Perspectives on Connected Innovation and Collaboration

Don Smith’s Sabbatical Insights

Interview with OptumHealth

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unhOptumHealth, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, provides personalized health management solutions and makes health care more accessible for its consumers. One of Optum’s main communication channels with consumers is via its core websites,  like OptumHealth actively engages users in conversations and provides digital spaces that help them connect with other users, experts, and professionals.

OptumHealth’s interactive team, builds collaborative websites that are flexible, scalable, and versatile. It’s important for consumers to not only have a rich experience on sites  like MyCancerHub, but an easy to use community that facilitates connection during challenging times. Similar to Caring Bridge, MyCancerHub provides multiple resources for those individuals just diagnosed with cancer, living with cancer, and caregivers. The site also provides an “Ask a Nurse” feature which connects users with health professionals. MyCancerHub encourages patients and caregivers to share stories, learn more about their condition, and exchange emotional support with each other.

Optum also provides digital services for professional communities. In one example. a 6,000 member nursing community had a business objective to build a culture of retention. By building a on-line nursing community, Optum was able to improve retention for this nursing community by allowing nurses to make valuable connections with each other, thereby upping sentiment and retention.

OptumHealth’s successes and best practices are now being considered by its parent company for use in other areas of United Health, including possible internal applications behind the firewall.


Written by Donald Smith

March 17, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Posted in Benchmarks

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

Posted in Uncategorized

Corporate Guidelines for Social Media

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I have been asked these questions a number of times during my sabbatical tenure.

What is an acceptable or unacceptable post?
What if someone says something bad?
More importantly, what if a customer says something bad about us?

I thought this would be a good time to share some of the insights I’ve gleaned from leading organizations engaged in social media, both within and outside the enterprise.

IBM’er Jenn Okimoto offers up important insights into these issues through her blog commentary.

  1. How detailed should social media guidelines be?
  2. When introducing social media into the workplace, how do we address HR concerns about reduced employee productivity?
  3. How do you guide employees or manage employees in navigating the gray with respect to posting content that is or is not appropriate in the work environment?
  4. What about content that falls squarely in the HR domain? What if employees use social media to publicize HR issues, or to gain “supporters” to their cause?
  5. Do we have IBM or client examples of stats, use cases or any other stories that address these concerns?

HP, published their blogging code of conduct publicly. It’s a simple 9 step code for HP employees to manage their content and tone.

  1. We will strive to have open and honest dialogues with our readers.
  2. We will correct inaccurate or misleading postings in a timely manner. We will not delete posts unless they violate our policies. Most changes will be made by adding to posts and we will mark any additions clearly.
  3. We will disclose conflicts of interest.
  4. Our Standards of Business Conduct will guide what we write about — so there are some topics we won’t comment on such as information about financials, HP intellectual property, trade secrets, management changes, lawsuits, shareholder issues, layoffs, and contractual agreements with alliance partners, customers, and suppliers.
  5. We will provide links to relevant material available on other blogs and Web sites. We will disclose any sources fully through credits, links and trackbacks unless the source has requested anonymity.
  6. We understand that respect goes both ways — we will use good judgment in our posts and respond to you in a respectful manner. In return, we ask the same of you.
  7. We trust you will be mindful of the information you share on our blogs — any personally identifiable information you share on a blog can be seen by anyone with access to the blog.
  8. We will respect intellectual property rights.
  9. We will use good judgment in protecting personal and corporate information and in respecting the privacy of individuals who use our blogs.

Personally, I find HP’s guidelines a good starting point for content management.  I constantly challenge myself to adhere to the following self-imposed guidelines:

  1. Follow HP blog guidelines
  2. Be open and honest
  3. Be mindful of my tone
  4. Ask interviewees for approval upon release of an interview or story
  5. Engage. Be open to feedback
  6. Use first person, conversational language
  7. Keep posts brief, factual, and full of data
  8. Respect all firewalls

This topic requires more thinking and collaboration. If you have questions or ideas, shoot me a comment.

Written by Donald Smith

February 24, 2009 at 5:29 pm

Posted in Benchmarks

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Exploring the Multiverse with Joe Pine

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joepine1Last Friday, I had the pleasure of catching-up with Joe Pine, distinguished author and visiting scholar at MIT Design Lab. Joe is well known for his best selling books Mass Customization, The Experience Economy, and Authenticity. I first heard Joe riff on Authenticity at MIT in October of 2007, well before the mass media glommed onto authenticity as a theme in the most recent Presidential campaign. I have always found Joe’s insights to be fundamentally rooted in physics, economics, and philosophy, but most importantly, ahead of its time.

Joe shared his latest framework with me – The Multiverse. To define the Multiverse, Joe employs the classical 3-dimensional framework that defines the Universe – space, time, and matter. Joe then layers economic insights gleaned from the Stan Davis best seller Future Perfect onto his framework. In Future Perfect, Davis argued that increasingly, the physical mass of everything that has economic value is shrinking. As the economy becomes more informational and intangible, it is less dependent on physical matter to exist on its own. Think anti-matter. Using the same method, Joe concludes that there must exist a place where space, time, and matter do not exist – a virtual reality. The digital space.

Joe’s Multiverse framework provides clarity around the opportunities in the digital space. The digital space is infinite in possibilities, largely undiscovered, without boundaries, always on, and economically advantaged compared to reality. It’s the world of video games, alternate reality games, virtual worlds, social media, and new business models.

In my own experience, I have used the digital space to create a virtual presence of myself. Tools like Twitter, Facebook, blogging, and LinkedIn allow me to make new contacts without having to do the leg work. As a result, I have expanded my personal network by orders of magnitude and established scores of new business leads and collaborations. Think of how much time it would take to have built out a massive network via person to person interaction. Reality doesn’t scale.

There is intrinsic value in having an on-line presence, and by Pine’s estimates, it might be infinite.

Written by Donald Smith

February 16, 2009 at 5:32 pm

Search Insights with Lee Odden

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photoI had the honor of meeting Lee Odden yesterday at a local Wayzata restaurant for lunch. Lee is the CEO of TopRank Online Marketing and a thought leader in the spaces of search and social media. His blog, TopRankBlog, is  highly regarded and considered one of the best in web-tech.

Lee and I talked about the true value of search. Its predictive qualities, and rich data flows. Lee’s using search in new ways to strengthen his business model and keep ahead of the competition. I’d like to learn more about search’s role in identifying knowledge gaps and how organizations can use search to strengthen collective intelligence.

I tapped Lee as a consumer/customer and asked his thoughts on the use of social media in the food industry. What would he like to see in the space? Lee’s response touched on crowdsourcing a la MyStarbucksIdea but really honed in on trusted on-line spaces for kids. Lee mentioned a need for parents to trust social sites for kids and that trusted brands could provide parents that needed comfort and security.

As a parent of two children who will soon engage in web 2.0, I couldn’t agree with Lee more.

Written by Donald Smith

February 12, 2009 at 6:37 pm

Social Media: Now on McDonald’s Value Menu.

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mcd1I had a chance today to talk with Joe Curry, Global Web Communications at McDonald’s, about their current social media efforts – Mindshare and Station M.

Mindshare was started at McDonald’s in 2005 as a blog forum, where avid employee bloggers would write on topics of interest. Over time the zeal faded and only a few bloggers remained. Today, Mindshare is a vibrant internal web 2.0 community that allows employees to share  knowledge and best practices. Part Facebook and part discussion boards, Mindshare fills the communication voids created by org silos and barriers.

McDonald’s built Station M exclusively for the restaurants to communicate with each other. Joe told a story of how a particular store manager was able to improve his drive-thru times by engaging with colleagues on Station M.

Platform adoption has not been without its challenges though. Like many other organizations adopting social technologies, McDonald’s learned how to tweak their platform and culture in concert for improved outcomes.

Driving traffic to each site required internal promotional marketing. Joe and his team also made sure to celebrate and promote success stories conceived within the platform. The more people can see and feel the value of participation in social platforms like Station M and Mindshare, the more  interactions take place on the platform. As these interactions grow, McDonald’s will realize even more value returned on their investment.

I hope to re-connect with Joe on-site at McDonald’s later this spring for a deeper download. Until then, I’ll take a #4 meal, with a side of social media please.

Written by Donald Smith

February 11, 2009 at 9:16 pm