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February 29, 2008

Cult of Crap

I read a decent amount of books each year, and look to colleagues, magazines and various other sources for recommendations/referrals. I was lured into picking up Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture based on the Associations Now cover story back in November.

The magazine article by the book's author, Andrew Keen, provided a somewhat pragmatic look at the dangers of Web 2.0. The opening pull quote read:

"Welcome to the dark side of Web 2.0, where focused expertise is replaced by rampant amateurism; opinion is mistaken for knowledge; and credentials, degrees, and years of experience mean virtually nothing."

Despite the sensationalism, there was some brief discussion on how social media can be leveraged by associations, and I figured that the book would delve more into how we can bridge the gap between expert and amateur.

Wow, was I wrong. In my opinion, The Cult of the Amateur is stinking pile of worthlessness beyond imagination! Every single page I read prompted me to think of counter arguments against literally every sentence written. I kept thinking Keen would turn things around after unloading his vitriol, alas, the turn around never came. The only good thing I can say about the book is that it was short.

Ironically, the book itself is an amateur effort (ie, it is Keen's first book (which he only tells the reader at the end of the book, after totally destroying amateurs)). For one, he rambled on about online gambling addiction, which had absolutely nothing to do with the premise of the book. And, a reference he made regarding video games (ie, that Myst was a form of MUD) was patently incorrect. Never mind a bunch of other misrepresentations, especially regarding the concept of the long tail. So much for his army of fact-checking experts.

While I can certainly agree that social media presents new challenges, building a bunker around the "experts" is certainly not the way forward. Not once did Keen even explore the idea of how an expert becomes an expert, and how all experts were once amateurs. Better, understanding that evolution and helping members along the path is what I am most interested in as an association leader. Sadly, Keen's amateur effort fell way, way, way, off the mark.

PS: Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations is a new book by web/community pioneer Clay Shirky that I just noticed. While my guess is that the title will freak out most association execs, I'm gonna predict it is the one we should all be reading and gaining insight from. I'll let y'all know once I read it...

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"I don't know. Please help me figure it out."

I am learning a lot of leadership lessons these days. Mostly having to do with embarking on projects I can sorta kinda get my arms around, but which expand from manageable to giant when poked with a stick. One such is launching a magazine. Which seems like maybe a sensible person would understand was going to be a Really Big Challenge, which I sort of knew, but didn't really know. I'm not, it seems, so very sensible these days.

So the project is plugging along, and I'm learning all kinds of things that aren't surprising, but aren't easy, either. Like: When launching a flagship publication, you'll have to make design decisions, for which it would be good if your visual brand was articulated somewhere (ours wasn't, so we had a diversion while we created a graphical style guide).

And governance decisions (who will decide the editorial tone of the thing, anyway? How much power should we give the volunteers? And how much should we keep? Before inviting them, we need to define their roles.)

And business decisions (What's a reasonable percentage to give your ad sales vendor? if they take away your online classified section headaches, is that worth an extra 5%?)

All that is totally aside from the part I expected to be the hardest: creating a concept for the magazine, and an editorial calendar, and finding a cadre of writers and giving them assignments (We must first figure out author agreements that are fair to the publication and the [unpaid] authors).

So as my anxiety rose, I decided to do something a little risky: ask the whole staff to volunteer to sit around a table and thrash some things out - I literally just needed someone else to help make decisions.

So I stood up with my flip chart and outlined the work, and said: "There's more to be done than I can or should do on my own. And there's stuff I need help thinking through. I need other heads around these questions. I need volunteers."

And was greeted with silence. Stony silence.

So I sat down - I knew I had a couple of allies out there I could rope in (they weren't at the meeting), so maybe I'd made a doofus of myself, but really I was no worse off with workload. The agenda moved on, and at the end of the lunch something great happened. People stood up, walked over and put their names down to help --almost half the staff volunteered.

What was really great, though, was this: a colleague pulled me aside and said "That was very brave, to ask for help like that. People don't ask for help here. If you don't get enough help, it's because it's not the culture yet. I'm glad it's changing." Another wrote to tell me she liked my 'I don't know everything so let's work it out together' approach.

Asking for help is a lesson from waiting tables. When you're so busy you can't catch up, you've got to be able to stop and articulate what you need. I gained allies because I admitted the job was too big for just me. And the decisions got made, the work is getting done. And everyone who helped has a stake now. That's my favorite part.


Happy Leap Day—Whatcha Gonna Do?

Happy Leap Day, February 29th. We have an extra day that didn’t exist last year. And it won’t exist next year. Someone told me that it doesn’t automatically happen every Leap Year. It’s something to do with being divisible by four, or maybe the fear of Web 2.0 (an inside joke for blogophiles). So whatcha gonna do with your extra day?

Here’s my plan:

--I’m going to write my obituary. Not the one you might first think. Ann Oliveri recently had a marvelous posting about 6-word obituaries. See http://annoliveri.typepad.com/annoliveri/2008/02/not-quite-what.html In my case, as many of you know, I am retiring July 2, to reinvent myself for a fifth time. It will be an exciting opportunity. My last year’s president, who leads my evaluation committee, asked me to write a summary of the changes and achievements for ASME during my 6-year tenure, i.e., my obituary. How many of you have kept annual lists, or a consolidated summary, of the achievements of your association? I find it a very interesting and challenging task.

--I’m going to lunch today at Mindy’s, a great kosher deli on 34th street, with a colleague to discuss the progress on our Innovation Initiative, and the strategic priority for an early stand-up of a platform team focusing on early career engineers—the folks who are the future of engineering and our association.

--I’m going to welcome Caroline back to New York. She’s our younger daughter who will be returning to Paris, via 4 days in New York, from a very challenging photo-shoot in Los Angeles for the new product line she manages for Coty. We haven’t seen her in several months, and it will be a great reunion.

My Leap Day is going to be a great “extra”. What will you do with your extra day?


Succession Planning: Don’t “To-Do” It for Later

I have yet to hear an association leader say something like, “Man, I love succession planning! Best part of the job.” Uh, uh. So lots of folks avoid it. They focus on the leadership responsibilities that clog their to-do lists that day, not next year. This seems especially true at nonprofits.

“I don’t have anyone in-house capable of taking over for me.” “Who knows what the board will want in their next executive director, so why start prepping someone now who could be all wrong later?” “I’m not planning to go for a lo-o-o-ng time. There’s no rush.”

Bill George, a Harvard professor and former CEO and chairman of the mammoth medical technology company Medtronic, isn’t standing for any such excuse but also doesn’t believe succession planning is up to the executive director alone.

“I think one of the reasons for a lot of the disasters [in corporations] in recent years, right up to the present moment, is because boards and directors are not focusing on leadership succession,” George said during a Thought Leader Forum held by Leadership Coach Academy recently. “They are focusing on getting and bringing in a ‘savior,’ if you will--hiring someone from a headhunter or a hotshot to run the company, and a lot of these people come in like Bob Nardelli did at Home Depot. They make a huge amount of change, get rid of all the people who know something about the business, and don’t really understand the essence of the business. I say, ‘Shame on boards of directors for doing that!’ I think boards of directors are, just simply, derelict in their duties when they do that.”

George points to Citigroup as an example of this, as well as Merrill Lynch, “where you have 550,000 employees and no leadership succession.”

Harsh. But you execs aren’t off the hook, either. “It is incumbent on any leader to develop succession, not just for immediate succession but looking many, many years down the road—10, 15, 20 years down the road. You develop people of all ages who can take over and run the organization going forward, and you have enough of them so that if someone drops out for health reasons or changes jobs or doesn’t work out, you have others to step up.

“The key is to have a leadership culture of great leaders coming up at all levels, not just on the top,” he concluded. “That’s why organizations like Johnson & Johnson, Pepsi Co., and General Electric have been historically successful—they have that kind of leadership development and culture.”

Hmmm, didn’t hear any nonprofits in that organizational list. And is it really a surprise? I wonder just how many of even our largest philanthropic/nonprofit organizations have a structured succession plan in place. It’s doubtful that the American Red Cross did (or does). I know that many leaders of micro-staffs and mid-size groups don’t, because I hear them worry about it. And I listen to complaints from staff struggling in organizations whose founders refuse to ever leave, even though they no longer have the correct skills to take their beloved nonprofit to the next level (“No one understands this mission and organization better than I do.” That may be true but, hey, you’re not immortal. Nor is every board willing to allow the reins to remain in the same hands indefinitely.).

Execs ready to give succession planning a go might start by reading “Succession Planning for Nonprofit Leaders” and “Elements of a Good Nonprofit Leader Succession Plan” on ASAE & The Center’s new nonprofit Web site. A simple search on ASAE & The Center’s Web site will turn up close to 70 other articles and materials to help, too.


February 28, 2008

Study Mission to India: Another perspective

I thought that I would provide Acronym followers with a different perspective than Anne Blouin's. We arrived in New Delhi last evening from Mumbai. New Delhi certainly has a different vibe than Mumbai, the latter of which is much more frenetic and the former of which is more relaxed (those things are relative, it's hectic here too!).

We met this morning with five representatives from various associations headquartered here in New Delhi. While space doesn't permit me to go into details about our nearly 3 hour discussions, I walked away being reminded, yet again, of the fact that those things that make us different make us the same. I was also reminded - the good American that I am - that we are not the only sophisticated non-profit professionals in the world. I would have been proud to serve on any staff with the people that spoke with us today.

Our Indian colleagues here operate sophisticated organizations who are concerned with branding, value propositions, membership recruitment, registry of professionals (not certification, yet, though), education content development, and much more.

On the societal side, there is no question that many, many, many Indians live on less than $1/day. The fact alone makes this particular market for associations simultaneously daunting and full of opportunity. Fully 20 million Indians a year are raised up from the poverty level due to Indian and foreign investment. If there was ever a time to consider business and personal travel to this part of the world, it's now, whether you represent a large or small, local, state or national organization. The world is in India...and if we're not careful, we'll left out on the porch while the Chinese, the Europeans, the Scandinavians, and more are eating an amazing feast inside.

Good night from New Delhi...

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Study Mission to India: Telecommunications and infrastructure

The content for today focused on the fastest growing sectors in India including telecommunications and infrastructure. Some of the highlights from the excellent presentations included:

The Indian mobile market is at a tipping point with its explosive growth and this growth is expected to continue until 2010 and beyond. Although its now the third largest market after the U.S. and China, India has overtaken China in the growth of wireless subscribers now numbering 240 million.

800 million people live in the rural areas, which is where the growth will occur. Access to wireless communication will improve productivity and dramatically improve the lifestyles of the rural subscribers.

In terms of infrastructure, investments have almost doubled in the last 5-6 years, reflecting 8 percent of GDP. The private sector is heavily invested in the infrastructure and as a result roads are projected to dramatically improve. While they are putting emphasis on roads and rail, much attention is also being placed on building separate roads to move freight to alleviate congestion.

There also has been privatization of the airports and aviation is expected to grow 25 percent each year. Although the airlines are not currently making a profit, this soon should change.

Huge investments are also being made to the power structure to support India's rapid growth.

The Chief of Strategy from Tata, the largest conglomerate in India, gave a phenomenal presentation. He talked a lot about the history of Tata, which was formed in the 1800s. He indicated that excellent companies respect and honor their history and heritage! He also talked a lot about their value of Integrity, defining it as being fair, honest and transparent in all dealings. The companies of Tata are members of the UN Global Compact, and corporate social responsibility is key on their agenda.

Tata's companies have been inspired by the Malcolm Baldrige award, and they have instituted quality measures/criteria in all companies.

Following this morning's presentation in Mumbai, we flew to Delhi. From what we've seen, Delhi, the seat of the government, is a very green city and a very beautiful one. We'll see more of the city tomorrow but unlike Mumbai where we saw thousands of taxis, tuk tuks and motorcyles, here we've seen hundreds of rickshaws along with goats (we also saw them in Mumbai along with cows on the road) and donkeys! Stay tuned . . .


February 27, 2008

Study Mission to India: Education

Yesterday, in addition to getting an overview of the healthcare system, participants in the Study Mission to India also heard from a few speakers from the world of education. One was Dr. Misra, a director and professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, which might be considered the equivalent of MIT.

Some interesting facts:

- The role of education and its globalization is assuming an increased role and significance
In India. People with a high school certificate number 250 million, with 10 million getting a BS degree.

- IIT receives 300,000 applicants and accepts only 5,000. However, 400,000 graduate each year with degrees in engineering and science (more than the population of New Zealand). There has been a much greater focus in the last few years on research and on innovation and creativity.

- Lots of technology incubation. They expect that before long a "Microsoft" will be coming out of India.

- Indian universities are attracting many foreign students and are losing fewer students to U.S. institutions.

- Industries are becoming proponents of partnerships with universities; universities are also working to build international collaborations with exchange of faculty and students, research centers, and joint degree programs.

In summary, India is at a point where it can produce a high number of knowledge workers. This offers an enormous opportunity for the globalization of higher technical education.

- India will need a large base of knowledge workers to play its role as a leading knowledge economy.

- India will need to gear up for meeting the challenges by revitalizing its institutions of higher learning with greater freedom and momentum.

- Clearly, globalization has had an effect and will continue to impact higher technical education, offering enormous opportunities.

I have to say that after listening to all of the speakers over the past few days, there is an enormous sense of optimism. You can just feel the opportunities of growth--I think that India is really on the cusp of greatness!

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February 26, 2008

Quick clicks: New blogs and words of wisdom

- Several more blogs have joined the association blogging world. Vinay’s Blog, starring Vinay Kumar; the CAE Blog, with Thomas Stefaniak, CAE; and Association Station, with Kevin Jerge.

- Rick Johnston wonders if association fundraisers can work together to develop the next great fundraising event idea.

- Cindy Butts has a great quote on her blog today: “Groups use whatever amount of time you give them to make a decision.”

- Sue Pelletier links to a list of deadly sins that associations would do well to avoid.


Study Mission to India: Healthcare highlights

Today we had a very interesting presentation on healthcare in India. Here are some of the highlights:

- Because of the explosive growth, there is a huge opportunity in India's healthcare sector.

- Healthcare equaled 5.2 percent of GDP in 2004 and is expected to be 5.5 percent in 2009. The sector employs around 9 million people.

- Standard of Care is the biggest opportunity for improvement, as is the ability to serve more people.

- Demand is expected to outstrip the supply over the next decade. Almost 80,000 additional hospital beds will be required to adequately meet the need.

- There is a shift from traditional diseases such as typhoid and cholera to problems such as heart attack, arthritis, and diabetes. Diabetes is rampant and obesity is increasing, which predisposes patients to cardiac disease.

- 85 percent of the population pay for healthcare out of pocket. There is no healthcare insurance.

- There is very little focus on preventive health, resulting in non-operable medical conditions.

- Wellness programs are needed – yoga, exercise and diet control are huge areas!

- India’s total expenditure on health, public and private, does not compare favorably with South East Asian countries.

- There is a huge need for qualified nurses because many skilled nurses go to Western countries because the pay is so much better.

Key drivers include:

- Access through health insurance

- Support capability building in R&D in healthcare

- Significant improvement in healthcare infrastructure

- Adoption of a broader view of healthcare costs

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February 25, 2008

Study Mission to India: Entertainment

The final presentation to the Study Mission participants today focused on India’s entertainment industry.

One notable fact: Unlike Hollywood, Bollywood is not a physical area. Instead, it refers to the film industry, which is based in Mumbai. Where India’s overall GDP is expected to grow at 9 percent, the entertainment industry is expected to grow at 18 percent over the next five years. The huge market potential and growth rates are attracting global media giants to enter India. Multiplexes are cropping up; there are more areas to distribute content, which brings rise to more content with more variety; and the retail boom is fueling the need for entertainment.

Challenges for the fast-growing entertainment industry include lack of training. In this industry, which employs 6 million people, there is very limited training. Very, very small numbers of employable talent are graduating from Film & Media institutes. Piracy and content regulation are two more issues facing the industry.


Study Mission to India: India's economy

A presentation to Study Mission participants on India's economy compared and contrasted India and China. As recently as 1991, China and India stood on similar levels of economic development. However, today the Chinese standard of living is more than twice of that of India. Here are some statistics that I found interesting:

- In India, 809 million survived in 2005 on less than $2 a day, compared to 591 million in China.

- Life expectancy in 2005 was 63 years, compared to 71 in China.

- Child mortality was 85 per 1000, compared to 31 in China.

- Morgan Stanley estimates unemployment in India at 20 percent of the workforce or 80 million people. The UN estimates that by 2015, the working population in India will have risen by 138 million, twice that of China.

India needs faster growth for reducing poverty, alleviating the misery that comes from poverty. They need to create the jobs to absorb the growing workforce, lest they have social unrest. For faster growth they need greater investment, for which they need funding.

How did China manage such funding? They had a much higher level of savings and foreign investment.

Looking at capital expenditures in India is eye-opening. India’s investment on infrastructure in 2005 was estimated at $28 billion compared to $201 billion in China (3.6 percent of GDP vs. 9 percent). Although the savings rate in India is beginning to increase, other sources of funding is necessary to accelerate growth, specifically foreign investment which they are actively pursuing.

Currently India controls less than 2 percent of global trade, but that is expected to increase with foreign investment.

The growth opportunity is huge for many sectors, especially in the area of telecommunications, where one company recently sold 400,000 telephones in one day!

Some growth projections:

- India will become the fifth largest consumer market by 2025.

- The Indian middle class will grow to 583 million.

- Rising incomes will lift 23 million out of poverty.

- By 2025, over 291 million (more than the population of Australia) will become extremely wealthy individuals.

- Most of these incomes will be generated in urban areas.


Study Mission to India: First impressions

[Note: Anne Blouin, chief learning officer for CenterU, is joining us at Acronym to blog about her experiences on ASAE & The Center’s Study Mission to India. We’re sure you’ll find her posts to be informative!—Lisa Junker]

Our Study Mission to India is off to a great start. Despite the weather problems on the East Coast on Friday, the majority of participants had no problems with flight delays. Only a few were unable to make their connections because of the weather and ultimately will arrive either tonight or tomorrow night.

After a very long flight from the U.S. to Mumbai (Bombay), we were met at the airport and taken to an oasis of paradise in this city of 18 million people, the JW Marriott Hotel. The hotel is in a beautiful setting on Juhu Beach. Staying at this hotel does not really give you a good sense of what Mumbai is like, so a group of us took taxis to the central area of Mumbai last night for dinner. Well, we got a much better sense of the congestion and the poverty that exists.

First of all, it took over an hour and a half to get to our destination. With lots of tuk tuks (three-wheeled cars), taxis, motorcycles carrying entire families, and horns honking, we got a good feel of the congestion. When the new Nano car rolls out, I can’t imagine what that will do to traffic. I don’t think we should complain anymore about the traffic in DC! It could take a few hours to go from one end of the city to the other because of the traffic. Mumbai does have a train system and more than 7 million people take the train each day—no more complaining about the crowds on our Metro system either!

Today, we kicked the content for the Study Mission off with a brief look at the history of India, followed by presentations on the economy and insights into the entertainment industry.

All of the speakers today alluded to the fact that India is a country rich in diversity and contradictions. It is a country of billionaires and beggars, with 30 percent of the population impacted by globalization and enjoying 70 percent of the GDP. However, 20 percent of the population live on less than $1 a day.

Some interesting points from today’s sessions:

- It wasn’t until the 1980s when India embraced a free economy, at least 10 years after China, Singapore, and Thailand. In the 1980s, the IT sector began to grow. Then, in the 1990s, emphasis was placed on R&D, especially in terms of technology development.

- Early in this century, India became a global player in exporting technology and acquiring companies, which instilled a sense of confidence in its people. The country’s GDP is expected to grow at a rate of 9 percent this year.

- Major challenges include the infrastructure—built infrastructure as well as social infrastructure (health and education).

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February 21, 2008

Web 2.0 discussion continues

Virgil Carter's post on "Web 2.0: Culture, Belief System, or Toolkit?" continues to get some great comments, if you haven't looked at that thread recently. Today's most provocative quote:

"Some of you new media lovers may take offense at the crassness of my definition for Web 2.0, but to me it simply means not having to pay for content ... Perhaps, the greatest membership swindle of all time."

Check out the discussion thread and join in!


February 20, 2008

Conference marketing tactics

I'm a bit late in referring to the article, which ran before Valentine's Day, but Shankar Vedantam had another excellent article in his Washington Post column "Human Behavior."

This one talks about the differences between people who are last-minute shoppers and those who are not. The gist: For people shopping well in advance of a holiday, the most effective marketing tactics are positive references. In the case of the column, buy this to enhance your loved one's beauty. For the last minute shoppers, negative marketing is more effective; in the column, buy this so you won't be in the doghouse.

I thought the best implication in the association world was the marketing for the annual conference. Most associations start the marketing cycle 6 or 9 months out. Perhaps there should be a focus on the positives at the beginning of the cycle—come catch up with old friends and make new ones—but as the event nears, a shift to more negative messaging—miss this conference and you miss the single best networking event of the year.

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Have a sense of humor

Have you heard about the new portrait hanging at the National Portrait Gallery? Comedian Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central's Colbert Report approached several DC museums with the request that they hang his portrait (a joke completely in character with the persona he displays on his show). But the National Portrait Gallery took him up on the offer--and hung the portrait between two bathrooms on the second floor of the museum.

When I read about this, my first thought was, "They must have great PR staff there!" It's so easy for us to take our organizations so very seriously--but the National Portrait Gallery took Colbert's gag and responded with a joke of their own (hanging the portrait in such a place of "honor"). In reward, the museum has evidently seen record-setting crowds heading up to the second floor to see Colbert's portrait.

Could we use humor more effectively in our own organizations? Another great example: Embassy Suites hotels recently ran a contest for guests to suggest new text for the hotels' Do Not Disturb signs. Of the five winners, my personal favorite is "I've built a pillow fort and I am not opening the door for anybody!" but the others are classics as well--and they'll all be displayed at an Embassy Suites near you.

Where could a little humor make a big difference to your association's members or constituents?

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February 13, 2008

One part inspiration, one part Star Wars

If you ever watch video online, I highly recommend you watch this inspiring story about a company working to develop a new prosthetic arm that can enable amputees with only a day or so's training to handle operations as complex and delicate as picking up grapes.

The inventors were at least partially inspired by the robotic arm (well, hand) that one of the characters in Star Wars is given at the end of The Empire Strikes Back. They took at a look at something they'd seen only in the movies, and they said, "Hey. We can find a way to make that."

Is there an initiative your association has thought of as so far out there, it's a fantasy just to think you could do it? Maybe this story could inspire you to reach for that goal.

Another interesting thing about this video: It's brought to you by IEEE Spectrum, the magazine of IEEE. It's great to see associations sharing stories like this with their members and others. In the March issue of Associations Now, you can learn more about another association that's telling great stories in a similar multimedia format.

(My thanks to Clark Wallace, for sending this link!)


Virtual Book Signings--Where Did I Put That Pen Again?

For the second time this week I've run into a nonprofit and association that is offering its members a "virtual book signing" as part of a marketing campaign for a new publication. A virtual book signing (see examples on www.virtualbooksignings.com, but others are around) is an interactive "book signing experience." The author speaks online about his or her book, answers e-mailed questions from viewers/listeners, and offers signed books--or signed bookplates if you already own the book--for sale. The signings are originally held live, but they are retained on a designated site (such as an organization's online bookstore) for future potential buyers.

I'm a huge reader, but I have never experienced or heard of a virtual book signing before. It's nothing fancy, looking generally like someone propped a video camera on a tripod and let loose. However, it does create intimacy and does allow folks to interact with an author whom they may not have the chance to hear otherwise. And, hey, we all like signed books.

Wouldn't it be great to have the authors of your new publications pilot such an experience online? Think of how attractive that might be to your top-name conference speakers who are touting their books to your members anyway.

I'm sorry I have no revenue figures to share with you in terms of book sales generated by this type of activity, so if anyone else has offered this marketing tool, please post details of your experience.

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February 11, 2008

The power of listening

Ben Martin's latest post on the Certified Association Executive blog includes a great point:

"And the conversation isn't all about your blog: If you write a blog but don't read others' blogs, comment on them and link out to them, what you have is antisocial media. My mom taught me that God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we could listen twice as much as we speak. Unfortunately, many seem to believe that God gave them ten fingers and two eyes so that they can type five times as much as they read."

There's a quote on the spine of the February 2008 issue of Associations Now that makes a similar point: "It is rare that your goals will be best served by your talking more" (from Steve Harrison, author of The Manager's Book of Decencies).

Perhaps this week we can all try listening more thoughtfully and more often ... I know it's something I can always stand to work on.

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February 10, 2008

Web 2.0: Culture, Belief System, or Tool-Kit?

Part of the issue with the emergence of Web 2.0, and the reactions to, for, and against it, may be that everyone is working with their own definitions. Advocates are often passionate about it, urging immediate and unilateral adoption. Skeptics raise a litany of questions and objections. Those, in the middle may find themselves in the role of the ball in a ping-pong game, smashed this way, only to be backhanded in the opposite direction.

Just what is Web 2.0, and will it be surpassed by Web Y.0 or Web Z.0 by the time this article hits the air?


Is Web 2.0 a culture--a way of life? If you think you know what culture is (and is not) and can define it, I challenge you to visit the Wikipedia definition of culture: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture

There are many competing theories of culture and many diverse perspectives that are held by anthropologists (who commonly use the term "culture" to refer to the universal human capacity to classify, codify, and communicate their experiences symbolically). primatologists (who have identified aspects of culture among humankind's closest relatives in the animal kingdom), archaeologists (who focus on material culture--the material remains of human activity), social anthropologists (who focus on social interactions, statuses and institutions), and cultural anthropologists (who focus on norms and values).

According to the current (2/9/08) Wikipedia definition, “Culture can be defined as all the behaviors, ways of life, arts, beliefs and institutions of a population that are passed down from generation to generation. Culture has been called "the way of life for an entire society.” As such, it includes codes of manners, dress, language, religion, rituals, norms of behavior such as law and morality, and systems of belief as well as the arts and gastronomy.”

So is Web 2.0 a culture? It certainly manifests certain behaviors, even ways of life and beliefs. It has hardly been passed down from generation to generation. Given the short life cycle of technology, it is highly likely to be surpassed by Web 3.0, or something else, in a very short period, just as Web 1.0 has been eclipsed.

Belief System

Is Web 2.0 a belief system? Wikipedia defines belief as: “Belief is the psychological state in which an individual holds a proposition or premise (argument) to be true without necessarily being able to adequately prove its main contention to other people who may or may not agree.” Based on the ardent writing of those who advocate Web 2.0, we may certainly say that Web 2.0 is strongly held belief system.

The fact that much of the writing in support of Web 2.0 (at least that I have seen) has not yet focused convincingly on either “how” best to use Web 2.0 (a distinctive value-producing strategy), nor the likely outcomes (results that may be achieved through successful use of Web 2.0), does not diminish the passionate belief of the early adopters of Web 2.0. The fact that early adopters have little patience with those who ask for more quantifiable data further reinforces the view that Web 2.0 is, indeed, a belief system.

Tool Kit

There is another possibility: that Web 2.0 (and the predictable successors) is simply a tool-kit, full of different tools for different users for different purposes. That is, Web 2.0 is not the desired end-solution; it is a means to the end—however defined for a particular user of Web 2.0

For example, is a wiki or a blog a culture, belief system, or tools in the tool bag? One’s perspective depends on where one stands, of course, but there is no denying that if knowledge growth and exchange of knowledge are the desired solutions, then a wiki and/or a blog may be useful tools, correctly and intelligently employed. At least today. Who can say what may be more effective tools to achieve these results tomorrow? Nevertheless, there will surely be newer and more effective tools to come.

Even the best and most appropriate tool for a task, however, still requires good experience and judgment for successful use. Ever watched a first-timer try to install cove molding with a compound miter saw?

Web 2.0: culture, belief system, or tool-kit? Where do you stand and what is your perspective?

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February 9, 2008

Happenings in the Big Apple

It’s the week-end, and like all good association execs, we’re all kicking back—right? For all you ex-pats and absent New Yorkers, you know there’s no place like New York. Here’s a few factoids to help you fondly remember home:

Grand Central Freeze-In: Last month over 200 Improv Everywhere Agents froze in place at the exact same second for five minutes in the Main Concourse of Grand Central Station. Check out the amazing video at http://break.com/index/200-people-freeze-in-grand-central.html Amazing—wonderful! While you're in GC, check out the the Florida Stone Crab Celebration at Oyster Bar at the Grand Central Oyster Bar. The Oyster Bar is a great place. Their chowda is great, too!

Take the Train: New York City subways totaled 1.56 billion rides in 2007, highest since 1951, according to the MTA. Subway ridership was up 4.2% from 2006, with average weekday ridership above 5 million in 2007. And of course, new subway fares go (up) into effect March 2. Buddy, can you spare $2.00?

Eats: For the latest in the grub scene, check out Grub Street: http://nymag.com/daily/food/

Whaz Happenin: For the latest on the latest, go here: http://www.newyorkology.com/
If you hurry, you can celebrate the Year of the Rat with Custard King in Gotham!

If you're in need of New York photos, check out my web site at http://virgilcarter.homestead.com/


February 7, 2008

A conversation not to be missed

There's some great debate going on around the association blogging community about risk, technology, and control in associations. Jeff De Cagna, Jamie Notter, and Maddie Grant have posted on the topic; Jamie's post in particular has a not-to-be-missed conversation going on in the comments. I'd love to see what other folks have to say as well!


February 6, 2008

That Jamie Notter's always thinking

I liked the post today on the Get Me Jamie Notter blog. It's on rewarding teams as opposed to individuals.

I would add the idea that team goals should be pliable, changing and updating as the team assesses and incorporates the changing outside environment into its work. Any rewards (monetary or otherwise) should take that into account.

As an additional resource, I'd recommend the book x-teams by Deborah Ancona and Henrik Bresman. Here's a word doc (sorry, this one didn't get posted online) of an interview of Ancona that appeared in the June 2007 issue of Associations Now.

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February 5, 2008

Tech Conference takeaways

Anyone who participated ASAE & The Center’s Technology Conference knows that it wasn’t just about technology. Yeah, we talked about AMS systems, storage area networks, routers, and the like, but the real buzz was around the web. Specifically around Web 2.0. Folks, this isn’t just some passing fad. This ain’t dotcom all over again! The very nature of how people “associate” is changing. I looked up the word associate and found:

1. To join in or form a league, union, or association.

2. To spend time socially; keep company.

3. To join as a partner, ally, or friend.

4. To connect or join together; combine.

5. To connect in the mind or imagination

In the opening general session we learned from Anthony Williams, author of Wikinomics, that in 2006, Blooger.com had more traffic than CNN.com and that MySpace.com has 250 million users “associating.” In the preconference town hall meeting we surveyed the attendees (pdf). When asked “What is the most important technology issue facing your organization,” 20 percent of the respondents indicated web 2.0 technologies. This was second only to AMSs. When asked “Which web‐based apps do you use” 17 percent of CEOs and 37 percent of senior staffs indicated they use blogs, and 17 percent of CEOs and 21 percent of senior staffs indicated they use wikis. As Mr. Williams asked, what are we doing to harness the power of mass collaboration? In the ensuing conversation about blogs and wikis from outside the association community, someone in the audience opined that this was a question of whether or not we focus on our tent or their tent. What if there is just one big tent? How do associations operate in this environment?

In the second general session, Erica Driver of Forrester Research spoke about the information worker and how providing context is critical. Increasingly that context is outside of our organizations—in wikis, blogs, newsfeeds, etc. What are we doing to create a work environment that provides the context our employees, and equally important, our members need? If our job is to give our members the tools they need to be productive in their jobs everyday (and I believe it is), when are our websites going to transform from glorified direct mail posters to collaborative work environments?

So here is what I’m thinking about. How can I expand my AMS to become an IMS, an idea management system? One that captures the richness found in nonstructured conversations that happen in nontraditional spaces. Now that would be “business intelligence!” While I am accounting for dues and fees, how do I begin to “account” for blog postings, wiki contributions, and other nontraditional ways members show engagement? And finally, while I need to be sure my organization’s infrastructure is sound, how do I build an “out-frastructure” that ensures that my staff, and my members, have the tools they need to be productive information workers? Your thoughts?

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Utopian, dystopian, or realist?

The latest edition of David Weinberger's self-described "intermittent" newsletter, JOHO (Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization) was recently released. The first article divides people into three categories:

Web utopian - pretty much what it sounds like, these people believe the web has and is fundamentally changing human society for the better.

Web dystopian - people who think the web is having a profound effect on our lives, but a profoundly negative effect.

Web realist - people who think utopians and dystopians build the web into much more than it is, that it enables some things but has significant limitations.

A quick aside - here's a juicy tidbit to get folks upset with me: Sometime in the not-to-distant future, I plan to wrote a post on the Myers Briggs... it won't be complimentary. One of the arguments will be it's detrimental to think of things in absolutes (thinking or feeling, for example).

Pulling this post back together, I think rather than putting somebody into one of Weinberger's categories, it's more accurate to think of everybody as being on a sliding scale, with utopian on one end and dystopian on the other. (I know, not exactly a brilliant deduction.)

My point in all of this is I'm guessing most people reading this are closer to utopian. And much like the way you're supposed to use the Myers Briggs to learn to interact with those around you based on their type, I think it's useful for web utopian leaners to think about two things when talking about technology with others: (1) does the person lean to utopian or dystopian? and (2) how much does the person really care?

Assessing those two things will help you frame your position in a way that will be most meaningful to the person you are talking to.

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February 4, 2008

Technology Conference Wrap-up

I have to agree with Caron, I wasn't ready with my key takeaways at the Friday General Session either. Now that I've had some time to digest, here are some of the ideas and quotes that are still bouncing around in my head:

"Relevance is a losing argument…if we're not already relevant, we're toast." Jeff De Cagna, Principled Innovation

"What is the simplest thing that could possibly work?" Jeff De Cagna, Principled Innovation

When deploying a new technology in your organization, create a "buddy system" to lessen the load on your tech support staff. Make each member of your testing team a "buddy" to a couple of other staffers as they get comfortable with the new application so they have a quick place to go for help. - Katherine Mowers, Community IT Innovators

Also, I'm still really intrigued by the Wikinomics ideagora concept. I need to find a way to play with that concept for our members.

And just for fun, here's my vocabulary lesson from the conference:

  • "e-pretending" - using web forms to generate emails which are then hand-entered into your database. Not that any of us actually do that....

  • "adhocracy" (this one's apparently been around for a while but it was new to me) - a structure where you establish temporary working groups with knowledgeable people which then disband when the group's goal is reached.

  • "opening the kimono" - Putting your "secret" stuff out on the internet where anyone can see it. Or at least I think that's what it meant…I kinda lost the thread because I was laughing too hard.


More from other bloggers on the Tech Conference

While Scott, Becky, and Caron shared some great ideas from their time at the Technology Conference, bloggers outside of Acronym had interesting insights to share as well. Here's what I've found so far:

- Dave Sabol summarizes what he saw and heard during day one of the conference

- Maddie Grant learned about a cool tool during the 60 Emerging Technologies session

- Jamie Notter has some thoughts on generational diversity inspired by conversations at the conference

- Sue Pelletier responds to Peter Hutchins' post from the Technology Conference Town Hall meeting

- At Principled Innovation TV, Jeff De Cagna has some video and other thoughts on Anthony Williams' keynote presentation

- Kristi Donovan responded to a session on Web 2.0 and dealing with potential member criticism, as well as Erica Driver's general session presentation

- Cathy Johnson at the Panopea Consulting blog shares her thoughts on Anthony Williams' general session presentation as well as her favorite quote from day one of the conference


February 2, 2008

Tags vs. folders

One more thought from Hanley's session...

She compares the move of a folder system to a collaborative space to that of moving from traditional email to gmail (Google's free email app).

There are no folders in gmail. When I first started using my gmail account, I found this annoying. Then I felt kind of sheepish when I was introduced to the idea of tags. One quick illustration from Hanley and it's easy to see how tags are superior.

A friend of hers gets an email from her father that contains a particularly funny political joke. Her friend loves jokes, is a political junkie and, of course, she likes her father. She wants to save the email -- does she file it with her father's other emails, in her "politics" folder, or in her "humor" folder? Or (yuck!) does she make three copies of the message?

In gmail, she tags it with "dad," "politics," and "humor." At any time, she can choose to see the messages tagged a particular way.


What Was Your Ah-Ha Moment?

At every conference I attend, I walk away with a slew of new ideas. In the opening session on the last day, Reggie Henry, Chief Technology Officer at ASAE and the Center, called those ideas, “Ah-ha” moments and asked for volunteers to come up and share them.

I didn’t respond and neither did a lot of people. I felt bad for Reggie.

Maybe the people in the audience were too shy or maybe it was too early in the morning for people to respond. Personally, I need time to process ideas from a conference and it was too early in the conference (let alone morning) for me to respond.

My ah-has come a day or two later—sometimes a week later. I still don’t know all my ah-has but like so many epiphanies, the first one to rose to the top while I was stuck in 66 traffic on the way home: Do usability testing any chance you get.

There are so many ways to do usability testing and so many types of testing you can do. And some can be done at little to no cost. For example, if you are nearby another association, cooperate with them. Exchange staff and do usability testing on each other’s websites. Or test members when they come to the office or test new staff soon after they are hired (before they get the staff structure and jargon down).

I plan on using a form similar to a website feedback sheet provided in a session called Usability Lab: Simple Tests, Valuable Results for Your Website . It’s a form designed for new staff (and my association doesn’t get new staff all that often), so I plan on using modified version to use with members and other visitors as well.

That was Ah-ha number one.

So I will ask Reggie’s question again, what was your Association Technology Conference Ah-ha?

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February 1, 2008

Magnetism of the Known

TED seems like such a cool conference. No doubt, they are doing something right when they sell out a year in advance of each conference! In an interesting twist, releasing much of their session content as free online videos has done nothing but drive further interest in the live event.

Anyway, there's a ton of great presentations archived at the TED site (including one by game design guru Will Wright) and I've made it a personal mini-goal to watch a bunch of them. Browsing the archive, I caught myself bookmarking all the speakers/topics I was already familiar with.

So what? There's gotta be some research out there already regarding the "magnetism" of the familiar. Well, the irony here is that TED is explicitly designed to cross-pollinate topics/speakers/areas of knowledge via their single track approach (and of course, very careful curation over the sessions) and their vetted attendee list. (For those interested, Convene profiled TED in their December 2007 issue.)

And, now that I think about it, I often do this at bigger multi-track conferences. Rather than looking for new stuff, I always go to see the topic I already know a lot about (ya know, so I can "compare notes" or more successfully heckle).

What about the idea of organizing an industry conference on all the stuff members don't know much about (aka, "The Stuff You Should Know, But Have No Clue You Should Know Conference"). Would anyone actually show up?

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IT Leadership - It's Your Responsibility

I just attended The CIO/CTO Workshop, where we discussed one methodology for establishing effective teams, the TEAM framework: Train, Expect, Affirm, and Measure. This conversation made me wonder how much time we as IT leaders invest in growing our staffs when we are constantly pushed to do more, to be more productive. Are we the people who barely leave our offices, are preoccupied when we do, and barely talk to our staffs except when something goes wrong? During this session I was really challenged to think bigger about our role as leaders - we have an obligation to our staff to make the time for them, even if it keeps us from finishing that report that is already overdue. It's actually our jobs to make time for our staffs…and I mean more than the cursory "how was your weekend" conversations.

Along with this, the importance of individualized attention for each staff member is becoming increasingly evident to me. Some of our staff members are cut from the same cloth that we are - the "failing to plan is planning to fail" school of thought. But, think about how the advent of gaming has changed things. Gamers constantly "fail forward" - try, fail, try, fail, try, fail, until they eventually succeed. How can we expect these people to come into our organizations with our rigid planning structures and excel? Their natural inclination is to try something, watch to see how it works, make some tweaks, and watch some more. That is definitely not how we are accustomed to working…but is their way wrong? Are we as leaders going to try to shoehorn these people into our formal processes, when it's clearly not how they think? Instead, what if we encourage them to mentor us? Can we step outside our comfort zones enough to learn from them? I think we can, and quite honestly, should….

What do you all think?

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Let's Be Social

During the "60 Emerging Technologies" session at the Technology Conference today, speaker Jim Kelly of ASAE & The Center's Technology Section Council said something I had to write down. An audience member had asked how she could convince her board that social media wasn't all personal--that in fact, it could be used professionally.

Jim told her to ask her board members about their face-to-face conversations with other members at association events. "When you meet, do you just talk about the documents in your briefcase?" he asked. No, you talk about personal things as well--and that's an important element of the professional connections you make.

I do think that some teenagers' pages on MySpace and Facebook have been used to create a stereotype that says that sharing personal information online must degenerate into bad photos from your last kegger. Well, to be honest, I haven't been to a kegger since college, but I do have an interest in my professional colleagues' lives. (Just today I learned that a new coworker here at ASAE & The Center is training to be a pilot--which I think is pretty neat.)

Of course, you have to keep an eye on your online presence and make sure you stay within the bounds of what you feel is appropriate. But I don't think that "appropriate" has to mean only talking about the documents in your briefcase.

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How come nobody plays in my nice new sandbox?

Susan Hanley (author of Essential SharePoint 2007) made a point in her session, and it was the second time I’ve heard the point in just about the exact same way.

IT folks are building these internal networks to enhance efficiency and collaboration among staff (SharePoint, for example), but having a hard time convincing people to use the tools. The fact is, the email/folder style of collaboration and organization works for people—because they’ve found out how to make it work. It’s not like a new accounting software system that people have no choice but to learn and start using it.

Here are a few ideas that companies she has worked with have used to ramp up adoption:

Stall stories – every Wednesday a new story about how the collaborative space is being or could be used is posted. Posted where? Um, they’re “stall stories.”

“Get Sharp on SharePoint”—again, once a week there’s a 30-minute training session, 15 minutes demonstrating a technique or tactic and 15 answering questions about that technique or anything else folks want to ask about. To enhance the sessions, they were recorded, and the IT helpdesk was monitored to help hone the topics to be covered.

Get messages in front of people—maybe it’s a weekly email or a message that comes up when people log on. The idea is to detail a small success and share it.

Get in on every group meeting—it’s a no brainer to try to get on the agenda of all group meetings to share something about the new tools.

Finding the stories to share—bribery, it works. Pay people to share their stories. It doesn’t have to be a huge dollar amount, the second you attach a reward, you’ll get people actively telling you their stories.

Make it fun—one group developed a scavenger hunt throughout the intranet tool based on the board game Clue. If it’s well done, it will be accepted and successful.

Little reminders—one group used “birth announcements”—you know the kind attached to little candy bars with the customized wrappers—to announce the launch to staff. Another made custom sticky note pads. And there’s always the great standby: pizza or other food to entice people to come to meetings about the new solution.


Legal Eagle at the tech conference

Venable LLP’s Jeffrey Tenenbaum presented on the legal tangle of copyrights, trademarks, and things associations need to be mindful of in an age of digital publication.

For the curious, he distributed an excellent set of handouts for his session.

The highlights of what the attendees were asking about:

Copyright basics—content that is created by volunteers or paid consultants is specifically not owned by the association and is owned by whoever creates it. That means magazines they’ve submitted to a magazine, handouts at a session, or even a recording of the session itself. For the association to own it, the creator must assign his or her copyrights to the association in writing.

Links are ok—as long as you are not implying that the content is in some way owned by your organization, linking to someone else’s work does not violate copyright.

Mashups and making other changes—it’s a gray area. Tenenbaum reports that this is one of the areas where litigation is relatively common. In general, you can take someone else’s work and, if you change it enough so that it is a completely different expression (essentially it becomes a different work). How much change is enough? It’s a risk, and if you engage in this sort of activity, you should be prepared for lawyers and courts to decide.

Contributory infringement—let’s say a member posts someone else’s copyrighted work on your blog as a comment. If the association has no monitoring system and no disclaimer that people must agree to before posting comments, is the association liable? The horrific answer is, yes. The same is true for postings that violate antitrust. The simple solution is a click-through form where authors agree that they will not post anything that infringes the rights of others (or antitrust laws or any of a number of other things).

Fair use guidelines—Using someone else’s copyrighted material without permission is allowed, albeit in a very limited context. The three basic guidelines:

The amount used is a small percent of the total.
It is being used for an educational purpose.
Your used cannot infringe on the copyright owner’s ability to earn a profit on the work.

The big red flag—when developing a new product or service, associations typically use a hodgepodge of staff, volunteers, and paid consultants to develop it. It is critical to get all nonstaff members to sign a copyright release form, or the pieces that they develop belong to them, not to the organization.


Millions Join Largest “Teach-in” in U.S. History Today

Today, associations and nonprofits ranging from Engineers Without Borders to the U.S. Green Building Council are joining more than two million students, academia, politicians and others participating in the nation’s largest “teach-in” in history. The topic? Global warming solutions.
Organized by Focus the Nation, an Oregon-based project of the nonprofit Green House Network, the initiative aims to “get everyone talking about global warming solutions on the same day,” according to participants at Rice University, one of more than 1,500 colleges, universities, civic organizations and faith groups who are “setting aside business as usual” and directing their attention fully to this complex and urgent problem.
Everyone from high school students to Nobel Prize winners, corporate CEOs to nonprofit professionals, are scheduled to speak, debate, brainstorm, pitch, compete and promote ideas and actions designed to reduce global warming and improve the environment. The project was launched by former Professor Eban Goodstein, who was inspired by the civil rights and anti-war teach-ins of the 1960s.


NetGen Isn’t About Age

One thing I keep hearing over and over again at the technology conference (and elsewhere) is this concept of “NetGen.” Usually it’s followed up by references to “young people” and followed up by convincing anecdotal references to commenter’s children, grandchildren, etc. and how plugged in they are.

Perhaps I am wrong on this (and I plan to research this a little more after the conference), but it seems to me that NetGen is a cultural phenomena, not an age-related phenomena. Certainly there is no doubt that recent generations have grown up with technology and have been exposed to it very early on. And, yes, there are generational differences that we can’t ignore; but we don’t do ourselves any favors by assuming technological and social media proficiency based on age.

This kind of ageism can be offensive to older and younger members alike. Don’t risk being called a condescending fool (like Mr. T—a boomer—calls a popular video game company in a commercial aimed towards attracting other boomers to the game).

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Google and you

David Clevinger and David Downey, both from the American Institute of Architects, presented on what went into the development of AIA's America's Favorite Architecture, in particular, the component that is incorporated into Google's Planet Earth product. You really should check out AIA's project, it's amazing in its richness, breadth, and functionality.

But I'd bet one of the questions on a lot of the attendees' minds was voiced when someone asked: "How did you get involved with Google?"

As they pointed out, Google is a company that builds tools to showcase information. They don't have information of their own, and so they are, essentially a beast that devours information with an insatiable hunger. It's not hard to put this idea together--many associations produce tons and tons of content. Google is hungry for it. Go to Google Labs--check out what they've been working on and use your imagination. How in the world could the things your members do relate to the tools Google is developing?


Q&A from the Friday general session

To me, I think Technology Conference general session speaker Erica Driver, principal analyst with Forrester Research, was speaking about the workplace and what it will look like tomorrow. Not "tomorrow" as in a year or years away, but the tomorrow that has already begun to emerge.

There was a lot to consider in the session about not just what association staffs will be like, but also what the workspace of association members will be like, and what role associations should play in those spaces.

I thought the Q&A at the end of the session was especially useful, so here it is, with apologies for capturing the gist rather than a word-for-word transcript.

What applications does she use for her individual workplace?

She said high bandwidth connections was a must. She also noted her and her group used instant messaging, shared calendars, web conferencing tools, and each had their own conference bridge to conduct conference calls. They have laptops with webcams (though she notes she’s still not comfortable with the webcams). Finally, she said that it’s becoming a kind of service that companies are offering where they’re developing kits and offering packages of products and services based on the needs of the workers who will use them.

An association had started implementing Microsoft’s SharePoint and wanted to know how to go about getting staff adoption of the tool.

Driver said the question was one of the top questions IT managers are facing today. She said she thinks having a governance model—meaning a model of what is supposed to be done on SharePoint and how—and sticking to it. It’s tricky, she said. Your staff is probably used to emailing a Microsoft Office document to several others, asking for feedback, and then compiling the changes. It’s not going to be an easy switch for people to all of sudden abandon that model and use a shared workspace. The keys are the managers and team leaders. For it to happen, these people have to force it, to not accept the old model.

Noting that work flows to the most competent person until it overwhelms them – IT folks are imposed upon, but you are advocating getting outside the line of management. How do you ensure that slackers won’t delegate all the necessary or least savory tasks and spend their time chatting or making new networking connections when other work needs to be done?

What we need is a shift in the way people are valued, answered Driver. She said she thinks the people who participate, the ones who answer other people’s questions and participate in helpful ways on other people’s projects will rise to the top and the deadweight will be noticed.

What are the one or two things that absolutely have to be in place for an individualized information workplace to be possible?

The single most critical success factor is buy-in from the top. IT may be able to see that a helter skelter approach to web 2.0 technologies and collaboration tools and projects is the wrong road, but if there’s no executive at the top to quell the political issues, IT won’t be heard.

She said a second critical success factor, particularly attributable to associations, is that the initiatives tie back to the highest level mission and objectives the organization is focusing on.



Maybe I've been under a rock for a while, but I had not heard of this no-brainer of an idea.

When you have folks filling in a form, say a registration form on your site, make email one of the early captures. If they don't complete the form, send them an email to solicit feedback or offer other means to turn the potential customer into an actual customer.

As Amy Hissrich pointed out in the session she cohosted on web analytics, this is standard practice at NetFlix. "You start to signup, stop, and the next day you get an email inviting you to continue the process."

Her cohost, Suni Patel of eShow2000/Netronix Corporation, related an experience where she had started to purchase flowers but didn't complete the process. She was sent a coupon to try to entice her to complete the process.


The fruitless fight for space on the home page

Just so Reggie doesn't feel like I'm bashing him all the time, in a Tech Conference session he said something that resonates very well with me:

"People will be less and less patient with going to the home page to navigate through your site."

I remember I was shocked when I was told the percentage of people who access ASAE & The Center's website but never access the home page. (Sorry, I don't remember the number, maybe I'll update this post later with the number if I can get it.) It makes since though, when you think about it. Assuming you have a decent-sized site open to the public and you update it with some regularity, chances are most of the people accessing your site get there from Google or some other search engine.

The point? Well one of them is that there's a need for staff and volunteer education. Everybody wants a piece of the home page for their pet project, and those in charge of the website have to guard the home page ferociously. Turns out, that real estate is getting less and less important. The thing for these folks to think about is what are the top five or ten entrance pages to the site, and does their project work on any of those pages?

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