‘Twitter’ for business

conversation by cliff1066™

Use Microblogging to Increase Productivity
[Via HarvardBusiness.org]

Are you using Twitter to reach your customers and followers? Do you update your status on Facebook several times a day? Maybe you daily ask questions of one of your specialized LinkedIn groups?

You can replicate this experience inside your organization. There are a number of internal solutions that allow employees to share messages and information with each other, including Yammer and Socialtext. Laurence Smith, Vice President of Global Learning & Development at LG Electronics in Seoul, Korea has become an advocate of Yammer as a way to drive greater innovation in the design of the company’s training programs.

Just a few years ago, Smith says, “when we wanted to revise a classroom training program, we would write a survey, send this to all business unit HR leaders around the world, analyze the results and then use this input to design a new pilot.” The total time elapsed was several weeks to several months and often yielded limited feedback.

But today, Smith and his team start a conversation on Yammer and use tags to create a dialogue with employees. One program in the development stage is FSE (Foreign Service Executive) Soft Landing. It’s targeted to managers assigned to a new country who need to understand the local culture and norms.


Companies are beginning to see that microblogging approaches can have real value behind the firewall. They are useful fro rapid information dispersion across a variety of devices as well as providing simple ways for people to carry on ad-hoc discussions.

Socialtext continues to have the greatest number of useful social media tools for corporations. and at a very reasonable price also. By making these conversations explicit, not only can the company leverage the information it can also harness the knowledge of all its employees.

And by having everything time stamped, everyone knows who should get the credit for great new ideas or helpful information.

Why science communication often fails

science by o palsson

A great paradox of the current world:

Researchers are probably uniquely qualified to present the facts about much of the complexity we are dealing with, allowing us to make rational decisions about the problems facing us. But their training also makes them uniquely UNABLE to provide the stories that people will actually listen to.

My words about the problem.The same rules of thumb that create great science produces scientists that have a hard time connecting with the rules of thumb used by most others. Their heuristics do not overlap enough.

There was a wonderful conjunction of several online posts I read today that helps illustrate this. The first was this one:

Is Our Scientists Learning?
[Via The Intersection]

In my talks, I often discuss the different groups who came to meet with me when I worked on Capitol Hill with regard to who was most effective. On science related issues, the general breakdown fell into two categories (with exceptions):

  1. Scientists from universities or NGO’s would usually show up in my office with a briefing binder as thick as a phone book. There would be a lot of charts, p-values, figures, and complicated concepts. Most didn’t talk to me, but at me. And the take home message would be different than that of the other scientists I met the previous hour on the same subject.
  2. Special interest groups were frequently very well organized. They spoke with a common theme and brought articulate speakers. Rather than stop in our office, they usually hosted large and well attended briefings, supplying easy to digest hardcover books with titles like ‘climate change conspiracy.’ Typically they were funny and made references to Michael Crichton’s science fiction. Perhaps most importantly, they provided a free boxed lunches and held long Q&As to engage the audience.

Both types introduced themselves as the “honest broker” of scientific information, but the latter often made the stronger impression with staffers.


So we have a whole post discussing how sucky scientists are because they present facts and not lunches, they show figures instead smoozing, they have charts instead of playing to the egos of policy makers.

As a researcher, it was a little upsetting to read something like this, that facts are not what are important. In fact, the truth may be the least important thing. Others felt the same way:

Once Again, Professional Science Communicators Blame the Victim
[Via Mike the Mad Biologist]

Since I’ve raised this issue before, and it doesn’t seem to have taken, the gloves are coming off.

Once again, we see the sorry spectacle of blaming scientists for policy failures–all scientists, not a subset (consider this foreshadowing). As always the ‘scientists’ are described as bookish nerds who bore policy makers and reporters with p-values.

This is as stupid as blaming a working ob/gyn for the lobbying failures of NARAL.


This pretty much shows the scientist’s viewpoint. We deal in facts. That is how we’re trained, how we talk and how we expect others to respond. It is really hard to understand that most people are not convinced by facts. In contrast to researchers, they are convinced by stories and by narratives.

An article I ran across drove this point home:

BBC News – Why do people vote against their own interests?

[Via BBC ]

Last year, in a series of “town-hall meetings” across the country, Americans got the chance to debate President Obama’s proposed healthcare reforms.

What happened was an explosion of rage and barely suppressed violence.

Polling evidence suggests that the numbers who think the reforms go too far are nearly matched by those who think they do not go far enough.

But it is striking that the people who most dislike the whole idea of healthcare reform – the ones who think it is socialist, godless, a step on the road to a police state – are often the ones it seems designed to help.


This article explored why people were so against things that actually would help them. And it suggests that stories are what count, not facts:

For Mr Westen, stories always trump statistics, which means the politician with the best stories is going to win: “One of the fallacies that politicians often have on the Left is that things are obvious, when they are not obvious.


As Mr Frank sees it, authenticity has replaced economics as the driving force of modern politics. The authentic politicians are the ones who sound like they are speaking from the gut, not the cerebral cortex.

In a very complex world, people do not have the time to fully understand the many aspects of this complexity. They have to use their own heuristics to try and reach a decision. These rules of thumb are very seldom based purely on facts unless those are what one has been trained to use.

I’ve written about the need for a story, the need to create narratives, in order to effect change.

Scientists have had a lot of hard training to provide them with tools and approaches to make decisions based on facts. Most people have not. They respond to stories and narratives that resonate with their personal heuristics.

So, researchers present the facts, show charts and expect people to reach the same logical conclusions they did. But most people react to stories that make these complex facts understandable.

But to scientists, those stories are poor substitutes for the truth. And they may be poor substitutes but that is often irrelevant to the discussion.

It does not matter whether a scientist is able to convince someone to adopt a policy because of the facts or because of a nice lunch. What matters is the convincing.

Of course, that is an anathema to many researchers. If facts do not work, nothing will.

So, the conflict.

I agree with Mike that this is not something most scientists can deal with. It goes against their own heuristics.

But there has to be a way to identify people who can present a truthful scientific narrative that will help policy makers decide on the reality-based solution. Otherwise, the group with the best lunch – and most money – will drive the decisions.

Who am I?

I figure that I may be getting some traffic from the Huffington Post article so an introduction.

I’ve been working in the field of biotechnology since the early 80s, spending 16 years as a researcher at Immunex, the premier biotech in the Seattle area until it was bought by Amgen. It was an incredible crucible of top-notch researchers working with little money to find cures for important diseases. There were, I believe, less than 50 employees when I started and several thousand when I left. So I had first hand knowledge of many of the needs of a small biotech as it grew. I was a small part in the development of a biologic that changed people’s lives – ENBREL.

I left Immunex when Amgen finalized the merger and spent some time thinking about what to do next. Luckily Immunex stock options, which were given to all Immunex employees when I started, provided some economic buffer. I worked with the Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association on several projects and helped form a philanthropic organization called the Sustainable Path Foundation, where I am still a Board member.

I started a blog called A Man With a PhD, something I continue to this day, as well as a science-based blog called Living Code for Corante, that Forbes picked as the 3rd best Medical blog in 2003.

In 2004, I became the third employee of a startup biotechnology company called Etubics. As VP in charge of Research, I did everything from ordering lab equipment, growing cells, negotiating contracts and having to fly cross country to talk with suppliers. All while trying to raise money so we could have a hope of producing the vaccines that I believe can change the world.

So I got to see firsthand and at the highest levels, what it takes to start and run a company. I left last year as the company was entering a new phase, where clinical development and manufacturing were at the forefront and research was on the back burner. Not only were these areas I did not have a lot of expertise or interest, but I also was pretty well burned out. The stress of a small company is enormous, particularly in an industry where it takes over 15 years for a therapeutic to get from the research lab to the patient.

I left to pursue one of my real passions – how to understand why Immunex was such a powerhouse of research, why it is was one of the few biotech companies started in the 80s to produce a blockbuster drugs, along with several other good drugs, and whether this could be replicated.

That is what SpreadingScience is about – how to create organizations that are resilient to change, that can adapt in ways that increase the successful outcomes need. You can read some of the material or follow my blog to get an idea of how I am accomplishing this.

Fixing problems

I expect some traffic from people following the Huffington Post article about Peter Rubin.

I always get a few butterflies in my stomach when I talk with a reporter who contacts me out of the blue. As with most things, trust is important. Also, I have a tendency to babble a lot on the phone, especially when talking extemporaneously, so I always worry if I will say something that does not exactly fit what I really mean. I hope I did not sound like too much of a Pollyanna.

I think Arthur did a reasonable job, particularly since he was talking with me for the first time and having to deal with my speech patterns.

The point I had is that I’m torn because there are vitally important reasons for some companies to need the expertise of some people so I do not want to prevent access to their expertise. But I also do not ant to see people using their position, particularly if it is a tax=payer supported one, to simply enrich themselves.

How to remove the latter without harming the former?

One big point I made to Arthur Delaney, who was the reporter that called, was that openness and transparency are a huge part of solving what is a difficult problem. Shining a light into this process makes it much less likely that people will game the system. Not impossible but less likely.

It seems to me that much of the misbehavior that many people partake in comes from the fact that they can carry out this bad behavior, and escape its consequences, because is happens in the dark, behind the scenes.

Most people – not all, I’m not that much of an idealist – may modify their misbehavior if they know that others can see it. And if they know that there will be consequences if they do misbehave.

There are lots of important, legitimate reasons for organizations to need the expertise of a range of people who have worked in government or for a company or for an NGO. To be successful, specialized expertise is sometimes needed. This expertise can be critical, particularly for small companies.

We need to make sure that those types of interactions are not harmed.

Real openness should not harm them. At least I hope not.

Maybe because Alan Mullaly actually has built things

ford mustang by stevoarnold

Alan Mulally — Making Ford a Model for the Future
[Via HarvardBusiness.org]

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote an article about why Ford has the potential to become a company of the future. It had just come off reporting a $14.6 billion loss for 2008, its fourth losing year in a row.

One year later, Ford reported a profit of $2.7 billion. Yesterday the company reported March sales up 40 percent. GM, by contrast, was up 22 per cent, and Chrysler was down 8.3 per cent.

There are many reasons Ford has achieved such an extraordinary turnaround since Alan Mulally took over as CEO in 2006. After observing him in action, talking with him and spending time with his senior team, I’m convinced Mulally is taking an old-school industrial company and turning it into a model of how a modern company ought to be run.


Perhaps because Mulally is an engineer who actually built things at Boeing, rather than just a sales/marketing MBA, he has a firm understanding of how to get people to do creative things, even at an automobile manufacturer.

Innovation, and the creativity that drives it, does not come from short term metrics and 9-5 mentalities. Mulally had a huge influence on Boeing’s success against Airbus and is now doing something similar with Ford.

I wrote about some of these approaches before. It looks like Mulally has continued on this path.

Some we have heard before. ‘Rally around a mission.’ ‘Long-term strategic planning.’ ‘Be fearless.’

All great aphorisms but execution is what makes them work. Observe how he creates a culture of truth-telling and transparency:

Finally, Mulally has created a culture in which telling the truth, however painful it may be, gets rewarded. Every Thursday morning, he presides over what he calls a “Business Plan Review.” The heads of Ford’s four profit centers around the world and its 12 functional gather to report on how well they’re meeting their targets and on any problems they’re having. They’re all in together.

To broaden transparency, Mulally invites outside guests to sit in on the meeting each week. The day I was there, one Ford executive described a significant shortfall on a key projection. No one cringed, including Mulally, and the executive calmly outlined his suggested solutions. Then he invited others to share their ideas.

Not only does he have everyone in it together and makes sure his own approach of finding solutions to problems, not blame, but he includes outsiders with no ax to grind or domain to defend. These observers provide a perspective that keeps the focus on finding answers.

And I bet they often ask naive questions that can sometimes explode into creative ideas.

I think that they have a great chance to adapt to the changing markets in ways others can not.

Watch the video with the original narrator

How to start a movement: Derek Sivers on TED.com
[Via ED | TEDBlog]

With help from some surprising footage, Derek Sivers explains how movements really get started. (Hint: it takes two.) (Recorded at TED2010, February 2010 in Long Beach, CA. Duration: 3:10)

Watch Derek Sivers’ talk on TED.com, where you can download this TEDTalk, rate it, comment on it and find other talks and performances from our archive of 600+ TEDTalks.


I talked about this a few weeks ago. well, it turns out the Derek Silvers gave a TED talk in February and here it is. So you can see the actual fellow who put the video together.

A very informative three minutes.