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Brainstorming around Smart Work

Posted: - Modified: | gen-y, ibm, leadership, presentation, sketches, web2.0

IBM’s holding another one of its awesome collaboration jams (72-hour web-based brainstorming/discussion), this time on Smart Work.

I’m passionate about helping people connect and collaborate. All the topics highlighted are things I’m deeply interested in: teams, Gen Y, collaboration…. After I get through my 9-12 AM leadership development class (whee!), I’m looking forward to joining the Jam.

Anyway, I was inspired to make this:

There’s so much more to say, but I still have to figure out how to say it… =)

Join us for the Jam and/or the videocast!

Deeper insights into private versus public

| web2.0

I was on a panel with Luis Suarez, Jeannette Browning, and Bill Chamberlin about choosing the right social networking tools. The panel was particularly awesome because we had a lot of interaction both on the phone and in the text chat, and the questions drew out all sorts of interesting insights.

A large part of the text chat was about how other social networking tools are supplementing or even replacing e-mail as the way people work. We talked about the etiquette of instant messaging and how near-real-time communication fits into the workplace without being disruptive. Thinking about the shift away from e-mail, though, I realized that there are actually several changes at play.

First, there’s the shift from asynchronous to near-real-time, which is what you get when you go from e-mail buried in people’s inboxes to instant messages that show up on their screen. People worry that they’ll interrupt others or that they’ll always be interrupted, but that can be addressed by managing your presence indicators (“do not disturb” is handy!). They also worry that information will be lost or things will be forgotten, because many people use their e-mail inboxes as their to-do list, and that can be addressed by better task management and better follow-up.

The more interesting shift for me, however, is the shift from private to public. This is what many people struggle with, because writing for an unknown audience is scary. It’s also one of the most powerful way social software shifts the way we work. By moving as much information as you can from e-mail, instant messaging, and other private channels, to public channels such as blogs, communities, and forums, you make it possible for other people to learn from what you’re doing and connect with you. You reach beyond your known area of influence.

It’s almost impossible to read a newspaper or watch a news show without being reminded of the dangers of sharing information online, but these warnings scare people away from the tremendous upside that they can gain by sharing knowledge and exercising a little common sense. There’s probably another good blog post in here somewhere. Food for thought.

A teacher’s guide to Web 2.0 at school [illustrated]

Posted: - Modified: | presentation, teaching, web2.0

Social media changes real-life conversations

| connecting, social, web2.0

Memnon Anon sent me a link to Matt Zimmerman’s post “Social media has made me boring“, which got me thinking because I have almost the complete opposite experience.

My parents’ Facebook updates and forum posts provide fodder for weekly chats and let me keep up to date across timezones. I feel much more in touch with my friends who use social media, and we have plenty of things to talk about because I get a better picture of their interests. When we talk, we can jump past the “What did you do?” to “How did you feel about that?” I can find out when they’re having a bad day, what they care about, what they enjoy. And this works for people in the same city, too. Blogs, tweets, and other updates give me deeper insights into people than I could find out in five minutes or even an hour.

Social media lets us take conversational shortcuts. I might start telling a story that I’ve told on my blog, and the person I’m talking to says, “yeah, I’ve read that”–so then I skip past the introduction and go to the parts I hadn’t gotten around to writing down, or that I’m still figuring out. Sometimes I might tell a story in response to a question a friend asks, and then realize that was worth blogging about. There are always too many stories to write down, and conversation and interaction brings out even more.

I still organize get-togethers over tea, dinner, or Skype because I like seeing the interaction between my friends. But social media is what lets me develop good relationships with people I might not otherwise be able to keep in touch with as often, and I really like it.

So here’s what I think the trick is:

Get over that hitch. You know how you might feel disappointed/interrupted when someone says, “I’ve read that on your blog”? Practice your happy-do until your first reaction is “Awww, thanks for reading!” and then go on with asking people what they thought, or jumping to the part you really wanted to talk about. Make your conversations less about “What did you do this summer?” and more about “What did you like about it? What did you learn? How did that change you?” and other deeper questions. Even if you’ve already posted a long, thoughtful reflection on your blog, you’ll learn even more through the conversation, and through connecting it with other people’s experiences.

If you blog, there are a number of mental mind-shifts that are useful. That’s one of them. Another one is to get used to the idea that people may know more about you than you know about them, which is really weird at the beginning. People feel uncomfortable when other people have the edge in terms of knowledge. But you can flip that around, be flattered that someone’s taken the time to learn about you and keep up to date with you, and then use the conversation time to get to know about them.

Social media changes conversations, and I think that’s awesome.

The influence of trees, webs, and clouds

Posted: - Modified: | web2.0

There’s the influence described in formal organizational charts. Executives influence middle managers, who influence managers, who influence front-line employees. It’s like the way a tree‘s roots affect the trunk, which affect the branches, which affect other branches, which affect the leaves. People rise in organizations depending on their political savvy and the way they handle situations. The influencer’s relationship to the status quo is clear: managers might be good at keeping everything running smoothly (preserving the status quo), while leaders are good at inspiring people to change (seeking a new status quo). People have a mix of both traits, of course, but favour one or the other. The relationships are clear, and you can work with them.

This isn’t the only way influence works. Social network analysis may show you that the most influential person isn’t Bob, the manager, but Sally, the receptionist, who knows everyone and who can nudge people to support new initiatives. This is the influence of webs, where pulling on one strand affects the other. Change management initiatives take this kind of influence into account when they use social network analysis to find the key influencers and early adopters by asking people to identify who influences them in particular situations. Then they can work with those people to encourage change. These relationships may not be immediately obvious, but they can be determined from communication patterns or surveys. People can intentionally influence their social network, working to either support or resist change.

But there’s another kind of influence that I don’t quite understand, although I’ve had many experiences of it. People do things that influence strangers in ways they don’t expect. I think of it as the influence of clouds . You could write a blog post that someone in Australia reads, enjoys, and thinks about, but you don’t know about that potential relationship and you don’t do it because you want to change other people’s lives or help them stay the same. You do it just because it helps you think, and yet things happen. How do you plan for or measure that kind of influence?

Combining multiple social media services

| web2.0

If you’re new to social media and Web 2.0, you probably feel overwhelmed by all the different tools that are out there. Should you use Twitter? Get on Facebook? Start a blog? Share photos? Share videos? It seems that as soon as you’ve worked up the courage to try something new, another ten new tools come along. And where are you going to find the time to do all of this, anyway?

When I coach people on social media, I notice that people often focus on–or get distracted by–the tools. They worry about not being on the right networks, about staying with a tool long after their target audience has passed. They sometimes have a hard time seeing the big picture and how all the pieces fit together.

Here’s the big picture: You want to work more effectively. You want to reach out and connect to people.

The tools you use to go for that big picture will change over time. That’s okay. You might need to be in more than one network or to use more than one kind of tool. That’s okay. You might need to leave tools, copying your data over if possible. That’s okay.

The big picture is: You want to work more effectively. You want to reach out and connect to people.

So, how do you go about putting the pieces together?

At the minimum, you should have one website where people can go to find out about all the rest of the tools you use to share. Many people build their profiles on LinkedIn for this purpose, but it’s best to use your own web host instead of relying on a third-party company that might be renamed, go out of business, or simply go out of style.

I strongly recommend registering your own domain name. If your name is still available as a domain and it’s easy to spell, use that. If not, come up with another phrase or tagline that people can use to find you.

Set up a simple site with your photo and some information about you. Include your contact information. You can use something like WordPress to easily create a few webpages.

You may also want to set up e-mail so that you can use your new domain name for your personal mail. If you never change e-mail addresses, you’ll never have to worry about losing contact. Google Apps is a good way to get your own mail system.

Now that you have a main site, you can explore other tools and social networks. Here’s a sample:

  • Social networks like,, or make it easy to keep in touch with contacts
  • Microblogging sites like make it easy to share short, quick updates
  • Blogging sites like or let you share longer stories and posts
  • Media-sharing sites like (photos) or (videos) let you share your creations
  • Social bookmarking sites like

Other kinds of sites cover all sorts of other purposes. Go ahead and explore.

Whenever you build a presence on another social network, link back to your main site. If you want, make it easy for people to discover your other profiles by linking to those profiles from your main site.

Worried about losing track of what you put where? Take notes by bookmarking the resources you’ve shared or by blogging about them.

Over time, you’ll figure out which set of tools work well for you, and you’ll have the flexibility to add interesting new tools as they come along.

Log your accomplishments

| blogging, career, life, web2.0

If you’ve ever wondered where the day went, or where the week went, or where the month or year went, slow down. Take notes. Keep a diary, a journal, a blog, or whatever other way you want to keep track of your accomplishments and celebrate the little things.

Notes don’t lock you into the past. They let you see where you’ve come from and remember where you’re going. You can store your unfinished thoughts for further reflection. You can figure out what to say and how to say it. You can figure out what you think.

Keeping notes also helps you in other ways. If you write down your accomplishments along the way, yearly performance reviews become a lot easier. If you write down solutions to problems you’ve encountered–or even the things you’ve tried along the way–you’ll find that your notes will save you time when you need to solve that problem or similar ones. Record other things: what you enjoy, what you don’t, what you’re curious about, what you’ve learned.

So get a journal that you’re not afraid to write in, or start a blog (more about this later), or write one-line summaries of your day on Twitter. Block time in your schedule so that you can write. Five minutes will do. Fifteen minutes would be even better. It doesn’t have to be a perfect record. It doesn’t have to be a coherent essay. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day. Just keep writing. Be kind to yourself when you write. Celebrate.

Come back after you’ve done that for a month. Now life should’ve slowed down for you, slowed down enough to enjoy. You can look back and see where you’ve been, what you’ve done. And you might’ve found yourself writing about who you’d like to grow into, what you’d like to do–great!

Keep writing.

Now think about some stories you can share with more people. Stories can help you connect with others and build relationships. Through stories, you can teach other people about what you’re good at and who you are.

Here’s the big step: try telling those stories in a conversation. Or even better: on a blog. You don’t have to tell everyone about your new blog, if you don’t want to. You can just write. Share your notes. Share how you’ve solved problems, share what you’ve learned. Share a couple of stories from your day.


Because you’ll learn a lot more along the way. You’ll learn in the process of figuring out how to explain things to someone else. You’ll learn from your own notes. And you might just learn something from the questions and experiences of other people.

You’ll learn a lot from helping other people by sharing your experiences. And people will learn more about you and the value you create.

It’s a great habit, and not hard to start. After all, life already happens. The problem you’ll find yourself encountering, actually, is that there will be too many great stories to tell.