All posts in “Harvard Business Review”

Social Media Training Gets Formal in 2013

James Cooper is a strategist on the Content and Community team at Social Media Group (SMG). Follow @jamescooper

In his list of trends for 2013 on Fast Company, Ryan Holmes addresses a recent Harvard Business Review survey, which reveals that only 12 percent of companies using social media feel they are doing so effectively.

With businesses making increased use of social media, the demand for specialized training will surely grow. As Holmes points out, “social media skills will join email as part of basic business literacy in the digital age.”

Beverly Macy shares similar views with Holmes in her Huffington Post article, which lists her social media predictions for 2013. According to Macy, enterprises that are not fluent in social media will be at a competitive disadvantage. “All employees must be exposed to basic social media training and education to attain a knowledge baseline in the organization,” as Macy puts it.

Holmes stresses the importance for companies to provide “social media compliance training to ensure that workers in sensitive industries from finance to healthcare uphold regulatory standards while taking advantage of social media’s benefits.”

To make enterprise social media training a reality, Macy predicts that most companies will need outside consultation and guidance. She believes that companies will need to develop and integrate entirely new systems to train within the organization. As she points out, “most of today’s education systems inside the enterprise rely on technologies and procedures that do not encompass social platforms.”

And what’s higher education doing to meet the growing demand for social media education? Holmes thinks we can “expect to see more social media coursework at universities, as well as dedicated social media MBA programs, as schools rise to the challenge….”

Having trained clients to use social media at an enterprise-level and instructed social media courses at a university-level, I have long felt that social media training is an issue that deserves greater attention and resources from most companies and academic institutions. That said, I strongly agree with Holmes’ and Macy’s predictions, and I hope we see them realized in a big way in 2013 and years to come.

What do you think? What’s your organization doing to train staff?

Mobile apps: If you don’t use them, lose them

James Cooper is a strategist on the Content and Community team at Social Media Group (SMG). Follow @jamescooper

Consumers Say No to Mobile Apps That Grab Too Much Data” reads the title of a NY Times blog post about a recent study by the Pew Research Center. The study looks at privacy and data management on mobile devices, finding that half of adult American smartphone users claim to be reluctant to install apps on their phones if they feel they demand too much personal information.

The report got me thinking — not only do some apps demand too much personal information, they can also be a drain on time, energy and resources.

I started to feel this way when I found myself becoming increasingly irritated by frequent demands to update the lengthy list of apps I had frivolously installed on my Android phone.  I realized that I hadn’t used many of them more than once or twice. So I said to myself, “Self, it’s time to take stock of all these apps and scrap those I rarely use.”

I began sifting through the deep, dark recesses of my phone. At first, I found it somewhat challenging to decide whether or not to remove the apps I encountered. I couldn’t help but think that I just might need them at some point. But the process soon became easier as I refined my selection criteria to a couple of simple questions to ask about each app:

  1. How much did I pay for it?
  2. When did I last use it?

If an app was free (or had cost no more than $2 or $3) to download and I couldn’t remember when I’d used it last, I deleted it. Plain and simple.

I found the app purging process to be quite liberating and it reinforced some ideas I read in Greg McKeown’s recent article, titled “The Disciplined Pursuit of Less”, in the Harvard Business Review. Specifically, I’m referring to Phases 3 and 4 of what McKeown calls “the clarity paradox”:

  1. When we have increased options and opportunities, it leads to diffused efforts (Phase 3).
  2. Diffused efforts undermine the very clarity that led to our success in the first place (Phase 4).

McKeown’s article primarily addresses individual and organizational success at a higher level. His philosophy of not taking opportunities simply because they exist can be applied to a more micro scale, such as in the case of the apps we collect on our mobile devices.

I like McKeown’s use of our wardrobes as an example to illustrate the clarity paradox: “Think of what happens to our closets when we use the broad criteria: ‘Is there a chance that I will wear this someday in the future?’ The closet becomes cluttered with clothes we rarely wear. If we ask, ‘Do I absolutely love this?’ then we will be able to eliminate the clutter and have space for something better….”

The same applies to our mobile devices — if we’re too “broad” in our collection of apps, our phones become cluttered just like our closets.

But the advantage a mobile app has over a garment is that an app is usually just a 30 second download away from you being able to use it again. Good luck downloading a shirt, a pair of pants or even a bikini in 30 seconds (unless, of course, you have a 3D printer like these designers).

In closing, I think we can all benefit from a “disciplined pursuit” of fewer unused and unneeded mobile apps.

What are your thoughts? Have you purged apps lately?

The equation for innovation – execution is key

“Innovation is Not Creativity” declared Vijay Govindarajan in a post at Harvard Business Review earlier this week highlighting his research into innovation. As part of this research he and colleague Chris Timble polled hundreds of managers about innovation:

Usually, managers equate innovation with creativity. But innovation is not creativity. Creativity is about coming up with the big idea. Innovation is about executing the idea — converting the idea into a successful business.

Govindarajan and Timble focused their research on execution and offered an elegant equation to help illustrate the importance of execution.

Here’s why we worked on execution, as opposed to creativity: We surveyed thousands of executives in Fortune 500 companies to rate their companies’ innovation skills on a scale of one to 10, one being poor and 10 world class. Survey participants overwhelmingly believe that their companies are better at generating ideas (average score of six) than they are at commercializing them (average score of one).

So which is more effective — moving your (already good) creativity score from six to eight or lifting your (very poor) execution score from one to three? Here’s the math using our shorthand, creativity times execution:

Capacity to innovate = 6 x 1 = 6

Capacity to innovate, increasing creativity score = 8 x 1 = 8

Capacity to innovate, increasing execution score = 6 x 3 = 18

It’s no contest. Companies tend to focus far more attention on improving the front end of the innovation process, the creativity. But the real leverage is in the back end.

I really enjoy being on the back end of innovation. We’ve all got lots of big shiny ideas and creative world-changing solutions that never make it past the white board. Real innovation comes when leaders give their people the mandate and the space to execute and deliver. Steve Jobs, who has quite the track-record on innovation, famously said: “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” Are you leading or following?