PRSA Digital Impact presentation

Below is my presentation at the PRSA Digital Impact conference in New York City last week.

As you will notice, the front half is similar to what I presented in Berlin last month. However, the context is quite different. While Berlin was focused on a very technorati crowd, this was specifically amongst communications colleagues from mostly private enterprises. A much more familiar crowd of sorts.

This presentation really is a culmination of my public speaking for the past six months – all in the context of IBM’s continued six-year transformation down the path of social media. I’ll spare the details as you can read much of it in my other presentations on Slideshare, but I do want to focus on one slide in particular here, slide #10, “IBM’s Underlying Foundations.” Basically, what has enabled success for us in social media thus far? These three things:

  1. IBM’s values. This really has two parts to it. One of our core values is trust in the employee. This is imperative as we try and encourage every employee to engage in social media. But the experiences in how we created our values is every bit as important as the outcome themselves. Back in 2003, IBM set out to define what we stand for as a company. Rather than having it be created by a few folks at CHQ, we decided to put the task to every IBMer. So we launched ValuesJam in 2003, a massive three-day online brainstorm for all employees. Fine right?

    Well, not at first. As soon as the Jam it went live, many employees found a place where they could vent their frustrations. And for the next eight hours, it was overwhelmingly negative. To the point where we were getting calls to pull the plug. We decided to see what happened if we let it run it’s course. And what happened? The conversation organically shifted from being overwhelmingly negative to being overwhelmingly positive. All without any moderation or prodding from the top. It was an eye opener that if we let employees do their thing, in the end, we’ll all gain from it. That experience gave us as a company more confidence that we could give open, free access to employees both internally and externally, which has informed everything we do in the social media context. And perhaps the most important benefit is that employees view the company’s progressive stance on social media as a public example of the values in action. A reinforcing circle, of sorts.

  2. IBM Social Computing Guidelines. I’ve talked a lot about these in the past. But basically, the guidelines provide the framework in which IBMers feel comfortable participating in social media. It gives protection to both the employee and the employer. And it gives formal endorsement from the corporation that employees are not only allowed but also explicitly encouraged to participate in these spaces to advance their day jobs. What’s the one thing that has contributed to the success of these guidelines? That they were written by the community themselves, not Communications, Legal or HR. That’s allowed for an accurate sense of community ownership which results in a wonderfully self regulating community.
  3. The Authentic Enterprise. This is a brilliant document (full disclosure, my boss’ boss, Jon Iwata, helped write it on behalf of the Arthur Page Society) and one that should be a mandatory read for any communications or marketing professional. It summarizes the role of communications in the current business environment. The gist is simply that we are moving from a period of mass communications one of masses of communicators. That has profound implications for us in communications. The whole traditional model of communications (slide #9 in my presentation above) is being turned on it’s side.

And, of course, the rest of my presentation focused on the simple fact that we simply don’t have the luxury any longer to experiment for experimentations’ sake. Instead, we need to extract tangible value from social media. If not, why are we doing it in the first place?

But I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you are seeing this play out in your organization or enterprise. Everyone company’s story is slightly different. I’m all ears.


Berlin presentation: The experiment is over (now it’s time to get real value out of social media)

While I don’t have too much time to recap the presentation in Berlin, I did want to share the slides here below. There are three distinct parts of the presentation, which, without context probably feel quite disjointed. So please read below for a little bit of context.

In short, here’s the main point: too often social media is taken on as a stand alone experiment devoid of a proper value statement and not rooted in the business model or organizational mission. And just as I said in a prior presentation that social media in conflict with corporate culture is doomed to failure, so too is any social media project without regard to what business you are actually in.

Which is why I think we are at a point where experimentation for the sake of experimentation is over. Given the economic conditions in which we find ourselves, any project proposed without absolutely clear value attached to it is not only unlikely to get off the ground, but also irresponsible for us as employees to even propose. Hence, the experiment is over.

Now, that said, I firmly believe social media that DOES have an articulated, well grounded value objective has a lot of opportunity. There is an appetite for doing things differently. But work needs to be done to show how it will advance the business’ or organization’s core mission.

Which leads me to the center of the presentation, which is focused on an IBM case study. More than two years ago we embarked on a massive crowdsourcing experiment called InnovationJam. (at the time, it was the third such “Jam” we’d done).  The intent was to address a problem we’d been having of bringing to market some of the great technologies our researchers work on in the labs. Basically, how do we find practical business application for the great R&D work in the labs.

InnovationJam2006 copy

So, with that in mind, we opened up a 72-hour online brainstorm to all employees, clients, business partners, academics and even employee family members to explore possible applications for the research projects being worked on in our labs. I’ll spare the details, but 150,000 participants and 46,000 ideas later, we arrived on 10 unique business ideas. Around those business ideas we created mini business units, each funded at $10 million. (see slides 12-15 for details).

The result of that exercise has been pretty dramatic. If you follow IBM at all (and even if you don’t) you’ve probably heard about our Smarter Planet agenda (see more about that on the Smarter Planet blog and on ibm.com). The gist is, the major systems that make the world work – financial, health, food, traffic, energy, etc. – are all largely broken and in need of being fixed. And the solutions to those problems have a big technology underpinning.

What does this have to do with Smarter Planet? Well, take a look at slide #15. The ideas that came out of InnovationJam 2006 form the core of Smarter Planet. In short, without InnovationJam, I’m not sure we’d have Smarter Planet. And Smarter Planet is IBM’s overall corporate strategy. Pretty impressive proof point to the potential value of Social Media. But, going back to my original premise, it was rooted in a core problem we had, with a value statement at the back end.

Now, the third part of the presentation is on Smart Cities, which is very exciting, and following the presentation elicited some very pointed, but useful questions and conversations. But I’ll share more of that later on the Smarter Planet blog.


Some more musings on corporate culture and social media

My prior post here has spurred some interesting conversations. Following Jeremiah Owyang’s post, I got a very practical comment from Beth Kanter asking the following:

I’m curious about your points about how to balance top-down mandates and completely grassroots adoption strategies? What works do you think? And, do you have a case study or step-by-step or some tips?

I was about to respond in the comments thread, but figured this warranted a new (albeit quick) post. Balancing top-down mandates and grassroots adoption can be tricky, but it’s not impossible.  Finding the intersection of corporate mandates and employee value can be summed up in one sentence:

Will it (social media project “X”) help employees do the job you are paying them to do more easily?

Companies employ people so they can help them accomplish certain objectives. Employees are paid to help the company reach those stated objective. So there’s inherent alignment of objectives and incentives. Social media should reflect that. If it can help employees do what their companies are paying them to do more easily, you’ve got a home run. Companies should focus on finding the tools that accomplish that.

But there’s a big catch. The employees have to be the ones to determine what makes them more efficient. A few folks in the CIOs office, HR or corporate communications, really aren’t the best arbiters of which tools employees feel will help them do their jobs.

Likewise, if a company’s motivation to adopt social media tools revolves solely around saving money, it’s likely to be met with a dull thud of non-participation. Employees aren’t interested in saving the company money. They are interested in doing their jobs so they can be paid, go home and enjoy their lives.

So, when a company follows that model – listening to employees on what they think will make them more effective at what they are being paid to do, and then enabling them accordingly – it’s a win-win.

All resulting in more time for employees to waste time on Facebook. (did I just say that?)


The Impact of Corporate Culture on Social Media (IBM’s Case Study)

My presentation from the Social Networking Conference in Miami yesterday:

 

I’ll be brief in this synopsis, since you can peruse through the slides yourself. But here’s the main point: That culture is, in my view, the most overlooked, underestimated factor determining whether social media succeeds or fails in a company. And when corporate culture and social media are pitted against each other, social media will always fail. Always.

Too often, people from company “A” will recognize great success that company “B” is having by doing XYZ with social media. So, logically, they decide to do the same at company A. But the results are dramatically different. Why? Because they didn’t account for the corporate culture variable which is inevitably different between the two companies.

This is also why it is so hard for any third-party vendor to really play a meaningful role in helping a company transform itself to be more collaborative and embrace these technologies. They don’t have that deep understanding of a corporation’s culture.

Now, all that said, that doesn’t mean that we can’t do a lot to influence culture to be more open, more collaborative and more receptive to social media. In fact, I believe that there is a lot that can be done to intentionally create a culture for collaboration. That’s really the heart of the IBM case study in the slides above.

So, to repeat the punchline of the presentation, any company’s use of social media needs to start with 1) the company’s core business model (what are you in the business of doing and with whom?) and 2) corporate culture. And when #2 is an impediment, take the long approach and find ways to stretch the culture to create a more collaborative environment.


Solve the world’s food problems: Demand better tasting food.

smarter apple

My two worlds have collided this week: work and food.

At IBM right now, I’m deeply involved in the communications efforts supporting the “Smarter Planet” agenda. Basically, the premise is that the systems that make the world work – financial, food, health, water, traffic, etc. – are largely broken and need to be fixed. IBM’s point of view is that it takes technology, sure, but also policy and cultural change to really find solutions to these problems – to make them smarter.

This week, we’ve been focusing a lot on building smarter food systems. You can read through some of the content here for more background, but the essence is that as our food systems have become globally interconnected, it has heightened the potential risks associated with food safety, nutrition, affordability and availability.

Clearly, this topic of food interests me very personally. So allow me to be indulgent and offer some of my own perspectives on the topic. While many people far smarter and more qualified than I are working on this issue, I have but one point of entry to the topic: taste. Simply, I believe this country’s food problems can be solved with a greater emphasis on better tasting food. Trust me, I’ll explain. But first, some background:

I remember as a kid frequently driving to San Diego from my home in the Inland Empire – about 45 minutes East of Los Angeles. Anyone who has driven that stretch of the I-15 corridor to San Diego knows you pass miles and miles of rocky hills, largely covered by dark avocado trees. The avocado groves thrive in the warm hilly terrain and make the dry, often parched hills, look lush and verdant. Not long after one such trip, I went with my mom to a local produce market and was tasked with buying the avocados. Expecting to find avocados from some of the trees I’d seen on my last trip, I was surprised to find only avocados from Chile or Mexico.

If avocados grew commercially in abundance just miles from my house, why could I only buy ones picked from trees thousands of miles away?

Fast forward 20 years to my now hometown supermarket in Connecticut. It’s August, prime summer produce season in the Northeast, and yet all I find in my supermarket are tomatoes from California. (Ironically, it’s easier to find California grown avocados in Connecticut than in California, as this blogger also noted this week).

Clearly, something is wrong. How much money is being wasted sending food across the country when it’s grown around the corner? What kind of unnecessary energy is burned in the process?

With populations on the earth facing devastating food shortages, something feels wrong about shipping food across the globe to places fully capable of providing for its own.

Somehow we need to create an independent market for local agriculture that is capable of supporting the local population, as much as practical. We need market incentives that force supermarkets to make dramatic changes to how they source, distribute and market food.

How do we do that? the government’s solution, to date has seemed to hinge on farm subsidies. Just read Nicholas Kristof’s column from today’s New York Times to see the absurd results of those programs.

I have a different idea. Remember, I love food for food’s sake. So it always comes back to taste. And, I can’t help but think that peoples’ desire for better tasting food can, ultimately, help lead to the kind of systemic changes needed in our food supplies.

Trivial, you say? Well, let me explain.

Simply stated the closer food is consumed to the place it was grown, the better it tastes. That is an absolute rule.

So, as people yearn for better tasting food, they’ll ultimately yearn for more locally grown food. And as demand for locally grown food increases, demand (read: money) for local agriculture increases. And demand for local agriculture translates into incentives for supermarkets to stock local products. And stocking local products requires more efficient local distribution systems. Problem solved.

It all comes down to consumers’ understanding of what truly good food tastes like. For the most part, we’ve been complacent with two generations worth of mediocre food and have forgotten the link between local food and good food. But if we can begin to remember that linkage, the above scenarios begin to come true.

See how beautifully it all works out in the end? Who can’t get behind the idea of demanding better tasting food?

And that’s what I love doing. Hunting for great food, wherever it exists. And now it’s doubly good to know that my quests are contributing to a smarter food system.

Now, as a pay off for reading this post, a great little video from a colleague explaining why it’s important to know where your food comes from:


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.