Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

How not to do Social Networking – Think of it as just regular marketing

May 26, 2011

Even big and reputable companies sometimes do stupid things, and social media is one of those new shiny things that can make even a respected company look foolish – and what better way to demonstrate than to show it in a social medium like a blog?

One way to get it hopelessly wrong is to think of social media as just your regular one-to-many vehicle to get a standardized and glossy marketing message out to the public, and allied to that is a mistake of not making sure that you are ready for the bi-directional discourse that social media elicits.
Social media is a many-to-many medium and social networking means listening just as much (or more) than talking, and if you send a message across social media, you should anticipate a response.

Many organizations, especially their HR departments, firewall themselves from external email and have server settings and policies that make it virtually impossible for a member of the public to talk to them.

Here is a nicely branded email I got (unsolicited) from a very reputable company urging me to “connect” – and while the intent is good and the branding is solid, it simply doesn’t align well with their behavior and their (in)ability to react properly.

The Solicitation to Connect

So far so good, but my previous experience with them suggested to me that they are not very self-aware when it comes to talking to the general public and especially job-seekers.
I replied that I didn’t think I would be connecting because some time ago when I did apply for a position there, they didn’t even bother to send me the regular unbranded “get lost” email.

Response

Here is my email response explaining myself.

Subject:

Re: Connect with …… Online!

From:

Matthew Loxton [..]

[…]
To:

—– Careers ……Careers@……..com>

Sorry, but no.
When I did apply at ……. I got no response, which means you don’t really understand the concept of social networking and following you would be pointless.
I neither want to work for nor socialize with organizations that think social networking is the same as just saying things using social media – social networking is about listening as well as talking, it is not just putting marketing out on a different medium.

… and of course the totally unexpected then happened (/sarcasm), the mail was bounced because they hide behind a “don’t talk to us” firewall.
I received a bounce response as follows

This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification.

Delivery to the following recipients failed.


………..Careers@…….com

Reporting-MTA: dns;blu0-omc4-s15.blu0.hotmail.com

Received-From-MTA: dns;BLU0-SMTP106

Arrival-Date: Thu, 26 May 2011 07:43:03 -0700

Final-Recipient: rfc822;…………..Careers@…….com

Action: failed

Status: 5.5.0

Diagnostic-Code: smtp;550 Message refused by SpamProfiler

Conclusion

Social media is going to increasingly become an issue of corporate survival for many people and those that don’t figure out how to use them to engage with their customers, investors, and other stakeholders are going to be under significant natural-selection pressure. However engaging through social networking is not just a bit of IT and regular marketing, and it is far less about being able to produce glossy copy and far more about establishing an engaging online persona and engaging in discourse. Social media are not just a different one-to-many broadcasting medium like TV, radio, and newspapers, it requires that you stand ready to listen and respond. Sending out an email invitation to connect and then bouncing an email reply just won’t do.
This requires not just rethinking IT systems but more importantly, also making cultural shifts.

~~~

Matthew Loxton is a Knowledge Management expert, holds a Master’s degree in Knowledge Management from the University of Canberra, and provides pro-bono consulting in Knowledge Management and IT Governance to various medical institutions.

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My 2010, a year of blogging

January 6, 2011

Today marks my 1st anniversary of blogging, and 2010 was an “interesting” year, as they say.

I changed continents (again), and took on multiple roles in addition to being a global director of Knowledge Management, and wound up job hunting – but not in that order.

My roles this year included my main job, that of a director of Knowledge Management, as well as unofficial Chief Learning Officer which saw me in many meetings with universities and vendors of learning materials, head of Localization & Translation in which I inherited a recently emptied department and a strangled budget, and made friends with several translation vendors across the world.
Another role was that of program manager of the offshoring and outsourcing activities that took me to India, and involved building a team of over a hundred software engineers while I also managed the contract and relationship of a similar-sized group in Bali, tried vainly to move some outsourcing to South-Africa, and celebrated the building of a 15-person team in Chile.
During this time I received a few “what are you doing” phone-calls from the Australian embassy in India, and many people avoided me in case I was looking to offshore their job.

In July I my relationship with Mincom ended, and having waved goodbye to Brisbane, found myself back in Denver and job hunting.
Since then I have interviewed with dozens of firms – been hugely interested in some, horrified by a few, and left others feeling vaguely relieved not to be working there and having to breathe in their toxic culture on a daily basis.
Some interviews ran into several months and included large panels only to end with me as the runner-up, while others ended in a fizzle when the budget vanished, the position was cancelled, or the VP herself resigned after missing several chances for an interview.
Some had really sharp and focused job descriptions (HP, Invensys, and Philips for example), some had a copy/paste smorgasbord, and some had job descriptions that were a complete mystery.
Some organizations were clear and transparent about their process, others seemed to be playing it by ear and making it up as they went along.

Generally, the people were nice but clearly unsure about what they are trying to achieve – one guy spent 30 minutes posing an elaborate scenario that he fed me piece by piece until we arrived at the answer he apparently had in mind. According to him this was the first time anybody had given the correct answer but he was seemingly unhappy with that so I didn’t get the job.
Maybe just as well, all things considered.

I often wonder how much a firm’s recruitment practices are a reflection of what it is like to work there, and what effect recruitment practices have on their clients.
According to a few research papers I read, it is and it does.

Keeping Busy

Besides looking for a permanent employer, flying around for interviews, and making copious resume modifications to satisfy recruiters, I blogged on KM-related topics, networked, and read several IO Psychology and KM textbooks from cover to cover. Some people have hobbies, some play golf, and I read textbooks – go figure.

Some people take a break from work when they are between jobs, I mostly designed questionnaires and wondered about Communities of Practice.
I also thought about Sharepoint a lot – can you believe it, 130 million licenses and likely to hit 97% adoption rate this year?
Again, go figure!

As part of a Master’s in Knowledge Management I covered various maturity models and although I really liked the KMMM by Lange & Ehms, the K3M by Liebowitz & Beckman, and the various KMMI attempts, they all seemed to be heavy on the Conservation side and light at the Innovation end. I also felt that they neglected the point made by Argyris that processes will inevitably obscure and hide those systematic problems that are essentially never spoken about – things that we become systematically blinded to by the way we measure and think. As a result I built my own KM Maturity model based on the Carnegie-Melon CMMI, with two added layers bookending the CMMI, and blogged incessantly about the implications of Argyris and his Single and Double Loop Learning concepts. The blog about externalization and avoidance I was sure might get me lynched by recruiters.
Seems I must like Argyris, because he comes up in my blogs more than any other author.
Owing to my longtime interest in IO Psychology and research methods, the offspring of the KMM was a questionnaire instrument (currently in Beta), which of course lives on a KM wiki (CoP-M).

To get a better way to benchmark and examine the current state of KM in an organization, I developed a KM & OL Climate questionnaire called the KMOL-C which is now in its RC2.1 version with an RC-3.0 in planning.

During this time I also started thinking about starting my own LLC, firstly because even providing pro bono consulting in the US means one is vulnerable to being sued personally.
Secondly it would allow me to do paid consulting and contracting.
I am still stuck for a company name however, so feel free to suggest one.

Having Fun

Mostly I read textbooks for fun, but I also had many enjoyable discussions, debates, and arguments with HR people on LinkedIn – Since I was dealing with them a lot it seemed logical.
I also played with some new applications – bibus an opensource equivalent to EndNote, Qiqqa a nice CAQDAS tool for qualitative interviewing, R a free statistical package that means I can’t afford SPSS or SAS, and ggobi a graphical add-on for R. No spinplots like VisualStats had, but VisualStats seems to have stopped.
I added all my books to GuruLib – mostly by using a webcam to scan in the ISBN barcodes.
Using R, I pulled correlation numbers for a survey I did for a LinkedIn discussion and discovered that self-identified HR people are more than twice as risk averse as operational managers.

Reading academic papers was very enjoyable, and in case you think they are all boring and filled with indigestible facts and arcane theory, here is one I particularly enjoyed:

My most favorite piece of research findings was this one about penguins (Meyer-Rochow & Gall 2003)

Now besides the fact that next to ducks, penguins are the next funniest animal, there is something inherently funny about research that clocks the speeds and distances of penguin evacuation.
Also, knowing that penguin poop is more dense than blood but less dense than honey, and is ejected at pressures that approach that of a car tire, is just fascinating.
The paper also won an IgNoble award in 2005

What’s in Store for 2011

I hope to register my own LLC soon, start a PhD, and get a job with a really interesting and innovative company, and I hope to use my survey instruments with several organizations, volunteer time to worthy organizations, and stay healthy.

More to the point, I hope to carry on enjoying knowledge management, IO Psychology, and discovering interesting ideas and people.

… and blogging, of course.

~~~

Matthew Loxton is a Knowledge Management expert and holds a Master’s degree in Knowledge Management from the University of Canberra. Mr. Loxton has extensive international experience and is currently available as a Knowledge Management consultant or as a permanent employee at an organization that wishes to put knowledge assets to work.

Building a Questionnaire – Why My Survey Stinks

November 24, 2010

Why do people ask such repetitive and stupid questions?

Simply put, questions are hard, answers are easy – coming up with a good question and being able to do something with the answer is far harder than one might think.
This will be a two-part post in which I cover a case study of why what I am doing with my Knowledge Management Survey questionnaire is wrong, why recruiters ask so many dumb questions, and why people ask questions that have already been answered many times before.

More usefully though, these blog posts will guide you through a process of how to ask questions and design questionnaires that give you usable answers, lead to better questions, and make you look smart.

Firstly, my Knowledge Management survey.

I have many books on Knowledge Management, in fact they occupy two entire shelves, and several have questionnaires to scope out all kinds of things about Knowledge Management adoption, climate, culture, etc.
In fact, I have shamelessly re-used them (as any good KMer should) over the years and had pretty good results.
However, it always bothered me that not all the question items made sense, some seemed to break question rules (like being double-barreled), and they didn’t cover all the areas I wanted to know about.
Plus of course, I wanted my own.

The problem though, is although I have the questions, and these are doubtless the work of clever and experienced people, I don’t have the handbook that they must have created in order to generate the questions – I only have the questions.
You heard right, a questionnaire isn’t a matter of banging out some good-sounding questions, checking for spelling and launching.

The Right Way

You start by creating a handbook (Oppenheim 1998)

In fact you start with an initial Problem Area description, then progress to considering content and consider the Mental Model, Literature & Experience, and Process & Outcomes, and then formulate a Research Problem Statement.

Once that is securely tidied away, you move on to what the specific Research Question is, its Paradigm, applicable Research Method and Context, (Swanson 2005) and once you have that in hand, you will know if this is best done as qualitative or quantitative research.

If you decide a questionnaire is the best approach, you go through a whole other process that entails identifying the Constructs, determining the target population, and the survey methodology.
Then you bang out loads of ideas about the dimensions of the constructs and come up with candidate questions – questions which must obey a whole slew of criteria

For instance:

  1. They must be in active voice
  2. They must be collectively exclusive and exhaustive
  3. One question, one concept – no double-barreled questions (so avoid “or”, “and”, “therefore”, “either”, “both”, etc.)
  4. No Slang
  5. No loaded language or leading questions
  6. Avoid negative statements
  7. Agent of action must be clear
  8. Etc.

(Oppenheim 1998; Collins, du Plooy et al. 2000)

Collection and Analysis are two subjects all of their own, just like sampling techniques.

The “Easy” Way

You do like I did, you grab nice questions from elsewhere (trusted sources of course), create a questionnaire wiki, like mine, invite a bunch of people to help for free (which I am doing with you), and then add an explanation of what each question is intended to measure. Put the questionnaire online, like I did, and invite people to take the survey (like I just did) and to tell you if anything didn’t make sense and how long it took.
Then you start rewording and deleting or splitting questions so they obey the rules above.

At this point you can write a blog post on your questionnaire and invite people to recruit others to help, and tell your readers that when the questionnaire is finished, they will gain greatly by being able to use the survey for their own purposes and at their own firms, and of course, you can emphasize how this makes it look like they are members of a big Community of Practice.

Next week I will discuss how you helped.

Until then, happy Thanksgiving and remember to eat plenty of greens and to drink one glass of water for each glass of beer or wine.

Bibliography

Collins, K., G. du Plooy, et al. (2000). Research in the Social Science. Pretoria, University of South Africa.

Oppenheim, A. N. (1998). Questionnaire design, interviewing and attitude measurement, Pinter Pub Ltd.

Swanson, R. A. (2005). Research in organizations: Foundations and methods of inquiry, Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

 

Please contribute to my self-knowledge and take this 1-minute survey that tells me what my blog tells you about me. – Completely anonymous.

~~~

Matthew Loxton is a Knowledge Management professional and holds a Master’s degree in Knowledge Management from the University of Canberra. Mr. Loxton has extensive international experience and is currently available as a Knowledge Management consultant or as a permanent employee at an organization that wishes to put knowledge to work.

 

Knowledge Management and Niche Mastery – How KM can add a few hundred million dollars to corporate worth

June 17, 2010

Part of becoming successful is envisioning what success looks like*, and then figuring out how to get to the vision.
This holds true whether one is talking about individuals in pursuit of personal goals, teams in search of prominence, or corporations trying to attain mastery of their market niche.

In the case of corporations, niche mastery is important from two perspectives: the perception of potential clients, and sometimes more importantly – the perception of potential investors and market analysts.

This is not a trivial matter and involves inter alia how clearly a firm’s mission and presence is defined, how consistent its behavior is with the mission, and how “believable” the basic “story” is – market valuation can be dramatically different if a firm is placed clearly in one quadrant versus another and whether the “story” hangs together clearly to investors and influential analysts.
The impact of how solid the “story” looks can sometimes run to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars and substantial multipliers of either the asset-value or the stock value.
A firm can wind up with a marketable value of twice its combined stock and asset value if the “story” looks good to potential investors.

So what makes for a compelling story?

One aspect is whether the firm appears to be focused on a value proposition that makes market sense, and another is how its intellectual capital and intellectual activities reflect the value proposition.
On one hand what the firm is thinking must be aligned with the niche it is claiming and the content must demonstrate thought-leadership in that space.
On the other hand the content must be visible and run deep and broad within the organization.
You can’t be a niche master for long if all you can show is a flashy CEO or a single brainiac – you must be able to leverage a broad array of experts with deep industry smarts from within the organization.

So what, from a Knowledge Management perspective, would it look like if your company dominated the market niche it has chosen?

Well firstly you would expect that the majority of articles, references, white-papers, expert opinions, blogs, tweets, seminars, presentations, etc. out there would be by your company or about it, and those artifacts would be consistent with the story and show evidence of subject and domain mastery.

Secondly, you would expect most of the innovation and ideas in that space to be coming from your own staff or your customers and partners.

Thirdly you would expect your organization to have a well-rehearsed and efficient production-line for ideas, and to be practiced at germinating ideas and moving them through a maturation and dissemination process.

What to do?

Each discipline and group in the organization should be thinking about what success of the whole organization would look like from where they sit in the company ecosystem. This ranges from the front desk to the seat of the CEO. Every group can show smarts that are specifically tuned to the market niche.

Drilling down into specifics, it means that you would build and display thinking on your specific product area, particularly with regards your core vertical markets. So if you picked up random white-papers on either your product area or market domain, you would expect to see that most of the time, it was to do with your company. Most speakers at seminars touching on those areas would be your staff, your partners, or your customers, or other people talking about your products or services.

Most references or citations would be to your publications.

The reason that this spells dominance is that it creates very high entry gates to new niche entrants, and raises the bar on competition in a way that sorts players into pole positions according to their best abilities to produce and display intellectual prowess and subject mastery. It allows you to determine to a large extent what the frame of reference looks like, and what questions and topics are seen as pertinent.

It means that the market niche ecosystem will stabilize around those abilities that you display, and although still vulnerable to disruptive innovation, most of the disruptive ideas will be coming from the leaders – and therefore your firm.

From an individual perspective, it means that you would have a great many people producing intellectual property, and be strategically displaying it, and enabling and linking the people who create it – It means using your people to succeed in an arms race of ideas and expertise, and to train and mentor them in how to display their thinking in public where the investors, analysts, and customers can see it.

To do that requires that you mobilize and train a far broader array of staff than previously, and to help them to develop the corporate-wide intellectual assets.

It also means that you must build an environment where they can practice internally, and then when ready, work in tandem with Marketing to dominate the intellectual terrain in your market niche.

Having a CKO to organize and orchestrate this is not a necessary precondition, but like having your own experts it would make things easier.

That’s my story, and I am sticking to it

* this deserves a big sidebar on neuro-psychology and the huge chunk of brain devoted to visual systems and why so many metaphors are visual

~~~~~~~~~

Matthew Loxton is the Outgoing Director of Knowledge Management & Change Management at Mincom, and blogs on Knowledge Management. Matthew’s LinkedIn profile is on the web, and has an aggregation website at www.matthewloxton.com
Opinions are the author’s and not necessarily shared by Mincom, but they should be.

Corporate blogging and web2.0 – training wheels first

January 20, 2010

 The reaction of many execs in the business world to the idea that staff might be blogging is usually concern if not outright alarm.

Images of corporate embarrassment and even litigation fill their minds, and they may try to craft policies and build IT hurdles to prevent blogging.
This is however not an effective (nor in fact a desired) approach, and would remove a valuable marketing tool from the corporate arsenal.

Effectiveness
Policies against blogging are about as likely to prevent staff from using web2.0 social media as would outlawing tornados be a way to stop twisters.

Besides generational issues, there just isn’t any practical way to stop people from setting up a wordpress account at home and five minutes later posting something that would really throw a spanner in the corporate works. The risk of company secrets or something highly embarrassing getting out into the blogosphere is real, and there have been plenty horror stories – but it isn’t all bad news and we shouldn’t let the potential harm blind us to the great benefit that blogging can provide in terms of visibility and domain activity.

Desirability
In most firms, marketing is a big deal, and so are analyst’s perceptions of the firm’s intellectual dominance in their domain.
Blogging, tweeting, and all the other web2.0 social-networking mechanisms are a form of marketing that can be an adjuvant to traditional marketing, or even take off in a viral fashion as memes that dominate thinking and perception. They can significantly enhance perceptions of a firm, and can raise stock value as a result though analyst and market perception – the financial implications of niche dominance or at least niche prominence can be immense.

Failing to use this leverage to the firm’s advantage would be a pity and potentially crippling in the long-run.

The Challenge
The salient issue is that you don’t want staff to be learning the ropes and discovering the hazards by trial and error out in the public view – you want them to have a safe place to mature their online skills, and to enable them to learn from each other’s mistakes (and there will be mistakes).

There are many guides on corporate blogging available (such as the Execsummaries™ guides from SkillSoft), as well as many books, and courses that can be customised to fit your corporate culture, but the most important thing is to build a safe internal environment in which staff can blog under controlled conditions.
Internal blogs can be used as examples of both good online behaviour and bad – Mistakes give the Knowledge Management team, HR, Legal, and Marketing the opportunity to explain why a blog entry would have led to bad outcomes in the public view, and their commentary can be a valuable shaping agent in learning how to blog safely and to the advantage of the organisation (and the individual).

Conclusion
Blogging is here to stay and can be highly beneficial if staff are allowed a safe environment in which to hone the appropriate skills before venturing into the world.

That is my story and I am sticking to it.


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