Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Collaboration Conundrums

Harvard Business Review has an interesting article by Lynda Gratton and Tamara Erickson. It points out some of the paradoxes of teams.

  • We know that diversity is a strength once a team is well formed. Diversity brings forth creativity and insight that comes from multiple perspectives held by those from different backgrounds and viewpoints. The paradox.. research shows that the higher the proportion of people who do not know anyone else on the team and the greater the diversity, the less likely the team members share knowledge.
  • Knowledge is good. Right? We want our teams to have specialize knowledge. We want the experts, but research shows that the greater the proportion of highly educated specialists on a team, the more likely the team is to disintegrate into unproductive fights. Kinda sounds like a faculty meeting...
  • Virtual teams.. it is the great solution for all of us who travel too much. Wikipedia.. Facebook.. etc.. the Net is allowing us to work together in new ways at a distance. It all makes sense, but research shows that as teams become more virtual... collaboration declines.
So what is the message for leadership. There are great examples where the above paradoxes were overcome. The question is are these examples, these successes we see the norm or are they exceptions to the rule. Think of the last time you were on a team that was diverse, has self-proclaimed experts, or were meeting at a distance. These teams have much to offer, but we have to accept that this is a huge challenge. The first step is to pick up the latest version of Harvard Business Review and read it. The second step is to ponder the following questions:

How do we build trust with individuals who are different from us?

How do we build trust with individuals who perceive they know more than us?

How do we build trust with individuals who are at a distance from us?

TRUST.. sort of becoming a theme for this blogger lately...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ron Brown on the Future

Listening to a talk by Ron Brown on the future of Extension.. the art of disseminating knowledge that is created in Land Grant University Labs. I will try and capture his major points here today (excuse the typos.. doing this on the fly).

We have to unlearn and relearn in-order to change for the future. Changes that may influence us:

  • Demographically we are changing - we are getting grayer, older, browner, and more diverse
  • There will be twice as many old people in the near future
  • Families: Few Children, 75% will be nontraditional families
  • Declining rural and urban communities (Increasing problems/declining opportunities)
  • Changing workforce (Gen X vs Retiring Older workers)
  • Increase in the demand for training
  • Natural Resources: Value shifts.. care for animals, need for open space
  • Social Issues - Obesity, housing, globalization, terror, safe food, disasters
  • Technology, web 2.0, anywhere-anytime-anydevice
  • Funding pressures and accountability
"We have to eager to learn and enjoy change."

Refers to Scott Moore of Yahoo.. Moore showed that 60% of the audience that is watching 60 minutes on Yahoo is under the age 44.. 70% of the TV audience is over 60.

In 1993 according to Pew, 60% watched network news.. today on 28% watch network news.

Two Change Ideas
  • Bigger and more consistent is Better (Mergers, Leadership wants consistency, but we are not all alike, we are all unique) Consolidation can cause us to be more alike.. may weaken our ability to be unique and successful
  • New and exciting: Something new and different, even when it is not much gets way more attention. Older programs that are effective don't get the headlines.. Maybe we should rename our stuff that is working.. put a nice new look on it.
Skills needed to deal with Change:
  • Vision - From all levels, inspiring, pointing to the future
  • Good to Great: Listen to your customers - Continue to find your hedgehog
    • Tells the story of the managers of Walgreen who had to accept location change so that Walgreen could put their buildings on the corner. Being Good keeps you from accepting change.. can not be satisfied with Good
  • Must move to be more cooperative.. team approach regardless of the external culture of competition.
  • We have to look for new ways of doing things.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wikipedia vs primary sources

Seth has a very good piece on this blog this week about Wikipedia. I agree with much of what he says with regard to students spending time on writing vs spending time finding articles. Where I differ is I disagree with his suggestion that students do not need to learn to find "primary" sources. This is a continuous debate, one that is old.. began back before the net... Seth even discusses an example where he slipped by in his younger days. And while I am a big believer and users of wikipedia.. students need more skills than looking things up in an encyclopedia.. we needed them back in the 1900s.. and we need them today.

One of the most important issues in today is to ensure that you have valid and accurate information. Wikipedia replaced encyclopedias..and does a better job in MHO, but it is still a secondary source. It was true before and it is still true that our students should be learning how to validate and read primary source materials while synthesizing their own original thoughts. They can use wikipedia for their daily needs, but they also need this added skill. What example can I use to make this point.. Wikipedia comes to mind! We don't want our students to be just users of wikipedia.. we want them to be contributors.. contributors know how to find information and pull it together in a valid and reliable way. So I slightly differ with you Seth.. I want my son learning how to find information.. I want him to be writing wikipedia articles.. so he is going to be reading journals and such.. In fact.. now that I think about it.. there will be lots of people who can write.. it will be the ones who find the knowledge that have the edge...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Trust, Web 2.0 and Influence, Social Networks Part II

I continue to think that trust development is critical question to maximizing Web 2.0 technologies. Check out James Randerson's article in the Guardian Unlimited. Back in September of this year, he reported on research by Will Reader at Sheffield Hallam University. If Reader is correct, and there needs to be much more research performed on how can we build trust through online networking sites. If we can not develop solutions to the trust issue, sites like Facebook and twitter may be end up be much less significant in influencing behavior among network members. Exploring how trust can be built among these social networks may prove to be the six million dollar question.

Along the same vain, I am increasing interested in the complexity of social networking from the view of anthropology. Especially from the view of Dr. Karen Stephenson who has defined seven separate knowledge networks that flow through an organization. I have take the liberty of renaming some of her titles, but her list is a pretty good definition of the people networks we should be aware of in any change management effort:
  • The Work Network
  • The Innovation Network
  • Expert Knowledge Network
  • The Change Agent Network
  • Social Network
  • Career Coach Network
  • Decision Maker Network
Dr. Stephenson's work is interesting from the standpoint that she has identified the host of knowledge sharing networks that can be found within any given organization. By exploring the complexity of these networks and the interrelationships between members of this networks, leaders have the potential of a new age change model. More on that later.. One final point, Dr. Stephenson's work defines high trust networks which are maintained the old fashion way... It would be interesting to discover if the net lends itself to enabling one these networks in a more effective way than others.. think innovation...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Trust, Web 2.0 and Influence, Continued

Anne Adrian has an posts an excellent response to my posting this week on Trust and Web 2.0. I agree with much of what she has posted. Especially her statement:

Additionally, Web 2.0 can be used to maintain and build upon existing professional relationships. Let me give a personal example.

I see some of my colleagues from other states only 1 or 2 times a year. Social networking, blogging, commenting, Twittering, and instant messaging (and Facebook, to a much lesser degree) helped build upon the acquaintance of our relationships into a higher level of professional respect.

Now, when we see each other at conferences "we start in the middle of conversations." The respect and understanding of philosophies were not created through the face-to-face time, but rather through (online) casual and informal conversations and through blogging.

Without social networking--particularly, blogging and presence technologies--this would not have happened. On a few occasions, confidential remarks have been made in IM or email--mirroring how we communicate with our local trusted professional friends. Are any of these online friends my "Top 8" closest professional friends? Not yet, but I will not discount that from every happening.

Anne's post allowed me to see this issue from a different perspective. She did an excellent job of summarizing the issue. I agree that some low level trust may be developed with complete strangers using Web 2.0 tools. These types of social networks are useful in many ways, mostly in influencing through spread of knowledge. This trust may lead to behavior change in the sense of transactional change. For example, I might purchase a different type of golf club brand after reading a blog, or after noticing twitter postings by a significant golfer and his frustrations with one brand or another. All this is true, but it is equally true of all other forms of Web 1.0 technologies. Web 2.0 adds a bit of the reality TV quality to Web 1.0 in my view.. but that type of trust is very limiting. Where I still have grave questions is whether Web 2.0 technologies can lead to high trust communities.. Teams that we know from research will perform at three times the level of productivity of typical low trust community.

For clarity sake, my question is not intended to negate the many wonderful Web 2.0 positives. Web 2.0 technologies are enhancing productivity and enabling more collaboration than ever before, but at this time I do not see them creating high trust-performing social networks. And while these low trust social networks are an improvement to no social networks, they have much less potential than if one can discover how to build high trust within Web 2.0 social networks. Here is another question for you..

Think of a significant transformational change you observed in yourself or a close friend where someone influenced you to change. The key word is transformation.. a new way of living or working completely. Now, what level of trust did you have in this individual? Can you build this level of trust using Web 2.0 technologies? How?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

egonomics hits a homerun!

In what I predict will become a best seller and one of the top books on leadership this year.. egonomics: what makes ego our greatest asset (or most expensive liability) delivers what every leader needs.

I did a quick count in my head and the number of leaders I know who could benefit from just one chapter in this book is amazing to me. Do you know of a leader who is too competitive.. or maybe one who is likely to become defensive if you question something they have done... or maybe one who thinks the world revolves around them.. If so.. your Christmas shopping is done. Buy it, wrap it up, and send it.

Of all the books I could give to a CEO or top leader who is derailing, I think this one is my favorite. It paints a road map on how to become the Level 5 leader that Jim Collins describes in Good to Great! And if you know of a young charging leader, this may be the best book I can recommend to keep them from derailing on their way to top. For one, I see some of my biggest mistakes described in this book. Some it took me years to overcome both personally and in the view of others. So ego is important and we all need to read this book.

Web 2.0 = Social Networks, NOT

I should begin this post by warning you that I am being a bit of a devils advocate.. but I am beginning to believe that Web 2.0 is a lot of hype on the social networking scene. Now, before you attack me, let me clarify that there is a difference (in my view) between networks of people communicating and socializing.. and real social networks that yield power. What's the difference.. it comes down to one thing.. TRUST. Trust has become the leadership mantra of the age. Covey talks Trust, Lenconni talks trust, even the social networking gurus are now talking trust.

Let me explain by describing functioning social networks. Here are three examples:

The Creative Network: Withing each organization, there is a group of individuals, who when alone discuss what I call "career ending ideas." They ask the questions that nobody asked in the board room meeting, like.. "What if we eliminated John's product line and reorganized?" These type of discussions occur when the two or more people in the room trust each other and know that they have to protect those involved in the discussion. These type of discussions also create a sort of social network that can eventually result in organizational change.... sort of an innovators club.

The Knowledge network: Also within every organization is a group of experienced individuals who have become quite accomplished. They tend to be the experts on how to do things.. and we have developed a trust in their knowledge and abilities. Their level of knowledge and skill.. (demonstrated through the many times we have relied on them) results in this group have abnormally high influence. We know them, and as a group, they tend to make up a network of individuals who bless new ways we want to work. And while everyone can act or claim to be an expert, we trust this select group because they have demonstrated skill at very high levels.

The Learning Network: Within these same organizations, there are networks of individuals that are created around learning. If I am a new manager, it is not too long before I begin relying on another more senior manager for advice and counsel. This chain of coaches and coachees creates a rich network built on trust. As any good coach will tell you, they can not help anyone who does not trust them. Most of the best coaching I have done has been when I helped someone face a fear or a failure, something that required a tremendous amount of trust in me as a coach. It also requires a great deal of trust to tell someone a fear or weakness you are facing. Real learning networks are build on a foundation of TRUST, not access.

So what is the point: When I look at who I might go to for advice on how to do my job, who I might trust because of their competence, or who I like to hang out and brainstorm answers to the questions we are not allowed to ask... It is not someone I met on Facebook, or who I first met through twitter, or who reads this blog. Truth is, we don't know each that well and I am still pondering how I could build a community of trust using these tools. No, the person I see having influence over my thoughts is soLet me be very clear.. the thesis of this post is simple:

It appears that WEB 2.0 does not build true social networks, it enhances those that we create through the richness of face to face contact.

Sure there are individuals who I have met using Web 2.0 tools, but the level richness and trust in these relationships is low. Only through time together and experiences where trust is built will I develop a true social network.. that takes time.. not something I can do using IM.

The leadership implication is that effective use of Web 2.0 will best be done in a blended manner, where it is coupled with other methods of working together. It also suggests that if you formed a virtual group using one of these tools, you need to find a way to have a trust building experiences.

So, here is my question today and I really hope I can get some feedback: Think of a stranger you have met online... in what way would you develop a high level of trust using WEB 2.0?

Monday, October 8, 2007

CEO = Self-Deception

Further evidence is presented in the September Harvard Review... CEO's often think their leadership team is doing better than the senior members of that team. When assessed on the following questions, CEO's reported the team as doing much better than the mean of the other senior members of their team:
  • The Team is effective overall?
  • Decision-making processes are clear
  • Team deals well with conflict
  • Members put the welfare of the organization above interests of their own divisions or functions
  • CEO provides effective direction for the team.
The study is really nothing new, but it still reinforces the challenge for all leaders: Staying in touch with reality when most of your direct reports will sugar-coat what they tell you.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Marion Jones - The System is Broke!

The evidence is clear.. the system is broke! We can get disappointed in individuals like Marion Jones who after years of benefiting from her lies, now freely admits her guilt when it may benefit her. but the system is broke.. Here it is in bullet format:
  • In 2000, Jones was an Olympic champion, an Icon with manufactures begging her to be sponsors for her products. It would have been hard to say no to millions of dollars.. can you really blame her.. a little lie and she has a great cash flow.. but after a divorce, a house foreclosure, and now a possible prison term.. Ms Jones is the loser.. chewed up by the a system that promotes the very behavior she has exhibited.
  • In the Women's World Cup, Coach Ryan chooses to go with a more experience goal keeper, one who has faced the opponent over a younger but still accomplished player. The player who is benched disrespects her coach and also her team member... the media and community rallies to support the benched player rather than acknowledge that respect for the team and coach should come first over winning. (See my last post)
  • In the 2006 Men's World cup, France captain Zinedine Zidane wins the Golden Ball award for the World Cup's best player, despite getting a red card while losing to Italy in the final. the head butt was uncalled for, intentional, away from the play, and very malicious, and yet... Zidane polled 2012 points in the vote by journalists covering the tournament, ahead of Italian Fabio Cannavaro (1977 points) and Andrea Pirlo (715 points).
  • In 2004, with his new book hitting the bookstores and after years of denial, Pete Rose freely admits that he bet on baseball. What's his motive.. selling books, getting into the Hall of Fame. The system rewards this behavior.. to this day, he is still making appearances and signing autographs. (Disclaimer.. he was one of my childhood idols)
I could list more.. B. Bonds, T. Owens, The Yankees and Boston buying winning teams, etc... but you get the picture. Between a media that often depends on the hyped stories, manufacturers who have co opted our sport stars to sell their wares, and a lost of respect for the sportsmanship.. we have a system that is rewarding cheaters and failing all of us. It impacts every level of the game.. down to junior high stars who go to Nike camps where they will get a better shot at scholarships to college and end up being a marketing tool for Nike .. or high school parents who get into fights with coaches over who plays.. the stories are many.. and the conclusion is clear: The System is broke! And the sad part.. is most fans want it this way... We buy Nike.. we beg for autographs.. we pay unreal prices for 3 hours in a tight seat watching something that is on our TV at home.. To quote Dr. Suess..

"And this mess is so big
And so deep and so tall,
We can not pick it up.
There is no way at all"

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Broken Windows - World Cup Final Word

In Honor of the current smelly behavior of our World Cup Team, See U.S undecided on goalkeeper... and Solo's teammates leave her in the cold... I thought it was fitting to revive an post from my old blog on the behavior of the Men in their last World Cup...

We sit around and complain about our leaders for not being ethical. Yes, it has become an art form and nothing represents this more than the final of the world cup. Sure.. I agree that what Zidane did was horrible and the punishment was just, but the truth is we created this environment. Just like Jerry Maguire figured out... We live in a culture of competition that often pushes leaders to the line between what is right and wrong. While it is most visible in sports, it happens in the corporate halls as well, and in truth, our leaders are enabled by our own behavior.

The broken windows concept is that when someone walks down a street with broken windows, they are far more likely to throw a piece of trash of paper on the ground.. This concept also applies to higher crimes.. the more we are surrounded by bad behavior, the more likely even good people will fail to stay on the right side of ethics. I will argue that Zidane.. did what we enable him to do.. by creating an environment where we accept that is "ok" to win at all costs. where we don't complain when our own team cheats.. takes a fall, or worst does something as bad as Zidane.. If this is to get fixed.. it will take more that firing a couple of bad CEOs and sports stars.. everyone is going to have to shape up.. We have to yell just as loud when our own team cheats.. whether it is corporate or sport.. we all have to behave! I am starting now! Posted by mowen ( Jul 12 2006, 01:54:33 PM EDT )

That was the post back in July of 06.. now we find a similar problem among our own women's team.. After much reflection on this incident.. it is clear that no one looked very good.. except maybe Scurry who I do not believe commented. I also think Hope has to share a large part of the blame for what happen. After openly criticizing both another player and her coach (even if she was right), he was left with no choice but to bench her.... So here is how I count the points..

Coach Ryan loses 1 point for first benching the superior player for a legacy player, another point for not substituting in the younger player during the loss with Brazil, and finally another point for not allowing Hope to dress even though her comments were worthy of benching. (I am still not sure of the last point.. Ryan may have studied the video and saw how Hope acted on the bench in the Brazilian game). In truth.. benching her may have been appropriate.. we don't know the team rules.. winning is not everything.

Hope loses a point for her behavior on the bench.. and another point for her comments.. the way I see it, they both should be off the team. Neither deserve our respect. Neither exhibited behavior that is worthy of World Cup play.. keep in mind.. Hope is 29.. her comments were not the emotions of a 18 year old freshman.

Enough said.. but one last point.. those who defend Ryan could be accused of defending incompetence.. those that defend Hope could be accused of empowering self gratification and poor sportswomanship.. Neither of these individuals deserve to be defended.. they need to learn what they did was wrong.