Archives for the month of: May, 2008

I’m interested in the disconnect between how we use technology at work and outside of work. The title for this blog entry is a bit misleading. Of course I can use Google at work to search the world outside my employer.  What I can’t do is execute such a broad stroke of a search across all of the data stores in my organization like Notes database, the Intranet portal, Quickplaces, team websites, shared drives on servers, etc. in a Google-like fashion.

When engaged in non-work, web activities I can Google any topic of interest and be presented with thousands (if not millions) of related links, images, maps, downloads ranked according to Google’s secret recipe (PageRank.) I am able to use my Google Reader to keep up-to-date on my favorite blogs and items of interest in the news without having to visit each site individually through RSS feeds. I use Amazon (almost exclusively) as my world wide shopping mall with the added benefit of reading other consumers’ product feedback to help with my purchasing decision; and I reference various Wiki sites when doing research or helping the kids with homework.

I rarely execute a search when at work; although, I recently noticed a search component on our Intranet portal.  As a new employee I’m somewhat overwhelmed by the variety and inconsistency of the data sources available to me. There is no consistent way of knowing what documents are most up-to-date, where the most relevant information is stored, nor what information my colleagues have deemed valuable or otherwise. There aren’t any pull mechanisms in place where I can receive notifications of updates to websites or documents that are important or of interest to me. There aren’t mashups that combine mapping software with photo sharing and social networking. Why is that?

We all recognize the value we receive from the technology that is available to us for our more mundane tasks at home (what did we do before mapping software?) There is such great potential for this technology at work. So, what’s holding us back? Here are some of my thoughts:

  • Large enterprises are slower to adopt newer technology because of lack of understanding its value to the business
  • Social networking sites allow for a sense of anonymity, if preferred which is hard to implement in corporations where accountability rules.
  • There is a powerful cultural shift required to get the value from these tools
  • Open systems require trust of the audience and release of control by knowledge owners
  • There has to be a large enough community of “givers”, not only “takers”
  • We need executive management support along with grassroots champions and evangelists and risk takers
  • We need to tell the right stories and publicly celebrate success
  • We need to be comfortable with failure and learn from it

What is encouraging is that my work is standing up a blog site running on WordPress software and is planning the deployment of a Wiki.  And I anticipate additional availability of new technology to help me be as effective at work as I amat home!

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In the April 28, 2008 edition of FORTUNE magazine, Richard Iklos interviewed Disney CEO Bob Iger about how Disney is doing. What stood out in the article of interest to me (and I think my readers) is his thoughts on the Disney brand. Iger is quoted as saying:

I love classic Mickey, but to kids today, classic Mickey is meaningless.

That’s powerful from the CEO of a company who is better identified by their mousy logo than the elegant script of their founder’s signature.

Along the same lines, Mr. Iger provides some wise words in the balance between being prolific and maintaining a quality product or service in response to the statement that the Disney brand may be dated.

There was a perception that there was too much Disney product in the marketplace. And by the way, the combination of lack of quality and too much product is really deadly.

What caught me was how germane this was to many blogs I read and websites I (used to) visit. We are constantly bombarded with advice on being quick to respond to change and the business\customer that we sometimes sacrifice quality for quantity thereby diluting the entire response and eventually making us irrelevant.

Another point of interest in the interview is the comments Mr. Iger makes with respect to the strong Disney heritage. I’m currently employed by an organization with very rich heritage and colorful family history. Many of the employees I work with have 10, 20, 30 years of tenure with the company. Mr. Iger states:

When you deal with a company that has a great legacy, you deal with decisions and conflicts that arise from the clash of heritage vs. innovation vs. relevance. I’m a big believer in respect for heritage, but I’m also a big believer in the need to innovate and the need to balance that respect for heritage with a need to be relevant.

These words caught my attention in that the people I am working with recognize that they are thirsty for new experiences and innovation in the organization. And instead of living with that thirst they are open to taking a drink from the cup of new ideas and experimentation. As a new employee with some of these “new ideas” I have to balance my urge to turn on the firehose with a “respect for heritage.” So far, so good.