From trees to networks

Just before the weekend I wanted to share this interesting 10 minute talk with you about hierarchies and networks. For one because it's just fascinating to watch how RSA visualizes this talk. Secondly because of the talk itself.
Manual Lima's talk about "The power of networks" is fascinating. He gives an overview of how we used to try to structure everything in hierarchies and trees, because we like order and simplicity. And how we now shift to using networks more because trees simply can't describe reality. Knowledge, species, bacteria, our brain, our body, societies, etc. are highly connected. He wraps up his talk by asking if there is a universal structure? Well, do you think there is one?

Of course there has been lots of thinking and talking about what this means for organizations, people and technology. The shift Lima describes is the shift 'social business' and 'enterprise 2.0' is describing. And it's the shift social technology is trying to support.

Have a nice weekend!

LinkedIn as your intranet?

“Why can't we use LinkedIn for our intranet? At least it works, our intranet doesn't.” Maybe you considered this or heard it in your organization. The question intrigues me and I think we will hear it more and more in the coming years. What do you say in response to this question as internal or external consultant, Communications or IT manager? I'd like to share my thoughts in this post.

Dissatisfied about IT
The intranet is changing rapidly. The internet provides all kinds of free tools, like Dropbox, Yammer and Google Drive. More and more people are getting used to sharing (versions of) documents, online collaboration, sharing short messages, setting up and maintaining a personal profile, etc. Employees are often dissatisfied about the internal IT-tools and content-focused intranets. These tools cannot compete with the functionality we have on the internet.

Free tools as intranet
More and more employees are openly, and sometimes secretly, using free internet tools to get things done ('stealth IT'). Organizations, especially IT departments are struggling with this trend. Making things worse, the developpers of the free tools aren't laying back. They market their tools, implicitly or explicity, as intranet solutions. Recently LinkedIn shared they possibly also want to position their platform as an intranet. Some are even using Facebook as their intranet.

LinkedIn as intranet?
Could LinkedIn fit as an intranet platform? LinkedIn has functionality many intranets have or should have, such as:
  • Detailled profiles and connections between profiles (social network)
  • Groups and subgroups to ask questions, share knowledge and publish news
  • Share documents with 3rd party apps
  • Available everywhere
  • Mobile access
Advantages LinkedIn intranet
The advantages of a LinkedIn intranet aren't hard to imagine:
  • (Most) employees are already there; they have a profile
  • They know how the tool works (intuitive UI)
  • Fast development of new functionality
  • The platform is free
  • Customers are there as well (so collaboration and co-creation via the intranet is easy to set up)
  • The LinkedIn intranet can be set up and configured quickly
Disadvantages LinkedIn intranet
But there are also disadvantages of LinkedIn as an intranet platform. I'll list a few:
  • Security of company informatie is fragile
  • Ownership of content is not clear: is it owned by the company or LinkedIn?
  • Navigation of information is defined by LinkedIn
  • No functionality for content management 
  • Integration with organizaitonal processes and tools is impossible or complex
  • Integration with user management tools (ADS) is impossible
  • Search is limited: it works in LinkedIn, but you can't seach  from one searchbox over all your free tools and in your business tools, like ERPS
Balancing and directions
When chosing a platform it's always important to weigh the pro's and con's. If costs and collaboration with customers are important, then a LinkedIn intranet could be a good direction. However, if information security and integration with business tools is a priority, this direction is probably not right.
A mix of different directions is also possible. E.g. a LinkedIn intranet for specific goals like knowledge sharing and facilitating internal networks, and an internal platform to open up business tools and share internal work methods.

What are your ideas about a LinkedIn intranet? Is it a viable direction? Do you know organizations that successfully use such an intranet?

(This post was also published in Dutch on Frankwatchting.)

Difference between internal and external consulting: is there a question?

I used to work for a large organization. One of the things that intrigued me most when working for that company is how little questions were asked. It seems like everybody was looking for ways to create a need and get people to ask them a question.

The strange thing about looking for needs and questions is that I look for the ones that I can answer.

In my work as a consultant I experience the complete opposite. Working for an organization always starts with a need, a question. Often I have to help the organization articulate the need and detail the question, but the need and question is there.

As a consultant the big question is: do I or the organization I work for have what it takes to address the need and answer the question.

To me this is a huge difference. Does this relate to your experience as a consultant or employee working for an organization?

Responsible business before shareholder value

One of the podcasts I listen to regularly is HBR Ideacast. Recently Paul Polman, Unilever's CEO, was interviewed. I thought the interview was great and inspiration. You can find the podcast and transcript here.

There's lots of talk about social business lately. What does it mean? How can it be done? And how does it relate to new social tools? I like the way some are stressing social business as human business. Businesses consist of humans and should do what is good for humans inside and outside of the company.

The interview with Polman give a short insight into what a human business could or should be. A human business is a responsible business. It takes it's responsibility for the world, environment and humans in general. This has to do with how they produce products and services, the packaging they choose, the way they take care of employees and partners, etc. Polman went even further by stating that responsibility and sustainability comes before money and shareholder value. Money and value will come if a company takes up his responsibility and is sustainable.

Based on the interviewers questions it was clear he could hardly believe the ceo really meant what he was saying. It's basically a good story, good marketing to say Unilever focuses on being a responsible company. The interviewer is not alone. We've become used to nice polished stories with no practical follow-up. We've become so focused on money and shareholder value that all else has become secondary. The way Polman answers the interviewer's (and my) unbelief with concrete answers and specific examples is great and inspirational. I hope many companies will follow his example.

Only an iPad for conference tweeting and blogging

Social Now 2012 - Samuel Driessen pays attentionI really enjoy going to conferences. Listening to other people’s or organization’s experiences helps me think. Good talks and breakout sessions inspire me and trigger me to try the approaches as well. Bad talks help me sort out what my convictions are and what my approach would be. Conferences are also great for meeting up with people I already know and meeting new, interesting people. In short, conferences help me learn.

One of the great use cases for social media is conferences. I really enjoy social media before, during and after conferences. Before conferences social media is great to find out who’s coming and what other people are expecting of the conference. Letting people know you’ll be at the conference gives people who couldn’t attend a way to experience the conference anyways by following your tweets and blogposts. After conferences social media is great to evaluate: thank the conference organization, provide feedback about the conference and thank participants.

Social media during the event is most interesting. Tweeting and blogging about the talks helps me remember what the speaker said and reflect on his/her statements. Furthermore, the discussion about the talk usually also starts on Twitter before it has ended. It gives multiple perspectives on the subject in real-time. Of course, Twitter and the like is also used during conference to coordinate meetups and dinner.

Up until my last conference visit I always brought my laptop along to tweet and blog. My iPhone comes in handy as well.

Recently I went to the Social Now conference in Porto and only brought my iPad along. I was wondering if that would work. Would I tweet more or less? Will I be able to keep up with the tweets? And does liveblogging work on the iPad?

Well, to start with the last question: I didn’t liveblog the conference. I was master of ceremony and had to pay attention to speakers, tweets and time. What I did do though is jot down (with my stylus) and type lines I could use for a blogpost about the conference. Basically a summary of the most interesting statements that could also be found in the tweet stream.

Following the tweet stream, posting tweets and replying to tweets worked great on the iPad. For one, battery is not an issue (as it is on the laptop). Finding a plug for the laptop is still a pain at most conferences. I basically used the Twitter app to follow the hashtag. Even though I was the conference chair I posted the most tweets. I found the tweet stream to be very insightful. As the conference chair it gave me great insight into what people thought of the talk, which questions they had, etc. Interestingly even when the number of tweets were low during a talk, I could use that to give it back to the audience and ask why. At this conference it meant people couldn’t follow and didn’t understand the talk.

There’s been a lot of talk about tablets taking over the pc market. My experience with only an iPad at a conference seems to confirm this trend.

I was wondering if liveblogging would have worked. Typing on an iPad is harder than on a laptop (although it works well enough). Tweeting from a iPad works fine. Of course I could buy an external keyboard for the iPad, but then I could just bring along the laptop, right? I’ll see if liveblogging works at the next conference I’m going to.

But if tweeting from an iPad works, it would be great if I could just mark several tweets and push them to a draft version of a blogpost (I use Blogger). Or is that what Summify does?

What are your experiences with an iPad at conferences? What works for you and what doesn’t? Do you have experience with liveblogging on an iPad? I’d love to hear from you.

Social media is about finding our voice

Recently listened to this keynote by Euan Semple at the 'State of the Net' conference. I thought it was a very good and insightful talk. It puts social media into perspective and helps you think about the underlying concepts of the internet.

Semple basically starts out with the difference between the old(er) web 2.0 and new web 2.0 world. In other words: it started with blogging and now we have Facebook and Twitter. I like how he tells about how nervous he was when he published his first blogpost. (I can relate to that...) But goes on to stress how important it is for us personally and for organizations to find their voice (- remember the Cluetrain Manifesto?). We have to move away from the industrialization of our worklives.
On the other hand Semple acknowledges that asking people to say what they think, should never be underestimated. It's a big step for many.

Semple wraps his talk with a nice quote from David Weinberger: Love is what makes the internet hang together, the basis human desire to want connect to each other.