I love my network

It’s strange. I live my working life in the midst of what might be the world’s richest enclosed source of knowledge – the IBM social intranet. I don’t know for sure if it is the richest, but if anyone is ahead it cannot be that many. And yes, I wrote enclosed to exclude the public internet.

Yet, I find myself not looking for information as much as before. It’s there allright. I can search it and I get suggestions for interesting information based on my actions, tags I have used and that have been used to categorize me, communities I’m a member of and knowledge I have shared myself. I can even reduce the “content noise” using my friends as a filter (although we don’t use the expression friends, but the more neutral network contacts).

But in many cases I just ask.

I have actively and generously invited people to my network. Maybe even because we don’t claim to be friends but just contacts, we can be more generous in connecting. Currently I have built a network of 933 colleagues around the world, in all sorts of professions and at various levels of the hierarchy. Varying levels of activity too. The more the merrier is my parole. I have written it before, and I keep repeating my mantra: You never know who you can help or who can help you.

Well, last week I gave a keynote speech at a client workshop on Knowledge Management and went on to listen to their presentations and participating in discussions and breakout sessions for the rest of the day. Towards the end of the day, I was asked a technical question about if IBM Connections, the star of IBM collaboration software, could be implemented in a certain way. I didn’t know the answer.

At 18:45 (6:45 PM for you Americans ūüėČ I wrote the question on my board on the social intranet and then we went for a delicious dinner supplemented by a very nice Amarone (thank you very much, guys). Back to my room after dinner, I found that a colleague in Canada had written that he didn’t know the answer, but recommended me to ask another, named, colleague in USA (unknown to me). So I asked my question again – on this third person’s board – and did some other work in my hotel room. A short while later I checked and found that a fourth person (unknown to me too) had responded to my question on the board of person #3. I added a follow up question, got a swift reply by #4 that was followed after a while by a confirmation by #3 of what #4 had responded.

Within 4 hrs 10 minutes, my question was answered thanks to two, completely unknown helpful colleagues and a third who knew who to ask. (I did notice, though, that we shared some network contacts). The next morning I could supply an answer to the client and hopefully moved us closer to an interesting deal.

Referring back to my post on ROI for social intranets I just wonder, how do you calculate  the value of helpful colleagues like these?

Today I had a similar experience where I let this image speak for itself

Volunteers offering practical help within two hours
Thanks to Keigo and Jonny

So what’s the morale of my story?

We can talk forever about documents, repositories, structures, software and features. The bottom line is: It takes people to collaborate. You can never predict what people might need, nor what people may know. And even if you have access to the most magnificent technology imaginable, collaboration is a matter of corporate culture. It’s a mindset.

The World’s most used language

What is the most widely spoken language? I sometimes ask people around me.

The answers I usually get are English, Spanish, Arabic or Mandarin. Mandarin is  indeed the language which most people have as their mother tongue, but few others speak it.

But the world’s most used language is Bad English!

Working in a very big and international company, I get reminded every day that most people who speak English use it as a second or third language. Almost everybody have an accent (sometimes amusing), a limited vocabulary and poor grammar.

While my initial question is phrased as a joke and the accents can put a smile on your face, the implications are serious for anyone communicating internationally: The majority of your target audience will have difficulties understanding your message if you don’t use simple and straight language.

Use simple and straight words instead of fancy ones or words with double meanings. Avoid nested or complicated sentences. Watch out for slang and local expressions (I could have used “idiomatic expressions” but chose not to). Oh yes, dates of course: Skip all those 05/12/2011, 12/05/2011 and 2011-05-12. Write “12 May 2012” instead! It cannot be misinterpreted.

When it comes to using too complicated words, I suspect that people like me are the worst sinners. People who have English as a second language but who are good at it and are tempted to show off. Reflect back on one of the fundamental rules of good communication – Write for them, not for yourself.

A related, but different, mistake people sometimes make is to refer to contexts that are not known to others; sports events, TV shows, stores, commercials, some holidays and habits. The text may get a little bit less colourful but if your intention is to maximize understanding, literary brilliance is only a nice to have. If a more colourful text may increase the effect of your message, as in advertising, consider having different versions for markets where English is native and for the rest of us.

Maybe we should go even further? Sometimes there are possibilities to select: English (UK), English (US) etc. Why not add an “English (Int)” or “Simplified English”?


Or should I rewrite it?

Folders is where knowledge goes to hide

I hate folders. I hate the typical folder structure of most operative systems. I waste time building the structure, I waste time thinking of where to store things. And when I try to find them again, I waste time again trying to remember in which folder I finally did put them and often have to resort to searching. And time is to valuable for me to waste and I guess that goes for most of you. I guess my structuring challenges are not unfamiliar to many readers too.

Thank you Google for Desktop Search!

And so far, this has only been about my own hard drive. Not in social websites.

This is why I get the chills every time someone asks for a possibility to create folder structures in collaborative environments. If a single person can’t sort out his own document storage and retrieval in a folder structure, how do they suppose that an unhierarchical, loosely knitted group of people will succeed? Rather, it would be as easy as finding stuff on someone else’s hard drive, don’t you think?

Enters tags. I love tags as much as I loathe folders.

Why I love tags? Because tags are defined by each user to fit their own needs and their own way of thinking, not the view of the few. Tags are flexible and quick to respond to new concepts and trends instead of representing old news. Finally, because tags can be used across all kinds of content (at least if you have a comprehensive collaboration ecosystem, like a good social intranet) thereby linking people with shared files with social bookmarks with blog entries with wikis with discussion forum posts with …. you get the drift. By searching on one tag, I can get a complete view of all the knowledge and expertise on that topic, irrespective of how it’s documented or who has it.

But, asks the fainthearted, aren’t you overwhelmed by masses of shared files or social bookmarks? There’s no structure! And I say: Filter by tags, my friend. And when you still have too many to choose from, filter further until you find what you look for. And if you still don’t find it through filtering, they are, unlike in folders, all visible and you can still scan them without having to open one folder after another, guessing your way down the structure.

For tags to work properly there are only a couple of prerequisites:

  • A good type-ahead feature when you are tagging – presenting already existing tags – plus people who have the patience to wait the split second needed for the type-ahead suggestions to appear
  • A uniform method of tagging across the collaborative system: either separated by space (multi-letter-expressions-need-to-be joined-by-hyphens-or_underscore) or comma separated
  • Users who understand the benefits of tagging and therefore do it
  • A decent feature for searching by tag

A couple of tagging hints:

  • When thinking of which tags to use, think of which words and expressions you would use when searching for what you are tagging
  • Use spelling versions, typically both American and British spelling, or else your item may only be found on one side of the Atlantic (if you’re using English, that is)
  • Language? I don’t have any strong view, but if the item you’re tagging isn’t in one of the “big languages” it’s probably a waste to use tags in any other language. People who find it won’t understand it anyway. Unless, of course, you are bilingual like me and you tag for yourself.

Finally, a good collaboration environment should be equipped with powerful search features (often turbo-powered by tags) and make extensive use of suggestions and associations to inspire you and make you discover useful stuff related to people you know or items you see.

Did Steve Jobs worry about ROI?

What did the ROI calculation for the iPhone development look like? For the iPad? Or for iPod?

I never met Steve Jobs. I never worked at Apple. Still, based on what I’ve read about him I doubt that there ever was an ROI calculation for the investments made in any of Apple’s and Steve Jobs’ breakthrough innovations. He believed and he dared. His compass knew it was the right thing to do.
Yet he was the most acclaimed business innovator in the past decade.

Next time I’m asked about the ROI of social intranets I will counter with this question: Would Steve Jobs have bothered calculating it?
I hope it will go down better than my current standard question of: when did you last see an ROI calculation for implementing SAP?

Comparing the investment needed to unchain the potential of the company staff with making an investment in production equipment that can produce faster or more efficiently is nothing short of an insult to the people working for you.

Innovations can be classified into two categories: Enabling or Improving. Either they make something possible that was not before – like the automobile once made it possible to travel long distances fast and with a flexible route. Or something currently possible to do easier, more efficient or with better quality – like more fuel efficient cars, safer cars or innovative service programmes. Improvement innovations are suitable for ROI-calculations, enabling are not.

So, if you allow the social intranet-train pass you by and wonder:

  • why all talented people work for the competition
  • why your customers keep telling you that your competition are faster at getting up to speed and at solving problems
  • why people keep working in silos
  • why you keep reinventing the wheel
  • why your competition is more innovative than you are
  • why customers tell you that you’re old fashioned

– then go back to your archive, pull out that ROI-calculation run it through the shredder and realize that inspiration, collaboration and staff commitment is not to be reduced to numbers.


The curse of “I’ll do it later”

As a parent, I’ll do it later seems to be an eternal and ubiquitous source of aggravation. Unfortunately at work too, sometimes. Rumours claim that it even may occur between spouses.

Usually, the result is:

  1. It does not get done by the person who promised “to do it later” since it is either forgotten or something more important (for that person, that is) or more urgent takes precedence
  2. You end up reminding (nagging, kids call it) since experience has taught you how likely it is that #1 will come to happen
  3. You end up doing it yourself since: either #1 occurs, it cannot wait any longer or you simply lose patience (lesson learned by the other person: “if I just say “later” I might not have to do it anyway”, by the way)

Translation: I’ll do it when it suits me, not when it suits you, because my priorities are more important than yours.

What I want to hear instead: now or when

Uppmuntra anst√§llda som engagerar sig i sociala medier, det tj√§nar b√•de f√∂retaget och samh√§llet p√•

Häromdagen tipsades jag om en artikel i CSR i Praktiken om att användare av sociala medier tar större samhällsansvar. källa Kan det verkligen stämma?

Tja, utan att värdera eller verifiera undersökningen bakom artikeln är det ändå inte svårt att föreställa sig att det nog kan vara så. Alltsomoftast brukar jag referera till den feelgodkänsla jag ofta får på Facebook, Twitter och min arbetsgivares sociala intranät. Men det borde väl inte förvåna att folk som dras till sociala mötesplatser, på nätet eller på stan är mer medkännande än de som håller sig för sig själva. Eller?

  • Sociala medier √§r just det – sociala – man umg√•s, exponeras f√∂r andras √•sikter och k√§nslor, delar med sig av de egna
  • Mycket g√•r ut p√• att dela med sig och att ta del av vad andra delar med sig av, att svara p√• fr√•gor, att bli hj√§lpt av andra (s√§rskilt tydligt p√• intran√§tet)
  • Avst√•nden minskar, du f√•r med l√§tthet och √∂gonblickligen inblick i livet p√• andra sidan jordklotet – och uppt√§cker ofta att det egentligen inte √§r s√• olikt ditt eget

Den andra delen av artikeln handlar mycket om min arbetsgivares attityd till de anställdas engagemang i sociala medier Рvi uppmuntras. Jag låter den tala för sig själv men kompletterar med lite information av intresse: Av IBM:s över 400.000 anställda är åtminstone 200.000 medlemmar på Facebook, cirka 25.000 twittrar och 17.000 bloggar. Det blir en exponering som varje marknadsförare drömmer om och som får varje kriskommunikatör att darra. Självklart blir siffrorna slående stora i och med att företaget är så stort, men kontentan blir allmängiltig; det är bara att gilla läget. Att hantera det. Gärna så som IBM har gjort: med en tydlig policy, med hjälp och coaching och med att tydligt kommunicera företagets värderingar.

I sammanhanget kan det nog ändå vara bra att kika på denna sammanställning av aktiviteter på sociala medier som gjort att folk blivit nekade jobb (i USA, såvitt jag förstår), att se över sina integritetsinställningar och att tänka noga efter vad man publicerar var. Intressantast av allt är att 95% av de tillfrågade företagen kollade upp kandidaterna på sociala medier. Och, i ärlighetens namn, den rekryterare som inte kollar ditt CV mot LinkedIn gör ju tjänstefel egentligen.

Social Media B2B in action

Social Media B2B in action.

This article shows how IBM has been at the forefront for a long time, although it may not be widely known or appreciated. Another tale-telling story is this clip with Jon Iwata, IBM Senior Vice President Marketing and Communications from the Kenneth Owler Smith Symposium 2010 on how companies and their communications staff must adapt to make the best out of the great potential – for success as well as for disaster – of employee activity in social media and the blogosphere.

Paneldebattar om Digital Marknadsf√∂ring p√• Internet Expo i Malm√∂ onsdag 5 oktober 2011

På onsdag blir det tredje gången gillt för mig att paneldebatta med IDG om Digital Marknadsföring. Först Göteborg för ett knappt år sedan, sedan Stockholm i januari och nu på hemmaplan. Det ska bli kul att avsluta på hemmaplan.

Det har mest varit reklambyr√•er och jag i panelen som Magnus H√∂ij (Internetworld’s chefredakt√∂r) leder. Jag har nog varit t√§nkt som den udda f√•geln i diskussionen och det √§r en positionering jag g√§rna tagit.

Tidigare diskussioner har givit goda tillfällen att poängtera att alltför många företag och organisationer använt digital marknadsföring och sociala medier bara som ytterligare en kanal att basunera ut sina pressreleaser och andra meddelanden på. Skräckexemplet var Exportrådet när jag kollade runt förra hösten.

En annan k√§pph√§st har varit att jag inte inst√§mt i de facto-definitionen av marknadsf√∂ring som visat sig genom hur fr√•gor st√§llts t.ex. Marknadsf√∂ring √§r s√• mycket mer √§n bara reklamen. Den √§r den synliga delen, men f√∂r lyckad marknadsf√∂ring kr√§vs s√• mycket analys och strategi f√∂re som verkar gl√∂mmas bort. Och d√§r har de sociala medierna ohyggligt mycket att erbjuda. Alla tweetar, inl√§gg och kommentarer b√∂r man ju se som “gratis marknadsunders√∂kning” och ta tillvara p√• kritik och uppslag. Dessutom hittar man l√§tt entusiaster och ambassad√∂rer som man g√∂r b√§st i att v√•rda och ta hand om.

Tredje käpphästen är de medarbetarna som sociala ambassadörer. Hur företagen gör bäst för att ta tillvara all den kraft, det engagemang och den kontaktyta som personalen har i de sociala medierna. Hur viktigt det är att företagen tydligt kommunicerar sina värderingar och strategier så att socialt engagerad personal förhoppningsvis väl representerar varumärket och inte behöver tveka på deras förhållningsramar i förhållande till arbetsgivaren går.

Några bra exempel:

Video från paneldebatten (35 min)

Which social aggregator will be first to include Google+ ?

Many of us social addicts have come to rely on aggregators to help us post across social platforms and to view and manage our scanning of the buzz in one application. The ones I have come across are Tweetdeck, Echofon, Seesmic and Yoono. I’m sure there are more. Please feel welcome to add a comment if I have left out your favourite.

They all have their advantages and disadvantages. I have come to use Tweetdeck and Yoono more and more. Tweetdeck because of the neat control of the panels where I can follow a subset of twitterflows and Facebook. For quick posting, Yoono integrated into Firefox gives a continuous flow of updates, including a nice, but sometimes distracting notifier in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. You can turn it off if you want to, forever of for a limited time. But the best thing about Yoono is the coverage of services: Facebook, several Twitter accounts, LinkedIn, FriendFinder, MySpace, Flickr, Foursquare, AIM, Yammer, Yahoo Messenger Google Buzz and Google Talk as well as YouTube. They just had to give up on Microsoft Live Messenger but who cares really?

Now when Google have released Google+ to the public, I wait in suspense to see which of these aggregators (or others) will be the first to integrate with it. Whichever it is it will get a big + in my book since that is currently a prime hurdle to my use of Google+.

It’s unlikely to be Tweetdeck (since they were recently acquired by Twitter)

I hope it is Yoono.

I actually think it will be Yoono.

—- UPDATE —-

13 October 2011

The correct answer is: None of the above.

I have just sent my first cross-network update using iStatus+, an iPhone app by Nadan Gergeo. Read more here

Too many companies miss the “social” in “Social Media”

Let’s try out these new social media, they say. Then they use them to distribute a flow of press releases, linking to their own website. What the **** is social about that? And then they get disappointed about the results.

  • Social means two-way communication
  • Social means engaging people
  • Social means people engaging with people
  • Social means listening
  • Social means responding

When discussing with companies who are contemplating starting to use social media, my advice is usually the same and pretty simple:

  1. Start scanning Twitter and other platforms where it is possible for your company and brand names – why not for your competitor’s too? – for your products and services and other topics of interest.
  2. Establish processes to channel the “spontaneous feedback” to those concerned in the company
  3. Start interacting with people who make interesting posts. Respond to complaints and comments. Engage with potential ambassadors.
  4. Then, but not before, start interspersing with your own marketing messages. Since, by this time, you are likely to have built sufficient credibility with the public and strong relations with the ambassadors so they pass your messages on through their networks.

Say after me please: Social Media is not just another megaphone