Wednesday, 29 August 2012

1 + 1 = 3... Why Real Collaboration is a Rare Find; Therese S Kinal on the power of crowdsourcing and collective intelligence...

 There’s a lot of talk these days about collective intelligence and co-creation, but how many of us really do this well?
As defined by Trudy and Peter Johnson-Lenz in ‘Groupware: Orchestrating the Emergence of Collective Intelligence’ (1980), “Collective Intelligence can be additive (each part together forms the whole) or it can be synergetic, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Fast forward to 2010, and two studies at MIT revealed some interesting results. The social sensitivity of the group was a driving factor in how well the group performed. In other words, the ability of the group to perceive each others’ emotions and take turns and apply their skills to a given challenge resulted in 30-40% better results. 
Examples of the power of collective intelligence and co-creation abound. Linux, Wikipedia and Jigsaw are all based on the concept that together we can create better insight, solutions, products and services than we can alone. In crowdsourcing, collective intelligence merges with outsourcing, and a task or problem is outsourced to an undefined public. But in many of these examples and in our own organisations, most of us are practicing additive co-creation, not synergetic. Or worse … no co-creation at all.
Broadly speaking, there are four approaches to innovation:
  • Lone Hero: An originator comes up with and develops an innovation, relatively free from external collaboration. This is the ‘build it and they’ll come’ approach.
  • Entrepreneur: An originator comes up with an idea, goes out to the world to test it, goes back, reflects, adapts and then does that process again and again. This is the process adopted by many successful entrepreneurs and innovators. 
  • Open Hero: An originator comes up with an idea and puts it forward to the world to hone, tweak and ultimately improve. A wiki and of course Wikipedia is a great example of how this works in practice.
  • 1+1=3: A team of people work together to come up with an idea and then engage with a broader set of stakeholders (e.g. customers, suppliers, partners etc.) to develop and shape the idea. The difference is that the whole team’s thinking gets challenged and developed when they collaborate together – no one person is the innovator, but everyone knows that it has been created through the synergies of their and their stakeholders collective experience, know how and insights.
True innovators go out and look, ask and listen … they do not sit in a dark room indulge their own intellect. They are obsessed with the opportunity rather than the original idea and know that turning an idea into an opportunity takes the courage and humility of seeking thoughts, feedback and ideas from others. But while what I’ve called the Entrepreneur and Open Hero approaches can be very powerful, 1+1=3 has a higher degree of openness and ownership. I’ve observed all of the above approaches adopted successfully in different organisations, but when 1+1=3 happens, you know you are part of something special. 
I vividly remember a product innovation team that took a very entrepreneurial approach to how they found pain points and developed products that would answer them, but it was their ability to engage key stakeholders and a diverse team in the thinking and creative process that made them unique. No one person was the originator; in fact at the end of it no one remembered or cared who the original idea had come from. Another example I can think of is a client of ours, who has created an ecosystem of internal and external collaborators in one of the most complex and expert-driven industries around: pharmaceutical R&D. 1+1=3 is not just about listening to others’ ideas and input, it is about bridging and connecting the know how and expertise of a team and together getting to new insights and solutions that is greater than the sum of the individual inouts – and in doing so creating ownership of the outcome.
In ‘Let Your Ideas Go’, Nilofer Merchant (HBR 26 June 2012), talked about how openness is the ethos in the era we live in today: the Social Era. “Openness is powerful, even catalytic. On a personal level, it not only allows us to share, but to co-create with speed. On an organizational level, it allows for more than collaboration, it enables communities.” I couldn’t agree more. The illusion of control is a thing of the past and the sooner we embrace and harness openness as a core element of how people communicate, collaborate and innovate, the better. 
But why do I talk about ownership? Because to make things happen, to create change and move forward, we cannot go it alone. Our ability to create ownership (and by that I mean personal commitment and excitement) of an innovation in others is one of the most important elements of success. Much technological innovation is never adopted because people don’t see the need or have the desire to change. Companies fail to execute their strategies because people don’t have personal ownership to where the company is going. A serious flaw in the product or strategy is rarely the root cause. It usually boils down to lack of shared and individual ownership.
If we genuinely believe, as I do, that synergistic co-creation is powerful, we need to create processes and approaches that not only allow, but encourage us to explore, think and create together. At Unleash, we have a big, bright orange collaboration table we use for company meetings, workshops and ad hoc discussions. We don’t always get it right, but when 1+1=3 to happens internally and in client organisations, I’ve found a few common threads:
Purpose: No one ever got out of bed to increase shareholder value. Shared purpose is about creating a higher purpose or mission that taps into our desire to do great things.
Challenge: Smart and creative people like to work on tasks where they get to push their boundaries and challenge themselves. 
Diversity: At Unleash, we’ve purposely recruited a very diverse team. We have scientists, entrepreneurs, consultants, psychologists and marketing gurus. But diversity is not just about a few people from different backgrounds and 50/50 men and women … it’s about diversity of thought. 
Team: Just because we call a group of people a team, doesn’t necessarily mean they are. Team is all about working together as one. It’s about developing the ‘social sensitivity’ mentioned and most importantly, harnessing synergies. 
I know what you might be thinking. It’s all too easy to say these things, but hard to do in practice. I completely agree. Personally, I often get so carried away with the outcome or new insight that I neglect to engage all the people in the team. Sometimes I put time and desire to get to an outcome ahead of collective exploration. How many of us were taught real teamwork and synergistic co-creation at school? Only in the past decade have schools started introducing more team-based learning, but what happens most of the time is that 1-2 students do all the work and others ride the wave of the overachievers. That’s not co-creation; it’s not even teamwork most of the time. 
As we inevitably stumble forward in a quest to be successful in our off and online enterprises, I’d like to pose a challenge and a call to action to myself and others: Next time we have a problem that needs solving or a ‘genius’ idea for a new product or service, let’s take a step backward, open it up and let it fly in the crowd, be shaped by the winds, take form from the unknown and come back to us nothing like we’d originally imagined, but much, much better. 
Therese S. Kinal is Managing Director and Co-Founder of Unleash. One of the biggest issues organisations struggle with today is the successful execution of strategy. Unleash takes client teams on a journey to solve real, pressing and complex business issues for themselves. The results? Increase in capacity, innovation and growth, and leaders who deliver results and love making it happen. 

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

'Why I blog' by Meagan Frenette of Latterstyle...

Sometimes clichéd feelings are the most universal feelings. That is to say, they become clichés because they are felt by so many people in so many different situations, though each has sort of a common theme. And so I have little reservations in discussing my formative years as a typical weirdo. I was extremely rebellious yet didn’t have many friends to speak of, and have now figured out that this was due to my intense feelings of being misunderstood. I mean, who hasn’t felt like the world looks at you as though you have antenna sprouting out of your head?

These feelings are extremely isolating! If you are a person who has never identified with mainstream, “normal” society, it can be difficult to find a community in which you can meet like-minded folks and appreciate art that resonates within you. In my late teens I discovered the goth scene and suddenly it was like, WOW! I have discovered my place in the world! I quickly became obsessed with bands like Joy Division and the Sisters of Mercy and spent many drunken Saturday nights at the local goth bar, stomping away to EBM. And channeling my bitterness through wearing black became really therapeutic for me, and not entirely in some youthful reflexive response of “inner rage”, but more in the sense that for the first time, I was expressing myself through getting dressed. I felt powerful. Walking down in the street in an all-black outfit makes one look innately unapproachable except to other goths, and seeing one another in public felt like a secret handshake. I relished in using my appearance to feel like a part of a community. However primitive my emotions may have been, subculture hugely influenced what my identity would become.

These days I no longer have an overwhelming teenage desire to be understood. But I still retain that empowerment I derived from wearing weird things, and infused with my burgeoning feminism with romantic goth subculture. Surely there must be others who feel the way about clothes that I do!, I thought, and considered starting a blog. I started Latterstyle after the initial crop of bloggers began attaining success. Luckily I was approaching my mid-twenties when I started, and was just old enough to ignore the allure of Blog Fame and just blog simply because I enjoyed it. My only goals were to improve my writing and meet cool people. If I’d begun my blog when I was younger I think I might have gotten sucked into the blog world’s rat race, which can often feel like a desperate climb for fame and money. Although I am older than most bloggers I am friendly with, it is a relief that I began this adventure with my life being already somewhat established. It’s easy to lose ones identity in a creative project, but by approaching my blog with zero expectations, I don’t set myself up for any disappointment.

It’s really rewarding to be able to say that I’ve achieved the goals I had in mind when I began blogging! I have met wonderful people and my writing has improved tremendously, simply by virtue of doing it more often. And perhaps most gratifying of all, I have discovered people who understand me and who’ve struggled with the same feelings that I have. Ironically, as an adult I’ve grown out of a lot of those emotions! But honestly, they never really go away, they just change as you progress through adulthood, and perhaps wane in importance. Some people are just naturally inclined to feel different from everyone else, and that universal idea is why I blog. There is nothing more comforting to the human soul than discovering people who share your feelings!

Meagan Frenette

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Cybergirl; an Introduction from an Intrepid web explorer...

So I am Cybergirl, your intrepid web explorer! Extremely excited to be joining The GWG as a regular contributor. As the (quite frightening) reality is that I spend 90% of my life online, in pursuit of one unerring mission/obsession – using the world wide web as created by genius Sir Tim Berners Lee, to facilitate your quality of life. That’s it – that’s what it’s all about. Because otherwise what on earth is the Internet there for? Indeed. So here I am ready and willing to bring you the hottest tips, the newest apps mixed with a bit of veritable life experience…

This week the issue burning a hole in the back of my mind is BURGLARS. Now London is choc full of them, and Cybergirl pretty much thought she was immune; not so - see  it was three am in the morning, I was lying in bed, calmly dreaming of sheep, men on horseback, gazelles with wings, when there was a HUGE clatter coming from the living room. I turned to ‘the date’ (he’ll reappear at regular intervals; hence the pseudonym) and mumbled ‘go back to sleep, it’s just the cat...’

Ok I thought, it’s a bit loud even for the cat. ‘The date’ rushed out of bed like Clark Kent after a power nap, to confront the catburglar who had clambered like Spiderman over the railings and was in the process of yanking my beautiful 27 inch 2011 IMac through my living room window…

MY  beautiful glorious 2011 IMAC NOOOOOOO…..

The sheer audacity – the burglar had even switched the light on. In the space it took ‘the date’ to get from the bedroom to the living room (all of about five seconds) Spiderman had somehow managed to jump three metres (IMac in hand) to the pavement. On spotting ‘the date’ however he freaked, (‘the date’ was naked to be fair) he then dropped the Mac (which shattered onto the pavement floor) and then proceeded to flee, sadly never to be seen again…

Now what is the point of this little anecdote (apart from the fact that ‘the date’ is definitely a keeper?) well, the burglar – despite being clearly identified was never caught. But what the very amenable sergent (who turned up in seconds amongst a huge team of plain clothed officers) informed me is that had I registered my IMac and all my other electrical products on the Immobilise website (serial numbers et al), anytime someone of dubious intent is searched any property in their possession can be scanned against property registered on the website and boom – convictions aplenty!

Even better the stolen property can then be returned to you. Because did you know ladies and gentlemen, if an item is stolen and isn’t registered there aint NO WAY the police can trace you – so bar you turning up to an auction advertised in one of those grainy adverts in Metro, the chances of your beloved item being returned to you are beyond slim.

So what is the moral of the story? USE THE WEB; use every possible resource at your fingertips in the fight against crime. There it is; my tip of the week. If you do on thing this week, register your serial numbers… I implore you. This is Cybergirl, you intrepid caped crusader signing off. Till next week…

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

A Beginer's Guide to Pinterest by social media expert Ivana Franekova...

If you haven't heard of the Pinterest phenomenon yet, you must have been living under a proverbial rock these last few years. The social networking site is generating massive interest, especially in the business world, and for good reason. The site that enables you to promote your products and services through something called ‘vision boards’, has an estimated traffic of 1.36 million visits per day.

Although Pinterest is classed as a Social Website, its aim is to help businesses increase their brand awareness. A massive 68 percent of all Pinterest users are women; a fact many big brands are taking advantage of. Consequently, Pinterest became a lively, fresh and imaginative social site that offers top trends, fashion tips, simply everything that is chic and in at the moment through masses of photo and video boards.

At the moment, you can join Pinterest by an invitation only. An existing user can invite you, or you can ask Pinterest to send you an invite.

If you are using Pinterest for personal use, you simply create an account on Pinterest and then the fun begins... You set up unlimited online boards and ‘pin’ items to them - this is your chance to be organized whilst having fun!

Now let's look at the difference between a regular user and a business user on Pinterest:

Let’s say, a regular user called Jane joins Pinterest; Jane creates different boards, such as Shopping, Handbags, Favourite Movies etc. She browses Pinterest for ideas using the ‘Search’ box; she types in the word ‘flowers’. When she finds a photo she likes, she hovers over the picture with her mouse and chooses from the following options:

Repin - Like - Comment.

If Jane chooses to Repin the photo, she will then have a choice of her boards to pin it to. Furthermore, she can share her chosen photo of flowers with her friends on Facebook and Twitter, as well as all her Pinterest followers.

Jane is doing all this for fun. For her, the site is a board of her dreams, her interests and her likes. She doesn't think of Pinterest as a business.

Now let us look at the business that owns Jane’s photo of flowers on Pinterest: A local store in, let us say, London, wants to promote their services through Pinterest. They create a business account, with their business name. The store then created boards for their products. They created ‘Fresh Today’, ‘Wedding’, ‘Special Offers’ and so on. It costs the florist absolutely nothing to set this up.

With each photo they pin to their boards, they include their contact details and marketing information. They also include their website, which lists store opening hours and delivery terms.

When Jane repins their photo along with their marketing information, she has an effect marketed their services for them, free of charge, amongst all of her friends and followers. If she shares this photo on Facebook and Twitter, the potential reach of users seeing this activity is huge - we're talking thousands of people. Will some of them visit this company’s website for more information, share the photo further and order their flowers? You bet!

Can you now see the massive marketing opportunity Pinterest offers?

You might say, well, it works for products - but what if I sell services? Is Pinterest going to work for me? The answer is yes, absolutely. Here's an opportunity for you to provide educational videos and boards with free help and advice. As long as you offer your potential customers lots of value and information, they will visit, share and buy.

Pinterest also gives you the tools to pin items to your board quickly and efficiently. You will have ‘Pin It’ tool at the top of your browser, which enables you to pin photos and videos off any website you're visiting. Please be aware of copyright - do not pin off a website that does not allow sharing. Pinterest does not work with Facebook, however, pinning videos off You Tube is allowed. Add your ‘Pin It’ button on your ‘Goodies Page’ here:

You can incorporate Pinterest into your Facebook Timeline for immediate sharing. Just go to ‘Settings’.

Will Pinterest work for you and your business? Approach it the right way and it will. You should see a growth of visitors to your site but, like anything else, Pinterest takes time and dedication to achieve the right results. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. 

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