Thursday, November 4, 2010

Collaboration: Socio and Technical Are One

Despite the recession (or because of)HR leaders are preparing to expand into new markets/geographies over the next three years. This is according to a survey - Working Across Borders - published by IBM in September, 2010 (see link below). Such expansion, of course, means finding ways to work more efficiently and effectively across many types of boundary. The study found three workforce gaps Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) need to address:

Cultivating creative leaders: nimble leadership in complex, global environments
Mobilizing for greater speed and flexibility: developing greater capability to adjust underlying costs and faster ways to allocate talent
Capitalizing on collective talent: generating more effective collaboration across increasingly global teams

The CHROs rated their organizations as least effective in fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing. Seventy eight percent of the HR leaders interviewed did not think their organizations were effective at fostering collaboration and social networking. Only 19 percent of respondents regularly use collaborative technologies to identify individuals with relevant knowledge and skills, 23 percent to preserve critical knowledge, and 27 percent to spread innovation more widely. Even if companies have the IT infrastructure, they are not using it to make the best use of their global talent and intellectual assets.

The report makes some useful suggestions for HR leaders:

Weave collaboration into the way employees work:
Promote the formation and use of cross-organizational communities around strategic topic areas
Build collaborative capabilities directly into business processes and project management activities

Raise the visibility of ideas and insights
Sponsor online collaborative events to identify ideas, prioritize them, and then resource them
Incorporate all parts of the internal and external business network into the innovation process
Increase the visibility of connections between individuals/work teams to identify new trends and their dissemination

Create and share assets to drive productivity improvementCreate value through the systematic capture and reuse of individual work outcomes

While these suggestions are very useful they have a technical/process-driven flavor that will take enterprise collaboration only so far. Making the best use of a collaborative IT infrastructure to produce results requires an equally powerful set of collaborative values (backed up with highly supportive reward and recognition incentives). Once upon a time 'socio' and 'technical'were spoken of together in the same breath. We need to breathe new life in the 'socio' side and make sure it always accompanies the 'technical'.

On the 'socio' side, what sort of shared values will help you create the climate for collaboration?

Professionalism over politics
Trust over suspicion
Conversations over commands
Transparency over secrets
Problem-solving over blaming
Opening over closing
Creativity over conformity
Inclusion over exclusion
We and me over me
Yes/and over yes/but

The list could go on and on. You might want to be a bit more creative:

Circles over triangles
Fire over ice
Fluids over solids

Just as long as you share the same meaning!

And, the link to the IBM report is here!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A post by Terry’s Shameless Promotion People!

Latest Reviews on ‘Where in the World is My Team’ from

Superb flow of thoughts into the complex topic of virtual teams, August 20, 2010

This book is a recommended course reading, which implies I had to read it. Fortunately, it turns out to be great fun while acquiring knowledge. It's the same point the main character "SHE" articulated in her TV interview... working (gaming) could be fun. If the goals are set properly and each team member knows with clarity what to undertake... he or she will always look forward to beginning the game the the next day. This is a highly recommended read for those working within a multicultural environment not necessarily only for virtual teams.

Structure with a sense of comedy, August 11, 2010
Appreciated both the technical detail as well as the fiction aspect of making this a more interesting read. The human theory side of it has been very useful in working with my teams as well as working with local HR staff in defining gaps in our training procedures.

Innovative business book that is ahead of its time, June 4, 2010
Great book that is very useful to anyone working with global and/or virtual teams (and who isn't these days?!) It is not your average 'business' book and is all the better for it. Written from the perspective of Will adds humour and realism to the problems we all face every day, yet the recommended actions at the back are extremely valuable. I really like the easy to follow, logical structure and the issues that are easy to relate to. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to work better in teams.

Find out more about the trials and tribulations of Will Williams as he navigates the tricky waters of virtual collaboration in Where in the World is My Team.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Virtual Imagination

Wow! When I first saw this video on YouTube, I was lost for words. It takes 'virtual' to another level, and demonstrates that we haven't even begun to explore where we can go in virtual space.

Eric Whitacre is a conductor and composer. He composed a piece call lux aurumque, and made a video of himself conducting the piece - no singers or instruments; he conducted the piece in silence just from hearing the music in his head. He watched the video and added in the piano accompaniment track, and created the sheet music. These he made inro a free download to the web.

Singers began posting their individual tracks, obviously without hearing or seeing anyone else. Eric did call for virtual'auditions' for the soprano solo. Putting all the tracks together was managed by the very talented Scott Haines. The result is stunning. Eric's ultimate goal is to write an orginal piece for a virtual choir and have its world premiere in cyber-space, with hundreds or even thousands of people singing alone, together. Go nowto! Let your virtual imagination soar.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Speak With Your Mind, Not Just What's On Your Mind

Speaking comes so naturally to many of us that we often lose sight of those who are listening. If we kept our listeners in mind, we would speak with our minds engaged. Here are a few tips for speaking in a virtual space:

Environment: Try to eliminate any background noise or distractions - anything that could interfere with you understanding others and others understanding you

Pace: Think about who you have on the line. Are there any non-native speakers on the call or individuals who might find your accent challenging? If in doubt, slow down. Check with those on the call if you are speaking at a comfortable pace

Clarity: Articulate your words and phrases clearly. Don't rush over words or speak in a low voice that causes people to strain to hear you

Precision: Try to avoid abstract and vague words and phrases, e.g., 'as soon as possible'. Be specific

Simplicity: Use simple words and short sentences. Make sure everyone on the call will understand any jargon or acronyms you use. Stay away from using slang as it can cause great confusion

Intonation: Be expressive. Put verbal emphasis on important words or phrases. A monotone voice will also cause people to lose attention faster. Use your voice to highlight and engage. Smiling while speaking can also make the voice sound brighter

Courtesy: Keep interruptions to an absolute minimum. Let non-native speakers finish their thoughts, and don't try to finish their sentences. Ask permission before putting anyone on speaker phone

Length: Be concise. Keep your continuous talk time short; people lose attention and could miss important information. Break up what you have to say into small chunks

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What Kind of Web Animal Are You?

According to the BBC I'm a Web Elephant. What does that mean?

Slow-Moving - Web Elephants browse the Internet at a stately, methodical pace. They rarely see a reason to rush things.

Social - Web Elephants often use social networking sites to keep track of friends and family, and are happy to to rely on information from sites whose content is created by its users.

Adaptable - Given their large brains and multi-purpose trunks real elephants are very adaptable. Web elephants are also adaptable and certainly capable of multi-tasking.

It's all fun stuff, and a diversion from task, task, task. What Web Animal are you? Find out at the BBC's Virtual Revolution site Consider this blog a virtual watering hole - all Web Animals welcome, unless -of course - all you want to do is snarl and bite.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Don't Collaborate Unless You Have To!!!!!!

Occasionally, I will review the books I have on my shelves. Actually many are not on the shelves, but standing in piles on the floor and on various pieces of furniture. There is no real order among my books; my theory is that if books are scattered randomly the weird juxtapositions that occur will stimulate my creativity. It does happen, but the time spent searching for a specific book can be painfully long. Why don't I put the books into some kind of order? Well, it's hard to let go of a theory once you've adopted it. But I digress!

On a recent safari through my books, I came across one that deserves to be brought back into the light. It's called Managing to Collaborate: The theory and practice of collaborative advantage by Chris Huxham and Siv Vangen, Routledge, 2005.

In this age when everyone seems to be talking and hyper-ventilating about collaboration, it's always good to stay rational and ask the simple question, "Do we need to collaborate?" The authors mentioned above developed the theory of collaborative advantage which, to paraphrase,is the synergistic result of collaborative activity; the achievement of something beyond what could have been achieved by individuals working alone. To read some of the current commentary on collaboration, it seems to be collaborative advantage all the time! No one should underestimate the difficulties of achieving successful collaboration; it's tough, tough work. I'm not talking about mass collaboration here which is another animal.

What I like about about Huxham and Vangen is how they also hightlight the opposite of collaborative advantage - collaborative inertia (the dark side). In a paper in Organizational Dynamics, Vol 33, 2004, they say "collaborative inertia captures what happens very frequently in practice: the output from a collaborative arrangement is negligible, the rate of output is extremely slow, or stories of pain and hard grind are integral to successes achieved." They leave with the sage advice - DON'T WORK COLLABORATIVELY UNLESS YOU HAVE TO.

Good collaboration begins with understanding the value that collaboration can bring (or not) to solving a problem, innovating,executing a plan, or working through an issue. Good collaborators know when not to collaborate, as well as when to bring others on board.

Think about collaborating when the problem and the solution are unclear, or the problem is clear but the solution is not. When problems are 'wicked' - collaborate. Don't waste time forcing collaboration on relatively simple problems with simple solutions.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Book Review on "Where in the world is my team?"

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:Where in the World is My Team? As you'll see from Slide 5, my virtual gym membership is really paying off!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

HIPerWall: Really Big Collaboration, Really Big!

Photo: Anne Helmond

I just learned about HIPerWall from John Sviokla's blog posting "It's Time to Reinvent Knowledge Work." You can access the blog here!.

The HIPerWall - or Highly Interactive Parallized Display Wall - is a spinoff from the University of California at Irvine (UCI, and is based on research and technology at UCI's California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2). Basically, the HIPerWall's software, enables a very large electronic canvas for creating very large video walls out of standard computer, monitors, and an Ethernet network. John didn't mention the wall itself, but a link in his blog took me to an article about two Calit2 affiliated professors (Steven G. Potkin and James H. Fallon) who were using a wall to help them identify the genes associated with schizophrenia (something one of my sons is also working on, and so I was further intrigued).

The researchers had to try and find patterns in a huge amount of data that could help them connect the millions of dots into a genetic picture. The 200-million-pixel,40 by 10 foot wall gave them larger-than-life views of their data sets at very high resolutions. As the Calit2 article said, ". . . they could scrutinize multiple data set sets simultaneously, comparing and contrasting images while they rotated, dissected, spliced and superimposed them." The wall also facilitated collaboration with other researchers in cognitive science, physics, informatics, computer science, neuroanatomy, statistics and genetics. The data was dynamic, could be grouped in many ways (e.g., gender, severity of illness). Before such a high-tech visualization tool, researchers had to grind their way millions of data-gerated numbers.

Use of the wall led to the identification of two genes associated with schizophrenia, and the researchers are now investigating genetic risk factors for Alzheimers.

As John says in his blog, other organizations (such as businesses) need to learn from these labs and consider how their own knowledge workers and potentially high-value teams think together, use information together, innovate together, learn and re-learn together. Tools like the HIPerWall not only help generate new knowledge, they feed curious imaginations that will disturb and overturn existing paradigms,and so present us with new ways of seeing. As Einstein said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." Imagination is where knowledge begins life.

To learn more about the HIPerWall you can visit here. You can also see a number of videos on YouTube, including ones where researchers are playing Guitar Hero 2 on the wall. Fun times!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Emerging Markets Are Pretty Developed on the Collaboration Front

In May 2009, Frost & Sullivan conducted an online survey of 3,662 Information Technology and line-of-business decision-makers in 10 countries in Asia-Pacific, Europe and the United States. The study - sponsored by Verizon and Cisco - wanted to find out how professionals work together using advanced collaboration tools. Here are some of the most interesting findings:

China is embracing unified communication and collaboration (UC&C) tools - 89 percent use some form of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) as their primary phone service

India sees the biggest return on their collaboration investment They have the lowest average spend on UC&C, but the highest return on capital

India is the most telecommute-friendly country, followed by Hong Kong, and with the US and China third

China has the largest proportion of its firms currently having both desktop videoconferencing (69 percent) and immersive video (62 percent. India is second and the US third

Chinese organizations ranked first with the highest percentage of companies giving advanced collaboration tools to their non-management employees. The US ranked second and Australia third

Differences in regional perceptions are very interesting:

Feel that communications technologies give them control over their lives, and allow for a better balance between life and work
Are most concerned about the security of their information
Like the ability to telecommute
Find the technologies are invalauble to help them stay in the loop and keep business moving forward

Like to work in the office, as opposed to working from home
Are least likely to multitask while on a conference call
Prefer in person meetings
Are least likely to disconnect from communications technologies in order to preserve their privacy

Highest percentage of all regions who believe that they lead busy professional lives
Readily substitute communications technologies for business travel
Like the ability to telecommute, and if possible, would do most of their work from home
Guard their privacy, often sending calls to voice mail or disconnect instant messaging so as not to be disturbed

The global collaborative infrastructure continues to develop at a rapid rate. Unfortunately,work cultures usually drag behind for many years, and so the value-generating potential at the Talent-Technology interface remains just that - potential. But, let's change that!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Web is . . .

I am a great admirer of the BBC. Born into a working class family in England, and attending not-so-stellar schools, a good deal of my education came from BBC programming. I learned recently that the BBC is trying something different. They are producing a documentary on the story of the World Wide Web with the working title of Digital Revolution. The plan is to create an open source documentary, meaning it is opening up the production process as much as possible. Everyone is invited to join the process of answering the question 'The Web is . . .?' Not that there can be one answer, of course.

Everything about the production is a work in progress - from the thinking, the website, and even the program title. The production team will be blogging and sharing their thinking as the project moves forward, and even putting up rushes from the filming. Throughout the process, the team will be seeking advice and asking for stories from those who join in.

Want to join in? Click here!