Friday, May 15, 2015

Breaking Out of The Bubble

What an amazing day I had yesterday! So full of life and learning, every day of work should be this great!
How did it get to be this way? What did I do? Who did I meet? Where was I?

My day started out like any other day, get up, wake up the kids, walk the dog, drop the kids off at school and then head East for about 15 minutes to the nearby city of Modiin. Modiin is about 10 km east of Ben Gurion Airport, 35 km southeast of Tel Aviv and about 30 km west of Jerusalem and 20km from Rehovot where I live.

In Modiin some people I know set up a shared work space called MESH, the Modiin Entrepreneurs Startup Hub. There are hubs like this across the country. If you have never been to one, they are a reasonably inexpensive way to get work done outside your house. You get the basics included like network and wifi, desks, chairs, open spaces and offices, meeting rooms, printers and a fax (don't ask, but many things here need it)and drinks. There is even an onsite chef who makes lunches for those who want to pay for it.

I headed out to MESH for 4 reasons. First, having never been to it I wanted to see what it was like as each of these work spaces are very different form each other. Second, to see and meet my friend Daniel about an idea I had for camp for the kids. Third to catch up and listen to my friend Alan Weinkrantz a fellow technology evangelist who works with RackSpace, that I met early on when we moved here. Alan was having a breakfast discussion on PR for startups, his slides are here, I love slide #6, Above The Code: 10 Principles of Startup Communications. Lastly I wanted to see, and hear, what other people, there are about 30 companies there, are doing and thinking about as ideas work better when you collaborate with others and gain insights form them.

If you read Alan's slides, (you did right?) you would see that PR is a process which can be enhanced by having content accessible for your business. The focus was on blogging which many startups do not get around to doing for many reasons (an upcoming blog post). I volunteered, to those gathered, that this blog is just about to reach 1,000 posts and discussed how it has helped me, and others, in business.Someone asked how often they should be updating their website. I pointed out that if your blog is posted to your homepage, and your website, you are updating the site automatically. SEO problem partially solved. Thanks Alan for reminding me why I blog and to get back on track.

After the discussion, Alan gave out the gapingvoid  t-Shirts which everyone wants to have, and we posed for his scrapbook. 
Keith Brooks and MESH Modiin with Rackspace
Me and some of the MESH Startups
Yes, I got the t-shirt but also had some great discussions. While comparing marketing and developers with user specs and needs I suggested CRM apps suck because who wants to fill in dozens of fields when it should be a 2 or 3 field entry and finished. That discussion led to my tweeting another friend, Jon Ferrara of GoldMine fame and now CEO of Nimble. Jon and I occasionally get into deeper CRM discussions and while I really like Nimble, I do not use/need a CRM right now. I really recommend everyone look at what he is building at Nimble. Anyway, Jon agreed that the app should scour the Internet for what you need and not make you do all the work and reminded me that Goldmine was the first to populate fields for you when you entered your zip code.

Note to startups, why could we do this 25 years ago and you can't do it now? A small thing to a user maybe a big thing to a developer but it tells me the UX may not be so great. Hey it's my M&Ms tell.

Looking around the room I could see some business opportunities with everyone that are outside their comfort zones and more in mine and so a side business may get started.

My discussion with my friend Daniel and some others at MESH about camp was interesting and while it may not be feasible for this summer, I think we will do it for next year. More on this at a later time.

MESH is a great place, happy to see it was not as claustrophobic as some of the work spaces in Tel Aviv I have visited. If I had some clients there or in the nearby area, I can see working out of their spaces more regularly. The interaction everyone has makes the 30 companies feel like one big company with many divisions. While many are developers, there are sales and marketing people too and a mix of global, local, profit and non-profit companies. This is probably the one thing I miss working remotely, the open discussions that just happen and people join in. Skype chats and Twitter threads are good, but I don't always get the same excitement feelings.

After MESH I went by to see an old friend of mine from college that I found out moved here 8 years ago and since she is not a tech person basically was out of site for a long time. It was a Facebook post that we were both "Look! It's you!". Since moving here this happens quite a bit, so many people from my ancient history are here and I will get to see you all one of these days.

Went home, picked up the kids from school, they are done at 1:45 and started to catch up on emails and messages. I saw two different emails returned with good news for me. One was to meet with a company that might need my advice and the other a conference owner which I hope to help out with as an IBM Champion effort.

While I had a bunch of work to do in the afternoon and watch over a server migration at night, we had time to get out and party with our friends over bbq and drinks, which is really how every day should end.

How was your day?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Explaining the Mixed Mindset of a Social Organization

If you were not at my session at the Social Connections conference in Boston 2 weeks ago, you can still see and download my slides, but I don't think you will quite get the gist of the message I expressed.

A catch-22 of great magnitude that while your outside persona is free to post,  your "business" head is confused or full of fear.

Let me explain.

Email vs. Status Updates, or Single vs. Blended, is a metaphor for the way your organization works.

Collaboration or as the marketers call it, social business/media comes in many forms. Companies, or rather, executives, are trying to understand how to integrate this into their sales or internal efforts of transforming their companies into something new. Is email the old world or just a part of the new one? Are status updates the new way or just email by a new name?

One one hand you have a handful of people that "get it" and are always sharing, open and looking to help others be it via email or some other methods.

On the other side you have the opposite. The same employees want to help people, and they are Facebook active, but when it comes to work, they are not so forthcoming.

Why? What is the problem? If they share outside the office, why not in the office? Do they send one line emails or explanations regularly? are their status updates more like blog posts or just time stamps for their billing hours?

Setting aside the need to set goals for people (every employee should post once a day or twice a week,...) in order to prove to the executive that you are now a corporate social media titan, let's discuss the people factor.

People naturally share information with friends and family, some more than others, but inside all of us is a need to share, to bring people closer to us, or to help others understand us, and our unique worlds.

Facebook, Twitter, support forums, photography sites and numerous other examples are just some of the ways one can share their experiences. And it is great, usually for fun, but also for sad times as well and you do it from your home or while at a party or dinner.

Then you leave your home and go to work, your commute probably is not short or fun, and you arrive at the office and in some cases are told, by your immediate management, NOT to post anything about your work or the teams, even though the company itself is a strong proponent of social and collaboration.

Maybe this is a bit harsh of me.

Let us say instead, you believe that by posting a bunch of information on your company intranet or ESN (Enterprise Social Network) your manager will think you are not doing your work or billing enough hours. True, you are probably posting great content, or details that are needed, but that is not how some managers see it.

The corollary is the same, if you do not post anything, people think you are not working at all or maybe even left the company. And if we take the target/goals idea  you have not met your quota of posts!

There is also a numbers problem here. The data shows that about 15% of the people are posting over 85% of the content. Take a different view of numbers, direct marketing works on a 1-3% hit rate.

Before your company starts turning everyone into social drones, realize that it will never be an all or nothing effort. Are you prepared for this "failure"? Have you decided to congratulate those that would be social anyway, over the ones that are breaking out of their shells? How will you know the difference? Will there be different expectations? In the age of personalized everything, can you be so granular inside your company? If not, why not? If you need help, contact me to discuss it.

Many people will not post, tweet, update, podcast, video message or whatever you ask of them for many reasons and that is okay. Really, it is. It does not mean they will never do it, just they have not been exposed to the right thought process to help them along. Time of course is a big issue and we have so little of it but everyone can forgo something for 2 minutes to post a simple update or comment or to vote or like something posted.

Baby steps.

However, what if you are the only one who has certain information and you are part of a team or organization that should you not be able to work or be missing while traveling, could your team survive without you? Of course, some may say, if you have provided all this information, they could survive without you and fire you all because you were collaborating.

Yes, the corporate world does work this way sometimes, but also has greater need and respect for those that provide the data. Usually. But not every time.

Just like the first time you tell someone you love them. Maybe they love you back, maybe they don't, maybe you are 5 when you say it, maybe 18, maybe 25. The outcome and expectations are different at each age and level. So it is in the corporate world.

In the US where capitalism has reigned for all of our lives, it is very hard to suddenly change that mindset of me, mine and 1+1=1, to yours, ours and get to 1+1=3. A friend of mine suggested collaboration is the ultimate capitalism. I am not so sure, but I am willing to bet that a shared culture will be evolving over the next 10-15 years more so than we have seen in the years since 9/11. Post 9/11 we have seen some drastic changes that enable us to be more global, more open, more reliant on others for information and sharing more information while also becoming more insular at the same time.

This schizophrenia of the Enterprise will continue until the current levels of management evolve or get pushed out. The newer companies maybe better at sharing, while smaller, but the jury is still out if they stay the same or revert to Enterprise ways as they get older and larger.

I believe organizations can be more open and collaborative but we need to hep them realize there will be a mixed bag of engagement from within for a few years to come.