Monday, May 16, 2011

Effective ways to collaborate

(This is a summary of a conversation held in the Linkedin Hub Generation group)

In recent months, as a result of being away from the office visiting Kenya and the UK, I have come to understand even more the importance (and occasional draw backs) of social media-based collaboration tools.


At Zipipop we have been using social-media tools to communicate and collaborate for over four years. The main day-to-day tool we have been using is the internal micro-blogging service Yammer (see end note about Podio), which basically functions as a shared, continuous notification and discussion space – like a closed version of the Facebook News Feed. This is really a core part of our operations, since we are often out of the office running workshops or collaborating with remote workers. So my movements between different countries was fairly seamless – provided, that is, I had reliable access to 3G mobile internet. 

When the connection is unreliable (as it was in the UK Lake District) email comes back to prominence as a more workable solution, but otherwise it was much more productive to work in one central micro-blogging space. In addition, Yammer shows who is online, which helps generate a sense of presence between you and the office. However, in the long run it is not a replacement of face-to-face time, since a regular physical presence is still necessary to remain fully in touch and influential.  

I have noticed, however, that the sooner organizations adopt online spaces as their core means of communication the more effective they can operate when employees have to be geographically separated – since people get used to making decisions online rather than relying totally on physically meetings and "water cooler" discussions. There is a general trend towards fragmented working spaces, so organizations should consider the negative effect of people feeling "left out" if they don't have access to the ongoing organizational conversations. It all comes back to transparency. And the more we can adopt the best-practices of online culture, the more time and travel costs (financial & environmental) we can save, and the more opportunities there will be to balance the demands of work and private life. Here are some handy tips on keeping remote workers motivated and in the loop.

Antti Virolainen pointed out that with these new tools his company Avoin yritys can work effectively while being located in two different Finnish cities. And that sometimes the effort of writing can help people to focus on the essentials.  They recommend IRC chat and the immediacy of instant (no accounts required) collaborative writing services; such as or

Sunday, February 27, 2011

How transparent should organizations be?

Openness and transparency are increasing trends in the business world. It's not just for small businesses like our Avoin yritys (Finnish for Open Company): the big ones are also adopting more transparent strategies, be it openness of leadership, innovation, or communication. This is not simply just because people have developed a sudden urge to change the world for the better: instead, with the rise of new communication methods and the social web, companies have realized that the open way is also often good for business.

When companies strive to be more open, a logical question arises: what is the correct amount of openness? Does openness have limits, and if so, where are they? Are there situations where being open causes more damage than good? We'll tackle these questions by comparing the benefits and possible problems related to openness.

Benefits of openness

A better relationship with employees. Leadership can be defined as trying to get the best performance out of people. Openness is a great way to promote that. People are smart. If you communicate with them openly about the company’s strategies, values, and just generally what is going on, they feel like they are being treated as equals, which often results in increased productivity. Furthermore, it's very common in companies that the left hand does not always know what the right is doing, which results in wasteful duplicate work that is avoided by transparency. Moreover, the organizational structure can be a lot lighter as layers of bureaucracy put in place to seal "classified" information can be removed. No more NDAs (Non Disclosure Agreements), privacy policies, and stalking your employees. Netflix is a great example of a company that has achieved tremendous results with their open "freedom & responsibility" culture.

Welcome to the Hub Generation!

We are launching this Hub Generation blog to explore the practical, philosophical and cultural impact that the rise of social media and cloud computing is having, and will have, on our lives.

It will reflect on issues such as: how social media is making the world more transparent; how rapid knowledge sharing continues to make commercial playing fields even flatter; how the opening up of discourse is changing the nature of influence and the balance of power between businesses and consumers; it will look into how crowdsourcing models can be used to improve decision making; the power of the web to enhance social entrepreneurship; and many other fascinating topics.

Being part of the Hub Generation is the willingness and commitment towards exploring ways to harness the power of social technologies and cloud computing to make the world a better place; while not shrinking from exposing the negative sides.

In this space we will mix down-to-earth practicality with a healthy mix of future thinking and philosophizing – so that we are free to boldly explore the outreaches of Hub Generation potential. And the blog posts will either be summaries of the discussions in the open Hub Generation Linkedin Group or written by invited guests.

We hope you find it enlightening, inspiring and entertaining.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Original author's Richard von Kaufmann and Hub Generation must be mentioned when the content is reused.