Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Chasing Stars and Socialism


   I didn’t manage to do any posting on the World Cup prior to England’s demise (I was leaving it to the finals!) although I did manage one tweet during the match we did play reasonably well in (can’t remember who it was against now which shows how much I like football):

“How can a team of people perform so differently at different times? #england (the value of performance improvement vs performance management”


I was really just thinking about how much peoples’ performance can change in a short period of time, and the range of subjective and intangible factors which contribute to the difference.  Hence performance improvement.  And then contrasting this with measuring and ‘managing’ performance (as in performance management) which I don’t think can contribute as much.

But I could have been referring to the performance of the team, as I think all those factors that make performance improvement difficult for individuals and magnified significantly for a team.  I though this article by Lane4 in Human Resources magazine summed it up quite well.

But not as well as this (from the Evening Standard):

“According to former England winger John Barnes, South American success and Fabio Capello's failure in South Africa can be explained by one thing. Socialism.

"Football is a socialist sport," he explains. "Financially, some may receive more rewards than others but, from a footballing perspective, for 90 minutes, regardless of whether you are Lionel Messi or the substitute right-back for Argentina, you are all working to the same end.

"The teams which embrace the socialist ideology rather than having superstars, are the teams that are successful. Or if there are superstars they don't perceive themselves to be that. That's why I use Messi as an example. As much as he's a superstar he respects his team-mates and their collective efforts."

"Players from other nations when they play for their country are once again a socialist entity, all pulling in the same direction," he tells me from a dressing room at Supersport's studios where he is an expert analyst on the World Cup. "The most important thing for every Brazilian player is to play for Brazil.

"It doesn't matter if he plays for Milan or Manchester United. A Brazilian who puts on that yellow shirt feels the same as the man next to him in that yellow shirt. They have a humility to the shirt. It is not the same for those who wear the Three Lions."

For Barnes, the answer is simple.Whether Capello remains in charge or not, England have to start playing as a team and lose the tag of the Golden Generation.

"We have empowered our players so much that they are superstars at their clubs. Too many have been put on pedestals and treated as untouchable.

"Look at John Terry after the Algeria match. He comes out and tells you what the problem is. But he doesn't see himself as part of the problem."

"Spain has an identity. If you black out the faces and don't know who's playing, you can still say this Spain because of the way they play. You can see Brazil because of the way they play. We haven't got a method. We need to create an identity."


It’s not that new a point (think the Real Madrid Galacticos) but it’s the most intelligent thing I’ve heard a footballer, or many a business leader, say.

And that’s why I want to do this post.  I think the general points that John Barnes makes apply just as much to business as they do to footballers – we’ve been chasing superstars as well.  And there’s a lot of evidence to suggest this works just as poorly in business as it does in football.

The best of this come from Boris Groysberg and I’m currently reading his new book, Chasing Stars.

You probably realise that I’m an avid reader, but I’ll admit I’m finding this book quite hard going and unless you’ve got a really deep interest in this research, I’d stick to Groysberg’s SMR article ‘When Stars migrate, do they still perform like Stars?’, or even just this blog post by Bob Sutton.

Basically, the research suggests that stars are only stars because of the context they work in and particularly the network (or team) that backs them up.

So do we need a more socialist approach in business too?  You’ll probably know my answer because that’s largely what this blog’s about!  But I’d be interested in yours as well.


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Monday, 28 June 2010

HR and Communities (Talking HR 029)

   Yes there was a reason why I suddenly did those two posts on communities (1, 2): so that I could refer to them in tonight’s podcast on the role of communities, their importance, their management (or facilitation!), and also on the HR function’s role in supporting them (see this post at Strategic HCM).

For this show, Krishna and I were joined by Claire Boyles from Management Matters.  Thanks a lot, Claire, it was great speaking with you.

You can listen to the archive here.


Picture: Community Maturity Model from the Community Roundtable


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Enterprise 2.0: Social Media and Community


   The second session on communities was a panel led by Rachel Happe, Principal at the Community Roundtable and featuring:

  • Eran Barak, SVP, Global Head of Community Strategy, Thomson Reuters
  • Matt Johnston, VP of Marketing and Community, uTest
  • Michael Petillo, Enterprise Sales & Marketing Systems Leader, W.L. Gore
  • Megan Murray, Community Manager/Project Coordinator, Booz Allen Hamilton


The terms social media and community are often used interchangeably but they are not the same thing. One has a heavy emphasis on social content and the other is focused on building a tight network of relationships. So which approach is the most appropriate? It depends a lot of the type of relationships desired with the targeted constituent group. It also has a huge impact on operations -- tools, integration needs, policies, processes, and the management techniques employed. Come find out why this distinction matters and learn how three different types of companies are approaching the challenge of socializing their organizations.


Supporting the earlier workshop, the panel agreed that the word Community tends to be used too freely.  Communities aren’t just loosely affiliated groups.  There’s a difference between a crowd and a community – communities have deeper levels of connection and trust.

However, the key focus of this session, for me at least, was that choices re community depend on the context – whether the situation is B2B. B2C etc.  There are lots of choices but no right answers.


Eran Barak discussed Thomson Reuters support for tons of microcommunities (300k members in 6000 companies) all with different needs that the company is bringing together for content and expertise, forming an ecosystem

Matt Johnston talked about his community of 30,000 software testers that basically form the uTest business.  Community management is critical but they only have 2 people to manage it.

Michael Petillo explained that Gore has a social organisation the introduction of technology. It has a unique culture which influences all of their interactions internally with other associates and externally with partners and customers. It governs how they work together and collaborate.

Megan Murray talked about Booz’ which includes 495 internal communities, 25k people, most outside the building, working in a partnership model (also see my conversation with Thomas Stewart about this).  Booz consultants have different areas of focus but overlapping skills.  However the firm found finding people difficult so it created social spaces to make this happen.  People also come together around a passion or a problem – things they are interested in the most.  You put together new person x and new person y and this may result in a new capability all together.


Some of the key points made by the panelists include:

  • The distance between nodes - how connected and how tight it is - influences how fast the community can move.
  • There is value in lexiconical analysis of what community members are saying – it provides context of what you want to achieve.
  • Managers often worry about people engaging in chit chat.  But often this is part of something else, eg the post mortem of a business transaction  And the chit chat is what leads to trust – not the transaction.
  • You can identify the NPV of a network by how many connection there are, how often people tweet, and by identifying the people who connect one part to another – structural holes, weak ties etc.
  • It’s useful to identify the influencers of broadcasters – the broadcasters don’t have time but the influencers probably do.
  • You can’t be prescriptive - forcing people into groups is a recipe for disaster.  When you’re setting up space you can be specific about what needs to get done but allow room for emergence.


You might like to check out the Rountable’s own link to the session – which includes a pic from my own conference proposal (not sure why!):


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Enterprise 2.0: Communities aren’t sites, they’re people


    The first session on communities at the Boston E 2.0 conference was part of the Black Belt Practitioners workshop on the first day:


Community Roles and Adoption Planning (Stan Garfield – Deloitte, Luis Suarez – IBM)
  • Stan is community evangelist for Consulting at Deloitte Touche where he leads the SIKM Leaders Community with over 400 members globally and Luis is Knowledge Manager, Community Builder and Social Computing Evangelist at IBM
  • Communities behind the firewall are groups of people who share specialty, passion, interest, roles, concern, set of problems. Communities are living organisms so very difficult to manage
  • Community members deepen their understanding of the topics by interacting, asking questions, sharing knowledge, reusing ideas, solving problems together, developing better ways to do things
  • People join a community to share, innovate, reuse solutions, collaborate, learn from others


Luis Suarez started the session by explaining that whereas some people feel every group is a community, this isn’t the case.  Communities need a shared passion about a common interest.

Most of the session was the taken up focusing on Stan Garfield’s Communities Manifesto and some of the key points from this, eg that communities should be independent of organisation structure – people shouldn’t be forced to join, so that members want to be part of the community.

I particularly liked this slide examining the differences between communities, organisation sites and teams:



Luis and Stan also provided suggestions for community building programmes.

Firstly, you need to find a compelling topic.  This needs to be made interesting.


Most importantly, communities need to be facilitated, actively nurtured – they won’t necessarily expand naturally.  People set up communities and 2-3 weeks later find them dead - people wonder why.

We need to ask them have you engaged people?  Have you provided the opportunity for the community to have community activities?

Communities need to be nurtured ever day, every hour of the day, by engaging with them and providing a plethora of activities - including physical activities.  Web 2.0 tools aren’t enough.

They need good content to ensure good health but this is only part of the solution.  You need to focus on connections, and help people connect with each other.  Connecting people with content and other people.  Focus on the interactions between people.


One key question is who is going to lead the community – and this could be several people  - these need to have passion for topic and time to build and sustain it.

When selecting a leader it’s useful to watch peoples’ communications.  Who are the hubs / connectors / mavens?  Who do people trust? – go to for advice?

But note, the best conversation leader may not be best facilitator.  So they’ll need coaching and up-front training.  And you can then have a community of community leaders.


Another interesting point was that lurkers are valuable.  Without them, we often wouldn’t have a community.  And they may eventually move from being passive consumers to active producers.


Communities generally manage themselves, ie the “we” eg if people post inappropriate content.  It’s not something the community manager needs to get involved in.


You can never communicate enough about a community, eg communicate to the community what is happening in the community.

And cross-pollinate across communities.


Note, because of the differences on the slide above, particularly I guess the lack of a clear purpose, managing a community takes more effort than managing a team.

However, it is potentially more valuable as well.  Communities provides a reason to stay in the company – they reduce attrition rates.


Of course, as Luis and Stan noted, communities have always been there - for decades.  We all have a very natural need to participate in communities – we want to bond with people.

But I’m not sure they’re often that actively created or managed in most organisations…


I thought this was a really engaging and interesting session.  While the presenters were talking I was thinking about a community that I’ve been ‘managing’ recently – called ‘Moon Shots’ this is a ‘community’ of 250 management regades bought together by an interest in Gary Hamel’s writings on management innovation.

Only it’s not really a community – a result of me not really managing it.  So I’m probably not going to continue it when ning changes its conditions next month. 

Yes, I’ve got the passion, but I’ve been a bit short of time.  And I’ve never really thought that much about my role - so these guidelines from Luis and Stan would have really helped as well.



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Thursday, 24 June 2010

Social branding


  One of the things I want to talk briefly about on tomorrow’s Employer Branding webcast is my idea of ‘social branding’.

I still need to do more thinking around this before tomorrow, but I’m going to suggest that as well as an EVP and employer brand, companies need to think about their ‘Social Value Proposition’ (SVP) and ‘social brand’.

Why?  Because more and more of what we do at work is about our relationships with other people.  It’s why I’ve included ‘people’ as a major element in my EVP model for so long, and why I’ve argued that people and relationships need to be a major focus of engagement surveys.

But it’s more than this.  It’s not just about how organisations treat their people.  It’s how people treat each other.  What’s our offer to our colleagues and others we work with?

And this is different to an EVP because it’s not about what’s done to us, it’s about what we do with each other.

And I suspect it’s going to be an increasingly important enabler for engagement as well as collaboration and productivity.


Of course, I realise this is probably just going to result in increased confusion.  Those who have come across social branding before will link it to either and ethical focus or the simple use of social media.  But hey, there’s nothing I can do about that.


What do you think?  Any ideas for the factors that should be included in a SVP?

Or is this idea just nuts (it’s probably not too late to take out the slide!).




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  • Thursday, 17 June 2010

    Enterprise 2.0: Sharepoint – an all-or-nothing decision?



    There’s been a lot of focus on vendors at the E2.0 conference.  From my point of view, too much focus (particularly the product demo ‘keynotes’), although actually still less than I thought there’d be.

    One of the things that has come through very clearly to me has been the degree of overlap between systems.  Walking through the exhibition, I found it fairly difficult to distinguish most of the systems from each other (although if I’d come armed with some specific requirements, I’m sure I would have been able to use these to create a quick shortlist).

    One that stands out is Microsoft’s Sharepoint, particularly the new 2010 release that’s on show here.  The session I’m currently in has concluded that Sharepoint is usually going to be there, for information storing and sharing, but that it’s social features are still quite weak and that there’s little in it to spark conversations (without extensive customisation such as in Microsoft’s own Academy Mobile).

    It’s why Newgator won the Vendor Idol session – given its deep integration with Sharepoint, at least companies can use this and have something decent for users vs IT to use (although all vendors seem to integrate with it to a greater or lesser extent).

    Note, my own experience contrasts with this view.  As an example, I’ve been talking to Unilever who have just implemented Sharepoint gloablly (and only 2007) as a enabler for social change.

    Anyway, it’s clear some of the systems do offer better social features, and are also much more attractive from a user perspective.  Given the fascination over peoples’ ipads here, it’s clear this is the new battleground.

    So my own vote goes to NGenera, a new entrant into the marketplace, with its Space system which was demoed earlier by IDEO who also inputted into its design, which shows.

    Cisco’s new QUAD system looked OK as well and I’m sure will be another powerful new entrant in this space.


    Other than sociability and usability, the other aspect of these systems I thought vendors would have been emphasising, particularly at this conference, would have been their use in socialising the business.

    This is something I’ve thought Jive has done well over the last couple of years, and came over fairly well in the keynote yesterday, although the sales push and loud music detracted significantly from this.  But Jive seems to have outsourced this creative piece to Dachis Group now which I think' is a mistake.

    The two companies that seems to be coming into this space from an earlier focus on HR are Saba and Success Factors.  Saba are rebranding their systems under the banner of Collaborative People Management.  And Success Factors are starting to integrate with their new acquisition Cube Tree – developing what looks like it will be a very comprehensive offer (my only worry is that it will end up being a ‘social ERP’ ie just too big and complicated).

    Anyway, ‘collaborative people management’: that’s what I think these vendors need to be about.


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    Wednesday, 16 June 2010

    Enterprise 2.0 tweet-up


       I’ve still got to catch up on my blog posts from the last two days, but I will post now on what’s been, as usual for me, the most important event: the tweet-up (I’ll get on photoshop when I get home):







    I could say this is anyone, I know, but trust me, this is:

    • @dankeldsen – information architect
    • @marciamarcia – Marcia Conner, author of the forthcoming book Social Learning
    • Me




    • Matthew and me at the Barking Crab.


    Thanks to Rachel @rhappe and the Community Roundtable for the inivite.


    Coming up:

    • More posts from the conference on Social Advantage:
    • A live blog on the HR 2.0 session (we should really just play a recording of mine and Matthew’s conversation last night) at Strategic HCM:



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    Tuesday, 15 June 2010

    Enterprise 2.0: IDEO and Innovation


       Andrew McAfee’s been talking about enterprise 2.0 and innovation, and the need to move from the centre towards the outer rings of his E2.0 target model to stimulate innovation.

    He’s just introduced Gentry Underwood, Head of Knowledge Sharing at IDEO who is talking about design thinking which mixes business, human and technology factors effectively to just about any problem we can imagine –including how technology can be used to make organisations more innovative.

    “As organizations look to stay competitive in an increasingly volatile marketplace, technology can play a part in becoming more innovative and collaborative. But where and when should these tools be used, and how do you get real value out of them? Gentry Underwood, head of Knowledge Sharing at IDEO, will share examples, strategies, and lessons learned from the employment of technology to facilitate broad-scale innovation.”


    There are three key principles:

    • Focus on people not the ideas themselves.  There’s value in process but at the heart of innovation is something messy that can’t be managed.  At the end of a process at IDEO they’ll have lots of ideas they’ll just throw away.  To an extent, ideas are cheap.  Empower people, not ideas.
    • How do we enable more people to work together with each other?  Create platforms for coalescence.  Innovation happens when collaborative people come together with a shared vision.  IDEO have physical spaces for people to innovate and can do this online as well (eg My Starbucks Ideas, Netflix Prize etc).  IDEO have well used blogging, networking systems and a wiki (IDEO Spaces).
    • Facilitate and reward participation.  Friction in the system stops people using it and the less people on it the less valuable it is.  The last system has been successful because they didn’t need to do anything special – have a password, attend training etc to use it).  Two key things have been a RSS type feed system.  And screen savers in their locations which cycle through the 20 latest status updates and has encouraged people to maintain their profiles.  This has led to a 97% take-up of their People Pages.



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    Enterprise 2.0: CSC and Social Collaboration


    DSCN2349   Next up Lemuel Lasher, President, Global Business Solutions Group & Chief Innovation Officer at CSC talking about setting up their Innovation unit:

    “CSC has had remarkable success with social business software through a strategic, award-winning initiative called C3 to connect people to people, connect people to content, and connect people to communities. This global social collaboration platform enjoyed early success during its pilot phase collapsing time zones, distance and organizational barriers, reducing business development time and driving revenue and innovation.”


    One of the difficulties getting this unit started was agreeing what innovation is.  For CSC it had to be a balance between creativity and discipline, leveraging the company’s intellectual capital.  It’s not just about great ideas, it’s about the business problems we all have.

    In CSC, these different elements were coming together like brownian motion, with no direction.  So Lasher focused on leadership, governance, process and enablement – and finally, the tools to support all of this.  And all of this needed to be looked at from a systems perspective (Senge).  Innovation needs to be socialised, externalised, internalised and combined (Nonaka and Takeuchi).

    Doing this required the next vs the best practices.  One of the key strategies was to get off Lotus Notes.  So CSC implemented Jive last year, renamed it C3: Connect, Communicate, Collaborate, led by Claire Flanagan, who has just ben promoted live on stage.

    This has become the defacto standard for the way they commnicate – they now have 48,000 people on the system one year after implementation.


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    Enterprise 2.0: Cisco and the Human Network @ Work


       We’ve just had a great session from JP Rangaswami from DT Design.  Next up Murali Sitaram, VP/GM Enterprise Collaboration Platform, and Jim Grubb, VP Corporate Communications from Cisco.

    For 25 years Cisco has been creating technologies that help them connect.  The latest development is Cisco Quad. 

    “Through compelling software solutions, we're establishing secure and meaningful connections between people, communities, and information, enriched by video, real time communications and enterprise-class social collaboration.”


    Bringing people together on these technology platforms creates the human network at work.  A dynamic network organisation.  Connected, constantly changing, powered by people and teams.

    This helps create products and services faster than ever before.  It’s also fundamentally enterprise-wide, and beyond boundaries of organisation – you can’t restrict innovation within boundaries.


    I think Cisco’s a great case study of the social business, but I’m not sure whether this is a keynote or a product demonstration (Quad, flip etc).  So, if you want to know more about the case study, see these previous posts:


    I’ll also be posting on Cisco’s other session at 2.15pm today.


    Although I wasn’t expecting a product demo in a keynote (I guess this is an IT conference, but even so…) I will say that Quad looks very compelling technology – a system that really puts people and relationships at the centre of business.

    It also saves me from having to go to the product demo over lunch!


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    Enterprise 2.0: Culture and the islands of Me and We


       Day 2 starts with a session on knowledge management, enterprise 2.0 and the cultural barrier by Carl Frappaolo.

    I had high hopes for this session because I think it’s the only one on culture, and I think this is one of the most important and least well understood subjects within E2.0.  As Frappaolo notes, lack of adequate culture and high barriers to adoption, are the root cause of many failures in knowledge management and related fields:

    “Enterprise 2.0 on the other hand promises to provide low barrier and organic approaches to knowledge capture, and embraces the open and transparent culture of Web 2.0. Is Enterprise 2.0 the salvation of KM or do cultural and adoption issues still loom? More importantly, is the functionality provided by these tools mature and robust enough to qualify as knowledge management, or only simple collaboration. This talk looks at the critical intersection of Enterprise 2.0 and KM, and asks the critical question – can E20 crack the KM culture and adoption barrier.”


    Frappaolo notes that culture is a slippery topic and means different things to different people.  He defines it as the sum total of attitudes, opinions, morals and ethics etc – the different going ons within a community, eg an enterprise. It’s separate to but influenced by process, technology etc.  It can drive processes or totally circumvent them.

    In Frappaolo’s view, technology isn’t going to change culture but cultures can act as a pull for technology (* I have a slightly different view).  So it’s important to understand the culture of the organisation that you’re starting with.  In some, E 2.0 isn’t going to work.  So Frappaolo identifies seven cultural types:

    • Islands of me: personal and organisational silos.  Siloed databases work well (not E2.0)
    • One-way me: I am collaborative but in a one-to-many approach. Shared silod repositories, email works well.
    • Team me.  Starting to accept the idea of we.  Shared repositories start to work.
    • Proactive me.  I consider a major part of what I do to be a team player.  Agents, portals, executive dashboards to push knowledge to people are readily accepted.
    • Two-way me.  I’m proactive about building communities.  Social networking is embraced.
    • Islands of we.  Cutting edge of culture.  Senior management buys into the idea of socialness.  A core competency.  Understand emergence.  Think modular and integrated ito IT.
    • Extended me.  Full transparency internally and externally.  Emergence, wisdom of crowds a key part of what they do. 


    * A personal view:

    Frappaolo’s presentation related to a question that’s often asked on E2.0 blogs: whether you need to change culture first, in order to set the ground for E2.0; or whether you can use E2.0 implementation to change the culture.

    To me, it’s the wrong question.  Firstly, because the objective shouldn’t be to implement E2.0.  The objective needs to be to do something valuable, whether this is to achieve business goals or to develop social or knowledge capital.  This will determine whether culture needs to change.

    Secondly, I have a slightly different definition of culture to Frappaolo.  To me, culture is about conversation.  So anything that changes the conversations taking place in an organisation changes the culture.  E2.0 is part of this shift.


    So I completely agree with Frappaolo’s conclusion: don’t try to change culture just through technology.  And don’t throw technology at groups who don’t want to be collaborative.

    A great session!


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    Monday, 14 June 2010

    Enterprise 2.0 conference: EMC’s business case


       I’m at the Enterprise 2.0 black belt workshop at the Enterprise 2.0 conference today.

    We started with a session from Jamie Pappas, E2.0 and social media strategist at EMC who took us through a process to develop a business case and get E2.0 sold in an organisation.

    Jamie’s advice included:

    * Define the goals – remember different groups care about different things (marketing, IT etc). Think about how these tie back to business processes and people – this will provide an answer to the dreaded ROI question as well (yes!, one of the points I’ve made frequently on this and my other blog is that measurement isn’t hard – once you’re clear about your objectives).

    * Sponsorship helps (although this doesn’t need to be from an Executive). EMC’s sponsor was Chuck Hollis, VP, CTO of Global Marketing and a well known who helped explain E2.0 to the company’s executives. They didn’t go to their CEO until they had use cases of things that would appeal to him, ie:

    • Positive financial results
    • Happy employees
    • Getting work done as effectively and as efficiently as possible.


    * Choose the tool – 80% of the ideal may be enough. EMC chose Jive because it’s

    • Easy to use
    • Ready to go out of the box
    • Not a huge learning – important in their culture.


    * Don’t underestimate the importance of education.  Not everyone is as interested in exploring these tools as the people in this room.  At EMC, people were upset while using wiki when people started editing their inputs!  Some suggestions:

    • Online and in person
    • Lunch n learn sessions, podcasts
    • Written and video tutorials
    • Train the trainer.


    EMC also include in their existing training programmes eg EMCU new hire and sales training programmes etc.  They include how to do it, but also EMC’s philosophy etc (why to do it).


    * Anticipate objections.  EMC still gets objections 3 years later (it’s not for business / won’t work / we don’ t have time / you don’t expect pay employees to socialise! etc)


    * Think about how to launch.  EMC went for the soft, WOM, viral approach – a pilot with a couple of hundred people.  Jamie says she told people not to tell everyone about E2.0 so of course they did – and as a result they had a few thousand users within just a couple of months.

    3 years later, 65% of the company are visiting the site.


    * Seed with great content.  People will make decisions within 3-5 seconds about whether it is worth going back to a community.  If there’s nothing going on then they won’t return.  Ensure there’s something interesting there from the outset.


    The technology infrastructure is less important – EMC’s community takes up just 60GB - less than the average laptop.


    Slides available at 

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    Monday, 7 June 2010

    Zappos - Delivering happiness


       I’ve been reading Tony Hsieh’s book, Delivering Happiness (like all of my book reviews, based upon a free advanced copy of the book).



    For those who don’t know (and there’s still a high proportion of HR people in Europe and elsewhere who don’t), Hsieh is CEO of Las Vegas based online shoe retailer, Zappos, now owned by Amazon.


    Zappos - HCM

    Zappos’ mojo / organisational capability is a slightly weird, family and customer service focused culture which is supported by a desire to increase happiness in employees, customers and others who come into contact with the company (for more of a feel on Zappos’ unique culture, watch this video on Zappos’ WOW! culture).

    Zappos tailors its HR processes to develop the human capital it requires to support this capability. For example, in order to ensure employees can relate to customers in a very human way, the company asks prospective recruits to describe how weird they are (Zappos is looking for high but not extreme levels of weirdness in its candidates’ responses). The company considers the need for employees to be aligned with its organisational capability to be so important that it even offers newly inducted employees $2,000 USD to leave the company if these people no longer believe that they will fit in the organisation.

    And Zappos HR team is given accountability for ensuring alignment between organisational capability, people management processes and the people the company employs. So for example, recruiters are able to veto a candidate if they don’t think the individual would fit in Zappos’ culture, regardless of the hiring manager’s opinions of the person’s ability to do a particular job.

    This is a video of Tony Hsieh describing Zappos culture that I recorded at the Human Capital Institute (HCI)’s summit in Phoenix, Arizona, last year.


    Zappos – Social Advantage

    Zappos also provides a good, if slightly less compelling, case study on the other areas I write about – social capital.

    Hsieh notes that connectedness – the number and depth of your relationships - is one of four things (along with perceived control, perceived progress and vision / meaning) which leads to individual and business happiness.  He refers to Gallup’s findings that engagement is correlated with the number of good friends an employee has at work (even if social relationships aren’t considered important in all engagement surveys) and to conclusions in the Happiness Hypothesis that happiness doesn’t come from within, but from between.

    So Zappos focuses on creating a positive team and family spirit:

    “We are more that a team though – we are a family.  We watch out for each other, care for each other, and go above and beyond for each other because we believe in each other and we trust each other.  We work together but we also play together.  Our bonds go far beyond the typical ‘co-worker’ relationships found at most other companies.”


    I like this idea for example:

    “In most companies, logging in to the computer systems requires a login and password.  At Zappos, an additional step is required: a photo of a randomly selected employee is displayed, and the user is given a multiple-choice test to name that employee.  Afterward, the profile and bio of that employee are shown, so that everyone can learn more about each other.  Although there is no penalty for giving the wrong answer, we do keep a record of everyone’s score.  Internally, we refer to this as ‘The face Game’.”


    This is Hsieh talking about the value of social relationships:


    Zappos – social media

    Zappos also makes heavy use of social media tools like blogs and Twitter in order to help build more personal connections with employees and customers (you can follow Tony Hsieh’s own tweets and I also like his article on Twitter and happiness).

    Here is Hsieh talking about this.


    It’s also interesting that this book is being supported by what’s probably the biggest ever blogger outreach programme for a new book (at least the biggest one I’ve been involved in).


    The book

    Zappos is clearly a great organisation – firstly, because of its mojo / values which describes a sort of place that many people would like to work in, and secondly, because of how well it has created a culture / organisational capability aligned to this mojo / its organisational values.

    As Hsieh notes:

    “It doesn’t actually matter what your company’s core values are.  What matters is that you have them and that you commit to them.  What’s important is the alignment that you get from them when they become the default way of thinking for the entire organization.”


    So I’ve been looking forward to reading this book.

    It serves, I think, as a good overview of Zappos’ culture and development, particularly for those who haven’t come across it previously.  The other main thing I liked about it is that it is a very compelling and readable autobiography – not normally a format that appeals to me.  And I think Tony Hsieh’s entrepreneurial mindset comes over very clearly.

    Where, personally, I’d have liked to have seen a bit more focus is on the theme of this book, and Zappos brand promise – delivering happiness. 


    Delivering happiness


    Tony Hsieh is clearly a very happy guy, and not just for the obvious reasons.  And the company he has created is one which enables people to be happy at work.  But I wouldn’t buy this book if your own objective is to maximise your own or your organisation’s happiness – I think there are other books that provide better advice on this (and it’s a subject I’d love to return to and post on again myself).

    I’m also not convinced everybody’s end goal is happiness as Tony Hsieh suggests.  So, for example, I think his highest level of happiness, having a higher purpose meaning, can be a goal in its own right, not just one that will deliver happiness.  In fact, I’d suggest that that higher purpose is likely to be served best by focusing on this for itself, rather than as a source of happiness – and that doing this may actually result in more happiness too.

    I was hoping to read more on Hsieh’s views on this area but perhaps good ideas will now emerge from the movement he’s set up.


    A happiness survey

    It’s very difficult to identify areas where Zappos could improve the way it manages its people to deliver happiness.  However, I’ll have a tryie:

    Hsih mentions that Zappos run a regular employee survey including statements such as:

    • I believe that the company has a higher purpose beyond just profits
    • My role at Zappos has a real purpose – it is more than just a job
    • I fell that I am in control of my career path and that I am progressing in my personal and professional development at Zappos
    • I consider my co-workers to be like my family and friends
    • I am very happy in my job.


    These are all great questions, and again, very well aligned to Zappos’ mojo.  But, with the possible exception of the last one, they’re all focused on enablers – on satisfaction with other things rather than with outcomes like engagement of the individual employee.

    Actually, the important outcome of course is happiness (another potentially important element of human capital other than engagement).  And I’m not sure that Zappos tests this very well as the last question in the list above may result in responses relating more to an employee’s job than their real level of happiness in work, and in life as well.

    So I think Zappos need to ask something like ‘I’m happier at this point in my life than I’ve ever been in the past’.  It’d be interesting to see how well these enablers about happiness correlate to an outcome question or questions like this.

    It might even help Hsieh write more extensively about happiness in his next book.


    PS Zappos have sent me two Delivering Happiness books, so if anyone wants my second copy and would like to arrange to pick it up from me in London sometime this week, let me know.


    Cross posted from Strategic HCM


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    Wednesday, 2 June 2010

    Enterprise 2.0 Boston 2010


       Later this month, I’ll be attending the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston.  This is ‘the leading conference and expo for organizations using collaborative technologies to accelerate information flow and drive revenue’.

    The conference defines Enterprise 2.0 as:

    “The term for the technologies and business practices that liberate the workforce from the constraints of legacy communication and productivity tools like email. It provides business managers with access to the right information at the right time through a web of inter-connected applications, services and devices. Enterprise 2.0 makes accessible the collective intelligence of many, translating to a huge competitive advantage in the form of increased innovation, productivity and agility.”


    And suggests the following differences between most organisations today and those in the 2.0 world:


    Enterprise 1.0
    Enterprise 2.0

    IT-driven technology / Lack of user control
    Top down
    Teams are in one building / one time zone
    Silos and boundaries
    Need to know
    Information systems are structured and dictated
    Overly complex
    Closed/ proprietary standards
    Long time-to-market cycles

    Flat Organization
    Ease of Organization Flow
    User-driven technology
    Bottom up
    Teams are global
    Fuzzy boundaries, open borders
    Information systems are emergent
    On Demand
    Short time-to-market cycle


    Regular readers of this blog will already know some of my concerns about Enterprise 2.0, but I still think it is this area that is currently leading the way towards Social Advantage.

    See for example:


    Come back between 14 and 17 June to see my blog posts from the conference.



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    Tuesday, 1 June 2010

    Looking back to June 2009


       You may also be interested in these posts from June last year:


    Or even from the year before?


    Photo credit: Museemer


    My contact details:

    • Consulting  - Research - Speaking  -  Training -  Writing
    • Strategy   -  Team development  -  Web 2.0  -  Change
    • Contact  me to  create  more  value  for  your  business
    • jon [dot] ingham [at] social [dash] advantage [dot] com