Disrupt Sydney 2016 – Not to Take Anything for Granted 

Q&A with SWOOP Co-Founder Dr Laurence Lock Lee after attending and presenting at “Disrupt Sydney” on 23 September, 2016. Disrupt Sydney is a one-day annual conference organised by the University of Sydney which aims to discuss and debate (digital) disruption.

What is digital disruption and why is it important for organisations? 

Here is the definition used by the event organisers:

“Digital disruption refers to changes enabled by digital technologies that occur at a pace and magnitude that disrupt established ways of value creation, social interactions, doing business and more generally our thinking” 

This event is in its 4th Edition and was big news at its initiation. In his introduction, the founder of the event Prof. Kai Reimer bemoaned the fact that the term has since been ‘hijacked’ by mainstream media, declaring just about anything as a digital disruption. But the strong attendance suggests that many of us are excited by the potential for significant change to the status quo, whatever the label.

Can you share any conference tips to leverage digital disruption?

I think the biggest tip would be “not to take anything for granted!” We had several speakers challenge the audience with findings from their own research and experiences. Statements like “Brainstorming meetings are a waste of time”, “Open offices are bad for you”, “Multi-discipline teams don’t work”, “Games make failure fun”, “It’s very difficult to live in the share economy “, “Blockchain claims are all lies”; kept us on our toes.

How will you implement any of the learnings at SWOOP?

I co-facilitated a workshop session on “Disrupting Traditional Business Intelligence Systems with Social Data”. My claim was that traditional data warehouse based business intelligence systems had changed little since the 1970s and were costly to build and of questionable value; and therefore ripe for disruption. My disruptive proposition was that we should move the emphasis to the execution stage, using social analytics to monitor whether insights were engaging the collaborators required to take an action. We had 4 teams work through their disruptive ideas covering the full scope of BI. Some key points that I took away were firstly that no piece of intelligence will be universally accepted by all, no matter how robust the intelligence gathering process is. The Climate Change debate was mentioned as proof of that! The second is that in order to engage disinterested stakeholders we may need to employ some gamification tactics. Both of these points reinforce the directions we are taking with SWOOP via the use of gamification to better communicate our social analytics messages.

Who was your stand out presenter and why?

Well to be fair the question should be “other than Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki ”. Of course Dr. Karl is a recognised national treasure for his abilities to communicate about science. He even did a reasonable job of trying to explain Blockchain…the biggest technological black box in history!

I liked Claire Marshall’s talk on her experiment with living in the share economy in London for a full month! She met some tremendous ‘giving’ people but found it hard to earn a living through the freelancing sites. Basically it was hard work to win and then do the work; for not much.

What was most exciting for you to hear?

Of all of Dr. Karl’s stories, the one I remember most was something about Russian submarines surfacing from under Arctic ice for 30+ years at the same time and place. They were able to support the climate change claims based on the thickness of the ice that they had to break through each year, getting less and less.

Stand out conference insight

I was excited to hear a detractor for Blockchain. As we know Blockchain is the next ‘big thing’ and there was a panel on non-financial uses of Blockchain. Dr. Karl facilitated the session and tried to simplify the concept for the audience. But in the end it sounded like you needed to be a mathematical geek to make any sense of how it could work. The detractor was an acknowledged ‘Mathematical geek’. I’m not that fond of ‘black box’ solutions as you can see.

What other question would you ask yourself?

None. You’ve done a great job!

Anything else you’d like to add?

Only that this has been my first time at the event, and will definitely be back next year. Perhaps with a story from the joint research we are conducting with the Digital Disruption Research Group (the organisers of the event).


Looking Beyond the Product to the Purpose: MS Office 365 Groups

Need a conversation starter? How about the Mac vs PC? IPhone vs Galaxy? Facebook vs Twitter? Beach vs Mountains? Clinton vs Trump? Nothing better to while away a few hours than an animated conversation and debate about why I might prefer one product over another. We all know in the end that despite extensive reported analyses and feature lists and the like, our choices are likely deeper than a simple feature by feature trade-off. It’s much subtler than that. An Apple zealot is aligning with Apple’s stated core purpose; its user experience mantra. People will keep lining up outside Apple stores as long as Apple can sustain its mantra. A swipe instead of a click may not seem much, but for an Apple zealot it reinforces their strong preferences to buy Apple.

These were the thoughts going through my mind as I took the deep dive to try and understand what Microsoft’s Office 365 Groups was really all about. Like most Yammer followers I fear the day when Yammer groups might be replaced by some generic “one size fits all” group structure. Of course Microsoft are quick to point out that O365 Groups are not a product but a “Groups Service”. I then spent over an hour listening to a Benjamin Niaulin more in depth webinar on the ‘product’. Benjamin used slightly more colourful terminology like a ‘fabric’ or ‘experience’ to describe O365 Groups. Yes, it appears like the ultimate ‘plug and play’ for groups. And like Benjamin, I believe there is a lot of positives to be said about the O365 Groups vision, if indeed Microsoft are able to get the ‘plumbing’ right. But I was still left with one nagging concern. As a long term Yammer supporter I believed in the purpose of the founders. I could forgive some deficiencies (I can’t edit a post I made…really?) because I felt that our purposes were aligned and therefore on the whole, the pluses would far outweigh the minuses. O365 Groups felt like Head Office had come to invade my world for the ‘greater good’. While I’m fully supportive of the ‘greater good’; could we just ensure that no ‘babies are thrown out with the bath water here?’.

Benjamin Niaulin did a great job of promoting the O365 Groups’ ‘Experience’ over the underlying products, imploring us to think in terms of user experience rather than Yammer, Sharepoint, Outlook, Skype etc.; which brings me to the point about ‘purpose over product’. Our experiences are largely driven by purpose, which is also impacted, but not totally directed, by our work roles. In our work analysing organisational networks  we regularly see collaboration patterns following the formal organisational structures. This reinforces to us that work is being conducted as designed by the organisation. However, it’s far from black and white. We also just as regularly see informal patterns of collaboration that are utterly invisible to the senior management. Is this non-compliance? Sometimes it is. More regularly though, it’s simply people being people and improvising around the formal lines of business, to fulfil their needs and purposes.

So if O365 Groups is to fulfil the promise of a customisable user experience one must look below the product features of the underlying products, through to the core purpose of what that product was created for in the first place. With many of these product components now having been acquired by Microsoft, it is important to not lose what made these products attractive in the first place. With this in mind the O365 Groups’ ‘Experience’ can build on the strengths of these products, rather than what many of us fear; a compromise solution that will detract from the experiences that we have worked hard to achieve in the pre-O365 Groups world.

For me it would be as simple as sitting down with some lead users and developers of the underlying product suite and asking questions like (with my answers for Yammer as an example):

  1. What core principles do you think this product’s designers had when they first developed the product?”
    • Not a hard one. I believe ‘networking and community’ is the core theme
  2. “What are some core features that to you exemplify the core purpose?”
    • The ability for anyone in the organisation to create and self-manage a group/community, without management oversight, is a core feature for community.
  3. “What was the core business problem that you believe these designers had in mind?”
    • As evidenced by the post-acquisition activities of the Yammer founders, the ‘Unresponsive Organisation’ was a key business target
  4. “What current features/use cases have been added for convenience more so that reinforce the core purposes?”
    • I think some of the features to ‘compete’ with shorter term team collaboration options e.g. instant messaging (now gone anyway), high frequency email alerts (though can be controlled). Perhaps security is another; do we really need private groups in Yammer?
  5. “What are the 3 most important new core purpose features you would like to see irrespective of the Office 365 Groups charter?”
    • With a focus on reinforcing the core ‘networking and community’ purpose, I would like to see a stronger focus on facilitating deeper relationships in communities. Also it’s important that communities do not become siloes in their own right, so some visibility of interconnectedness (or otherwise) between groups/communities is important. Thirdly, perhaps extending the group admin features to cater for differing group/community leadership roles like conversation moderator, content manager, event organiser etc..

If we were to complete a similar exercise with leaders/developers of Team Sites, Outlook, One Drive, Skype I suspect we would find:

  • Non-overlapping core purposes. Office365 Groups needs to avoid any erosion in functionality that support core purposes.
  • Several non-core features of one product that are core features of another. These can comfortably be stripped away once the plumbing is complete to the alternative source, if and when needed.
  • A product roadmap that would build up the product peaks (core purpose), rather than fill up the valleys with compromised features.


Q&A: Start-ups vs Large Corporates


SWOOP Analytics celebrated its 2nd Birthday late last month with our distributed workforce face to face, many for the first time; and also many of our early adopter partners and clients. Unlike most start-ups addressing the consumer market, SWOOP Analytics targets the ‘big end of town” i.e. large corporates and public institutions who’s procurement practices go far beyond someone simply pushing the ‘buy’ button. We have been fortunate to have several highly experienced executives and consultants advising us on our product startup journey. We thought we would take advantage of their presence to conduct a mock Q & A panel session, modelled on the ABC show Q & A. We chose our panel members based on their experience with working and advising both start-ups and large corporations. Our panel topic was “How can Startups work Effectively with Large Corporates”.

Here were our selected panel members:

Dr. Eileen Doyle

Eileen is an experienced executive and company director for big end of town companies like BHP, OneSteel, Boral, GPT, Port Waratah Services, Oil Search and the CSIRO. We also identified Eileen as one of the most connected female company directors on the ASX in our ASX networking studies. But most importantly she is also an Angel investor in Swoop and a former chair of Hunter Angels, so she was well qualified to join our panel.

Ross Dawson

Ross is recognized as one of the world’s leading futurists. He is regularly engaged for keynote speeches and consulting advice by the ‘big end of town’ clients like Macquarie Bank, Ernst & Young, Proctor & Gamble, News Ltd and many more about what is coming ‘down the pipeline of future technologies’. A long term friend of the Swoop founders, Ross is an entrepreneur himself, with several startup initiatives on the go.

Allan Ryan

Allan is the founding director of the Hargraves Institute, celebrating its 10th birthday this year as a leading community for major corporations focusing on innovation.  Many of Australia’s leading organisations have been sharing their innovation experiences and practices in the Hargraves community. And Allan has had a front row seat in observing how large and complex organisations are addressing the innovation challenge.


The panel were actively ‘grilled’ by an enthusiastic audience. And the panel to their credit, responded in good spirit. Here are some nuggets of wisdom shared by our panel:

  1. How can big corporations work more effectively with start-ups?

Eileen shared the mindset is different in a large corporate, where you have to look at risk in a different way. The balance between risk and reward is tilted to risk in a large corporate and reward in a start-up, which is why the majority of start-ups fail. Interaction between the two works well when there’s a genuine need that the large corporate has, which aligns with what start up is doing. Her advice is investors will not get rewarded if corporations don’t take risks, it’s ok to fail which we need to learn to celebrate.

Ross shared that it’s key for big corporations to set up mechanisms to deal with start-ups, like accelerators, incubators and hackathons. There needs to be more structures and governance to support transformation. As a Futurist he helps people think about the future to make better decisions today, that will make a different in the future.

From his work at Hargraves Institute, Allan shared that large organisations are maturing rapidly. His advice to start ups was to find the most mature area which has the need for your service and give them a solution that doesn’t give them great risk to test and try.

  1. Quality versus innovation?

An audience member asked about the importance of IT security for starts ups and another shared it can be boring to get the basics right, how crucial is this for successful innovation? Panelist’s shared:

  • Start-ups need to get their disaster recovery and IT security right, at least to the level of the Organisation they’re engaging with.
  • Start–up products need to have their quality right and be tried and tested. Quality is more important than innovation where there are winners and losers.
  • Start-ups need to adopt a philosophy of forever getting better in the basics and making sure they’re improving.
  1. Can Australia become the Silicon Valley of the Southern Hemisphere?

For Australia to further foster the success of start-ups Panelist’s suggestions included:

  • Linking the quality of Australia’s research to effective commercialisation on a global scale
  • Promoting innovation as ‘invention accepted by the market’ by private and public businesses spending more in this area.
  • The Government providing tax breaks and recognition of greater risk.
  • Universities taking a what’s best for the whole country mindset versus what individual academics might want to do.
  • Encouraging small businesses to be more innovative and teaching kids how to have fun doing new things.

Our takeaway message was large corporates have multiple entry points, so it’s important not to get discouraged and keep looking for the people that have roles with a larger risk profile in them.

Image citation: https://www.tnooz.com/article/startup-chic-vs-corporate-geek-can-gen-y-retention-predict-success/



What do Customer Communities have in Common with Employee Communities?

In June we wrote a blog post “Is Bridging the Enterprise-Consumer Social Networking Divide a Bridge too Far”, which went to some length in describing why these two worlds appeared to be operating in different solar systems.  In fact, we pointed out that blindly adopting the media centricity and activity measures from consumer social networking into the Enterprise, could actually cause more harm than good. In this post we want to explore what might be common and potentially useful adoptions from the consumer world to inside the Enterprise. I must say that this post has been influenced by Michael Wu  coming to town and telling us a little about his perspectives on the ‘Science of Social’ . Michael is the chief scientist at Lithium, an organisation that specialises in customer communities. While my interest in customer communities is somewhat less than my interest in Enterprise communities, Michael Wu is well regarded in the world of data science, so I was sure to learn something from him; and I wasn’t disappointed.

The two key insights I took away was that Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) are not social networks as we have come to perceive them; and secondly there is some useful commonality between customer communities and employee communities.

On the first insight, this is how Dr Wu characterised the customer engagement journey:


In his commentary he positioned Facebook as a social network of pre-existing relationships, of which only some were based on shared common interests. In his view social networks were good for building awareness and reach, but not in influencing a purchasing action. For this level of influence, he promoted the role of the customer community; where actions could be more effectively influenced by those with a shared context. In essence he was arguing that each played their respective roles at different parts of the engagement funnel. When I look at ESNs like Yammer, there is no explicit connections being built like in Facebook or LinkedIn i.e. connections being sought and accepted. We do have Twitter like ‘Follows’ which can be interpreted as a network; but follower networks are more like one-way subscriptions trails and therefore would only weakly imply a relationship exists. So in essence, ESNs do not have the benefit of an authenticated social graph in the way that Facebook and LinkedIn do.

The point in common is in Figure 2, showing the customer community. The lack of a social network to create ‘reach’ is less of an issue for the Enterprise, as they have corporate directories for that purpose. The Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action phases in the funnel could equally be applied to the multitude of employee communities established in the ESN. Having an ‘Action’ as the end point we feel is entirely appropriate for an Enterprise community. As we have written previously, without actions, tangible value from an ESN is questionable.

dr-wuA key new message that Dr Wu provided was on his recent work with Geoffrey Moore on a four gears model for viral adoption. Wu suggests that those joining a group or community (acquire gear) immediately gain a ‘weak tie’ with all other members on the strength of their shared interest. The ‘engage’ gear helps turn some of these ‘weak ties’ into ‘strong ties’ and eventually trusted relationships; through the vehicle of online discussions and conversations. The ‘enlist’ gear acknowledges that there will be ‘super users’ who will drive the conversation and facilitate many of the connections. In SWOOP these are our Catalyst  and Engager  personas. In the Customer community, these people become the influencers and advocates. The final gear is ‘monetise’, which means making a sale and earning some revenue. Some would suggest that this is totally appropriate for the Enterprise as well. However, it is fair to say that Employee communities can be much more diverse than a customer community and therefore the action isn’t always as easily connectable to a monetary return. That said, this ‘performance gear’ should be able to connect actions taken by the community members, to the Enterprise’s mission and goals, as a minimum.

So there we have it. While Consumer and Enterprise Social Networks do appear to work in different solar systems, there is just enough of an overlap to make the learning worthwhile.

Knowing-Doing Gap

In this post we continue KD1to explore how we might better engage the “Long Tail” participants in our Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) communities. In  2000 Jeffey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton published their book entitled the “Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action” . Its publication was timely for many of us working in Knowledge Management programmes at the time as it reinforced to us that knowledge sharing alone is not enough. What they found in their research was that there were many under-performing companies who really didn’t have a knowledge problem. Their problem was more with actioning what they knew. For example, they talk about organisations who have a culture of fear, where staff were reluctant to take actions unless they were 100% sure of a positive outcome. A summary of their recommendations can be found in this FastCompany interview.  In essence the authors recommend prioritising “action over words”. At times this may mean taking actions that could be considered ill-prepared for. However, they use the examples of Bill Gross’ Idea Lab and Thomas Edison’s Labs of learning environments, where ‘safe’ actions can be taken in the spirit of experimentation and learning, thereby generating tangible value for the organisation. In other words, “stop thinking about it and just try something!”.

Bridging the Knowing-Doing gap in ESNs

I recall one KM consulting assignment I had with a government organisation which had created a community of practice to share their learnings around the implementation of ERP software across the different agencies. The ‘behind the scenes’ agenda for the organisers was a hope that the agencies would collectively develop a common template that could accelerate the implementations across all agencies and achieve the economies of scale that were anticipated. When we analysed the social networks within the community we indeed found a fairly cohesive community. They met and shared their experiences regularly. However, frustratingly that was all they did. While my recommendation was to create some community projects that the members could work on collectively, this appeared to be ‘a bridge too far’ for them i.e. a “knowing-doing” gap.

In the context of today’s online communities, this could mean prioritising doing-activities e.g. projects, Q & A etc.. One organisation I worked for had spent multiple millions of dollars creating an enterprise wide “knowledge repository”. They also had a simple ‘Request for assistance’ Q&A system where anyone could post a question, which would be categorised and then released to the most appropriate communities for a response. The first facility was content centred, whereas the second was more action oriented. It’s not hard to guess which one ended up creating the most value.

KDAnother common activity that was undertaken in KM, that is now pervading the ESN space, is maturity assessments. Typically, these frameworks describe organisational characteristics that might be observed at differing levels of maturity. The intent is for those responsible for say the ESN programme, to be able to assess where they are against where they could/should be. Unfortunately, the actions/interventions required to move an organisation’s ESN maturity are far from trivial or actionable at an enterprise level. One exception I have seen is the maturity framework used by Siemens. What is nice about this framework is the logical progression it makes from simple measures around platform access, through to participation, connection (which is equivalent to our social cohesion measure) and finally to business impact. Impact is measured by monitoring and valuing requests e.g. what would be the business value that would accrue, if this request could be successfully met. Impact is therefore measured through the assessed value of the request, and then an assessment of the degree to which the request has been fulfilled. With this level of detail, it would then be possible to audit against actual benefits achieved.

How Can you Assess your Own Online Knowing Doing Gap?

As we have suggested in prior posts, significant needs for change can be signalled from the top, but needs to be executed at the individual level. The challenge therefore is how to influence the “Long Tail” to not just become more active on the ESN, but for their participation to be less passive and more action oriented. Consider your own interactions, (or lack thereof) on your online communities and ask yourself:

  • How often have you shared a problem or challenge at work on the ESN?
  • How often have you responded to someone else’s question posted on the ESN?
  • When was the last time you took an action as an intentional experiment?
  • If you have, did you share the results?
  • When you see an idea that you don’t agree with, do you ignore it and do nothing; criticise it; or look for a constructive way to improve the idea?
  • When you have read something of value on the ESN can you recall any actions you took because of it?
  • Do you regularly acknowledge the author of content that you have found valuable?
  • Have you thought about using the ESN for your regular team communications? If not, why not?

Why not share questions like these with your “Long Tail” community members?

Knowing Doing 2.pngOrganisations today are regularly complex and sometimes even chaotic. By taking a lead from the Cynefin complexity framework  we should be regularly probing/experimenting to make better sense of the world; and in more chaotic situations, any action is better than none at all.