enterprise value calculated by Next Up falls pretty much right into the middle of that range.

Next Up defends the 7x multiple variable by referring to a two-year-old M&A deal. When Disney acquired Club Penguin for $350 million in cash back in August 2007, it paid out at least a comparable multiple based on Vlub PEnguin’s projected revenue for the year (between $50 and $65 million), despite the fact that it reaches a narrower demographic profile. But things have changed since then: stocks have tanked, valuations have dropped, the IPO market has pretty much dried up and VC-backed liquidity is at a record low. So that implies a major discount, with a valuation between $300 million to $500 million, which is decent but not spectacular, assuming Next Up’s revenue projection is accurate.

Here’s what else Next Up says could have a negative impact on Second Life’s valuation:

- the aging population of its main target markets (U.S. and Europe) and less of a presence in developing nations where its main target audience (people from 13 to 45) is quickly gaining in size.
- limited amount of premium subscriptions (about 1% or 170,000 users)
- possible taxation on virtual monetary transactions in a variety of countries
- cost and complexity of running the technical infrastructure behind the virtual world

Based on our own Helix Commerce Research on Virtual Worlds, and Gartner Group predictions Fortune 500 companies focused on innovation need to execute experiments in Virtual Worlds to be ready not for the Gen X and Gen Yers but the Generation Virtuals who are growing up on solutions like WebKinz and Club Penguin or Habbo Hotel. We now have our first generation of Virtuals.

Source link

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Intangible Principle and Innovation Perspectives

What are Intangible Assets?

Intangible Assets are assets that are not physical in nature. Corporate Intellectual Property (items such as patents, trademarks, copyrights, business methodologies), good will and brand recognition are all common intangible assets in today's market place. An intangible asset can be classified as either indefinite or definite depending on the specifics of that asset. A company brand name is considered to be an indefinite asset, as it always stays with the company as long as the company's operations continue.

Unfortunately in today's current accounting systems and rules, the valuation of intangible assets is a not an easy task, and often unrecognized or underestimated in valuing assets. For example, a company such as: Coca Cola would not be as nearly as successful were it not for the high value obtained through its brand-name recognition. Although brand recognition is not a physical asset, you can see or touch, its positive effects on bottom line profits can prove extremely valuable to firms such as Coca Cola, whose brand strength drives year over year growth. Good books to read are The Hidden Value of Intangibles, Testing Balance Sheet Strength, and Can you Count on Good Will?

A few other points that we think are key to understand the value of intangible assets are:

1.) Intangible Assets are identifiable non-monetary assets that cannot be seen, touched, or physically measured, which are created through time and/of effort that are identifiable as a separate asset.

2.) There are two primary forms of intangibles (eg: customer lists), copyrights, patents, trademarks, and goodwill and competitive intangibles such as knowledge or know-how activities such as knowledge, collaboration activities, leverageble team value dynamics for speed and trust making. Legal intangibles are IP, and generate legal property rights defensible in a court of law.

Competitive Intangibles, whilst legally non-ownable, directly impact effectiveness, productivity, wastage, and opportunity costs within an organization - and therefore costs, revenues, customer service, satisfaction, market value, and share price. Human Capital is the primary source of competitive intangibles for organizations today.

Why are Intangible Assets key to the manufacturing sector?

First, tangible assets are easily replicated due to reverse manufacturing and engineering capabilities. Competing on product and price is a no win proposition. Manufacturing companies by extending their customer services value chain to create closer customer loyalty and branding experiences that increase customer servicing, professional service offerings, community ecosystems with new channel partners to extend a core business model are all areas that need a focused business plan for growth acceleration.

Jim Basille Founder of RIM, and who help drive the MIN ecosystem forward, has a new corporate mantra internally with his employees - is is Collaborate or Die? Although Jim was not the first to coin this phrase, he like many SMART CEO's understand growth from networks and community ecosystem knowledge flows will drive more value that simply investing in only products for distribution. In Today's increasingly global economy - the realities are we need a collaboration leadership approach to talent management, and also to develop more open and collaborative business processes to achieve competitive advantage.

I wrote Collaboration Commerce a book that is now 3 three years old, but still sells actively on Amazon - we were the first to define Collaboration Commerce as a business process with linkages to innovation and growth impacting strategic planning methods and toolkits.

One of the Informative Google Groups I have joined is the Value Networks Group whose evangelistic leaders, John Maloney and Verna Allee are daily acting as global change agents to help change the world and help companies understand the value of business is in its networks. Unfortunately, the accounting and enterprise risk management realities of most F500 do not have mature innovation or value realization centers of excellence focus on Intangible Asset Management (IAM).

One of the postings I quite enjoyed reading last week from John Maloney was he asked this Quiz:

Q - What do these names have in common: Caliber, Pacifica, Aspen?
A - They are all current products from Chrysler.

I have never heard of them - perhaps you also have not. However when you think of our past history, every North American would always know the names of all contemporary Chrysler products. Remember: Charger, GTO, Barracuda.


These models were all important muscle branded cars and branded as such. Muscle cars were important as guys liked them - muscles or not. More importantly the advertising ads reinforced that women liked guys that drove them so guys thought this was the car they needed to drive. This double loop intangible branding strategy around a brand called muscle cars - was a very successful lifestyle and contemporary marketing strategy.

Chrysler strayed from it score in lifestyle marketing from the 60's and like many of the automotive giants simply did not focus on the intangible story/branding.

Just look at Opel the prize division of GM -- rich with intangible branding value - which Magna is in the process of closing for a 20% stake in the business (>300M Euros).

Toyota is another company that focused very hard on engineering fun into their branding and offerings. Arrogant Executives in Detroit ignored the fun imagery of Toyota and well the rest is history.

This week Sabaru introduced their new marketing approach. What makes a Subaru a Subara? Love.

Yes it is love.

Some of the reasons many of us believe the automotive sector is in the situation it is in NA is due to five key reasons:

1.) Not diversifying its manufacturing operations outside of NA

2.) Not focused on Intangible Value clarity

3.) Union Excess

4.) Corporate Narcissism

5.) Focusing on tangible Product /Feature positioning without (2) lifestyle marketing clarity.


As Canadian manufacturers plan their growth and innovation strategy, engaging with partners that understand value ecosystem strategy, intangible asset management, customer services innovation, and customer loyalty strategy are critical for CEO's and leadership teams to embed new talent into or around their organizations.

In addition to these realities a core competency for manufacturing executives will be on collaboration commerce, knowledge management, and leveraging new ways of working. These are all areas Helix Commerce specializes in. We simply help our clients leap frog ahead in new ways. The only competitive advantage remaining in business is human and customer capital strategies - leapfrogging for growth advantage requires more courage, not necessarily investment dollars.

What is clear is that if organizations do not think outside the box and collaborate to find new solutions - they will simply die.

Collaborate or Die - Jim Basille has this line RIGHT!
Bookmark and Share