Design Thinking und Social Software im Unternehmen

René Seifert vom eLab-Blog hat ein paar Eindrücke von den Workshops der Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco gebloggt, u.a. zum “Design von Social Software” mit Christina Wodtke.

Mit gewissen Anleihen aus der klassischen Architektur wie man Räume beschreibt, entwickelte Wodtke dann die Prinpien für die Erzeugung von “Social Spaces” im Internet, die auf den drei Säulen Identität, Beziehungen und Aktivität ruhen.

Identität, Beziehungen und Aktivität – erinnert mich daran, dass im Idealfall auch ein Intranet ein Ort sein kann an dem eine vielfältige und lebendige Community zusammenkommt, um gemeinsam zu lernen, neues zu schaffen etc. Und Design Thinking kann dazu beitragen daraus eine “powerful engine of innovation” zu machen, wenn, ja wenn Designprinzipien beachtet werden:

1) design handles the user can invest in
2) design a way to be members in good standing
3) you need barriers to participation
4) find a way to spare the group from scale.

Zum Kontext von Enterprise 2.0, Intranet 2.0 und Social Messaging passend und interessant, diese Präsentation von Ross Mayfield von Socialtext “Putting Web 2.0 to Work”, aus der Übersicht der Proceedings:

Collaboration is the recipe for market-dominating speed and scale

Some days ago I posted David Terrars keynote slides about community building in the Enterprise at the enterprise 2 open blog.

Being the community manager for the E2.0 SUMMIT I am perfectly fine when you click on through and continue there, all the while my posts are spliced into the regular frogpond feed too.

Whatever, I wanted to expand into something David mentioned in his talk – a video of Cisco’s John Chambers and see where it gets me. Interesting hooks make me follow trails (plus I have observed Cisco moves and Chamber’s video already before, see below for some pointers to past posts and there was this neat article about Cisco in Fast Company too) so the tagline “shifting from command and control management to collaboration and teamwork” made me investigate.

Let’s start with the Harvard Business School video of John Chambers David mentions (seen also at Oliver Marks):

[…] he envisions a Web 2.0 premised on collaboration and social networking that will similarly transfigure all business life. Since 2001, he’s been positioning Cisco to catch this massive market transition, and indeed, is “betting the company’s future on it.”

[…] Web 2.0 will also bring “effective collaboration,” by which Chambers means network-enabled visual tools, which will make “working together for a common goal truly possible.” Expect much faster business processes and revved up productivity, says Chambers.

Sounds much like an argument for “improving collaborative performance”, heh? Yes, but democratizing decision making by using Enterprise 2.0 technologies (eating dog food and walking the talk, you know …), pursuing a vision of a more innovative and competitive company, of future work styles – that’s the success story and archetypical vision that keeps me and others in the surrounding Enterprise 2.0 consulting space motivated.

See also this video from a presentation and Q&A he carried out at the MIT Sloan School of Management:

Based on Cisco’s own experience in the past several years, organizations will [need to] completely restructure around these new capabilities. Indeed, he offers up his company as a paradigm of this vision. Once a hierarchical, command and control-based organization, Cisco is now much flatter, a company running “off of social networking groups.” Councils with cross-functional responsibilities suggest and take on many more projects (from emerging markets, to video, and smart grid boards); from one to two major ventures per year, to this year’s 26 launches. The next generation company is “built around the visual.” Cisco employees do non-stop teleconferencing with collaborators around the world. The company hosts 2500 such virtual meetings per week. It also employs Webex, Wikis and blogging to move work along.

With this kind of communication and carefully managed process to match, “operations can be turned on a head,” says Chambers. It’s the recipe for market-dominating speed and scale. Chambers is “loading the pipeline” with projects that assume other companies will want what Cisco has and makes. “If we’re right, we’re developing a huge wave of revenue opportunity.” Perhaps this is one reason why he’s “an optimist on global productivity, global economy and our ability to handle the challenges.”

That’s the thing: Enterprise 2.0 can be a way for speed and scale, both depending on and promoting changed decision making processes (“Web 2.0 changing decision making processes within organizations“):

[…] Chambers emphasized that social networks are changing businesses making them less hierarchical and more network oriented.

[…] decision making can be accelerated (and be more distributed, democratized, deconstructed, diversified, …). In fact, the main change effect is not acceleration (but the change effects in brackets …)

Repeat with me: the main change effect is not accelerationbut we may be tempted to measure this first in our efforts to calculate ROIs.

Moreover, with the Cisco focus on video and teleconferencing I am not convinced, see what I blogged about another speech of Chambers in May 2007, noting that

[…] Intel [is] calling for businesses to increase knowledge worker productivity by implementing Web 2.0 social software but also by fostering mashups and virtual conferencing.

[…] I am reserved whether video is really the killer application among the collaboration tools. Requiring synchronous presence of distributed collaborators is both costly and unnecessary most of the time (think more meetings …) whereas tools for virtual distributed collaboration like wikis are a low-cost approach that can be tailored to the actual needs (think more flexibility and serendipidity …).

So my observation that Cisco might not be much of a role model (and that results may vary …), especially when naively imitating Ciscos approaches:

[…] social networking in the enterprise is not “easy”. One reason is that this is not a technology problem (with some kind of tech answer), but a people problem. Supplementing organizational hierarchies and “command and control” decision structures with free-form collaboration and teamwork approaches needs some serious thinking before “kicking-off these projects”, taking into account that this calls for broad implementation approaches, lead and energized by skillful managers, and more …

Anyway, I ended on a very positive note (that now, in 2009, may finally hit it big time):

[when] we employ freeform social software and enterprise 2.0 concepts we can ease implementation, like when we leverage bottom-up mechanisms that are already in place, and allow for the emergence of usage and networking patterns that reflect and support the actual informal networks that exist in the organization anyway.

Social software may enter the corporate world quite naturally in the end …

What do you think? Have we seen a sort of tipping point now that McKinsey has published yet another piece?

Berlin Webweek – some after-action notes

BarCamp Berlin 3

Now, back from an intense Berlin Web Week, it’s time for an after-action review. Let’s see, been to the BarCamp Berlin, pl0gbar, Girl Geek Dinner (sic!), Lunch 2.0 at plista and the Web 2.0 Expo Europe.

Mingled with the crowd, had fun at parties and more. Blogged at times, tweeted a lot, tagged stuff with #berlinblase and #w2eb when I deemed it fit.

Overall this was fun and gave me some insights too, like e.g. when sitting together with Tim O’Reilly and his team or when talking shop with the fellow participants, some speakers and exhibitors.

During the Expo, I had the chance to check out some vendors like Jive Software, telligent and Zoho. Yes these were in my portfolio of suitable (and “to watch”) software already, but it’s always nice to talk to the (sales) people directly. Others were around too, but hey, time was scarce these days (and my plan to talk to introduce me to Jeffrey Walker on the last day of the Expo failed for objective reasons).

Image by Luca Sartoni who caught me and my laptop during the blogger roundtable (licensed under CC: some rights reserved)

I blogged some of my thoughts and notes on the events I’ve been here already, as well as notes on the keynotes. Let me pull something to the front once more, because (Tim’s main point) is so important: if you are going to do something, do something that matters. We’ve got lots of problems and opportunities at hand, that might be tackled by cleverly using technology. And organizations (smallish ones, yes, but also big corporations) are mighty levers to change the world for the better.

Therefore I am feeling a bit disappointed after the Expo – I feel that not many CxO type of guys were present (CIOs weren’t there either, but that’s a different story). This is both sad and telling, on a wide scale and in direct relation to intra-company workings. Enterprise 2.0 will effect big changes in the corporate world, and it has great impact on companies’ competititveness. Given that the cover of the October issue of the german language Harvard Business manager is “IT – new technologies are changing business administration” this little response from german CxOs is feeling awkward. And they didn’t go to the Systems 08 either, so my point is clear: “Doesn’t Web 2.0 in the Enterprise matter to them?” and “What to do about that?

Web 2.0 Expo Europe 2008

Notes on the Web 2.0 Expo Keynotes …

The cool C1 main conference room ceiling (they did a lightshow with these things …)

Some notes and links for the Wednesday and Thursday keynotes, wasn’t present at all of them, moreover Wifi was a bit flaky so I didn’t tweet as much as usual, i.e. I didn’t do much note taking. But others are covering things nicely (e.g. Adam blogged about Tim’s talk with Martin Varsavsky and Suw Charman-Anderson’s talk on dealing with the productivity problems around e-mail). Moreover the presentations are uploaded to Slideshare mostly by now, so check there as well. Alas, not all of the keynotes employed slides at all, like those by Luis Suarez and Ben Hammersley.

Web meets World by Tim O’Reilly:

“Web2.0 vs. the water cooler – How Web2.0 has changed the way we communicate at work” with JP Rangaswamy (Adam has a good write-up on this, video will be coming I guess – needed as the slides alone won’t take you far. Hey, you need to be in the room with JP to take full advantage, that’s the point of going at conferences):

There Goes Everybody: Focusing the Power of People and Today’s Network on Opportunity by Dion Hinchcliffe:

Dion talked about how these ideas affect what you Enterprises do. I noted some good points on business models, but got alerted much more by his assertion that „enterprise 2.0 is so viral, it’s entering the workplace very naturally“. It’s not longer “trojan mice“alone, it’s the power of the Web as a platform, together with social systems that work two-way and interactive that push this forward. Great opportunities and challenges ahead, like “how much control do we have over our businesses?” and how to cope (err, how to leverage) the great increases in transparency and openness …

I also liked the keynotes by Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino from (“In Case of Turbulence: Open Source Hardware’s Next Challenges“). This made me understand Ton’s fascination, he’s also got lots of videos showing what is possible with Fablabs now. Yes, this is much more of a BMID topic, so go there if you want.

Then there were “Let All Things Be Connected” with Rafi Haladjian of Violet (spell Nabaztag, please) and Redesigning An Exercise in Open Source Design with Leisa Reichelt (this one is obvious, having enjoyed her two workshops the first day, see here and here).

Web 2.0 Expo Europe 2008

Web 2.0 Expo Europe: Improving Your Site’s Usability – What Users Really Want

These are my notes from the second Expo workshop with Leisa Reichelt, on Improving Your Site’s Usability – What Users Really Want. Here’s the post covering the morning workshop: Collaboration Techniques that really work.

Now let’s see:

  • It ain’t really funny, but yes, in usability no two experts have got the same understanding. Usability is a field full of theories, many good books out there, and some good blogs too I guess.
  • To achieve something that works for the user (hey, this is important for behind the firewall Enterprise 2.0 stuff too) we need both rules and testing, i.e. design guidelines and rules, common conventions and all are not enough to ensure success. Some rules have lost their relevance by now (e.g. three clicks to rule it all …)
  • In the field of usability we’re dealing with human brains – these are good at a lot of things, but can be fooled easily (they have finite storage capacity, like when short term memory struggles to store more than about nine things, trying to deal with this e.g. by chunking up things together only works a bit. When attention is a limited commodity we tend to do one decision at a time and stick to habits and learned procedures (yes, these are useful at times, as they require no attention). Our long term memory stores only what we can’t easily deduce (via mental shortcuts and “lifehacks”).
  • What else? Interruptions burden our short term memory, switching between tasks takes effort, in modern life unexpected things happen all the time (can you spell Twitter?) making it hard to form habits, yet computers and software expects us to remember how to do things. Here, Leisa talked about the Principle of Commensurate Effort, i.e. people will spend a considerable amount of effort on things that is in proportion to the value they perceive (reminds me both of Bruno Figueiredo’s talk and the notion of “early adopters will use anything” and the Twitter failwhale). Well, yes, even when people are putting up with it, it’s no excuse for bad usability design – and there are good reasons to this too (adoption rests on the motivation of your early adopters, treat them well).
  • Leisa talked about Alan Cooper and “polite computing” (14 Principles of Polite Apps, pdf), i.e. software that is interested in me, perceptive, forthcoming, self-confident and responsive. Great rules and lifehacks: make the easy easy, and the difficult possible (yes, wikis make that sound natural), make it quick to scan & digest, avoid clutter and text-only (well, tagclouds are a different beast in my book), users read when needed and avoid it when not needed …
  • More user adoption lifehacks: speak the right language (avoid marketese, legalese, technese), lay information scents, i.e. use keywords to guide people in the right direction, people will sniff it out, much like the way they will when you try to foul them (yes, well put, seeing these effects e.g. in wiki portal site usage, when people are avoiding the nicely done navigation and go directly into search mode, and when they rely on the breadcrumb navigation).
  • Leverage seducible moments (Jared Spool, see e.g. The Search for Seducible Moments). i.e. “there are specific moments where designers are most likely to influence a shopper to investigate a promotion or special offer. Most of the time, these moments come after the shopper has satisfied their original mission on the site. If we identify the key seducible moment for a specific offer, we can often see over 10 times as many requests”. I wonder how this can be used for intranet application design, got some ideas but need to rework them …
  • Support users in a rush, as the paradox of the active user is dreadful (I haste to get rapid results, ergo I make mistakes, making me slower, …), give feedback (“you’re doing great!”). Hmmm, sites should give lots, probably that’s behind one of the great things about wikis – they provide instant gratification.
  • don’t under-estimate “tunnel vision“, people are able to ignore a lot, i.e. banner blindness, don’t underestimate the task focus of users – they ignore most stuff. Yes, you need to know what they want to do and get them there, and you need to have an experience strategy.
  • User Centered Design as such is interested in both strategic and tactical elements. Whereas Steve Krug’s “Don’t make me think” is on a strategic level, Luke Wroblewski’s  “Web Form Design” is on a tactical level.
  • Why do UCD (in Enterprise 2.0)? Four key benefits are increased revenue, reduced project risk, reduced customer support costs and more customer retention (yikes, yes, internal users of our systems are customers too ;). All too often project teams don’t understand genuine user requirements (easy, users don’t understand their own requirements themselves at times) – at the same time making late changes is slow and expensive.
  • Some ideas: Don Norman and The Design of Everyday Things (“we tend to project our own rationalisations and beliefs onto the actions and beliefs of others”), Jakob Nielsen “to design an easy-to-use interface, pay attention to what users do, not what they say“, user research helps you uncover, understand and design for REAL user requirements.

Now, check out the slides:

Collaboration Techniques that really work – Lisa Reichelt @ Web 2.0 Expo Europe

Some notes on the first session at the Tuesday workshop session at Web 2.0 Expo Europe: “Collaboration Techniques that really work” with Leisa Reichelt. I really enjoyed the workshop, it was both easy going and immensely interesting. I went there to learn about new working patterns and methods, and learn about how to adopt these to my consulting practice.

We started off with all participants presenting themselves, at a minimum three tags were said. I got the impression of a pretty mixed crowd, i.e. there were developers, journalists, designer, start-uppers, business developers – and even one or two big Co guys too – mainly with an european background.

OK, here we go:

  • Collaboration = working together, especially with the enemy 😉
  • Collaboration ain’t inviting a bunch of people to a meeting at the beginning of a project
  • Collaboration ain’t working separately on the same project, yes, it’s all about the „actually working together“, not just contributing bits to a pot

Well, we all agreed that good collaboration is rare, it’s percveived as somehow fluffy, even when the benefits are so obvious. Some reasons:

  • good for team building & morale
  • good for communication
  • support and build up cross disciplinary skills and insight
  • more heads, eyes, perspectives enrich our work
  • we build up team & shareholder buy in
  • it’s fun too, yes, fully acknowledge this – people are social animals, we like it to be together with people we like, and with people that have energy and commitment (for the project)

If we do it right we can

  • turn stakeholders or customers into collaborative partners
  • build collaboration into project methodology – i.e. collaborate regularly with your project team
  • collaborate with your peers & invite other expert perspectives – Leisa offered us this good idea of inviting “wildcard collaborators” from the outside, they help us to think tangentially and integrate new perspectives

Ok, then, when to collaborate?

  • at the beginning of a project, but not JUST at the beginning
  • when you’re stuck, i.e. for trouble shooting and problem solving (this is collaborating with a narrow focus)
  • when you’re looking for inspiration (yes, wide focus)
  • regularly, well, it must be trained …

What kind of tools make sense?

  • people (the right ones!), i.e. people that like to collaborate
  • sticky notes & pens, whiteboards/ flip charts
  • fun stuff as stimuli
  • sugar in the afternoon (sic!, give them sweets to keep them alert and productive)
  • an objective (well, I know this is not exactly a tool, but close enough in Leisa’s line of arguing, agreed)

Later on we ventured into techniques that make brainstorming work, i.e. right people, preparation, „the rules“, the tools and the environment. Some noteworthy points are the Importance of a good facilitator and the aligning along useful rules, like e.g.

  • what is the problem / question?
  • we need to appoint a facilitator & a scribe
  • listen more than you talk (this can be really hard, it’s easy to dominate the group when you’re outspoken and have a deep interest in the ideas)
  • listen for your own ideas, but also add value to other peoples ideas
  • suspend judgement

One very important rule is “NO QUESTIONS”, good one but nothing new here. I actually liked the second “lifehack”, i.e. demand that any of the contributed  ideas must start with the words: „I wish …“ or „how to …“ as this is helping in going from an idea to a story. Giving you a roundup of our group experience, dealing with ideas for a pizza restaurant is rather hard, so it pass on this one.

Well, second part of the workshop dealt with the KJ method for consensus, i.e.

1. determine the focus question
2. get „opinions“ / „ideas“ onto sticky notes
3. affinity sort into groups (likeness, clustering)
4. name groups
5. vote on group importance (three votes)
6. rank groups (two by two)

Some hints: a) if nobody votes for a group throw it away, you can get there later if you want b) rank them via counts of votes, then put the winner group besides the second group and discuss which is better (well, you basically apply some kind of bubble sort to this, finally you reach a list sorted by perceived importance) and c) in the voting stage it’s basically about discussing these things out, even when in the end it can be necessary to resolve deadlocks by voting again.

In the discussion we shortly talked about whether we can do this online. Well, yes, sort of an issue. But I agree that it’s hard to do this with offshore teams (I guess that is not so much about distance, than about cultural differences), so while technically speaking you can do it, it’s never going to be like the F2F-situation. Moreover, the hassle involved in getting the people together is so much worth it (side benefits like connectedness, understanding, team building, …) and basically making it a lot easier later on to do more on technical platforms and with online tools.

By the way, the room was packed with people I know and dig, let me see: Peter Bihr, Stefan Nitzsche, Jodi Church-Wagner, Christian Heller, Johannes, Hans Dorsch, Jan Tißler, Igor Schwarzmann and Henning Grote. Johannes did some live-blogging, as well as Jodi, but I guess that there will be more write-ups soon. Moreover there’s the Twitter Backchannel with the tag w2eb_ux and w2eb respectively, check out e.g. Twemes. And Leisa said that she’s going to put her slides up on Slideshare, probably in a Web 2.0 Expo group  …

Web 2.0 Expo Europe 2008

Wiki Meetup at Web 2.0 Expo Europe?

I am thinking if there might be some interest in meeting fellow Wiki enthusiasts (especially WikiWednesday backers and regulars) at the upcoming Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin? This might be interesting, sharing success stories and experiences, i.e. how to set-up wiki wednesdays, how to find issues (and sponsors) etc. But we might as well spend our time in wiki geek talk … give me a direct message on Twitter if you’re interested.

I don’t know if it’s still possible to apply for a special room for this get-together, but I guess we can still arrange for this with the nice people from O’Reilly and Techweb …

Web 2.0 Expo Europe 2008