The Organizational Strategist

November 2, 2012

Sticking to your values: Strategy to the very core


-Introduction-

Values comprise the genesis of vision and strategy.  These values can be at a corporate level down through an individual level.  From clearly identifying one’s values you establish your baseline on orientation, objectives, and interests.  This baseline can help gauge market fit, potential alignment with a company (if you’re interviewing or investigating partnership), seek the right or wrong short and long term choices, and provide optimal best business environmental conditions for  productivity.  These elements all help show what level of fit a company’s or individual’s values will be with the surrounding environment.  The fit with the environment will enable one to be set up for success or ultimate failure.

-Navigating your Path-

The first component to understand is oneself.  Through that awareness you can set boundaries, enact optimal operating environments, and clearly define decision making frameworks.  This awareness can lead to desired change and/or alignment with others.  Here are some simple examples: sales groups can find the right fit with delivery groups, professional services align to product sales and integration phases, introverted individuals match with extraverted individuals for diversity purposes, and so on. By combining the awareness of oneself with what is needed to execute your strategy, you have a clear gap analysis and actionable areas.

As people and organizations continue market environments, organizational dynamics, and other changes can evolve.  Staying true to your core values is very important, even if making difficult choices has to be done.  By not evolving one’s values or making those choices to stay consistent, that can signal the start of a cascading decline in effectiveness and overall success.

I’ve seen many companies and individuals struggle when they do not have a strong sense of their own values.  Leadership visions, decision making, execution and follow through can all falter if there is not enough clarity and reinforcement behind the driving force.  The early signs can show via culture changes, unexpected behaviors, friction among business units, and a decline in what had been strong.  Values should always represent a strong driving force in vision, strategy, and organizational culture.  As mentioned above, having sufficient awareness can make the action areas clear for strategic implementation.

-Closing-

Know what matters most and least to you.  Make decisions based off of that.  This can lead to your personal success (in whatever way you choose to define it).  These activities of knowing self and organization can dramatically help with understanding what to bring in and what to push out.  From doing that, you can cultivate your organization’s culture and personal fit with perspective partners, employers, suppliers, and definitely customers.  Ultimately, this knowledge can help you and your efforts are more successful when applied to personal or corporate enduring strategy.

April 14, 2010

Taking the initial footsteps to walking your personal strategy


Introduction

An individual’s strategy is much like an organization’s strategy. In its own way there are stakeholders, opportunities, challenges, strengths, a market environment and more. A colossal organization must do much of the same things as an individual in order for his, her or their strategy to be successful. To be effective working within an organization’s strategy, all of the component elements (business units, products, services, teams, on down through individuals) must be in alignment. In order to find which organization would be the best one to utilize your strengths, aspirations and ideals, find your own personal strategy so that you can add your resources and capabilities the most effectively.

-Increasing Self Awareness and Knowledge-

When organizations design and implement strategy, information gathering inside and outside the organization is constantly being gathered. Strategy models are done to evaluate how an organization might be comparatively positioned against competitors, organize the innovation pathways inside an organization, map out the abilities, competence, and opportunities of an organization, and to find out many other helpful sources of information. Strategic dialogues and planning organize, communicate, and harness the possibilities to prepare and coordinate an organization’s efforts. An organization should be aware of itself and of its surroundings. Informed decision making leads to better implementation and results.

Individuals are no different in that they too should understand themselves and what is around them. Creating plans, methods, and approaches are all valuable. However, it can be more difficult to get to the core of oneself where the most valuable information is stored. Self awareness is what brings forth the deep, impactful and most important information for a person. Awareness of information leads to knowledge. The application, digestion, and realization as to what the knowledge means to a person create wisdom. The more wisdom a person has, the more authentic the person can be. From that, living the person’s strategy to achieve, be or do whatever he or she wants is much easier and attainable. When you know what you want, you can define success, understand what to accomplish, and find what it means to win in your market.

The first step, which should be revisited over time, is to cultivate self awareness. This can be accomplished through many means. There are tools, activities, resources and so forth that enable information gathering and presentation. Everyone is different as to how they learn and their comfort level with experimentation, reflection, risk taking, and taking action. I outlined how I feel a personal strategy should be discovered, cultivated and realized in my earlier article “Finding, living and thriving in your Personal Strategy”. From my own journey I have found many different ways of becoming more aware. Here is a sample

Tools and Assessments:

  • Myers Briggs personality test – this is a well known test that can show where and how you fit for a career or role
  • FIRO-B (Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation) – this test shows three categories (inclusion, control, and affection) along with what you express versus what you actually want
  • Birkman – this longer online tool gives more on stresses, behaviors, relationship approach, interests and organizational focus. It’s pretty thorough and helpful. As an added interest point, it can be used as a comparison tool to another who’s taken the tool to see how compatible you may be with a team or an individual
  • ESCI (Emotional Social Competency Inventory) – this is a 360 assessment that gives information regarding emotional intelligence by pulling in peers, significant other, bosses, friends, colleagues, subordinates and more to give a more holistic picture
  • StrengthFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath – this short online assessment and book list your top 5 strengths. The book is helpful in that it gives situations, explanations, and ideas for partnership or enablement for you to exhibit your strengths
  • POQ (Philosophical Orientation Questionnaire) – this assessment shows you the relative priorities you take in your decision making and approach in three categories (human, intellect, and practical)
  • LSI (Learning Style Indicator) – this tool plots where and how you fit best within a learning cycle

Activities:

  • Writing your own autobiography – the sheer amount of time, dedication and depth that this can involve is impressive. With a series of leading questions to ensure that relationships, critical points of change or influence, and evolution of the individual is brought up this is a very powerful and revealing activity
  • Finding, contracting and working with a professional coach – there are many kinds of coaches, which can help in various ways. At their core, coaches help you to think and work in different ways to see more of what is possible and help you to reach your goals
  • Working in a team where everyone really gets to know each other well, shares and takes in feedback constructively, and invests yourself to allow for risks taking and growth
  • Writing out your “Bucket List” – while this may be seen as morbid by some, it can be seen as a way of living life to its fullest by an optimist
  • Partnership with those close to you – I have found that my fiancé is a fantastic source of inspiration, information and intrigue. Having someone close that provides helpful, constructive feedback is a great source of information and potential growth
  • Writing out your dreams using a set of SMARTER goals (Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic, Time Frame, Engaging, and Rewarding) – this may be very similar to the Bucket List but more reaching and encompassing
  • Conducting a Best Self Appreciative Inquiry exercise with your network to give you a picture of your best self
  • Taking time to reflect, renew, understand, and learn from your own experiences – It can help you speed up in the long run if you take time out to slow down from time to time

 

-Summary-

The path a person takes to walk their personal strategy is unique to each individual. The more effective people are more aware of themselves and those around them. Information or knowledge alone is not power unless it holds meaning or relevance. Self awareness helps shape knowledge into wisdom for a person. I’ve given a short list of some pursuits I have found value in. I encourage readers to provide resources and ideas on what has helped them in their personal learning, development and growth. There are numerous other resources available that are just awaiting you to find them. The doors of opportunity may be all around you, but you need to be aware of them to answer the doors that open.

-Links-

“Finding, living and thriving in your Personal Strategy” Organizational Strategist blog article: http://blog.seattlepi.com/organizationalstrategist/archives/199444.asp

March 10, 2010

Finding, living and thriving in your Personal Strategy


-Introduction-

Recently I was in downtown Seattle after a couple of business meetings. I stopped at one of my favorite restaurants, Jimmy Johns, to enjoy a delicious sub-sandwich. One of the fun aspects of Jimmy Johns is the humorous signs that decorate the walls and windows. I saw three signs that were stacked next to each other saying the following:

WORK LIKE

You don’t need the money

LOVE LIKE

You’ve never been hurt

DANCE LIKE

Nobody’s watching

Those signs made me think about what I feel one’s own personal strategy should be like. Please indulge me as I impart some thoughts from my personal experience and what, hopefully, could be wisdom.

-Personal Strategy-

I’ve heard the saying that “if you love what you do, you’ll never work another day in your life”. Everyone’s ideal career or jobs would be to do what they love and satisfy whatever their professional goals may be. Understanding your strengths, organizational fit, dreams or goals and more is a long path of self discovery and learning about the business environments that we can immerse ourselves in. Finding what you love to do can be a short path or a long winding road to walk, but it is a journey that you should endeavor to take. It starts within you to learn what you do and do not like, love, and appreciate. From that, your journey goes into various specialties, environments, organizational dynamics and more as you test what is available and possible for you. Once you understand how you, in your own way, can win in your individual market of opportunities through aligning your individual resources and capabilities, you have your strategy. That strategy can make it so you can “work like you don’t need the money.”

In personal and professional relationships, I feel everyone should be open, trusting, candid and respectful. The reason for that is that you can be yourself more easily around others and that the time it can take to form meaningful relationships is decreased. If there are barriers to creating good relationships then it will naturally be harder to form those good relationships. I do not mean that you should be naïve, ignorant of danger signs or not protective of what is most important to you. People tend to set up defensive barriers because of past difficulties, environments, or circumstances. Learning from your experiences is vital to survival. However, I say you should strive to find a balance and make it so that you can create the best relationships with others as fast as you can. You do not want needless barriers to happiness or potential in your life. Life, in many ways, is short and I say let’s all try to make the most of it. That is a path to “love like you’ve never been hurt.”

At the same time with finding your calling, purpose, ideal job or whatever shapes that takes, it is important to know that there are many sides to a person. Your work self may be very different than your at home self. Each of your own roles or selves, as I’ve been calling them, has their own needs. In the business world, there are many causes and organizations that pursue sustainability and to do that effectively and efficiently they need to think through all of their various interactions, relationships, suppliers, distributors, customers, employees, and environment. Making an organization sustainable is no small feat and those causes and organizations that assist with sustainable initiatives know that. Similarly, sustaining your different selves can take a lot of time, effort, and planning. “Work hard and play hard” is another saying that I enjoy using and practicing. You need to find people, resources, and activities that will help sustain you in the good times and the hard times. In those efforts that renew you, live it up. The more you can renew yourself and sustain yourself at your best, the better your life will be. Make the most of your opportunities to truly be yourself and enjoy the time you have. If you can do that then you should “dance like nobody’s watching.”

-Conclusion-

Strategy can take many forms and levels. Most of the articles in this blog have related to large scale organizations and strategic elements. However, an individual’s strategy can mimic the decision making, in-depth planning, adaptability and alignment that larger scale strategy. For your personal strategy, I strongly encourage you to find what you love and pursue it; to trust, welcome, and strengthen your relationships; and to sustain yourself and live your adventures to their fullest.

February 22, 2010

Unlocking Hidden Potential through Positive Deviants


-Introduction-

In any organization, there will be top performers, exemplary people, and outliers from the norm of the workplace. Those people have experienced the extraordinary in some fashion and the better ones will be able to repeat or recreate their great efforts over time. One can identify them because they are the ones that receive awards, get recognition, obtain big promotions and raises, succeed where others fail, get placed in the high profile and visible projects and more. They are the rock stars of an organization. These are the positive deviants. They are set apart from the flock because of their efforts, which makes them a deviant. Their excellent results are the positive aspect.

-Background of Positive Deviance-

My experience with searching for positive deviants came from my studies and application of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) as taught by David Cooperrider and Ron Fry while in my later years at Weatherhead School of Management. When taken as a part of an AI interview and allowing for interviewees to engage in their own stories, positive deviants or examples of their actions can be a very powerful and moving start to a change initiative. When the AI interview questionnaire is well worded to allow for variety, diversity, and imagination, interviewees share their stories of positive deviance with pleasure and fond remembrance. Eyes light up, energy flows from the story teller, and everyone gets engaged in the moment. It’s a marvel to witness and leaves a lasting impression on everyone.

The more diverse and encompassing the positive deviant search is, the higher the likelihood that fantastic ideas, actions, and results will emerge. Any time where an experience or approach may be different, a positive deviant search could take place. If there is a rigid structure that must be followed with no divergence, then there will be no deviants, positive or otherwise, available. The tightly scripted internationally routed computer tech support calls, where the tech support person knows no more vocabulary than the script itself, comes to mind. That is a situation where positive deviants would be difficult to find. The environment where positive deviants will blossom the most would be one that is diverse, learning, experimenting and evolving. For example, business development professionals that make sales calls seem like an art form of intricately dancing wordplay, skillful topic navigation, and provocative offers would be a highly promising area to look for positive deviants.

-Tapping into the Latent Positive Deviance-

Surfacing the stories and examples of positive deviance is the core element of improving an organization or initiative. Here are some simplified steps to take to realize the value of positive deviance.

  1. Set the topic, context, direction or strategy that frames the environment where some may have demonstrated positive deviance
  2. Inquire about examples where the extraordinary happened in as many areas as possible
  3. Capture the story, knowledge, ideas, and more from these positive deviant examples
  4. Combine the captured information by theme
  5. Make the information actionable to individuals, teams, and organizations

There are many, many ways that learning can take place from positive deviants. Here are some opportunities that immediately come to mind:

  • Personal and professional development
  • Business process improvement
  • Training material expansion
  • Informational interview arrangements
  • Product/Service innovation
  • Career advice and insight
  • Cross-functional or team collaboration
  • Efficiency or effectiveness acceleration

-Conclusion-

Everyone has their brilliant moments. Some people, groups, or organizations have more moments than others. Unearthing and surfacing those moments of greatness and making more of them happen can be achieved through cultivation from positive deviants. Recognizing the sound of opportunity knocking is the first part, but taking the chance to engage in that opportunity leading to new adventures is a decision everyone must make. Who wouldn’t want to learn from those who have had astonishing adventures?

January 26, 2010

The key to your introductions is a Unique Value Proposition


-Introduction-

Have you ever had a hard time understanding why a corporate project is happening? You may have wondered the following questions. What are the benefits? Why is it happening at this time? How come I have been asked to be involved? In another instance, you might be talking with someone new that you met at a party, as a part of a networking event, in an interview or even just chatting around the water cooler, and, after ten minutes of taking, you do not know what they actually do for your organization. That can be frustrating and awkward for everyone involved. Having a clear message to describe a project, goal, or even yourself can be very helpful for making a good impression, standing out, and articulating value. This is where having a unique value proposition can really help.

-About Unique Value Propositions-

Recently I was asked what I can give that no one else can give. I will admit that I was taken aback and did not respond well. Comparing myself with all of humanity’s capability and experience made me think that I did not have much to offer. I’m not arrogant enough to think that I can give something that no one else can give. However, that was probably not the true intent of the inquiry. Ideally, I would have described the unique value that I do offer without stating I am somehow better than everyone else.

What I could’ve brought up would be what I feel I do particularly well. Unfortunately, I find it hard to advertise for myself. I do believe in myself and am confident in my abilities. However, I try to think through my actions, words, and choices appropriately, respectfully, and truthfully. This can create a quandary in interviews, networking and other areas where a form of competition comes about. It’s especially true when an interviewer asks you what makes you the best candidate.

Before doing an informational interview with an alumnus while doing my MBA at Weatherhead, the term of UVP was unknown to me. UVP stands for Unique Value Proposition. It is a marketing term that is also known as Unique Selling Proposition (USP). It can be used for all sorts of scenarios. Project initiatives, job interviews, networking, investment pitches, stakeholder communications and more can all benefit from having one or more simple, concise, and powerful UVPs. Having multiple UVPs can help where there are different values to articulate. For example, it would be helpful for me to articulate what my UVP is as an organizational strategist, as a Web 2.0 practitioner and consultant, and as a Gen Y researcher. These three areas are interests of mine, but often create different conversational paths due to the varied topics.

-Creating a Unique Value Proposition-

Here are some simple steps and tips to creating an individual’s UVP. To create a UVP for a product, project, initiative or other method, a very similar process can be followed.

1) List who you want to talk with: this will help determine how many UVPs you will need and the directions you can take your UVP(s)

2) List descriptions of your strengths, unique experiences, and achievements: this will provide the meat of the value portion of your UVP

3) List the stakeholders from step #1: having this list helps identify if there are special circumstances or other nuances you need to address (Need help identifying stakeholders? Check out this earlier blog article)

4) Pick the best elements of what sets you apart: this should cover the What’s In It For Me (WIIFM) relating to the stakeholders you just identified

5) Combine it all into a short, pithy, and powerful sentence or phrase: this is where it all comes together in a concise, easy to understand sentence

Tips for UVPs:

– Value comes first. Make sure yours is clear. If there is no value to the proposition, it won’t matter how unique it is.

– Put your UVP into terms that your audience will understand. If it is too technical, has too many buzz words or simply does not make sense, it will not help. If you can articulate your UVP in the same way that they would, that’s marvelous.

– Practice it so that it becomes natural, adaptable, and flows into your elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a scalable introduction to a person, project or initiative. The UVP can be the tag line for your elevator pitch.

– Make your UVP interesting and short. These are not speeches, nor do they give all the details. Ideally, after someone hears your UVP, they would want to hear your full elevator pitch. That should lead into a rich discussion.

– For a longer description of UVPs and more details, you can search the web. There are a lot of articles on this and similar topics. Here are a couple of articles that I found to be more informative and helpful: Infomarketerzone article and Summit Insight blog post.

Example UVP:

“The combination of cutting edge tech, business, and OD degrees with Fortune 50 experience make me uniquely positioned to strategically and effectively lead Gen Y initiatives.” 

-Closing-

There are many uses for your unique value proposition. I have found them a good fit for managerial updates and suggested talking points for their teams, website content, email tag lines, and the all important topic of What’s In It For Me(WIIFM) for each stakeholder group. A UVP should resonate with sponsors, leaders, managers, and your specialist workers. Please comment to share your own UVPs and thoughts. Good luck with your efforts!

-Links-

Article that has tips for stakeholder mapping: https://whittblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/02/accelerating-your-strategic-projects-thru-whole-system-involvement/

Infomarketerzone article: http://www.infomarketerszone.com/public/182.cfm

Summit Insight blog post: http://www.summitinsight.com/blogviewd.asp?id=91

January 20, 2010

Achieving Alignment & Balance through Strategic Planning


-Introduction-

It’s the time of year again for New Year’s resolutions, performance management, expectation setting, and business goal setting. In their own way, those pursuits are setting up and aligning strategy. Such aspirations will range from bottom line monetary improvements, to marketplace innovations, to work/life balance, to personal happiness and well being.

Some of my own goals include the following:

  • Cultivate meaningful, positive relationships in my Seattle network by meeting 2+ people a week
  • Create 3+ articles per month for this blog and grow the readership (suggestions welcome!)
  • Overcome the challenging economic circumstances and find my way to a whole new professional adventure this year

A new year brings new possibilities and new dreams to everyone who sets their mind to doing so. It is very important to grasp onto these opportunities while they are knocking at your door. Be sure to keep in mind that opportunities can be entirely new or part of an ongoing series of pursuits.

-Maintain the Investment Balance of Sustaining versus Emerging-

When researching and plotting out the organizational alignment of resources and capabilities to win in the market, i.e. setting your organizational strategy, understand that there needs to be a balance. That balance should take place among your initiatives to sustain momentum and trying something entirely new. The proper balance will vary based upon your or your organizational needs. However, either extreme of the spectrum (focusing solely on emerging investments with no existing investment maintenance or sustaining existing investments and not investing in future potential) can lead to disaster.

Here are some scenarios:

  • The rapid scale creation and market of hard disks is a good example. The pace of creation and disruptive inventions was so great that every company creating new disks had to invest heavily in constantly improving or replacing their disk offerings. Many disk creating companies died off because they could not keep up with the pace of technological change and breakthrough. Disk drives were constantly being replaced. I remember zip disks, laser disks, optical drives, and other technologies that sounded very promising, but were replaced by CD ROMs, DVDs, and others as time went by.
  • Another example that comes to mind is the competition of American made automobiles against the foreign imports, especially Asian cars. This is a much more drawn out one as it took more years to gradually take effect. Regardless, we’ve seen Toyota, Hyundai, Nissan, and others gradually phase out or decrease sales of Ford, Dodge, and others because of their better prices, longevity, warranties, and so on. American auto makers tried to mimic their production system, which helped but ultimately only delayed the phasing out because of the continuing improvement and innovation that Toyota and others employed. Here the American car companies did not invest enough in new technologies to overcome the operational excellence and innovation of the international competition.
  • For company examples of the past decade, check out this interesting blog post from the Harvard Business Review.

You need a pipeline of things to come; to keep fresh, stay agile, and keep competing with other organizations. So that thought should always be present when doing strategic planning and goal setting. However, don’t neglect the good things you already have going. Like strength based change, it’s good to continually cultivate your strengths to make the most of them. There is a plethora of good information on finding the right kind of balance needed. For example, Clayton Christensen has written some excellent books on this kind of subject. The Innovator’s Dilemma and Innovator’s Solution are examples of such books. Generally speaking, I’ve found that the faster an industry changes, the more investment needs to be made for innovating. This may sound rather simple, but it can be really hard to let go of or trim the budget of the products/services that have become the seasoned “cash cows” of an organization in order to pave the way to the future. Always be thinking about the long term sustainability of yourself and organization (people, planet, and profit) and how the ever changing market environment needs and how your organization can be adaptable.

-Conclusion-

I am personally inspired by stories of courage and action. In fact, I made that a focus of my MBA class graduation speech. Similar to that messaging, know that it takes courage to make the big gains, try new things, and embark on new adventures. Taking risks does not always pay off. Yet, it may be an even bigger risk to the long term sustainability of an organization to take no risks at all. I encourage everyone to take the time to find the right balance of pursuing innovation, continual improvement in operations, and market fit. I look forward to hearing your stories of inspiration, courage and action.

Links:

Harvard Business Review blog: http://blogs.hbr.org/anthony/2010/01/disruptors_of_the_decade_the_r.html

My graduation speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJa45jC7PL0

October 29, 2009

Twitter Exploration, Results, and Future Possibilities


-Introduction-

In an earlier blog article, I wrote about Twitter. In it, I introduced what the online product is, how it can be used for personal and/or professional application, and some tips on how to use it optimally. That article can be found by clicking here. Also, I mentioned some areas that I wanted to look into. I’ve since researched Twitter, explored its usage through my own accounts, and more. Those areas that I have investigated are as follows:

  • Monitor an organization’s happenings (Microsoft’s Windows 7 release in this case)
  • Network through Twitter
  • Explore the Twitter applications available
  • Research developments within the Twitter organization and future implications on usage

I’ll start by reporting about my exploration of the wealth of information available on Twitter applications. What I primarily wanted to get out of searching for Twitter applications was easier desktop management of my messaging, known as “tweeting” in Twitter-speak. This is because I do not have Twitter installed on a phone and I have multiple accounts, which means I have to manually switch in and out of my accounts to get into them via my computer.

-Twitter Applications-

Of the desktop Twitter applications, TweetDeck is by far the best received by the general user community and website reviews for using Twitter. I’ve enjoyed using it and it really helps. It does this by allowing me to manage and be present (monitoring tweets, making my own tweets go out simultaneously via different accounts and tools, and filtering) in my different twittering/status updating avenues. For instance, I have my two accounts (professional and personal-friends-only) displayed side by side showing columns or tweets. Those columns can be custom searches, tweets from those that I’m following, direct messages, mentions of me and more. Additionally, TweetDeck allows me to pull in my Facebook status update feed, which is really helpful. Most of my daily happening updates go out to both my friend-twitter feed and Facebook feed. My professional feed goes out through my professional-twitter feed and to Facebook and/or my friend-twitter feed, if I desire. The most helpful site that I found for simply comparing desktop applications can be found here. For a second opinion and more information, try this site. To download and use the TweetDeck application, the site page, which includes a download link, can be found by going to the TweetDeck website.

Twitter has a number of applications that are available to it. Beyond account management and user interface applications, there are many applications that give additional information. This can be especially interesting if you are using Twitter for your business purposes. Some of the added benefits of these applications are scheduling your tweets for specific times, allowing others to tweet about your blog posts, setting up a tag cloud from tweets, getting trend information, and much more. I found a site that is the self proclaimed “ultimate” list of Twitter applications that includes about 20 different applications here. Another interesting find is a blog that is devoted to Twitter applications. To keep up with the blog go to this URL.

-Twitter Networking-

Twittering for job searching has definitely been helpful. I’ve found a number of professional people and organizations to follow. Some examples include my professors and their speaking engagement or research updates, Hay Group citing discounts for particular products, Microsoft stating some of its clean tech and environmentally friendly activity, my professional colleagues, company representatives from companies that I am interested in learning more about and job postings from recruiters. Searching on company names, professional learning interests, specific named individuals, and through social navigation have all been helpful for me as I expand what I follow on Twitter.

-Monitoring Organizational Happenings via Twitter-

Twitter has trends that can be searched on and pooled from anyone posting a tweet. The trends can be identified by their hash mark in the message. For instance, if there was a popular topic on Halloween that was a Twitter trend, it might be marked as #Halloween. A Twitter search could be done on “#Halloween” and a list of recent posts with #Halloween in them would display.

Monitoring the twitter trends is interesting too. I previously mentioned the Sidekick data loss problems that were happening, which I had seen by checking out the trend on T-Mobile. I later found out from a Microsoft Press Release that the Sidekick data can be restored, according to Microsoft. I also read about the number of Windows 7 media releases, parties, and business predictions. The Tweets were proclaiming high and wide, mainly from my more technically oriented friends and Tweeps (Twitter friends), about #win7. From what I could tell, the major points were Mac vs. PC types, trepidation about upgrading and the potential problems that may ensue, and Microsoft champions touting the wonders of the new operating system. This kind of conversation or tweeting is what I would expect from a successful product launch. On a side note, I did find and subsequently follow the sustainability Microsoft Twitter feed (Microsoft_Green), mentioned above, which updates on interesting points about what Microsoft has been doing in regards to its sustainability efforts.

-Recent Twitter Developments and Foreseen Implications-

Also, Twitter is now becoming a hotbed for future live monitoring and data analysis. I read in an Associated Press Article that both the Microsoft and Google companies are both diving into the streams of tweeting data. If done well, I can foresee these information sources enabling them to be both more reactive and proactive if they’re using pattern seeking, trending, smart heuristic based algorithms and long term analysis. Here are some of the business benefits that they can derive:

  • Timely and holistic public relations updates and feedback
  • Eager, free, and open feedback and input into products and services (think of the consumer research potential)
  • Massive crowd-sourced data mining

This could be an amazing way of absorbing the tweet trend data. That is assuming the organizations find effective ways to engage and solicit the kind of responses they want. The manner in which the Twitter public is engaged would be crucial though. That is because opening up a dialogue to get public feedback informs the public at the same time. If the public finds the new information displeasing, it may make for bad press. So, it may be a double-edged sword if used in that manner. I could see that it would be great in more of an idea creation phase of products or services with significantly less risk of negative reactions. After all, being open, sharing, and engaging is well known to be favored.

-Summary-

All in all, I’ve really enjoyed the professional and social returns I have received from Twitter. It’s a good way of keeping in touch and to get the latest news, regardless of whether it is opinion or research based. Twitter is an interesting medium for updates and sharing. The simplicity of the product is grand and the enormity of data is staggering. I expect that I am not alone in being interested in what lies ahead for Twitter and all of its tweeps.

-Hyperlinked Sites-

My earlier Twitter blog article: https://whittblog.wordpress.com/2009/10/13/twhitterpated/

The Twitter desktop application review: http://www.listio.com/reviews/2008/08/comparison-twitter-tools-and-applications/

Another Twitter application comparison: http://mashable.com/2009/06/27/twitter-desktop-apps/

The TweetDeck application page: http://www.tweetdeck.com/beta/

Ultimate list of Twitter applications: http://techie-buzz.com/twitter/ultimate-list-of-twitter-applications-and-websites.html

Twitter application blog: http://mytwitapps.com/

Microsoft can restore Sidekick data: http://www.microsoft.com/Presspass/press/2009/oct09/10-15sidekick.mspx

Microsoft and Google both have rights to Twitter feeds: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/10/21/ap/tech/main5407305.shtml

October 13, 2009

Twhitterpated


I’ve been trying out Twitter this past summer. In this short time, I’ve experienced some of the good and bad aspects of using the service. The good is that I’ve been able to connect with friends, colleagues, and organizations. The bad is that I do occasionally get over-twittered aka “twitter pated” from the entries that talk about eating a sandwich or similar mundane information.

For those of you who may be thinking “What the heck is a Twitter? Isn’t that some kind of a bird call? I know my nephew is sometimes a little twit…” or similar thoughts, Twitter is an online social networking and social navigation application. More specifically, it is called a micro-blog. That’s because it allows short and pithy updates to a community of followers or readers. By saying short and pithy, that means 140 characters. That’s characters (letters, numbers, and symbols) only, not full words. The 140 character micro-blog posts on Twitter are called “Tweets”. Many people use Twitter on their internet enabled smart phones to send updates on what they have been doing. What people say on Twitter will vary from insightful and helpful to silly or completely nonsensical.

In looking into Twitter, I quickly found that having two types of accounts was very helpful. One account includes my professional colleagues, interesting organizations, and other peers. The other account is with my friends for everyday information; where I can talk about the great honey roasted turkey and colby-jack cheese sandwich that I just had. Both of my accounts are low in followers so I haven’t been able to get the quick feedback that Twitter is famous for giving. That aspect will hopefully come with time. I have found interesting articles, helpful tips, and new areas to explore from monitoring my professional connections’ tweets. In my informal account, I have been able to stay more in touch with friends from across the country.

Another recent San Jose Mercury News article confirms much of what I’ve mentioned and says a bit more, especially on the networking and job search realms. The article has a bulleted list of do’s and don’ts for Twitter job hunting, which may be of interest. Here they are:

DOS AND DON’TS WHEN JOB-HUNTING ON TWITTER

1. DO follow potential employers to learn more about their products and service.

2. DON’T get sucked in; get the information you’re looking for, then get out.

3. DO use multiple Twitter profiles — a personal one, for instance, as well as those created specifically to follow certain employers.

4. DON’T use a silly or cartoonish icon on your profile — it could turn off a potential employer.

5. DO use directories like Twellow or Mr. Tweet to help you locate other professionals and trendsetters in your field.

There are a few aspects to Twitter that I have yet to get into.

One of the areas I haven’t used Twitter for much yet is to look up target companies to monitor what’s being said about them and subscribe to their feed(s), if they have them. T-Mobile is a company of interest for me and today I was watching the various complaints and comparisons being said about their products. Evidently the Sidekick phones can delete user data. Imagine somehow losing all of your contacts at once. That would be awfully frustrating. I’ve read that T-Mobile is issuing a $100 gift certificate for those who have such data problems.

Twitter also has a number of different applications available. These applications can be used to sort feeds, link accounts, navigate, organize and more. Since my phone is not a smart phone, I don’t have internet connectivity. So, much of the convenience that many Twitter users enjoy, I won’t be able to access. I do hope to get such a phone sometime, perhaps not a Sidekick though, and enjoy the tweets as they come and go.

Marketing and branding initiatives are yet one more realm that Twitter has helped. I can see how product updates, previews on service releases, short introductions to articles and more could be a great fit for a company’s marketing, public relations and branding initiatives.

From these Twitter-offerings, I am going to explore what I can. I’ll certainly tap into the networking and company searching points as that’s a particular area of interest for me at the present. From a desktop client perspective, I’ll search to find what apps may be a good fit for me too. I will plan on updating this blog with a follow up on what’s gone well and what hasn’t for me. Feel free to follow me on my Twitter page. Links to do so are shown on the right hand sidebar of this blog.

The article mentioned has been hyperlinked to easily direct readers. In case that’s not working, the URL is as follows: http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_13474050?nclick_check=1.

October 12, 2009

Unfortunate trends for Gen Y and more


Generation Y has been an interest of mine for some time now. My interest comes from many angles, but my being on the cusp of Gen Y and Gen X is a major part of it. Another aspect that I want to keep up on is how Gen Y will impact business and how best to work with and/or lead them. During my Masters in Positive Organizational Development and Change degree, I did a leadership paper on how to lead Gen Ys. I may do another post on that in the future.

To give some background, the time period Gen Y usually starts is in the early to mid eighties. The actual range varies depending upon the studies done and how the boundaries are defined in the study, of course. Generally speaking, most Gen Yers, also known as Millennials, are entering the work force or have a handful of years of working experience by now. This places them in entry level positions, where learning is absolutely critical to prove oneself.

Unfortunately for Gen Y, many of the jobs they want and potentially need to get into are less available right now. The world wide economic downturn is certainly a huge set back for everyone. However, that makes it even tougher for a newly minted college grad. How can they get an entry level job, which ironically often require a few years of experience, when they have to compete against seasoned professionals? Why would a company hire a new grad when they can get a seasoned veteran for the same price?

That’s not the only challenge and this next one extends beyond the plight of Gen Yers. There is an even smaller ratio of available company jobs than there might have been if this recession took place several years earlier from now. Baby Boomers have an extraordinary work ethic and they are staying at their job longer than previous generations have. A recent MediaPost article states that the long time veterans are staying on for the following “psychological and social factors:

  • ‘to feel useful’
  • ‘to give myself something to do’
  • ‘to be with other people'”

While I applaud the stamina and dilligence, this trend will lead to systemic problems. If the veterans are not vacating their roles, others will not move up the corporate ladder. This will make it so others do not have as many growth and learning opportunities. Beyond that, there are simply less jobs available. That compounds to make it so that Gen Y and others have a tougher time even getting into the workforce. Gen Y will be forced to wait or take jobs that they aren’t hoping to get into, meaning not in their industry(ies) of choice, and so their initial years in the workforce won’t be building toward long term efforts.

To bring this home, companies need to take action. Companies need to take action both for their own long term sustainability and for the sake of their stakeholders (employees, shareholders, customers, etc). Beyond that, Gen Yers need to have opportunities to rise up. Knowledge management has long been a hot topic, but this needs to become a proactive and not just a reactive measure. New and existing lower ranking employees will need opportunities to grow, either through their own promotion and initiative or by having avenues of growth created for them. Thinking of long term strategy, a company needs to constantly be cultivating its employees, especially those companies and industries where expertise takes a long time to create. What would happen if there was a 5-10 year gap in the corporate ladder and experience? What many companies are trying to do is to shift those who are in retiring ages and those who are important and likely to leave, for whatever reason, to more mentoring, teaching, and coaching roles. This idea seems like a great one to me. This will still keep the expertise available for the important business challenges, help ensure that the knowledge/skill is passed on, and satisfy the veteran’s desires to stay active, involved, and social.

I’ve seen knowledge management and personal development done differently in many ways. In some cases, I’ve been really impressed with a company’s efforts or forward thinking. However, I’ve also been worried for the long term business stability, strategy and sustainability of very impressive companies. Regardless, this is a topic of importance that will not soon go away.

Note that this post was edited slightly after its initial publication.

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