Find your inner squirrel

I have a lot of trees around my home and have a great time watching the wildlife. Throughout the year I observe squirrels either hiding or seeking the food stuffs they depend on to survive. I had heard they aren’t as good as one might expect in storing and retrieving, so I did a little research and was amazed.

According to an study done at Berkley, a squirrel can remember 300-400 triangulations to locate the food they’ve hidden. In contrast, a human can only use 4 or 5 points to locate something they’ve tucked away. Maybe that’s why they say our digital folder structures should never go below 3 or 4 levels deep.

And with all of that, the average squirrel only locates 25% of what it’s hidden. What does that say about the human’s potential to find the stuff we’ve hoarded away?

So in respect to my inner squirrel, I created this post

Enjoy…and happy hunting!

The 10 Commandments of TED Talks

ted

I recently discovered a book titled “How to Deliver a TED Talk” by Jeremey Donovan. Now for anyone unfamiliar with TED.com, I warn you…once you go, there’s no turning back. To quote Jeremey, “TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to amplifying electrifying ideas from the domains of technology, entertainment and design.” And in the process, TED has developed a reputation as a hub and home to some of the best speakers and presenters on the planet. TED talks are a maximum 20 minutes long. And some of the best are under 10 minutes. But the content and delivery is often so engaging that you literally lose track of time. That’s why I offered the warning in the first place. But I’ve never regretted a minute that I spent listening to new ideas or experiencing new stories on TED.com. Anyone familiar with TED and my material will attest that some of my best stuff is based on content originally discovered on TED. But this isn’t meant to be a TED commercial. Like Jeremey, I believe we can all learn not only from the stories, but from the storytellers.

TED has garnered its exceptional reputation by carefully selecting and vetting the talent they put on stage. And part of that defining process is what is known as the TED Ten Commandments. I had never seen them before and I recognize that a few of them may not easily translate to our own presentations and sales methods. For that reason, I’ve arranged the list in an order that I believe to be from the most relevant to our situation, down to those very specific to TED’s purpose.

  1. Thou Shalt Reveal Thy Curiosity and Thy Passion.
    If you’ve ever pitched to someone and their response was “I’m not interested”, it was because you weren’t interesting. If you’re not exciting, they can’t be. BTW…everyone in the room wants you to be interesting. So it’s up to you to deliver. Record yourself and then listen. Would you find yourself interesting? If not, rework and repeat.
  2. Thou Shalt Dream a Great Dream, or Show Forth a Wonderous New Thing, or Share Something Thou Hast Never Shared Before.
    No one really wants to hear “if Facebook were a country, it would be the 3rd largest”…unless they work for Facebook. Most everyone knows that. What your audience wants to hear is something unique…something fresh…something that makes them think.
  3. Thou Shalt Not Read Thy Speech.
    Period.
  4. Thou Shalt Tell a Story.
    You can educate with data or you can enchant with stories. There are very few people who can make statistics and raw facts interesting. Jeff Jonas (an IBMer) is one of them. Chances are you’re not. Stories are data with a soul. Put some soul in your session.
  5. Thou Shalt Not Steal the Time of Them that Follow Thee.
    TED talks are at the maximum 20 minutes. We often get 45-60 minutes to share. Consider what you have to say. You may only have enough quality material for 40 minutes…or 30. Know the most important things you need to say and make sure you get those in. Consider what you are going to say and for each topic ask yourself, “Would the audience suffer if they didn’t hear this?” If not, consider those topics as the ones that can go. If you want you can ask “Would the audience suffer if they did hear this?” In that case, put it immediately on the cutting room floor.
  6. Thou Shalt Not Flaunt Thine Ego. Be Thou Vulnerable. Speak of Thy Failure as well as Thy Success.
    It’s not about you or your career or your book. I don’t care who you are. It’s about your audience. It’s probably your credibility that got you the audience. Don’t prove them wrong. Come early to the session and interact with the audience before you start. Ask them why they came to your session. Ask them what they do. Be human. Those who serve are the best leaders. Be approachable. Be genuine. Be yourself. And if your character is one that is not approachable and humble, then be in the audience…not on the stage.
  7. Thou Shalt Remember All the While: Laughter is Good.
    I’ve never heard an exiting crowd say, “That session was awful…there was way too much laughter and fun.” People want to be pleased. They want to have fun. Laughter is a good way to get an emotional connection with your audience. It’s also a 2-edged sword. It has to be genuine and not at the expense of your audience. You can make fun of yourself, but not of them. And be VERY careful about “opening with a joke”. Try it on a number of people before your session. Unless you have comedic skills, a poorly executed joke at the start can set the tone for the entire session.
  8. Thou Shalt Not Simply Trot Out Thy Usual Shtick.
    In conferences, remember that the audiences may have heard other speakers talking about similar topics. If all you do is draw from the same well, you’re wasting your time and worse, you’re wasting theirs. Think about what everyone else might be talking about and don’t talk about that. Be unique.
  9. Thou Shalt Freely Comment on the Utterances of Other Speakers for the Sake of Blessed Connection and Exquisite Controversy.
    And if you’ve heard others say some insightful things, feel free to mention that in your session. Amplifying another’s message is a high complement. If you happen to disagree with another message, go for it. But in those cases, I’ve always tried to let my colleague know I was going to disagree, what I disagreed with, and welcome them to come to the session. Be open.

And the one most specific to TED that at first glance appears difficult for us:

  1. Thou Shalt Not Sell from the Stage: Neither Thy Company, Thy Goods, Thy Writings, nor Thy Desperate Need for Funding, Lest Thou be Cast Aside into Utter Darkness.
    Before you dismiss this last one, I’ve tried this approach. I’ve found that when the story is “Wonderous” and a “Great Dream”, I’ve had audience members actually come up afterward and ask “That sounded incredible. Can I buy that?” If you’re “selling” an idea or a product and you can get them asking to “buy that”, you win.

Think about these commandments next time you are called upon to take a stage or honored with an audience. Did you just take the “usual shtick” from marketing and “read the slides”? Did you “flaunt thine ego” by arriving at the last minute and not connecting with the audience before the session began? Were you able to connect with them in such a way that there was “laughter”? Were you passionate about your “dream” and “wonderous new thing” or were you just reporting facts and features? Were you focused on the “sell” and not the “story”? Remember this; we have something to say…not just something to sell. Say it well and it will sell.

Remember this; we have something to say…not just something to sell. Say it well and it will sell.

Tips to enhance your Social “Signal to Noise Ratio”

signal-to-noiseOften people think that when you move to using social business practices, you’re just going to divert the mass of your inbox into some social stream. I was recently asked by a client for some tips (best practices) around social business…specifically around the concern for “a lot of junk showing up in the newsfeed”. Here is what I sent her.

NOTE: My response reflect how I use my enterprise social solution (IBM Connections)

Network with the people who have knowledge you can use (who you invite) or who work with you and can leverage your knowledge (who invites you).
If you go after numbers in your network, the noise level can cause issues.

Follow the people with whom you have specific relevant interest or current business need.
In IBM Connections you can network with someone and/or you can follow them. Our CEO, Ginni Rometty, doesn’t accept network invitations, so she’s not in my network. Yet I can “follow” her which notifies me of her social actions. I follow pertinent executives and I also use the “follow” feature for people on current projects that I want to keep focus on. When the project is over, I just “unfollow” them.

Tune your listening to what you’re trying to accomplish
In the “river of news” (our status updates), we can select to see the items from:

  • “I’m Following” (Updates for people and things I’m specifically following and responses to my own content),
  • “Status Updates” (From my network, people and communities) and
  • “Discover” (Updates outside my network, but suggested based on analytics, popularity, etc.)

This allows me to dial up the “signal to noise” ratio to meet my immediate interests.

If you find people or subjects too “noisy” and of little use, un-follow or un-network them.
Don’t think it’s a personal thing. It’s business. It’s your time. So use it wisely and don’t let the noise makers clutter your listening.

Use @ mentions only when necessary.
In IBM Connections, we can include an @ mention (ie. @Louis Richardson) in posts. These generate a notification to the person mentioned. This can be in the river of news or if preferred by the individual, it can generate an email notification of mention. In either case, it triggers a “look here” type action. Historic email is cursed because of these and social can likewise be abused. So change the way you communicate and only call specific attention to someone when you must….not when you can.

Change your thinking (and culture) from “Why should I share this” to “Why shouldn’t I share this”
Open conversations and sharing should be the default. Our current transaction based systems, like email, IM, etc. have taught us to limit the people to whom we send the message/answer/idea. That’s because from the receiving end, our inbox is a “to do list” that we don’t own. Social sharing is more about making information and ideas available…when needed. So sharing socially is not an imposition, it’s an open invitation.

As for what you post, if you find it interesting, it’s likely others will as well.
Again, you’re not imposing, you’re making it available. So post freely. I often post material that I think I’m probably the only one that might be interested. I do it so I can find it again when I need it. On many such occasions I’ve been surprised how many people have used and appreciated that material. Don’t try to figure out why it’s important or to whom it would be important…just put it out there to be discovered.

If you have other recommendations, please post them in the comments below. Also if you have any questions, let me know and I’ll do my best to assist you in finding the answers you need.

Speak UP! I can’t hear you

If you are a salesperson and you’re not using social OR if you’re struggling with social, here are a couple of thoughts and ideas that might help you on your way.

How Smart Are You?

CAA – (IBM) Connections Anonymous Association

imageWelcome to the first meeting of CAA. Although this is a virtual meeting, I know there are a lot of addicts like me who need to come forward. It’s said that the first step on the road to recovery is to admit you have a problem. So I’ll start our meeting:

(ME) “Hi, I’m Louis and I’m a Connections-aholic”

(YOU) “Hi, Louis”

(ME) “For most of my professional career I’ve experienced this insatiable desire to ask questions like ‘why’ and ‘what if’ and do things a bit differently. For years I sought out the side hallways of companies and obscure water coolers where I would find other ‘why junkies’ and we would share our ideas and ponder what it would be like if we could redefine processes or remove the rules.”

“Early on, like others, I tried to find a fix in ‘document repositories’. For years I was a dealer of ECM. I started out pushing lightweight doc management, like Dom.Doc, but I soon progressed to the hard stuff…FileNet. But my overindulgence of content creation didn’t offer any relief. In fact, it just made matters worse. I found myself creating content dozens of times a day and yet it wasn’t having the effect I expected. I recreated stuff I already had, I lost track of ideas, I forgot where I put stuff, my desktop became a mess…in short, I was literally losing my mind.”

“So I turned to what I thought was more of a ‘recreational fix’…email. After all, how much time and effort could I possibly waste in a conversational tool? Again, like a lot of you who know the depths of nested in-box folders and the ever pressing ‘mail quota’ monkey on your back. It soon became clear that this wasn’t meeting my cravings for creative and innovative interaction.”

“Then I was exposed to this new thing on the market…a ‘social’ substance that some guys and gals in a research lab cooked up. In the early days I started getting hits on ‘blue pages’ and ‘cattail’ (internal project names). But it wasn’t long before these lab rats added other powerful ingredients and I became full scale addicted. Its street name was ‘Connections’. For me the name made sense. It was like having all my brain synapses connected and firing in tandem.”

“I began seeing content I had never seen before. And it wasn’t the stale black and white single version stuff I had experience in doc mgmt and email. It was living, breathing, interactive stuff in full fidelity. It had the flat content I was familiar with, but it added a depth of credibility. I could see where this stuff had come from and where it had been…who cooked it up, who tasted it and what they thought about the rush. Content dealers I knew began pushing their ideas and sharing from the stashes of others.”

“And it was interactive. I was experiencing content that got better almost as rapidly as I could ingest it. And it was mobile…so I could address my insatiable questioning and drive for answers from anywhere and at any time. The previous side hallways and obscure water coolers were now at my fingertips. I could get an innovation fix anytime I wanted one.”

“And it was easier to find. ‘Communities’ began popping up where knowledge junkies would hang out and trade expertise and opinions. If you wanted to experience a ‘blog’ or ‘wiki’, it was always right there in easy reach. And it went mainstream when they combined it with my other addictions. I could get this social in ‘portal’ and ‘mail’. They even combined it with ‘FileNet’ which increased the potency of both components. I soon realized that there wasn’t a place or a time when I wasn’t a few clicks from another taste of Connections.”

“I’m Louis and I’m a Connections-aholic. It’s been mere minutes since my last social posting. I’m sorry, but you’ll have to excuse me while I hit the ‘post’ button and feel the rush one more time.”

EDITORS NOTE: I do not (and never have) condoned the use of illegal mind altering or performance enhancing substances. But the legal mind altering and performance enhancing substances, like Connections, are awesome!

For anyone interested in IBM Connections and our social business solutions, please visit www.ibm.com/social

And on a more serious note, I hope no one has been offended by this posting. But it’s commonly known that the only two industries that have “users” are technology and the drug trade.

Creativity Crisis Presentation

Playing a Smarter Workforce on the Pitch

Looking at me today, you might not believe it, but I played soccer (or football) in college and during my Air Force years. I’ve also coached and officiated. One reason I fell in love with the game was that the rules just made sense.

The other reason was the way players participated. You had a “position” which was based primarily on your specific skills and talents. And you were responsible for that “position”. However, when the opportunity arose, you could “switch” with adjacent players to take their role and they would assume yours. For instance, a defender with a clear open field in front, could progress the ball down the pitch and the midfielder would take care of the vacated defender’s space. The only player relegated to a well defined space was the keeper who was the last defense of the goal. And any fan will recall games where the keeper left the goal area near the end of the game to add offensive pressure. I once played on a team that had an agile 6’9” keeper who would be called forward on our corner kicks because of his height.

Because there was one ball and 11 players (per side), I learned that much of the time I spent on the pitch was going to be “without the ball”. But that didn’t mean standing around waiting my turn. It meant running into open space to create opportunity. It meant talking to the other players, keeping them informed of what was happening around them. It meant thinking of the team’s objective ahead of my own desire to control the ball.

Knowing I’m not a sports blogger, you’ve probably already discerned the parallels of soccer and business.

In a Smarter Workforce, the company (team) and its coaches (executives and managers) will strive to put the best players (employees) possible on the pitch (company). The employees should be aligned to their specific strengths and talents. Within the course of the game (doing business), employees may be given the liberty to extend beyond their current role into other spaces, knowing their adjacent player (peers) will cover and protect them. And they should always be talking (sharing) with others to keep the entire team informed and alert.

Be a Smarter Worker. When you don’t have the ball, look for the open space to create new opportunities. Don’t crowd other players; give them the space they deserve to perform to their best. Encourage others and share openly for the benefit of the entire team. And when you have the ball, keep your head up. Look for open teammates. Listen to those around you. And when you score, celebrate with everyone else on the pitch, because they made it possible.

Now go out there and play the best game that’s in you.

Let me know if I can assist you. And for more information on how you and your company can field a Smarter Workforce, check us out at Kexena – an IBM Company.

I wish I had a pencil and piece of paper

I have a daughter, Brittany, who is currently loving life as a professional illustrator. But when she was 5 years old, we took her to Chattanooga, Tennessee and visited a popular attraction, Ruby Falls. The 145-ft. falls are in a cave, so the trip down builds anticipation. Upon arrival to the viewing area, the lights are turned out (which in a cave means pitch black) and music begins playing. Then the lights are turned back on and the falls are bathed in rich colors.

Amidst all the music and hoopla, I overheard my daughter simply say, “I wish I had a pencil and a piece of paper.”

She’s an artist and the majesty of what she was seeing, in her mind, could only be captured if she could but put it down on paper.

A similar event happened to me this past week at IBM Connect 2013.

I have always had a passion for the promotion of creativity in people and in our businesses. I have long believed that people are the center of our business and to connect with people we must reach them on their emotional level. I believe pictures are more powerful than words. I believe stories are more impactful than statements of fact. I believe in focusing on the “why” more than the “how” and “what”.

As I sat through the Connect Opening General Session, I was well impressed with the thought and product leadership being expressed on stage. Our product teams have done an awesome job in putting us in the market lead and our management team is working hard to make sure we leverage that leadership to help our customers succeed. And it is that leadership that has secured Kenexa as part of the IBM family.

When Rudy Karsan, Founder of Kenexa, took the stage…that was when I had my “I wish I had a pencil and a piece of paper” moment. As it turns out, I did. I had my iPad and Twitter, so I immediately reported on what I was hearing.

Here is what he had to say:

What’s the most powerful computer in the world? Us. Our mind. We are the best. We are the best computer in the world. And when you think about smarter workforce, it really begins with us as individuals.

Take a moment and think about the most engaging moment in your life. What memory does it bring back? Does it bring a smile to your face? Does it allow you to become bigger than who you are? This most powerful computer in the world is also driven by emotion and feelings. And the notion of smarter workforce is to fully engage that mind. It gives us meaning, it gives us purpose. As we get engaged, we become bigger. We become better parents. We become better partners. We become better community members.

Smarter workforce is about making the world a better place. And on this journey, the platform on which we are creating this is remarkable. It’s a journey that we are all going to travel, to a place we don’t know exists yet. But what we do know is that every step of this journey will allow us to become bigger as people. It will allow our organizations to become richer in the way they serve their communities.

As a species, we are a very social species. We love to attract, we are just finding new ways to get there. And in the different ways we have to get there, we will continue to be engaged.

And at the start I said think about a moment you were fully engaged. If it was at work, you were in the right job. You had the right environment. You had the right tools at your disposal. You had the right team. That’s what Smarter Workforce is all about. It’s about us becoming bigger than who we are, how we perform and how we engage all our fellow co-workers, our larger communities, our customers, the entire world. And as we play this out, as we go on this journey, I am highly confident that the platform we are going to build this on is going to be extremely rich and fruitful because of your input.

Rudy took us to an emotional place “think back to the most engaging moment in your life”. He didn’t mention architecture or speeds and feeds. Instead he cast a vision of being “bigger than who we are”. And the bigger was not about revenue, it was about being a better person, a better parent, a better community member, a better corporate citizen.

Having read his book “We: How to increase performance and profits through full engagement”, I know that he is not overlooking the business measurements that we all too often focus on. Instead, he has recognized the importance of reaching people on the emotional level, and then he’s able to have them join him on his journey to a Smarter Workforce.

I have my pencil and paper (iPad and social network) and I’m loving this journey.

The ROI of +1

When considering social business, most companies will at some time try to address the issue of “Return on Investment”. I’ve worked with many companies who have achieved “hard dollar” results. Some have realized great results in cutting costs and others by bringing in new revenue or opening new markets. While these are awesome reasons for a company to adopt social, we have to remember that the core of adoption is the individual. So ROI often starts with the answer to the personal question of, “Why is social good for me?”

One of the least considered but often most personally appreciated is what I call “the ROI of +1″.

Many of us are involved in decision making and reviews that involve a team of people. Years ago when I was selling document management solutions, we used workflow solutions to achieve this type of collaboration. Interesting enough we started with sequential routes (one approver after another), but that only mimicked the paper based “interoffice email” we were trying to address. Being digital, it cut down on the time spent in route, but it didn’t really change anything significant. So we went to parallel routes, where you could send the information to the entire team at one time and they would individually do their review or make comments. That solution reduced the time to decision which resulted in more efficient processes. Oddly enough, this is the exact method many of us use today when we send information or a document to an email list for review or comment.

But let’s think about that for a moment. If you’re like most, you’ve been on a review distribution list and received a document or some information for your review and comments. You take the time to read the information and invest your time and efforts in crafting a response. For this example, let’s say you spend 20 minutes in reply. Then you send or submit your thoughts. In the next check of your email in-box you find the results of other’s comments and views. Interestingly, one of the other team members have mentioned the very items you flagged and their ideas are right in line with what you have suggested.

What if you had seen their comments first? You’re reply could have been a simple, “I agree with what Mary said.”, thereby saving yourself 20 minutes. Additionally, Mary’s comments might have offered you a new perspective on your original thought. Using an email method, that would call for a reply all. Multiply that by the number of people on the team equals a lot of individual emails bouncing around. Not to mention the time it takes for you to go “on and off” task to consider the subject each time a new email is received.

One approach to this would be the “wait and see” method. This is where you hope others comment first and you just wait until you receive their emails at which time you add your perspective…possibly saving yourself the effort. The problem with this approach is if everyone took this approach, nothing would get done.

Social business solves this by allowing you to participate in “open conversations”. The same process could have been done with a single blog/wiki post or maybe an activity event. The reviewers could be notified from the post itself and their comments or suggestions would be instantly displayed with the post. So if you see someone else’s comments that reflect your opinion, your response is a simple “+1″. You’ve saved your time and also acknowledged your support for your like-minded team member’s idea…win/win.

This social approach to team collaboration allows individuals to “follow” specific topics, documents or discussions. So you don’t have to keep returning to the source to see if anything has changed. The social system will automatically alert you to changes or new postings. That way, you can stay on whatever task is at hand knowing that you’re not missing any happenings related to your team review efforts.

I know a company can take a guess at how much time this might save the organization (number of reviews X number of participants X repetitive work X avg. hourly cost of resource X etc.). It’s been my experience that social business usually far exceeds numerically derived expectations. Something as little as “+1″ can revolutionize the culture of your team’s collaboration. It saves your time. It affirms other’s ideas and efforts. It’s just one of social’s “low effort/high impact” benefits.

IBM Connections is the market leader in revolutionizing the collaboration culture of organizations, but more importantly, it can provide YOU with the tools you need to be creative, stay connected and exercise your choice in your daily work life. Check it out…and if you like what you see, +1.