I might as well get to the point. Today is my last day at IBM. I can’t express how strange it feels to write that. I’ll share more about all of this in future blog posts, but to be brief, I have decided to accept an offer from Juniper Networks in Silicon Valley.
Despite the risk of sounding like a cliché, I have to state that working for IBM has been an absolute privilege. I have a genuine affection for all the IBMers with whom I’ve worked over the last seven-and-a-half years, and I have a deep belief in the purpose and mission for which IBM stands. Last, and certainly not least, it has been a real privilege over the past few years to be responsible for the global social media strategy for the most socially connected company on earth. What more could I ask for? It has been a great experience all around and IBM has been incredibly good to me, for which I’m grateful. To the IBMers reading this, thank you so very much.
So why am I leaving? This has been the hardest decision I’ve ever made. Despite all of these great things at IBM, my wife and I ultimately felt this specific opportunity at Juniper was the right move for the long-term benefit of my family and my career. The hardest decisions in life and business are between two equally attractive choices, and this was no exception.
At Juniper, I’ll be leading their social and digital strategy across communications and marketing worldwide. It is an exciting opportunity to start anew and build from a clean slate. I’ll have more to share when I actually get on board in a few weeks, but the people I’ve met so far make me very excited for the opportunity to broaden my networks and learn from yet another group of highly innovative colleagues.
But before I set foot for my first day in Sunnyvale, I’m already faced with a big challenge: How do I now establish a new professional identity that isn’t intrinsically connected to IBM’s? No longer being an IBMer means a new chapter not only in my career, but also in my professional identity. Over the past few years I’ve spoken at dozens of conferences, given dozens of media interviews, and spoken to countless IBM clients about IBM’s social business efforts. How do I separate my domain expertise from the context of my work at IBM?
Although my social experience has been filtered through IBM’s efforts, I know that in the process I’ve acquired a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience from which to draw. So my task will be to build a professional persona that is appropriately balanced between my personal expertise and skills and my professional contexts – new and old. Both matter; it is finding the right balance that is the difficulty.
It’s going to be a lot of fun.
It should come as no surprise to anybody that IBMers are active in social media. In fact, we have, I believe, the single largest community of employees active in social media anywhere on earth. However, to the casual observer, it can be difficult to really grasp in a meaningful way our unique approach due to our employee-led, intentionally decentralized model for participation. (oh, if only I had a dollar for every time I was asked why we don’t have a single corporate blog or an @IBM twitter account…)
Over the past few years we’ve been looking for ways to raise the visibility of our employees’ individual contributions to the social Web and bring it all together into ways that represent the brand more holistically.
Which brings us to the newly launched IBM Expert Network on Slideshare. Beginning today, you now have a small window into the thinking of many IBMers who are now part of the Slideshare network.
This is a unique program for both Slideshare and IBM. Working with Rashmi Sinha and her great team at Slideshare, we spent the last few months constructing this program to create visibility not for IBM as an entity, but rather for the IBMers that shape our our brand.
For IBM, the value is clear. We are a knowledge-based B2B company that differentiates itself through the expertise of its employees. This program allows us to turn the most common activity of our thought leaders – creating and delivering presentations – into social objects with reach across the Web.
Now, a few notes on the Slideshare network. To be sure, this is a small start. We’ve capped this network today at only 50 experts. Compared to the entire IBM audience, this represents .01 percent of our employee base. It is also a bit too U.S. centric today (with a few exceptions). And finally, many, many more IBMers are already active on Slideshare who aren’t in this program. Over time, we plan to work with Slideshare to evolve the network to be more global, expansive and representative of our work, reach and employees’ expertise. For now, this is a nice start.
So, please take a look through the network, reach out to our experts and let us know any feedback you may have.
And for those interested in a little more context around IBM’s employee-led approach to social media, below is the presentation I am delivering today at the 2010 WOMMA Summit in Las Vegas. Fittingly, I’ve posted it to Slideshare.
Go figure (sorry for just a link… CNBC’s embed is having trouble with WordPress)
Now, I do have to say a few things about this. First, I was really disappointed that CNBC’s Power Lunch doesn’t offer lunch (kidding, kidding). Seriously though, I haven’t yet and probably won’t ever actually watch this clip because I feel completely squeamish watching myself on TV. All of my annoying quirks are far too exposed. So apologies if it stinks – I’m going solely on memory of how it went. Anyhow, the one thing I do remember is that I didn’t get to nearly any of the things I was hoping to talk about.
So to capture some of that mental prep I’d done, below I’ve crafted what my dream CNBC interview would have been:
How is IBM taking advantage of social networking?
A great question… (wink, wink) IBM has the largest community anywhere on earth of employees engaged in social networking! (can’t speak for extraplanetary entities) That translates into almost 200,000 on LinkedIn, well over 50,000 on Facebook, thousands of external bloggers, thousands on Twitter, 17,000 internal blogs, etc., etc. By virtue of our size and technically savvy employee base, there’s no other organization out there with the scale, size and potential influence. We still have work to do to make our efforts more connected and intentional, but the value is there now and the future opportunities are immense.
What are you all doing on these sites?
Work!!! We are doing our jobs – the same jobs we were doing before social media. But hopefully now with better access to colleagues, peers and expertise than we had before. These platforms remove all of the artificial and geographical boundaries you find in organizations that lock up knowledge and information. Instead of relying on your office neighbors or reporting line as the sole source of information, you can reach anywhere into the organization – or out of the organization – to collaborate, learn, listen and influence.In other words, we are on these platforms because we can do our jobs better using them. Sure, we like t0 share pictures of our kids on Facebook too, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Connections, or whatever to learn from the brightest minds out there.
Won’t employees just waste time if we give them access to these sites? [My favorite question, btw]
Not at all. Blocking access to these sites is a self defeating policy for two reasons:
- This is a reflection of poor performance measurement practices. If you want to restrict access to Facebook in an attempt to push employees toward productivity, then you aren’t focused on results; you are focused on process. And we all know that process doesn’t mean anything. If an employee is spending 50 percent of his/her time on LinkedIn and Twitter, but performs better than peers who don’t, perhaps that’s a lesson in itself? And if they are wasting their time, that too will come out when it’s time to measure results and performance.
- Think of the message this sends employees. “WE DON’T TRUST YOU.” I can’t think of many things that undermines any sense of trust between the institution and the employee than micromanaging how they spend their time. This has particular consequences when it comes to morale and recruitment.
Any parting advice for other companies looking to dip their toes in this water?
Another great question… First, I’d say be pragmatic about how you approach this. Don’t be afraid of the blurring lines between professional and private conversations of employees. That blurring already happens with phones and email. That it happens in social networks doesn’t really change much. Instead, focus on getting great guidelines in place and make sure everyone understands them. Based on our experience at IBM, the guidelines can’t be a top-down mandate. Employees should be part of the process in creating them. Our employees actually wrote the Social Computing Guidelines, resulting in self-regulating, very large, very well behaved community of active participants.
Do you have any advice for where to get a great taco?
Why yes, in fact, I do…
So that’s my dream CNBC Q&A. To quote someone far more interesting than myself, “At the end of the day… I think the questions went… wonderfully well.“
This will be brief, but I did want to offer some of my own, personal perspectives on the issue of ESPN’s new guidelines for employee use of social media. I’m basing this on my own experiences here at IBM in helping maintain the IBM Social Computing Guidelines, which we’ve had now for over four years. The IBM guidelines were created, literally, by the IBM employees who were participating in these social spaces. I won’t go into too much detail here about it – but I’ve written up our experiences in a prior post for your reading pleasure.
Now, to ESPN’s guidelines. Overall, they seem fairly reasonable. ESPN has a business to run and they need to protect their reputation and revenue streams. I understand and appreciate that. Guidelines are absolutely essential for corporations to protect both the company and the employee. But, I did have two main reactions:
- They come across too heavy handed.
- They seem to have been created and communicated in a completely old-school, top-down manner without input from employees.
If my experiences at IBM have taught me anything, it’s the following:
- Don’t create social media guidelines for employees without including employees in the process.
Why? As far as I see it, there are a few reasons:
- Corporate-only mandates instill a sense of distrust between employee and employer. Nothing says we don’t trust you like management saying out of the blue that you aren’t allowed to do “X” or “Y.” If employees are part of the process, then this becomes a moot point. But by mandating behavior on employees you turn off those who are most likely your most valuable assets in the social media space. After all, nothing is more powerful for a brand than to have its employees out there talking to clients, customers, partners and – in this case – fans.
- Missed value. The suits in CHQ (yes, I’m one) can never know all the ways that employees are finding value through social media. And much of that is bringing value to the corporation. So to dictate rules without the perspective of the employees means a lot of potential value can get lost.
- Employee “ownership” of the guidelines results in a wonderful phenomenon: better behavior and a self-regulating community. We do no policing of employees in social spaces at IBM. One of the reasons for this is because the other IBMers – the ones who helped write the guidelines – keep everyone else in line. Positive peer-pressure if you like. And if you were trusted to help create guidelines, naturally, you are more predisposed to understand them and to follow them.
Social media in sports is still in its nascent stages. Heck, I even have my own little story about it. I’m very interested in seeing how professional sports leagues, organizations and media outlets ultimately find the balance for all of this. But one thing is for sure, they should all listen to employees and fans as their starting point.
Update: looks like someone else picked up on the IBM example too.
For a while I’ve been wanting to put together a longer post detailing the full background behind IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines and some our Social Computing experiences overall. While you can glean quite a bit about those topics by perusing some prior posts I’ve written and presentations I’ve given on related topics, unfortunately, I just haven’t gotten around to putting it all in one place.
However, I was recently involved in a small project that helped capture much of this content. Along with a few colleagues, I was asked by Harriet Pearson, IBM’s Chief Privacy Officer, to help put together a public submission to the Department of Homeland Security as part of their Privacy Workshops they hosted in Washington D.C. earlier this week. It was a great exercise to capture many of the lessons we’ve learned at IBM over the years about privacy, guidelines, boundaries and institutional opportunities in this space we now term social computing. The paper was selected for review at the workshop, so you can read the full submission here on the DHS site (warning, pdf).
There are a few parts I wanted to call out here regarding IBM’s experience in this area (I’ve added emphasis below):
As we all know, another major shift occurred early in this decade with the emergence of Web 2.0. These new capabilities were enormously empowering for individuals – facilitating not just global access to information, but the capacity for anyone to become a global publisher for free, in minutes. In addition, the distinction between “inside” and “outside” became far less exact or defensible. This holds enormous potential for enhancing collaborative relationships, but also raises significant issues with regard to security, privacy and governance
Based on our previous experience, IBM recognized the opportunity to tap into individuals’ use of social media as a way to flatten a geographically and organizationally dispersed employee population and to encourage more learning, collaboration and development – both inside the company and with external parties. Further, our research indicated that the personal interactions individuals have with IBM employees – online or face-to-face – have a more powerful influence on shaping the individual’s perception of IBM’s brand than any other form of communications, marketing or advertising.
With that in mind, in 2003 IBM was one of the first companies to provide employees access to social tools – blogs, social networks, wikis, video and podcast publishing — inside and outside the firewall. We did so in order to encourage collaboration and provide greater outside exposure to IBM’s greatest asset – its employees.
In providing such unfettered access to Web 2.0 technologies, the company’s management – and IBMers themselves – were not blind to the need for appropriate governance and risk management in relation to how these tools are used. In an effort to protect the IBM brand and employees themselves, in 2005 IBM became one of the first corporations to issue specific guidelines for employee behavior in social computing environments. Now called the IBM Social Computing Guidelines, they were initiated and written in significant part by interested employees themselves, were created on an internal wiki, and continue to serve as the framework by which employee behavior is guided in these online social contexts.
By empowering all employees to participate and engage within the clear framework of the IBM Social Computing Guidelines, IBM and its employees have embraced social media in dramatic numbers. Following are a few examples of some of the tools most popular with IBMers:
- Internal blogs: 60,000 users, 17,000 different blogs
- Internal wikis: 1 million page views per day
- Employee-created podcasts and videos: more than 8.5 million downloads
- Facebook: more than 70,000 employees
- LinkedIn: more than 250,000 employees
We believe that IBM’s experience over the past 25 years has shown that, with the proper guidelines and instruction for employees, the use of Web 2.0 technologies by large organizations can be managed and an open, more collaborative and efficient environment developed.
The paper then goes on to describe some more prescriptive recommendations for how the government can engage – safely – in these spaces. But if I were to sum it all up in just a few sentences, we believe the businesses – and certainly governments – have much to gain from empowering their employees to engage in these environments. And by working with employees to establish clear – but fair – guidelines for behavior, organizations can do so without opening themselves up to unsatisfactory levels of risk.
Take a read through the paper and let us know what you think.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.