Working Out Loud for a Better World – Part II

A friend sent me a story this morning that describes how officials in New York City have been frustrated with the city’s domestic violence problem, “Domestic Abuse Killings Climb as Murders Drop, Frustrating New York Officials.”  Among several issues, the story highlights the “spotty coordination and communication among the police, prosecutors, city housing officials and organizations that provide services to victims.”  This lack of information-sharing is not unique to New York City or any other jurisdiction.

I’ve often observed, quizzically, that a field so focused on “power and control” issues has so many power and control handicaps in addressing solutions associated with intimate partner violence.  One agency won’t share information with another for political reasons; one organization has a personal vendetta against another competing for funding; a national nonprofit has competing interests for exposure and support from a state and/or local nonprofits, etc.  Over the past two years researching how “things work” in this field, I’ve seen it all.  Power dynamics are at play that are counter-productive and antithetical to the mission of attempting to find real solutions to this social epidemic. But, I get it. The same fiefdom battles are present in corporate America.

Luckily, as an outsider to this work, I have a unique vantage point devoid of turf battles.  Also lucky for me, I have a decade’s worth of insight on how to engage a disparate community focused on a singular mission. Who knew my enterprise social expertise would serve me well in exploring innovative ways to make a difference on this thorny social problem?

Enter Yammer, the Microsoft Enterprise Social Network, and a risk-taking, progressive law enforcement agency comfortable working with partners to find solutions.

Serendipitously, I discovered the work the High Point Police Department (HPPD) was doing with its groundbreaking domestic violence program early into Big Mountain Data’s launch.  There were a number of programs and areas I wanted to explore with HPPD as an entrepreneur who had a lot to learn to get up to speed, so I invited the agency to join our Yammer network. I created an external network where we could focus on different projects and initiatives in a friction-free, egalitarian network. Over the past two years, about 40 different individuals have joined the network.  It includes law enforcement, film directors, university researchers, national experts on Domestic Violence, crime analysts, data scientists, producers, writers, and attorneys.  This unlikely team of allies came together to lend expertise to a number of projects we’ve been exploring.

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High Point’s current Police Chief, Ken Shultz, worked with us day-to-day for the first year or so on our various programs and initiatives as Deputy Chief.  I asked him if I could interview him on his experience with “working out loud.”  He was happy to comply.  “We’re used to working in groups.  We try to be very transparent with our community,” he said.  He admitted they weren’t sure what it would mean in time and resources to work so closely with us, but in hindsight, he said, “The work has been very successful.  The initial work we put in answering your questions has paid off drastically.”  He spoke at length about how our involvement bringing so many players together has helped the department expand and develop even better relationships within High Point.

You’re an outsider, but you’re seeing people who might have solutions for us; you’re bringing people in from outside and getting them involved. That’s something we would not have been able to do on our own.  We didn’t know who these people were; we didn’t have that ability to connect so the more people that have been participating in Yammer, the more connections we’ve had and the more resources have been thrown at us and the more support we’ve been able to have. – Chief Ken Shultz, High Point Police Department. 

The magic of “working out loud” is the instantaneous access everyone has to the conversation, the explanations, the decision-making, and the answered questions that benefit everyone in the network.  In tech terms, we call it the “network effect” of the increased exponential value of the network’s shared knowledge with every added node.  In this case, the nodes are people with expertise to bring to bear on a difficult problem.  These are experts whose paths might not cross – ever in their careers.

What’s next?

The High Point Model has tremendous potential to make a serious difference on how communities address domestic violence. HPPD has going on six years of experience with this approach, and new sites are expressing interest in replicating what High Point has done, every day.  We’ve begun a “Replication Sites” group in Yammer where sites all across the country can join our network and learn from those already in some stage of progress.  Effectively, new agencies coast-to-coast now have access to the institutional knowledge already resident within our network with the added benefit of being able to ask direct questions to people on the ground making these changes in their communities. New nodes = greater intelligence and knowledge-sharing.

In an era where so many have become divided and intransigent, working out loud humanizes us.  It keeps the focus on the greater goal we all agree we want to achieve.  Solving the world’s toughest social problems will take a village of committed souls bound by a united interest.  Working out Loud provides a path and a way forward toward that end.

 

 

 

 

 

Working out Loud for a Better World – Part I

working out loudIt was about six years ago that the concept of “Working out Loud” started picking up traction in the blogosphere. It was an easy way to describe the contagious, fun way to work in a more transparent, generous, and authentic way.  Of course, you needed a platform to work out loud on, but the tribe who was following this new mode of corporate conversation, communication, and collaboration was already well aware of the power of enterprise social networks.

My friend, Bryce Williams of Eli Lilly, an inaugural member of The 2.0 Adoption Council and later a Change Agent as well, had attended a panel at the 2010 Enterprise 2.0 conference, and heard the term used loosely to describe this new phenomenon.  Bryce, a regular blogger, then remixed the phrase to create an entirely new way to look at working collaboratively in a large enterprise social network.  His original blog post describes his thinking.

Of course, the purpose of the Council in those days was to accelerate learning and sharing, so it wasn’t long before others started remixing and re-purposing what Bryce had started.  The most notable WoL champion today is my hero John Stepper who left his investment bank day job to strike out on his own mission to spread the love of Working out Loud to the ends of the earth.  John’s book, Working Out Loud: For a Better Career and Life has become the revered playbook for this fast-growing movement. (There’s a web site too.)

We’ve been saying in the Change Agents Worldwide network, that we can “feel the tide is turning.”  Last week was international #WOLweek, and while scanning the post-election news, I serendipitously stumbled upon this incredible photo on Twitter:

This 8 x 12 foot sign was literally affixed to an office building in Sri Lanka. Who would have imagined in those early days, circa 2009, that this could possibly result from a group of like-minded, random people who came together to improve the world with enterprise social networking technology?  I could.  

The big story behind the phenomenon of this worldwide movement is just starting to unfold. Of course, talk of a possible Slack IPO doesn’t hurt. But truthfully, Slack was late to this game (2013) and had been working somewhat independently of the community that fueled the organic adoption of social tools. The way had been paved by many that came before Slack took off.  For instance, McAfee’s seminal piece in MIT SMR is already a decade old.

I’m just as excited as ever about the possibility of enterprise social tools to improve life on the planet.  In fact, I kicked off my social impact startup, Big Mountain Data, using Yammer. Part II of this post is next that explains that.

Welcome to the future.

What is Your Network Telling You?

I caught up this week with Cai Kjaer whom I’ve known via the social web as one of the founders of Optimice.  We used Optimice at Change Agents Worldwide to map our core competencies within the network.  I’ve always been a big fan of Social Network Analysis (SNA), and feel we are leaving a lot of actionable information on the table when we don’t observe what is happening organically within our networks.  As just one example, ESN strategists spend a lot of time identifying who might be a good candidate to advocate for working socially, but a lot of this work is anecdotal, and champions are identified via word-of-mouth. Software can do this fairly easily once you map the activity on the network.

crossteamThe Optimice team has launched an analytics tool, SWOOP, that may help large networks reveal intelligence that is not intuitive or otherwise obvious.  The software platform is the result of over a decade’s worth of consulting mapping organizational networks. At present, the team is working with Yammer and Chatter networks, but they have plans to work with more large-scale ESNs.

For large enterprises that view the ESN as the foundation for culture change, quality improvement, and innovation, it’s more or less a no-brainer to employ a tool like SWOOP. Some of the ESNs already have fairly sophisticated analytics, or at least used to, last time I checked.  But Yammer, in particular, has experienced explosive growth now that it’s free with O365, and the analytics are really weak. Something like SWOOP has not been available to its large communities until now, AFAIK.

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The good news around this software is there is a lot of interest in introducing the power of SNA to large enterprises, but there hasn’t been an easy way to do that without expensive, complicated consulting.  With SWOOP, at a low price/seat investment, you can immediately start “listening” to what your network is telling you. The power of SNA becomes more attractive when you can start identifying how your network can save you time and money.  It’s not just eye-candy, in other words. Kjaer likes to say, “Collaboration is a contact sport.” So true. When you can look at connections cross-organizationally, and see data that reflects the role individuals are playing within their groups, you have a guidepost, a key performance indicator of sorts. Moreover, the ESN starts to take advantage of the potential for “emergent” behaviors that got the original Enterprise 2.0 champions so excited. (Myself included.)

I will be watching this area with much interest.  I’ve already got some ideas of how SWOOP can make a difference among some successful ESN customers already.  If you want to give the platform a try, you can sign up for the company’s free benchmarking tool.  I’d love to hear your progress.

 

 

 

 

Are Social Practitioners and Evangelists Truly Different?

My friend, Alan Lepofsky, has always made this point, “Social people are different.  The rest of the world is not like us.” Ironically, Alan and I get into the most hair-splitting among our pro-social circle of friends, but I’ve come to understand he is absolutely right about this. “We” are a different breed.  The online spirit of generosity, kindness, sharing, transparency, a first-instinct of collaboration is unique to a small tribe that discovered and advocated for social technologies in the enterprise. When we try to introduce these tools to our friends, our family, new clients, other colleagues, it falls flat.  It’s “2.0 adoption” all over again. It’s made me wonder if we truly are different. Are our brains wired differently?  I’d love to test this with a social scientist. My hypothesis is we have a “giving” gene.

My French friend, Cecil Dijoux, whom I’ve come to know via the social web apparently sees the same phenomenon.  In this video, he refers to us as “Asbergers” which he picked up from the Silicon Valley HBO series where it was meant to be “weird.” Of course, Asberger’s is a serious condition on the Autism spectrum, but I grok the sentiment. “We recognize each other by the way we think and talk.”

It’s unusual to want to change the world, or to pursue a purpose with passion at work. It’s counter-intuitive to behave in a way that benefits a group vs. our own self-interest (exclusively).

I’ve always believed there were more of “us” than “them” if only we could get the message out to the rest of the world about the freedom and joys of working socially. Effectively, once you start working this way, it changes your worldview. You become more empathetic, less self-serving. Lately, I’ve become cynical. I never thought I’d lose my faith in humanity to do the right thing, but as the years go by, the more I think I simply just want to connect to the other “giving gene” people.

If you know what I’m talking to about, let’s connect. We may not be able to change the rest of them, but if we add more nodes to our team, we will have meshed together our own social network of like-minded, giving people. And that’s a beautiful thing.

Rethinking Work is a Social Contagion

It’s about that time again. We’re prepping for our annual year-end board meeting coming up in a couple weeks. Last year, our first year in business, I bought a copy of REWORK – the brilliant startup book by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson – for each of our partners and told them to read it before the meeting. As I sat down to write my first column for the Huffington Post in this new section, “ReWork: Rethinking Work and Well-being,” I thought about that coincidence. The six of us who launched the business weren’t really sure what we wanted to do specifically when we started. We just knew we all shared the same values and that we knew a lot of other people around the world who did too. REWORK, the book, gives you permission to ignore the experts, listen to your heart, make mistakes, and adjust your business strategy as you map to the market opportunity. We followed a lot of advice in that book, such as not having investors, not getting bogged down in a lot of tedious (and most likely wrong) strategic planning, and ensuring that we focused on our point of view and our beliefs vs. discrete products and services. The book’s guidance was fundamental to the success we experienced this year. I highly recommend it for all startups. As we prepare to reconvene this year, I’m happy to report we had a great year, and can actually afford to meet in a fancy Conference Center.

It seems everyone is rethinking what it means to work these days. Our company’s mission centers on questioning everything about the soullessness that engulfs enterprise culture and the enterprise worker today. The popularity of our message has enabled us to connect with people all over the world who are looking thoughtfully into what it means to work in the 21st century. One of my favorite finds is an ex-McKinsey consultant, Frederic Laloux, who confided to me after decades of high-end engagements, “I just couldn’t work for these toxic companies anymore.” Laloux left his job and spent three years researching and writing “Reinventing Organizations,” a book that joyously unravels and recasts everything he was trained to do as a leading management consultant. His book has become so popular, he tells me he’s had to hire an assistant to manage his inbound email. The time is ripe for a revolutionary change in business, and we need many more Laloux’s to come forward with big ideas.

Similarly, we find today’s new workforce generation starting out skipping the tedious, soul-sucking work of the corporate elite. My daughter graduated at the top of her NYU class in ‘13. Not one of her close friends in her top academic circles chose investment banking, MBA school, or an entry-level job with a corporate icon or management consulting firm. They’ve all chosen NGOs and nonprofits, including my daughter. The best example I discovered recently within this cohort is the three young founders of Bayes Impact: Andrew Jiang, Paul Duan, and Eric Liu. All three have highly accomplished technology skillsets and backgrounds very much in demand. The three chose to forego Silicon Valley’s vapid seduction of personal wealth creation and channel their superpowers into creating social change. At 26, Executive Director and Co-founder Jiang tells me, “If most people’s plans are to start a company, be successful, and then do the thing they want to do… well, we just skipped those first two.” As a nonprofit, Bayes Impact focuses on serving the “ignored spaces” of social change like poverty, criminal justice, education, and global health with world-class data science solutions. As Jiang says, “A couple of individuals can entirely transform a space.”

For every old-world Enron and every new-world Uber, with their questionable ethics and management practices, there are new voices and new companies out to break with the tradition of greed, exploitation, and burnout. Rethinking work and well-being is taking root within professional ranks everywhere – and it couldn’t come a moment too soon.

The Power of Community Comes to Life at SAP’s TechEd

marilyn and craig
Marilyn Pratt and Craig Cmehil, both SAP rock stars, embody the spirit of SAP TechEd.

Walking down one of the cavernous halls at the Palazzo hotel in Las Vegas, we approached one of my Enterprise Irregular (EI) colleagues, David Dobrin.  Dobrin looked surprised to see me and said, “What are you doing here?”  I said, “I’m here to learn!”

Yes, I attended my first SAP TechEd this week and this is where learning happens.  TechEd is in four cities around the world this year: Shanghai: March 13–14, 2014Las Vegas: October 20–24, 2014Berlin: November 11–13, 2014 and Bangalore: March 11–13, 2015.  An “elder” explained to me that TechEd is the physical manifestation of the online community that lives 24/7 around the world in SAP’s SCN community.  The earliest form of SAP’s SCN was launched in 2002.  The community has shape-shifted over the years to become the glue that ties together customers, mentors, evangelists, partners, and every member of the SAP ecosystem.

I was encouraged to attend TechEd by everyone’s favorite community host and star community advocate, Marilyn Pratt.  Between Marilyn and another one of my EI brethren, Craig Cmehil, the inimitable SAP evangelist, I knew I’d be in good hands to learn as much as possible from the community who turns out for SAP TechEd.  As a newbie to the space, my challenge for this trip was to get a better understanding of all things big data and data science.  My hosts, Mike Prosceno and Andrea Kaufmann did a fantastic job lining me up with SAP experts with whom I could share ideas and get a better understanding of how SAP was solving customer problems with big data via its HANA platform.

So what did I learn?

On Tuesday, I tagged along with Marilyn who was introducing Megan McGuire, lead for Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF)‘s new eHealth Unit, to various individuals and groups within the SAP community. The goal was to see team2 how SAP’s technology could further assist McGuire in her ambitious aim to provide timely, accurate information, monitoring, and accessibility for all MSF projects in 26 countries.  The challenges associated with data collection, language differences, data formats, even stable connectivity in remote regions all complicate MSF’s goals of going “digital.”  In understanding the complexity of the work MSF set out to achieve, I could see easily how this could translate to any large organization.  What was particularly interesting to me in the MSF approach was its emphasis on design thinking to frame the approach.  MSF’s strategy was designed in collaboration with ThoughtWorks which has an emphasis on disruptive technology for social good and change.  In the evening, McGuire was treated to the talents of about 75 SAP developers who formed teams and participated in a 4-hour data visualization challenge using MSF data and SAP’s Lumira data visualization tool.  Although I didn’t participate on a team, I was encouraged by how quickly the teams – many of whom had never used SAP’s Lumira – were able to start finding insights in the data.  Again, getting a real-time view into the challenges associated with data formats provided a number of teaching moments.

On Wednesday,  I met with several SAP experts and customers who were all taking advantage of the HANA platform.  One of the most interesting was Enakshi Singh, a neuroscientist, who is working with Stanford University on Genome research.  Singh told me that with SAP HANA, researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine are able to collapse the time to analyze large genome variant data from days to minutes and even seconds. The speed of the platform is accelerating learning and new discoveries around the world in the important work related to understanding the human genome.  I also met with Byron Banks, another one of SAP’s big data experts.  Banks and I discussed some of the challenges associated with what I’m aiming to do with Big Mountain Data.  He was generous with his insights and it was obvious to me how much commercial application of big data and data science can be applied directly to solving some of society’s greatest challenges.  I found the same spirit of generous giving at a luncheon hosted by Moya Watson, another SAP Mentor.  Moya gathered a number of SAP friends and fans (customers) who are interested in advancing technology for social good.  The discussion was exhilarating  and chock full of great ideas.

duke appFinally, I met with an enthusiastic team from Duke University who’ve created a real-time app to collect and present stats related to the famed Men’s Duke Basketball team.  With help from NTT Data, Duke’s athletic department was able to complete a “passion project” begun by a former Duke employee who aggregated all Men’s basketball data dating back from the early 1900s.  The project resulted in the first fan-facing data visualization and analytics tool in collegiate-level athletics. All the data is stored in the HANA cloud and presented via SAP’s Design Studio which was deployed natively on HANA.  The team’s project, which goes by the hashtag: #DukeMBBStats, will launch November 14, just in time for the new season.

When thinking about the SAP TechEd experience, it occurred to me how valuable an asset the SAP SCN community is to SAP’s business.  In the cacophony of over 7,000 visitors to the show, the attendees seemed to all “know each other”  in that way only a strong community can bond individuals.  The community creates an experience with the SAP brand that enriches professional development, loyalty, and spurs innovation.  Where SAPPHIRE, which I have attended many times, focuses on new SAP announcements and a concerted effort to connect with customers, SAP TechEd is an event by the SAP community for the SAP community. It was difficult to tell who was an SAP employee, a partner, or a customer.  It was just a blur of passionate people sharing and learning from their friends and colleagues.

The best lesson I learned in Las Vegas?  This will not be my last TechEd.