Categories
Startup Life

OK, maybe you Got It, but will They?

Hmmm… maybe one more change
Most of my posts take a few days to write. I tend to write my first draft as a collection of thoughts and then start piecing them together. Most times, I sleep on it and return with different thoughts and maybe even a different perspective. Sometimes, especially when I’ve recorded my sketches and voice over, I may redo everything. That’s a tougher decision to make because of all the effort involved in creating those things. And finally, sometimes I’ll go through the whole cycle again simply because I inadvertently fell asleep putting the kids – Sara (11) and Alex (7) to bed. That too may result in an update since my best ideas usually come to me when I’m away from the keyboard and completely mellowed out with them.

Sticky?
I have a few ideas rumbling around in my head that I think are pretty slick. They’re actually quite simple. But that’s in my mind. You see I’ve spend quite a few nights snuggling with Sara & Alex, so I’ve gone through the above scenario more than once.

Pitching an idea is an art. I’ve been in a start-up before & was always fascinated by how the pitches were modified based on the audience. So whether I want to bounce the idea off of a friend, or colleague, or, am pinned to give the proverbial elevator pitch to a VP, it has to be good. It has to stick.

So I’m now reading Chip and Dan Heath’s book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die and have to admit, it is sticky. I am without a doubt more conscientious about how I express myself.

Beyond ‘Getting It’
But… Didn’t you ever wonder if you actually “got it”? Didn’t you ever wonder if you were able to do it justice? If the author, teacher, mentor were to review your work, would you get a 🙂 out of them?

Depending on the situation, following through with that new approach can be a leap of faith. You get one shot to make your pitch. Are you going to risk it all on;

  1. Did you get it?
  2. Did you do it justice in your preparation? Or,
  3. Did you even take the right advice?

Here’s a little story
We have an amazing instant messaging tool – IBM’s Lotus Sametime, which lets you find anyone working in the company – IBM . Like many of these tools, it has Presence Awareness – you can tell everyone whether you’re “Available”, “Away from the computer now”, “In a meeting”… yada yada yada. But not like any other competing tools I’ve experienced, you can also see where anybody is in the organization chart, who they report to, their title, piers, who reports to them and loads more.

A few months ago I was looking for a new job within IBM and was chatting with my colleague Angus Mcintyre. Angus pointed me to a few other names that may be able to help me out. I usually check their info first before pinging them (checking if they could chat) but this time I forgot. I pinged Jeff Schick, a VP. Normally I would never ping so high up in the food chain but what was done was done. So I forged on.

By the end of the day I had a 30 minute phone call scheduled with Jeff at 7 AM – the next morning. I really wish I would’ve read the Heath brothers’ book back then. But, I was in the middle of another excellent book – Dan Roam’s The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures which I blogged about in Lots of pictures. I stayed up till 3 AM sketching my brains out trying to figure out how am I going to get my message across. To be clear, let’s review the situation:

  • I have a VP
  • He’s never heard of me before
  • I was persistent with his assistant to get any time on his calendar. (In a company of more than 390,000 employees, we are actually encouraged to be “persistent”. But one never knows for sure how its received.)
  • He was going out his way to talk to me
  • It was 7 AM
  • I had less than 30 minutes

I took that leap of faith & trusted that I had gotten enough of the book to pull it off. I sketched my last 20 years of experience in one image and called it “How [my profile image] came to [Jeff’s profile image] and Why”. I set up an ad hoc meeting with Sametime Unyte to share the image with Jeff and Sametime’ed (sent him an instant message with) the web site address (URL). Snafu. Jeff pushed back. It was too early in the morning for this sort of thing. So, I immediately apologized and backed off. I said he could just close the window but I’ll keep mine open because I’m sure the answer to any question he has in there somewhere.

It wasn’t easy and to this day I have no idea if Jeff actually saw my work or not. I do know that his first question was something like “So how did you come to me & what can I do to help you out?” It was an awesome phone call and I certainly did achieve some results.

Netting it out. Can you do it?
Another colleague of mine, Claudia Mueller Thompson, once advised me that you’ve got to net it out for execs. Don’t ever send them flowing prose in email expecting them to scroll and scroll through your War & Peace email. Make it one sentence – preferably with no punctuation. These folks are constantly being bombarded with distractions. They could easily have someone in their office, already be on a conference call and have Sametime chat windows firing off like popcorn.

So if you – the genius behind your idea, can’t net it out in less than one sentence, then how do you expect the person on the receiving end to Get It?

Imagine test driving your one-liner elevator pitches
Imagine you were posting something that, if done right, could really help your career. I’m sure you can because that’s apparently one of the reasons why people blog. (I wish I could find that link again.)

Try doing this. You could create a survey (for free) at SurveyMonkey and

  1. Add the link to your blog, or email message
  2. Use Twitter to broadcast it

Thanks to Michael Stelzner for introducing me to SurveyMonkey.

Please take my survey Which one of these titles is the stickiest?.

Be sure to follow me on http://twitter.com/stevenmilstein and I’ll tweet whenever I get results.

Reflection
Can you see yourself doing something like this? Give it a shot & please come back to let me know how it worked out for you. In the meantime, I’ll be more than happy to respond to your survey. And if we collaborate, then the next time you question whether you can net it out or not, you know the answer will be Yes We Can. Sorry, I just couldn’t help my self 🙂

Categories
Social Software

Focusing and Scaling Your Activities with IBM Lotus Greenhouse Connections

How to better focus and socially scale your activities using IBM Lotus Greenhouse Connections Activities

Sample IBM Lotus Greenhouse Connections Activities using Chris Brogan's New Marketing Bootcamp
Sample Activities using Chris Brogan's New Marketing Bootcamp
Who would use Activities

For those of you would-be social networkers out there, here’s a simple post about how to use Activities as a collaboration tool.

What is Activities

While many of us use email for many of our collaboration efforts, Activities may prove to be more efficient and effective. Aside from sharing many of the same attributes of email messages, one of the advantages of Activities is that its helps you focus on a common goal, or, objective. Similar to an email thread but more focused like a mini-project management tool. Just like email, Activities can have attachments but they should simply provide supporting data and would not be the focal point. The Activity is the focal point.

Where are the Activities

In my earlier The Funny Thing About Leaving Comments post I discussed the reasoning for using Chris Brogan’s Bootcamp as an example for my subsequent posts. As a result, I created
New Marketing Bootcamp in IBM’s Lotus Greenhosue Activities. At the time of this writing, the Activity is Public (I’ll ellaborate more on that later), which means once you’re registered in Greenhouse, anyone can access the Activity. See my earlier My Five Ws of IBM’s Lotus Greenhouse in less than 10 minutes post for some more background and registration.

How-to create the Activities

Here’s my yourtube video which through the magic of copying & pasting from Question for You While Preparing for 2009, Camtasia editing and clip-speed, I managed to reduce the effort to 2 minutes.

Why would I want to create Activities

So why not simply create a document or spreadsheet and email that around? Well,

  1. For starters, I may want to share it with my community of followers in my social network & I just may not have all their email addresses.
  2. My email may not be welcome by all, or, interpretted as spam
  3. and perhaps most importantly – versioning. There’s a direct correlation between the effort required to manage a document’s version and the number of contributors it has.
  4. Signal-to-Noise Ratio: Garr Reynolds, describes this in his presentationzen book on slide creation, as

    … the ratio of relevant to irrelevent elements or information in a slide or other display. People have a hard time coping with excessive cognitive strain.

    For our purposes, replace “slide” with “email message”. How many times have you seen someone hijack an email thread, taking it in a different direction than the original subject text?

So why would I use Activities when I can simply post my activities in my blog & read the feedback? While blogging is a great way to publish information, its not the best collaboration tool, nor can it scale socially.

When‘s a good time to create Activities

Personally, I would use start using Activities once you intend on collaborating with others. With the mechanism in place, you can start scaling not only your activities’s content but ownership as well. In my post, I’ll introduce you to a few communication tools that will certainly contribute to your social scaling efforts.

Reflection
As always, all comments are welcome. I’d love to see your comments about similar platforms like – Yammer, Present.ly, Basecamp, Central Desktop, and Producteev. Thanks in advance to Dom Derrien for pointing these out to me.

Categories
Social Software

IBM Lotus Greenhouse Connections, Stickmen and Communities

How a social networking stickman can use IBM’s Lotus Connections to better server a community, or, enterprise – for free

Social Networking Stickman
Social Networking Stickman
Who

In my previous post – My Five Ws of IBM’s Lotus Greenhouse in less than 10 minutes, I introduced you to Greenhouse and hopefully, got you underway in the registration process. So now, for all you would-be social networking stickmen out there, let’s see what free tools we can exploit.

Getting Into Connections

What

For starters, once you log into Greenhouse, click on the IBM Lotus Connections link and you’ll brought to a typical portal looking page. The page should resemble familiar sites like Yahoo! with the added usability of customizing your page like iGoogle.

Here’s what you should be seeing:

  1. Profiles: The Facebook of Connections where you maintain your own profile, network with others and link with colleagues and their content. Take a few extra minutes and check out Chris Brogan‘s advice in Write Your LinkedIn Profile for Your Future. My personal favorites are about describing more about what you want to do most and your choice of photos.
  2. Blogs: Personal journals sequenced by most current entries that potentially allow readers to leave comments.
  3. Communities: Your own collection of member profiles sharing discussion forums, bookmarks and feeds, as described in My Five Ws of RSS in less than 10 minutes (video included)
  4. Activities: A novel alternative to email where you can share content, documents and comments around a specific activity, including To-Do’s with dates.
  5. Dogear: You can share, or, not, your choice bookmarks – just like Delicious, or, Digg, but integrated with your community.
Where

Now keep in mind where you are at this point. You logged into Greenhouse and as a result anything you do inside Greenhouse will not show up when you Google for it. Perhaps more importantly, all the Greenhouse feeds available to you are pretty much restricted to internal Greenhouse use. The problem is typical news readers – like Google Reader do not account for credentials – no pun intended. Go ahead and try adding one of your Greenhouse feeds to Google

Google Reader and a Greenhouse Feed
Google Reader and a Greenhouse Feed

and please let me know if you have better results than I do.

When

Don’t get me wrong. This is not a showstopper and should not prevent you from moving forward now. As a matter of fact, anyone wanting to adopt social software in the workplace will have the same issue. This is a good thing. Enterprises and Information Technology (IT) folks call this Security and once you’re logged into Greenhouse your entries are encrypted with something called Secure Sockets Layers (SSL), which means, among other things, unintended eyes cannot see what you post. Notice the “s” in https://greenhouse.lotus.com?

Why / How

Perhaps the most compelling reason for me to use Greenhouse Connections is the concept of community which I hope is communicated in my following video.

Now in order to have a Community, you need to have Members. You can only select Members from existing Greenhouse Profiles. Once you have your list of folks who can access your content, you can then determine what privileges they have. privileges depend on the Memberships Roles you assign and vary among Owners, Authors and Readers.

So how do we work around the problem of getting the most out of feeds if we can’t add those from Greenhouse to our readers? Here’ one I’m experimenting with a start-up project. Since all the members are into, or, are getting into Twitter, I set up a FriendFeed account and created a private Room for the members to communicate. We keep all our community-related content inside our members-only Greenhouse Connections Community and only use FriendFeed for notification purposes. It’s going OK, but I thinking of switching over to GroupTweet because its simpler. Sometime less features is just better.

Reflection
Please let me know if you have any trouble following my instructions, hit a snafu along the way, or, simply have any of your own suggestions / alternatives. Especially if you have alternatives 🙂

Categories
Social Software

My Five Ws of IBM’s Lotus Greenhouse in less than 10 minutes

Use IBM’s Lotus Collaboration Products for free, including Lotus Connections for social networking.

Inside Registered Greenhouse

Who

I’ve been blogging, or, talking about IBM’s Lotus Greenhouse for a while now, but have yet to deliver a scenario that folks can relate to. So for all of you out there that have a desire to know more about social software and maybe even start testing the waters, this series of posts is for you.

Why

Most of my friends and colleagues think social software is limited to blogging. Some consider video sharing like youtube. Some know about bookmark sharing like delicious. Some may consider podcasts in there. Perhaps even fewer know about slideshare. I don’t know of any them that consider leaving comments on retailers’ site as being “social”. And again, none of them would consider some form of project management as a social activity.

Now, what’s nice about IBM’s Lotus Greenhouse is that it offers all of these capabilities and more, for free. Why? I can think of two good reasons why IBM let’s you use their production, backed-up software for free:

  1. Outside-in software development: There’s a big push within Big Blue to get more feedback from stakeholders outside the lab into the lab. Greenhouse has a whack of forums for members to provide feedback, or, get help. This goes hand-in-hand with another big push in Big Blue: Agile, or, scrum software development. In very brief terms, this means developing high value chunks of executable software in short iterations cycles – like two weeks, demonstrating it to stakeholders, getting feedback, reflecting on the experience & then moving forward. The objective is to mitigate the risk in developing software no one except the developers think is necessary. (Perhaps now’s a good time to point you to the Disclaimer on my sidebar.)
  2. As the site says:

    Bluehouse is the code name for a first-of-its-kind, IBM® software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering. “Bluehouse” is an innovative and powerfully intuitive set of business services integrated with robust social networking capabilities, which enable users to collaborate quickly and efficiently work with others outside or inside the firewall.

    So my guess is, if you get hooked on Greenhouse & are reaping the benefits from it, then you would consider going for the full-meal deal with the Bluehouse hosted solution. Makes sense to me!

What

Glancing at the Inside Greenhouse image above, you can tell there’s a lot going on here. But I did say in my last The Funny Thing About Leaving Comments post that I was going to use Chris Brogan‘s Question for You While Preparing for 2009 getting started scenario. So that’s what we’re going to focus on moving forward – for now.

Where/How

Join Now In order to move forward, you do need to register by clicking Join and filling out the Self Nomination page. Now there’s a few things you should be aware of when registering:

  1. You cannot change the following after you register:
    1. E-mail address
    2. First Name
    3. Last Name
  2. I honestly don’t know if it helps any of us, but I can’t imagine it could hurt, so, feel free to use my name as Your IBM Contact

The first point really tripped me up. As a result, I now have an account with my IBM email address, first & last name and another one with my stevenmilstein.com email address with first name “S” and last name “StevenMilstein”. I’m trying to get this resolved since I have more control over the fate of my stevenmilstein.com email address, as opposed to, my IBM one.

When

Registration is not automatic. I think there’s a human intervening on the other end. So the sooner you register the sooner you can get started.

Please let me know if you have any trouble following my instructions, or, hit a snafu along the way.

Categories
Social Software Startup Life

The Basis for a Social Experiment

Agile Social Software Compass
Agile Social Software Compass

Basis for my outside-in social software experiment, benefiting non-techies and the developers who write this stuff.

The Basis
In the spring of 2008, I read Outside-in Software Development: A Practical Approach to Building Successful Stakeholder-Based Products by John Sweitzer and Carl Kessler of IBM’s Software Group and having a software developer’s background myself, was truly inspired. So much so, that I reached out to Carl Kessler (one of the huge perks about being an IBM’er – we can do things like that) and asked him if he knew where I could gain some practical experience as a Product Owner with a team actually practicing outside-in agile software development. I was hooked up with a team in a matter of days and truly had a great experience.

The Social Aspect
Since then, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time following the Forward Thinkers on my sidebar to the right, as well as, a few of the books (under Pivotal Moments) they introduced me to. Pretty soon I noticed the connection between outside-in software development, the agile/scrum software development process and social software.

Without getting into the specifics of each, the one common thread shared by all was that true business value, or, success, could only be achieved when the community/tribe worked together to achieve their common goal.

The state of affairs
Now while I work for IBM, I don’t work for Lotus – the keepers of IBM’s social software, nor do I work in the brand of the VPs mentioned above. I’m not in sales, nor am I in marketing. Take a look at my brief About – I’m a business analyst in Rational. I have no sphere of influence on any of those other brands

The experiment
So what I’d like to do – with your help of course, is starting from outside of Big Blue, put together a simple scenario where we feel social software will provide true business value for all stakeholders concerned. And by Stakeholders, I mean you, me, and the community/tribe we assemble. Since I am outside the trusted firewall, have my Disclaimer in the Sidebar and am secure with our Business Conduct Guidelines, this tribe is not restricted to IBM’s software development community. Anyone from any software development community can become a stakeholder.

Defining success
Like any experiment, or, project, we need a deliverable – something that can be measured. Something that we as stakeholders can say defines success. Here’s my suggestion: We, as stakeholders, want to deploy a social network with a specific non-technical mandate, using IBM’s social software, so that we can achieve our goal while contributing to the greater outside-in social software development community.

Up Next
In the coming posts, I’ll describe the non-technical mandate I have in mind and then how we’re going to experiment with IBM’s latest social software offerings – for free, no obligations, no spam, no hardware required.

Until then, if you already have a simple, non-technical goal you’d like to achieve by implementing a social network, please let me know so we can compare notes.