Fourth Age Communiqué - Leadership for the rest of us

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Things we can all learn from Barack Obama

Today, Barack Obama becomes the 44th president of the United States. There is no precedent for his election.

  • Make the most of the opportunities (and challenges) in front of you.
  • You can be an agent of change. You can be an agent of change.
  • The audacity of hope, residing in just one person, can unify many.
  • Obstacles don't stop us, they can only slow us down; it is our attitude that can stop or propel us.
  • You did not get here on your own. Carry your heritage with you.
  • Rivals can strengthen us.
  • Destiny is not written for us, it is written by us.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Things we can all learn from Don Imus

There are myriad leadership and diversity lessons about Don Imus that have nothing to do with the politics of the actual incident.

It is a sufficiently divisive topic that people would feel more comfortable shying away from it, rather than wading into potentially treacherous waters. After all, no one wants to be labeled racist or sexist, which is one of the "wisdom of crowds devolving into mob mentality" lessons worth noting.

But the basic principlces of emotional hijackings that are at play in this particular incident, with dramatic consequences, are also present every time we make bad decisions that affect people around us.

Here, then, are a number of imporant learning points about how we respond in the heat of the moment. Were we to break them down chronologically, the lessons to be learned are these:

  • If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all - Abraham Lincoln said, "better to keep one's mouth closed and thought a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt." Put another way, emotional self-control is the first and most critical lesson of all. It's one thing to know you want to say something questionable or inappropriate; it's entirely another to actually let it slip from your mouth.
  • If you make a mistake, admit it - There are few things less tolerable than making excuses or blameshifting. Own your gaffes, your blunders, your inexcusable lapses in judgement. Let your track record and other people defend you.

    And if people cannot defend the context of your work record over time, you may need to ask yourself: am I the problem?
  • If you think you crossed a line, you probably have - People with a strong social intelligence understand, almost intuitively, what impact their words and actions might have on people around them. And they act accordingly.

  • It's your response that dictates the repercussions - Life is 10% what happens to us, and 90% how we respond to it. You can be wrong, and respond properly, and be thought better of by those around you than when you are right and respond poorly.

  • There is an opportunity wrapped up in every blunder - For those who blundered, there is an opportunity to come to terms with what went wrong, to recognize the missteps, and to take corrective action in order to avoid the same pitfalls in the future.

    Strong leaders recognize the teaching moment inherent in every mistake made by people they influence. This underscores the value of debriefing after every project or new initiative: what went well? What should we do differently? What should we not stop doing?

When you make a mistake, even of epic proportions, you still have the opportunity to fail forward. It remains on you to decide, will I learn from this? Will I pick myself up and move on, and try to make amends?

Or will I choose to blame others for my failure?


Things we can all learn from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is at the top of a very short list of leaders whose leadership case study should be required reading.

  • You get to decide your attitude.
  • Learn from others you respect, and from those you do not.
  • Apply your learning in creative, life-affirming ways.
  • The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
  • You can be an agent of change. Just be ready to take action, and don't assume everyone will agree with or support you.
  • Fight for what you believe in, whether or not you see change for yourself.
  • Love is the best weapon of all.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Things we can all learn from George W. Bush

George W. Bush is the 43rd president of the United States. In his time, Dubya went from being one of the most approved-of presidents (late 2001-early 2002) to one of the least approved-of (2003 invasion of Iraq).

While most of us will never be the leader of the free world, there are things we can all take away from his legacy, regardless of our political affiliation.

  • Even the best intended plans can be derailed. Make the best of it.
  • Staying the course is an invaluable leadership trait.
  • Admitting your misjudgments engenders respect, too.
  • Your father did things differently than you for a reason. Learn from him.
  • Keep advisors close by whom you can trust.
  • If you believe in something, take a stand, even when those around you disagree.
  • If you make a decision, stick to it.
  • Hold yourself accountable for your decisions and your actions.
  • Life will go on without you. Make your legacy count.
  • History is the best judge of current events.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Innovation for the masses

“Innovation is the beginning of the intersection between invention and business insight.” – Sam Palmisano, IBM CEO (emphasis added)

Are you an innovator? Do you know how to reproduce or sustain novel and meaningful results?

When we are able to break innovation down into its discrete building blocks, we can begin to measure the real work involved in being innovators. And when we understand the level of commitment required to successfully deliver innovative results, we can begin to quantify what ‘innovation that matters to ourselves and the world’ really is.

Can you bottle lightning?
As Palmisano alludes to in his definition of innovation, the process of breakthrough thinking is fluid, iterative and ongoing. As such, there is no one catch-all classification, because not all creative endeavors produce innovative results. But there are some common characteristics and patterns that distinguish genuine innovation from creativity.

Defining innovation
At their core, innovation and creativity share common traits: novelty and utility (which can also be referred to as value). While creative results are new and meaningful to their originator, those results may not resonate with others. Contrast this with innovation, which is a function of creative scale and impact. That is, innovation’s value proposition is exponentially greater than creativity, because it represents an increasingly wider audience.

Think of creative problem solving as a proof of concept. While a new car prototype may be novel, and perhaps even useful, its derived value is most fully realized when the car is reproduced for others.

Once a new product concept begins to roll off the production line, it has scaled value. On its own, this could represent innovation. But it is the impact of scalability that truly defines the product’s value. A good working definition of ‘impact’ is the ability for a product or service to disrupt the industry or market space into which it is introduced. The extent to which a product, service or offering can ultimately be consumed begins to define its game-changing capability.

If innovation were a mathematical equation, the formula would look like this:

Invention + Business Insight + Execution

For almost 15 years running, IBM has been the undisputed leader in new patents issued in the United States. This trend is impressive by all measures, and represents a key underpinning of innovation. As a standalone exercise, invention is also a key feeder of the innovation process.

Another term for business insight is “breakthrough thinking.” Breakthrough thinking is the process in which a promising invention shows how it might yield tangible value.

Just as a patent disclosure represents potential business value, no business insight stands on its own as innovative. The catalytic moment only begins when the two building blocks intersect. Without application, neither invention nor business insight will yield value – or foster innovation.

Execution is the result of collaboration and communication. Thomas Edison once said his work was the product of 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. By Edison’s reckoning, uniting invention and insight still requires 99% sweat equity to see results.

Breakthrough results
No one can innovate alone. Innovation is an applied mix of networking, teaming and customer insight. And in large companies, the business value of innovation is directly proportional to the scope of the organization required to bring them to bear in the marketplace. In other words, applied innovation tends to take root in smaller organizations faster, but the impact is greater as the size and influence of the organization grows.

Every individual has the opportunity to turn creative thoughts into innovative action, because each of us brings a unique dimension of thought to any challenge or opportunity we face. When we combine these diverse thought processes with our network of peers, we have the potential to yield greater results from the collaboration.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mining latent ideas

Questions to unearth potential innovation:
  • What haven't we tried yet?

  • What can we break and make better?

  • What ideas are too far out? Why?

  • What assumptions are we making that box us in?

  • What should we stop doing?


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Things we can all learn from American Idol

Only seven Now almost ten years strong, American Idol is a reality show producer's dream come true: hire some "talent" to officiate finding new, fresh, "talent"; let the viewer decide the outcome of the talent show; charge advertisers through the nose to sell their stuff to the people watching and wishing they could be so lucky as to be humiliated in front of millions of viewers when they find out they just don't have the chops.

Just in case you think you're the next internationally-acclaimed talent du jour, here is a cautionary tale. Don't forget you don't need a stage in front of 44 million people to have influence.

  • Not everyone can sing/play in a band/produce a film/bake a cake and earn millions for it. Get over it.
  • Some people's talent is judging others' talent. Use your powers for good and not evil.
  • You can get by on name recognition alone, and not talent. But you may need plastic surgery to do it.
  • Sometimes the wisdom of the crowd speaks truer words than you do. Or sings them better.
  • Sometimes the wisdom of the crowds is nothing more than fickle lemmings who didn't like your outfit.
  • You won't always win. Show grace and aplomb; you may yet get that sweetheart deal.
  • Creativity can make or break you. Sometimes in the same moment. Own your decisions, whether the judges (or critics) love you or pan you.
  • People are fickle. They love you one week and hate you the next. Rise above.


Principles of breakthrough thinking

Deconstructing the building blocks of applied innovation. Based on 50 years of study in the field of creativity.

  • Explore the Challenge - Clarify a problem or opportunity. Sift through the relevant data and context of a problem to highlight the essence.

    This is the point at which you get all your assumptions out on the table. Also the point of root cause analysis.

    One effective means of understanding your challenge, goal or problem is to perform a gap analysis:

    Where do we want to be?
    Where are we now?
    What are all the things standing between our current reality and our desired future state?

  • Imagine the Possibilities - Consider all the possible ideas related to answering the challenge. Brainstorming is a technique most often used here.

    If the best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas, then deferring judgment is key. That means, get all your ideas out, and determine their value later. Studies show the best (most novel) ideas come in the last 1/3 of ideas generated, so push yourself for more ideas.

  • Shape your Future - Select and strengthen the best ideas, develop them into a workable solution.

    Filter: which ones stand out?
    Evaluate: what do you like about the ideas you selected? What could you improve?
    Prioritize: what do you see yourself doing now? What next? Who are the key stakeholders who must be on board?

  • Act! - Plan for action and implement. Set up a 30-60-90 day action plan and assign concrete tasks. Then execute on those tasks. Learn from your mistakes, but keep the ball in play. Test fast, fail fast, adjust fast.

    Contingency planning is key. What could go wrong? What should we do if it does go wrong? Whose support do we need? How do we get it?

  • Iterate - It's not over yet. It's time to start the process all over again.

    The process of applied innovation is not linear. Every step of the process can and should repeat, especially where there needs to be clarity and re-calibration.
Breakthrough thinking is as much a science as is any engineering field, so the key is discipline. The process, therefore, is only as intuitive as the practitioner.

Keep at it! Those we would consider innovative are the ones who have raised this science to an art.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Passive aggressive confrontation using social networking tools

Inspired by a colleague lamenting excessively long meetings ...

  • Update your status on "I'm in a pointless meeting"

  • Twitter update: "On the count of three, let's all get up and say we have a conflict"

  • Email meeting etiquette guide to meeting invite list

  • Transcribe the meeting minutes in a blog post. Don't forget to insert commentary.

  • Call people out in Twitter for bad behavior without naming them. (hat tip to Nink)

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Things we can all learn from Jack Bauer

In case you live under a rock, or are just not from the U.S., Jack Bauer is America's favorite operative. And probably the only "spy" to whom liberals would sign away their civil rights.

What would Jack Bauer do?
  • Some rules were meant to be broken. You may have to ask forgiveness, and you certainly have to be willing to accept the consequences.

  • If you want to be successful, you probably have to get your hands dirty.

  • Having a sense of urgency helps you get results.

  • Some things are worth sacrificing your life to accomplish. (And maybe someone else's, too.)

  • People may never know your name, or what you did for them. Do it anyway.

  • There are causes we can and should devote our lives to that are greater than ourselves. What is your cause?


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Things we can all learn from MC Hammer

MC Hammer shows how resilience is a virtue:

Props to Gia Lyons for creative consulting and Jeff Coffee for the inspiration.


Friday, January 09, 2009

Principles of innovation

A working definition of creativity: whatever is novel and useful (Stan Gryskiewicz).

A working definition of innovation: the intersection of invention and business insight.

In order to understand recursion, you must first understand recursion. - Some wise guy

What does innovation look like in your world?
  1. How do you define it?

    The creative process is universal.

  2. How do you measure it?

    It has discrete steps.

  3. How do you replicate it?

    The hardest part of enterprise innovation isn't creating the game-changing product or service.

  4. How do you sustain it?

    It's actually being the organization that can do so, again and again.

  5. How do you scale it?

    Instead of doing everything yourself, you need to build collaboration into your process, to constantly unlock new ideas.


Thursday, January 08, 2009

IBM Metaverse in the News

My team's charter is to develop applications for use inside our firewall that facilitate collaboration. Since ours is a global company, most of the focus is on remote collaboration. Experimenting with emerging technologies, such as the nascent virtual worlds field, is a big plus; especially if we can deliver value and change paradigms along the way.

All anyone really knew about virtual worlds at the time is they make social connections visceral and gaming is serious business. But how do you translate social connection into collaboration? How do you make an effective business play out of learning and gaming when your business is neither?

Turns out, it's not so easy. There are parallels to selling operating systems circa 1988 or the rise of web marketing and e-commerce a decade later. But the comparisons end there. Sure, there is an obvious discussion about open source, but who turns a profit (or generates revenue, for that matter) packaging content for open source software with the install media?

This is a service play all the way. And by service, think SOA. Virtual worlds bring people and creative thought to the dance; business needs to bring its data in droves. If there is money here, it is to be found in the extension of your organization's mission-critical data into an immersive (a mystical, intangible metric if ever there was one), highly contextualized, 3D environment.

Some of our virtual world development progress in the press (from late 2007/early 2008) sounds rather naive now, but the promise was there:
When we started the project, OpenSim was still a twinkle in the Linden's eye, and Second Life was just starting to show its sex appeal to the masses. Since then we've (corporately) dabbled with Qwaq, ActiveWorlds, Forterra, Mycosm and Unity. There are probably more. Torque was the right choice (albeit a bit "Mr. Right Now" to Second Life monogamists), because it offered what no other platform did: cost-effective source code control and (minimal) documentation.

Two years later, it's still a grand experiment (it is also still funded). This year we offer dynamic meeting spaces, interactive tools for breakthrough thinking, 3D visualization of social networks and some very key intranet services that begin to show the promise of platform ubiquity. There is business value in them tha'r hills - and we will see it in 2009.


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

How to make a good idea great

As a jiu-jitsu (kudos to carolinabigblue) to How to Kill an Idea ...

Rooney wisely points out there are a lot more raw ideas than good ones. That is because the context to an idea is key: all ideas are conceived in the context of some problem, challenge or opportunity space. So if you pose an idea to a domain expert, and the idea is weak (read, bad), you tend to find it runs aground. Quickly.

To successfully come up with good ideas, then, is not about finding a magic bullet. It is about understanding your problem space (context) and generating one or more ideas that effectively address that space. Conversely, when presented with an idea where you have greater contextual awareness than the idea's proponent, killing ideas simply because they are weak (again, bad) can actually diminish creative output, rather than encourage it.

Yes, Virginia, your value rises and falls on your delivery.

When asked how to maintain good behavior, teachers said it requires a 4:1 ratio of praise to criticism. To change behavior, they said, requires a ratio of 8:1. (When asked to assess their own praise-to-criticism ratio in the classroom, the ratio was inverted: 1:4.)

Praise First* is a tool to enhance convergent thinking (selecting and strengthing ideas from raw to refined). Use this after a brainstorming session when a number of ideas have been discussed and you are now beginning to evaluate the ones that stand out the most.

  • Positives - What are the good things about this idea? What about it works, sparkles, or stands head and shoulders over other ideas? Why is it a good idea?

  • Potential - Where could we go with this idea? How might it open up other opportunities? What are some ways we might be able to build on its promise?

  • Concerns - What holds this idea back? What about it needs to be strengthened to be a solid or irresistable solution?

    Overcoming Concerns - How do we address concerns about the idea in order to implement it?
Try affirming someone's idea before you assess it. See if, in doing so, you show affirmation of the person as well - which is what they were really seeking from you in the first place.

* Praise First (aka, PPCO) is based on research by Roger Firestien, Jonathan Vehar and Blair Miller


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Understanding Social Software

There are a variety of social software applications, both commercially available and on the web, designed with different requirements for cultivating social networks. Placing them in context is critical to understanding their relative value for business:

  • Find - How do we locate / identify people who have expertise or knowledge we need? Who knows what we need to know?

    How do we learn what we don't know but need to know if we don't know we need to know it?

    - How do we find out more about someone and begin to establish common personal, social or professional links with them?

  • Much of our social experience ends here. It is important, and necessary, to establish meaningful relationships with our colleagues. MySpace and Facebook are popular for just such a reason - they help us get to know people (sometimes in ways we would prefer not to).

    When we know and respect people, we begin to forge a trust relationship that will lead to business value. It is at this point that leveraging social software takes on a much more critical role in advancing the goals of the business.

  • Collaborate - Interact, engage, exchange knowledge to the point of raising each other's awareness and skill levels.

    - build on interaction to yield meaningful work product. A continuation of collaboration.

    - Turn work product into meaningful, sustainable, high impact outcomes for the organization or business at large.


Monday, January 05, 2009

Why "conventional" virtual worlds fail business

IBM and other companies have made a great first foray into the virtual space. But virtual worlds have yet to prove their full potential business value.

Note the self-expression vs. value of context conversation fits.

Five reasons enterprise virtual worlds currently fall short with respect to business usage:
  1. Real world redundant - Virtual worlds are almost exclusively "land on a grid": a 1:1 representation of the real world. We already have one of those, and we know enough people trade their first life in for their second one as an escape mechanism. And unless you work for MTV, that is hardly the kind of value your business cares about.

    And if we already have one of those, you are taking up business people's valuable time. And if you are doing that, you are causing someone's business to become ...

  2. Slow - Because they are redundant of the real world, one must traverse said world to find or engage others. If innovations in technology have taught us anything, it is that we want the world to be first person-centric: bring it all to me. Don't make me go find what you want me to see, or hear, or experience. Hand it to me, and do it fast. Such is the point of doing business in a 24x7 world: speed.

    And a world not focused on me is ...

  3. 3rd-person focused - Everything about business systems is first-person. From your browser to your instant messaging and email, it's a very me-centric tech world we live in. Only the HUD in SL is first-person.

    So you say, that's the point, stupid: real life isn't first-person. I say, it's still a pretty big paradigm shift for business people to get over. Especially if I can do everything I need to right now in a browser.

    And if all you do is replicate the real world experience in a virtual world, it becomes ...

  4. 2D web redundant - What they tend to offer for content is already available, in a much more effective form, through a traditional, 2D web browser. Think Circuit City in 3D; it just doesn't resonate. Second to the social connection, the most compelling feature of a virtual world is its rendering capability. So the value is not specifically in turning a virtual space into a 3D web page.

    And if someone is now trying to adopt a technology that doesn't help them do their job and they have to somehow get dressed up to use a redundant world, the process of making oneself presentable becomes a debate over ...

  5. Abstraction or distraction - An imbalanced perception of the value of hyper-realistic (or super generic) avatars.

    Q: what's the right balance?
    A: somewhere between South Park and Polar Express, where there's enough self-expression to give people creative license (and investment), and not so much that it's fails to be business-relevant.

    Be honest with yourself: how likely are you to do business in your avatar's current state of (un)dress? Until you can reconcile the two, I submit you are not addressing the potential of your virtual world of choice as a business platform.


Sunday, January 04, 2009

Adoption is relative

There is a fine line between business value and self-expression. Or perhaps a very deep and wide chasm.

And Mo effectively begins to articulate the problem (or opportunity) when explaining the relative virtues of a "create it as you go" virtual world vs. an off the shelf, retrofitted "first person shooter" gaming engine.

In a moment of frustration over my perceived SL bigotry (and longtime Second Lifers are nothing if not fiercely loyal to their world), I pointed out to Mo that one particular enterprise we are very familiar with has more than two platforms in use internally. In fact, said enterprise boasts no less than seven (7) internal virtual worlds, and maybe up to dozen. This underscores the point that the enterprise in question does not advocate one single virtual world; it advocates them all.

The debate we could have (and have had, and may yet behind our own firewall) is not over platform popularity. It is almost not even about adoption. It is over the relative merits of self-expression and business value. Mo and I share a common passion for seeing virtual worlds become adopted at the enterprise level because we both see the potential of the technology, much like we all did in the early days of the World Wide Web. Where we differ in professional opinion is a worthwhile case study.

Finding the right balance for your enterprise is the sole purpose of this discussion.

Adoption is not enough; it is a means to an end. Just as Netscape found its death grip on the web browsing market was not so lethal to Microsoft, whose Internet Explorer got out-Firefox'ed, who are finding its shine isn't Chrome ...

Google decimated Yahoo in the search wars because its automated, algorithmic search capability was vastly superior to Yahoo's internal user-recommended results. It won, essentially, on usability.

As we wait on OpenSim to become usable enough for the masses, enterprises may be forced to go along to get along. That is to say, some of Mo's points on adoption may very well be fueled by the successes and failures of other platform investment.

Credibility and cost: two sides of the same coin

To be credible, Mo says, one most be confident a technology will stick around. This is a slippery slope, because credibility is a function of cost and investment.

Cost is not the issue in 2009 that it was in 2006. This is in large part because Second Life gained credibility with subscriptions (how else do you fund all those new, free users?), which, in turn, gave way to an open source play. But OpenSim is accessible enough to the brave few who would have installed Linux on their computers when BSD was the closest thing to an industry standard.

That pesky ROI chestnut

In very crude Maslowian terms, show me funding and I will show you business value. The social software value proposition, then, is as much about business investment as it is user acceptance.

At the heart of the virtual worlds discussion is how you build community out of social context. Businesses historically try to quantify or ignore intangibles like creative expression and inclusive leadership, only to fall perpetual victim to the cold, hard realities of market share and profit and loss statements.

Forging a union between the undeniable, yet seeming unmeasurable need for social proximity, community building and creative outlet with the results-oriented needs of business is the flashpoint.


Things we can all learn from Brett Favre

Brett Favre is high up on a very short list of all-time greatest NFL quarterbacks. And yet his re-instatement to the NFL, and the ensuing controversy, culminating in a trade to his new team holding great promise, only for their hopes to be dashed, was equally one for the books.

These are some takeaways that resonate with us all.

  • Even living legends are expendable.
  • You may control your own career destiny, but management still has a pretty significant say in the process.
  • If you make a commitment, stick to it.
  • If you change your mind, accept that there are consequences beyond your control.
  • Always leave off on a good note. You just never know whom you'll be working for next.
  • You can't succeed on your reputation alone.
Late additions:
  • It's hard to get out from under your own shadow.
  • Sometimes the pedestal we find ourselves on is just too seductive to step off.
  • Maybe Sandy Koufax, Jim Brown and Joe DiMaggio were on to something.


Saturday, January 03, 2009

Best ways to kill an idea

Surefire ways to crush, kill or otherwise choke the life out of any idea. Or, how to demoralize your peers.

  • Ignore it or its proponent. It might just die from lack of creative oxygen.

  • Criticize it. Nothing shuts people up better, or more quickly, than feeling marginalized.

  • List all the ways the idea is doomed to failure.

  • List all the reasons why it didn't work before, and therefore won't work now.

  • Call it a stupid idea. Which, by inference, means the person who came up with the idea is stupid too. That is what you meant, right?


Friday, January 02, 2009

Things we can all learn from OJ Simpson

O.J. Simpson was a sports hero of mine, until about, oh, say ... 1994. I still did not believe he killed his wife, even after the verdict, but that may be due to a loyalty he has ultimately proved he did not deserve. I still feel a deep sense of grief for how his life has turned out.

  • Even living legends are fallible.
  • If you want to build a successful future, you cannot live in the past.
  • Working the system is not the same as having integrity.
  • Money and name recognition will not buy you character.
  • The first step toward recovery is admitting you have a problem.
  • What goes around comes around.


Other lessons learned in virtual worlds development

Other basic lessons when developing an enterprise virtual world (for business):

  • Avatars matter - as far as connecting to a virtual world. Visual appeal yields visceral emotional responses, which are part and parcel of our emotional connections with others. Without this, virtual worlds are largely stale.

    (And let's not even talk about the on-boarding time to get your avatar customized.)

  • Avatars don't matter - to the extent that once you have established a connection, you have a foundation on which to collaborate.

  • Content is king - There has to be something to do in a virtual world. Whether games, events, a maze ... there must be a draw to keep people coming back.

  • Context is key - The most effective virtual worlds are little more than contextual virtual spaces. The more context to a world, the more reason for someone to join and engage.

  • Value is subjective - socialization is the basis of the most popular virtual worlds. The necessity of business is to produce meaningful work product (innovation). Collaboration begins with socialization, but it never ends there. If you are only in it for the friendships, how much value are you adding to the business?


Thursday, January 01, 2009

Lessons Learned in virtual worlds development

My team has learned a number of valuable lessons in two years of virtual worlds development:

  • Resourcing is a strategic issue - The value of the virtual world platform is directly proportional to the resources invested in developing and deploying it. Or, if you want to do business effectively in a 3D space, you either need to have access to a good platform, or have some serious scratch to roll your own.

    When we launched our development project in 2006, Second Life was not available for use behind a firewall. It wasn't available until this year. Very few platforms, in fact, were available for enterprise deployment at the time. And few offered source code. Torque was a good choice then, and remains a good choice now, given the following double-edged sword:
    1. You can build your own environment. Having the source code for Torque allowed us to integrate our intranet login service on deployment. Go without a common login and see how necessary it is for everything else inside the enterprise.

    2. You had better be committed. Retrofitting a first-person shooter game to be a social platform is no small feat.

  • Simplicity is a virtue - Second Life requires somewhere around four (4) hours of investment before people will stay in world. Our platform can on-board people in an hour. This includes 3000 avatar permutations, a dozen controls in a (very) simple user interface, and around a half-dozen core features in world (presentations, games, social networking visualization, dynamic meeting spaces, basic object / services integration) for hosting meetings and sparking collaborative discussion.

  • Context is everything - Or, as Roo Reynolds once said, "people don't go to a coffee shop to collaborate; they go there to have coffee." The value of a 3D environment is not the virtual world; it is the virtual space. The more real estate, the less value. Conversely, the more context, the more value.

    One of the single largest barriers to virtual worlds adoption is the lack of contextual spaces. Sure, as a Second Life enthusiast, you may know how to get around because you have a long list of landmarks. But recall your first trip to Orientation Island, or sit with someone who has not broken the SL 4-hour barrier, and see how quick they are to figure out where the hot spots are in world. And only after they find them do they have to figure out what's worth doing. And who to talk to. And who is a colleague and who is not. It's a long way to collaboration in a wide open vista.

  • Business value is the holy grail - No one has been here before, attempting to deliver a virtual space for collaboration behind the firewall. The mushrooms of successful collaboration in a 3D space (or any other remote, synchronous technology, for that matter) are not clearly defined as edible or fatal. And someone must be the first to eat them. With Second Life enterprises are unable to share intellectual property or trade secrets, the coin of the realm for most businesses. So what works outside the firewall will not necessarily work inside, and vice versa.

    So how do we define business value? The economic downturn is a boon, ironically. With travel severely curtailed, and green as the new innovation, offering a space in which we can collaborate remotely and worldwide is suddenly much more attractive. Anything that allows remote teams to be more effective than they are now by having a sense of social proximity and connection is a benefit. Hosting meetings - especially on the fly - is heading in the right direction. But we still need to figure out the free form paradigm (vast open spaces, no context, heavy dependence upon self-expression).

    And as with all technologies, virtual meeting spaces are not the solution; they are just tools in search of a well facilitated process.
  • Labels:

    Creativity and Leadership quiz

    Here is a pop quiz from Dr. Michael Mumford from a presentation titled, "Creative Leaders: what do they do and what do they think about?":

    Creative people make unique contributions
    Creative ideas will triumph once recognized.
    Creative people work alone.
    Implementation is critical and demanding.
    Creativity can be bought.

    Which leadership role is critical to an organization's creative success?
    Promote idea development
    Bring the right people together
    Define viable missions
    Ensure effective planning and implementation
    Develop organizational absorptive capacity
    All of the above

    How did you score? It should not prove surprising that innovation is the natural byproduct of a culture that promotes creative thinking in all of its diversity and rigor. And at the heart of this culture is a body of leaders who actively promote idea generation, systematic solution development, risk-taking and implementation.