Useful information on social media

Slides and more from NCVO’s Info Conference:
[Via Amy Sample Ward’s Version of NPTech]

Yesterday was the NCVO Information Conference, focused on how organisations can make best use of recent developments in social media to meet the changing needs and expectations of their audiences. I had the pleasure of presenting with Laura Whitehead (in person) and Beth Kanter (via skype). Our session looked at using social media tools to share information inside your organization, and out:

Could better knowledge sharing and closer communications inside your organisation create stronger relationships, efficiency, insight and effectiveness? In this workshop you will discover how the latest tools for online collaboration and sharing can offer opportunities to improve the way you work. Social Media tools such as wikis, social networking sites like Twitter, FriendFeed, using Tagging and RSS feeds can enable organisations of all sizes to best use and build on its existing collective wisdom and innovation.


Some very nice slide presentations and links regarding the use of social media tools in an organization. Almost everything you need to know to understand how and why these tools help.

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Revealing inabilities

cars by freeparking
Tough Issues Make for Tougher Leaders:

Three issues that executives of the Detroit 3 should have considered before asking Congress for a bridge loan.

How we will spend taxpayers’ money.

What changes we will make to our business model to ensure that the loans will be repaid.

Why the domestic industry is important to the health and welfare of our nation.

So many CEOs speak only in the specialized jargon of MBAspeak. One of the things that made Iacocca a good CEO. He could speak pretty plainly.

So how can an executive avoid appearing like a deer caught in the headlights? The answer is straightforward: create a culture of questioning. Here are some suggestions.

Set the tone. The reason that senior leaders sometimes appear to be so out of touch is because well, they are. Too many of them are cocooned in bubbles that insulate them from the real world. Remember years ago when George H.W. Bush running for president in 1988 was awed by a checkout scanner? Well, Mr. Bush had an excuse; he was a sitting Vice President surrounded by Secret Service for the previous seven years. Too many CEOs impose a similar level of insulation (more for comfort than security) and as a result lose touch with the reality their customers and their competitors are experiencing. Genuine leaders regularly meet with their employees, customers, and key stakeholders and make certain to have open and honest conversations with each.

They have no easy path that provides them to links outside the bubble. Even kings had a jester to remind them they were mortal. Not so many CEOs. As I’ve discussed before, a good use of Web 2.0 tools, such as wikis and blogs can provide such a path, not only for CEOs but for everyone at the organizations.

Ask to be challenged. In tough times, execution needs to be done with urgency. Yet only a foolish executive would allow his initiatives to go unquestioned. But how often have we seen companies pursue courses of action that seem so wrong from the outside yet appear so right from the inside? It is because no one inside the company is allowed to ask hard questions that challenge the status quo.

Few leaders really want to be challenged on their initiatives. That is really hard for someone to do when their position relies on the CEO’s perception. But some of the best ideas came out of a simple question: “Why are we doing this?” Because you can bet that if you are not asking these questions, your competitors are.

Map consequences. Pursuing a course of action requires a consideration of consequences. To a degree, companies do “war game” outcomes but typically within a given set of parameters. Too few executives are expected to ask the “game changing” questions that will alter the playing field. Not only do those questions need to be asked; their solutions need to be mapped to the nth degree so that alternatives can be considered and planned for.

The problem here is that most of the executives on a team are in the same bubble. There is not enough of a diversity of viewpoint for them to really map consequences well.

And the response of a group to some of these consequences is to ignore them. An example is how the military responded to the innovative approach Paul Van Riper brought to the Millennium Challenge 02 wargames. He challenged the US forces with a plan that was devastating in its consequences (i.e. he sunk the American fleet).

The response was to ignore his challenge and to change the rules of the war games. Not a very useful response to innovative challenges but one seen all too often with manny leaders.

We will see during these hard times, which leaders seek out the path of General Paul Van Riper and which seek the path of the Detroit automakers.

It seems pretty obvious which is more successful during time of chaos such as these.

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Zero versus some

Why Do Platforms Bludgeon Their Partners?:
[Via SmoothSpan Blog]

I’m reading another story about Facebook building in functionality to their platform that used to be in the hands of partners, and killing the partner’s opportunity on the Facebook platform in the process.

There is definitely revenue to be had doing this, Bebo started out exactly this way and at one time had 100 million users. Even today, at least until now, they were making some $4 million a year off birthday cards and gifts. Now Facebook wants that all for themselves.

Is it really worth $4M a year, or even $10-20M a year to destroy partner’s trust in you? Why build for the Facebook platform if you know full well they plan to take the business away from you as soon as you prove it’s capable of growing to an interesting size? And is this really the only way Facebook can grow their revenue? Have they exhausted all the ideas to do something their partners aren’t? It sure looks like it.

It is really tempting for companies to view collaborations with other companies as a zero sum game. For them to win, the other side has to eventually lose. Of course, eventually there are no more collaborators since no one wants to lose.

Here is another one I shake my head at. Amid the flurry of very compromising emails (such as James Allchin saying the machines they were certifying wouldn’t work, it’s misleading, and retiring the day it shipped rather than deal with the fallout), we find HP deeply unhappy with Microsoft. They had invested in creating a generation of PC’s that stepped up to the performance Vista requires and were shocked to see Microsoft’s decision to certify machines that basically would not run Vista. Once again, a partner got bludgeoned, pehaps in the interest of placating other partners such as Intel.

Few companies that require collaboration to survive can sustain for long using a purely zero sum approach where they win all the time. There are other approaches. Even the Prisoner’s Dilemma is not a zero sum game.

Because in an iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma (where the situation is run again and again), the best strategy, the winning one, is usually to be altruistic and forgiving. Then both sides win.

Organizations that deal with collaborations like a modified Prisoner’s Dilemma might be more successful in maintaining those collaborations. Zero sum may work when conditions are relatively static.

But we conditions become chaotic, it is more important to keep as many options as open as possible. Creating self-defeating mechanisms for collaboration would not seem to be the way to proceed.

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Conversations in the open

shuttle by Savannah Grandfather
A Really Open Conversation:
[Via A Journey In Social Media]
This is the first recession where many employees have actually had an open forum to discuss decisions. Some companies are finding out the benefits of just such a conversation, although it goes against some standard viewpoints.

Here is an example of how a company has used online technologies to not only inform its employees but also to make changes in its way of doing business.

I discussed transactional versus transformational leadership a few days ago. Transactional works fine when things are static. But in the rapidlychanging world we inhabit now, transformational leadership is called for. Here is how an organization can move to transformational leadership

As The Economy Slows

Like any other company, we’re tightening up the belt a bit as we head into a most decidedly unpredictable economic environment.

But, this time around, we’ve got our internal platform EMC|ONE. And we’re using it in some pretty interesting ways to share the news, discuss it, and — hopefully — get back to business sooner than later.

Spontaneous Vs. Planned

The first memo came out in a traditional way — there was a minor change to our vacation policy to keep the amount of carryover vacation down to a manageable number. Not a big deal in the broader scheme of things, at least the way I think about these things.

But a couple of spontaneous discussions emerged on the internal platform, right out there for everyone to see. A few people were (ahem) rather pointed in their thoughts about this particular change in vacation policy.

Some people were quite upset regarding the inconvenience involved — they had made plans far in advance, which were now impacted. Others had particular work-related situations that didn’t make it easy to burn off enough vacation in time — they were concerned about losing a valuable benefit. Still others felt free to spout off a bit — ill-advised in any public setting, but there you had it.

All very valid concerns.

Before too long, we had over 10,000 views on the threads, and hundreds of comments. Over time, though, more moderate voices joined the discussion, and softly rebuked some of the more vocal participants.

These more moderate people said that the economy was getting tough, and the company needed to look at every reasonable avenue for lowering expenses. If this meant a small change in the vacation policy, fine — better than some of the alternatives.

Fine, came back the collective response — then the communication should have been worded with this in mind. Be open and transparent, they said — don’t try to whitewash the situation. The executives in charge of the policy (formation and communciation) got to see this all unfold in realtime before their eyes — warts and all.

Very useful feedback, I might offer …

Employees know what is going on so trying to hide or sugarcoat it can be counterproductive to the intent of a decision. But more importantly, they are enmeshed in a social milieu that is going to discuss almost any change. By making these discussions open, not only does the bitching become apparent but the ability to use social mores to constrain behavior can come into being.

So, after an intense discussion, the community realizes that this is a sign of belt-tightening and that the consequences could be far worse without it. Fine, but then the community wants to be treated with openness and wants to be told the real explanation.

What is unsaid but probably relevant is that the employees might have gotten to the same point anyway, but much more slowly and with a lot more wasted effort. Online, all it takes is for a few to see the best viewpoint and then everyone can see it within a very short time. It is not required for the information to slowly makes its way along the nodes of the normal social network.

One person invents a new idea or formulates a special viewpoint. They post it and everyone sees it in real time, not just the few who happen to talk with this person.

The rate of diffusion of innovation and new ideas is tremendously enhanced using online technologies.

So an open conversation has not only resulted in all sides learning something new that will now color many of the subsequent conversations. Maybe by giving people more control and information, the organization can exert transformational leadership in ways helpful to all during times of excessive change.

This can be disruptive to everyone, especially managers who are used to living in static times and using transactional leadership.

You know, this sort of experience can be thought of as a “moment of truth” in any social media journey.

You wanted an open discussion — well, you’ve got one! Now, what are you going to do about it?

Seriously, though, the company’s management would have been well within their rights to yank the whole discussion right then and there. But — no — we all found this extremely fascinating.

And the discussion turned to “how do we use this platform to help communicate going forward?”

So the decision is made to be expand the use, not contract it, of this new method of conversing within the organization. The speed by which all this happens can be very troubling to an organization used to old style communication.

Look, any time you have to share disruptive news with your workforce, there’s an inherent disruption.

People want to ask questions, discuss among themselves, share perspectives. It’s a natural human reaction — you have to process things a bit before you can get back to work.

Well, using the online platform, we seem to be getting through that introspection phase far faster than before. Anyone can see the memo, and what everyone else has already said about it. Anyone can leave their thoughts and concerns as well — all in about 3 minutes flat.

No need to wander around the building, finding people to talk to. Or getting on the phone to discuss this with your friends. Or to immediately schedule a meeting with your manager to discuss pronto.

Sure, there are people who are going to want to do some of this traditional processing, but — as of today — the online platform is where people appear to be doing the majority of this “processing” — and it’s all there for everyone to see — including our executive management.

Finally, executive communications is not a precise art. Getting realtime feedback on how you did in crafting the message is valuable feedback for any executive. And you can find out pretty quickly just how well you did, and how to do better next time.

If you want to, that is :-)

Transactional leader would not want to use this technology because there is no inherent carrot/stick way to control the employees. But transformational leadership trusts the community to control itself, to provide its own motivations. With a solid example of the community doing just that, the leaders of the organization decide this is a good thing and will expand its use. Transformational leadership by its definition.

Being Thoughtful

So, based on that spontaneous experience, we’re going to be trying a few new things in the future. We’d like to integrate the use of the platform into the broader communication experience.

First, we’re going to proactively “start the discussion”. When a potentially controversial memo comes out, we’re going to post in on the platform, and explicitly invite people to discuss.

Second, we’re going to be as tolerant as we can be when people feel like venting a bit — and then gently reminding them privately if they’re being a bit too, well, passionate :-)

Third, we’re going to spend a little time and summarize the more interesting themes back to exec management — here’s what people are saying that we think is valid, go to this link if you want to see it all unfiltered.

They are creating an avenue for a lot of tacit information that remains hidden not only from many other employees but also from management to become explicit and to inform the community.

As transformational leaders, they realize they might not have the best answers but will trust the organization to help create the best answers. They will permit social mores that we have evolved to control the conversation rather than an authoritarian perspective that could be counter-productive.

The Bottom Line

It’s funny — having a social platform ingrained in your company culture is changing how we do things. I can remember a time not too long ago where this sort of thing would be entirely out of the question.

But now it seems like the most natural thing to do — invite people into the discussion.

This stuff isn’t about technology, it’s about changing the way you do business.

And this seems like a perfect example to me.

This company is developing transformational leadership which will be able to help it deal with the chaotic times we are living in. It has the tools to help it survive with fewer disruptive upheavals than if it stuck with transactional leadership.

A great example of how a large company can begin to alter its leadership style, its very way of doing business. This is really its best hope. Organizations that still use a management style based on stasis, that use transactional leadership, will have a very hard time surviving the hurricane of change we find ourselves.

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Order from chaos

chaos by · YeahjaleaH ·
Gifted few make order out of chaos – 06 March 2002 – New Scientist:
[Via New Scientist]

Some people have a special gift for predicting the twists and turns of chaotic systems like the weather and perhaps even financial markets, according to an Australian psychologist.

Richard Heath, who has now moved to the UK’s University of Sunderland tried to identify people who can do this by showing volunteers a list of eight numbers and asking them to predict the next four. The volunteers were told that the numbers were maximum temperatures for the previous eight days. In fact the numbers were computer-generated: some sets were part of a chaotic series while the rest were random.

Random sequences are by their nature unpredictable, whereas chaotic sequences follow specific rules. Despite this, chaotic sequences are very hard to predict in practice because of the “butterfly effect” – even an unmeasurably small change in initial conditions can have a dramatic impact on their future state.

Nonetheless, Heath found that a quarter of the people he tested could predict the temperature for at least the next two days if the sequence was chaotic, rather than random, even though there is no obvious pattern to the figures.

The above link is a 6 year old article from New Scientist. It is about one of my favorite papers: Can People Predict Chaotic Sequences?

My post on Friday about entrepreneurs and their ability to make decisions under stress reminded me of it. Heath’s paper was a small study but I was intrigued by the possibility that a fraction of the population, about 25%, might be capable of seeing a pattern in information that the rest of the population sees only as random noise.

In situations where conditions change rapidly, where there is no stasis but the need to make useful decisions is paramount, being able to see underlying patterns, even very complex ones, would seem to be a real boon.

I wonder how a group of entrepreneurs would do with his tests?

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Not acting their age

soccer ball by whiteafrican
Risky decision-making essential to entrepreneurialism:
[Via EurekAlert! – Policy and Ethics]

(University of Cambridge) Whether someone will become the next Richard Branson, Steve Jobs or Henry Ford may be down to whether they make risky decisions, scientists at the University of Cambridge have concluded.

This is part of a series of articles in Nature about innovation. Of interest here is the attempt to understand how some people make really good decisions under periods of stress with limited information. The commentary in Nature (may need a subscription) indicates that the entrepreneurs (mean age 51) took risks similar to young adults while other types of managers acted more their age.

The ability of the different types of managers to make cold decisions was the same. Differences were only seen when hot decisions had to be made. The ability to be mentally flexible while making decisions under stress could have real survival characteristics. Whether the jungle is in Africa or on Wall Street.

I did like this sentence from the article since it helps explain why this sort of behavior we see today could be unique:

One of the beneficial effects of entrepreneurial clusters in regions such as Silicon Fen may be that the increased networking and contact amongst the entrepreneurs works to create a culture that normalizes a more risk-tolerant type of decision-making.

Because we now huddle these types of people together, their ‘odd’ behavior becomes normal. The human social networks help amplify this sort of decision-making. Perhaps it can be leveraged to help us do more than just make money for startup companies and venture capitalists.

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transform by fdecomite

The World’s First 21st Century Leader:

On Tuesday Barack Obama made history as the first black man to be appointed President-elect of the US. In the years and months ahead, he will make more history as he tackles unprecedented challenges: two bloody wars, a global financial crisis, the US’s tarnished reputation, domestic security and healthcare reform.

But as the euphoria of his victory gives way to the hard work of transitioning to the White House, we should perhaps pause for a moment to reflect on Obama’s other achievement: his emphatic arrival as the world’s first 21st Century leader.

I don’t think we can know this for quite some time but there are some good points about the type of leadership Obama brings.

While this article is a little effusive and may be somewhat premature, it does describe some of the work to identify traits of leadership during crisis, as opposed to stasis. It certainly looks like crisis leadership may be the norm for the next few years.

First, let’s examine what some of the most forward-thinking writers of the last century had to say on the subject of leadership. One of the central ideas of leadership in the last half of the 20th century was Max Weber’s concept of charismatic leadership. In 1968 the German sociologist wrote that social crisis was precondition for charismatic leadership, a combination of intelligence, purpose, grace under pressure and consideration for their followers.

US academic Noel Tichy built on his work in the eighties and nineties, identifying transformational leaders – courageous, value-driven, visionary people who were comfortable with uncertainty. Transformational leaders emerge in times of crisis or change, in contrast with transactional leaders who manage in steady times, preserving the status quo and strengthening existing structures, cultures and strategies.

Other researchers believed that the measure of a true leader was the ability to display both transformational and transactional styles as the circumstances demanded.

Transactional leadership uses the well recognized tools of reward and punishment to get their followers to comply with instructions. Fear is a major focus of command. Motivation comes from outside the employee/follower.

Transformational leadership evokes a feeling of higher purpose and is able to move their followers on a different level than simple positive/negative feedback. The leader makes their followers passionate. Motivation is driven by internal mechanisms, not external prods.

The idea that there are different types of leaders, each necessary for different times is well known when examining warfare. Leaders that are perfect for peacetime do not often fair well in wartime, and vice versa. It took Lincoln most of the early part of the Civil War to find a leader who was more transformative than transactional.

The difference between these two types of leadership is obvious here because wartime is principally a time of crisis. Yet, transformational leaders can also be found outside of the military, particularly in the innovative world of entrepreneurial endeavor.

Around the same time, Warren Bennis advanced the argument that in a complex and uncertain world, leadership can only be exercised by self-directed, strong, creative, purposeful and self-actualising leaders – those who have listened to their inner voice. Bennis later added that one of the most reliable indicators and predictors of leadership was the ability to learn from traumatic circumstances: emerging from these ‘crucibles’ of change, leaders were stronger and with a more defined purpose

In the 1990s, Peter Vaill of Antioch University added that values were the primary organising principle for action in a turbulent climate. When it is impossible to set goals, leaders need to rely on their inner resources, drawing on non-rational as well as rational abilities, in other words, their deepest convictions.

Of course, a lot of this just sounds like leadership of any kind. What is key here is that a transformational leader is very comfortable with shades of gray, is able to seek answers to complex problems without necessarily having every path delineated and recognizes that failure is often a necessary prelude to success.

And, finally, a transformational leader is able to gather their followers without the simple inducements of positive or negative reinforcements. Thus the followers are able to ‘lead’ themselves in the absence of the leader. Without the need for inducements, the organization can easily follow the 7 lessons I mentioned earlier. A transactional leader is simply unable to do this.

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The last four lessons from

leader2 by Hamed Saber
Obama’s Seven Lessons for Radical Innovators:
See the discussion of the first three lessons here. To review, they are:

1. Have a self-organization design.

2. Seek elasticity of resilience.

3. Minimize strategy.

The discussion regards the innovative nature of Obama’s campaign organization – how it was able to create a community that pushed innovation to the edges.

4. Maximize purpose. Change the game? That’s 20th century thinking at its finest – and narrowest. The 21st century is about changing the world. What does “yes we can” really mean? Obama’s goal wasn’t simply to win an election, garner votes, or run a great campaign. It was larger and more urgent: to change the world.

Bigness of purpose is what separates 20th century and 21st century organizations: yesterday, we built huge corporations to do tiny, incremental things – tomorrow, we must build small organizations that can do tremendously massive things.

And to do that, you must strive to change the world radically for the better – and always believe that yes, you can. You must maximize, stretch, and utterly explode your sense of purpose.

Not every organization needs to follow this model. These sorts of transformational organizations, with their decentralized approaches, work best in areas where simple stick/carrot approaches are not needed. If people are going to change the world, they will be motivated without needed other sorts of reinforcement.

Small companies and entrepreneurial organizations may be best suited for this approach. The feeling of working on something big, creating something that never existed before to fight problems that face the whole world can inspire tremendous innovations. Obama was not the first to use this. He was just able to use new tools in an innovative fashion to create something novel, just as many successful entrepreneurs do.

5. Broaden unity. What do marketers traditionally do? Segment and target, slice and dice. We’ve become great at dividing markets into tinier and tinier bits. But we’re terrible at unifying them. Yet Obama succeeded not through division, but through unification: we are, he contended, “not a collection of Red States and Blue States — We are the United States of America”.

Obama intuitively understands a larger truth of next-generation economics. Unified markets are what a world driven to collapse by hyperconsumption is desperately going to need. We’re going to need not a hundred different kinds of razors – and their spiralling costs of complexity and waste – but a single razor that everybody, from the slums of Rio to the lofts of Tribeca, is overjoyed to use.

Transformational leadership is all about asking people to become part of something greater than themselves, part of a community with a greater purpose than just survival. Again, not every sort of company or leader needs this but for certain industries it can be very potent. And it can attract a large number of innovators because they are usually drawn to exactly these sorts of problems. Much in the way writers have to write, innovators have to innovate. Creative talent is very important for a decentralized organization.

6. Thicken power. The power many corporations wield is thin power: the power to instill fear and inculcate greed. True power is what Obama has learned wield: the power to inspire, lead, and engender belief. You can beat people into subjugation – but you can never command their loyalty, creativity, or passion. Thick power is true power: it’s radically more durable, less costly, and more intense.

Many companies are based on transactional leadership, where fear or other base emotions are instilled in workers and used to control their behavior. Whether a follower gets rewarded or punished is usually dependent on successfully following a process. Not failing becomes more important than possibly succeeding. Stasis is often better than making a wrong decision.

Generally in transactional leadership, the process is always correct. If there is failure, it is the employee’s fault not the process. So either the employee must be properly trained or fired. Assigning blame is paramount. Not really a good place for innovation.

Transformational power is not based on performance as much as trust. Followers are trusted to do their work, not threatened to do so. If something or someone fails, the assumption is not that a trusted individual did not do their job. It is that something must have prevented them from doing what they wanted to do. Finding a way to remove the obstacle is more important than assigning blame.

Again, this sort of leadership is not for every organization but it results in the follower/worker driven to complete the task for internal reasons rather than because of external threats or promises. This can be very powerful motivation if attained. It is what will keep employees at all levels working long and hard hours. something painpunishment forms of leadership often fail to maintain.

It will foster innovation at all levels and will in fact reward someone who finds a way around the obstacle.

7. Remember that there is nothing more asymmetrical than an ideal. Obama ended his last speech before the election by saying: “let’s go change the world.” Why are those words important? Because the world needs changing. A world riven by economic meltdown, religious conflict, resource scarcity, and intractable poverty and violence – such a world demands fresh ideals. We must mold and shape a better world – or we will surely all suffer together. As Obama said: “we rise or fall … as one people.”

In such a world, forget about a short-lived, often meaningless “competitive advantage”. It’s a concept built for the 20th century. In the 21st century, there is nothing more asymmetrical – more disruptive, more revolutionary, or more innovative — than the world-changing power of an ideal.

This is the rallying cry of the entrepreneur. They are often their own transformational leader, able to make themselves give up everything for the ideal. Good ones are able to inculcate this in others, especially people with capital, to begin what can eventually become a huge corporation.

Few of these large corporations, however, seek the transformative leadership of the entrepreneur, favoring more transactional. Thus the entrepreneur often leaves to do it all over again. and the organization begins to lose its innovative spirit.

For the entrepreneur, it is the transformation of nothing into something, not the process, that creates the power. Most of these 7 lessons are very useful and important for entrepreneurial organizations.

But new technologies can now help many organizations maintain this transformative spirit as they get quite large. Obama’s campaign demonstrates that this is possible. We just need to begin recognizing the appropriate places to utilize such organizations.

Because we are going to need a lot of them in the coming years.

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Part one from – 3 of 7 lessons

leader by Hamed Saber
Obama’s Seven Lessons for Radical Innovators:
Obama’s campaign organization was different in many ways than any other one before. Mainly because of the very innovative way it was put together. It was actually quite entrepreneurial in its scope. It serves as an interesting model of how new online tools coupled with decentralized lines of communication can leverage the social connections of its employees and volunteers.

The idea of grassroots, bottom-up approaches has been used before. The GOP, in fact, was first to really use direct mail in the early 90s to keep its followers informed. But these organizations still retained a hierarchical, top-down approach, with decisions having to move up and down the chain of command. Decision-making was not decentralized and pushed out to the edges as was seen in Obama’s organization.

You can read about some of this as it trickles out into the media but this will be a case study for future organizations who want to innovate, to find answers to complex questions. As Exley states:

The “New Organizers” have succeeded in building what many netroots-oriented campaigners have been dreaming about for a decade. Other recent attempts have failed because they were either so “top-down” and/or poorly-managed that they choked volunteer leadership and enthusiasm; or because they were so dogmatically fixated on pure peer-to-peer or “bottom-up” organizing that they rejected basic management, accountability and planning. The architects and builders of the Obama field campaign, on the other hand, have undogmatically mixed timeless traditions and discipline of good organizing with new technologies of decentralization and self-organization.

It is a model for a type of organization that we will see more of in the coming years. A grocery store might not use with this model but it might work for a bio/pharmaceutical company. innovation often comes when control is pushed to the edges.

Let’s look what Haque discusses and the seven lessons. I know many of these are true because I have worked for an organization that had many of these traits. I know firsthand how innovative self-organizing companies can be, even when restricted for cash.

Barack Obama is one of the most radical management innovators in the world today. Obama’s team built something truly world-changing: a new kind of political organization for the 21st century. It differs from yesterday’s political organizations as much as Google and Threadless differ from yesterday’s corporations: all are a tiny handful of truly new, 21st century institutions in the world today.

Obama presidential bid succeeded, in other words, as our research at the Lab has discussed for the past several years, through the power of new DNA: new rules for new kinds of institutions.

Well, this may be overstating somethings but it must be said that Obama and his advisors put together an organization of several thousand employees and a budget of half a billion dollars that succeeded in ways that no Democrat has in 30 or 40 years. It has many of the hallmarks of an entrepreneurial business, not a political organization.

So let’s discuss the new DNA Obama brought to the table, by outlining seven rules for tomorrow’s radical innovators.

1. Have a self-organization design. What was really different about Obama’s organization? We’re used to thinking about organizations in 20th century terms: do we design them to be tall, or flat?

But tall and flat are concepts built for an industrial era. They force us to think – spatially and literally – in two dimensions: tall organizations command unresponsively, and flat organizations respond uncontrollably.

Obama’s organization blew past these orthodoxies: it was able to combine the virtues of both tall and flat organizations. How? By tapping the game-changing power of self-organization. Obama’s organization was less tall or flat than spherical – a tightly controlled core, surrounded by self-organizing cells of volunteers, donors, contributors, and other participants at the fuzzy edges. The result? Obama’s organization was able to reverse tremendous asymmetries in finance, marketing, and distribution – while McCain’s organization was left trapped by a stifling command-and-control paradigm.

Obama’s organization did not match any of the typical business hierarchies (i.e.e silos of command) because it was designed around the shape of human social networks. As Exley writes, it’s motto was “Respect. Empower. Include.”

It used leaders and managers at each point who understood the needs of the organization without having to have constant monitoring by higher ups. The type of leadership Obama displays makes this possible to his followers (I’ll write about this later). Self-organization of this order can only occur with the right style of leadership.

2. Seek elasticity of resilience. Obama’s 21st century organization was built for a 21st century goal – not to maximize outputs, or minimize inputs, but to, as Gary Hamel has discussed, remain resilient to turbulence. What happened when McCain attacked Obama with negative ads in September? Such attacks would have depleted the coffers of a 20th century organization, who would have been forced to retaliate quickly and decisively in kind. Yet, Obama’s organization responded furiously in exactly the opposite way: with record-breaking fundraising. That’s resilience: reflexively bouncing back to an existential threat by growing, augmenting, or strengthening resources.

Responding quickly to change and crisis will be a constant requirement for many organizations in the coming years. Currently, a large number of organizations are brittle, with links of leadership drawn too tightly in non-productive ways. We are watching many of them collapse each day.

A top-down organization often can not respond quickly to threats because of the amount of time it takes information to travel along its length, from the bottom to the top and back again, precludes rapid response. Decision-making is concentrated in a few who have limited time to deal with each one, even if the right information makes its way up the chain of command to them.

In addition, in many brittle corporations, the methods used to control employees’ behavior is restricting, with the attention to process being more important than finding a creative way to succeed. Process is often rewarded while creativity is not. We see this in too many organizations (such as schools) where the exact opposite should be the usual course.

3. Minimize strategy. Obama’s campaign dispensed almost entirely with strategy in its most na├»ve sense: strategy as gamesmanship or positioning. They didn’t waste resources trying to dominate the news cycle, game the system, strong-arm the party, or out-triangulate competitors’ positions. Rather, Obama’s campaign took a scalpel to strategy – because they realized that strategy, too often, kills a deeply-lived sense of purpose, destroys credibility, and corrupts meaning.

This is a very subtle point. Obviously Obama and his advisor’s had a strategy, but it was not tied to many of the standard tactics we might have been used to. The very manner in which they were organized permitted them to carry out tactics that other groups had previously ignored because the cost to implement was too great.

For example, by making ti so easy for individuals to donate money, Obama was able to generate significant amounts of money yet not have to spend as much of his own time fundraising. Most politicians spend half their day devoted to raising money for their campaign. By being freed from this constraint, Obama was able to spend more time focussed on the campaign, on strategy/tactics and not on fundraising. This was an enormous advantage in the primaries.

His online approaches also helped him identify and maintain individuals who were instrumental in the caucus states, something that most politicians ignored because of the cost and time required. Obama was able to mobilize his small donors and others to push him over the top in these states.

4. Maximize purpose. Change the game? That’s 20th century thinking at its finest – and narrowest. The 21st century is about changing the world. What does “yes we can” really mean? Obama’s goal wasn’t simply to win an election, garner votes, or run a great campaign. It was larger and more urgent: to change the world.

Bigness of purpose is what separates 20th century and 21st century organizations: yesterday, we built huge corporations to do tiny, incremental things – tomorrow, we must build small organizations that can do tremendously massive things.

And to do that, you must strive to change the world radically for the better – and always believe that yes, you can. You must maximize, stretch, and utterly explode your sense of purpose.

Not every organization needs to follow this model. These sorts of transformational organizations, with their decentralized approaches, work best in areas where simple stick/carrot approaches are not needed. If people are going to change the world, they will be motivated without needed other sorts of reinforcement.

Small companies and entrepreneurial organizations may be best suited for this approach. The feeling of working on something big, creating something that never existed before to fight problems that face the whole world can inspire tremendous innovations. Obama was not the first to use this. He was just able to use new tools in an innovative fashion to create something novel, just as many successful entrepreneurs do.

I’ll discuss the last 3 lessons later.

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LinkedIn moves up

LinkedIn Throws a Little Upcoming Into the Site:

Funny, I used to crap on LinkedIn for now putting new technology onto their platform, and now I’m starting to sway the other way. LinkedIn just announced a new event application. So it’s like for businesses. I dig it. And then, I wonder what else we’re going to do here.

This is just a starting post. I have more on my mind, but I’m writing a book and attending a conference at the same time.

What do you think? If LinkedIn’s doing all kinds of apps, what do YOU want them to slip in there? (And if you say Twitter, I’ll poke you in the nose.)

LinkedIn is becoming more and more useful/important. Being able to examine events will be pretty nice. At the moment, it seems to filter the events a little arbitrarily (i.e. if I select ‘Greater Seattle Area’ it returns events in Chicago and New York). But this sure offers some real possibilities.

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