Just as I suspected, CIF2010 was filled with enthusiastic exchanges of information focused on a variety of practices including those related to social innovation. The atmosphere was definitely one of collaboration. The growing prevalence of sociality along with the value of the voice of the customer were threaded throughout the dialogues. And of course the latter, was music to my ears. At some level, I feel a sense of relief every time I hear a company articulate the realization for the need and value of engaging the customer early, and often, in the product development life cycle.
Here I’ll share a few points that resonated with me.
1. Shift in Design Thinking – Emergent thinking in product development is beginning to shift from how are people using my product to let’s find out how customers want to use my product.
2. Understanding Tribal Behavior – Although we’re each quite unique, we share many characteristics and patterns of behavior. By some, this phenomenon is termed ‘herding’. We dress alike, we travel together, tend to use similar products and live in tribes. So when we design, we’re not simply designing for target markets, rather we’re designing for tribes whose members share a full range of psychographics.
3. Leadership Makeover – Once thought of as the norm, authoritarian type leadership is becoming less and less effective in our shifting socially ‘flat’ world. Leaders need to be able to thrive in the unknown in order to facilitate innovative thinking. Today’s most successful leaders realize:
- An important part of their role is to develop options and encourage feedback;
- They need to invite people from across the enterprise to engage in innovation conversations;
- They need to be able to thrive in the unknown and the messiness of innovation;
- The value of an iterative design process and feedback loop.
- The ROI of engaging customers to co-create is priceless!
Being part of conversations with forward thinking companies open to change is so inspiring. When I step back and look at the convergence of some the elements in play, it’s evident we’re on a brink of some type of social revolution. Globalization, emergence of customer centric practices and the desire to innovate are driving this revolution. And glimpses of the results are just beginning to emerge.
One thing that came out of the breakouts is the observation that “Young engineers in China (under 25) love internal blogging (because external dissent is not possible).” An excellent source of information about technology and social trends in China is 88-Bar, a blog run by Jason Li and Jyn Jeffery. Older but still useful is their former blog, Virtual China.
Another very interesting data-point is a recent New York Times article about “human-flesh search engines” in China, which tell us something about the ways the online and real-world communities (or swarms, flocks, or what have you) behave in China:
Human-flesh search engines — renrou sousuo yinqing — have become a Chinese phenomenon: they are a form of online vigilante justice in which Internet users hunt down and punish people who have attracted their wrath. The goal is to get the targets of a search fired from their jobs, shamed in front of their neighbors, run out of town. It’s crowd-sourced detective work, pursued online — with offline results…. The popular meaning is now not just a search by humans but also a search for humans, initially performed online but intended to cause real-world consequences…. Human-flesh searches highlight what people are willing to fight for: the political issues, polarizing events and contested moral standards that are the fault lines of contemporary China.
Wrestling with the question, “How do you embrace your customers via collaboration and hyper-sociality in Product Innovation?”
The following is a series of snippets captured during a wide-ranging dialog in response to the questions above.
Taking someone who is an expert at what they do and through innovation, make them as “stupid” as the next guy. Is it any wonder that long-term employees resist change that comes from innovation?
When you innovate you’re impacting a person’s status in the organization. Some clients with new product development reset the clock on internal communities of practice so that everyone is effectively “returned to zero status.” Which means everyone gets the opportunity to re-earn their place in the product development and innovation process.
Creating robust communities where none exist is a challenge in the realm of enabling technologies. Those technology companies, or even service providers to those technologies, need to think about going where those communities naturally form; e.g., support forums that are user-generated within specific industry sub-segments are one area to explore. What can you do to better support their mutual self-help behaviors? Feed their desire for reciprocity and fairness.
That reciprocity is changing the way we think about our business. Engaging with tribes is a paradigm shift. What you know is no longer the key success driver, it is who you know and your ability to execute based on the information you share with each other. It’s no longer a one-way transaction. It’s an ongoing exchange.
New open source platforms are creating the environment for tribes to form that are self-regulating, self-generating communities. The challenge for existing companies is to cross over to that kind of communal collaboration which may require them to cannibalize their existing business model.
WoW (World of Warcraft) is such an example. It is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that has a tribe dedicated to creating new weapons that can be used within the game environment. Completely user-generated which is emblematic of the game play itself which is driven by collaboration, fairness and reciprocity.
Being open and collaborative in the face of the desire to protect intellectual property is a huge challenge. As we attempt to embrace hyper-sociality the conflict that will generate will become greater and greater.
Older, existing companies lose the attention and commitment of younger employees because the younger employee doesn’t see reciprocity and fairness in action. They don’t see ways in which they can engage in a meaningful way. If you don’t create that engaging environment you are losing the opportunity to build on their perspectives as you innovate.
Don’t forget your customers who are saying, “We just want a better product. We want our problems solved. But if I don’t give the requirements and features to the right person, I’m not going to be able to drive to the result I’m looking for.” They have communities too, that we often neglect because we don’t listen effectively or capture what they are saying and seek to understand it.
One participant asked: “Can we find a way to embed fairness as a currency for reward and recognition in our enterprises?” There is a whole world of exploration in this area in terms of customer engagement in the product innovation process. How might we better recognize the human-centricity of our efforts.
At this point the concept of “love marks” was raised. How might we converting our brands into “love marks?” Love is earned. You don’t claim love; it is conferred on you by your clients because of their experience of your products and services. A client who loves you is a more willing collaborator in the development of your products and services because they are emotionally invested in its success. Success validates their support and love.
We then explored how the current platform for post sales engagement, especially in the software industry, impacts the customer experience. The way in which maintenance agreements are sold and supported came into focus.
In the customer support arena service the notion of giving up maintenance agreements as a revenue stream is unthinkable for many organizations. It is such a high margin service that to hand it over to customers would be considered product homicide. And yet many customers are losing or have lost their faith in the value of a maintenance agreement.
Somewhere there is someone looking to take our business away by doing it better, faster and cheaper than we can. That’s true not only of our products but also how we support our products.
We need to become human-centric. Not customer-centric, especially if we consider customers at only the company level and not at the personal level. It is not a matter of having customer executives talking with our executives. We need to engage with, support and collaborate with people who know us wherever they are. Meet them on their level in their tribe, or lose them forever.
At a strategic level we struggle with information overload on multiple fronts. How can I better extract the information I need to inform the choices I need to make at a strategic level about including customers across the board in our efforts? It comes down to culture. Using culture as a platform for engagement that promotes sharing, reciprocity, fairness and engagement will drive most of our strategic choices and how we implement and execute against them.
The Big A-Ha! Moments:
Wrestling with, what if someone chooses to not purchase maintenance for our product? We need to accelerate having conversations that address this head-on is key. Customers don’t want to pay this “insurance fee” and the moment they can find a lower cost, good-enough alternative they will leave immediately. Those who find another model of getting paid to support and engage with tribes on their level will survive.
Whether we recognize it or not we deliver an experience through and around our products. If maintenance is the delivery of “hope.” We need to change our customers’ experience of maintenance.
Defending maintenance, customers are willing to pay the maintenance fee if they feel their voice is heard. We need to make our customers feel like they have been heard.
The biggest obstacle we face is company culture and the way it reinforces the present business model.
What would you do differently?
Starting to understand something is one perspective, but being able to do something about it is the only place where meaningful change can occur. Full engagement with existing tribes is critical.
Making sure that we invest in your customers’/users’ tribes so that we are closer to their experience of our products and services helps build the relationships necessary to influence long-term behaviors. But we cannot change that behavior directly. We must to commit to a long-term relationship with our customers and follow where they are leading us so we can be ready to credibly meet them where and when they need us.
One of the potential challenges of hyper-sociality is dealing with the potentially vast quantities of information generated by social groups, Tweets about your company, etc.. There are already companies who have developed “listening products” for scouring the Web in real-time for references to you, and more such offerings on the way. But several times people have expressed concerns about information overload, being force-fed information, having to manage attention, etc..
One thing that’s interesting about this discussion is that, in real, complex social environments, we tend not to experience novelty and complexity as “overload:” there may be tens of thousands of people at a baseball game, for example, and an amazing number of things going on, but despite the terabytes of information generated by this environment, I think most of us feel it’s relatively easy to manage attention in this space. This suggests we have a long way to go not just in gathering this information, but in designing the tools and interfaces necessary to make sense of it, and to use it in a (literally) socially graceful way. Companies who want to be hyper-social may find that they only have the senses and responsiveness sufficient to imitate someone with a really bad case of Aspergers.
One good guide for these issues is Richard Harper’s new book, Texture: Human Expression in the Age of Communications Overload. Here’s an overview:
Our workdays are so filled with emails, instant messaging, and RSS feeds that we complain that there’s not enough time to get our actual work done. At home, we are besieged by telephone calls on landlines and cell phones, the beeps that signal text messages, and work emails on our BlackBerrys. It’s too much, we cry (or type) as we update our Facebook pages, compose a blog post, or check to see what Shaquille O’Neal has to say on Twitter. In Texture, Richard Harper asks why we seek out new ways of communicating even as we complain about communication overload.
Harper explores the interplay between technological innovation and socially creative ways of exploiting technology, between our delight in using new forms of communication and our vexation at the burdens this places on us, and connects these to what it means to be human—alive, connected, expressive—today. He describes the mistaken assumptions of developers that “more” is always better—that videophones, for example, are better than handhelds—and argues that users prefer simpler technologies that allow them to create social bonds. Communication is not just the exchange of information. There is a texture to our communicative practices, manifest in the different means we choose to communicate (quick or slow, permanent or ephemeral). The goal, Harper says, should not be to make communication more efficient, but to supplement and enrich the expressive vocabulary of human experience.
One of the things that came up at my table was the question of how American (or Western) this description of Human 1.0 and hyper-sociality are, and how the norms of online behavior are shaped by culture. This, in turn, reminded me of a recent article in Spiegel Online that, I think, warns that of an American future that strains against the “hard-wired human characteristics and reflexes such as reciprocity, fairness, herding and desire for status”. Here’s a taste:
The country has always been a little paranoid, but now it’s also despondent, hopeless and pessimistic. Americans have always believed in the country’s capacity for regeneration, that a new awakening is possible at any time. Now, 63 percent of Americans don’t believe that they will be able to maintain their current standard of living.
And if America is indeed on the downward slope, it will have consequences for the global economy and the political world order.
The fall of America doesn’t have to be a complete collapse — it is, after all, a country that has managed to reinvent itself many times before. But today it’s no longer certain — or even likely — that everything will turn out fine in the end. The United States of 2010 is dysfunctional, but in new ways. The entire interplay of taxes and investments is out of joint because a 16,000-page tax code allows for far too many loopholes and because solidarity is no longer part of the way Americans think. The political system, plagued by lobbyism and stark hatred, is incapable of reaching consistent or even quick decisions.
The piece is well worth reading in its entirety.
Wrestling with the question, “How do will collaboration and hyper-sociality impact your manufacturing processes and your manufacturing simulation processes?”
The following is a series of snippets captured during a wide-ranging dialog in response to the questions above.
John Shorter plays a volume game with innovation. For pennies of server space he can create an exponential number of opportunities for tribes to form in which ideas can be tested. If only one in 10,000 works it’s a success. He can leverage the cloud for his simulation processes.
Consider the way in which the T-shirt company Threadless operates. They use crowdsourcing to design their shirts, they have another partner to manufacture the shirts and Amazon does the distribution. They have become a pure-play innovation shop that encapsulates their strategy and have shed anything that is not an area of competence for them.
Apple’s App marketplace takes this in another direction. They have platform with open standards, but the innovation and development come from outside this domain. Where would these developers be without Apple and where would Apple be without the population of developers in its App ecology.
Source anywhere and sell anywhere. The atomization of the entire product lifecycle management system via information technology supports the ability to work globally with the best and brightest no matter where they might be.
Culture and trust still matter. Without them, regardless of the amount of information technology employed disconnects will happen that will hamper effectiveness.
How well you communicate is critical to the success of collaboration efforts in a hyper-social world. If you cannot explain yourself in a way that makes your meaning abundantly clear to the reciever then what you intend and what will be experienced will be divergent. If we can bring technology to bear on tightening the communication between designers, manufacturers and intended customers we can arrive at “right first time” prototypes and products
Tribes give us a way to recognize immediate validation of information sources without requiring us to validate on the fly in the moment. In tribe experiences carry with them the tacit understanding that trust exists. This lowers the cost of transaction for the choices we make about the products we buy and the experiences in which we participate. This enables to increase our Dunbar number (the number of people we can realistically know.)
Dunbar’s number is a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. These are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is, and how each person relates to every other person. Proponents assert that numbers larger than this generally require more restrictive rules, laws, and enforced norms to maintain a stable, cohesive group. No precise value has been proposed for Dunbar’s number. It lies between 100 and 230, but a commonly used value is 150. – source wikipedia
The challenge of collaborative customer support is how to create the ecology that will promote sharing and reciprocity across internal departments and among customer groups (aka. tribes).
Departments within enterprises — especially large enterprises — tend to function with little collaboration. More recently, the development and adoption of these tools and services have fostered greater fluidity and cooperation among sales, service, and marketing. This finds expression in the concept of collaborative systems which uses technology to build bridges between departments. For example, feedback from a technical support center can enlighten marketers about specific services and product features clients are asking for. Reps, in their turn, want to be able to pursue these opportunities without the burden of re-entering records and contact data into a separate SFA system. Owing to these factors, many of the top-rated and most popular products come as integrated suites.
Source – wikipedia
One of Sesame Street’s life lessons is that cooperation is a nice thing to do. The same rule applies in business, at least when it comes to the type of customer relationship management known as collaborative CRM.
Here is a good article on collaborative CRM from Inside CRM on the subject which highlights many of the elements that underpin collaboration in innovation, too.
Ed Moran kicked of the Collaborative Innovation Forum by sharing from the book he co-authored with Francois Gossieaux, The Hyper-Social Organization: Eclipse your competition by leveraging social media
He covered the four key elements defining the hyper-social organization:
Social Media – tools that facilitate massive platform collaboration
Tribe - collections of people who share interests and passions and are characterized by their affiliations rather than their common traits
Hyper-Social – cooperative, reciprocal behavior between people who may, or may not, be geographically proximal
Human 1.0 – hard-wired human characteristics and reflexes such as reciprocity, fairness, herding and desire for status
The patterns of behavior are strongly influenced by, but not unique to, specific generational classes.
If you are going to practice being Hyper-Social in your organization there are 5 mindsets to consider:
- Forget technology—understand the four drivers of successful communities.
- Forget market segments and consumers—think tribes and humans.
- Forget company-centricity— think human-centricity.
- Forget channels—think networks.
- Forget process and hierarchies— think social messiness.
(Note: I’m offering this post as a thought starter for attendees. – Drew)
How do you know your organizational culture?
Culture is a little like dropping an Alka-Seltzer into a glass-you don’t see it, but somehow it does something.
- Hans Magnus Enzensberger
At its most basic, organizational culture is reflects the “personality” of the organization. Culture is the combination of the held assumptions, espoused values, practiced norms and physical artifacts of organization members and their behaviors. All of which exist at differing levels of visibility to an external observer. Members of an organization sense the particular culture of an organization when they witness these attributes over time.
Culture, like comedy, is one of those terms that is difficult to express distinctly, but everyone recognizes it when they experience it. For example, the culture of a large, multi-national corporation is quite different than that of a local food bank which is quite different from that of a government agency. You can witness the culture of an organization by looking at the arrangement of furniture, hearing the stories they tell, observing what members wear, etc. — similar to the techniques you might use to get a sense of someone’s personality.
Culture is a real-time system
Corporate culture can be looked at as a system. Inputs include feedback from, e.g., society, professions, laws, stories, heroes, values on competition or service, etc. Commonly used words relating to the description of culture emphasize one of its most critical aspects – the notion that things within groups are shared or are commonly held and understood. The process of creating an organizational culture is based on our assumptions, values and norms, e.g., our values on money, time, facilities, space and people. Outputs or effects of our culture may be expressed as, e.g., organizational behaviors, technologies, strategies, image, products, services, appearance, etc.
Essentially, organization culture is formed as the direct result of a group striving toward pattern-forming and integration in order to create a cohesive and shared meaning. Strong organization cultures reflect a fundamental human need for stability, consistency and a clearly defined operating mindset.
You want hard? Try changing an organization’s culture.
The concept of culture is particularly important when attempting to manage organization-wide change, including the adoption of new behaviors such as a stronger focus on innovation across the enterprise. Leaders and change management practitioners are coming to realize that, despite the best of intentions, organizational change must include not only changing structures, systems and processes, but also changing the corporate culture as well.
There’s been a great deal of literature generated over the past decade about the concept of organizational culture — particularly in regard to learning how to change organizational culture. Organizational change efforts are rumored to fail the vast majority of the time. Usually, this failure is credited to lack of understanding about the strong role of culture and the role it plays in organizations. That’s one of the reasons that many strategic planners now place as much emphasis on identifying strategic values as they do mission and vision. Another fundamental reason for failed organization change efforts is that organizational cultures are not monolithic.
A mosaic, often fractured, but beautiful
Distinct societies are composites of interacting subcultures rather than a single overarching culture. Organizations consist of subgroups that have specific characteristics and a sense of identification. Within organizations, people can easily classify themselves and others into various social categories or groups based on identification with their primary work group, occupational or professional skills, union membership, or age cohort.
Subgroups in organizations can and do create subcultures that comprise specific networks of meaning; yet, at the same time, they remain associated with the ideologies and values of the organization’s leadership. The reason for this is that they exist within the climate created by culture-embedding mechanisms that support the entire organization’s over-arching culture and range of sub-cultures.
|Primary Embedding Mechanisms
||Secondary Articulation and Reinforcement Mechanisms
|What leaders pay attention to, measure, and control on a regular basis.
||Organization design and structure
|How leaders react to critical incidents and organizational crises.
||Organizational systems and procedures
|Observed criteria by which leaders allocate scarce resources.
||Organizational rites and rituals
|Deliberate role modeling, teaching, and coaching
||Design of physical space, facades, and buildings
|Observed criteria by which leaders allocate rewards and status.
||Stories, legends, and myths about people and events.
|Observed criteria by which leaders recruit, select, promote, retire, and excommunicate organizational members.
||Formal statements of organizational philosophy, values, and creed.