Archive for September, 2007

Lotus Connections Is… People!

September 5th, 2007

References to Soylent Green and “harvesting collective intelligence” aside, I’d like to hammer home the idea that Lotus Connections is all about people. Specifically, connecting them.

Too explain-it-to-me-like-I’m-two for you? Ok.

When customers talk to me about determining a collaboration tool strategy (this is a euphemism for “we need to either pick IBM or Microsoft for the whole collaboration enchilada” ), I insistently remind them that Lotus Connections isn’t really about “collaborating” in the sense that we usually mean it. When customers say “collaborate”, they typically mean “sharing information with a team or group of people I always work with in order to get things done.” And for IT folks, that usually translates to individual and team collaboration tools. From IBM, that means Lotus Notes, Lotus Quickr, Lotus Sametime, and/or Lotus Connections Activities, depending on the specific business requirements.

But, what customers are learning is that there is a lack of community-building tools in their organization. And strong communities are critical to forming high-performing teams again and again. Enter the other four Lotus Connections services: Blogs, Communities, Dogear, and Profiles.

Social Networking and Collaboration

Here’s how I explain it in many of my presentations:Whenever we form a team, the first thing we do is create a mechanism to collaborate. We jump to the bottom of this table without realizing all the effort that goes into forming truly effective teams!

Let’s start at the top of the table.

When forming teams, you typically have Seekers and Contributors. If you’re a Seeker, you need someone. If you’re a Contributer, you are someone.

The blue area displays the benefits of social networking activities.

Three factors are addressed with social networking:

  • Awareness: If you’re a Seeker, social networking can help you answer the question: “How do I know who is out there?”. If you’re a Contributor, it answers the question: “How can I become more known?” Social networking software helps in both of these areas.
  • Competence (Trust): If you’re a Seeker, you want to know if the person you found is competent – “Do they know their stuff?”. If you’re a Contributor, social networking software enables you to advertise your expertise.
  • Benevolence (Trust): If you’re a Seeker, you want to know if this person will help you – “Are they nice to work with?”. If you’re a Contributor, social networking software enables you to develop your reputation as a trusted partner, and to show a little of your personality in some respects. This can give others clues as to how best to approach you from an interpersonal level.

And here’s an even better explanation from my colleague, Kathryn Everest:

One of the talking points on this slide that I use is the research on the importance of diversity in innovation. When clients go right to the “how do I collaborate” and don’t think about “who should be collaborating”, they are not enabling their workforce to expand their network – but rather giving them a tool to more effectively work with the “folks they know”. One of my key messages is about educating customers to educate their workforce that diversity can really help them come up with new ways (innovative ways) or new ideas.

Research on high performers tells us that high performers aren’t the people with hundred of connections (it is not a numbers game) but rather they are people who have a lot of reach and diversity in their network, and regularly add new connections to bring in new ideas and new perspectives. The “old boy/girl network” may be effective for some things – but not for innovation.