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Friday, April 30, 2010

Innovation Perspectives - Social Media and Global Innovation

This is the fifth of several 'Innovation Perspectives' articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on 'What is the role of social media in innovation? (Either inside or outside the organization)'. Here is the next perspective in the series:

by Steve Todd

One of the main innovation themes that I encounter as an intrapreneur in a global organization is innovation by adjacency. This theme is a key driver for introducing new products into the high-tech industry. The e-book "Innovate With Influence" provides several examples of new products that have resulted from the integration of adjacent technologies. The adjacency theory relies on collaboration with two separate yet equally important parties: customers and technologists.

I use the diagram below to highlight the main task of a corporate intrapreneur.


Innovation Perspectives - Social Media and Global Innovation
An intrapreneur starts with deep technical knowledge and goes in search of new problems to solve (customer needs and requirements) and new technologies to help solve them. The beauty of corporate innovation is that plentiful adjacent technologies are often at the fingertips of any inventor. For example, my corporation (EMC) has acquired forty different technologies in the last decade; each technology comes with relevant experts. These experts can work with intrapreneurs to combine intellectual property and form something new.

In the past few years this type of corporate innovation has undergone world-wide acceleration due to the adoption of internal and external social media. Social media creates a level playing field for the submission, documentation, discussion, and progression of ideas, no matter what part of the globe that they come from. The global scope of social media toolsets enables corporations to capitalize on the international trend of reverse innovation.

Reverse innovation, as defined by Vijay Govindarajan, relies heavily on innovation occurring outside of the United States. Corporations often struggle to implement this type of innovation as their traditional models rely on idea generation in the US and idea implementation overseas.

Internal social media allows for global intrapreneurs to surface within a corporation and announce their presence. They have direct access to local customers in developing countries. They can share and collaborate on customer needs that are unique to their region. They can collaborate with remote corporate intrapreneurs on technologies that may help them solve their problems.

External social media allows for global intrapreneurs to become a public focal point for customers in their geography. Inventors that indicate a willingness to engage in social conversations with customers are gathering what they need to jump-start innovative activities. Twitter is a great example of how brief conversations with customers about their business problems can lead to the union of different technologies that solve those problems.

This was not possible a few short years ago. Intrapreneurs in the United States were trying to solve the world's problems. Unfortunately they were cut off from the breadth and scope of technologies and customers available via social media. The global reach of these tools allows them to form peer relationships inside global corporations. Peer relationships facilitate the transfer of new products back into the United States, which is the central theme of reverse innovation.

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You can check out all of the 'Innovation Perspectives' articles from the different contributing authors on 'How should firms develop the organizational structure, culture, and incentives (e.g., for teams) to encourage successful innovation?' by clicking the link in this sentence.
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Steve ToddSteve Todd is a high-tech inventor and author of the book "Innovate With Influence". An EMC Intrapreneur with over 150 patent applications and billions in product revenue, he writes about innovation on his personal blog, the Information Playground.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Innovation Perspectives - Harnessing Your "Social Teens"

This is the third of several 'Innovation Perspectives' articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on 'What is the role of social media in innovation? (Either inside or outside the organization)'. Here is the next perspective in the series:

by Michael Soerensen

Innovation Perspectives - Harnessing Your 'Social Teens'Use the power of the Social Media "teens" in your organization!

Everybody is struggling with innovation collaboration - especially how to make employees, customers, etc. chip in... One way of bypassing this for good, is to identify the savvy social media experts within your company, and equip them with tools for innovation and ideation. And you don't need to search for long - just call your Human Resource (HR) department and get a list of employees under 30 years of age, and you will have instant access to specialists brought up on facebook, messenger, linkedin, myspace, etc.!

This group knows what works - and what doesn't - when it comes to sharing and communicating knowledge - which is the core element of innovation. Think about this - If just 10% of employees' traffic/time spent on social media within the company perimeter was spent on collaborating instead, you could increase your innovation effort drastically!

You need ideation, collaboration and innovation, so why not just "copy" methods and tools that work? ...and let the ambassadors be the young guns that use social media like never before. A quick self-assessment on this is to simply analyze your own 'consumption' of Linkedin, Facebook, myspace, etc. on a daily basis, and ask yourself "Why do I use these tools and what am I gaining from them?"

Innovation and ideation tools are out there using exactly the same techniques as the big social media networks - and here is my take on the key elements that you should look for:
  • simple web-based intuitive interface
  • accessible from 'anywhere'
  • simple input methods - don't get too advanced in asking for knowledge!
  • personalization opportunities

When you have found your tool, and recruited your ambassadors internally - copy this externally! Seek amongst your customers within the same group, and invite them to collaborate.

If I were responsible for innovation in a company, I wouldn't wait one second in starting this process, as the benefits are so obvious and so easily accessible! And the nice part is that you don't need to call for external social media expertise - you have experts sitting right next to you!

Stefan Lindegaard quoted me on this subject as well in this article, with some interesting perspectives - Can Social Media Tools Hinder Innovation?


April Sponsor - Brightidea
You can check out all of the 'Innovation Perspectives' articles from the different contributing authors on 'How should firms develop the organizational structure, culture, and incentives (e.g., for teams) to encourage successful innovation?' by clicking the link in this sentence.
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Michael SoerensenMichael Soerensen is CMO at Nosco.dk, a danish company, creators of the SaaS innovation platform; Idea Exchange. Michael is a serial entrepreneur, and after great successes and learnful failures he is now truly at home with his buddies at Nosco.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Innovation Perspectives - Social Media is the Glue of Innovation

This is the second of several 'Innovation Perspectives' articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on 'What is the role of social media in innovation? (Either inside or outside the organization)'. Here is the next perspective in the series:

by Braden Kelley

Innovation Perspectives - Social Media is the Glue of InnovationSocial media serves an incredibly important role in innovation. Social media functions as the glue to stick together incomplete knowledge, incomplete ideas, incomplete teams, and incomplete skillsets. Social media is not some mysterious magic box. Ultimately it is a tool that serves to connect people and information.

I'm reminded of a set of lyrics from U2's "The Fly":


"Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief
All kill their inspiration and sing about their grief"



Social media can help ideas grow and thrive that would otherwise wither and die under the boot of the perfectionist in all of us.

Do you remember the saying "it takes a village to raise a child"? Well, it takes a village to create an innovation from an idea as well, and social media helps to aggregate and mobilize the people and knowledge necessary to do just that.

But, that is social media working in the positive. We must remember that social media tools are just that - tools.

Just as easily as social media tools can be an accelerant for innovation, they can also be an inhibitor - if the participants or the presenters manage to make the less active majority feel that innovation is not something for them.

If you don't want to be a fool with a tool, then you must be careful to make sure that the social media tools in your organization are fulfilling their role in a positive way and leveraging existing knowledge management and collaboration toolsets:

  1. To make innovative ideas visible and accessible

  2. To allow people to have conversations

  3. To build community

  4. To facilitate information exchange

  5. To enable knowledge sharing

  6. To assist with expert location

  7. To power collaboration on idea evolution

  8. To help people educate themselves

  9. To connect people to others who share their passion

  10. To surface the insights and strategy that people should be building ideas from

The better you become at the above, the stronger your organization's innovation capability will become, the more engaged your employees will become, and the more ready you will become to engage successfully in open innovation.

For the most part, what I've been talking about is the role of social media in innovation inside the organization. When you leverage social media for innovation outside the organization, it gets a whole lot more complicated.

But, maybe that's a conversation for another day.

In the meantime, please consider the ways in which social media in your organization might be able to strengthen inter-disciplinary cooperation, make the organization itself more adaptable, and how it could help to create an organization with the power to transform more ideas into innovations.


April Sponsor - Brightidea
You can check out all of the 'Innovation Perspectives' articles from the different contributing authors on 'How should firms develop the organizational structure, culture, and incentives (e.g., for teams) to encourage successful innovation?' by clicking the link in this sentence.
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Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is the editor of Blogging Innovation and founder of Business Strategy Innovation, a consultancy focusing on innovation and marketing strategy. Braden is also @innovate on Twitter.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Innovation Perspectives - Connecting Social Networks to Innovation

30 Ideas for Using Social Networks to Help You Be More Innovative


This is the first of several 'Innovation Perspectives' articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on 'What is the role of social media in innovation? (Either inside or outside the organization)'. Here is the initial perspective in the series:

by Mike Brown

Innovation Perspectives - Connecting Social Networks to InnovationWhat is the role of social media and networks in innovation?

Given the collaborative and interactive nature of social networks, they are a natural venue for enhancing innovation across many dimensions. Here are 30 possibilities you could pursue to make social networking a more overt part of your innovation efforts:


Identifying Unarticulated Needs
  • Set up a social media monitoring system to see where and how customers are talking about your brand and related issues.
  • Sponsor a contest to have customers identify challenges they're facing (that you might be able to solve).
  • Listen for social media participants expressing challenges you could help solve.
  • Sponsor your own Twitter-based chat for customers in your industry to talk about topics of interest.
  • Recruit customers to video ideas, issues, and problems they face and post them. Reward ideas that get used.

Tapping New Expertise
  • Identify outside experts / partners to potentially incorporate into your innovation efforts.
  • Spot young talent with new perspectives to bring into your organization through internships or permanent jobs.
  • Participate in #innochat on Twitter every Thursday at 12 noon ET (US).
  • Sponsor and promote an open competition to solve a challenge your business is facing related to innovation.
  • Suggest a monthly topic for Blogging Innovation related to an area where you're looking to be more innovative.
  • Develop a follower base focused on innovation areas for your business.
  • Follow the experts followed by the people you look to for innovative perspectives online.

Gathering Different Inputs and Information
  • Lurk in competitors' communities to see what new things they're talking about.
  • Use a blog to write about issues you're addressing and solicit readers to offer their perspectives.
  • Regularly feed front end innovation questions to your community for input.
  • Give Flip cameras to employees throughout your company. Have them post video ideas on your private social network.
  • Participate in social networks targeted at analogous businesses/industries to see how they think about similar issues to ones you face.

Enabling Innovative Collaboration
  • Invite your customers to a community to share ideas with one another.
  • Listen to social media conversations as a source of random inputs for ideation.
  • Use online chat environments to push and expand ideas you are pursuing.
  • Set up a private social network to provide a forum for more detailed innovation-based conversations.
  • Create more active connections and dialogue across boundaries in your own organization.
  • Summarize and post direct dialogues between innovators in your company to allow a broader group to comment, respond, and adapt an idea.
  • Share fragments of new ideas which colleagues (both near and far flung) can build on and transform through their input.
  • After innovative collaborative relationships are developed online, make a concerted effort to meet in real life to move the collaboration to new levels.

Solving Challenging Problems
  • Feature your internal experts more broadly toward making them available to help solve challenges in your industry.
  • Provide multiple social media channels for customers to complain directly to you with product issues.
  • Offer to help competitor's customers solve problems they're having with your competitors' products / services.
  • Connect your outside partners more effectively in a social community to allow them to better discuss ways your organization can be more innovative.
  • Use images from Flickr or videos on YouTube to help communicate early stage innovation concepts.

I'm not sure these 30 ideas have even lightly scratched the surface, so let's hear what you've done that you'd add to the list!


April Sponsor - Brightidea
You can check out all of the 'Innovation Perspectives' articles from the different contributing authors on 'How should firms develop the organizational structure, culture, and incentives (e.g., for teams) to encourage successful innovation?' by clicking the link in this sentence.
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Mike BrownMike Brown is an award-winning innovator in strategy, communications, and experience marketing. He authors the BrainzoomingTM blog, and serves as the company's chief Catalyst. He wrote the ebook "Taking the NO Out of InNOvation" and is a frequent keynote presenter.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Innovative Brainpower, Social Media, and Business School Transformation

by Dr. Ellen Weber

Increasingly people who pony up tuition, also question current MBAs ability to upgrade business. Yet, within social media's pool of people, prater and performance, business schools too often dig for everything but innovative brainpower with quality paybacks. What a waste of social media's ability to power-up innovation.

I've sensed that novelty, human intelligence, and social media can offer assurance to MBA leaders, like those I teach and mentor, who go for gold. Imagine entire MBA programs joining those prized brainpower strands in social media to stoke dendrite innovative brain cells. With a few social media approaches, business schools could spark brainpower that ignites an entire generation of global leaders.

It means building better bridges between brains, social media and business leaders though. Skilled entrepreneurs intricately weave their wisdom through well crafted social media meetings, and those who'll lead our current creative era, are making mental notes daily about how to find or furnish that next golden thread.

Innovative brainpower rarely pops up by accident, however, nor does it always appear on demand. Over 25 years of building visionary links to brainpower, I've discovered social media dividends that advance new pathways into high performance business minds. It's a bit like polishing a magic lantern, until a genie appears to move original ideas into that winning design for a new era.


For example:

1. Scan the TweetDeck for one big idea to design or kindle. With endless ideas out there - it's often a matter of capturing one to crystallize. Fast Company celebrated the last decade's 14 biggest such design moments, all of which passed through Twitter's collective brainpower where shots of dopamine helped open participants to novelty. Anthony Grace at the University of Pittsburgh describes a feedback loop that involves a chemical and electrical interactions between dopamine and novel or unexpected events. This lively process on Twitter appears to lock in memory, and it also engages the amygdala where the brain processes emotional and socially exchanged information as fuel for increased innovation.


2. Mimic creative people by engaging at their web site. New brain discoveries confirm that you literally adopt another person's unique approaches by observing them at work. It's also true that while innovation may be more vital than ever at your workplace, individuals who think, act and build differently often remain at a premium. That's where social media brainpower can help MBAs, so that more people learn innovative tactics that generate profitable designs. Simply stated, mirror neurons can create innovative cultures from carefully constructed imitation. In this video on mirror neurons, for instance people watch and mirror folks who differ. Consider the consequences if business leaders witnessed how that deep within brain cells await neurons that fire in reaction to mirroring other's talents as they roll into activity. If new opportunities for innovation get stomped on where they work, MBAs can mimic more online innovator's actions, and report benefits from an advantage of mirror neurons in action.


3. Blog opposite ideas to build from polar ends. Too many similar routines in toxic workplaces mentally barricade neuron pathways to creativity for cutting edge projects. To insert risks that increase your ROI - build an innovative culture by linking opposites through a shared blog, in ways that traditionalists often miss. Shared blogs on innovation, will link unique insights across viewpoints from high-performance minds. Online communities open new segues to leap-frog workers over ruts and routines that shut down brilliant people. Traditions tend to breed language for clinging to old approaches, yet when you engage opposing views, the brain's best response may be to tame an amygdala here and there in order to harness unique contributions. Rather than take potshots at people, blogs can build differences into tools for goodwill across cultures. Diversity is to shared blogs what a new neuron highways is to innovative solutions. Engage genius thinkers online, and innovation soon begins to stoke your work community.


4. Run from digital cynics. Have you noticed how stocks rise when people twitter hope? Or have you seen financial markets nosedive when online naysayers spout doom? Luckily pools of innovative brainpower lie beyond the sea of online cynicism. This trend hinges on the fact that hope adds serotonin to spark curiosity and fuel the brain. Cortisol, on the other hand, shuts down originality, and increases fear of failure. Make sense? When cynics spread fear, brainpower shuts down before social media's innovation stands a chance. When creators spark curiosity imagination kicks back delightfully in genius creators.


5. Start social network discussions on YouTube. You might start a back-and-forth on YouTube inventions such as pickle ice-cream, or simply toss around as I did - recent brain facts about multi-tasking that limits innovation. Few people know how multi-tasking works against innovation - because it bottle necks the brain's ability to focus or innovate. Just as all brains wire differently though, Internet discussions allow people view to multi-tasking as it relates to their own innovation. You could say that social networks add new colors and textures to innovative brainpower, because people hold up shared experiences to the rainbow for another look.


6. Build tone tools on Facebook through a climate of creativity. Innovation gets lost in climates where toxins such as bullying or intimidation exist. In climates resistant to change, toxins come faster than lightening strikes an iron rod in an electric storm. Sadly stress or negativity shoot down a brain’s best ideas, and innovators often tell you it's less stressful to hang up their cleats in favor of doing bare routines. Where people tend to kill initiatives, tone tactics act like a vehicle to tug innovation back into play. It helps to google examples of good tone from gentle, or effective leaders, and then discuss online how to offer olive branches back and forth at work. Or why not ask other innovators on Facebook what tone they hear in people's words. Then compare responses to words that convey invention or vision.


7. Pose two-footed questions on LinkedIn. The best way to integrate innovation into your firm's existing practices is to question ways that lead away from creative solutions. Start with stubborn problems, and toss in a two-footed question that probes the solution from angles of fact and interest. I recently presented an MBA course on Leading Innovation with the Brain in Mind, to a university business school, and I plan to challenge change leaders on LinkedIn with a follow-up question: What will innovation look like in the 21st Century, and how can business schools promote creative intelligence through top facilitation of innovative brainpower? What two-footed question would launch your next innovative offering at a LinkedIn roundtable?


8. Reward talent in online networks. Offer a book for a contest winner, publish a blog on the most innovative leader for tough times as Harvard Business leader, Bill George did recently to my online story about Dr Bill Cala. In too many workplaces problems go unsolved while some of the finest minds are left outside of the innovative process. In order to bridge the gap between the multiple intelligences people bring to work, and the problems that need solutions, organizations reward people for refreshing new ideas. As part of that process why not survey your unique intelligences to see which talents you have up and running innovatively. Don't forget to toss out tips for avoiding disagreements that kill innovation in meetings though.


As people awaken innovative intelligences online - for life-changing designs at work, brainpowered teams will rise up to garner the most diverse perspectives. Check out refreshing and profitable innovations that happened this month at Braden Kelley's Blogging Innovation site, for example. It's my prediction that we'll see a finer ROI on our collective efforts there - all because of added social media brainpower.


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Dr. Ellen WeberDr. Ellen Weber is the Director of the MITA International Brain Center in New York and an internationally known innovation leader, speaker, mentor and columnist, who certifies business and university leaders in brain based facilitation approaches. Her blog suggests approaches to accomplish things never before accomplished by using parts of the brain never before used.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Can Social Media Tools Hinder Innovation?

by Stefan Lindegaard

Can Social Media Tools Hinder Innovation?What happens with innovation if executives and managers begin to fear social media tools like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook - and perhaps even LinkedIn?

I wonder how big this issue really is after having read about a survey from Chef.se, a Swedish website for executives and managers. It showed that an increasing number of executives and managers are afraid ending up - involuntary - on the above sites. Furthermore, 18% said that they know of incidents where employees had posted in-appropriate or false information about their companies using social media tools.

I have always sensed some reluctance towards the new social media tools from the upper ranks. Unfortunately, it becomes somewhat understandable with the above information although I still believe benefits such as faster communication and better reach clearly outweigh drawbacks that tend to evolve on loss of control issues.

Perhaps this is not such a big thing today, but it might grow in the coming years. I got to think of a recent comment made by Michael Falling Soerensen, CEO of Nosco, a idea management software company to a blog post:

"Today, teens take pride in sharing and collaborating as much as possible - and are constantly seeking to expand their network - all vital factors in getting an innovative culture up and running..."

I think this is quite true and it even extends up to people in the early twenties. This will have an impact on innovation culture in many companies as this generation enter the workforce in full strength.

Their mindset fits perfectly with elements needed for a more open and external focused innovation culture so we can expect to see interesting - and different - things from this work-group. That is if the executives and managers see this as an opportunity and release the potential rather than treating it as a threat and as a sign that they have to cede control.

How big is this issue? Are we lining up for a clash between generations? Let me know what you think.


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Stefan Lindegaard is a speaker, network facilitator and strategic advisor who focus on the topics of open innovation, intrapreneurship and how to identify and develop the people who drive innovation.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Blogging Innovation Ranked #1

We are pleased to say that this week PostRank has ranked Blogging Innovation as the number one blog on the topic of innovation.


Blogging Innovation Ranked #1 by Postrank
Thank you everyone for your continued support. We will continue making innovation and marketing insights accessible for the greater good, and hope to unveil a new site design in the next thirty days that will make the site even more accessible.

You can check out the rest of the list over on the PostRank site by clicking the image or link above.


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Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is the editor of Blogging Innovation and founder of Business Strategy Innovation, a consultancy focusing on innovation and marketing strategy. Braden is also @innovate on Twitter.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Interview with Kodak CMO Jeff Hayzlett

by Adam Burns

Here are some excerpts from my video interview with Jeff Hayzlett, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of Kodak:

1. Are you a big believer then in this leadership idea of good leaders ask good questions?

Absolutely. I think good leaders, more than anything, listen. I think that's the most attribute to being a leader. Asking questions is one thing and asking the right questions is good, but to listen, to really hear what the real answers are, I think, are real key, because they're usually buried in there somewhere, so you have to listen very carefully. I think that's that best thing a leader can do.


2. Having an outsider's perspective and a very "can do" attitude, I've read and seen quite a few interviews with you previously. You've also very much entrenched yourself in the Kodak Company law. You know the history of the product. How do you balance those two tensions within yourself? How do you make sure that keep your outsider's perspective, plus being the company man?

When you say "being the company man or company person," it's more about I know the core tenants of the brand and the core tenants of what George Eastman started to do. So when I first came to the company, and I was already a big fan before, but when I came to the company, I read everything I could get my hands on. I read his biography. It was one of the most important documents and I got a sense if who he was and how he really made things very simple.

I thought, "If we can carry that forward, wouldn't it be a great thing? How can we bring those things that were so tantamount to what he thought the company should be, like push one button and we do the rest?" That translated itself into the EasyShare sub-brand, in terms of making an easy share. So we wanted to do the same thing with our printers, our cameras and our commercial print products. We make them so easy that anyone can really operate them or make them so easy that we make ourselves so easy to do business with.

So that's a big part of what we have to do, at the same time, challenge that. So ask the product teams, "How are we making this simple? How are we getting this easier for the customer? How are we eliminating the filters when we start talking to our customers? Why can't we get on Twitter? Why can't we get online? Why can't we design products more directly with our customers?" Those are the kind of questions, but, yet, keeping the core things that are important to our value, as a brand, at the forefront? I think that's important to do.


3. Absolutely. That "push one button," is almost perfect for today, isn't it?

It's brilliant. This guy, George Eastman is brilliant. He had some personal issues, if you get to know who he was as a man, but he was truly almost a savant, in terms of the way he did it. He wrote his own ad copy. He designed the business. He had major problems when he first launched where he put out photographic plates and they went bad. You know what he did? He replaced them all. That's what somebody who is a good business leader does. So how can you bring that same sense of core of your beliefs all the way through the organization? That's really what we try to do.

We put together a program very early on when I joined the company, called "FAST," which stood for focus, accountability, simplicity and trust, which really means fast or speed. So even if we screwed up, if that's all we got out of it, was we went faster, and even if we screwed up, we did it faster. That was kind of our joke, internally, because we pushed all these people together and all these companies together when we first started doing the turnaround and the transformation, and things weren't working the way they should have been. So what we said was, "Let's do it fast. What is it I do inside the company, my accountability? What are the promises that I must keep for the company?" My five promises I delivered to my boss, the five that my staff delivers to me, the five that their staff - and so on and so on.

Then simplicity is just not a get out of jail card free, because we don't believe in that, but a permission slip to change things, because you have a big, big company and things are gonna be procedures and rules and policies, which you need, but really more as guidelines, not necessarily that they're law. So if you see a simpler way of doing it, and you're not breaking the law, then go ahead. Why not do those things?

Then "T" stood for trust, which, for us, is healthy debate, to be able to question the status quo and to say, "I think there's a different way of doing that," and then to be comfortable in the organization to challenge a senior executive and challenge the CEO at a town hall meeting. That's what we instilled in the company and I will tell you, five years prior to us joining the company, 10 years, 20 years, there is no way people would have done that. It was a very hierarchal organization that had different lunchrooms for different people on staff. It had conference rooms had that only executives of the company could reserve. Who has that? Things like that that we had to just say, "Does that make sense?" And just give permission to people to change those things.


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Adam BurnsAdam Burns is the Senior Editor of MeetTheBoss TV.

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Social Media Demystified

by Mike Myatt

Social Media DemystifiedIf you find all the noise around social media to be confusing, rest assured that you're not alone. If you're among the group of active users who no longer find it confusing, but still haven't hit your stride, you're also in good company. Blogging since 2002, being actively involved in digital marketing since the early 90's, and being online since the days of the ARPANET I have a bit of history with most things digital. What's interesting to me is that with every major advancement in the web comes a mixed bag of apathy, over exuberance, confusion, chicanery and even outright skulduggery that makes life much more complicated than it needs to be. In today's post I'll bust a few myths, reveal an evil secret or two, and share with you what you need to know in order to be successful with social media...


Understanding the Context

Let me cut right to the chase - business is fluid. Successful businesses adapt to market innovations and thrive, while those that fail to make iterative leaps fall by the wayside. With each major advancement in technology, communications, or business practice we find ourselves yet again at this all too familiar precipice. If you adapted to desktop computers, fax machines, cell phones and the Internet, then I suggest you need to view social media as the next progression on the continuim of advancement. When markets make a major move, you either move with them or get run over by them.


What the Soothsayers Want You to Believe

Have you ever noticed that profiteers seem to congregate around the complex, or at least what they can alter to appear as complex? Anytime new advances can be spun into something bewildering or beguiling there are fortunes to be won and lost. Regrettably, there seem to be legions of social media 'experts' who take great delight in unnecessarily complicating something that is really not complex at all. Allow me to let you in on an evil little secret - social media is really quite simple.

While I'm not going to deny that social media brings with it new tools, platforms and communication channels, I vehemently object to the premise that you need to morph into an uber geek or communications savant to learn to use them and to reap their many benefits. Spare me the complex charts & diagrams, and the trite commentary from the latest guru. What's needed is less smoke and mirrors and more common sense. As you'll see below, social media is nothing more than leveraging technology and resources to communicate with meaningful constituencies in meaningful ways - How could that possibly be a bad thing?


The Evil Secret Revealed

The simple reality is that social media has way more to do with common sense than it does with rocket science. Let me make this as simple as I can... social media simply provides you with tools and channels that allow you to extend your reach and better engage those with whom you wish to communicate. What's so complicated and confusing about tools that put you right where you've always wanted to be, and perhaps more importantly, right where you need to be?

Forget all the buzzwords and acronyms, social media is about meeting your constituencies where they are - in a setting of their choosing, and communicating with them on their terms. Social Media affords you an exceptional opportunity to listen, gather intelligence, build trust, engender confidence and credibility, publish valuable content and have meaningful dialog in ways that were once thought to be impossible. Social Media doesn't make things more complex, rather it reduces things down to the ultimate level of simplicity. It's really this simple... if it's not a priority for you to efficiently and effectively engage with your stakeholders, then you need to reevaluate your priorities.


The Key to Success

Success or failure in social media is nothing more than making a simple set of good choices. You must choose to get off the sideline and into the game, then you must choose to endure the learning curve, and finally you must choose to deploy the needed resources to be successful. Let me be very clear here - as the CEO or entrepreneur, YOU and not your legal counsel, marketing director, ad agency or PR firm must make this choice. Don't allow yourself to be dissuaded by conventional thinking, flimsy logic or uninformed opinions.

If you believe the hype, social media will immediately solve all your problems and require no time, energy or effort on your part. I'm always amazed at those who think all they have to do is launch a blog, create a LinkedIn profile, put up a Twitter page and open a Facebook account and all their business problems will be solved. If you buy into this line of thinking my guess is that it won't be the first time you've fallen prey to a failed initiative around the latest trend.

I always love the excuse "I don't have time for social media." Really? What are you so busy doing that you don't have time to build better relationships with precisely those individuals and groups who can help you achieve your goals and objectives? Social Media is no different than anything else in life in that you get out of it what you put into it. No effort yields no results, part-time efforts yield part-time results, and exceptional efforts lead to exceptional results.

Yes - social media will require an investment of time and resources. That said, prudent investments into social media serve as a force multiplier catalyzing both leverage and velocity simply not available via other mediums, platforms and channels. My advice is simple. Stop rationalizing and justifying doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons, stop whining & complaining and get in the game - do the right thing.


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Mike MyattMike Myatt, is a Top CEO Coach, author of "Leadership Matters...The CEO Survival Manual", and Managing Director of N2Growth.

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Companies Shouldn't Build Online Communities

by Boris Pluskowski

Companies Shouldn’t Build Online CommunitiesForget about Communities. Don't do it. Don't even think about it. Oh I know that communities are all the rage currently - companies are falling over themselves to create, build and own their very own communities: Communities of Employees, Communities of Customers, Communities of Interest Groups, Communities, Communities, Communities...

But with all of these efforts out there, how many of them are yielding real tangible results for the sponsoring organization? It seems that the very concept of communities is a flawed one for most corporations - leading to wasted time, money and effort - and I think I know why.

Let me explain:

I find that many, maybe even most, companies approach social media, and other online community projects - with very little, if any, forethought on how value will be achieved as a result of jumping on this particular bandwagon.

They seem to share a belief that value will just be created by the mere existence of a new online channel; that innovation will simply appear if you provide a new collaborative tool; that competitive advantage will be retained through the ownership of a new networking group. Yet, that's rarely ever the case.

Unlike in the movie "Field of Dreams" - you can build it - but they rarely come spontaneously - or if they do, they may well end up playing a jovial game of scrabble rather than a vintage MLB baseball game on the back lawn.

Even the word Community itself is somewhat flawed when applied to a corporate setting: Here's the Dictionary.com definition of the word:

community - [kuh-myoo-ni-tee] - noun, plural -ties.
  1. a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.
  2. a locality inhabited by such a group.
  3. a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists (usually prec. by the): the business community; the community of scholars.
  4. a group of associated nations sharing common interests or a common heritage: the community of Western Europe.
  5. Ecclesiastical. a group of men or women leading a common life according to a rule.
  6. Ecology. an assemblage of interacting populations occupying a given area.
  7. joint possession, enjoyment, liability, etc.: community of property.
  8. similar character; agreement; identity: community of interests.
  9. the community, the public; society: the needs of the community.

There are a lot of nice words and feelings in that definition. "A social group"; "common heritage"; "interacting populations"; "shared identity"... The word conjures up a nice warm vision of a collection of friends and associates sitting around a fireside or, for the more cynical among you, images of suburban old age homes in Florida and Arizona maybe.

As I look at that definition however - I ask myself - where's the value in that for a company? Where does it get created? Augmented? Shared? Delivered? Whichever way you look at it, communities are about people gathering with no set agenda or action in mind - so why would a company invest/waste resources to simply enable random conversations amongst a group of people? At best, it's an exercise in corporate branding to be associated with a particular conversation topic; at worst it's an exercise in wishful thinking.

At the recent World Business Forum, held in New York City on Oct 6-7, 2009, Patrick Lencioni (founder and president of the Table Group, and a fantastically articulate and dynamic speaker incidentally) spoke to the audience about "What makes a good team?" One specific question stuck with me: "If you have a bunch of people who play in a sports team each week, really get on well with each other socially, gel as a unit, yet still manage to not win a single game - are they a good team?" Patrick asked with a mischevious look at the front row and a pause for effect. "The answer is NO - they're just a bunch of LOSERS!" (cue laughter and some nervous side glances between executives either side of me).

Whilst maybe declared a tad glibly by Patrick, the core message was clear, and it got me thinking about what had been bothering me with the concept of communities for so long: That lack of performance, of achievement, of purpose. It struck me that the relative value of the concept of communities to most organizations is not dissimilar to Patrick's example of a team that doesn't win - they are, in essence, losers. And why would companies waste time creating groups of losers?

It seems to me that the failure companies are making starts right at the beginning with a badly formed misconception as to what they really need - and it's not an online community - it's an online team.

It may seem as if I'm nit-picking or playing with semantics in making this differentiation - but consider what this simple change in mindset would mean to projects as you think about how to build a great online team instead of an online community. All of a sudden you add dimensions of:
  • Direction and Leadership
  • Shared Goals, Shared Failures, and Shared Successes
  • Ensuring Participation of Diverse Skill Sets
  • Tangible Achievement
  • Passion, Purpose and Loyalty

Whist still retaining all the collaborative, cooperative and creative structures usually associated with Communities.

I don't know about you - but I know which one I'd rather build! You tell me - What's the more powerful concept?


Editor's note: If you would like to save $200 on either this year's World Business Forum or World Innovation Forum, please register with discount code "innovate"


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Boris PluskowskiBoris Pluskowski is the Founder of The Complete Innovator where he regularly shares new ideas and best practices on how big companies can harness Innovation, Collaboration and Social Media to drive new sources of value throughout the enterprise.

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Earning Recognition and Respect

by Stefan Lindegaard

Earning Recognition and RespectIn Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell stated that it takes 10 years to become an expert in any given subject.

Many people actually reach this level. You might not be a professor or best-selling author, but you have probably worked long enough to become an expert in your given field - or you are on your way.

Yet, people having enough knowledge to qualify as a thought leader or expert do not get the recognition or credit they deserve - and often long for.

This is an interesting paradox. You work hard and at some point expect/hope to be perceived as an expert or thought leader, but it does not happen.

Why? The clutter of information and knowledge that surrounds us makes it so much more difficult to break through even if we have great, original ideas and an impressive knowledge base.

It is no longer enough just to qualify by knowledge to become an expert; you also need to know how to communicate and how to build a personal brand in order to become one.

I have spent more than 10 years on the topics of innovation and entrepreneurship. I am on the verge of breaking through and a recent incident prompted me to write this post and share my experiences and lessons as this might help others trying to figure out this paradox.

Obviously, this 'topic' is too broad to be covered in just one post so I will start out by sharing a few tips on what to consider if you want to be perceived as a thought leader or expert and then most likely follow-up with more posts.

Passion: You need to be passionate about what you are doing. I hope that this one is already in place for people who qualify as experts. If you decide to spend ten years on a given topic or business area then I really hope you have a passion for what you are doing.

Actually, I would argue that you could not deliver quality work over such a long period if you do not have a passion for what you do. Nevertheless, I too often meet people doing things they do not really like doing. I just do not get this...

Persistence: I remember when I started blogging several years ago. Sure, people will just come and read my thoughts. Nothing happened. Then, I got a couple of articles published in Strategy & Innovation, a respected newsletter from Innosight. Sure, companies will start looking into my services now. Nothing happened.

I started to engage with Twitter and became quite adept on social media in general. This helped drive some traffic to my blog. Sure, companies would now approach me. Things began to happen although slowly which I hope is also due to the current crisis :-). In May, I publish my first book, The Open Innovation Revolution by John Wiley & Sons, a respected, international publisher. I am curious what will happen afterwards, but the lesson here is very simple.

Nothing happens if you are not persistent.

Build a following: You do great work and you want to share this with the world. You might even want other people to help you spread the word on your work. Today, this starts by understanding how social media works. Personally, I use LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube as I focus on business topics. Others might also benefit from building a strong presence on Facebook.

Co-create with others: I recently opened up 15inno.com for other contributions on open innovation. The reason for doing this is two-fold. I really believe that sharing what is happening in the open innovation community helps this movement to continue growing. The other reason is that helping others getting recognition most likely also benefits yourself in the long run.

Be honest and 'share' yourself: I share private thoughts and lessons here. I do not have to, but I have learned that what many people really like is honesty as this reveals integrity, which again helps build authenticity. Thus, I also really appreciated this endorsement by Steve Shapiro, a great thought leader on innovation and business for my upcoming book:


"If you want 'open,' look no further. Stefan's open and (sometimes brutally) honest account of open innovation is refreshing. There is no B.S., theory, or fluff. You only get practical advice for making open innovation a reality in your organization. Let the revolution begin."

- Stephen Shapiro, Author, 24/7 Innovation; Chief Innovation Evangelist, InnoCentive


I am pleased by this as it really reflects my values of being open to helping others, working with a passion and being honest. You should try this approach as well.

What drives people to be perceived as a thought leader or expert? Money is probably on the list, but personally, my goal is to be able to work with things I feel passionate about, where I can continue to develop myself - and to get some recognition for this.

Can you relate to this? If so, then it would be great to hear about your experiences and insights...


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Stefan Lindegaard is a speaker, network facilitator and strategic advisor who focus on the topics of open innovation, intrapreneurship and how to identify and develop the people who drive innovation.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Good News Travels Faster

Good News Travels Faster
Image Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


by Kevin Roberts

Debate on the upside and downside of the Internet continues to rage, and won't be settled any time soon. I'm an upsider, and take the view that powering forward imperfectly beats staying still or rolling back perfectly. The liberating and involving nature of the Internet cuts creativity loose on such a fantastic scale, that I think we'll have the capability to fix the flaws as we go.

Recent research at the University of Pennsylvania through the New York Times is encouraging. It turns out good news travels faster than bad and that the positive emotion of awe travels fastest. Large scale awe-inspiring stories that make us see the world in a different way catch fire.

Make what you will of this, but 'emotional communion' of this kind suggests that people move towards positive change, and will get in behind it when it counts. A booster for the case that 'the glass half full' holds plenty of water.


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Kevin RobertsKevin Roberts is the CEO worldwide of The Lovemarks Company, Saatchi & Saatchi. For more information on Kevin, please go to www.saatchikevin.com. To see this blog at its original source, please go to www.krconnect.blogspot.com.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Messy But Successful Social Media

Social Media is Very Complex and Social Relationships Online are Messy and Erratic. But it Works When You Know How to Use It.


by Idris Mootee

Messy But Successful Social MediaRemember the saying about advertising that "I know half of our advertising spend is wasted, I just don't know which half?" I first heard about this quote 20 years ago and I think it is from 19th Century merchant John Wanamaker. I think I can comfortably say "I know 80% of my advertising spend is wasted, I just don't know the alternative..." The problem with TV and print advertising today is that it informs rather than sells - it rarely engages with consumers at all. Online ads are worse and currently lacking in brand advertiser value and their creative formats are outdated and ineffective.

What about social media? Consumer perceptions, social relationships and human behavior are messy, erratic, and maddeningly unpredictable. The debate on the effectiveness of social media to build brand and provide effective reach is ongoing. When marketers want to reach and engage audiences of social networks such as Facebook, they have two choices: buy advertising or start a social media viral campaign. Advertising on Facebook is of limited use we all know it. How often do you read or click on any ads on Facebook? But we read the wall, we click in the links published by friends and go to Cafeworld to pick up gifts. These connected worlds are like new found oil hotspots. It is not only important to understand who influences purchase decisions in online communities but also the degree of impact. I don't think we can use a broadcast paradigm if we really want to understand what it means.

Idea Couture's senior interactive designer Jackie Siddall was featured in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week. A WSJ writer discovered her story in our Noodleplay site and decided to publish her story. It is an very interesting one. It is about how Jackie was prompted by a Twitter post by the retailer that led to her purchase of a folding kayak for $1,900. She doesn't use that go to work, she rides a bike...summer, winter or fall.

Jackie Siddall and her foldable kayakThe vessel was one of about just 600 sold in 2009 by Folbot Inc., a small retailer in Charleston, S.C. "You can't buy that exposure," says the firm's co-owner, David AvRutick, who claims the incident speaks to the value of using social media for marketing when he was interviewed by WSJ. Mr. AvRutick says he dedicates about an hour a day - could also go to waste.

Mr. AvRutick says he regularly searches Twitter for tweets that mention kayaking and then sends messages to the people who wrote them. He connected with Jackie, the blogger who credited Twitter for exposing her to Folbot, after she posted a tweet that mentioned she wanted a kayak. Jackie later asked Mr. AvRutick via Twitter if he would send her some photos of her folding kayak being made, and he provided about 20. After it arrived, she says she decided to write a blog post about the whole experience.

Let me see if this works for me. I am looking for a Leica M8 so I will be posting that and see of anyone would contact me through Twitter or Facebook. Many brands are embracing social media. One success story is Starbucks. Starbucks official full-time tweeter is Brad Nelson and Starbucks isn't just any brand on Twitter, with Brad at the helm, they're doing many things right. A former barista, Brad is now manning the Twitter ship and he's responding to questions or mentions of Starbucks, trying to help customers find resolutions to their problems, and putting out fires left and right. Twitter will soon be part of a company's call center...scary.


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Idris MooteeIdris Mootee is the CEO of idea couture, a strategic innovation and experience design firm. He is the author of four books, tens of published articles, and a frequent speaker at business conferences and executive retreats.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How to Spark a Snowcrash & What the Web Really Does

by Venessa Miemis

It's been an interesting week, to say the least.

In a lot of ways, we all just pulled each other up to a new frequency, I think. We've been sharing our ideas and perspectives of our personal discoveries for a while now, and all of a sudden all these perspectives assembled into an insight that helped me understand why the human network is so important, and why building a personal 'trust network' is critical for moving forward in society. (For anyone new here, check out An Idea Worth Spreading post and comment thread as an orientation to this site and the thinking going on here.)

So the past few days have been spent thinking about what just happened, and how we can keep doing it.

I have realized what's happening here is that this blog has become a public learning community, where we are all literally learning how to learn. We are learning how to think in this new way. This new way of thinking, this 'network thinking', by default requires a network. We can't learn how to think in the new way alone. We can only figure it out through experimentation and collaboration. This is the "shift" everyone is talking about, the big thing that individuals and organizations "need" to operate in the 21st Century. We're revealing it, unfolding it, right now, together.

My takeaway of what this means and how to do it:


1. Create a personal 'trust network' for yourself first.

In order to understand the implications of the shift and to internalize it, you need to experience it firsthand. You can't tell your organization that you're going to be implementing "social media" and everyone is going to start "collaborating," and assume that waving a magic wand is going to make this happen. My experience has been that I had to learn what trusting and sharing means on my own.

That really sounds bizarre, and I feel a bit sub-human that it took me so long to re-learn how to trust someone and share resources. It's what we're taught as children, but apparently society does a good job beating it out of us.

All of us have a trust network already 'in real life'. It's your family and your close friends and colleagues, all those strong ties, and also your extended family, community, and coworkers, your weak ties. These people are crucial, they are your companions day to day. But what about people beyond your real life connections? Is there a way to extend our connections and build trust with strangers who have a diversity of backgrounds, skills, strengths, resources, and knowledge? People who could help us if we needed help? Could we establish a global trust network?

What I discovered through Twitter was that there are people out there who know what community means. Who really, truly know. These people have already internalized what a society could look like based on a cooperative model, and it seems that this is what's really going on on the web. Beyond all the superficial stuff out there, all the mindless entertainment and porn, at the core (or maybe at the periphery) is a community of...thousands?...millions?...of people who have jobs and careers and passions that they carry out "in the real world," but have already embraced the vision of a much different way of life that is based in trust.


And they are modeling it online.


What is actually happening on the web is an epic experiment in creating a new society.

When you hear people talk about this online "gift economy," and "building value and trust," and "sharing" - this is WAY beyond a new gimmick for your business. Please don't underestimate what's going on. This is actually people laying down the foundation and infrastructure for a new global economy. There is a movement that is slowly gaining steam as people are "waking up," and it has the potential to change the world.

That thing you think about before you go to sleep at night, when you say "sigh, if only the world was a little more like ________" - that thing is actually going on right now. It's terrifying and magical, because it means that there is hope. It means that we don't have to stand by and let the economy and education and government all erode and crumble around us as we watch from the sidelines. There's the opportunity to actually get involved, take charge of our own lives, and join in the experiment and see how to make it a reality. How to make it THE reality.

The beauty of the complexity of it is that in order to really reap the benefits of it, you have to participate in it genuinely, and in order to participate genuinely, you have to do it intentionally, and in order to do it intentionally, you have to understand it, and in order to understand it, you have to understand yourself, and in order to understand yourself, you have to learn how to give, and in order to learn how to give, you have to establish a network to give to.

It's a complex interrelated web, but it seems that establishing the network is a first step.


2. Share yourself.

This is the part where mindfulness comes in, and where you really have to start exploring the depths of personal Identity.

That's a lot to ask, and you may not have even asked yourself that question in a while. That's the point. If you were really going to live in a trust-based society - what would that look like? Who would you be?

There's a big path of self-discovery and self-reflection that goes on, there's a lot of confronting your beliefs and your ego, and it's painful sometimes.

For me, that is kind of the beauty of the web. It can help you to help yourself, if you choose to use it to that end.

And the way that 'it' helps you, is that PEOPLE help you. It's the people. It has always been about the people.

Why has our society become so jaded, so selfish, so afraid, so arrogant, so egotistical, and so greedy?

I think it's because our society doesn't give us many chances to share ourselves with each other. To really let our guards down and just be authentic, good people, who are not out for gain, who are not out to exploit each other in order to get ahead, but who just want to be able to freely exchange gifts and collaborate because it makes us feel good.

Society doesn't want this. You want to know why?


Because these things are free.


What does society reward? Cheating. Stealing. Exploitation. Fame. Big houses. Fancy cars. Executive titles. Material stuff. All these things are attached to something else. Something has to be sacrificed to get these things. And they often don't make you happy in the end. They're not who you really are, or what you really care about, but you do them because that's how it's set up, and we're just operating within the framework that exists.

But, there's this other way.

In this experimental society in which you can participate, if you want - people are a little more 'real'. People will give you advice, pass along a link they think might interest you, offer to collaborate on a real project, or exchange some information with you, for no other reason besides that it's "how THIS system works."

The precondition is trust. You can't buy trust. You can't force trust.

You earn trust.

You earn it by sharing your gifts. I don't know how to tell you what yours is. It took me years of exploration to find mine, but I can say from my firsthand experience on the web, that my trust network pulled me forward into the realm where I made the discovery. The search for self-identity that I've been on my life was actually aided by real people around the planet who I've never actually met.

The process of self-discovery is of course completely personal. I can only tell you that for me, starting my blog was one of my greatest tools. Writing my thoughts was a powerful way for me to practice thinking about what I think, and critically evaluate myself. The even better part is when other people started leaving comments on my posts, challenging the way I think, offering their perspectives, and making me rethink what I thought I knew. These conversations have been evolving for months, but each blog post resulted in people leaving comments that challenged my thinking further and further. Sometimes people disagreed with me, and sometimes I wanted to lash out and defend my thinking.

But instead, I tried to understand that other person's perspective, see where they're coming from, and imagine why they might think what they think. I tried to learn empathy. I think empathy is a critical emotion to develop in a trust society, and also a necessary one to help bring about 'the shift'.

The learning process that takes place during this self-discovery isn't just a discovery of self, but the discovery of self in relation to others. The thinking process becomes one that can encompass the idea of interdependence. I don't know how to explain this, but I can only say this "new way of thinking" involves a transcendence of ego. It is a mental model that assumes that problems cannot be solved alone, and that collaboration is not just desirable, but is actually a display of higher intelligence.

When you are able to put your ego aside, and realize that problems can only be solved by many, your mentality shifts from "I know the answer" to one of "How can I contribute to the solution?"

For me, when this started, it felt like a video game. I would send people links, or retweet people's stuff that seemed useful, and when I got a "thank you," it caused a little high. People were appreciating my contributions. When people would comment on my blog posts or retweet my posts to their networks, it caused a little high again, because again I was being appreciated.

As you start sharing more of yourself and your ideas, your art, your gifts, your insights, people will start to notice. You don't have to try to 'sell yourself'. You have to try to BE yourself.

There's a difference. And the difference gets noticed.

And the shift starts to creep into your brain, as this behavior becomes reinforced over and over and over again.

Every time someone shows you some appreciation for being you, even something as small as a retweet, a different kind of synapse starts firing in the brain.

We start getting rewarded for giving and for sharing.

We get rewarded for being our authentic self.

It starts to build self-confidence and self-esteem in a strangely gratifying way, because all you're doing is kind of having a good time, and just being yourself.

Just keep doing this.


3. Rewire your brain

In order to function in this new society, what it comes down to is that you need to kickstart your brain.

Beyond all the fun and giving and sharing is an actual restructuring of the way the brain works. We have to teach our brains how to process the type of information that now needs to be processed. Digital information. Information that has a place it needs to go in order to be useful. We are problem solvers, but we are also transmitters. We need to build a new brain.

This new brain is intuition based.

I actually think it's not a new brain at all, but the 'real' brain. I think what happens is that we start to unlearn some things, and then rediscover how the optimal brain actually functions.

I have read quite a bit of research on complexity science, evolutionary theory, neuroscience, and really so much more, so this isn't coming from a place of being uninformed, but there's something different about this brain.

Because it's intuition based, it defies description. It doesn't think hierarchically or in a linear way, instead it operates in patterns. It happens seemingly instantaneously. It happens through intention.

Someone gave me the example of reaching out for a glass. Do you think about all the muscles and movements involved in moving your arm, or do you simply have an intention for your hand to grasp the glass?

It's complex beyond reason, and blows away our current models of description.

It happens because we just 'know'.

I think what's happened to us is we have trained our brains to operate like machines for 100 years. We have been working in jobs that have set descriptions, with specific tasks and roles, and they box in our mind. I think our minds have actually struggled to form the linear paths to think in the linear way that typical organizations want us to operate in; following directions, following rules, doing repetitive tasks, regurgitating information.

But the brain doesn't want to work like that. It wants to work like a network. It wants to send ideas and information all over the place, jumping from synapse to synapse on multiple pathways. It wants to be contextual, relational, adaptive, and non-linear. It wants to imagine things, map new models, and revise itself constantly. I think it WANTS to be a learning machine. As we pick up on new ways of thinking about things and assembling information, new synapses form, helping information reach its destination faster and more effectively.

I started to think about the brain this way by watching the way information travels on Twitter. This was a huge help in shifting my thinking. I imagined each person as a node in a network, even imagining the people out there who I wasn't following. I tried to imagine EVERYONE who's on Twitter. All the humans around the world. I imagined we each operated as a switch and a filter.

As a switch, we each can decide where to allow information to spread into our network. (Keep toggling this example between how Twitter works and how the brain's neural nets work)

When we retweet, we expose our entire network of relationships to this particular piece of information. That's like flipping the switch 'on'. It fires the synapse. Or we can take no action, and the tweet just passes through the stream. The switch stayed 'off'.

In addition, we can also be a filter. We can add extra data to a tweet, leaving a short comment about it, or cc'ing specific people on it, or just sending it directly to people.

As we become more familiar with who we're following and who's within our human network, we individually get better at being a switch and a filter.

We become more discriminatory about what to tweet, what to retweet, and where to send information.

Like the brain that forms new pathways for effectiveness, we also learn to more effectively move information.

I think that the act of doing this in itself trains the brain. It teaches the brain to recognize itself. It's like you giving your brain permission to operate the way you're modeling the movement of information in Twitter. Your tweets don't get seen by the same people after every tweet, and you never know who is going to pick up your tweet and send it to their network. If the person is influential, they can cause a huge number of people to see your tweet, sending along all kinds of new and unexpected pathways. But the travel of a tweet is kind of random - you can't predict exactly where it will go or who will combine it with some other novel piece of information, it's just this organic process.

Now the interesting thing is when you stop thinking about tweets, and stop thinking about the screennames that are retweeting tweets.

Instead, think that you are sending an important piece of information. And think that your network isn't Twitter, it's human beings who need certain information in order for them to be able to solve problems. And then assume that you've got a pretty good read on the human beings within your personal network, and you have a pretty good intuition about who you should send that information to in order for it to get to where you think it needs to go and be seen and processed in order for it to have the most impact.

Now you're operating intelligently.

My little snowcrash was understanding this process of information travel. It's non-hierarchical, fluid, organic, and unpredictable. But it's a lot closer to how the brain wants to function than the way we usually use it.

I think that by observing how information moves in Twitter, by literally SEEING it, watching it, observing, we can teach the brain to recognize itself, and jumpstart this shift process.

It's said that "two neurons that fire together, wire together."

This is the snowcrash. It's the moment that a new connection, a new pathway, is forged in the brain. Or maybe many pathways. Maybe a whole new network of pathways. Maybe that 'lightning bolt' feeling is really what it looks like, just a ton of new pathways blazing across your brain.

At any rate, once your brain locks in this new set of pathways, you're in.

Now you're ready to start doing some reeaaalllllly interesting things.

I think this might be the way innovation works. It might be the way idea generation works. It might be the way creativity works. It's allowing the hierarchical thinking to loosen its grip on your brain, and let it do what it wants to do. I think it will start jumping in these non-lateral patterns and joining up ideas that you would have never thought to join before, because you have a whole new set of pathways to connect them.

And if your individual brain starts acting like that, and then you tune up your whole organization to that frequency and have a network of minds operating in this non-lateral way... well... the combined intelligence of a network like that seems pretty radical.


Conclusion

I wanted this to be an abridged version of the last post, but it seems like it has gotten pretty lengthy as well. I'm looking forward to your perspectives on the way I'm interpreting what happened, and for those that have had a similar experience, please share your version of how it happened and how you think the process can be accelerated.

I think our capacity to learn and grow is going to skyrocket once we start experimenting with building these new paths in the brain.

So, what I've covered here is three (3) concepts for boosting our intelligence:
  1. Build a web of relationships, of alliances, with people who will help us to grow and learn

  2. Initiate the process of self-discovery and self-awareness / mindfulness, and learn to share, trust and empathize

  3. Intentionally rewire the brain through watching its behavior modeled in the way information travels on Twitter

The other component that I'm going to cover in the next post is dialogue.

I've thought a lot on this, and the thing that's missing from this formula is the spoken word.

I'll get into the concept of orality and generative dialogue, but I think this is the other critical component for us to learn and challenge our minds. We have to engage in spoken 'debate', in a mutually respectful way, to share the way we understand things with others, and then get their perspectives and insights. Some of my greatest growth has happened during conversations that go late into the night, where my mind is stretched to new levels.

I generated what seems like a potentially powerful way to do this publicly online so many can learn at once, which evolved out of my thoughts for starting a Junto.

Sneak preview: Intelligent dialogue -> Chat Roulette format + livestream + Twitter backchannel

I'll explain more about it soon!


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Venessa MiemisVenessa Miemis is a Media Studies graduate student at the New School in NYC, exploring what happens at the intersection of technology, culture, and communication. Connect with her at www.emergentbydesign.com and on Twitter @venessamiemis.

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