Do your classwork at home. Do your homework in class

I found this TED video, below, from Salman Kahn, the founder of the e-learning company, Kahn Academy. After watching it, I knew there was something here for the enterprise.

Today’s video is different from the classroom movies in your school days. Back then your teacher wheeled in a TV-VCR or a movie projector. You, the kid, had to sit and watch until it was over. There was no fidgeting in those classes. Though we looked at classroom movies as a rare treat, the fact was, we got bored halfway through. More than likely in my case, I was ‘shooshed.’

Video has changed in so many ways since then. Now anyone can take a video and post it online. The ‘watcher’ is empowered as she wasn’t before: she can stop, rewind, comment on, add to playlists, ‘favorite’ and pass on to other ‘watchers’ in email and Twitter. The term for this is ‘lean-forward’ video. The watcher is engaged. She has as much control as the author. A lean-forward video has potential for the consumer, the student … and the employee.

Mr Kahn started uploading little videos of his lectures to YouTube. He immediately got some unexpected responses from the ‘watchers.’ They preferred his videos to the in-classroom lectures at school. Kahn decided to “flip the class room” and have the kids watch the lecture at home and do their homework in class. Comprehension soared. ‘Self-paced’ became ‘accelerated.’ ‘Lean-forward’ video lead to ‘lean-across-the-desk’ collaboration between students.

Can we ‘flip’ things in our companies? Could you ‘flip’ meetings by having people watch a presentation beforehand and then get down to active business in the conference room?  That’s pretty powerful. How many times have you sat in a meeting when presenter struggled to set up a PowerPoint on a projector, or worse, fumbled with an on-line Web conference? Why not record a narrated presentation, upload it, share the link with the meeting attendees? They can watch it in their own time and come to the meeting prepared.

Or better yet, not even have a meeting at all! Why not embed the video into a discussion thread and have people engage asynchronously? Think about it…

Here’s the TED video, below. It’s about 20 minutes long. Are there ways you could create lean-forward videos for your teams? You projects? Share your ideas!



EEEK! My Business Has Workflows!


Is it time to replace your system workflows with social business tools?



‘Subway’ by George Tooker, 1950


When pundits assemble the unwashed to preach the Gospel of Social Business, they often warn against the antisocial  forces within the enterprise. They’ll talk about diffident executives, hostile middle managers, unaligned business case, the folly of tool evangelism and weak community strategy. These are all valid roadblocks. We’ve certainly heard about them enough.

Yet there are more basic challenges to enterprise collaboration  These are the ‘data processing’ assumptions still coursing in the brains of business people. They cling to the old ways. Some examples:

  • Yes, they see the value of social business networking, but they still want a web site.
  • “Wikis? Well, sure, but how to fit one in the division portal?”
  • “We must account for exception processing; can we fit this in a Lotus Connections screen?” 
  • Communities? Yes, they seem to be better than our department Notes database, but can we move our project approval system to SharePoint?”
  • “Can I get my e-mails auto-posted to a blog somewhere?”
  • “How do I replicate these things so I can get them on my hard drive?”

Workflow systems are the migraines of social business deployment. Organizations want automated workflows because they enforce a chain-of-command. If a company succumbed to Six Sigma, it may have hundreds of stillborn, FMEA-spawned, automated swimlanes.

The enterprise still wants workflows because they promise the illusion of control.

Networked collaboration is the business antipode of workflow-based systems. Individuals make their own decisions in collaboration tools. Information pathways aren’t designed; they appear in an organic fashion, from the need of humans to connect and share. A social network pulses with information in an efficient way; it’s an amalgam of publication and alerts.  But the most important distinction between a designed, enforced workflow and a social business network is trust. A workflow doesn’t have it; a social network requires it. If trust is essential for good collaboration, then we can say a workflow is collaboration-free.

Reasons why workflows don’t flow or work:

  • They are fragile. Anything new (people, responsibilities, organization changes) shatters a workflow. They can’t adapt when the organization must change. They never last.
  • Workflows support the status quo. They are hierarchical.
  • Workflows require training. This means they are not intuitive.
  • They are expensive. In addition to the software costs, there are the additional costs of training.
  • Workflows are antisocial. People aren’t supposed to engage each other. An automated workflow is really forwarded annotation.
  • Directional flow is the opposite of collaboration. Work flow is a one-way, recursive information shunt.
  • Workflows lengthen tasks. People don’t know when to respond. Workflows add inefficiencies.
  • Workflows require design. They annihilate fluid interaction.
  • Workflows are optimized for the organization, not the individuals in it. Humans will always seek to optimize for themselves and sub-optimize the workflow. They do this all the time.
  • A workflow design is by its nature a compromise between the stresses of time and task. They dumb-down the personality of the individual, turning them into automatons, treating them like process equipment in a manufacturing line or items to be measured.
  • Workflows’ highest end-game is compliance. Staying in the lines is not the path towards growth or creativity.

Workflows impede collaboration. It’s time for the enterprise to rethink the value of automated workflow systems. There are places for automated workflows, especially when the enterprise has lazy, sneaky employees it can’t trust. But if it is blessed with hard-working, informed and smart people, perhaps it is time for the enterprise to throw those old workflows away.

Think about it. Are there inefficient workflows in your enterprise? Could they be done another way?





Animated Joy #jan25 #egypt

Check out the animated Twitter swarm when  Mubarak resigned



Please watch this video. It is a network analysis of  an hour’s worth of  Twitter messages (‘tweets’) originating from Egypt, each one containing the hastags #jan25 and #egypt. Hundreds of people came together in an hour.

I’m struck by the biological imagery of this animation. It starts out looking like a blastula, an early stage in embryogenisis when a fertilized cell begins dividing. The network builds a wall and structure. Quickly thereafter, the graph takes the form of a sphere. It’s easy to imagine an embryo inside.

Remember each node is a person with a brain, eyes and fingers. Using the ‘grid’ (neurons?) they fire messages to each other. And this brings to mind another organic structure: a brain. This Egyptian Twitter-brain self-forms. It pulses and moves.

It is human energy


Imagine if this brain could focus on a problem and solve it. Imagine if the ‘nodes’ came together to design something entirely new. Imagine if this brain existed inside  your company…

Well, it does. It’s called enterprise collaboration. It is your new enterprise social tools. It is your iPhone. It is YouTube. It is you. It is your colleagues.

And by being here, reading this, you are one those nodes. Congratulations! You are among the first to walk into your company’s Tahrir Square. The more people who find you and follow you inside your company, the more creativity you’ll have, the more problems you can conquer. This is fast. This is real business transformation.

Go swarm!

It’s All Social Business At IBM’s Lotusphere

“Get Social. Do Business.” Is The 2011 Lotusphere Theme 




Last week I attended IBM’s annual Lotusphere event in Orlando, Florida. I went as a practitioner, someone who uses IBM’s products inside their company.  Lotusphere is a big, global shebang for All Things Lotus. This year’s Lotusphere was special because it coincided with IBM’s centennial anniversary. Lotusphere attracts customers, the press, IBM solution partners and IBM employees. I had the opportunity to attend sessions, ‘IBM Labs’ and give a presentation of my own.

IBM demonstrated how important social business is to its product vision and internal strategy. Missing were last year’s buzzwords: ‘collaboration,’ ‘Web 2.0’ and ‘Enterprise 2.0.’ The new game is ‘social business,’ the person-to-person networking, inside and outside the firewall, with a nudge from ‘social analytics.’ I’m impressed with IBM’s long view and obvious commitment to it.

I couldn’t help noticing how the 2011 IBM is far different from the 1995 IBM when I attended my first Lotusphere. That year Microsoft was ascendant and the press (no blogosphere then) held IBM as a software dinosaur plodding on to obsolescence.  How the tables have turned! Now IBM ‘gets’ social,  cloud, mobile and enterprise while Microsoft, stumbles, several product cycles behind. IBM now talks ‘embedded experience’ and ‘experience anywhere.’ I’m not hearing this from the Microsofties.

I spent my week attending keynotes and sessions for Connections, Sametime and LotusLive. I didn’t attend any sessions on Domino, Portal, Quickr or any of the other IBM Lotus solutions.


The opening session exploded on stage with an energetic electronica band (does anyone remember the Dutch band Focus and ‘Hocus Pocus?’). Allusion – illusion were splendid: the drummer hit floating yellow nodes connected by strings (Connections?) and ‘Carmina Burana’ was hiding inside the melody (‘O Fortuna, velet luna’). They exited stage left so Kevin Spacey could do a few impersonations. (NOT a fan here; Spacey sneers at America.)

The opening session was very long. It was clearly aimed at the C-suite residents and writers in the bloggers’ pit. There was way too much testimony delivered from talking heads perched on stools. Most of the audience groused  about this on Twitter:


Rank-and-file customers don’t like Torture By Stool. They readily turned to e-mail and Web surfing. There was a blue glow in the back of the hall. Let’s hope Lotusphere 2012 has more shiny things, fewer sport jackets and a better opening act. Last year’s Shatner SO out-rocked this year’s Spacey.

Andrew McAfee, father of ‘Enterprise 2.0’ and major god in the social media pantheon, popped in for ten minutes for another day’s keynote session. A captivating speaker, he dropped several nuggets and two bombs onto the audience:

  • Bomb 1: “Businesses have always been social.” He clearly disapproved of the term ‘social business’ liking his term, ‘enterprise 2.0’ better. Then he said he didn’t really care (best response).
  • Bomb 2: “’Being social benefits business’ is an unproven claim […] There is “no proof” regardless of what McKinsey and academics claim.” Wow!
  • Best Nugget: “our weak ties are incredibly valuable to us.”

I saw many iPads. I brought mine and left my laptop behind. The WiFi was improved over previous years, but there were dead zones during the conference. Some WiFi stats:

  • 3,800 concurrent users
  • 843 iPhones
  • 720 Black Berry devices
  • 458 iPads
  • 142 Androids




IBM had several sessions showcasing its latest release of Connections, version 3.0. They also highlighted some possible features of ‘Connections Next,’ due in late 2011.

Connections 3.0 appears more integrated, like a single solution. The new, shiny UI is less disjointed. Emphasis was on user experience (‘UX,’ not to be confused with ‘UNIX’), activity streams and embedded user experience: the ability to posit Connections features elsewhere (other Lotus products, even Microsoft’s SharePoint). 

Microblogging is very important, and though it is in the Product Managers’ line of sight, it will be awhile before we get what companies desire most. (Can we wait?)

I’m thrilled by these 3.0 goodies:

  • A step closer to microblogging. Nowhere near a SocialCast or Yammer, but now the ‘activity stream’ is easier to find. Activity streams will also go mobile (Apple, Android).
  • ‘Social Analytics’ is IBM’s term for using background process to help people find each other. It is nice to see a degree-of-separation tool like Linkedin has. There is also a colleague suggester that shows why you might be interested in connecting to another person.
  • Communities have a new ‘rich media gallery’ for streamed videos and pictures. Sad to say the video is Flash-based, so I can’t use it on my iDevices.
  • All functionality will be available on a mobile Web version.

‘Connections Next’ (YE2011) might have these features:

  • ‘Idea blogs’ which are really tools for idea jams with voting, Q&A and moderation.
  • Nested Communities. This is a feature I dread. Why? Because it will become a silo-builder, a place for organizations to replicate corporate hierarchies. I know this is a must-have request from many IBM customers, but in this case I wish IBM resisted. Nesting is one of the most-loathed SharePoint features. IBM is opening the door to unnecessary complexity here (Hello? Nested security, anyone?). Dear IBM, sometimes the customer is wrong.
  • Activity streams step closer to de facto industry standard Yammer with search, ‘like’ and tag features.
  • And, possibly, LDAP security. This would ease administration woes most enterprises face when managing groups of people for community-level permission.

Other Things

Sametime IM and telephony will come to mobile devices.  IBM talked about this last year. This year is more of the same, but now with deeper integration into Connections, Notes and LotusLive, IBM’s cloud solution.

LotusLive is really cool. As a frequent user of Google’s cloud offerings for documents, voice and e-mail in his personal life, I see IBM has matched what Google has done and upped the game. Enterprises are reluctant to use Google; they fear Google’s mysterious back-end and its confusing (missing) integration of these important features. CIOs hesitate to even dip a toe in the Google water.

IBM’s does integrate mail, voice and document quite nicely. They also took UX far beyond the Google experience. Frankly, I was startled to see how closely the LotusLive Web version of mail, docs and voice match the two-tier versions. LotusLive makes Google look ‘Etch-A-Sketchy.’

I was delighted to attend a demo of secure enterprise-to-enterprise collaboration with LotusLive. Via partnership with third parties like Skype, Tungle and Espresso, companies can collaborate even if one of them doesn’t have LotusLive. A very nice surprise. Yes, that is ‘social business.’

What I Didn’t See

Yes, there was a lot to get excited about at this year’s Lotusphere, but by their absence, I ‘noticed’ some MIAs:

  • Where was China? You know, that up-and-coming economic powerhouse? As usual, companies from the Americas and Europe were there in droves. I didn’t talk to one person from the People’s Republic there. China is a big part of most global companies’ strategy. I can only ask, is it part of IBM-Lotus?
  • Microsoft. No IE browsers in demos. MS Office wasn’t even an option. SharePoint who? And Windows Mobile isn’t a bullet in IBM’s strategic mobile platforms. I can only speculate the reasons why.
  • Hey, Apple and Google, where were you? They were missing in the vendor showcase. Yes, iOS and Android are IBM target mobile platforms, but it would be appropriate for IBM to give them a Lotusphere voice.

    IBM, your customers seek confidence that you three guys are talking to each other.

  • And the Big Yellow Elephant In The Room, Lotus Notes. Where is the Notes Database-to-Something-Else converter? Notes was essential to corporations in the 90s when they digitized the ‘small data’ in departments. I would say there is as much Notes code as COBOL in the data centers. But Notes has become an anchor, a black hole that consumes IT budget for support. It’s the millstone that keeps enterprises from embracing the cloud. Notes databases are the reason why employees tow laptops behind them on their way home.

    Your customers want to leave Lotus Notes databases. Please help them. Otherwise, Microsoft will.

What I would like to see in 2012

  • More Bird-of-a-Feather (BOF) sessions, and not at 7:00 AM. These are great, but hard to attend.
  • More customer (practitioner) sessions, and in bigger rooms. Please.
  • Less executive testimony; instead, get project leads and evangelists, and in bigger rooms. I had the opportunity to present this week. The room was packed. People were diverted to two overflow rooms.
  • Video recording of all sessions. Almost everyone had to miss some sessions. Yes, we can review the slides later, but this is not enough — we miss the context. All presenters wore a mike and faced a camera. Take the next step and save to a streaming server, please.
  • Malcolm Gladwell,, Keynote Speaker for 2012.
  • Someplace other than Disney. No WiFi in hotels, shrubbery that plays banjo music, pirate songs on the shuttle bus. How about Miami?