Showing posts with label Information Sharing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Information Sharing. Show all posts

August 2, 2019

What's Your Relationship?

This week I learned about the Three Levels of Relationships.

Level 3: Family/Friends
The highest form of a relationship where you are being authentic (i.e. yourself), you share deeply about yourself (thoughts, feelings, desires, mistakes, etc,) and you are vulnerable. 

Level 2: Professionals
The middle level of relationships in which you are seeking to build trust and respect, you share some information (i.e. appropriate), and you expose yourself a little to the other person. 

Level 1: Acquaintances
The most elementary of relationships that is superficial in nature, there is little personal sharing of information (i.e. mostly when you are asked a question and you feel comfortable answering it), and you remain guarded. 

This is a good way to assess your relationships--is it a level 1, 2, or 3 and are you behaving appropriately within that, so that you trust, communicate, and collaborate effectively.  ;-)

(Graphic Credit: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 25, 2018

In the Know Or Dark

So here is one way that some people can (try to) manipulate you--positively or negatively. 

They can help either to keep you "in the know" or "in the dark."

As we all know by now, information is power!

When you're in the know--you are a trusted agent and a valuable resource; you have more dots and more connections between the dots to make; you are able to analyze what's happening and make better decision going forward; you can lead with knowledge, wisdom, and hopefully understanding. People come to you for advice, guidance, and because you are a true asset to the team, your superiors, and the organization. 

When you're in the dark--you are untrusted and unvalued, you may actually be seen as the enemy who needs to be marginalized, put out or taken out! You are kept out of meetings, uninformed or misinformed, and so you become more and more intellectually worthless. Further, others are implicitly or explicitly told that you are poisonous and not to get caught up in the pending slaughter.  A colleague of mine put it this way: "Don't get between a man and his firing squad."   

So with others, there can be information alliances as well as information warfare. 

To a great extent, you are responsible for keeping yourself in the know. You need to build relationships, bridges, and networks. You need to read, observe, and talk to lots of people. You need time to digest and analyze what you learn.  And you must build your information store so that it is ready and actionable. 

But to another extent, there are others--superiors, competitors, bullies, abusers--who just might seek to keep you in the dark and bring you down. Not everyone is your friend...some maybe just the opposite. (Wouldn't it be nice, if we all were just friends!) But showing you the intellectual ass of the group is a powerful nut that once superimposed as an image, cannot be easily distilled. There is plenty of groupthink to go around. And taking out a perceived enemy diffuses their power to everyone else.  What a lousy coup by some nasty f*ckers!

Why some friend and others foe you--who the heck knows. Perhaps some is chemistry; some is tit for tat; some is personal bias and bigotry; and some just the crapshoot of fate. 

In the end, keep doing your part to enhance your value, your friendships, and your integrity. The rest, you have to be vigilant about and realize not everyone wants the lights kept on. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 17, 2017

Twitter BESTS Facebook

Here are six reasons why Twitter bests Facebook and we ain't seen nothing yet:

- Unadulterated News & Messaging 
Twitter is where you can hear it from the President's mouth or the Kardashians or anyone else for that matter with no media bias and filtering (their very mission is information sharing), while Facebook is often about reposting stories, pictures, and videos that we find of interest already on the web. What's even more amazing is that anyone of us can tweet back to @realDonaldTrump or @SpeakerRyan...that is some unbelievable access we now have. 

- Speed of Information To Market
Twitter is now considered the fastest way to get the latest (and greatest) on what's happening.  From the US Airways jet crash into the Hudson River to up-to-the-minute updates on the Mumbai terrorist attackYou could even watch the election debates or the Walking Dead and get a real-time running commentary. 

- Our Very Social Identity
Twitter is now part of our very social identity, so that everything from our blog writings to our resume has our Twitter handle. Mine is @AndyBlumenthal.  

- It's Populism As A Movement
Twitter, while not technically as popular in terms of number of users as Facebook, is more popular in terms of the cultural impact. Politicians are putting out policy debates online and fighting it out there too, while celebrities and athletes are sharing personal updates, and the world is truly communicating directly and succinctly in 140 characters or less what's really important to them. 

- Operating On A Global Open Platform 
Twitter feeds are open to anyone who follows them and tweets are searchable on the web as opposed to Facebook which is predominantly a closed system to the web and you've got to be "friends" to get the real scoop with someone. Whether the Iranian Green Revolution or the Syrians Being Bombarded in Aleppo it's open and on Twitter. 

- Get Your BIG Data and Feed Your Artificial Intelligence
Twitter has about 500 million tweets a day or about 200 billion a year.  Even pulling out the ridiculous "What I had for lunch today" tweets, there is still an unbelievable amount of data to mine for analysis and artificial intelligence. Talking about a potential treasure trove of information and sentiment from over 317 million users, and computer algorithms are already churning through it to make the big data intelligible and usable for decision making. 

Certainly Twitter (and Facebook) need to get their virtual arms around fake news and profiles, but the good thing about it is that others can call b.s. as soon as they see it in 140 characters or less. ;-)

(Note: I am so impressed with Twitter's prospects, I am putting my own money where my mouth is.)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 4, 2014

UNSOCIAL Social Media


This video is absolutely fantastic. 

Congratulations to Gary Turk for hitting the nail on the head here. 

And thank you to my daughter, Michelle, for sharing this with me.

  • Smartphones, dumb people. 
  • Easier to connect with people, but we spend more time alone.
  • Be there in the moment. 
  • Give your love, not your like.
  • Look up from your phone, shut down your display.

Part of me just wants to say that Social Media is one of THE biggest wastes of our time...REALLY! 

Another part of me, believes in some aspects of it for information sharing, collaboration, and being a greater influence. 

But Social Computing is NOT a replacement for genuine human interaction, which is too OFTEN what it has become. 

I applaud my daughters, for at times, disconnecting their Facebook accounts to read, spend time with friends, and do other activities.

We've lost too much of ourselves to an escapist virtual reality--where it's easier to HIDE behind a screen, then be there in the flesh facing the challenges that we must. 

There are great aspects to being online--it's been a true information revolution--but the computer needs to SERVE the human master, and not the other way around.  ;-)
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February 15, 2013

The Counterterrorism Calendar


The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) "leads our nations efforts to combat terrorism at home and abroad by analyzing the threat, sharing that information with our partners, and integrating all instruments of national power to ensure unity of effort."  The NCTC is part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). 

Not since the playing cards used in the 2003 Iraqi invasion with the most-wanted identified on the cards have I seen the employ of such a common tool for sharing such important information--until now with the development by the NCTC of a Counterterrorism Calendar

Typically, pin-up calendars have been devoted to beautiful models, Dilbert cartoons, and areas of personal interests and hobbies--such as cars, sports, aircraft, boats, or whatever.

I was impressed to see this concept used for sharing counterterrorism information; really, this is something that we should be mindful of every day--it's about our safety and national security.

The counterterrorism calendar has both a website and a PDF download

The website has an interactive timeline, map, and terrorist profiles--so you can learn about terrorism by time and space and those who commit the atrocities. 

Timeline--you can view by month and day the major terrorist acts that have occurred--and many days have more than one terrorist act associated with it--and only seven days out of the whole calendar year have no terrorist acts listed--so for those who are focused on just 9/11, there is a whole calendar waiting for you to view. 

Map--the map allows you to see the home base and geographical sphere of influence of many terrorist organizations--17 of them--along with a profile of each of those terrorist groups. There is also a button on the bottom of the page to see all the countries impacted with victims from 9/11--there are 91 countries shown with victims from this single catastrophic event alone.

Terrorists--the site has a list of terrorists with their profiles, identifying information, what they are wanted for, and amount of reward offered, or whether they have already been captured or killed. There is also a list of the 10 most wanted off to the right side of the page--with a rewards of $25 million listed for the #1 spot for Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The downloadable calendar has this information in a 160 page color-calendar--with a wealth of information for a calendar format like this--it is so large, I don't think you could actually hang this calendar because no regular push pins could actually hold it.

So if you can pull yourself away from the stereotypical Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Calendar, then you may actually be able to learn a lot about what our counterterrorism efforts are all about. ;-)

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October 13, 2012

Amazing Internet Statistics 2012

Star_wars
So what happens in only 1 minute on the Internet--this cool magazine Ideas and Discoveries (October 2012) provides some amazing examples:

- Information Sharing--639,800 gigabytes of data are exchanged
- Information Generation--6 new Wikipedia articles are created
- Information Visualization--20,000,000 photo looked at on Flickr
- eMail--204,000,000 emails are sent
- eCommerce--$83,000 of sales on Amazon
- Social Networking--320 new users on Twitter and 100 on LinkedIn (wonder how many for Facebook...)
- Cyber Crime--20 new victims of identity theft

And in the same month, Harvard Business Review reported on the growing significance to commerce with the Internet contributing to GDP (in 2010) as much as:

- 8.3% in the UK
- 7.3% in South Korea
- 5.5% in China
- 4.7% in the US
- 4.7% in Japan
- 4.1% in India

Moreover in HBR, this is what was reported that people are willing to give up instead of the Internet for a year--and the numbers are pretty startling--check this out:

- 91% of UK would give up fast food
- 89% of Indonesians would give up smoking
- 86% of Japanese would give up chocolate
- 85% of Chinese would give up coffee
- 78% of Indonesians would give up their shower
- 60% of Japanese would give up exercise
- 56% of Chinese would give up their car
- 56% of Japanese would give up sex--go figure! ;-)

While this is all sort of light, there is also a very seriousness dimension to this. For example, in the Wall Street Journal today, it quotes Secretary of Defense, Leon Paneta warning that with Iran's digital assault on the U.S., the concerns of cyberwar are growing with the SecDef going so far as to say "Is there a cyberwar going on? It depends on how you define war."

Yes, the Internet is amazing for so many reasons and we can't take it for granted--we need to be vigilant and defend the Internet (cyber) with the same zeal and commitment as the other domains of war--land, sea, and air--all are vital to national security and for the preservation of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

This is a lesson we need to learn quickly and decisively--before the old Star Wars is passe and cyberwar turns deadly. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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April 22, 2012

I Hate Paper

Paper has been around for approximately two thousand years, since it's invention in China, and it has served as the medium of choice for recording and sharing information ever since. 

However, enter the age of information technology and we are now able to capture, process, and store far more information, quicker, cheaper, and more efficiently than we ever could with paper. 

Combine that with the environmental impact and the need to conserve, and we have numerous federal laws calling for the reduction or elimination of paper, to the extent practical.

1) The Paperwork Reduction Act (1980) calls for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to regulate collection of information and establish information policies to reduce the paper handled by the government. 

2) The Government Paperwork Elimination Act (1998) mandates the use of electronic forms, filings, and signatures for official business with the public. 

3) E-Government Act (2002) requires use of the Internet to improve citizen access to information and services. 

All three are a recognition of the need to move from costly paper-based processes and the management of maintenance of mountains of paper records to instead leverage information technology to re-engineer and improve the way we perform information management. 

It's funny, but for me it's almost become a personal crusade to make better use of information technology to perform our mission and business of government more effectively, and I personally keep as little paper records, as possible--instead choosing to manage predominantly online--and it's great.   

Aside from having a cleaner office--no paper files, I enjoy all the benefits of electronic filing, search, and the ability to quickly share files with others in the office without having to rummage through a stack of papers 3 feet deep! 

Working in some areas that are still paper intensive for case management and so on, I have taken on the mantra, which I frequency cite of "I hate paper!" 

No, I don't really hate it, but in order to change decades old manual and paper intensive processes, we need to exaggerate a little and tell ourselves and other we hate it, so we can help change the inefficient and costly status quo. 

You can only imagine how surprised I was to read in The Atlantic (20 April 2012)--that "Paper: [Is] The Material of the Future."

Essentially, the article touts the new developments with paper using nanotechnology to make it water-proof (although you can still write on it), magnetic, fluorescent, and even anti-bacterial. 

Imagine paper that you can stick to your file cabinet, spill coffee on, light up the room with, and even keep you from getting sick--yes, that's fairly impressive!

However, while these new features are wonderful indeed and will increase the usability of paper as well as improve records management of them, I do not want to see us get complacent with reducing our use of paper and making better use of technology.  

Even with these cool nano-tech improvements to paper coming our way, I am still going to say, "I hate paper!"

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Earthworm)

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June 9, 2011

Misappropriating Twitter

By now we are all familiar with the news story regarding a prominent lawmaker, recently married, who admitted to a longstanding pattern of inappropriate sexual exploits via Twitter.

As The Wall Street Journal (9 June 2011) notes, the individual got caught when he “mistakenly sent the photo to tens of thousands of Twitter followers,” rather than as a private message.

As a public servant who is a proponent of social media technology used appropriately, I was very concerned when I saw this in the news (note: all opinions my own).

The government needs social media tools like Twitter. It is an important tool for sharing information and alerts. It is obviously not for “sexting” your followers, especially with a Twitter handle that is apparently coming from someone in the government.

Twitter is an important means of engaging the public in important ways, moving this great country forward on policy issues and a vision that is noble, righteous, and for the betterment of our world. What a shame when these tools are misappropriated!

So while I cannot say “with certitude” what exactly this person was thinking, I am certain that we need social media in government and that there are numerous positive ways for it to be applied. With the caveat that the basis for social media by anyone in government has to be truth, transparency and genuine outreach on issues of importance to the people.

A lot of government people and agencies are doing a good job with Twitter and other social media tools. Let's go back to focusing on the positive work that we can do with them, even as we note with caution how badly they can be misused.


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April 29, 2011

A Place for Answers


First there was Wikipedia and now there is Quora.

On January 15, 2011, Wikipedia celebrated it's 10 year birthday, and according to Bloomberg Businessweek, it now has more than 17 million entries (compared with only 120,000 for Encyclopedia Britannica) in 250 languages and is one of the most visited sites on the Internet. Moreover, the accuracy of the crowd-sourced Wikipedia has generally been found as good as traditional encyclopedias.

But despite the phenomenal growth of Wikipedia, a new site, Quora is finding a place for itself in online knowledge management, as one of the key question and answer (Q&A) destinations of the web (others being Answers.com, Yahoo Answers, and more--which were apparently found lacking by the founders of Quora).

According to Wired (May 2011), Quora is only 2 years old and already has about 200,000 people visiting the site each month. The approach of Quora is to create a searchable knowledge market based on merging verifiable facts with people's personal experiences and observations or what Wired calls "the large expanse between...the purely objective [e.g. Wikipedia] and the purely subjective [e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc.]."

Quora is looking to capture what it believes is the "Ninety percent of information people have [that] is still in their heads and not on the web."

The site is also creating a community of people who participate in asking and answering questions, and can select to follow topics and people of interest, and vote on whether answers are helpful ("voted up") or not to push answers up or down the page.

Similar to Wikipedia, answers can be "trimmed, corrected, or otherwise massaged by one of the rigorous volunteers" (of which their are now more than 100--Quora only has 18 employees). Answers are "written for the world, and for anyone who has that same question for the rest of time." And even questions can get "extensively reworded."

Wired asks is this just another popularity contest on the web or self-promotion for the self-proclaimed experts? One of the volunteers responds that "This isn't about job searching. It's not about raising money. Most of us who are heavy users can already do that without help. It's a sense of sharing what we now, and it's being part of a community."

Of course, while critics may call them pedantic or petty, the Quora participants are on a mission to build a vital and timeless knowledge repository--"the modern-day equivalent to the Library of Alexandria", so perhaps the people chic has to be balanced with information usability.

On January 21, 2011, Tech Crunch awarded Quora "best new startup for 2010."

It will be interesting to see where this goes...the funny thing for me was that I ended looking up Quora up in Wikipedia. :-)

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April 10, 2011

The Twitter Miracle

Twitter is a crazy thing--little blue birdie...tweet, tweet, tweet.
Why do we even do it (tweet)?
Here are the "4 Stages of Getting Twitter" (Credit: Andfaraway):
  • Stage 1--It starts with utmost skepticism and even denigrating the tool (e.g. it's stupid, dumb, a time-waster...)
  • Stage 2--Then it moves to well why don't I just try it and see what all the commotion is all about--maybe I'll like it?
  • Stage 3--As the interaction with others (RT's, @'s and messages) start to flow, you have the ah ha moment--I can communicate with just about anyone, globally!
  • Stage 4--I like this (can anyone say addiction!). I can share, collaborate, influence--way beyond my traditional boundaries. This is amazing--this is almost miraculous.
Here are some other things I like about Twitter:
1) Like a journal, it's a way to capture your thoughts, experiences, feelings, likes/dislikes. (One thing I don't like about Twitter is there is no good way that I know of to archive or print them--I hope they fix this, please).
2) Another thing about Twitter (and Blogger and Wikipedia for that matter)...I imagine sometimes that this is an incredible social time capsule (i.e. knowledge repository) that we are putting together (almost unknowingly) that will carry humankind forward past any future natural or man-made disasters. Years ago, people would bury a few mementos in a treasure chest or something, as a time capsule, and what a find this would be for people years later when they would open it up and learn firsthand what life was like "those days." Now, imagine the treasure trove of the exabytes of information contributed to by hundreds of millions people from around the world. What is also fascinating to me is that people contribute enormous amounts of their time and energy and all for free--hey, this is even less than what Amazon's Mechanical Turks could do this for! :-)
Clearly, people want to express themselves and connect with others--and social media gives ever new meaning to this beyond physical space and time.

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April 9, 2011

Mapping Our Social Future

Social-network-map

I came across this interesting Social Network Map (Credit: Flowtown).

We are all part of and participants in social networking, and are genuinely hooked on it.

(Even going so far as the guy who was tweeting about his Continental flight plane crash in Denver in 2008.)

But sometimes it is hard to figure out what is going with all the social networking tools out there.

Hence, I find this 2010 map a very interesting visualization that sort of sums it all up.

The social lands are sized by number of users--hence Facebook looking like the goliath out there with 500 million users (now up to 600 million already!) surrounded on either side by Friendster and Twitter (with approximately 115 million users each).

Beneath Facebook are the "Volcanic Islands of iPhone Apps" (and add to that the Android Apps)--and with their explosive growth these are truly volcanic.

On top, you have the land of defunct social networks like a bunch of fallen Yahoo properties, along with the "Receding Glaciers of AOL and Windows Live" as well as the "Former Kingdom of MySpace"--together these are essentially the equivalent of the Siberia of the social map.

On the bottom, you have the "Empire of Google" (sounds a little foreboding with a ring of Darth Vader to it) plus there is what was then the up and comer, the "Rising Island of Google Buzz".

Near the "Sea of Desperation" is Match.com--that's funny.

Then there is a pretty sizable Island for YouTube with the "YouTube Triangle of Viral Videos"--plenty of those and now they are competing with the Networks and Cable.

And on the Right is LinkedIn for professional networking and a whole "United Territories of Wikipedia"--hey, the Encyclopedia of the web deserves it!

There are many more familiar sites like Digg, Flikr, and don't forget Blogger-- a personal favorite. :-)

The Strait of Bing is another one that is apropos since search is still Google pretty much all the way.

Finally, in the center under Facebook is the "Sea of Personal Information"--something we should all be concerned about; our privacy is important and shouldn't be overlooked, even as we open up and share of ourselves more publicly than ever before.

There really is something about a picture being worth a thousand words--I like the Map and how it portrays this activity and I am interested in seeing how this evolves as well as in how this might be applied to other social issues including everything from alternative energy to the spread of democracy and human rights.

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February 18, 2011

You Can Run From MORIS, But You Can't Hide

There is a promising new mobile biometric recognition device for law enforcement called the MORIS (Mobile Offender Recognition and Identification System) by Biometric Identification and Intelligence Technologies.

MORIS units are a 2.5 ounce hardware attachment and software app for the iPhone that cost about $3000 each and turns the device into a crime-fighting tool.

The devices are able to take fingerprint, facial, and Iris identification and access criminal justice data wirelessly from anywhere using a common iPhone to match against existing criminal records.

Police are able to identify suspects on the fly in seconds.

Popular Science has named MORIS one of the BEST INNOVATIONS of 2010.

As of November 22, 2010, 25 Massachusetts Police Departments have been the lucky recipients of these futuristic crime fighting technology devices.

Say cheese! :-)

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February 4, 2011

Apple Cool Is Serious Business

Jim Bueermann, former Chief of Police of the Redlands Police Department in California is a visionary when it comes to his adoption of iPhones and iPads for law enforcement.

I was fortunate to have met Chief Bueermann recently when he shared his experiences with Apple technology.

Earlier than most people, Bueermann saw how smartphone and tablet technologies could change the way his department could do business. He understood that information available to his people was as potent a force as a physical advantage.

This video shows his officers using it on the beat and back in the office - it's ubiquitous for them.

On the Apple profile, Bueerman states: "It allows them (his workforce) to look at satellite maps, access the Internet, send emails, and take photos of potential victims and subjects."

Lt. Catren of the Redlands Police says that "Having all this information at your fingertips and being able to share it instantaneously with other officers in the field is invaluable" and has led in many cases to identifying perpetrators and capturing suspects.

In the video, we see police officers using mobile technologies for everything from capturing information to giving presentations, from sharing suspect photos to analyzing and reporting on criminal activity, and from scanning property to taking and watching video surveillance.

I like when one of his officers explains that because of the portability and ease of use of these technologies, they are basically "made for law enforcement."

Moving to iPhone and iPads (and Droid devices etc.) with all the available innovative Apps at the touch of button is a culture change organizationally, but also it is a game-changer for how we use information technology anytime and anywhere for protecting people and saving lives.

Just because a technology is user-friendly, doesn't mean that it isn't "serious business."

Redlands PD is a great illustration, although on a small scale, of how we can adopt what was only a few years ago considered "consumer technology" and use it to great effect in the enterprise.

While Apple doesn't have a monopoly on this technology, it is certainly a good example.


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January 27, 2011

Safeguard Your Location

Nice presentation by the Army called "Geotags and Location-based Social Networking."

It offers important information on the potential dangers of leaving on Global Positioning System (GPS) services on electronic devices (such as smartphones and cameras) and using location-based social networking services.

- "Geotagging is the process of adding geographical identification to photographs, videos, websites, and SMS messages. It is the equivalent of adding a 10-digit coordinate to everything you post on the Internet."
- Location-based social networking applications focus on 'checking-in' at various locations to earn points, badges, discounts" and even become mayor for the day.

Exposing your location is not only dangerous if your in the military and engaged on an operation. But rather, for all of us, broadcasting location and patterns of movement can be detrimental to personal privacy and security.

As the geotagging safety presentation advises, consider when (and when not) to:

  1. Turn off the GPS on devices such as smartphones and cameras.
  2. Keep geocoded photos offline from the Internet (i.e. Flikr, Picasa, etc.)
  3. Avoid use of location-based social networking services (e.g. FourSquare, Facebook Places, Gowalla, SCVNGR, etc.)

Sharing information--including where you are, were and are going--with family, friends, and colleagues can be a healthy and fun interchange; but sharing that information with "the wrong" people can leave you exposed and sorry.

Think twice--think about your privacy and security.

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August 17, 2010

Social Networking, Blogging, and Tweeting in Plain English

Here are some great little videos that explain Social Networking, Blogging, and Tweeting in Plain English:

1) Social Networking

2) Blogging

3) Tweeting

Check out these and other social media learning resources, policies and procedures, discussion forums and more at the Department of Defense (DoD) Social Media Hub.

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June 25, 2010

TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More

People are selfish; they think in terms of win-lose, not win-win. The cost of this kind of thinking is increasingly unacceptable in a world where teamwork matters more than ever.

Today, the problems we face are sufficiently complex that it takes a great deal more collaboration than ever to yield results. For example, consider the recent oil spill in the Gulf, not to mention the ongoing crises of our time (deadly diseases, world hunger, sustainable energy, terrorism).

When we don’t work together, the results can be catastrophic. Look at the lead-up to 9-11, the poster child for what can happen if when we fail to connect the dots.

A relay race is a good metaphor for the consequences of poor teamwork. As Fast Company (“Blowing the Baton Pass,” July/August 2010) reports, in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the USA’s Darvis Patton was on the third leg of the race, running neck and neck with a runner from Trinidad when he and his relay partner, Tyson Gay, blew it:

“Patton rounded the final turn, approaching…Gay, who was picking up speed to match Patton. Patton extended the baton, Gay reached back, and the baton hit his palm. Then, somehow it fell. The team was disqualified.”

Patton and Gay were each world-class runners on their own, but the lack of coordination between them resulted in crushing defeat.

In the business realm, we saw coordination breakdown happen to JetBlue in February 2007, when “snowstorms had paralyzed New York airports, and rather than cancel flights en masse, Jet Blue loaded up its planes…and some passengers were trapped for hours.”

Why do people in organizations bicker instead of team? According to FC, it’s because we “underestimate the amount of effort needed to coordinate.” I believe it’s really more than that – we don’t underestimate it, but rather we are too busy competing with each other (individually, as teams, as departments, etc.) to recognize the overarching importance of collaboration.

This is partly because we see don’t see others as helping us. Instead we (often erroneously) see them as potential threats to be weakened or eliminated. We have blinders on and these blinders are facilitated and encouraged by a reward system in our organizations that promotes individualism rather than teamwork. (In fact, all along the way, we are taught that we must compete for scarce resources – educational slots, marriage partners, jobs, promotions, bonuses and so on.)

So we think we are hiring the best and the brightest. Polished resume, substantial accomplishments, nice interview, solid references, etc. And of course, we all have the highest expectations for them. But then even the best employees are challenged by organizational cultures where functional silos, “turf wars”, and politicking prevail. Given all of the above, why are we surprised by their failure to collaborate?

Accordingly, in an IT context, project failure has unfortunately become the norm rather than an exception. We can have individuals putting out the best widgets, but if the widgets don’t neatly fit together, aren’t synchronized for delivery on schedule and within budget, don’t meet the intent of the overall customer requirements, and don’t integrate with the rest of the enterprise—then voilá, another failure!

So what do we need to become better at teamwork?

  • Realize that to survive we need to rely on each other and work together rather than bickering and infighting amongst ourselves.
  • Develop a strong, shared vision and a strategy/plan to achieve it—so that we all understand the goals and are marching toward it together.
  • Institute a process to ensure that the contributions of each person are coordinated— the outputs need to fit together and the outcomes need to meet the overarching objectives.
  • Reward true teamwork and disincentivize people who act selfishly, i.e. not in the interest of the team and not for the sake of mission.

Teamwork has become very clichĂ©, and we all pay lip service to it in our performance appraisals. But if we don’t put aside our competitiveness and focus on the common good soon, then we will find ourselves sinking because we refused to swim as a team.


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May 30, 2010

Getting Out From Behind Closed Doors

One of the most important lifelines for a CIO or any executive is the communication from their people. That is why the best leaders go out of the way to meet and talk with their employees (as well as their customers, suppliers, partners, and other stakeholders).

Only when armed with good information from the people who know best—usually those on the front lines—can an executive make strategic plans and sound decisions to move the organization forward responsibly.

The best leaders regularly and genuinely connect with their people. Without this employer-employee connection, there are not only basic communication problems, but also trust and ultimately leadership issues. These issues present themselves for example, when employees are either afraid to communicate with their leadership or just feel it’s futile to do so.

Harvard Business Review, June 2010, has an article called “Debunking Four Myths About Employee Silence,” asserts that many employees actually hold back or “self-censure” and do not provide their bosses the information they really need. Further, futility, not fear is the predominant obstacle—holding back information is primarily due not to the commonly held belief that people are afraid of retribution for what they say, but rather because they feel a sense of futility in speaking their minds and so they just don’t.

Some interesting statistics from the annual Cornell National Social Survey on when employees hold back:

1) Withholding information is common across the board—“There is no statistically significant differences between workers of different genders, educations levels, or income levels in the likelihood of holding back because of fear or assumptions of futility.”

2) Speaking does not preclude withholding information—“Fully 42% of respondents report periodically speaking up but also withholding information when they feel they have nothing to gain—or something to lose.”

3) Employees hold back on information for day-to-day issues—“About 20% say a fear of consequences has led them to withhold suggestions for addressing ordinary problems and making improvements” (not just on more serious issues of illegal or unethical conduct).

The point is, listening to employees is not just a nice thing to do, but the intelligent way to run an organization.

Therefore, the way we treat our people is one of the most important determinants of our success as leaders.

As leaders, when it comes to communication and collaboration, we must ensure that feelings of fear and futility are banished from the organizations’ culture, so that employees feel it is worth it to tell us what’s going on. Ignorance is not bliss!

The way we do this is not by just paying lip service to “open door” policies and the like, but to listen thoroughly, communicate profusely, and work as a team taking all input as valuable to the final outcome.

People have got to feel that they can communicate openly and honestly and that they will be taken seriously—as long as it is done professionally and respectfully.

Of course, employees also have to understand that there is a time for input and debate and a time for decision-making and that the boss (as “the boss”) ultimately has the final say. But with a leader that is open to hearing from their people, and working with all input, there will be a better decision at the end of the deliberation for everyone.

And then, what separates the exceptional leaders from the ordinary is the follow through and results.


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March 28, 2010

How To Brainstorm and Not Tempest

Thinking “out of the box” is fundamental to free us from the prevailing status quo. Brainstorming can enable us to tackle problems creatively and open up new possibilities for the future.

An Insight piece from Psychology Today (February 12010) called “[How To] Brainstorm” by ChiChi Madu points to some of the typical challenges with brainstorming and offers a new approach to it.

The challenge: “A typical brainstorming session can involve clashing personalities, uneven contributions, hurt egos, and hours of precious work-time wasted.”

When people come together to brainstorm, there are two things going on—one is the brainstorming and the other is the interaction between the people. And if the interaction is not collaborative and is dysfunctional because of the pervasiveness of functional silos, groupthink, competitiveness, or power politics, then the brainstorming and overall problem solving is going to suffer as a result.

Let’s face it, productivity is in large part of function of people’s ability to pull together rather than push apart!

A new approach: One way to work more collaboratively comes from an approach called “brainwriting,” by Peter Heslin. Brainwriting works as follows:

  • Write—Everyone writes an idea, in a different color pen on a piece of paper and passes to the next person.
  • React—Each person reacts to the idea they received and adds their own idea—“feeding off the others.”
  • Review—Once the slips of paper have about five ideas, they move to the center of the table for “systematic consideration of each.”
  • Select—Everybody lists their favorite ideas and the most popular ones are selected.

What is great about brainwriting is that everyone has a chance to contribute ideas, to have their ideas considered by others, and for them to consider the ideas of their peers carefully and thoughtfully. Moreover, brainwriting actually facilitates ideas to be incrementally built and improved on by having group members feed-off of the idea they received, rather than just hastily dismissing them or talking over others. Finally, since everyone has to put ideas and reactions to ideas down on paper, no one can just “sit it out” and not participate—and the more earnest the participation, the better the brainstorm will be.

People can innovate amazing things, solve problems, and really work together constructively when: the underlying process facilitates information exchange, collaboration, and the freedom to say what they really think. If we encourage and facilitate more brainwriting activity and other constructive engagement between people, we will be able to take on and resolve the ever larger and more challenging issues facing our organizations and society.


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February 14, 2010

No Ego Leadership

It’s funny that we get so used to the way things are in our country and culture that it becomes difficult to think there is any other workable way of doing things.

The New York Times, 14 February 2010, has an interview with Vineet Nayar the CEO of HCL Technologies, a global services 100 IT company based in India and ranked by Hewitt Associates in the 30 best employers in Asia.

However, reading the interview from the CEO of this Indian company opens up broad new possibilities for the way we can conduct our organizational affairs and perhaps become more competitive in the 21st century, global market-place.

No single country, industry, company, or person has a monopoly on innovation, and we can learn from some of the outside the box thinking at HCL.

Here are some of Mr. Nayar’s thought-provoking leadership ideas:

Subject

Key Idea

Role of CEO

“My job is to make sure everybody is enabled to what they do well. It’s part of our ‘Employees First’ philosophy.”

Delegation

We “make sure everybody understands that the CEO is the most incompetent person to answer questions, and I say this to all my employees openly.”

Transparency

“All HCL’s financial information is on our internal Web. We are completely open. We put all our dirty linen on the table, and we answer everyone’s questions.”

Hierarchy

“We’ve inverted the pyramid of the organization and made reverse accountability a reality.”

Performance

My [the CEO’s] 360 degree feedback is open to 50,000 employees—the results are published on the internal Web for everybody to see. And 3,800 managers participate in an open 360-degree and the results—they’re anonymous so that people are candid—are available in the internal Web [as well].”

Information-sharing

We started having people make their presentations and record them for our internal Web site. We open that for review to a 360-degree workshop, which mean yours subordinates will review it. You managers will read it. Your peers will read it and everybody will comment on it.”

Feedback

Prospective employees will say “I completely disagree. And they will have a fight with me… I want people who will kick my butt on points where we disagree.

Learning

I want people to say they want to learn. I don’t want teachers.”

At first glance, the ideas of Mr. Nayar seem almost crazy, because they are so different from what we are used to. But upon deeper reflection, we can see value in much of his leadership style.

To me, this seems a testament that when a leader has no ego and is willing to think innovatively and behave with integrity, the possibilities for positive change is not bound by any box or paradigm. We need to realize that we can learn from everybody, everywhere, and with an open mind and of course some discretion, we can progress our thinking and ways of doing business in ways we may never have even imagined.


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January 21, 2010

Andy Blumenthal Talks About Social Media

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:
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