Tag Archives: social business

Successful social business stories from Germany

I recently published a guest post called “A German perspective on successful social business stories” on the Ripple Effect Group blog.

Many know of examples of social business transformation in the Anglo-American hemisphere, but in the past few years some German companies have stepped into the limelight. In the post I present the stories of adidas Group, Robert Bosch GmbH and Continental and highlight some unique approaches these companies took that contributed much to their success and might in the end be rooted in certain German cultural norms and traits.

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Everyone is a Change Agent but there is only one Change Agents WorldWide network

Change Agents WorldWideI recently became a member of Change Agents WorldWide. It’s a global network of experts from very different fields, but we all have a common vision and passion: We help organisations thrive in the 21st century!

If you only have 2 minutes, I recommend flipping through the slides below to learn more about CAWW.

In the 20th century people were busy creating the most efficient companies the world had seen to that date. Every company introduced processes, procedures and structures to manage every little single aspect of the organisation.  Companies adopted a mindset of control, distrust, opacity and shareholder value. By doing so they alienated employees, partners and customers. Paradoxically, these are the very same people who keep a company running!

Whilst these people felt powerless against the de-humanising companies of the 20th century, the tide has started to turn. As we move into the 21st century (“The Networked Century”), traditional companies need to evolve into networked companies. Companies are not at the center of networks anymore, they merely form part of it. This changes pretty much everything we know about companies:

  1. Why companies exist: Shareholder Value vs. Stakeholder Value
  2. What companies do: Consumption vs. Sharing Economy
  3. How companies create value for themselves and the ecosystem that breeds them: Short-term Profit vs. Sustainable Outcomes

These fundamental changes do not affect just  one industry, one company, one department, a single employee or manager. It affects everything and everybody. It affects people, processes, structures, culture and technology. Since this change is so complex, there is no single company in this world that can provide the expertise and credibility to facilitate the necessary change.

Imagine a company with a rigid structure trying to tie hundreds of experts to it, that are then controlled by overpriced and frustrated managers and supported by a thick administration layer and located in expensive offices. We are everything but that!

What is Change Agents WorldWide?

  1. A group of psychologists, anthropologists, linguists, technologists, management consultants, marketeers and other professions.
  2. Expertise in organisational design, (organisational) psychology, organisational learning, social business, collaboration & communication, knowledge management, innovation management, gamification, enterprise technology, change management and other disciplines.
  3. Solo change agents that work independently with a large variety of organisations and enterprise change agents that work as intrapreneurs within organisations like Deutsche Bank, Disney, UNICEF, BASF, Evonik, Walmart and many others.
  4. A lean network that thrives on distributed leadership but has no managers.
  5. A learning and evolving ecosystem fueled by passionate and engaged people connected globally and virtually together.

 How can Change Agents WorldWide help you?

  1. You have a business problem and believe it could be (better) solved with new business thinking and technology? Contact us! Seeing is believing, which is why we have created Project Green Room. It’s free of risk and charge! It allows you to pose your business problem and questions to the change agents that best know your industry and have the most expertise in the required field. If you like what you see and feel that change agents could provide sufficient value in helping you with your business problem, you are free to engage with selected change agents without having to give up access to the wider network. Please feel free to contact us to discuss Project Green Room or contact me directly.
  2. It takes knowledgable, curious and courageous leaders to make the shift from a traditional to networked business. But the managers and employees of your company are stuck in their daily business and ignorant to the changes around them? Engage us to help educate and coach decision-makers to prepare your organisation for the change necessary. We are not only good in creating the right content, but also in knowing how to influence people and facilitate change.
  3. You are looking for sponsorship opportunities? We are currently working with leading universities, but also social technology vendors to spread the messages near and dear to our hearts, i.e. the changing face of business in the 21st century. You can download our first free e-book or tune in to the webinars we have done to date.

How to engage with Change Agents WorldWide?

Additional information

Have a look at what some fellow change agents (link to the entire team) have written about their involvement in the network.

There are currently 3 change agents in Germany. If you would like to chat further, please do let me know.

Crumbling infrastructure - change or be changed

Change or be changed!

There is a lot of talk about how 20th century organisations need to change to be successful in the 21st century. And when we say organisations need to change, we actually mean people, as they make up and shape organisations.

Change is a process, not an event

Change is a process, not an event. It is underpinned by a learning process, as depicted below:

The learning process visualised

The learning process visualised. (Source: Author)

The end of the process may be fuzzy and thus be without concrete end date. However, the learning process is coming to an end once a person has learned a new skill, behaviour or technology and is first consciously and later unconsciously applying and using it. Traditional IT change management has always been about the changing technology itself. Change requests are raised for new features. Communication is tailored towards explaining new functionality. The traditional change management process is often part of an IT initiative with a defined start and end date. Becoming a 21st century company is not purely about introducing new technology. It is about new work models, new (social) contracts between employer and employees, new behaviours, a different corporate culture and organisational structures. Unlike technology, this is all rather fuzzy.

In the past ten years many organisations have experimented with new (social) technology to address existing business problems. Many of them focused on the technology aspect, some paid lip-service to the importance of behaviour and culture, though few really lived it. Changing technology is something tangible and can often be implemented by a project team. A business case is construed based on the most disputable facts. And of course, a start and end-date is set, ideally within a short timeframe to deliver results and be predictable. Organisations did themselves a disfavour though, as these projects did not yield the promised results. Many of them are now going through the Trough of Disillusionment, rethinking and redesigning the early initiatives. Other companies have been more realistic and strategic (holistic) about their initiative to evolve from a traditional to a social (connected) business. It’s not about implementing a set of technologies but about becoming a 21st century business. A great example is the Robert Bosch GmbH in Germany. Joachim Heinz of Robert Bosch GmbH presented the journey of his company at the recent Enterprise 2.0 Summit in Paris. What is noticeably different to other companies is the realistic and holistic design of the change process. Joachim said that it will take between 7 – 10 years. It may sound like a long time, but again probably realistic for what the company is set out to do and based on what kind of actual change we have seen in the past 10 years.

Change or be changed!

Change or be changed!  When you listen to the conversations between E20 practitioners in general or at the Enterprise 2.0 Summit in particular it is often like preaching to the converted. But then they return to Planet Earth and reality kicks in. People immersed in their day-to-day work life don’t see the need for change, are afraid to change, have other priorities. Change or be changed. While it is a true statement, it immediately creates resistance because it is seen as a threat.  Change is a learning process as depicted above. The question is whether we could and should accelerate the process. So I asked this question on Twitter during Joachim’s presentation at the E20 Summit and it evoked pushback from people, whose opinion I value and trust.

Could and should we accelerate change?

Could and should we accelerate change?

With its strategic and long-term programme Bosch is actively facilitating the learning / change process. In a sense, it is also accelerating the process. Maybe it does take 7 – 10 years instead of 10 – 15 years. What we should not be aspiring to is to let change happen, especially when meeting resistance.

A Change Acceleration Programme

We can’t expect people to simply change. At the same time we often can’t afford to wait until people are willing to change. In a recent client engagement I created a Change Acceleration Programme (partly inspired by General Electric’s Change Acceleration Programme) to plant the seeds for change. Based on an overall strategy it comprised a large number of concrete tactics, nudges and messages to help people change. Some of these tactics and nudges were derived by applying the Influencer Framework (Amazon) for specific people (CEO, COO etc.) and roles within the 40,000 employee strong organisation, others based on my own experience from other engagements or inspired by other practitioners.  The initial tactics and nudges were targeted primarily at changing employees’ behaviour from ‘working in silos’ to ‘working out loud’. The better you understand the motivation and ability of single individuals the better (and quicker) you can help them change and learn new behaviours, skills and technologies. (Shameless plug: 21 of my fellow change agents of the Change Agents WorldWide network just published our first e-book ‘Changing the world of work. One human at a time‘). Below is just a very short list of change tactics that were part of the programme:

  • Supporting key company events
  • Reverse Mentoring (Video; Reverse Mentoring at Bosch)
  • Email-Free-Friday / Meeting-Free-Friday
  • Flow of Work integration (Desktop, Mobile, IM, Office, Email, ERP)
  • Ask Me Anything
  • When To Use What Matrix
  • Before/After Scenarios
  • Card decks for specific roles
  • A day in the life of…

Sometimes, your posters, brown-bag lunches, user manuals and other communication and education material is simply not enough. You will need to find more creative ways of nudging people into the right direction and facilitate the change process. The tactics above and their exact content and approach depend on the organisation and should therefore not be simply copied.

To sum it all up, I believe we could and should accelerate change by facilitating the underlying learning process and influencing behaviours. For that we will need to zoom into the individual and group layer, rather than talking about big-splash change that is orchestrated only on the organisational level.


© Picture Credit: Christoph Schmaltz

Engaging the workforce

16 interesting event formats to engage your employees

Many traditional businesses are exploring ways to adapt to the 21st century and become social businesses. A social business is a fancy word for a networked business or connected business. In the end it’s about networks and connections and its radical impact and mindshift to the way businesses have operated in the 20th century.

There are various ways of building and strengthening networks, including employee networks within companies. The idea is to tear down corporate silos, strengthen the corporate culture, improve employee loyalty, leverage the collective intelligence but also to have some fun! One of the most scalable ways is the use of an enterprise social network or social Intranet. It allows employees to connect with each other based on joint interests and work beyond all departmental silos, locations and hierarchies. Whilst the introduction and use of such platforms comes with its own challenges, it is still the most preferred method for connecting a company’s workforce because of its scale and value.

But actually there are many other ways and formats of bringing employees together. Carsten Rossi from Kuhn, Kammann & Kuhn recently published a great list of online and offline events (German) that have the power to bring together employees from different departments, divisions, hierarchies and locations of a company. Some of them can also take place on or at least can be facilitated through a company’s enterprise social network or social intranet increasing its usage. Since Carsten’s list is in German, but I find it interesting and valuable, I thought I would briefly list the ideas and events in English:

1) Corporate Commuter App
This app facilitates connections among commuting employees and allows them to organise shared rides from and to work. (Author’s comment: SAP has already developed an app that could be used by other companies.)

2) Top Chef
Employees of a global company that love to cook can show off their talent in the company’s cafeterias. Local recipes can be exchanged and discussed on a Cooking Community on the company’s enterprise social network.

3) WorldCafé “worldwide”
See link to Wikipedia.

4) Corporate Quiz Duel
This could be first facilitated online and quarter, semi and finals could be held in real life. Format could be similar to ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ or similar.

5) Film Series
Based on a rough concept, employees in one office location create the first part of a movie and then pass the result on to the next office location. Progress and discussions take place on the enterprise social network or intranet.

6) Academy on the road
Employees that are traveling to other office locations present in Pecha Kucha style a project or innovations of his own office. All presentations can also be collected on the company’s intranet or similar.

7) ExOlympic Games
Instead of the usual company’s soccer tournament, the ‘Exotic Olympic Games’ are held. Activities could be for example Stacking or Mental Arithmetic.

8) Sandbox Days (inspired by Google Creative Sandbox)
Every company needs to address some big questions. Once a year it could organise a Sandbox day in different locations, where people come together to find answers to those big questions. At the end of the day the answers are presented to all participating locations.

9) Crowd Choir
Based on apps like Crowdflik groups / choirs could meet in different office locations and choreograph a previously chose song.

10) Citizen Day
Employees can talk about their social engagement outside work. On the company’s Intranet they can showcase their work through stories, photos and videos. Other employees can vote on the different engagements. The one with the most votes will be supported in a next Citizen Day.

11) Lunch Roulette
Why always go with the same colleagues for lunch? An app could help to pair people from different departments and roles to meet for lunch to learn about each other’s work. This could also be based on interests. (edited 27 Feb: There is an app for that called Mystery Lunch.)

12) Skill Swap
An idea by Clay Hebert.

13) Tracksuit Day (I would add it to the list)
The adidas Group organises once a year a track suit day. Employees are asked to come to work in a tracksuit. They can then upload their photos or videos and others can vote on them. This takes place on the company’s Intranet and has been a great success.

Some of the event formats above are clearly targeted ‘only’ at creating a stronger team spirit.  But there are others that can yield more immediate work-related results.

1) Corporate Barcamps
Similar to public barcamps this event format brings together employees to discuss various aspects of a pre-selected topic. Aspects are discussed and presented in various sessions organised by attendees rather than by a central committee. An extension would be to include partners, suppliers or even a completely external audience.

2) Innovation Slams
Employees present innovative ideas within a certain timeframe. These are rated and voted up on by others.

3) Jams
Jams can involve many hundreds and thousands of employees since they primarily take place online. Collaboratively employees work on predefined questions and challenges. Most jams are time-boxed between 24 and 72 hours. IBM has been a poster child for jams.


© Picture Credit: Christoph Schmaltz

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Corporate website trend: From static to real-time information

Summary: Moving ‘from static to real-time information’ is the first corporate website trend we identified. This post is part of a series of blog posts in which we look at trends for corporate websites.

Whilst static content will probably always be the biggest share of content on a corporate website, companies should think about what kind of information and data they could make available in real-time. One example is broadcasting the Annual General Meetings of a company.  There are already a number of companies that do this, for example ThyssenKrupp, Metro and Lloyds Banking Group (see screenshot below).

Lloyds - Real-time information: AGM

Lloyds Banking Group – Link to livecast of AGM

 

But there are more exciting examples of offering real-time data. General Electric (GE) has one of the most progressive corporate websites. One of the little features is seen in the screenshot below:

GE - Providing real-time information: HR data

General Electric – Highlighting career opportunities on the homepage

At the bottom of GE’s homepage they display the current vacancies in the country from which you are currently visiting the website. It is a nice integration into their HR systems, probably some recruitment / job database. It is personalised and helps to raise awareness of other areas that certain stakeholders like journalists, investors, analysts etc. might not usually go to. However, we should not forget that these stakeholders have potentially a large network and can thus also become a qualified multiplier for job referrals.

Although not real-time another interesting idea from GE is the use of figures. See screenshot below:

General Electric: Using figures to ease complexity

General Electric – Using figures to draw attention and highlight important information

Figures are used to capture attention. They are easier to digest than lengthy text. Of course, it would be even more useful to have figures in real-time. Imagine your company has set out on an important CSR initiative. Rather than simply creating beautiful reports on an (in)frequent basis or, worse, long after the campaign has ended, key figures (KPIs) should be immediately available in real-time. Of course, this requires technical prowess, suitable systems to capture and exchange data and also the confidence to publish such information in real-time.  But if companies don’t even trust themselves, why should consumers?

The appetite and need for real-time data is real. Companies should review their content, but also business objectives and audience to identify suitable opportunities to move from static to real-time information.


This blog post is part of a series of posts in which we delve into the trends for corporate website that we have identified. The series:

  1. From static to real-time information
  2. From text to active content
  3. From channel to canvas
  4. From desktop to mobile
  5. From single source of truth to the provider of different opinions
  6. From destination to platform
  7. From providing information to providing a service
  8. From company centric design to user centric design
  9. From single launch to continuous improvement

© Picture Credit: Khairil Zhafri