Perspectives on Connected Innovation and Collaboration

Don Smith’s Sabbatical Insights

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Innovation Velocity

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This is a concept, a work in progress…

Velocity is classically defined as the rate of distance traveled over time. In the context of innovation, ideas move over time. And to be most useful, ideas require interactions with people in order to morph into innovations with business value

In a closed organization, an idea is likely to move as far as the idea holder’s personal network will take it. And the same idea will travel at a pace proportional to the idea holder’s communication plan. In other words, only so many people are able to interact with the idea, it’s fixed by the number of contacts in the idea holder’s network (n). Email to 20 contacts, you get 20 possible interactions as fast as they can read and respond.

In open or collaborative organizations, n is much larger. In networked or connected organizations, n is exponentially larger. Chances are the idea will be seen by your 20 contacts and their 20 contacts. And so on. More chances for interaction. The idea moves farther, but faster? Don’t know.

So here’s a question. How do you put the brakes on the process and capture the most valuable ideas? Feels like you need a funnel. Maybe the entire process can be thought of as a funnel made of mesh. Maybe the mesh is discontinuous. Each connection point a person. Some connection points are frayed and won’t flow. The idea has to flow around the web to the ejection point of value.

The bigger the funnel opening, the more people involved and more possible interactions. But the ejection point could remain the same size.

So, fast innovation only benefits those that can slow the process down. What size funnel is best?

Thoughts on this? Please share.


Written by Donald Smith

May 13, 2009 at 2:40 pm

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Enterprise Social Media Tips

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Recently, I had a conversation with an leading industry analyst on the emerging Enterprise Social Media space, sometimes referred to as Enterprise 2.0 (E2.0). I felt like I came away with a few nuggets, some new, and others worth reinforcing. The conversation was centered around the analyst’s perspective on successful implementations of Enterprise Social Media within leading organizations.

Me: What are some common traits among “best in class” users of Enterprise Social Media?

A: The #1 requirement for success is Senior Management commitment, even if mandate and draconian tactics are required. Senior leaders must commit to E 2.0. For example, a Senior leaders could insist on not reading project related emails in favor of project wikis. Also, it’s critical to make Legal a team partner and stakeholder in the process, as early as possible.

Me: What are some success factors for Enterprise Social Media?

A: The execution must be well targeted and well thought out. Don’t look at the entire enterprise as a whole. Do focus in on the parts of the organization that stand to benefit the most from social media. Run smaller experiments at first and show the tool’s tangible business value to employees. Focus on groups of employees that have collaboration problems today.

Me: How do you define tangible business value?

A: Enterprise social media is about allowing people to get their jobs done faster. Employee’s time is precious, so demonstrating clear business value to participants is essential for adoption. For example, consider converting project based emails into wikis. Wikis free up information for all reviewers and users.  Managers could have clear and real time visibility of a project’s status via a wiki as opposed to hunting down emails.

Me: How hard is it to get employees to change habit – from email to wiki?

A: (citing a Harvard study) People overestimate their personal impact of change by 3x. They also underestimate the potential value of change by 3. Combined, that’s a 9x factor to overcome. Email muscle memory is the enemy of Enterprise Social Media. Advocates of Enterprise Social Media must demonstrate, very tangibly, the benefits of using these tools over old methods. Again, small experiments can help build the case.

Written by Donald Smith

April 29, 2009 at 10:13 am

The race to the top- Information Arbitrage

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Talked through this concepts with some of my colleagues today. It goes like this:

In today’s economy, folks are looking for ways to save money in business. More and more, social media emerges as a solution. Take, for example, the corporate conference. On average, it costs about $1,000 per head to fly attendees in and put them up for a 2 day conference. Businesses are now uncomfortable with the $250,000 spend and are looking for alternatives. Social media fills the void. Why not host a virtual conference at more modest cost, say $5,000?

This business activity defines the race to the bottom.

Similarly, businesses and its employees are looking for an “edge” in the workplace. Historically valuable conversations like “what is our market share?” are being replaced by a thirst for information. More importantly, to be the first to find hot information and report it throughout the organization. To the prospector come the riches. Today, value comes from the following statements:

  • “Did you see?”
  • “I found…”
  • “Check this out…”

Information is driving a “race to the top” in terms of value. Each newly discovered tweet, story, or theory could be the nugget that wins recognition, fame, or accomplishment. So we mine Twitter and read RSS dumps trying to identify the tidbit that will be most valued by the organization. Through information control, the boss used to be the best informed person in the group. Now, the employees have equal access to information via the web. The equation shifts and the organization flattens.

This activity defines the race to the top.

The spread between top and bottom is information arbitrage. No longer do I need to spend hundreds of dollars on professional groups to network in my industry or thousands of dollars to bring in consultants. The web makes this information more accessible and in most cases free. The challenge for employees is to make the information palatable for the organization to devour.

The role of corporate web editor is born. Take in tons of web based information, edit, re-package, and route within the organization.

I need to think this through a bit more but wanted to get initial thoughts out there. I also realize I’m not the first to think of “Information Arbitrage” as a concept but I like the handle. What do you think?

Written by Donald Smith

March 23, 2009 at 1:18 pm

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Don Smith’s Twitter 101 – Twitter as the Daily Read

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I’ve had a few colleagues and friends start or try to start using Twitter in the last few months. Since the first few weeks can be tough for Twitter newcomers, they asked me for tips on how I started using Twitter. So here’s my approach:

1. Twitter is not easy at first

a. It takes time, patience, and routine to integrate the news flow into your personal flow

b. Start by using Twitter as a daily read. Don’t worry about posting until you have a habit of returning to Twitter

c. You have to post a picture or avatar. Otherwise Tweeters won’t take you seriously.

2. Find a hook outside of work

a. For me, it was the stock market. I found people I knew from old blogs and communities and followed them. Then I followed who they followed. The nature of the market kept me coming back daily, if not hourly. The discussion during the crash last fall was epic.

b. What are your hobbies? Cooking? Wine? Running? Chances are, you can find a like-minded person or brand on twitter.

3. Use

a. Going to a conference? Search it to find attendees.

b. Search brand names, places. Twitter only allows 140 characters, so nouns dominate.

4. Probably most important to early adoption – Follow lots of people right away

a. You need 50 at least to keep you coming back

b. At 100 you’ll start to see your follower bucket grow

c. Make sure you follow people who post often. Otherwise you won’t get a good news flow

5. Use power users as editors of Twitter traffic

a. Not sure who to follow? Find someone you like/trust and cherry pick who they follow

b. Rinse and repeat

6. Finally, don’t worry about “missing a day’s worth of news”

a. I pick up the stream whenever I can

b. If I miss something, that’s ok. It sometimes gets recycled and kicked back via ReTweet by someone else

c. Search fills the holes.

At the end of the day, Twitter is a news stream. Read Twitter just like you would read a newspaper. The twist is that you can eventually publish yourself. I’ll save publishing for Twitter 201.

The following Fast Foward Blog post has the most in depth review of Twitter that I have come across. It’s extremely helpful, especially when getting off the ground. FF Blog Twitter Basics

Written by Donald Smith

March 11, 2009 at 7:05 pm

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Bigger Ideas. Faster.

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This week’s blog post is a contribution to Minnov8. In it, I explain the concept of Connected Innovation and provide an overview of my sabbatical research.

You can connect to the Minnov8 post here:

Bigger Ideas. Faster.

Written by Donald Smith

March 3, 2009 at 1:51 pm

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2009: The Year of Web Analytics

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“Measure what is measurable, and make measurable what is not so.” – Galileo Galilei

I never thought I would quote Galileo while working on social media, but his words speak of its potential.  On Tuesday, I had an engaging conversation with my new colleague, Steve Borsch from Minnov8, about where social media is headed in 2009.  In a brisk 30 minutes we covered Twitter, blogging, my sabbatical, and other web activities.  Steve made a bold prediction, one that still rings in my ears:

2009 will be the year of web analytics.

Why are web analytics important?

Web analytics paint a picture of user participation, engagement, and activity on a given website. In the context of social media, analytics provide community managers  clear visibility of participation in conversations. This data can then be used to glean insights and note trends not otherwise detectable by off-line means. One can identify lead users, and influencers quite easily inside a social space.

Why 2009?

The competencies and platforms required for reliable web analytics are hitting the market with force this year.

Data Creates Markets

Innovation is often challenging to quantify and define.  But, innovation processes that are pushed onto a social media platforms can, in theory, be measured using web analytics. The resulting data creates new markets for discovery, or innovation markets. Conversely, innovation platforms that are not well measured, suffer from lack of data.

Connected Innovation

Social media facilitates connections between people. Innovation processes pushed through social platforms leverage network effects that optimize outcomes. Think crowdsourcing. Markets that function at greater human scale think faster, act faster, and learn faster than non-social markets. Connected markets create high volumes of reliable data, making the innovation organization smarter and better informed.

Galileo’s thinking was profound in many ways. His measurements of the cosmos with regard to time and space created a paradigm shift in the field of physics and created a new innovation marketplace – classical mechanics.

What can you make measurable? It will surely lead to new markets and innovations.

A final thought from a recent Tweet that I stumbled upon:

Innovators who fail fast learn faster. Innovators who learn faster master faster markets. – Jim Carroll

Written by Donald Smith

February 4, 2009 at 5:06 am

Twitter ROI

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I recently quipped to close colleagues that my sabbatical would not have materialized if it wasn’t for the new networks I was able to build through Twitter.  During the last six months, Twitter connected me to leading interactive marketers, strategists, users, practitioners, and vendors in the New Media (Web 2.0) space for nothing but a little time invested. Recently, I stumbled upon a great Tweet that summarized, by comparison, the value of Twitter.

“Facebook is all about reconciling past relations, whereas Twitter is designed to make new ones. Quickly.” -@smashadv

Twitter opened new markets for my research and continues to turbo charge my thinking each day. For the most part, Twitter is a feeding ground for those who like to communicate, debate, connect and collaborate. It’s my broadcast channel, crowd-sourcing mechanism, and newspaper all-in-one.

Cisco Systems talks about leveraging the “network as platform” as a growth strategy for their business. I built a high value Twitter network in little time. Now it’s time to leverage my network for personal and organizational growth.

I leave you with a final thought from Matthew Christian, a friend of mine from the Arete Initiative at University of Chicago:

Collaboration should create synergies and change the way both collaborators think–creating innovation. That’s the power and potential.

Written by Donald Smith

January 28, 2009 at 9:19 pm

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