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I can work from anywhere. Can you?

Do you let your employees work where they’ll be the most productive?  CEO’s and business owners fall into two camps.

One = I trust my employees. I tell them what I expect and I give them to tools to do their job. Performance is what matters.

Two = I think it’s human nature to try to take advantage of lax supervision so we don’t allow for flexible working conditions.

Hmmm. In the war for talent (do you believe there is one now? if not now, is one coming?) it will require us to change the way we think about work. The winners will be leaders who understand the way work is accomplished today and leverage it.

I have a client, a construction company. Perhaps not the kind of company that you might think is on the leading edge of marketing but these guys are so cool, they totally get it. They think about customers first…both the contractors and the homeowners. They are morphing the way they interact with and help both.

Caterpillar Inc. (yes the folks that make the big yellow earth movers) are also leading the way in marketing. How? By creating communities where customers can discuss equipment, business or regulatory issues. Collaboration among customers is cool. Cat gets to learn a ton about what is on their customers mind with very little effort.

All you office people; you may not think that you can learn something from these folks, but you can. Pay attention, the war for talent is heating  up in every industry.

photo credit : O2.com.uk

Pakistan. We hear about in the news. Do they harbor terrorists? Are they our enemies? Perhaps.

But one thing I know is that in any country, there are people, just like you and me who only want to work so they can feed their families. We have way more in common than we might imagine.

Look at these kids. They are dressed differently but they just want to play.

When I read that twitter had been rolled out  in Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew and Urdu for the first time, I was ecstatic. (Languages that read right-to -left presented special programming challenges.)

They did this with the help of:

            13,000 volunteers!

… including some who live where Twitter is officially blocked. The reason? ” to help more “ordinary people” make use of the service;  both to hold politicians to account and to tweet about their everyday life.”

Understanding each other, communication and learning are key ingredients to preventing war. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

Photo credit: Glacier  Kids (Boston.com)

I really enjoy teaching grad students in both the classroom and online.

In person, we interact, smile at each other, laugh and even share an occasional pizza. Online we interact, smile at each other :) , laugh (lol) but, so far, we haven’t shared pizza.

6 million students — a third of total enrollment @ post-secondary institutions –were taking at least one online course (2010). One third of high school students study part time online.

Students want and will get… un-tethered, digitally rich, social-based learning. Since teens, especially minorities, use their mobile devices as their primary computers… opportunities to solve educational problems abound. Teachers, schools districts and parents will all need to adapt.

But online learning is only part of the story.

“90,000 students enrolled in a building a search-engine online course ” taught by Sebastian Thrun, a Stanford University research professor and Google fellow who led the development of Google’s self-driving car. Yes, you read that right 90,000 students enrolled in the 7 week online course.

Welcome to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC)– a tool for democratizing higher education. Last semester, Stanford University offered these MOOCs  — Machine Learning (104,000 registered, and 13,000 completed the course), and Introduction to Databases (92,000 registered, 7,000 completed).

Higher education is getting ready for a disruption of Amazon.com proportions. (Hmmm, I wonder if Jeff Bezos will be taking Amazon into online  education.) Educators, start your engines… you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Photo credit: Slodive.com

Executive Wanted to Watch My Toys

Every parent of a two year old has heard the cries of, “mine.”

Every person who has worked at a large (or perhaps small) company has heard the same thing. None of us want to think of ourselves as uncooperative… but many of us have attitudes about our work, our reputation and our ‘stuff’ that prevent us and our organizations from progressing.

The article, “Do Organizations Need a Chief Collaboration Officer,” struck me as both ridiculous (really another executive position?) and telling. A significant enough topic to be written about in the revered (by some) Harvard Business Review in 2010, the notion that collaboration is so important to business today that we need to give someone the authority to override silos, fiefdoms and ‘it’sallaboutmes’.

The idea here is to have someone at the executive level assuring that technology, people and culture are focused on how the new tools (web 2.0) and attitude (social) are moving the company towards increased sales and improved customer and employee relations.The holistic view of the way the company adopts and adapts to creating community for employees and customers is best seen from 30,000 feet.

Large organizations have had some advantages in technology (Lotus Notes was a revolution in communication in its day.) But now, they are at a real disadvantage as they try to control 1,000′s of employees. Real-time collaboration tools like yammer and dropbox are making it fast and inexpensive (or free!) for small companies to outpace their larger brethren.

Bottom line: the executive best suited for the new responsibility is not selected by title but by who collaborates the best.

If you believe that Web 2.0 and social networking are revolutionizing business from top to bottom, then you get this. If you think that social is for marketing and maybe human resources… then this all seems likes child’s play.

 

Photo credit: Don’t Worry, Be Happy

BYOD Bring Your Own Device (to work!)

You may remember the good old days, when your company issued you a cell phone or a blackberry. The IT department helped you learn to use it and provided support when something went wrong. IT did this because they thought it was the way to insure security.

Today, the rapidly growing number of  digital devices is a nightmare for IT departments and a collaboration playground.

Digital natives (and those of us who are adapting) don’t think twice about using technology to share information. Working together in real time (Google Docs, Yammer ) is commonplace. Tools like wikis and social bookmarking make the job of co-working and co-creating easier than ever.

For those of us who think that “working harder” is the answer… that we “don’t have time” to learn all about these new gadgets and websites… we need to stop, look and listen.

Sticking our head in the sand will not help us, our city, our region or our country thrive. So the next time you see an iPad or someone mentions Google +, instead of declaring your ignorance, why not ask a question or two? Ask for some help in learning. You’ll be glad you did.

Photo credit: ZDnet.com

Collaboration for Fun (and the Good of the World)

Do you know what a mash-up is?

It is when two things are combined (on the web) to create something new. Five years ago, this would have been impossible but today widespread broadband access creates opportunities. A wonderful example of a creative mash-up is this short video which combines about 70 people from all over the world singing one song.

Rollin in the Deep by Adele (check it out!)

You may be saying hmmm. Do I care? When photography came along… many people probably thought (and said) so what? Who needs it? I ask that you keep reading.

Practical mashups with global implications include this effort to track radiation from the post earthquake nuclear disaster in Japan. Individuals read sensor data from their locations and then the data was accumulated by central repository. This data was not only collected in real time but when overlaid onto a Google map –  real time view of this evolving disaster provided an unprecedented view for emergency reaction and relief.

Is all the data perfect? Probably not. Does that really matter? No. What matters is that Japanese officials had real-time radiation data from sources all over the country. There is no way the government could have done that on their own even with the help of academics and businesses. Think of the implications for health, drought, food shortages and yes, even democracy.

For further enlightenment and deep breath of hope, check out this terrific article, “10 Ways Social Media is Transforming our world.”   If that doesn’t make you feel warm and fuzzy; talk to a 5 year old. They will put everything into perspective.

Photo credit: Experience Project.com

 

That Guy's An Idiot: Multigenerational Communication - Ugh

A communication breakdown is common. Sometimes it’s the transmitter and sometimes it’s the receiver. Lalalalalala…

According to a recent article,  people between the age of 18 and 30 (GenY or Millenials) send about 3,000 text messages a month. I send about 100 (I’m a Baby Boomer.)

So while email is the preferred method of communication for some, with 4 generations at work, we run the risk at work of having serious productivity problems if we don’t pay attention and reconcile these diverse communication styles.

To make things more interesting, by 2014, almost half the workforce in the US will be Millienials. The time to take action is now. Do you know what to do? Do you know how to help your team work through these challenges?

One is to get the age groups together and have them talk about the issues. Provide them with guidelines and rules for communication. Hold them accountable for deadlines and projects. Create reverse mentorship programs.

Instead of creating a battle of wills (“those older people won’t learn anything new”) (“those young people are phone obsessed”). Guess what, you also need to lead by example; how’s your iPad?

Photo credit: Sad and Useless.com

Digital Talent Doesn't Want to Work For You... And Why You Should Care

What is digital talent? I’d define it as the very large toolkit that digital natives (those aged 20ish to 35ish today) have acquired by being born at a time when using the computer was part of growing up AND when having access to the Internet anytime, anyplace is expected.

Whether we like it not, this group of employees has a skill set (beyond their computer skills) that growing companies need:  adaptability, a willingness to help and an energetic engagement.

Many companies “don’t like”  that they want to shape their future (interpreted as entitlement), a desire for work/family balance and a willingness to sacrifice  for it (interpreted as lazy) and a desire to make a difference (interpreted as ambition without dues paying).

Check out this article on why digital talent needs to be attracted to your organization from the magazine Fast Company.  “The opportunity to do great things, to make a real difference, is what drives most digital talent. Most companies don’t offer this, so they skip your company and work somewhere that’s more innovative and exciting.”

By innovative we don’t mean you need to have the latest and greatest technology, it does mean that your leadership is committed to understanding digital tools and is willing to learn, collaborate and change.

What can you do to attract digital natives?

  • Give them an appropriate mentor.
  • Give them meaningful work.
  • Loosen the reins a bit.
  • Say thank you more often than you used to.
  • Reward risk taking and small failures.

And for heaven’s sake LIGHTEN UP! Have a little fun, engage them in ‘convo’ (conversation), learn their language, ask for their help and most of all, listen. There’s so much great stuff to learn.

You've Got Email... Not!

I’m old enough to remember the world before the Internet. We didn’t use email because only the Internet removed the need for matching hardware and software -  so prior to the big “I” — electronic communication was largely an internal communication tool for large corporations.

I like to ask people if they find direct mail or email more intrusive and the answer is a resounding, “Email!” So in a couple of decades we went from no email to too much email and now we’re heading… according to some… back to less email.

Check out this article titled, “Tech Firm Implements Employee ‘Zero Email’ Policy, ” from ABC news. It describes how a European tech company is working to ban internal email and replace it with real time collaboration tools like … a “Wiki, which allows all employees to communicate by contributing or modifying online content, the company’s online chat system which allows video conferencing, and file and application sharing.”  They are not banning external email with customers just internal spam and nonsense.

Are you ready to collaborate in whole new ways? If you had to start work at a new company and they asked you to share your thoughts on a wiki, would you say, “Sure, no problem,” or would you stare blankly at your hiring manager.

What are some of the new collaboration tools? Check out Yammer. It is a free private social network (like twitter) that is used by over 100,000 companies worldwide. Little companies like Ford and LG.  And what about those wikis? Go into Google and search for almost anything and add wiki to the search. You may be surprised to see how companies are using this handy technology to develop everything from policies to tech road maps to employee on-boarding processes.

Whether or not email goes away entirely or not isn’t really the issue. How we adapt to new ways of communicating and collaborating is. The rules, tools and expected results are all changing folks. Get ready!

What's the Matter With Kids Today?

Every generation thinks the ‘young people are lazy and ungrateful. That’s just the nature of the beast. What’s happening at work today is 3 (sometimes 4) generations trying to get along at work.

Boomers are workaholics, GenX are more balanced but are still pretty ‘go along with the system’ type folks.  And then there are these GenYers (aka Millenials). I have CEOs and executives asking me everyday… what’s the matter with these kids?

My response to them is, “There is nothing wrong with them.” We expect them to somehow automatically know what to do at work; how to dress, how much time to spend on their phone, when to show up, etc.  We get upset when they don’t do everything we think they should.  How would they know? Osmosis? I can only speak for my own 2 ‘twenty-somethings” when I say they have minds and goals that are all their own.

According to CPA success in a blog post about Millenials, there’s a comment I agree with:

“You can’t pigeonhole Millennials as entitled and self-centered. Sure, some fit the bill … but many of them don’t. Many of them blow that generalization out of the water. Many of them are ready — are starving — to lead. All they need is our support.”

What they don’t tolerate well is sitting around, blah, blah, blahing about stupid stuff and not doing anything.  So what are you and I going to do about this? We can complain about  how they “don’t get it” and “take away their phones” when they are work or we can engage them in a conversation about what needs to be done. I am Board Chair of a small non profit and we have 8 GenYer’s on the Board. They are caring, involved, willing, kind and hard working. They want to make a difference so let’s give them a chance.

How about starting the dialogue with an item or two from this list:

  • Life balance
  • Leadership
  • Proactive, goal-focused planning
  • Networked collaboration
  • Embracing and adopting technology

If you have an open mind and heart, I’ll bet you hear some amazing things.  Let me know how it works out.

Image credit: Marilyn Manson Back seat Cuddler