Dachis Group’s Dave Gray is working on his next book, which will be released later this spring. The title is The Connected Company and Dave discusses some of the factors that long-lasting companies have in common.
A couple weeks ago, we brought the entirety of Dachis Group together for an offsite that we referred to internally as Come Together 2. “2″ because we held a similar event last year as well. I’ve seen M&A from a few different perspectives – as an acquirer, as part of an acquired company, and as an adviser to acquirers. The most critical part of making any deal work is post-merger integration. Fortunately, Dachis Group has a CEO who has deep experience in this area. Our first all-hands offsite event was held in Las Vegas and brought employees with different skill sets – strategy, technology, creative, administrative – from all different offices – New York, London, Sydney, et al. – together to accelerate knowledge transfer, culture building, and to have some fun. (Conveniently, Las Vegas is the most cost-effective place to host an event like this, with a wide variety of lodging and transport options.) The event in January 2011 kicked off a great year – our business almost doubled in size.
In 2012, Social Business has arrived as a fact, not a fad. More companies are convinced of the need to transform. But the market reality is that adoption is not evenly distributed. We see the market in three key segments: Performance Brand Marketing (externally focused engagement), The Connected Company (internal alignment of culture, tools, and process), and most importantly, Social Business Intelligence (using big data to measure social performance and manage to successful business outcomes). Our challenge as we have grown rapidly has been to assemble world-class capabilities in all three areas to help our clients. Simultaneously, we are building a common corporate culture that draws on the strengths of our diversity. It’s not easy. That’s why we felt it was time to host another all-hands meeting to equip our people for the biggest year in social business yet.
So we assembled in Las Vegas to build skills, talk strategy, and align on shared values. To connect our 200+ employees attending, we drew upon lessons from our own experiences and preferences. I won’t bore you with all of the event planning details, but it’s worth noting some highlights. We ensured that our gender mix was accurately represented in leadership roles (our company split is about 40/60 female/male). We Gamestormed and used game mechanics to reinforce learning objectives. We celebrated Australia Day and played cricket in the hotel, without breaking anything. We went to a show and put on our own show. We even created a physical face book.
Now that a couple weeks have passed, we are starting to see the early returns on our investment. We have seen individuals and teams act on the knowledge shared by colleagues with a direct link to revenue opportunities. Culturally, we see commitment to operating as a one-firm-firm. And although we use plenty of social technology on a daily basis – Socialcast, Mindtouch and Confluence wikis, Skype, Google+ hangouts, Jive communities, Google docs, turntable.fm, and more – there’s no replacement for the momentum built from making face-to-face connections.
As a company that helps other companies transform into social businesses – and as professionals who help other professionals win with their social business initiatives – we are practicing what we preach. If you’d like to be connected a bit closer to our company, have a look at our open career positions or drop us a note.
At Dachis Group, we’re working with a major enterprise client who is in the long process of shifting their business model from being a manufacturer of a single line of devices, to one who needs to harness innovation to create a range of ever more relevant consumer products. The 100, 000+ employee organization (Let’s call them Unitrode) has a lot of work to do. Their desired transformation requires a major internal re-think of every possible process, including how marketing and innovation resources can be re-aligned and harnessed to confront this new reality. This company needs independent thinkers, who have an active stance toward change and innovation. Allowing a passive population of cube-dwellers is a major risk to transformation.
Outside the business case for change, and the communications platforms necessary to even launch such a project, one common element at the core of this transformation is the value and motivational quality of content. All organizations struggle to share IP, and move thoughts and innovations to the groups that need it.
Vast networks struggle to keep up with the load, as PowerPoint decks and meeting requests flood in-boxes. So enamored are we with deliverables that conference rooms are designed around the projected screen, with large leather chairs in which to sit back and take it all in. All of this passive consumption has its costs, creating apathy and a sense of disenfranchisement within organizations.
What’s missing in this equation is the value of the ideas at the core of all this activity. Ideas are the core of IP- presentation is not. We’ve been working hard in our partnership with Unitrode to define what valuable content IS, and what are the factors that go into creating it. Since the efficient and compelling movement of ideas is paramount to transformation, we’ve put in some time focusing on how an idea moves, what makes it compelling, and what forms the ultimate value to a company in the long term.
Consider the standard PowerPoint deck that we’re all subjected to on a regular basis. If it is created and merely uploaded to a location online, (maybe the lonely and under-used Wiki), it rises to the standard of Available, and perhaps Accessible (as long as the creator sends out an email about it to everyone on a distribution list.) True, people can find it, but then what? Will anyone bother? Is it possible to quickly understand the core points, and its relevance to the reader? How does any of it create new behaviors or innovation? Is any of it owned by an individual, backed up by passion and dedication?
We’ve discovered a relationship among three points that can help recover idea-value for an organization:
Consider the following diagram:
You’ll notice that in our deliverable example above, the level of content value is relatively low, since it is not tied to any audience or outcome. The time and effort in creating the deliverable is wasted, and the idea-value is potentially lost. In fact, the mere existence of this semi-relevant item on the network has a negative effect. It creates a culture of apathy as successive deliverables keep happening with so little apparent value to the reader. Where are the ideas?
This is a pretty common practice at Unitrode, and I would hazard a guess at your organization too.
What if we consider the packaging of an idea differently? What if we can tie outcomes to the value of personal input and collaboration? What if we invite colleagues in, and ask for input along the way? Who says it needs to be polished and presented on a projector? What if we work in low-res, on sketches and on white-boards? By not focusing on the deliverable value, but on the quality of the idea within, we stand to motivate and engage people to a much higher degree. By helping focus colleagues on the value of their direct input, we stand to create a sense of accountability as ideas spread and evolve.
Remember the deck that someone posted on the Wiki? What if it came with this email attached?
“Hey Steve, I know you’re really busy, but I have marked the 3 slides that are pertinent to your part of the meeting tomorrow. Do you think you can review these, and be able to respond to them during the 9:30 section of the Agenda? It will help us a lot to have your opinion and direction on this.”
By simply providing respect to others’ contributions and time, we hope to foster a sense of collaboration and active ownership of IP. By inviting others into a dialog, and tying success to their contributions, we hope to overcome apathy and create engaged innovators.
We’re working with Unitrode to help everyone involved see the value in this model. It seems like a simple step to add a few lines to an email, but try it in your environment. Consider the model as you create anything for consumption. What are you asking your reader to do? Do they have critical input? Is there something that relies on their expertise directly for success? By inviting others in to a process, we stand to benefit from the value of their engagement and contributions. This is the core of collaboration- the sharing and development of ideas.