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July 2010
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September 2010

The Conference Call or "Death by a Thousand Bleeps"

Glen Ross of the American Cancer Society recently shared this hilarious video of a typical conference call. I probably spend a good 10-15 hours a week on these things and I have to say that the video pretty much captures my experience. So in support of more effective conference calling, here are some resources that might help:

A Tool to Add to Your Reflective Practices Toolkit: "Oh Life"

I've written before about the importance of reflective practice in professional development--the process of reflecting on your development as a professional and recording those thoughts somehow. The problem for most people is that getting in a regular practice of reflecting and recording can be difficult. Developing new habits can be hard, so having a tool to help you along can be invaluable.

So, via TechCrunch and Marianne Lenox, here's a new one to consider adding to your reflective practice arsenal-OhLife. The site pretty much says it all:

  Picture 10

It's an email-based journaling option that will remind you daily about posting with the added bonus of including a random entry you've posted previously. Your nightly email looks like this:


Some advantages for reflective practice:

  • Even if we hate it, we all still check email. Having a daily reminder to think about what you've learned that lands in your inbox each night seems like a good way to start developing the daily practice of reflection. 
  • The daily reminder comes at 8 p.m, so if you're a night person, it's a good time to do it immediately. If you're a morning person, it will be waiting for you when you get up.
  • The random reminder of previous posts can be a great spark to additional learning and reflection--I could see getting a reminder of where I'd been at in a project previously and being able to post on how far I've come. Or if I'd posted on a particular tool or idea but hadn't done anything else with it, the reminder might be enough to get something going again.
  • Posts are archived on the web for easy access from any computer and (presumably) your smart phone. They are also totally private, so you can keep this reflective practice journal just for yourself. 
Seems like a nice option for a learning/reflective practice journal, no?

When You Assume Bad Faith, You Get It

There was an interesting article over the weekend in the Telegraph from Dan Pink on Netflix's "no policy" approach to HR policies. It's an outgrowth of their corporate culture, captured beautifully in their "Reference Guide on our Freedom and Responsibility Culture" outlined in the Slideshare presentation above--well worth a read through.

Pink's article notes that Netflix has learned something that Clay Shirky talks about in Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age

. . . when we design systems that assume bad faith from the participants, and whose main purpose is to defend against that nasty behaviour, we often foster the very behaviour we're trying to deter. People will push and push the limits of the formal rules, search for every available loophole, and look for ways to game the system when the defenders aren't watching. By contrast, a structure of rules that assumes good faith can actually encourage that behaviour.

So if you think people in your organisation are predisposed to rip you off, maybe the solution isn't to build a tighter, more punitive set of rules. Maybe the answer is to hire new people.

It strikes me that it is this bad faith approach that underlies most social media policies in organizations. And for that matter, it's a mental model that drives organizational behavior around most things related to both employees and customers, including learning.

What would be different about what we do if we started with different premises, assuming that most workers are honest, trustworthy, hard-working and focused on doing the right thing? What would services, policies and activities look like if we assumed the best of people, not the worst? How much more time could we spend on innovation and ideas, rather than on the sort of "whack-a-mole" management that leads us to continually chase after closing all of the loopholes in our punitive systems.?

So You Think You Can Control Social Media by Controlling Access? Think Again.

Driver_004 Several years ago I was going to fly with a friend who'd never been on a plane before. He told me what he hated most about the idea of flying was that he wasn't "in control." This was a person who never let anyone else drive the car because he only trusted himself to make the split-second decision to swerve or brake should trouble strike.

In helping him try to manage his anxiety, I joked that maybe I should set him up with one of those children's car seat things where they have a toy steering wheel and stick shift so they can pretend like they're driving. He said he thought it might make him feel better because then he'd at least have the illusion of controlling the plane.

I thought of this story as I contemplated Dick Carlson's recent post reflecting on the challenge of implementing social media in the enterprise, which seems to hinge in large part on the idea of "control" or, more specifically, the illusion of control. Those organizations most resistant to implementing social media also seem to be those most hung up on the idea that they must control everything that is being said and done, both in and out of the organization. 

The problem with organizations, social media and the idea of control is that organizations are focusing on controlling access to social media. They act as though their company-owned computers are the only way an employee can get online. I hate to break it to you, but that's not true.

  • The majority of American households have Internet, so if they want to, your employees can access social media after hours and on weekends.
  • Many of your employees also have their own laptops and WiFi connections that they can use to connect during lunch hours or even, unbelievably, during work.
  • Proxy servers are another way to get around your blocks, especially if your IT department isn't as sophisticated as you think.

Controlling access to social media is increasingly becoming a fool's game--a waste of time and effort. And it's not only a waste of YOUR time, but a waste for workers, too. If 22 years of parenting have taught me nothing else, it's that the greatest goad to human ingenuity is telling someone "you can't do that." Considerable time and creativity will be expended in proving you wrong. That's what happens when you try to control access, rather than creating an environment where people are encouraged to engage in the behaviors you want them to choose--also a lesson I learned from parenting.

10 Reasons NOT to Ban Social Media in Your Organization

Jane Hart is spearheading an effort to collect information on why you should NOT ban social media in your organization. Below, my rebuttals to the reasons most commonly given by organizations to keep social media out.

  1. Social media is a fad.

While specific tools may be more or less popular at any given time or in a particular industry,  the principles of social media are here to stay. Conversations, transparency, relationships, authenticity, and making information easily accessible and available are not only important aspects of social media, they are increasingly becoming the way that the most successful businesses thrive in the new economy. The genie is out and he's not getting back in the bottle.
  1. It's about controlling the message.

You're right--it's about controlling the message. But HOW you control it has changed. You can try brute force and rigid boundaries, but that doesn't work very well anymore. Just ask BP. In a world where information and the tools for sharing it are freely available, you will never be able to control everything that's said about you. But you CAN listen and respond in a way that you were never able to before. You can find out where the problems are, what people are complaining about and then, through your responses, you can control how these issues are perceived. You can't control the message, but through social media, you CAN control perceptions.
  1. Employees will goof off.

You're right. Staff WILL goof off. But here's something great about social media that I don't think you've realized. Did you know with social media you can actually monitor goofing off even BETTER? I can't tell if you played solitaire on your laptop unless I actually catch you doing it. But I CAN tell if you uploaded your vacation photos or played Farmville on Facebook during work hours. I don't know if you spent an hour on the phone to your sister. But I CAN see if you were tweeting about lunch and your favorite episode of Glee when you were supposed to be working on that report. See? Social media is actually your greatest dream--documented proof of all the ways your staff is screwing around! The faster you get them on there, the quicker you'll be able to prove what you've suspected all along!

  1. Social Media is a time waster.

Actually, used appropriately, social media is a time saver. I can spend an hour searching through my desktop and the company intranet for an answer to a question or I can post it to Twitter and get a response in a few minutes. I can spend 15 minutes trying to find the latest version of that report or I can go to the company wiki and know that what I find there is where things are at. Social media is a time waster when we don't know how to use it properly. When we do, it can be one of the most effective ways to get work done. Really.
  1. Social media has no business purpose.

The last time I checked, business was about interacting with customers and getting work done efficiently and effectively. Social media can help you do both. Social media is a tool, like a phone or a laptop. And, like a phone or a laptop, it can be used for personal or business-related reasons.  If you don't see the business purpose behind its use, then you need to do a little more reading.

  1. Employees can't be trusted.

You are SO right here. Employees simply cannot be trusted. If you aren't careful, they might run off and do something crazy like set up a Twitter account that in a few short months changes your company's image from a joke to a customer service case study in excellence.  Better that they play solitaire on their company-approved laptop. At least you know what they're up to.

  1. Don't cave into the demands of the millennials.

Is it just the Millenials who are using social media? According to these stats, the 35-55 age group is making some pretty healthy use of it, too. That's why social networking now outranks email in terms of how Americans are spending their time online. So don't do it for the Millenials. Do it for all of your workforce.
  1. Your teams already share knowledge effectively.

That's because they're using social media on their personal smart phones and via work-arounds, like proxies. They're using social media on the DL. You just don't know it.
  1. You'll get viruses.

You might, unless 1) your IT department stays on top of the latest patches, which they should be doing anyway and 2) you don't communicate with your staff about how to avoid malware attacks. Also, if you insist on using PCs rather than Macs.
  1. Your competition isn't using it, so why should you?

If your decision about whether or not to engage in a business activity is based on whether or not your competition is doing it, then you have much bigger business problems than social media to address. Last I checked, one of the key tenets in business was to be the FIRST one to do something innovative, not the last. If your competition isn't using social media, you, in fact, have a golden opportunity to be first in class. I'd suggest that you seize it.

It's About Answering Their Questions, Stupid: What Goes on the First Page ?


The other day, Stephen Downes posted the graphic above--without comment, which it didn't really need because the graphic says it all. And the graphic reminded me of a wonderful recent blog post by Kivi Leroux Miller on creating website content your visitors really want, which suggests that most people who visit your site or blog or whatever come with specific questions and your job is to answer those questions. Usually the question is NOT "What is your mission statement?" by the way.

The thing is, to answer the questions, you need to be listening. Usually when we think about what to put on a website, we consider what WE want to share, rather than thinking about what it is people want to know. It's the same problem we have so often in training. We spend so much time focused on the knowledge we want to transmit, we don't stop to find out where the questions are.

For many of our online tools, we have stats that can give us insight into where people have questions. This morning I helped a client think through how to re-organize the front page of a wiki they've been using to share professional development resources with staff. Rather than guessing what was important, we took a look at the "Popular Pages" in stats. That told us what people wanted when they come to the wiki, so we put those 7 most popular pages up front and then put everything else deeper in the site. Voila--less cluttered.

Google Analytics is another invaluable tool. What keyword searches are bringing people to your site? What can these searches tell you about the questions people have and how can you answer them immediately?

Comments and emails are another clue--what are people asking about? What seems to interest them the most?

The danger I continually find with social media is that we still have this broadcast notion of content that can trip us up at the oddest moments. We need to stop thinking that social media--or any online content, for that matter--is first and foremost about us. The best stuff is always, always about our users. We just need to start listening to their concerns and questions and responding to that. Then we can't go wrong.