Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I don't care if the world knows my secrets

Hat tip to +Towleroad , a lovely new video from +Mary Lambert  of "Same Love" fame (another song I absolutely love).

As my mother used to say: "Don't do anything you could get blackmailed for.". To which I add my corollary, apparantly Mary's as well: "Unless you own it and go public with it."

Makes me think about Marketing in an increasingly transparent world. Instead of puffery and near unambiguous emphasis on the positive, what if we marketed our products warts and all?

It wouldn't be fair if I didn't share my own secret first. I use food as an emotional blanket, even though I know it really doesn't work. So tell me, what are YOUR secrets?

Monday, July 14, 2014

A company without email? (a followup: the death of 'the death of email')

A followup to my earlier post about what is hopefully the death of "the death of email". Two new analyst reports have come out recently that bolster my viewpoint that we're entering an time of quantum evolution of email. Instead of incremental improvements, we're seeing the rise of a complete rethinking of email in this new social, mobile, cloud world.

One recent report by Osterman Research, Evolving towards the next phase of email (free registration required), talks about the specific environment email needs to change into:

The conventional wisdom is that email is being replaced by social media and other, next generation communication and collaboration tools. The reality, however, is that email use continues to grow...Email will remain the dominant communications tool in the workplace, but it will evolve in a variety of ways toward completely transparent accessibility across all delivery modes and platforms, an embedded application experience that will enable users to work with applications in the context of the email experience, and greater integration of social capabilities within email.

Another report by Forrester, When mobile becomes the new face of social, may at first blush seem unrelated, as it is about social messaging apps for smartphones. But messaging is very similar to short-burst email (think Facebook Messages or Linkedin InMail), and their intersection with mobile, cloud, and social platform is very much related to the thesis that email itself is entering a next stage of evolution:

Messaging apps have the potential either to become digital platforms or to significantly enhance the power of current platforms because they so clearly deliver the three things that determine digital platform power: frequent interactions, emotional connection, and convenience. 
You can learn more how IBM is looking at addressing this quantum evolution with IBM Mail Next, at our July 23 webcast.

What do you think? Where do YOU see email headed?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A company without email? Hardly.

Its days like this when I love my work: the intersection of marketing and collaboration technology sometimes just hits all cylinders. Like today. An old story was brought back to life with a new story.

The old story: ever since the dawn of social networks -- whether consumer or commercial -- and more recently with the Enterprise 2.0 trend (one of those terms that seems to have disappeared from the lexicon, and replaced with Social Business or other terms), the death of email has been trumpeted over and over again.

That's the inevitable trend of things in this world of 24-hour, instantaneous news cycles:

  1. new thing hits the market
  2. revolution is in the air
  3. _____________ is dead! Long live _____________!
  4. New thing turns out to be not quite the solution everyone thought it would be
  5. New thing actually has real use cases completely different than what it was supposed to kill
  6. Old thing still quite alive and kicking, but not sexy anymore
  7. new thing hits the market / rinse / lather / repeat
The e-mail is dead meme resurfaced a couple of years ago with high profile instances like Atos' CEO making a bold claim to completely eliminate email from his workplace (how did that work out?).

I've been saying for quite some time that the stats don't bear this narrative out. The new story is that people are recognizing this again.

Mail is still by far the #1 used collaboration tool in business. It's use is actually GROWING, not shrinking. And now comes this timely little article in the Wall Street Journal (hardly the paragon of the cutting edge, and therefore a good barometer of the mass market). What's fascinating about the Wall Street Journal article is the description of what startups are actually doing. It's less about eliminating email and more about fast experiments on rethinking it for a more social, mobile, cloud-based world. They're just scratching the surface of how to rethink email.

Rethinking email is something IBM has been doing since introducing version 8.5 of it's venerable Notes and Domino franchise. 8.5 introduced deeper integration of social network profiles, microblogging and filesharing through its integrated sidebar applications. Version 9 took that concept a step further with in-mail embedded integration of pretty much any OpenSocial enabled content - status update streams, file and video previews, forms, heck, pretty much anything you could put an OpenSocial wrapper on.

And IBM continues that with an even bolder step coming later this year, IBM Mail Next. If you think of Notes 8.5 and 9 as variations on an existing theme, think of Mail Next as an entirely new movement. Hints of the email of old morph and merge in ways that Millenials in particular would appreciate and understand more:

  • not folders, but sets and fast and faceted search (like your favorite e-commerce site or search engine)
  • not first-in/first-out, but what's important to me right now
  • not an overfilled inbox-as-todo-list, but conversation threads that bob and weave with my workload and workday
  • not dumb, preset rules (can you really call those "smart folders"???) but rather built-in intelligence that learns from my own behavior to help me prioritize what I owe someone and what they owe me.
It's interesting as a marketer to be in a space where the new and the old are coming together in such a fascinating way. It's going to be a fun rest of 2014.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Living the No Assholes Rule at work and play

Coming out of a recent, great management class I took a few weeks ago at IBM, one of the many interesting tidbits was a recommendation to read The No Assholes Rule. Beyond the eye-catching title, the content is actually a short, witty yet data-filled analysis of why persistent jerks are so detrimental to workplace dynamics.

I have to say I'm pretty lucky. I haven't had to deal with a LOT of these folks in my career, though of course you can't help but run into them. I'm lucky as well that, even though most workplaces these days aren't ideal in a lot of ways, IBM is pretty asshole-free (at least in my space). And those that do exist are generally sidelined to a degree by their own douche-y behavior.

As I've been reading through it, I've also seen how the principles and data apply to pretty much any group dynamic. It (perhaps not) surprisingly validates the rules my dear friend John and I put together as some of the founding principles of Pacific Sound San Diego, our local a capella singing group. Who wants to spend any significant amount of time with a jerk, especially when you're not being paid to?

Life's too short to put up with assholes, especially putting up with it in yourself. How do you deal with those soul suckers in your work and play?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Leading an open worklife in the sharing economy

As I've written about earlier this week, the continued impact of mobile, social and cloud technologies on all areas of work are leading us to lead increasingly more open and positive work styles. A few recent experiences have reinforced how important this combined style is, and why it's an ongoing process of personal reinvention.

Last Christmas I had quite the argument with my family at the holiday dinner table. A willfully (reprehensibly?) obstructionist Republican party in the US Congress, a dictatorial Prime Minister in Canada and a retrograde, chauvenistic Premier (at the time) in Quebec, combined with clownish opposition in all three cases, led to cynical resignation.

Something clicked and I spoke out in anger. I argued that it's easy to use "politicians are corrupt and weak" as an excuse for inaction (complaining is not an action). We have to be active participants in our democracies and be the change we want to see, no matter how small our direct or indirect influence may be.

Part of the reason I was argumentative was exhaustion from my new ascension to the role of Marketing Programs Manager for IBM collaboration software and SaaS 9 earlier that fall.

Since then, it's been an even more challenging time for me, my team, my business unit, and even IBM as a whole. Those challenges, combined with my less-than-stellar ability to properly manage and prioritize those challenges, left me feeling tired, burned out, perhaps a little cynical. And, it turns out, perhaps a little hypocritical as well. For while I was excoriating my family at Christmas. I was slowly, but most assuredly, letting myself become cynical at work, complaining about the limits imposed on me rather than focusing on what I could do, either directly or through my considerable influence.

That lack of self-awareness clicked when I was in a new managers' class last week. I am responsible for my own choices, and that my words matter, and my attitude even more, and that I do have a span of not just control, but an even larger span of influence. All this is especially important now that I'm responsible for 11 fantastic, talented, hard-working people. I can become the manager I've always wanted to work for, but it would mean a lot less time spent doing and complaining, and a lot more time coaching and leading.

Also last week, I reconnected with a dear colleague of mine, Luis Suarez. We worked together when he was one of the top internet IBM advocates for a social approach to business. After 17 years at IBM (coincidentally how much time I've almost been here), he just left IBM to pursue his own path. (And so has Susan Emerick, I just found out, another colleague I've admired.) We just had a fantastic discussion over the phone yesterday, and hearing his recent change of life has given me hope that the open and positive workstyle is not just an ideal, but an increasingly viable way to succeed in this changing maketplace of ideas.

Being open and positive isn't easy. It's going to require a significant shift in our mindset. It's going to require us getting a lot more comfortable with uncertainty. But the benefits are going to be legendary, whether in creating true engagement in the mass market of the workforce (and not just in the rare employee or entrepreneur). The potential to me seems limitless.

What about you? How are social and mobile and cloud technologies changing how you are working today?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

We're all social craftsmen now: how eminence is more than just technical

Social, mobile and cloud technologies are having a dramatic impact in business. The combination is called many things, depending where you start the conversation: the social business, the sharing economy, or the API economy.

The effect has been discussed at length on how these technologies transform business, whether customer engagement, business models, even employee engagement. I myself wrote a little about these technology's effects on Marketing last year.

It's also having an effect on us as individual producers and leaders. I liken it to the "hollywoodization" of the fundamental work model. Not Hollywood as an entertainment marketing machine. But rather how companies will increasingly organize around virtual projects and teams. I think companies will focus on maybe 3 things: R&D, Sales, and Marketing / Strategy. Everything else will eventually move to a contractor model, where individuals are brought together for a specific project or opportunity (like a film), and once that opportunity is done, disband the group. In the world of entertainment, you ARE your portfolio. And more and more, no matter what work you do, you will be your portfolio.

But one outgrowth of that theory is the effect it will have on social work styles. Expertise isn't enough. It's also about being someone people want to spend time with (the "No A**holes Rule"). I think that means expertise must be married with a certain level of sociability: the increasingly deliberate choice to be both open and positive.

I use "open"  in the sense of sharing openly, including not just my point of view and successes (my portfolio of expertise), but failures and uncertainties as well (my authenticity as a story of my ongoing journey). I use "positive" in the sense of pragmatic change agent (sees reality but is still willing and eager to change things for the better), rather than cynic (a capitulation to a belief that the world is corrupt and unchangeable).

I use both open and positive together, because I believe there are a "1 PLUS 1 > 2" and a "1 or 1 < 2" effect:
  • people want to engage with other people who are happy. Sure, in the short term, sarcasm, irony and a negative take can be funny or cool. But in the long term, I posit that those conversations suck the life out of you because they ultimately lack the kind of creativity the opens the world up, rather than closes it in.
  • people also want to engage with other people who are open. They want to feel like they're being listened to, not just spoken to. "It's not about the nail" is a funny take on this. But I also suggest you try an experiment. The next time you meet someone, do only 2 things: Listen, and Ask Questions. You'll be amazed (or perhaps not) that that someone will walk away feeling good about themselves AND saying "jeez, he [she] was such as good conversationalist!". As Maya Angelou said, "...people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
  • put positive and open together, and people will go out of their way to be in your presence. Use one but not the other, and you're missing a golden opportunity. Use none and you might as well be at a restaurant, glumly telling the maitre-d': "saucer for one, please".
Your technical eminence has always been important. But I think in this world where companies are more and more virtual, two things happen: your social eminence increases in importance. AND your eminence overall is now outside the corporate firewall. Are you seen not just as "good at what he / she does", but "easy to work with" or "hard to work with"? "A joy to be around" or "a soul sucker"? And is that reputation known outside your company walls?

When we're all virtual employees, we get a lot more choice in what projects we'll take based on who we'll work with.

Don't believe me? Look at the continuing trend for more telecommuting, and tell me we have to find a better way to make ourselves visible. And think about those Hollywood stars that have a reputation as being "hard to work with". Eventually it catches up with them.

Do you believe social eminence will matter as much as technical eminence? Am I being too optimistic to think that "open" and "positive" will be the preferred way to work?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Letter from Bangalore

IBM has afforded me many opportunities for travel over the past 16 years. Right now I've been in Bangalore for the past week, working closely with my counterparts in the IBM Global Marketing Center. It has been a great experience, and an amazing opportunity to learn more about not just my colleagues across the Pacific and Indian Oceans, but their city and culture.

Describing India from just the viewpoint of Bangalore is like describing the United States by only visiting the San Francisco Bay Area or Chicago. So these observations are limited at best.

The immediate thing that struck me was many similarities to the West. Increased globalization has not only resulted in a lot of similar consumer Brands (cars, electronics, food, etc.), but it has also exposed those of us outside of India to much in Indian culture (Bollywood, Indian-inspired music in lounge and house music, etc.). And the airport is very new, so it looked like any new airport in Europe or North America. So, somewhat sadly, there's a bit of homogenization which dulls the sense of difference.

But look closer, and there was one ubiquitous difference that added to a sense of (pleasant) unbalance and discovery. Everything just blends together here. Traffic blends not only across lanes (lane markers are rather pointless, it seems) but weaves like some tapestry in motion. Busy boulevards act like freeways with no on- or off-ramps, and blend into side streets and driveways. Roads blend into sidewalks (when they exist). I wasn't scared by the utter chaos of the driving. It all just seemed to work, despite itself. New York City is like this - despite its size and unending movement, it just seems to work.

In Bangalore, Building blends into building. Commercial blends into residential into industrial...and back again. There's little differentiation between neighborhoods unless you look REALLY REALLY closely.

English blends into Hindi, whether in the office, on television, on the street. That charmingly reminded me of Montreal, where we would merge French and English seamlessly in conversations, music, on the radio. It's very much similar here.

That mashup quality was what stuck me the most about Bangalore (and I assume, much of India, based on conversations with other friends who've been here). I'm hoping to return and discover a little bit more.

My host and guide from IBM was very generous and took me to a couple of local eateries, drove me around the city to show the layout, and generally helped me do a little exploring. I was also able to do a little exploring on foot today (shooing away the auto taxi riks like aggressive flies) but honestly I was in business meetings so much of the time I wasn't able to do a lot of going off on my own.

Ultimately, the hesitancy I felt was more due to the VERY long travel time. Long legs and extra weight don't make for a pleasant air travel experience, I'm afraid. But once I was here (and the jet lag wore off), I was very happy to be here and able to at least get a sip from the very VERY large and ancient cup that is India.

A nice selfie of the team celebrating a successful week at Toit, a popular afterwork pub.