Kindled Meme

– exploring the purpose of connection


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In the moment

“ True wisdom lies in gathering the precious things out of each day as it goes by. ” E.S. Bouton

I read more and more about not worrying about tomorrow (I have two engagements Im worrying about right now…) and also to spend less time regretting the past (Ive been encouraged to reflect upon context and events… but when does that become rumination?).

The key seems to be living in the now – having awareness and appreciation for what we are creating  moment by moment. 

Distracted by a tweet promising insights for Content Marketing trends in 2014 (sheesh…) I find myself sidestepping into the Forbes website and being hit by the above quote.

Gathering precious things is often why I tweet, post to facebook and also post to this blog. Gathering precious things is also what I did last week with the kids in Iceland – and sure enough we were 4kg over our baggage allowance as we were obliged to pack for home our favourite bits of lava rock and basalt so that the kids can tell their holiday story to their friends at school.

Not all precious things get posted to social media or put in an overweight backpack. We also collect moments as feeling while helping out old friends – sharing some insights, helping onboard new colleagues and having the pleasure to meet people for the first time; buying a flight that will take us on a Zurich weekend adventure, and working with a colleague via skype to co-create a plan to help out the team and try to make everyone as awesome as they can be.

If I hadn’t written it down – I might have forgotten that any of this would have happened on November 5th 2013….. if I hadn’t read the words on Forbes I might never have been aware – in the moment – of the cool things I get to do each day.

What precious things have you got happening around you and because of you? And have you taken the moment to just acknowledge them?

What flotsam and jetsam are you wise enough to gather up today?

 DeadWhale

 

 

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EverNote – the place information goes to die?

I saw a tweet a few weeks ago and it talked about how Evernote is the information cul-de-sac – the dead-end – the place where knowledge goes to die and rots down.

It made me think about my own note storage – what I keep and develop and what I share.

“Sometimes people are more open when the context is closed”  Makes sense – I don’t want you to read my stream of consciousness on Evernote – but that info doesn’t die either.

I have just found this quote in one folder I am guarding over – but Im letting this nugget back out – letting it come up for air.

I think I screen grabbed it from a Jive webinar – who knows – sometimes some stuff just “sticks”.  I like it.

Wise men say – we reflect

 


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Bedknobs and Brooms sticks? No Wizards, Stools and Pirates…

The Wizards Stool.

I’m in the middle of doing a series of research interviews at the moment -looking into how SMEs perform open innovation – how they partner with other firms to come up with new solutions that will drive the business forward.

The interviews typically take 45 min but every now and again I get a chance to speak to somebody really amazing who comes up with so many insights that the conversation moves on to be closer to an hour and a half. This is no problem to me – I’m really grateful when people are prepared to give up their time and share their insights. As well as answering my research questions I glean so much wisdom from these people. In Oxfordshire there really are some incredible companies who are doing some great innovation.

A couple weeks ago I got to meet with one such guy who’s been involved with the R&D function of local firm for just over 30 years. As you can imagine, during that time he has built up lots of experience and insights – he’s a real Innovation Wizard. During the interview he told many anecdotes all helping frame the challenges of being innovative in small companies – the art of storytelling is strong with him.

One of the gems he shared with me was how he viewed innovation as a 3 legged stool.

The Wizards Stool

One of the legs he views as the scientific basis of his firm. The roots of this company are in applying chemical processes – mostly in printing. The company has been going for over 150 years and has a strong culture of scientific discovery within the organisation that has driven the innovation that constantly reinvents that firms model.

The second leg of the stool he views as the process and how to they take that core intellectual property to be used and scaled for a commercial offering. And the 3rd leg of the stool he views as the market offering – the deep customer insights that we tap into when we position our solution on the market.

The trick with the stool analogy is in the choices for how you move each of these legs whilst you’re innovating.

This all placed a mental picture in my mind of my 5-year-old son sitting on that stool and how he drives us nuts by swinging back on the legs – rocking back and to. We know one of these day he will “come a cropper’ – but at the same time the image helped me understand what this Wizard was telling me. Its about risk and organisational stability.

Through his eyes he sees that you should only move one or two legs of that stool at any one time. If you move just one leg – innovation changes either the science, the process or the addressable market that you are intending to serve.

If you are comfortable with a little less stability, you can move two legs of the stool at one time – maybe you take a new process that can take you into a new market. Maybe you take on board some new IP and at the same time enter into a nascent market. But the deal is you can’t move all 3 legs at any one time.

It’s a good analogy because we’ve got enough common sense to know you can’t make a stool levitate – we know that we need a least some stability and some point of permanence else you struggle to keep your orientation and to justify how we are still strategically aligned with what the organisation can do today (skills, linkages, reputation and brands).

Pirates and Innovation

Near the start of the year Frank and the guys in Oxford Business First – the networking group – put on a series of events called ‘Practical innovation’.

The idea was to connect a group of people in local business community to think about being innovative and drive growth. On the first event Stuart Miller from Bybox gave his energetic talk about how innovation is at the core of his own company.

Stuart tells a great story and at the heart of it is a discussion on how at Bybox they recruit ‘Pirates’ -people who challenge the status quo and are comfortable exploring new options – stepping outside of existing structures and driving the company forward. Stuart makes people laugh when he tells them how he has the Jolly Roger flag flying outside the front of their offices in Wantage. It’s a great story very engaging and his metaphor is backed up by a recent article capturing Steve jobs walking along the same lines:

“if you’re bright, but you prefer the size and structure and traditions of the navy, go join IBM. If you’re bright and think different and are willing to go for it as part of a special, unified, and unconventional team, become a pirate.”

 

On the first Practical Innovation event Stuart was accompanied by one of his colleagues Indy, when the room asked how is it working in such a tense and highly provocative environment Indy did let slip that sometimes too many pirates can be too much and that you do need some sensibility and calm and a degree of consensus at the midst of all this exploration.

This kind of tension keeps organisations moving and keep the thinking innovative was called Creative Abrasion by Dorothy Leonard-Barton, in an article she wrote back in 1996.’ – and whilst it can be gritty to start with the resulting creativity and innovation justifies any pains.So whilst it great to have pirates on board – it’s fun and explosive – there’s also a degree of discomfort in change and moving forwards and exploring unknown territory.

I think everybody in the room really enjoyed Stuart’s story its great if you frame a journey as an adventure – but one guy in the room that evening asked the question:

“When does innovation go a step too far?”

This is a really good question and I certainly didn’t have a clear answer for this at the time. People talked about it but I don’t think there’s any simple answer.

If you’re working in a large firm maybe it’s just takes a while to get things moving. You could be an ‘Oil Tanker’ and pretty sluggish, and from the inside you know that it’s not worth pushing too much – if there are too many waves of innovation one after the other maybe none of them will stick. Maybe you’ve got to pick fights – after all innovation isn’t just about technology or ideas or new markets it’s actually about embedding change inside the organisation. Change can be hard and so maybe it’s reasonable that innovation can go too far if it is too disorienting in some organisational cultures.

In high-growth SMEs innovation is a very different kettle of fish. Firms are known to be flexible and agile – directly promoting this as their key strength. One of the people I’ve interviewed recently made a big point of this and he emphasises with his team that, whilst they have a clear strategy and a clear purpose and they never take their eye off the customer’s requirements; they can also turn on a dime and they are permitted to explore new avenues. After all why be an SME if you can’t be flexible and aggressive.

But again in this environment innovation could go to far. Too much ambition and to much drive can lead to burnout. It’s definitely the case that people in small businesses have a different ‘gene pool’ to those people that fit comfortably in larger firms – but everybody at some point will get low on energy and feel disoriented from an innovation too far

An Innovation Too Far?

When I heard about the stool story from my Innovation Wizard in Oxfordshire I got thinking how it offered 3 dimensions that might help us view when innovation is too far. Clearly the Wizard didn’t want to move all 3 legs. Change in any of these ‘legs’ brings a degree of risk that needs to be assessed – trying to get all 3 to move at the same time is just one innovation step too far.

I also think the analogy of the stool can be stretched one step further. May be the height of the stool correlates of just how ambitious you’re being. Is the stool too high for people to get on? Have you reached too high and can people still believe in what you’re trying to achieve?

Also stools can be pretty uncomfortable things. You need to take people with you on an innovation journey.Is the change too much? Do you still have the backing of everybody in the company? Are other stakeholders still on board your stool?

Either way – I like the stool – a clear mental picture in our minds and it helps us do some quick sense-making of what is planned and how it fits in with our strategic assets and resources inside the company.

What do you think? Can you make stools levitate? Have you got a neat trick that allows you to climb greater heights? And what’s the secret to making a stool comfortable enough that everybody wants to get on board – and not just smile when you inspire them – but makes them cling on during the full journey of change?

Whats your favourite Innovation and Change metaphor?


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Twitter feeds you need: but why?

Last week the The Observer – one the UK’s higher integrity newspapers – put out a list of the top twitter people to follow – it wasn’t based on ‘number of followers’ or klout, or any other vanity metrics – it simply asked a group of 50 notable UK twitterers who do they like following most. The list is here.

You can read it in many ways – as a source of new people to follow yourself, or as an insight into what makes the UK influencer people tick.

Looks like me –  I like him!

The first thing that is striking, is how people connect with people who are ‘like them’ – we have a tendency to ‘like the same’ – if you walk into a room of strangers we gravitate to people that feel familiar – they call it ‘homiphily’. Turns out Twiter is no different. Look how Gary Barlow follows hardworking and successful male celeb’s (‘status’ homophily), and how Diane Abbot identifies with people that are challenging the status quo and leading change for good and social justice (‘values’ homophily).

‘Like finds Like’.

The list has surprises too – did you know Alain De Boton (philosopher) sees Derren Brown as “One of the cleverest people of our time”?.

Mindgames?

But beyond this, the list also offers a view into peoples perceptions of what makes a good ‘twitterer’ – and raises questions for how business uses twitter?


What do we see?

The best way to see this is with a word cloud – bigger the word, bigger the theme – capturing the key adjectives and benefits people got from following their ‘favs’.

So what do we find?

Funny

Why did the mushroom have so many followers on twitter? …..because he was a fungi to be with.

In the UK we like funny – people being funny, people sharing humour, people ‘who crack me up’. But Funny is not just being a clown. We see ‘funny’ people are also human, inspiring, and admired. But this is the UK too – the country that is fuelled by quirky humour like the Boosh(@noelfielding11) , Milton Jones(@themiltonjones) and the Peep Show (@aroberwebb, @readdmitchell) – we can like the humour to be idiosyncratic, outrageous, and disturbing.

Have you read the tweets of @thetonypitts and @meganamram – its all so wrong! But funny.

This light hearted – yet much appreciated – side of twitter is at the core of twitter charm and way more ‘powerful’ than you’d think. In a busy life we know where to find the relief when we need it.

Wisdom

Thought Provoking, a sharp-mind with humility. As Jane Bruton says of @tonyparsonsuk “Sometimes poignant, sometimes funny, always thought-provoking. The wise man of Twitter.”

Opinionated

People like to see skin in the game. As Jay Rayner says of @marinaoloughlin “She’s endlessly bitter, cross and enthusiastic in equal measure.” Is it the passion and the willingness to stand out that people like?

Foodie-Links

This was a surprise for me – so many people enjoy info on restaurants and recipes. Are tips for the perfect night out or guidance for a dinner party the greatest gift we can give? Whether it is Boy George appreciating @katemagic as “a raw-food guru who keeps me up to date with delicious recipes and the latest super foods” or Gizzi Erskine gushing of her foodie tweeps “We bonded over our love for Jewish food”, “She’s also a big foodie and has an amazing, creative eye.”

On-A-Cause

In a world when people are questioning “the meaning of it all”,  following people with a passion and a cause is a big hit. Seeing people in the zone and self-actualised is a valued thing. David Rowan talks of @indy_johar’s “insights into changemakers that matter”, Matthew Ryder talking about Adam Wagners passion for human rights; or Mariella Frostruspps distress and appreciation of the human plight shared by @vitalvoices

Conversation

Its social media right – and so its ‘social’ – it not a broadcast channel – it’s meant to be engaging right? Derren Brown talks about “the sins of arrogance and relentless self-promotion”. Thats not good twitter behaviour. But there is a wide appreciation for people who ’embrace the medium’ – whether its gossip, banter, trying to kick off conversation or just sitting back and watching the glitterati nattering away – its all very human – way beyond the 140 character limit. A very enlightened person told me to watch @wossy – he’s the best at it.

Links-to-Information

Share great content. Links to news, events, food. Lucy Siegle depends on the practical advice from @higgledygarden “I’m a novice gardener-grower and this is my Twitter support” Peston acknowledges that its @lindayueh that he is depending on and Gaby Hinsliff and Peston both recognise the work of @faisalislam and how he creatively transforms dull economics into an engaging stream of informed knowledge.

So its a cloud its not a list

If I made it a list you could look at the top three ‘big-do’s’ and discount the rest. And that would be a mistake.

There are many insights to be drawn from the language people use to capture the value they see in twitter. Its not as simple as a top 3 best practices – there is a need for many voices and styles to make it a great place. If a list meant we discounted the importance of any one of these value-points we miss the chance to be different and stand out.

But what about Businesses on Twitter?

So did you notice the absence of any Business brands on the list. No ‘brand’ is close to our hearts – but should I expect there to be one?

Maybe its too big a challenge for a company? Can a business be funny, commmunicate its humanity, wisdom, mind-moving insights, valuable resources and sense of connection with people? Or should we always expect a gap between what is valuable to us “IRL” and what we get from a company? But a business is still a social organisation, right?

Who can we empower to be the face/voice of our business on twitter? (Everyone in the company is the face/voice of our business.) Does anyone get given the permission to be the ambassador for the brand? (Everyone we employ is the ambassador of the brand.)

But we aren’t seeing this shine through on the tweep list today – or maybe they are just under the surface. Not in our top three, but somewhere close behind.

@callyrobson tweeted this morning: “10 yrs ago many business owners didn’t “believe” in the Internet. Now I just hear same about #socialmedia #yawn”

So maybe a business is full of individual brilliance but collectively a bit lost at sea in Social Media. Businesses are not yet something worth following, and we’re still waiting for them to switch on and step up and woo us.

There are couple of exceptions that do it for me. Innocent (now owned by Coco Cola) have always had an edge. But also look out for Sonar6. Ive had the need to review a lot of companies in the HR software space in the last year and these guys are the only ones that can communicate with engagement – look at their FB page, their CEO’s videos and their cup-cake competitions on Pintrest. I don’t know what is in the Auckland water – but its refreshing, funny, intelligent and no doubt the reason behind their recent evalution and acquistion. They have a voice and its memorable.

If the principles of Dale Carnegie still stand (they do) we want to know-like-trust people. There are many of types of trust but the type businesses really needs is “affect” trustan emotional bond and care for the wellbeing of the other – customers that forgive the brand if it screws up, and customers that champion brands through referral – customers that want us to succeed.

This only comes following some kind of meaningful social tie or connection.  Maybe it can come through good Social Media dialogue? (I think so).

Can business be humorous and personable? Well @tomfishburne makes a start..

Is the Observer List useful? Yup…

The great thing about this Observer list is there is some learning to be had from it – it gets into peoples minds and then lays it out for us to understand.

Its not a ranking based on followers or K+ updates. It has real and rich subjective value and a good snap shot for someone to form a recipe – bake a cake – or mix a cocktail – called “An engaging Twitter voice”.

They say that twitter is like a big dinner party – be interested in others too – dont just shout about yourself – be engaging – be helpful – be memorable.

Companies can come to dinner parties too – invite the knitted yogurt pot of Innocent or ‘Crazy Mike’ from Sonar6 and Im sure it will be memorable. But the rest of you really should stay at home.

If you want to check out some of the great people on this Observer article have a squizz at this list. There are some very engaging, eccentric, distrurbing, inspiring, rude, funny, informative, opinionated – but also very loveable tweeps there. Voices people believe in.

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