Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category
I’ve been thinking a lot about the value of actionable and predictive team analytics recently and a post from Naomi Bloom struck a chord.
From her piece:
Analytics — what types of actionable, embedded, and/or predictive analytics with what types of visualizations, e.g. network analyses is becoming quite prominent when organizations try to figure out what roles and individuals have the greatest business impact? And I should emphasize here that this is about getting real insight to decision-makers in a form they can use when they’re in the middle of making that decision rather than just having a wonderful report-writer or business intelligence solution with which they can figure out the questions and search for the answers. Please note that I haven’t treated so-called “big data” as a separate topic (although everyone’s calling anything big data at the moment) because the real goal is actionable, ideally predictive, analytics, for which the management of big data is a necessary but not sufficient capabilities.
The significance of actionable and predictive team analytics cannot be understated. Tools that offer decision makers simple, actionable, valuable and consistent advice is key. Additionally, these capabilities have arguably been missing from the practice of anyone wanting to improve the engagement, well-being and performance of their staff or team members.
I was interviewed by Justin Kirby on the subject of Socialogy last week.
Justin and I had previously collaborated on Collaborative Innovation on behalf of Nesta.
The interview runs to about 20 minutes and the main topics we covered were as follows:
- Four Groups’ 4G methodology and human capital management software platform
- The 5 factors required for business transformation, i.e.
- Simple to explain
- Scalable and predictable
- Changes to people’s jobs
- A return on investment (ROI)
- External validation
- The use of these 5 factors of existing innovations versus Social Business
- Stowe Boyd’s ‘Physics of People’ and the holy grail of predicting behaviours
Listen to the interview below.
Despite the fact that the term ‘peopleware’ was first coined in 1977 and a book by the same name was published in 1987, there is little contemporary mention of peopleware today in social business circles. With this in mind, there was an interesting call for the need to balance the software tools of social business with ‘peopleware’ via Jamie Notter recently.
From Jamie’s piece:
Today’s environment requires speed, which, in turn, requires the people and departments in your organization to collaborate effectively. Friction there slows everything down. We put up with that in the past and did okay, but the same won’t be true moving forward for a real social business. So I think as leaders start paying attention to what “social business” means, they will start to employ tools that enable better collaboration, both inside and outside the organization.
As the use of social business tools increase the speed of change, interactions and collaboration, previously hidden inefficiencies and communication problems are going to be discovered. It doesn’t matter how these inefficiencies are discovered (social network analysis, project delays, employee feedback etc.), the point is what to do about them.
Jamie believes that organisations will turn to more software tools but that the software tools themselves won’t resolve these frictions.
But I have a prediction: [companies] will over-rely on technology to solve this problem. The tools are becoming increasingly sophisticated and easy to use. So by all means, jump into those tools, but also recognize this: online tools won’t solve your silo issue. Collaboration software alone is not going to resolve conflict.
Further to Stowe Boyd’s piece Socialogy and a Scientifically-Grounded Understanding of People and his Physics of People tag, I’ve been thinking about other people’s thoughts and ideas on the subject. What does the idea of a ‘Physics of People’ consist of and how it might take shape? The following extracts and quotes chart the thinking and writing on the subject over the past ten years or so.
Starting Points for a ‘Physics of People’
The first idea that I’m aware of comes from an article in the IBM Systems Journal. Written in 2003 by Cynthia Kurtz and Dave Snowden, the following extract is an initial call for a ‘Physics of People’, along with the recognition of the challenge involved:
We would like (but do not expect) to see simulations of human behavior able to encompass multiple dynamic individual and collective identities acting simultaneously and representing all aspects of perception, decision-making, and action.
This quote really leaves nothing on the table, conjuring up the idea of an omnipotent, all-knowing reality. Whilst this has an unmistakable element of ‘Big Brother’ within it, it’s also reassuring to know that physics itself seeks an understanding of reality that is equally, if not more profound.
Stowe Boyd is starting some interesting research into what he’s called Socialogy. Stowe defines Socialogy as “The theory and practice behind social business, its tools and techniques, and their impact on business culture, structure, operations, and people.”
From the piece:
I am going to be talking with a lot of researchers, visionaries, and practitioners who are working to push business into the 21st century, and to explore their ideas about moving onto a philosophy of business grounded in what we know about the human mind, social networks, and the emergent behaviors of connected groups.
In the series, I pose one question to my guests consistently: ‘How do you think a scientifically-grounded understanding of people as social beings will change business in the future and how?’
Incidently, Socialogy isn’t the first term that Stowe’s coined – he’s the originator of the term ‘hashtag‘ and also coined ‘social tools‘ back in 1999 so it will be interesting to see how this new term does.
Socialogy and the Potential to Transform Business
Given Stowe’s question, I thought I’d have a go at answering this from the perspective of Four Groups.
A scientifically-grounded understanding of people, such as 4G, has the potential to change business in hugely profound ways, perhaps on a scale comparable to the industrial revolution, the introduction of the PC or the rise of the internet.
Such a statement is naturally loaded with many assumptions and implications, so it’s worth exploring both in further detail.
Understanding people isn’t just a HR skill for managers.
This has to be one of the oldest clichés in management and HR. I came across this gem via a post from Harold Jarche who wrote about a presentation by Danah Boyd titled Networked Norms. Whilst the major focus for Jarche and Boyd is around increasing internal and external connections for employees and businesses, I think the message about understanding people is as interesting.
From the presentation:
Understanding people isn’t just an HR skill for managers. For better or worse, in a risk economy with an increasingly interdependent global workforce, these are skills that everyday people need. Building lifelong learners means instilling curiosity, but it also means helping people recognize how important it is that they continuously surround themselves by people that they can learn from. And what this means is that people need to learn how to connect to new people on a regular basis.
The rapid growth in the number of accelerator programs in the start-up world brings the role of mentoring to the fore as a valuable tool for helping emerging entrepreneurs. With high profile programs such as Y Combinator, Techstars in the US and Springboard, Seedcamp, Startup Bootcamp, Oxygen and Mola amongst others in Europe. Following a similar model, start-ups are given office space cash and access to industry experts, in exchange for a small slice of equity. At the end of the three month program they then present to investors in the hope of securing further seed funding for their products.
Apart from hard cash, one of the key elements of the accelerator program offered to nascent companies is a mentoring. Mentors are usually sourced from a wide talent pool that includes individuals with practical experience in areas directly relevant to start-ups. This can include individuals experienced in; VC investment, PR, business development, finance and more experienced entrepreneurs. What is the value of this to young companies? At first glance, the top line benefits would appear to be the opportunity to tap into the mentor’s experience and gain feedback and insight into the problems they are grappling with. Secondly, gaining access to the mentor’s contacts book could also help open doors at a crucial stage. Both of these benefits would appear to be an invaluable opportunity for young companies.
However, I would argue that this access, whilst nice to have, will only have a limited impact on the long-term development and performance of young enterprises. In actual fact, mentoring can be much more powerful and have a far more profound impact, however there is a caveat. Rather than dealing with the practical and specific day to day issues, the greatest upside potential in this situation is for the mentor to help the start-ups deal with and manage the huge amount of uncertainty they are dealing with. In other words rather than seeking specific answers to questions, the mentor can provide a far more valuable service by helping the start-ups figure out what are the right questions to ask.
Concentrating on asking the right questions, an ability to question ones own assumptions and dealing with inherent uncertainty is arguably far more valuable in the long-run than getting short term answers to questions and practical issues. The problem with seeking answers rather than questions is that despite their best intentions, mentors may not be able to provide optimal guidance based on their own experience. What may have worked for them in the past may not be the correct course of action for the entrepreneurs they are mentoring. This is especially true in the world of tech start-ups that accelerator programs inhabit.
The caveat to this approach is that this type of mentoring requires a very specific relationship dynamic between mentor and mentee. Where a conducive dynamic does not exist, no amount of effort on the part or either mentor or start-up is going to result in a productive outcome. Where strong relationships underpin the mentoring process, it becomes less about the transfer of explicit knowledge and insight but instead far more subtle and potentially rewarding.
I would argue that it is far less important for mentors to have experience in an area that is perceived to be compatible or beneficial to a start-up than it is to have a relationship with strong learning and collaborative potential. This approach forces both parties to look beyond what is obvious and encourages a more considered approach based not on seeking answers to questions but figuring out what are the right questions to be asking, in this case it does not matter if the mentor has the answers or not. By taking the time to understand the way relationship dynamics will affect this process, it becomes possible to develop a program that offers far greater long-term potential to young entrepreneurs.
Being able to predict things, in business and elsewhere is critical. We don’t always get it right, but understanding the variables and relationships between ‘inputs’ and ‘outputs’ goes a long way to creating a positive outcome.
In terms of Enterprise 2 and related Social Business software, this point is key and is the subject of a post (and a good few comments) by Keith Swenson, entitled Social Has No Future (Yet). Here’s the opening paragraph.
This provocative title simply means: In general, social software systems record what is happening now and in the past, but for the most part completely lack any representation of the future. Enterprise Social Software, or Social Business Software, will succeed only if it has some representation of goals or other future activities.
While Keith goes on to talk about other aspects of social software, this initial point is the critical one in my mind. Without the ability to make predictions, the range of problems that can be solved is dramatically reduced.
Ross Dawson has a view of both next year and the next decade. Amongst the trends, relationships are becoming more and more significant (if they weren’t already!) and given the increased use of social media tools, this is only likely to increase.
The two relational extracts from the post;
GLOBAL TALENT. Talent is everywhere. As organizations shift to networks, transcending workplaces, success will be driven by how well they can attract the most talented, those who can choose where, how, and why they work. Real-time translation software will enable true multi-cultural teams. Wealth will flow to the talented, wherever they are.
ORGANIZATIONS TO NETWORKS. By the end of this decade close to half the workforce will be working independently, often across national boundaries. Companies will function on social networks and gaming platforms, professionals will work for many clients, and many of today’s companies will be supplanted by networks of experts.
Susan Scrupski writes about some research she’s been doing with GE and J&J, the upshot of which is that as the generational collide increases, the value placed on networks and relationships by younger employees seems to rise.
In Susan’s words;
We’re conducting a large research project right now on “Redefining Employee Computing” with 24 member corporations, many of them global– half are in the Fortune 100 (of those, 6 are in the top 50 and 3 are in the top 10). I can assure you that the generational “collide” is a high priority board room and management issue. It’s so strategic, many corporations are preemptively prepping to accommodate the new workforce and rethink their old school management processes.
Here’s a video of Greg Simpson, CTO at GE talking about some of these themes.