Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Rachel Happe's Session at IBM Connect

Admittedly I have not got to too many sessions Monday, client needs take precedent.But one session which I wanted to be at, I missed, Guy Kawasaki's. The other which i made was  Rachel Happe's.

In her session she discussed people as an asset. Communities as a benefit and in some way an ROI for those who seek it out for "getting social".

As an Accountant by degree, it was interesting to pose the question, why are employees a liability? They are not listed as an asset on the financial pages but as an expense and thus a liability.

What if the people stop being a liability and earn their keep? What if they start making money for the business? In the end they will still be a liability. Legal and financial. Their monetary gains or benefits get put into another space in the finanicals.

I posited that there are many personalities within companies, the usual, leaders, followers, early adopters, etc.. and how can a company expect to change those personalities? Just because their employer sets a new course doesn't mean people will change because at this point companies have beat people down enough that the will to do better is not always found. We agreed that a new direction will encourage some to come out of the middle and grow but others will still not do it.

This is the problem companies face today and for the future. Does this make these employees expendable? Does this mean there are budding entrepreneurial people within your organization? Yes and no.

Companies have always thrived because of people who wanted to do more, be more or help more. Those people become managers and eventually leaders. But my questions are around what can a company do to encourage their employees to take these risks? Fail fast is one thing but large companies do not move quickly enough.

IBM through Lotus Notes and Domino and the IBM Connections software has been helping and encouraging companies to do this through various ways. It started with a simple discussion databases (version 1.0 still runs on version 8.5 for those who like a solid long term solution going on 20+ years) that has evolved through email, instant messaging, mobility, workflow to today where Connections brings about a more 360 degree view of your organization via blogs, wikis, knowledge profiles, Ideation and analytics that can help you find the nuggets you seek and more importantly let everyone weigh in on the items or agendas.

But companies need to see this and feel it. It's not enough to say you are social or open, many are not despite these assurances, but to truly embrace it. Encourage the openness, seek out the differences and the crowd will let you know which will work for you. But the road to this nirvana is one few travel. If you want employees to believe in your product or company and help it grow, they must have a say and they must also not be hurt by stating their opinions.

It will take time and we are seeing in the business world executives from the old school of thought being pushed aside for newer executives that see the benefits. It will take time and the world will be a better place because of it.

The end result is a compound interest return once everyone is engaged, compared to a static return when there is a team effort that is not all encompassing.


  1. Great thoughts, I also want to point out that the more employees talk and become empowered the less we need middle management to be involved in the process. Will that help adoption?

  2. Charles, Management is not always needed but sometimes you do need leadership.