Monday, March 23, 2015

SXSW 2015 Overview

I was really inspired by this year's event. I was thrilled at a subsection they call #SouthBites which was a series of panels and interactive session focused entirely on food/culture/ag. I'm really excited about the possibilities of how we merge food/ag + consumer trends + technology! I'm excited to brainstorm with you all on how we/Dairy, can show up next year. I also enjoyed interacting with other Ag Digital partners (thank for the intros, Don).

A few key themes from this year's event:
1. Disruption: That seemed to be the pervasive theme throughout SXSW. Technology is no longer a separate vertical but rather it's horizontal across all industries. And its disrupting everything we can imagine.

2. Humans: They are making a comeback, especially in technology. This year was the first ever Artificial Intelligence Protest "Stop the Robots"; Privacy was a key theme and the word "Humans" showed up in over a dozen titles. Concerns that technology is moving too quick to solve the problems it might be creating?

3. Animals: Grumpy Cat, Reading Squirrls, Morris the Cat, Mophie's St Bernard strolling Power charges...Meerkat (had to sneak that in here)

4. Meerkat: We'll see if it sticks around but lots of Meerkating going on. Twitter blocked its social graph indicating they obviously don't want to play nice.

5. Lyft: Another disruption, was the App/Ride of choice for many of us who stayed out in the boonies.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Culture: An Interview with Zappos


The 2014 Word of the Year, according to Webster Dictionary, was Culture.   Webster’s defines it as “the beliefs, customs, arts of a particular society, group, place or time; a way of thinking, behaving or working that exists in a place or organization.”  Culture is an intangible asset that many leaders of strong cultures such as Zappos, Nordstroms, Southwest Airlines point to as secrets of their success. 
Culture is hard to describe.  We can recognize a strong organizational culture when their stated beliefs match their employees’ behaviors and their customers’ experience.  And we can also recognize a company culture which doesn’t hold employee behavior accountable to its stated mission or value statements. 

Culture is important.  So important that Peter Drucker coined the phrase “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” meaning that strategy must be rooted in the cultural strengths and the cultural needs of the business.  Knowing what business you are in, the culture you have and the culture you need to support future success is the key to sustained growth.
Here’s what Jon Wolske,  Culture Evangelist for Zappos Insights had to share about their successful culture.
1.  You've built a world-class culture at Zappos - why is culture so important to your business?
ZAPPOS:    As we grew, we realized that with more and more people coming into the company the culture of the company would change. If we wanted to continue to grow and continue to remain the same brand we were going to have to define what that really meant and who we really are. From those early steps in 2005 to a commitment to live our 10 Core Values in everything we do in 2006, we have defined our culture and committed to it as our #1 priority knowing that if we get the culture right, everything else will fall into place (that’s a quote from Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos!)  Another one of my favorites is Culture and Brand are two sides of the same coin – meaning that we can define our culture and live it AS our brand and we aren’t putting one image out in our marketing but living something completely different when you do business with us.
At Zappos we are a Service Company that happens to sell (shoes, clothes, accessories, etc…) and we have a “Culture of Service” that helps make that happen!
2.  What do you do to ensure that your culture is sustainable and continues to evolve? 
ZAPPOS: We hire and fire based on Culture Fit. Half of the assessment for employment is based on alignment with our Core Values, not the ability to put up with it or to change to be a fit. If we have addressed issues of behaviors or actions that go against our culture with feedback but see no attempt to align future actions with the culture, we will separate from that individual. 
Everyone gets to see that they are a part of the culture and can (and should) affect change as needed. We give people opportunities to bring up their ideas and see if they make sense to put into action.
Pay is competitive, but we aren’t trying to pay the most. If pay is the most important driver to a prospective employee, this may not be the place for them. We try to think about the big picture and make sure we are working towards the purpose of providing great experiences in all 360 directions. The culture is kind of a benefit unto itself if you are aligned to our values – you get to be yourself all day every day.
We’ve made sure that our new office space is very open (our old office space was pretty open, too!) so people can collaborate, but also have a lot of conference rooms so that if someone needs to get out of the open environment they can. Many phone calls or meetings take place every day out in the open, and many take place in conference rooms.
We have a ‘Fun Team’ that comes up with themed events, but these are not ‘the culture’ as much as they are Zappos living the ‘Deliver WOW through Service’ core value to team members. The Fun Team can also act as party planners for other departments that want to host an event (our Merchandising Dept holds a couple of themed days where they bring vendors in from a category to show off their wares, give folks a chance to see what is new and host fun games and activities) because they have relationships with party supply companies and production companies that can help make events go very smoothly.

3.   What is one suggestion you have for leaders trying to improve their organizational culture to embrace the Future of Work?
ZAPPOS: Open up the dialogue. Your success has happened because of smart business decisions that have been made, and because people have been there to make the right decisions. Your culture isn’t the product you make or the services you offer, it isn’t even ‘How you do things’ – it is WHO you are. Let everyone on every level of your organization have a voice in the process of defining your brand, and you’ll get to the heart of what your brand really is.

About Jon Wolske
Jon Wolske is the Culture Evangelist for Zappos Insights, a part of the Zappos Family of companies headquartered in Las Vegas, NV. After a year and a half in the Customer Loyalty Team and a brief stint with the Zappos New Hire Training team, Jon became the companies first full-time Tours Lead. In a little over a year’s time, Jon had grown the tours team to include a handful of ‘Culture Guides’ and the experience had grown into a business-tourist attraction in Las Vegas. Today the tours team averages over 1800 guests each month who come to see the Zappos culture in action.   Jon has presented at meetings and conferences for companies from around the world, including Microsoft, Humana, Bath & Body Works, Aetna, Merck, Samsung Electronics, Eli Lilly and AOL. Jon gave his first TED talk at TEDxLoyolaMarymountU in April of 2013. Watch it here: 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NW5BGsmpYXo

 

 

 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Future of Work.

Last week Coca-Cola announced it was shutting down its office voice mail to “simplify the way we work and increase productivity”.  Facebook announced a new platform called “Work”, a social solution for office communication. And recently IBM came to market with Verse, its new social collaboration tool that helps “prioritize your inbox”. Powered by IBM”s analytics and advanced search, IBM Verse delivers a cloud based tool to manage your workday. Less clutter, more clarity.

The average interaction worker spends an estimated 28% of the work week managing email. And up to 30% of email time could be repurposed by adopting social collaborations tools for communication (McKinsey, July 2012).

Collaboration has been a buzzword in the social business realm for a while.  Social business technology pioneers touted the productivity benefits of collaboration. And while these early adopters worked hard to prove it, the platforms and the new behaviors they demanded disrupted the entire enterprise - from organizational structures and systems, to skills and culture. “How do we manage information flow?” “We’re not ready for this, we have an approved system for all corporate communications.” “We built it but no one is coming to it.” “We have an intranet.” “We don’t need this. We communicate fine by email.” “It doesn’t fit into our Information Architecture” “What does this do to my org structure?” “This is going to create a lot of chaos” “How do we control this?”

However, companies are figuring it out. 
They have to. Productivity is on the line. Collaboration, cloud, data/analytics, alternative work arrangements, the crowd, talent-sharing, networked organizations vs organizational structures, work/life balance, and a culture of sharing are the #NewWayToWork.

The Career Executive Board recently shared that to achieve breakthrough performance, organizations need to recruit and reward employees that demonstrate what they call “Enterprise Contribution.”. Enterprise contributors are defined as people that are successful in managing individual tasks as well as executing work in collaboration with others. And, according to CEB, increasing enterprise contribution can have a 2x greater impact on profitability over individual task execution alone.


The future has arrived. .

Friday, December 26, 2014

Digital Transformation Requires Transformational Leadership


Digital Transformation Requires Transformational Leadership

Digital transformation goes beyond technology and tools, triggering the need for transformation in leadership and business models.  At the very core of digital transformation is people which is often overlooked in pursuit of shiny tools and cutting-edge technology. Change management and leadership are absolutely essential for an organization to reach its digital outcomes. But too often organizations fail to understand the significance of the human element of digitizing their organizations.  While they equip their organizations with new technologies and a “you have to do it this way now” approach they find their roll-out was ineffective and not sustainable.  In these authoritarian situations, organizations end up with low adoption, little change, more disruption and confusion.  And typically employees become angry and more disengaged from their work.

Rapid technological change, heightened levels of competition, disruptive business models, declining business performance, low employee engagement have created turbulent, unstable environments in which significant organizational change is imperative.  Companies need to find new ways of affecting change while simultaneously building employee morale.
It goes without saying that a concrete business strategy, vision for the future, new business processes and technologies are needed to make this shift.  But having the right leaders lead this transition is imperative. 
A study by Capgemini Consulting and MIT Sloan Management Review revealed that while 81% of the executives interviewed believe that digital transformation will provide a competitive advantage, this acknowledgment is not turning into action.  Only 35% said they have a shared vision for this future and more staggering is that they do not have the right leadership or a roadmap to get there.

Digital Transformation Starts and Ends with People
Bernard Bass coined the term in the 1970s (http://www.psypress.com/books/details/9780805847611/) and identified that the key characteristic of this style of leadership is to motivate and inspire people and to direct positive change in groups.  It is the role of the transformational leader to articulate a vision in a clear and appealing way, explain how to attain the vision, act with confidence and optimism and emphasize the values and behaviors needed in this symbotic relationship.  He or she then empowers, equips and coaches their team to achieve the vision.

Some of the best examples of transformational leaders are Nelson Mandela, Lee Iacocca and President Roosevelt.  Each was able to inspire  their followers to achieve their vision and realize positive outcomes of a new and better way for the future. These leaders are wired for change in a very positive, inspiring, values-driven way.
Not only do these leaders want the group to achieve high performance for the business but they are also committed to helping each individual realize his or her individual potential.  This is the secret sauce.  

Transformational leadership theory has identified 4 leadership competencies (sometimes referred to as the 4 I's)
  • Idealized Influence (II) - the leader serves as an ideal role model for followers; the leader "walks the talk," role models who are admired, respected, and emulated by followers
    • Establish Trust
    • Walk the Talk
    • Demonstrate integrity in all that you do
    • Establish a shared vision with your team
    • Share risk taking – if something fails as a result, own it, don’t blame
  • Inspirational Motivation (IM) - Transformational leaders have the ability to inspire and motivate followers. Combined these first two I's are what constitute the transformational leader's charisma.
    • Provide meaning of the vision and challenge the team to new ways of working
    • Demonstrate optimism, positivity and energy
    • Provide two way communication  - feedback from the team is essential
    • Clearly communicate expectations and goals
    • Hold everyone, including yourself, accountable
    • Demonstrate your personal commitment to the goals and the shared vision
    • Coach in the moment to help others grow
    • Be direct, honest and straightforward in your communications
  • Individualized Consideration (IC) - Transformational leaders demonstrate genuine concern for the needs and feelings of followers. This personal attention to each follower is a key element in bringing out their very best efforts.
    • Become a great listener and foster two-way communication
    • Empower the team
    • Develop your emotional intelligence  and lead the “whole” person – not just the task
    • Position yourself on the team as mentor or coach
  • Intellectual Stimulation (IS) - the leader challenges followers to be innovative and creative. A common misunderstanding is that transformational leaders are "soft," but the truth is that they constantly challenge followers to higher levels of performance.
    • Encourage innovation and creative thinking, but with a focus on rational business outcomes
    • Encourage creative problem solving (Question assumptions, reframing)
    • Use mistakes as learning opportunities and do not criticize others mistakes in public

Friday, January 6, 2012

2011 Social Business in Review – The Power of Community
In 2011, we saw the impact social media had in toppling authoritarian regimes - removing dictators in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. My friend Clara Shih, author of The Facebook Era, and CEO of Hearsay Labs writes: “ Transparency, connectedness and decentralized power resulting from social media played a critical role in every revolution. What can corporations learn from the Arab Spring?”
Last week, the question was answered. Verizon Wireless bowed to the torrent of criticism over its plan to impose a $2 bill paying fee. Immediately following news of the proposed plans Verizon customers went into action and used their social voice and community power to share their strong dissatisfaction of the new policy all across the web. Within 24 hours, Verizon listened and responded. They conceded to their customers.

John Hagle, Chairman of Deloitte's Center of the Edge has been researching U.S. corporate performance and emerging business trends. In The Big Shift, Hagel/Deloitte reported that U.S. companies’ return-on-assets have dropped steadily every quarter returning to their 1965 levels.  On The Big Shift's web site they tout: “Consumers are gaining more power than firms because they are quicker to adapt to disruptive technologies. The digital infrastructure will likely increase the scope and frequency of social volatility."  Hagel has been an early thought leader on social business and sees social technology innovation as the means to reversing this downward spiral. He too agrees that transparency, collaboration and decentralization are critical. In his book, Power of Pull he describes the shift in information Pulls vs Pushes. Hagel shares that with more focus on "Pull" (and leveraging Pull platforms like Facebook, Twitter, internal social networks, and other digital infrastructure), a company can improve its performance.

And one more thought. A recent study by inSites Consulting claims that only 16% of businesses using Social platforms have fully integrated them into their business operations (ie. Social Business). Even despite many business leaders believing that better social integration of their business operations will not only improve and streamline their operations but also increase the productivity of their business.

We're making progress on Social Business but still much work to be done for us all.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Google+ The Innovation which Integrates in a Social Way

Of all the Google Innovations over the past 13 years, I think I’m the most excited about Google+ While Google’s vision has always been to index everything on the World Wide Web, I’ve often found the many Google projects clumsy, difficult to navigate and hard to understand how to integrate all the touchpoints. Even with a technical background, the user experience has been less than ideal to maximize the value of their robust offerings.

However, Google+ is clearly the solution. It’s biggest win - Aggregation! Google+ finally puts the presentation layer on top of its offerings with a social interface. It is what has been missing from Google over the past many years of innovation. Google+ is now a one stop shop now to view gMail, Picasa, Blogger, Reader, Calendar and GoogleDocs with sharing, collaborating and social networking vehicles.

Prior to its launch, there was much media and social speculation that Google+ plus might be the Facebook killer. However upon testing it is clearly evident that Google+ is a much richer platform and will likely attract a different user base than Facebook. It’s positioned more closely with enterprise collaboration tools like SocialText, Jive, Yammer than it is with a social network, social sharing site like Facebook. While Facebook has announced its parternship with Skype, I don’t think that’s enough to compete with the infrastructure and years of innovative offerings which Google has to boot to compete at the same level

And the icing on the cake? The social layer and integration with Mobile Android devices. Brillant move, Google!
Social Graph:
The Google+ network connects friends, family and other contacts similar to Facebook. I will admit that it was less intuitive to find others when I first got on the platform as I am so accustomed now to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn who continue to send potential contacts my way. But I suspect over time this will become easier. Regardless the organization and ease of building a community (called “Circles”) was an easy Drag and Drop experience. And now I can very easily share my content or information with the appropriate groups.

Social Sharing/ Communication Options:
With Google+ we now have the option of video, email, tweeting, posting, chatting and mobile in an all in one. The Stream works similar to Facebook with posting, sharing, commenting. Hangouts, an ad hoc collaboration space, makes it easy to interact with others. The video app is easy to download and use, making it a rival to Skype. Sharing and watching YouTube videos with friends and family is easy.

Android Integration
The Google+ app is easy to download from the Android Market. Once I downloaded the app, it was easy to upload photos, share and interact. With over 100 million Android users worldwide, I suspect we'll see much more innovation here in the future.

I certainly don't see the 750 Million Facebook followers leaving that platform any time soon either. However, for those with many Google applicaitons running and the Android marketing growing, I definitely see Google+ as a sustainable and growing community once its released to the public.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Social Integration with Digital Assets Key for 2011

Before I go there, let me again point out that social by definition is not a marketing campaign or a digital tactic. It can and is supported by tactics such as videos, online ads, landing pages, web pages, email blasts, blogger outreach, traditional media. But at its core, social is not a marketing campaign.

Social is about building relationships. Sustainable relationships between internal and external parties. Social is an all encompassing business approach. A social business is an organization which integrates its business goals and functional areas, with its customers and social technologies to exchange value. Social is about this value exchange between these relationships. And social and digital technologies enable this exchange.

From macro strategies to micro tactics, integration is the holy grail for 2011.

Two of David Armano’s Six Social Predications for 2011 focus on integration. At a macro business level, he writes: It's The Integration Economy, Stupid.“ From Ford, to Dell, to Starbucks (client), to Jet Blue, and a host of other companies who have pioneered early uses of social media for business, 2011 will be the year these companies take a serious look at integrating social media, not only regionally but globally...integrating social media into all facets of business from global marketing to crisis management and beyond."


At a more micro level, he further predicts: "Social Functionality Makes Websites Fashionable Again. After several years of being told to "fish where the fish are," businesses realize that users expect social integration to existing Websites…Websites will increasingly serve as "digital hubs" that integrate social activity from many platforms. They must integrate to be relevant in a socially connected world."

Jeremiah Owyang also forecasts integration as well in his social report “Social Business Forecast: 2011 The Year of Integration” Within the report he shares that 47% of the strategists surveyed stated their social focus for 2011 will be web site integration.

Integrating Social into Digital Assets: website, email, blogs, online advertisements and beyond
With that said, I’d like to focus at the micro level for a moment and examine ways to enhance digital marketing initiatives in 2011. While both Armano and Owyang mentioned website integration, I'd like to take it a step further and add all digital integration - such as rich media advertisements, landing pages, emails, blogs as well as websites.

Here are four key areas to think about when brainstorming how to integrate social with digital initiatives:
1/ Create Social Proof. Social proof means social influence which is when a person's thoughts, feelings and actions are influenced by another. At a psychological level, when people are in ambiguous situations and are unable to determine the correct behavior, they will assume that the behaviors of those around them are the appropriate actions and of those who have more information about the situation or decision at hand. From a social/digital perspective, putting people, faces,or voices of the consumer's real world into your digital assets can create powerful social proof. On the website, this may be providing photos and access to friends and followers of a page (think of Facebook and Twitter), or by allowing comments by others on your content or product pages. It may also be attained by allowing people to rate and review your products on your website, (which by the way could also become a social object and a shareable feature). Or it may be using video from community members or customers within the experience. Using social proof on your website or in digital properties can powerfully influence visitors to stick around, read your content, take an action, or share and tell their friends about your business. Its about allowing humans to be involved directly in your digital properties right alongside your brand.

2/ Create Social Objects: Social objects are the things we create to provide opportunities for people to share with others and to socialize around the object. Objects can be links, content, video, images, widgets or tools they are easily able to share. It doesn't have to be a huge viral campaign to be successful social object. Its important for companies to give something to its customers in this value exchange that they need, find helpful or are entertained by. This sharing of information – videos, coupons, articles, links, recommendations -amplifies a company's ability to scale its messaging to others. There are lots of opportunities to create social objects in all digital properties. Make it easy by including Sharing buttons next to these objects.

3/ Create Social Aggregation: Social Aggregation involves creating a hub of all your communities into one place. This is most often the web site wherein you provide your customers one central URL where they can obtain access to all of your social communities and properties. Think about your mobile site as well.

4/ Create Social Sign On: Common technologies enabling social sign on are OpenID and Facebook Connect. With these technologies, it enables users to move from site to site carrying their credentials with them. This is especially helpful when a user needs to register or sign up for something on your website and is especially appealing for mobile users who don't want to be burdened with long forms. With a simple one click, they are automatically registered. A big win here is optimizing conversions and hopefully seeing increases in same.

Have a Happy and Socially Integrated New Year!