How To Build Innovation Networks

May 20, 2009

According to David Strom, a web/tech expert…

“Burger King ran a promotion not too long ago where they asked people to defriend 10 Facebook friends in order to get a coupon for a free burger. They were swamped with thousands of requests, thereby establishing the value of a friend at somewhere around a quarter. That is pretty depressing. I always thought a friend was worth at least a couple of bucks, if not more.”

This got me thinking.  How do we value friends?  And are all friends valued the same way? I have nearly 400 Facebook friends.  I try to only befriend people I really know.  But admittedly, some are friends of friends and I don’t know them at all.  In reality, there are only a handful of people that truly interest me.

My experience mimics that suggested in this fascinating article on how the virtual Facebook world mimics the physical world.  Although we may have hundreds of friends on Facebook, there are indeed only a handful that we maintain intimate relationships with.

Dr Robin Dunbar once suggested that humans can only have a stable network of about 150 people, also known as “the Dunbar number.”

The article shares some interesting statistics…

  • The average person has 120 Facebook friends.  This is interestingly quite close to the Dunbar number.
  • Men generally respond to postings of only 7 of those friends by leaving comments on photos, status messages or “the wall”.  Woman respond to 10 friends.
  • With two-way communication, men only chat/email with 4 people, while women communicate with 6.
  • Among those Facebook users with 500 friends, these numbers are only slightly higher (but not proportionally higher). Men leave comments for 17 friends, women for 26. Men communicate with ten, women with 16.

I find this quite interesting.  And it has interesting implications for building innovation networks and communities.

When working with an organization, I often put in place innovation “Centers of Excellence” and “Communities of Practice.” We find these are very helpful in spreading the innovation gospel into smaller, more manageable sized groups.  The research above demonstrates to me why it works so well.

While at Accenture (then Andersen Consulting), we used a similar model to build the skills of the consultants. My area was called “Process Excellence” and involved the building of innovation skills.

We created a Process Excellence Center of Excellence with 100 people.  These uber-experts were dedicated 100% to our team.  We had responsibility for their professional development and the P&L of the group.  We even split these into smaller groups based on geography and specific competencies.  This created even smaller, more cohesive groups.

We then developed a “Community of Practice Leadership Group.”  This group was comprised of 30 people. These individuals were dedicated to other parts of the business (mainly industry programs).  We were only responsible for giving them to tools necessary to lead their communities.  Leaders were selected based on their existing Process Excellence skills and their geography.

Each leader had about 50 people on average, giving us about 1,500 people in the Process Excellence Community of Practice.

At the lowest level, we had 20,000 consultants that were recipients of the training that was developed by the Center of Excellence and delivered by 150 experts hand-selected from the Community of Practice.  These sessions were delivered in small group settings with a dedicated point of contact available for post-training follow-up and mentoring.

Using this approach, we developed a powerful 20,000 person practice in only a matter of months.  Although this group accounted for almost 40% of the consultants in the company, it was one of the most active and sought after communities.

Instead of trying to create huge, faceless groups, look for opportunities to build smaller, more active communities.  Find ways to create intimate relationships between employees, customers, and vendors.

Look at your networks.  Is there an abundance of activity and dialogue?  If not, you may want to look at the sizes of your teams.  Yes, size does matter.

If you have not yet read my article published in the European Business Forum, be sure to read it now.  It gives more insights into this “community” concept.

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What’s Your Twitter Personality Style?

May 18, 2009

After giving a presentation last week on Personality Poker to a client, one of the other speakers discussed social media and Twitter.  The emcee for the event asked me to comment on which personality style uses Twitter.

My response was, “All of them.  But WHY they Twitter and HOW they Twitter differs.”

We designed Personality Poker to focus on attributes rather than activities.  The reason is that activities do not differentiate personality styles, motivations do.

Nearly everyone reads.  You are reading this blog.  Maybe you read books.  Maybe you only read toothpaste tubes.  It doesn’t matter what you read.  The fact that you read is less interesting than WHY you read.  This  may give insight into your style.  Do you read to learn as much as possible?  If so, you might be an analytical “spade.” Experiential “diamonds” may read to escape.  Competitive “clubs” may read to make them more successful. Emotional “hearts” may read romance novels (I’m joking about this one…maybe).  Of course this is a broad generalization.  In reality, we read for different reasons at different times.

HOW we do what we do also helps us understand our personality.

I am primarily a “high diamond.”  That means I love new experiences.  Travel is my favorite activity.  I am thrilled to be returning to Copenhagen and Greece to speak next week.  What is interesting is HOW I plan my travel.  Although I knew about this trip for many months now, I just made my flight reservations an hour ago.  I still haven’t booked my hotels.  Spontaneity is a cornerstone of my personality (which admittedly is a strength and weakness).  Many people travel.  But HOW we travel may differ.  For example, clubs (especially “low” clubs who are methodical), would have everything planned out well in advance.

So WHY we do things and HOW we do things are indicators of our style.  Not what we do.

So back to Twitter.

If you were to assess who Twitters, I suspect you would find a good cross section of people.  I know many who are competitive clubs and Twitter to help them be successful.  The heart-oriented Twitters are more interested in the connection with other human beings.  Spades may be more data gatherers. Diamonds may be using Twitter because it is new and cool.

I’m a diamond.  I don’t Twitter to become more successful or grow my business (the club style), although that would be nice.  I don’t Twitter to build relationships with people (the heart style), although that too would be nice.  My motivations fall more into the spade (my secondary style) and diamond (my primary style).  I spend more time reading tweets than writing them  And I tend to read more about topics than people.

I use Tweetdeck.  This software allows you to create columns with filters.  For me, my first filter is the word “innovation.”  Anyone who uses the word innovation in a tweet shows up in that column, even if I don’t follow them.  The next column is Boston.  I am interested in my community and the “cool things” going on (a very diamond attribute).  The next column is Boston Innovation.  Finally I get to my friends status updates, replies and direct messages.  The other columns change over time and often feature a client’s name.  Click the image above to see my Tweetdeck.  And no, your eyes are not going bad.  I blurred out the conversations…

Based on WHY I tweet and HOW I tweet, you might get a good sense of my personality style.

Based on the limited information provided in this article, I would love for you to answer the following 3 questions:

  • What do you think is your primary style (analytical spades, creative/experiential diamonds, methodical/competitive clubs, people-oriented hearts?
  • Why do you Twitter?
  • How do you Twitter?

I plan on doing more formal studies on Twitter personality styles in the future.

P.S. I love this story…The other day I did a Personality Poker session with a client.  Someone in the room came to me with their hand – a combination of hearts (lovers of people and relationships) and “high” clubs (lovers of action and competition).  He laughed and said, “I love to play tennis.  And I love to kick the butt of my opponent (a typical high club attribute).  But afterward I feel bad for the person I beat (a heart attribute).”

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Getting A Good Seat on a Plane

May 15, 2009

Being a frequent traveler, I am always looking for creative ways to get the best seat on a plane.

Because of the extra leg room, the obvious selections are the exit rows.  That is, IF your seat reclines.  If there are two exit rows next to each other (e.g., rows 10 and 11), the first one (row 10) will typically not recline.  This makes the next row (in this example, row 11) much more desirable because not only does your seat back recline, but the the person in front of you can’t, giving you even more leg room.

Less obvious is how to book the best seat.  This is my favorite tip….

When booking my flight, I never select a seat in an empty row (assuming the plane is the standard 3/3 configuration).  I always book a window seat in a row where the aisle is already filled, but the middle seat is empty.  Why?  Because if the entire row is empty, a couple traveling together will often fill the aisle and center seat.  With the exception of one flight which was 100% booked solid, using this strategy has yielded an empty seat next to me on all flights…even on the most crowded planes.

I do prefer seats near the back of the plane.  Yes, it takes a bit longer to get off the plane (literally only a few minutes), but I have a much better chance of getting my carry on luggage overhead meaning it is less likely that I will have to gate check it.  Most planes board the back of the plane first getting you and your luggage on the plane earlier.  I prefer window seats because then I do not have to get up every time  others in my row want to use the lavatory.

I do, on occasion, upgrade myself to “economy plus” (and its equivalent).  For as little as $25, you can get extra leg room.  But more importantly, on crowded flights, these seats are often the last to get filled, since they hold them for customers who want to pay extra.  So once again, you have a better chance of getting an aisle or window (if only center seats are available in regular economy) and you increase the odds of having an empty seat next to you.

Possibly the most important step is to check in online as close to 24 hours before your flight departs.  In doing this, you can get seats that were not available when you booked your flight (the airline blocks the reservation of some seats, including some exit rows, until check in). And once again, you can select a row where the aisle is already booked and the middle seat is empty, nearly assuring you an empty seat next to you.

Happy travels.

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Podcast: Creating Innovative Products

May 14, 2009

How do you create products that sell themselves? That is what I will be speaking about at the National Speakers Association (NSA) national convention in Phoenix, AZ this summer.

As a way of promoting that event, I was interviewed by professional MC, Camille Valvo, for the “Voices of Experience.” This audio CD is sent to all members of the National Speakers Association.

Although this 8 minute interview (which you can listen to below) is targeted at professional speakers, the concepts apply to anyone in any industry. After discussing the innovation bell curve and its relevance to the speaking business, I talk about how to create…

What is interesting is that these two products were created “by accident.”

Personality Poker® was originally developed as an innovation tool for me to use with my corporate clients and in my keynote speeches. Inevitably, participants at my events would ask where they could buy the poker cards and the accompanying instruction manual. Instruction manual? I never planned to write one because I never planned to sell the cards. However, I decided to give my customers what they wanted. The first version of the instruction manual was pretty rough but was available within a month. The current version took quite a bit longer. The next version will be available September 2010, but more on that another time.

“The Little Book of BIG Innovation Ideas” was originally conceived as pamphlet. It was going to be 25 tips condensed into a booklet small enough to fit in a jacket’s breast pocket. Each tip would be 3 sentences long. What I discovered was that I had a difficult time choosing only 25 tips. And I had a more difficult time limiting each tip to just a paragraph. The result would have been trite sound bites. But I liked the idea of cataloging my 20+ years of experience into a series of tips. So during my spare time, I continued to write my thoughts in a Word document. I eventually pulled together 75 tips, each between one and two pages in length. I never expected to turn the Word document into a salable product.  But my clients loved the content and wanted to buy copies for the attendees of their events.  So, once again, I decided to listen to my customers and to give them what they wanted.  Interestingly, the current book cover was designed by one of my clients.

In just 9 months I have gone through 1,500 decks of poker cards (enough for 12,000 people), and over the past 18 months I have sold thousands of copies of the “Little Book.” Not bad for two accidental products.

The interview is not a sales pitch.  We do not focus on the products, but rather the thought process I went through in developing them. The purpose is to help people think differently about their products…and to help promote the NSA convention.

Stream the interview…

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Download the mp3 (right click and “save target as” to download to your computer)

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Small Business Radio Interview

May 11, 2009

Today I was interviewed on “The Small Business Advocate” with Jim Blasingame. This internet radio show address a wide range of topics of interest, no surprise, to small businesses. This was my 4th time on his show, and I honestly believe that Jim is one of the best interviewers out there.

On this morning’s show, I spoke about Innovation Personality Poker. And in particular, I spoke about how to create high performing innovation teams by getting each person aligned with their innovation strength.  Be sure to listen in…

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Online Marketing Wisdom

May 6, 2009

Yesterday I attended the Online Marketing Summit. The day consisted of 3 parallel conversations on various online marketing topics ranging from blogging, twitter, social media, viral marketing, search engine optimization and web page design.

During the event, I was twittering some interesting quotes/statistics (follow me on twitter). What was really cool was that everyone else who was twittering was using the #oms hash tag, so it was easy to follow the conversation of other attendees…and even meet up with fellow tweeters in person during the breaks.

Here is a summary of my tweets from the day:

  • Average twitter user spends nearly 3 hours a day on twitter! How do they get any work done????
  • Employee bloggers are 5 times more credible than CEO bloggers.
  • Use language of customer in web copy (keep it simple) and “burn the thesaurus.”
  • Blog for search not community, dialogue or subscriptions. Greatest value is in getting first time visitors.
  • Office Depot boosted paid search revenue 200% by incorporating customer reviews in ad text
  • “99% of B2B buying is about covering your butt”
  • MarketingSherpa raised conversion rates by 39% by adding offers to their Thank You page (after a sale). The up-sell works nicely in the online world too.
  • Nearly half of all businesses (49%) use marketing to get new customers. Next most frequent use of marketing is customer retention.
  • 25% of companies have reduced marketing budgets. 25% have not changed their budgets and 50% have reduced marketing spending.
  • 60% of people visiting your website are spectators. 37% are critics. 21% creators. The rest are collectors, joiners and inactive.
  • 73% of people in the world are online. The United States accounts for 17% of all users, Europe 26% and Asia 40%.
  • Someone who comments on your blog is 80% more likely to buy your product or service than a casual browser.

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Innovation and Roller Coasters

May 1, 2009

Here’s a 1 minute video clip from a speech I gave a year ago in Denmark. It compares the movement of innovation efforts in companies to the movement of old, wooden roller coasters.

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