Bridging the Knowledge Sharing/Problem Solving Divide

problem-solvingWorking across organisational boundaries

One of the most frequently cited reasons we hear for implementing an enterprise social network platform is to “enable our organisation to better communicate and collaborate across organisational boundaries”.

The real objective is to let information and knowledge flow more freely to solve challenge business problems. This is the point where the focus changes from generic SHARING to business focused (problem-) SOLVING:


We’re previously introduced this maturity framework that incorporates the 4 stages of Simon Terry’s model, and in a recent discussion with Simon he shared with us with some constructive insights that he has drawn from the application of his maturity model.

He indicated to us that:

“Up to SHARING, people are just engaged in social exchange. It is chat. That can be entirely internal to the ESN and not connected to the business. Beyond that point they are delivering benefits from collaborative work. Moving over that transition and understanding the behaviours beyond that point is essential.

Simon then proceeded to describe the key things to consider in the ‘SOLVING’ stage as:

“Value chains and projects and their relationships to the silos captured in your Cross-team collaboration widget”.

In this post we will therefore review the SWOOP ‘Cross-Team Collaboration’ widget and give you insights about how this can help you in your enterprise social adoption efforts. Together with the recently reviewed Influential People and Response Rate widgets they collectively support the ‘SOLVE’ Stage.


The Cross-Team collaboration widget identifies the levels of interaction between selected organisational dimensions. The most common use is to identify interactions between the formal lines of business.

Two representations are offered:

  • The matrix view shades the intersecting squares by the relative interaction levels. The diagonal represents intra-unit interactions.
  • The map view (see below) more succinctly illustrates the degree to which different units are interacting.


If you have created a cross-enterprise group, or community of practice, it will tell you the degree to which all divisions have been engaged. If you have a corporate initiative that has been launched with a topic hash tag, it will also tell you the degree of cross-divisional engagement.

In a typical hierarchy, we would anticipate that most interactions would occur inside the formal structures, or between divisions along a defined value chain e.g. marketing interactions with sales. Cross organisational groups or teams are usually formed to facilitate interactions across the formal lines of business, for example a Supply/Value chain.

The Cross-Team Collaboration widget provides a view into the degree to which these cross organisational teams are effective. While interactions between formal departments is the most common, geographic location is also a popular dimension to explore interaction levels.

What is the Business Imperative?

It is the apparent inflexibility and poor responsiveness of the formal hierarchy that motivates many organisations to adopt enterprise social networks. Formal hierarchies are designed for efficient execution of pre-determined processes. However, CEOs are now looking for more than this. David Thodey, the former CEO of Australia’s largest Telco, summed up the sentiment by indicating that he wanted to short circuit the entrenched communication channels. He wanted his management team to be able to have authentic conversations with staff at all levels. Similarly, we recall a statement made by a former CEOs at BHP Billiton, an industrial resources conglomerate that was very process driven:

“Silos are not bad, this is how we get work done. We just need to dig some holes in the sides!” (please excuse the mining analogy)

Another of our favourite thought leaders is Heidi Gardner, a former McKinsey consultant and Harvard Business School professor now lecturing at Harvard Law School. She has spent over a decade conducting in-depth studies of numerous global professional service firms. Her research with clients and the empirical results of her studies demonstrate clearly and convincingly that collaboration pays, for both professionals and their firms. In her book Smart Collaboration, she shows that firms earn higher margins, inspire greater client loyalty, attract and retain the best talent, and gain a competitive edge when specialists collaborate across functional boundaries. The Cross-Team Collaboration widget enables you to measure if this is actually happening, and is one of the most important widgets connecting business outcomes with the adoption of your enterprise social network.

Specifically, in terms of problem solving, there will be problems that traverse the business unit boundaries. For example, a customer support problem may appear to be an operations problem, but perhaps the genesis of the problem is with Sales or Marketing, by how a product or service was represented to the customer in the first place. Also, supply chain problems are by definition, inter-dependent and cannot be solved by a single business unit. The Cross Team Collaboration widget can signal whether these cross-business unit problems are being addressed as a shared problem. If a cross-business unit problem has been hash tagged, it is also possible to use the SWOOP Topic tab to identify where the participants in the tagged problem solving activity are coming from. Are they appropriately cross-business unit?


Bridging the ‘sharing’ to ‘solving’ divide requires a stronger focus on what the business is trying to achieve. What are the key problems or challenges that must be met? What are the specific and identified collaborative interactions between the different organisational units, that will be required to solve them? The SWOOP Cross-unit Collaboration widget, along with the Response Rate and Influential People widgets have been designed to help you bridge the ‘Sharing’ to ‘Solving’ divide.

This post continues our series on key SWOOP indicators.


Connecting the enterprise – one tool breaks the rule

The world is getting more interdependent, and to get stuff done more people need to coordinate what they are doing with people in other business units. No wonder that collaboration is a hot topic. But what has surprised me is that in spite of an increasing number of tools, most of them are actually not connecting people across business unit boundaries. Sounds like a contradiction? Read on…

Collaboration is still mostly happening within business units

I’ve been involved in more than 100 social network analysis projects over the last 15 years, and most of these projects we’ve found that business units operate very much in silos having only limited interactions with other business units.

Physical location has a big impact in who you interact with. Professor Tom Allen discovered this many years ago and coined this the ’50-meter rule’. According to this rule, most interaction drops off when you are located more than 50 meters away from another person.

Given that employees from the same business unit are still being physically placed near each other i our workplaces, this only makes the likelihood of you interacting with someone from another business unit even smaller.

Tom Allen’s 50 meter rule:

Therefore, when I was running a collaboration analysis project for a professional services firm, I expected to find this same Business Unit silo pattern. But this time we uncovered something new.

Our collaboration research partner Dr Agustin Chevez from HASSELL had cleverly designed the study for the client in such a way that the data sources we analysed (see below) covered the exact same 4-week period. That meant that we could precisely compare interaction patterns across collaboration tools/methods:

  1. Face-to-face interaction (via traditional social network analysis survey)
  2. Email data (Exchange)
  3. Instant messaging data (Lync)
  4. Timesheet data (billable hours analysed to find out who works with who)
  5. Enterprise social network data (Yammer).

One tool breaks the rule

While face-to-face, email, instant messaging and timesheet interaction patterns all stayed mostly within business unit boundaries, one tool broke the rule. Yammer, the enterprise social network, was the only tool in the portfolio that broke the traditional 50m rule. This also meant that it was the only tool that was busting business unit silos.

Screen Shot 2016-12-08 at 10.28.58 am.pngOn reflection that makes a lot of sense. You really don’t bump into someone via email, phone or instant messaging as these tools have a clearly defined list of recipients. However, when you post something on an enterprise social network it is not limited to a set of intended recipients, and the audience is therefore anyone and anywhere in the organisation. We also know from our global Yammer benchmarking study that while enterprise social networks do cater for private conversations, the clear majority of messages (about 80%) are actually public.

These two characteristics (open for all, and fully transparent) that are hallmarks of an enterprise social network, and are completely different from email, instant messaging and phone calls that are by nature restricted to a defined (any typically small) set of recipients. You might find it amusing to know what we discovered that 95% of all emails only had single recipient, and the about 50% of emails sent were to a person sitting less than 6 meters away.

Collaboration within teams or collaboration across business units

We have an increasing number of collaboration tools at our disposal, and these are doing a terrific job enabling people to get work done. But as you’ll now appreciate they are far from equal. Some are making existing teams work more effectively together within the team and that is undoubtedly of tremendous value. But it is up to the enterprise social network to foster new connections across business units.

To drive organisational performance, we must have collaboration tools that serve different objectives, and we need to be very clear about their strengths, weaknesses and fundamental differences. Professor Andrew Hargadon writes in his book How Breakthroughs Happen: The Surprising Truth About How Companies Innovate (Harvard Business School Press 2003) that innovation happens at the intersection of people and ideas. To do this at on a global scale we need enterprise social networks. They play a fundamentally important role in enabling people to connect across business unit boundaries.

Seeing How You Work, Changes How You Work – What’s Your Online Persona?

Our SWOOP Personas are having a much bigger impact than I expected. For a quick summary of the five personas see our previous posts: Observer, Broadcaster, Responder, Catalyst and Engager. In summary, these personas provide you with insights into your online behaviour on your enterprise social network.

I recently spoke to a community manager about this, and he told me this wonderful story about the impact the personas has had in his organisation. One of his colleagues, a senior manager, had been receiving help from a communications specialist to write updates on the Enterprise Social Network.

However, when the community manager showed the senior manager how little she had used the ‘Like’ feature, she realised two important things. Firstly, she was missing out on the positive recognition a ‘Like’ can provide the recipient, especially in her role as a senior manager. Secondly, she realised that she couldn’t outsource posting, replying and liking to her communication specialist. Interacting on an enterprise social network is a deeply personal thing, and as ex-CEO of Telstra David Thodey told us in a recent interview, he found the most important thing in generating transformational chance was to have authentic conversations with staff. The senior manager now does her on posting, replying and liking, and for me this really shows that:

Seeing how you work, changes how you work.

In CUA, an Australian bank piloting SWOOP to drive adoption of their Enterprise Social Network, they also saw the power of these simple personas in creating a common language so you can think about what you do, and what collaborative profile would be most effective for you. For instance, a communications specialist might operate best as a Broadcaster and a technical expert as a Responder. We generally consider the Engager to be the persona that all people managers would want to be, but a lot of the real value lies in reflecting over what you are, and what you ideally should be.

What is your SWOOP Persona?

By now you might be wondering what your own persona is. Answer the following questions to get started. Please note that your persona is not dependent on volume of your online activities, but the relative spread of what you do (post/reply/like) and what you get back.

When I am using my Enterprise Social Network… Not like me Some-times like me Like me
1. I post links to, or attach, interesting content I think people want to know about
2. I post updates to my team/colleagues about things they need to know
3. I call out colleagues for a job well done
4. I ask people for help with problems/challenges
5. I reply to requests for input/assistance where I can add value
6. I often prompt people to participate (@mention/notify others)
7. I hit ‘Like’ whenever I see a post/reply that I like, or something I want to show support for
8. My posts always get replies and/or likes
9. I am often encouraged by others to add input (am being @mentioned/notified)
10. I read posts, but don’t participate myself

Now, review your answers and determine which persona you think you are. Is that what you’d like to be?

SWOOP Personas

If you are with an organisation that has SWOOP running, then you should jump in and have a look at if your self-perception mirror reality. I’ve always thought of myself as an Engager, and must admit to you that I was pretty guttered when I saw that I was a Broadcaster on our network. My knee-jerk reaction was “Why aren’t you responding or liking the stuff I post!”, but my wonderful co-founder Laurie Lock Lee calmly said “Well – maybe you need to think about what you’re posting.”. I, of all people, should know this. I mean, we actually created the SWOOP persons to provoke this exact conversation, but it still hit me pretty hard as it was suddenly about what I was doing and not about what other people weren’t doing. It got very personal. I started to reflect over the posts, and replies that I had been making, and thinking about ways to make it more engaging. I tried to ask for more feedback by @ mentioning people, and also started to think more about what actually generates value for others rather than just focusing on things I think they need to know.

By seeing how I worked, I managed to change how I work. For the time being I am an Engager, but I know I’ve got to keep an eye on my persona to ensure that my changed behavior is locked in. This is not set and forget just yet!

Not on SWOOP yet? Try our 2 week free trial to check it out and get your SWOOP persona.

Marcus Dawe Joins SWOOP Board

Marcus and Cai Image

Marcus Dawe with SWOOP Co-Founder Cai Kjaer

We are thrilled to announce that Marcus Dawe has joined our SWOOP board. Here we have an exclusive interview with Marcus exploring areas including what attracted him to SWOOP and how he balances it all as a serial tech entrepreneur.

  • Marcus, great to connect. Firstly congratulations on joining the SWOOP board. As a serial tech entrepreneur who’s been successful with many ventures, what attracted you to SWOOP?

Thanks. Well I’m a data scientist at heart and have always got some data projects going on. I’ve developed and have worked on some of the largest data systems in Australia. We are now firmly in the age of data, where new products, service insights, market advantages, productivity advancements can all be derived from the way we manage information. SWOOP has an awesome team with the two co-founders whom I worked with at CSC, so it was a really easy decision to join them.  I had been mentoring them through the startup phase and their passion and enthusiasm is the essential ingredient to this great venture.

  • Why is SWOOP different to other tech start-ups?

SWOOP is the best example of how a startup can be formed within a year, a product developed and major customers such as banks using it within 12 months to improve their collaboration and productivity.  It was able to achieve this through strong focus, a great technical capability and most importantly 20 years of deep domain knowledge that has been coded into the product.  I’m convinced that SWOOP now is the leader in the field of social collaboration analytics – deep insights into organisations.

  • You and SWOOP Co-founder Cai Kjaer recently met Scott Farquhar, the co-founder of Atlassian recently, has was that?

Scott was very generous with his time.  We met him at his office and he opened with “What can I do for you?” What followed was a strategy session to help us with SWOOP and our go-to-market model, pricing and lessons from his experience in cloud software sales. We also identified that we could help Atlassian as well with SWOOP. Scott is a great asset to the global software scene.

  • On the subject of inspiring leaders, SWOOP recently published a three part blog series interviewing David Thodey about his time at Telstra and use of entreprise social network Yammer. What can we learn from David’s approach?

David is a real leader. Recognised globally as a top leader and able to drive results by building teams and empowering them. David identified that he needed to improve communications in his organisation and implemented Yammer to achieve this. For us it is the logical next step that the analysis and feedback of that data is what drives insights and helps rapid change by informing from the employees up and the CEO down.

If I were a CEO of a multi-national I would be managing multiple businesses/projects. I however choose to run multiple startups as a kind of Group CEO. I’ve always managed multiple projects by having great teams and co-founders and my best talent is strategy.

  • Anything else you’d like to share?

Our roadmap is looking good for SWOOP. We’ve established our credentials in Yammer and are moving to all the other social channels within enterprises. Watch out for us.

Thanks for your time Marcus and all the best with your ventures.

More about Marcus Dawe:

Marcus is a serial tech entrepreneur and has had success with his many of his ventures. Most notably eDIME Internet Agency which he founded and sold to Computer Sciences Corp (CSC) in 2000. At which time was the largest provider of Internet strategy and sites to Federal Government with 25 departments and agencies outsourced including Prime Minister, AEC, Defence, ASIO, ATSIC, DVA and many others.

He is the CEO of a carbon storage and utilisation company Mineral Carbonation International which is proving the viability of large scale, safe and permanent storage of CO2 in carbonates. Those carbonates can be used in building products such as cements, bricks and plasterboards. This is funded by NSW Govt, Commonwealth and Orica Ltd for 4 years.

Marcus is the co-founder and CEO of Health Horizon, a global showcase for health innovation launched in 2015 and is now the largest database of heath innovation globally.

His board experience is balanced – sitting on government committees, business boards of startups, scientific & non-for profit public and private organisation boards & committees. He is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD).

Contact him at:


Can Online Personas Improve your Collaboration Behaviour?

When we hear the term “Personas” we often associate them with profiles that marketing organisations develop to categorise the buying behaviours of consumers for targeted attention. Personas are therefore strongly linked to behaviours. In the world of Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) we are also very much interested in the collaboration behaviours that have been facilitated by the ESN.

The idea of developing a way to profile ESN behaviours comes from one of our customers, Liz Green, who is a social media strategist at Telstra, and a leading facilitator of their Yammer installation. We liked the idea and decided to design and incorporate an online persona classification based on some of our core social networking analytics, which we are sharing here.

Here is the framework of Personas that we designed:

The vertical axis partitions those that are active on the platform from those that have minimal interactions. We identify those users who have interacted on the platform less than once every 2 weeks and classify them as “Observers”. For those that have interacted more than once every 2 week, we then break them up according to our Give-Receive balance measure. The give-receive balance was inspired by Adam Grant’s In the Company of Givers and Takers and Sandy Pentland’s The Science of Building Great Teams, where they find that those organisations and individuals that balance their giving and taking/receiving are the strongest performers. Our Give-Receive measure simply balances contributions made e.g. a posts, replies, likes etc. and received e.g. replies received, likes received etc.. We classify those active participants that are able to balance their giving and receiving as “Engagers”. The Engager is our aspirational profile, in that we believe these people are the heart of the network, successfully balancing talking and listening online.

For those people who are active but lean toward the “Receiver” side, we label “Catalysts”. These are people that are able to attract significant responses (replies, likes, etc) from relatively fewer contributions. You might consider a popular blogger or tweeter as catalysts for change. It is a skill and plays an important role in energising the network and attracting new participants.

For those active participants who fall toward the “Giver” side, it infers that they make far more contributions than they gain reaction for. We further partition them into “Responders” or “Broadcasters”. We use a Posts/Reply ratio measure to partition those that mainly contribute through Replies (Responders), from those that mainly contribute through posts (Broadcasters). Responders provide value through providing visible listening to contributors. They are like the ‘care givers’ in the community. Broadcasters tend to favour posting original content over participating in conversations. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, there is likely to be other channels available for broadcasting, while the ESN should be prioritised for conversation.


For the community manager we believe that these personas can be used to characterise the overall network at a given point of time. We would envisage targets being set for Engagers (maximise), Observers (minimize), Broadcasters (limit), Catalysts and Responders (encourage). We would also encourage individuals to look at their own persona, and adjust their online behaviour toward the role they feel they are best placed to play and contribute.

We have now tested our design on several data sets. The detailed results are beyond the scope of this post and will be reported later. It is worth noting though that the overall profile make-up will change with ESN maturity and also the time period selected for assessment. With SWOOP we have already started to enable individuals to monitor these personas in real-time, enabling individuals to make adjustments as they see fit. Likewise for the community manager, it can provide an indication of trends that could be either amplified or dampened as appropriate. For consultants or advisors that assist organisations on their efforts to improve collaboration, the personas will also be a great way to target interventions where it will provide the greatest return.

So what do you think? Would you or your organisation benefit from online Persona profiling?

Roundabouts and Network Leadership

Last week I came across a Mythbusters video Shawn Callahan mentioned in a post on Facebook. In the video the two hosts, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, test the effectiveness of a traditional 4-way stop versus a roundabout. Having grown up with roundabouts I wasn’t particularly surprised to discover that roundabouts got almost 20% more cars through compared to the 4-way stop. 

Traffic cop

However, what made me sit up was that they also ran a test where they put Jamie Hyneman in the middle of the 4-way stop playing the role of a policeman directing traffic. They simply wanted to test if the decision-making a traffic cop is making is more efficient at getting cars though than the decision-making all the individuals in the cars can do by themselves. 

Here is what really surprised me: The ‘top-down’ traffic cop approach was 30% less efficient compared to the 4-way stop. In other words, when decision-making is removed at the local level efficiency is significantly reduced. However, when we replace the traffic cop with a roundabout we get a 60% improvement!

For me there are strong parallels to the way we manage our workplaces. I often see a battle between ‘old style’ industrial top-down traffic-cop approach where management is clearly visible, authoritative and controlling, versus the emerging network leadership approach, where management sets out the principles but pushes autonomy down through the organisation.

While the network leadership approach is emerging, the winds are changing fast. According to research by the Chief Executive Board, employees’ work is getting more and more inter-connected, and the need for coordination continues to grow. According to their 2012 report ‘Driving Breakthrough Performance in the New Work Environment’ 67% of respondents (of which there were more than 23,000) stated that greater amount of collaboration is required, and a large majority (ranging from 57% to 67%) said that they regularly coordinate work with people on different teams, at different job levels, in different organisations and with people outside their own department or function.

Tasking managers to be traffic cops directing collaborative efforts across and between organisations is – as the Mythbusters show demonstrates – simply too inefficient. Rather, we need to let employees coordinate work among them, and in our view the role of management should be all about creating the equivalent of efficient roundabouts:

  • RoundaboutSet the overall rules and priorities
  • Help employees connect
  • Empower employees to make decisions locally
  • Monitor what is going on and adjust rules and policies accordingly
  • Only get involved when there is a need, e.g. resolving conflicts

Welcome to the world of network leadership.


Connectedness – The New Differentiator



Back in 2005 Thomas Friedman wrote about the globalized world in his bestseller book ‘The World Is Flat’. The world was inthe process of being transformed to a level – and global – playing field opening up new opportunities.  7-8 years later Friedman’s observations of the early adopters have become mainstream business. But, one of the consequences of opening up the world is that we are left with an overwhelming amount of information and options.  What we need is the ability to take advantage of globalisation, without getting caught up in examining and analysing the huge sea of endless information, and variety of choice.

This is where ‘connectedness’ comes in. Given that it is impossible for us to read everything and speak to everyone, we need to be connected to people we trust to bring us relevant resources to our attention. The better these connections are, the better the result will be.

We use the term ‘Connectedness’ to describe the concept of being ‘smartly’ connected.  When you are smart about the connections you establish and maintain, you keep a balance between the following aspects:

  • Quality vs. quantity: Having too many connections is distracting and with too few you become too reliant.
  • Diversity vs. conformity: Diversity is critical for innovation and conformity may better serve continuous improvement
  • Open vs. closed: Having unique connections that no one else have can put you in a better position, but a closed network can also bring much needed focus and attention

Depending on your business objectives you set the appropriate balance to deliver the best outcome. Connectedness is applicable at individual, team, business unit, organisation and inter-organisational levels. High performing individuals are exactly that because they are able to get things done faster by leveraging their connections to access resources. This is true for all organisational levels.

Connectedness doesn’t happen by chance, but fortunately it isn’t all the difficult. First you need to determine what your network looks like today, and then you need to figure out what it should look like to enable you to meet the demands of the future. Advances in both mapping and visualisation techniques greatly assist in making it much more accessible for mainstream businesses. Being ‘smart’ about building your connections for the future will optimise the investment where it provides the highest return. What’s the point of being connected to 100 people if you can develop a close relationship with one person who already knows the same 100 people?

Smart networking’ is about understanding the various roles that people play in connecting you with the resources you need. ‘Central connectors’ are those people around you who know lots of other people. Examples of central connectors include head-hunters, politicians and journalists. These people can be of very high value providing access to resources you might not have discovered, or might not be able to access directly.

Brokers’ are those who connect communities of otherwise disconnected people. For example, think of a person who is an accountant during the day, but plays in a band in the evenings. Brokers play a special role as potential innovators being able to solve problems by seeing solutions through their experiences drawn from various different communities.

Finally, we have the ‘peripheral specialists’ who have special knowledge, but often operate as lone wolves. You will need these people for their deep insights. But, if those are the only ones you know you risk missing out on the multiplier effect you can get from the relationships connectors and brokers can bring to bear.

Trusting that your network will provide access to the resources you need is a departure from the ‘island’ mentality we are used to. You may feel as it you are somewhat loosing control by having to rely on others. But there simply isn’t an alternative anymore. In a ‘flat world’ your level of connectedness will drive success, as you shorten fact-finding and decision making cycles. This makes the ROI for connectedness compelling as other organisations are pacified by an overwhelming amount of information, conflicting advice and endless options.

Cai Kjaer is a presenter at the Hargraves 2013 Innovation Conference and is speaking on 13 March on the topic of connectedness as the new driver for innovation and organisational performance. You can reach Cai at, or connect on LinkedIn