Is It Time To Rethink Industry Awards?

Award schemes have become a form of media. They exist to generate income for an organisation through a combination of entry fees and overpriced chicken dinners – Stephen Waddington

It can sometimes feel like there is an industry awards ceremony for every night of the week.

A Google search for ‘housing awards’ will get you 500 million results and nearly 700 million for ‘health and social care’ awards. That’s without awards for charities and other non profits.

There isn’t a resource where you can find exactly how many ceremonies there are in total (there’s at least sixty four UK award schemes for health and social care) , but it’s clearly very big business.

With all these awards schemes recognizing excellence you’d think customer satisfaction would be soaring to hitherto unseen heights – but that’s clearly not the case.

So what are the benefits of awards ceremonies?

Brand Recognition: A relatively quick way to signal you are above the competition is by seeking out and winning awards in your industry. This is nothing new, it’s basic marketing – companies have been touting their award-winning products for over a century.

Boost Employee Moral: For individual colleagues or teams winning a recognised award gives you public recognition, this gives people their moment in the limelight.

Encourage Self Reflection: The actual act of entering an award is a discipline that, if done honestly, encourages you to articulate why you did what you did and what you learned.

Let’s be honest though, the sheer amount of award schemes means they don’t deliver any true recognition of excellence. As Stephen says in his piece – with disciplined planning and a good entry form anyone can become a winner.

Do Industry Awards Inspire or Inhibit Innovation?

Awards and accreditation can actually act against the interests of customers.

  • They can encourage people to aim at the prize rather than the journey.
  • They can encourage organisations to tell good stories rather than promoting transparency and encouraging learning from failure.
  • They can imply that innovation is a single event, when it hardly ever is. Truly significant change is achieved over years, sometimes across generations.

And awards ceremonies can actually embed silo thinking — by promoting innovation at sector level when the really wicked problems need a more joined up approach

Serena Jones has noted that publicity from awards can help us reach new partners and investors. “They also highlight and circulate new ideas, approaches, methods which challenge us to do things better or different”.

This is helpful” says Serena, “But perhaps other mechanisms (without awards) can achieve the same outcomes?”

 

In 2014 I collaborated with Shirley Ayres in an online competition to find the people using digital tools to connect and share knowledge in new ways. It was called Power Players.

What was intended as a slightly light-hearted alternative to formal ‘awards’ turned into something else. Hundreds of people voted and the posts themselves have had over 40,000 views.

What was different about the list was the transparency.

As Shirley wrote  at the time “Digital technology has democratised access to information and created very different ways of enabling people to connect and share resources, thoughts and opinion. We live in a digitally connected world and in the crowded social space online influence is becoming increasingly important.”

I’m disappointed in the lack of innovation in the recognition and awards space in the five years since Power Players. Outside the social sector platforms like TripAdvisor, Trustpilot and Glassdoor have harnessed the digital voice of consumers to provide a more transparent way of recognizing excellence.

Indeed, transparency is where most traditional awards, many self nominated by the recipients themselves, completely fall down.

There is rarely clarity on why someone wins, why someone loses, or why someone was ruled out in the first place.

In fact the awards business wholly lacks any real transparency which is why many people leap to the conclusion that winning comes down to who sponsors what and which organisations buy the most tables.

Social media has enabled a new transparency, you can no longer control your messaging within closed industry borders.

We’ve still got organisations who are still adapting to an era where they can be answered back and where they don’t have the final word.

Many still think their brands can be controlled (they can’t).

Many still think that their brand is their own (it isn’t).

As Jayne Hilditch has said  – every time an organisation over claims how good it is, another piece of trust with the customer dies.

Those organisations who act like ‘awards tourists’, gathering baubles in very public shows of self affirmation may find themselves having to answer difficult questions.

Who really benefits from awards – and how? 

 


 

Image by analogicus from Pixabay 

If We Don’t Develop Different Relationships, We’ll Lose Our Legitimacy

If we do not respond to people and communities’ desire for power, we will lose our legitimacy and waste the potential of the many ways they can have agency over what matters to them. If we do not continually, bravely work to build trust, we will lose the essential foundation for everything we do. – Civil Societies Futures

I’ve had a week of fascinating conversations, all linked by one theme, the apparent reluctance of many of our institutions to cede any sort of meaningful power and decision making to communities.

Part of the problem is the social sector is a field of business that profits from past societal failure. The entire premise relies on reaction.

When your business model is founded on profiting from being reactive – there is little incentive to change.

There’s also a very real question about skillsets and mindsets. During my conversation with Lizzie Spring it became apparent that at some point we shifted from entrepreneurial community based models (think: the birth of the social housing movement for example) to ones based on efficiency and the accumulation of wealth.

Necessarily this has forced organisations to be more ‘business like’ with career pathways for ‘professionals’.  It’s hardly surprising that communities feel organisations have become more distanced, remote and less accessible.

CHC Trust Presentation (1)

A couple of weeks ago a consortium of housing providers tweeted an animated GIF showing a lonely looking person peering out of a desolate block of flats. The tagline read something like ‘Housing Associations provide services to some of the most vulnerable and hard to reach people in the UK’.

What on earth are we trying to say? 

A number of tenants jumped on the tweet and pointed out – quite rightly – that it is the institutions themselves that are hard to reach not the people they serve. It was deleted by the following day.

It would be easy to write things like this off as the mistake of junior comms person but this attitude speaks of something far more fundamental: that organisations have become disconnected from their original purpose and are happy in their role as rescuers of people.

CHC Trust Presentation

In today’s world of rising demand and scarce resources the doing, not just the talking, needs to be new and different. You can’t change a relationship without actual changing your behaviour.

A new report from Adam Lent and Jessica Studdert sets out a compelling case for a deep shift in public services based on a completely new relationship between citizen and state. This relationship rejects the hierarchical and transactional mindsets of traditional service models which all too often bypass people’s assets and capabilities.

It highlights the risk of seeing citizens only as atomised consumers – something the digital transformation zealots are actively encouraging. This consumerism only leads one way – to a growing sense of alienation and frustration with public services and the state.

The report goes on to state this isn’t inevitable. There is a huge opportunity to change.

CHC Trust Presentation (2)Our communities want change – and they know what’s not working. This appetite for power and influence is a once in a generation opportunity to reconnect with people and establish entirely new relationships.

We mustn’t all focus on housing the homeless. We mustn’t all focus on filling prisons or A+E departments. 

We have to move to a more preemptive model that builds on what is already there rather than seeing our organisations as curators of the worlds problems.

The conversations I’ve had this week, and the grassroots innovation that some organisations are fostering (notably in Wales), fill me with a lot of positivity.

The modern social entrepreneurs aren’t waiting for permission from regulators or consensus from their industry body. They aren’t bothered about awards or being seen at industry events. They never look at benchmarking. Many of them aren’t even paid or employed in the social sector.

They know that the way we have become organised is dysfunctional – and they are forging ahead with relationships first and services last. They are working with communities as equals rather than as professionals.

They might not know what works yet but they are clear about one thing: not returning down a path to paternalism and disempowerment.

This incremental change can build and gather momentum – becoming massive change for the entire social sector.

No-one is stopping us.


 

This post has been inspired by conversations this week with Lizzie Spring, Shirley Ayres, Serena Jones, Chris Bolton, Ena Lloyd and Pritpal Tamber. Thanks guys

The full slide deck on rebuilding trust as featured at #CHCGOV19 is featured here 

What Digital Transformation Is Not About

#WAODigital18
I’m hearing a lot about testing multiple small things and spreading what works – rather than investing in single Big Bang solutions. The world is moving too fast…

— Chris Bolton (@whatsthepont) June 14, 2018

“How ambitious can organisations be in using digital technology?” was the theme of two recent events I contributed to for the Wales Audit Office Good Practice Team. 

It served as both a reminder of the issues our organisations are grappling with – as well as unearthing some opportunities we are yet to exploit.

Here’s a round-up of my post-match thoughts:

Success in digital transformation depends on mindset, not technology

The problem is that digital change requires a completely different mindset, not just skill-set. The consumerisation of IT means we are forever playing catch-up.  Employees are using popular tech and devices at home and then introducing them in the workplace, whilst customers are using better tech than most of our organisations can hope to provide.

Redesigning our services around this is cultural rather than technological. It means we need to adopt very different organisational behaviours.

Stop talking, start experimenting

Organisations are still over-thinking digital and being cautious – waiting for the landscape to settle before they decide what they do. Arguably this ‘wait and see’ option is more ‘wait and die’.

When you don’t really know the way forward the best strategy is to spread your bets with small experiments. It’s these low-cost practical tests that show whether the fundamental assumptions are correct and what they mean for your business.

A focus on cost-cutting is a danger in transformation plans

Focusing everything on cost savings is outdated and will ultimately have longer-term implications for business in the digital era. There’s a huge opportunity for companies to broaden the lens and widen their ambition:

  • Rebuilding organisation’s as a platform – enabling people to select the suppliers and services they themselves want
  • Rewiring your organisation for the network era – stripping out hierarchy and management and making a transition to decentralised decision making
  • Automating everything that can be automated. But not before stripping out legacy protocols and systems.  Decommissioning old world services as you launch new ones, reserving your people for worthwhile jobs that add value to their lives and those of others.

In reality, many of us are delivering the same services as we did in 1970,  just with shiny websites and ‘customer portals’. That’s not transformation, that’s stagnation.

Technology cannot solve your organisation’s deep problems

If someone gives you the digital sales pitch as a golden bullet for systems that are fundamentally broken my advice is, don’t believe themShirley Ayres

The problem I have with digital cheerleading is two-fold:

  • The implication that all our problems are easily ‘solvable’ 
  • The subsequent rush towards technology – as if digital is the only solution.

The evidence that technology makes us more productive is weak at best. There’s an ever-increasing gap between technological sophistication and work actually being performed.

This is because we are simply taking existing ways of working and digitising them – effectively just transferring today’s problems to another platform.

‘Digital transformation’ is rarely about digital, or transformation.

It’s actually about the processes by which you change your business model or approach. Some of which will have digital elements.

We need to talk about leadership in a digital age

Digital illiteracy will get you fired long before a robot does. Digital is now not just part of the economy — it is the economy. Rather than it being the responsibility of an elite few surely anyone in a publicly funded role must be digitally literate?

Perhaps leadership in the digital age is less a set of skills and more a set of behaviours.

The challenge for current leaders and public sector organisations is the legacy thinking and a business model disconnected from citizens living digital lifestyles.

What is digital transformation anyway?

If your transformation doesn’t significantly change the customer experience of interacting with you, then it is not a transformation.

Indeed, the first rule of digital transformation is not to talk about digital transformation.

As Tony Colon writes – most employees wouldn’t be confident and nearly a third would be “extremely uncomfortable” in explaining what this concept actually is:

Let’s think about that for a second. The concept that businesses are betting on is something that the general population just doesn’t understand – even though they need to play a part in that transformation at work – and the entire premise of digital transformation relies on people.

Making the opportunities of digital real for people is becoming one of the most pressing priorities for our organisations.

Our biggest challenges are dealing with people’s belief systems, addiction to legacy processes and cognitive biases.

Digital transformation is not a ‘thing’.

It’s a race you can’t win with no end destination.

 


Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

 

 

My Five Most Popular Posts of 2014

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It’s the time of year to reflect on the past 12 months and consider where next – personally and professionally. 

To that we also need to add our online profiles and give consideration to how we spend our digital time. The temptation with social is to spread yourself across every available platform – and I can’t be the only one nearing digital burnout. 

I closed several accounts this year and am starting to withdraw from the seemingly endless discussion groups. “Let’s set up a Yammer group to continue this debate”.  No, let’s not! Social media going forward is about developing social layers rather than siloed networks.

This year I’ve spent more time on Instagram and SlideShare than before and Twitter continues to provide great value. 

It’s been a pretty good year for this blog. It’s had a significant increase in hits and , much more importantly, a big spike in the number of comments and contributors. 

I think with blogging most of us start out posting what we think other people would want to hear before finding our true voice. The organic nature of social media means you end up in the hands of people who share the same passions – and you connect with fascinating people from all over the world. 

Whatever anyone says, blogging isn’t easy. Just like any form of social media the more you give the more you get out.

I know a lot of people who’ve started blogging in a professional capacity only to give up when their first few posts receive minimal attention. 

It’s time to wake up folks. 

Social media is an increasingly crowded space and no-one is waiting on your latest pronouncement! Just because you are a big organisation or successful CEO you have absolutely no right to command attention. 

Social is about relationships – they take time to build and need effort to truly nurture. 

It’s no coincidence that the 5 most popular posts on here have either featured other people’s work , started a debate , or were collaborations.

Here they are – in reverse order of course: 

5 – We need less talk about innovation and more about mediocrity

My attempted takedown of the innovation naysayers generated lots of comment. The war on mediocrity needs to intensify in 2015. 

4 – Managers are waste: five organisations saying goodbye to the boss

As public service cuts deepen it’s only natural that enlightened organisations will embark on a cull of their most expendable and expensive resource – the manager.

3 – The Top 50 Digital #PowerPlayers14 in #UKhousing 

The second year of the online influencer list for people working in and around social housing sent my Twitter into meltdown. This time we introduced a public nominations system (thanks Shirley Ayres for that idea!) which received hundreds of votes – showing that people love the interactive elements of social.

2 – Three things we should learn from Benefits Street

I was in Vietnam when my UK timeline erupted in fury at the latest Channel 4 docu-soap. Intrigued as to whether the haters had actually watched it , I came back and viewed it back to back. They clearly hadn’t. Poverty porn, much like real porn I guess , comes in varying degrees of quality and this series was pretty damn good. It had a better narrative about hope and aspiration than the social housing sector has ever managed. 

1 – Why the death of the office can’t come too soon

My most popular post (ever) detailed how 90% of work is a waste of time and money. It split the comments section , but I guarantee we’ll see some big UK organisations rationalising their offices in 2015. 

My blogging resolution next year is to be more diligent with the regularity of posts. With the exception of powerplayers , all these were written very quickly indeed.

I mess about with posts too much and perhaps worry about offending people. On social media someone somewhere gets upset about anything and everything.

I’m going to hang a a little looser this year and maybe publish some of my 100+ draft posts. 

Happy New Year to you and your loved ones. Thanks for your support! 

A Revolution in Care Requires a Revolution in Thinking

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It would appear that a revolution is required in our thinking of older people as a ‘demographic time bomb’,
‘burden’, ‘bed blockers’ and an economic liability all of which engender ageist attitudes. We’ need to recognise
the contribution of older people in the workplace, supporting families, friends, neighbours and society. We also
need to radically rethink how different services and sectors collaborate to identify innovative solutions.

Shirley AyresThe Long-Term Care Revolution , A Provocation Paper

Many of you will know of the famous experiment by Ellen Ranger and Judith Rodin in which a number of older people in a care home were split into two groups.

The first group were given a speech by staff which emphasised that residents should have more responsibility for their lives. To demonstrate this new choice a film night would be held twice each week, and it was up to residents to decide which night they wanted to attend. Each resident was given a gift of a small plant. It was strongly emphasised that it was up to the residents to take care of it.

The second group had exactly the same speech. Except all references of taking responsibility and making decisions were omitted. They were told which movie night to go to and that a member of staff would look after the plant.

After 18 months 15% of the first group had died compared to 30% in the second.

This small exercise in recognising the importance of individual decision making and giving people a little more control over their lives had a dramatic effect. As well as living longer , the residents in the first group became happier and more fulfilled.

One of my earliest experiences of working in housing was being asked to manage a brand new older persons scheme. They were purpose built bungalows for people who had reached the ripe old age of 55+.

“You’ve got it really easy now” a colleague told me. “You move them in , get their rent or housing benefit sorted – and you’ll never hear from them again. It’s much better than housing young people.”

They were right.  The only contact I had was because of an occasional death and the subsequent reletting of a property.  Demand wasn’t an issue as there was an endless conveyor belt of people eager to get a bungalow. As a model of business efficiency it would have made Amazon proud.

We never asked those people what their skills were. What they dreamed of. Where they were going. They were people society deemed to have served their purpose. They could now be placed in the quiet and polite customer demographic –  living out their days in peace and rarely complaining about anything.

In 2014 Morrissey , Kevin Spacey and Simon Cowell could all qualify for older persons housing and services.  Next year they’ll be joined by Nigella Lawson, Daryl Hannah and Tilda Swinton. I don’t know any of them personally but I imagine they have aspirations beyond the occasional game of bingo.

As Shirley Ayres pointed out at the launch of her paper (which I urge you to read) the default position is to view older people as an economic drain on society rather than a source of skills and potential.

Two weeks ago as part of the work of Bromford Lab we began to revisit our Older Persons offer. The first thing colleagues decided to do was to stop calling it an older persons offer. It’s ageless.

Older people do not exist as one homogenous group. They have the same skills , aspirations and dreams as the rest of us and the current lowest common denominator service provision is unfit for this generation.

At Bromford we are putting a lot of focus on how we unlock the skills and potential of all ages. There is a unique opportunity to unleash the experience and wisdom of older people across communities at time when they are needed more than ever.

This will take radical new thinking. It will involve reimagining the housing , health and care sectors that have a long history of doing things to and for people rather than promoting autonomy , connectivity and self determination.

Old age is a social construct. It essentially means a person older than yourself. Nobody stops dreaming when they hit 65, 75, 85 or 95.

Nobody dreams of ending up in a care home. And nobody dreams of being warehoused in a community where the knowledge they have built up is left to slowly dissipate.

The long term revolution we need calls for a radically different view of age and skills.

The Top 50 Digital #PowerPlayers14 in #ukhousing

 

dc-comics-superheros-wallpaper

You want to get to the list don’t you? 

Hold on. It’s coming.  

Before you look at the Top 50 influencers please read this guest post from Shirley Ayres who kindly agreed to collaborate with me on #powerplayers14.

For me…it sums up perfectly what it’s all about….

When the first Power Players 50 list was published I was surprised and complimented to be included.The list was intended as light hearted fun but the interest generated in who was included and why sparked a very lively debate.

I was delighted to be invited by Paul to collaborate on the #powerplayers14 list and we agreed that we needed to widen the criteria. We accept that Klout is an imperfect algorithm so added in scores from PeerIndex. We also invited public nominations. You can read the criteria we used here.

We wanted to create a different kind of list celebrating the diversity of people with an interest in housing who are using social media to connect, inspire and challenge.

We were particularly keen to encourage nominations for people working in and around the sector and we were pleasantly surprised by the diversity. 140 different people were nominated.

Digital technology has democratised access to information and created very different ways of enabling people to connect and share resources, thoughts and opinion. We live in a digitally connected world and in the crowded social space online influence is becoming increasingly important.

Influencers select, share and create content around topics which attract diverse audiences and offer real opportunities to drive action and effect change.

At a time when the housing sector is having to redefine their core mission and purpose, online engagement can amplify voices and offer alternative views to those presented by the mainstream media. Influencers are passionate about their interests and have invested time to grow and develop trust with those following on their social networks.

We all have access to a wide range of social media tools. It’s what individuals do with the tools that is important. Shared experiences on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and  blogs are valuable in earning trust over time.

Possibly the term power players is a bit of a misnomer in this context and a more appropriate term is super connectors. The housing sector is at an early stage of recognising the potential of social media to make new connections which are not limited by sector boundaries. It’s a potential for new collaborations , with the active involvement of customers in the development of new services.

Becoming a social business often requires a cultural mindshift which goes beyond thinking that social media is just a communications channel. People increasingly expect that organisations will not just reach out but also listen to them. The nominations for power players represented a cross section of people who are building connected communities and and modelling how social technologies can creatively help housing associations build new networks.

I believe that we need more opportunities to inspire staff and people who use services from across housing, care, health, charities and social enterprises to collaborate in exploring how to embed digital innovations as an integral part of the support available within every community.

Power players are by nature engagers and connectors who understand that social media is about connecting with people.

If we are battling for hearts and minds we need ambassadors who understand the issues at every level of the housing sector and are able to contribute to debates.

This list represents the new world of housing associations

 

So that’s the list! Congratulations to everyone who was nominated.

A diverse range of people and interests.

There are substantially more CEOs present than last year – a sign of social being taken more seriously?

Notably 7 of the Top 10 are women.

We’d love to get as many of your thoughts, congratulations or disagreements as possible in the comments below.

Do you agree with the list? Any omissions? Who should get special mention at the House Party awards for significant contributions?

Over to you….

Update: If you would like to follow a Twitter List featuring all the final 50 click here. Thanks to Jarrod Williams for this.

Social conversations: time to move beyond broadcasting

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Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human – Aristotle

That’s the intellectual stuff out of the way.

Let’s talk about Instagram and social conversations.

People sharing their passions and interests is what social is all about for me. Whether it’s a love of food , dancing , dogs or a desire to change the world, most of us connect better when we see the person behind the brand.

Far from being a modern phenomenon these passions have been shared between people for thousands of years. The fact we are now sharing them through digital media is a change in the tools available to us – not our human behaviour.

Earlier in the year I went on a trip to Vietnam. I didn’t think I tweeted much but it was enough to prompt the following in Inside Housing – the social housing magazine.

Screenshot 2014-05-05 12.48.41

I thought it was pretty funny and shared it online.

The responses were interesting and split three ways.

Some thought it was amusing. It annoyed others who saw the call for ‘disconnecting’ as missing the point of social.

But some people agreed with it – and suggested I keep my holiday updates to myself. They’d followed me for insights on innovation and customer experience – and now they were getting photographs of my breakfast.

I was initially dismissive of this. I even playfully reminded them that social networks are subscription services – if you don’t like a persons updates you can always switch them off.

Indeed a couple of people took me up on this advice and promptly unfollowed me! This , on reflection, was short sighted of me , it’s important to try to understand the expectations of your community.

In ‘It’s complicated – the social lives of networked teens’ , danah boyd explores changing attitudes to digital identity from the point of view of young people.

The book articulates how teens are becoming increasingly sophisticated in adapting their identity according to the audience they are addressing. Or the audience they imagine they are addressing.

Digital communication is different.

In face-to-face communication we carefully assess the context of the interaction in order to decide how we will act, what we will say, and how we present ourselves.

But social media technologies collapse multiple audiences into single contexts. And every blog you write , every photo you share , every message you tweet can be transported anywhere in the world and interpreted in an infinite number of ways.

This excites many of us and scares others.

A girls message left on Facebook with an intended audience of her close friends is sometimes misunderstood , usually by adults, who have no clue as to how it fits into the context of a larger conversation.

This is why many organisations have such an uneasy relationship with social media. They obsess about how their output has to be “on message” and not be capable of being misinterpreted. They are trying to put a set of rules around social media that simply doesn’t work.

As Mark Schaefer has said – internal process is usually optimised for “campaigns,” not “relationships.”

Rewiring our organisations for building relationships through conversations is one of our great challenges.

Clearly many will struggle to adapt to a more connected culture. This need for digital leadership was discussed last week with Mark Brown and Shirley Ayres. The highlights are in this slide deck.

We are moving beyond broadcasting.

And if social media can lead to social good it requires us to build relationships with others who share our passions and interests . These relationships are no longer restrained by physical location , our immediate peer group, our employers, or our sectors.

We have an opportunity to say this is who I am and this is what I want to achieve. A opportunity of following and being followed by people who believe in your cause.

And that conversation may start with what you had for breakfast. And it might annoy a minority of your followers.

I reckon Aristotle would have loved Instagram , our emerging digital intimacy , and our very social conversations.

 

Top 50 Power Players In #UKHousing 2014 – Your Vote Counts….

Power. Influence. Social Housing Heroes
Power. Influence. Social Housing Heroes

A year ago I published The Top 50 Power Players In Housing [Klout Edition] – featuring people working in and around the sector.

The idea came to me as I was sipping rum at a beach bar in Jamaica, checking my Klout score and wondering why I hadn’t made the main list in 24 Housing Magazine.

More seriously – it was done as an exercise in comparing online and offline influence.

Only 14 of the original Power Players remained in the online list. The democratising effect of social media was apparent. CEOs disappeared almost completely and were replaced by people with less seniority – in the traditional hierarchical sense. There was a higher number of women, more ethnic diversity and at least 3 of the top 10 influencers were under the age of 30.

There is a serious point to this. We now have a generation of people working in Housing who have no idea who David Orr and Grania Long are. But they would recognise John Popham and Dominic Campbell. It’s increasingly important that UK Housing leaders embrace digital as a relationship builder rather than a broadcast channel.

I never expected the post to be so popular , it’s the number two ranked piece on this blog and still gets views every day.

I also never planned to do a follow up list , but due to public demand I’m pleased to announce that there will be a 2014 edition published in June!

To freshen it up I’m making three changes based on feedback:

  • Although it will still use the controversial Klout score, there will be some new measures included. So , for example , I’ll be looking if a person has a frequently updated blog or website. The full criteria will be published alongside the list.
  • Politicians are being dumped. You told me you’d prefer a list without elected members – one that concentrated on real people working in and around the sector.
  • For the first time you’ll be able to nominate people you feel have made a significant contribution through their online influence. Who has really shaped things this year? Who ran the best blog? The best social media campaign? Remember this list is reserved for individual people only – you can’t nominate Housing Associations or companies. You can nominate people however you want. You can mention them on Twitter using the hashtag #powerplayers14 , you can DM me or send an email. Ideally though you will add a thread to the bottom of this post. Nominations or suggestions must be made by midnight on Sunday May 11th. 

I’m delighted to say that Shirley Ayres – co-founder of the Connected Care Network is joining me to collaborate on the list. Shirley was the Number 1 ranked influencer on last years list after politicians. So , just like me, Shirley won’t be appearing on this years list!

The list will be announced in June and published on this blog simultaneously with the print publication in 24 Housing Magazine. Thanks to Jon Land who is a great sport for suggesting this. Watch out for news also on how some of this years list could find themselves invited to a special event at House Party on 24th June. Thanks to Matt Leach , who would get my vote for innovation in housing , for this.

So – over to you. Who are the Power Players 2014? Remember – they don’t have to work in housing. Just influence it.

As I’ve said – in an online super-connected world – sectors only exist in our imagination anyway….

UPDATE TO POST

SO HERE WE GO…………………

THE 2014 SHORTLIST (although it’s quite long)

Abigail Scott Paul

@AbigailSPaul
Adrian Capon @AdeCapon
Aileen Evans @Bushbell
Ailin Martinez @ailinmartinez
Alex Blandford @blangry
Alex Marsh @shodanalexm
Alex Noonoo @Goonooa
Alison Dean @alisonhanily
Alison Inman @Alison_Inman
Alistair Somerville @Acuity_Design
Alys Cole-King @AlysColeKIng
Amy Lythgoe @AmyL_BAH
Andy Johnson @andyjatbromford
Andy Orrey @AndyOrrey
Andy Williams @andywilliamsLHT
Angela Lockwood @Angela_NSHG
Anne McCrossan @Annemcx
Asif Choudry @asifchoudry
Barry Marlow @barrymarlow
Ben Black @BenBlack
Ben Marshall @BenM_IM
Boris Worral @borisorbitgroup
Brett Sadler @brettsadler77
Carl Brown @carlbrownIH
Carl Haggarty @carlhaggarty
Caroline King @CKingatHelena
Charlotte Harrison @charlotteh_nhc
Chenoa Parr @chenoaparr
Cheryl Tracy @ctracy861
Chris Bolton @whatsthepont
Chris Goulden @Chris_Goulden
Clare Parslow @ClareParslow
Clare Tickell @claretickell
Colin Wiles @colinwiles
Dan Slee @danslee
Darren Caveney @darrencaveney
David Orr @natfeddavid
Edwina O’Hart @EdwinaOHart
Elisa Faulkner @ems_wales
Gary Orr @gary yarlington
Gavin Smart @gavinsmartCIH
Grania Long @granialongCIH
Grant LeBoff @grantleboff
Hannah Fearn @Hannahfearn
Harry MetCalf @harrym
Helen Barnard @Helen_Barnard
Helen Reynolds @helreynolds
Helena Moore @helenajmoore
Housing Grunt @housing_grunt
Immy Kaur @ImmyKaur
Inti Popat @Intipopat
Jacque Allen @jacqueallen2
Jacqui Grimes @JacquiNHC
Jake Eliot @HousingJake
James Grant @BristolJames
James Pargeter @Jamespargeter
Jamie Baker @jamieofficer
Jamie Davies-Morgan @jamiedmorgan
Jamie Ratcliff @JamatGLA
Janet Hale @pilkingtonhale
Janet Hunter @housingrightsNI
Janet Storar @JREJanet
Jarrod Williams @jarrodwilliams
Jayne Hilditch @jaynehilditch
Jen Barfoot @JASbar
Jennie Donald @Jenny_Donald
Jennie Ferrigno @justjennie45
Jeremy Porteous @HousingLIN
Joe Halewood @SpeyeJoe
John Hocking @john_hocking
John Popham @johnpopham
John Wade @JohnW_Bromford
Jon Land @JonLand24
Jon Leighton @Pokerfiend
Jules Birch @jules_birch
Julia Unwin @juliaunwin
Julie Nicholas @JulieNCIH
Kate Davies @KateDaviesNHHT
Kate Murray @kate_murray
Kate Reynolds @kate_reyn
Kathleen Kelly @JRFKathleen
Keith Edwards @keithedwardscih
Ken Perry @kenperry47
Kevin Williams @kevinw_wulvern
Lara Oyedele @laraoyedele
Lily Dart @lily_dart
Lindsay Graham @LindsayGrahamUK
Lisa Hughes @LisaHug90813883
Lisa Pickard @lyha_LisaP
Lucy Ferman @lucyferman
Martin Wheatley @wheatley_martin
Matt Leach @matt_leach
Matthew Gardiner @TeamTHT
Matthew Smart @iMattSmart
Michala Rudman @michalarudman
Michelle Reid @MichReid2014
Mick Kent @mickkent2
Nearly Legal @nearlylegal
Nick Atkin @NickAtkin_HHT
Nick Duxbury @nickduxbury
Nick Horne @knightsinwhites
Paddy Gray @Paddygray1
Patrick Butler @PatrickJButler
Paul Diggory @pauldiggoryNWH
Paul Smith @asterpaul
Peter Bond @petebond7
Peter Brown @PeterFBrown
Peter Hall @PHHSI
Polly Neate @pollyn1
Rachel Honey-Jones @RHoneyJones
Rachel Morton @RachelJMorton
Rae Watson @RaeWatson_
Richard Crossley @richardinleeds
Richard Sage @bakedidea
Rob G @Simplicity
Rob Jefferson @RobJefferson
Rob Warm @robwarm1
Ross Williams @ross_williams79
Sahil Khan @khan_sahil
Sasha Deepwell @sashadeepwell
Shaun Tymon @shauntymon
Shibley Rahman @legalaware
Steve Cook @StephenCookV2C
Steve Hilditch @SteveHilditch
Steve Meakin @smeakin60
Steve Nestor @stevenestor1
Stuart McDonald @smacdonaldSM
Sue Roberts @sueR10
Tamsin Stirling @tamsinstirling
Tessy Britton @TessyBritton
Thom Bartley @thombartley
Tim Frier @timfrier
Tim Morton @timmorton2
Tim Pinder @pindertim
Toby Lloyd @tobylloyd
Tom Murtha @TomeMurtha
Tony Stacey @TonyStacey
Tracey Wilson @traceyregenda
Vic Rayner @VicRayner
Vicky Bannister @vmbannister
Vicky Green @Vicky_Green1
Victor da Cunha @victor_dacahuna
William Shortall @MerseyNorthBM

Well done everyone – the Final Fifty will follow in a few weeks…

Thanks for voting

Shirley and Paul

The Value of Critical Friends – Guest Post from @ShirleyAyres

Only 17% of companies identify their social and digital strategy as “mature” – Brian Solis , The State of Social Business

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This is a guest post from a Super Connector.

Shirley Ayres is one of those people who have taken advantage of digital to develop a new way of working – uniting like minded people regardless of which sector they work in. As co-founder of the Connected Care Network , Shirley has formed a movement aimed at developing digital engagement strategies using technology & social media for social good.

The reason I’ve asked Shirley to guest post is that I’m increasingly concerned that not enough of us have a fit for purpose engagement strategy. Too many think it’s about Twitter and Facebook when it’s actually about generating business results through digital leadership and culture.

As the social space gets increasingly crowded we’ll have to develop more sophisticated approaches to getting and keeping attention.

Here Shirley describes the benefits of having a review:

“Over the last few years we have been carrying out an increasing number of ‘critical friend’ reviews. These have been for a wide range of organisations – public, private and not for profit. But what is a critical friend review and what value does it have for organisations?

A critical friend review is an external opinion of an organisation’s positioning, strategy or initiatives. It comes from a perspective that is sympathetic to what the organisation is trying to achieve. But it should reflect the context in which this positioning, strategy or initiative sits and be able to identify opportunities as well as likely challenges and pitfalls.

It addresses three fundamental questions:

  • Where are you now?
  • Where do you want to be?
  • How are you going to get there?

In answering these questions, the emphasis is on ‘telling it how it is’. To be effective a critical friend review must be unafraid to comment on where the chosen approach is unlikely to deliver the desired response. It must also suggest improvements which can make it more fit for purpose.

Why is this valuable now?

The simple reason is that we are in a challenging economic and political climate with rapidly changing expectations of care and support. Consequently organisations have to develop radically new and unprecedented ways of working.

As one Assistant Director of Adult Social Care said to me recently: “Our approach to the Care Bill needs to be different from anything we have done before”. With fewer resources available, and with more riding on outcomes than ever before, organisations cannot afford to make mistakes in the way they respond to these challenges. Yet this is often means going into uncharted territory.

So it is crucial for proposed approaches to be subjected to independent scrutiny. However the feedback will not inevitably be negative: it will identify what is being done well and can highlight strengths and opportunities that may have been missed. A great deal of our work consists in recommending organisations, initiatives and resources which our clients may be unaware of – but which could greatly assist in the achievement of their objectives.

Successive governments have recognised the importance of critical friending for the public sector.  We draw on the ‘Critical Friend Framework’ published in 2004 which identifies three dimensions of critical friending: ‘inputs’ (looking at the skills and experience involved in a project), process and structure (considering the way in which projects are organised) and outcomes (evaluating what the project is aiming to achieve and prospects of success).

In acting as a critical friend, we are able to draw upon many years of working with adult and children’s services, health, housing, social enterprises and charities. Our knowledge and expertise encompasses policy, research, marketing, communications and digital technology. This ‘width and depth’ – together with an ability to look at a situation from a range of different perspectives – is really an essential requirement of a critical friend. There is little value in being told what you already know!

What this means in practice is illustrated by a comment from the Barnwood Trust, one of our recent clients.

“Embarking on a new website and a whole new approach to the way we were working, and on top of that a new brand for it all, was a big and sometimes daunting job. We spent a long time researching, planning and testing each of our ideas and concepts, making sure that we were developing something that people wanted and felt would be useful to them. It was during this process that we came across Shirley and her work as a critical friend.

“Shirley took on the role of critical friend for our new brand and website, You’re Welcome  and provided us with a completely different and invaluable perspective. Not only did Shirley provide a thought provoking report from which we have been able to develop and also strengthen our ideas but she also provided support throughout the review on the phone. It was extremely useful to talk our work through with someone with as much knowledge and experience as Shirley. To have a report at the end of it really helped with the work and how we developed it. Shirley was an absolute pleasure to work with and we will definitely be looking to draw from her skills and experience again in the future.”

Transformational change across the health, care and housing sectors requires digital leadership and  new approaches which encourage radical thinking.

To explore how a critical friend review would help your organisation contact Shirley.Ayres@btinternet.com ”

(Picture Credit: Bill Ferriter)

Top Tips for Meetings: No.1 – Don’t Have Them….

The meeting you probably had yesterday. And you will have next week.
The meeting you probably had yesterday. And you will have next week.

About 18 months ago I visited a multinational company specialising in networking equipment. There I sat , marvelling at some of the most state of the art communications systems on the planet:

  • HD Video seamlessly linking multiple sites , one in a different country.
  • Phones with tablets attached to them enabling employees to collaborate and problem solve in a shared digital space via touchscreen.
  • A huge video conferencing centre that tracked to whoever was talking (like the ones in movies when they have to speak to the President and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.)

But despite the availability of all this amazing technology – the CEO told us that employees still insisted on going to physical meetings.

Why? Perhaps , like zombies drawn to an abandoned shopping centre, they obeyed some kind of instinct, a memory of what they used to do. They felt compelled to travel for miles to sit around a table and go through a 20 item agenda and talk about stuff. And then complain they didn’t have enough time to do their jobs.

Feeling the need to shock them out of their habit – he had a brilliant idea. He wouldn’t ban meetings. He just stopped paying for travel expenses. They could still travel. They could have as many meetings as they liked. But they didn’t get paid.

Meetings stopped overnight. And everyone started using the technology.

One of the most popular posts from the last few weeks has been 9 Unusual Rules For Effective Meetings by Brad Feld

I’m a big fan of No.4:

If you’re not getting anything out of the meeting, leave

But my favourite is this:

Do we really need to meet?

Sound advice
Sound advice

Today we have technologies available to us to exchange views and collaborate in different and more effective ways.

Last week I did a presentation via webinar to two organisations  – one in Brisbane, one in Melbourne. At midnight. In my pyjamas ( I’m not posting a picture by the way – there is no Instagram filter yet invented to make THAT look good.)

It was just as effective as a meeting – probably more so.

On the same evening I also did the following:

  • Arranged a guest blog with Tim Smith – a thought leader on Generation Y and Generation Z ( read his post here)
  • Had a twitter conversation with Shirley Ayres – a thought leader in Digital and Social Care
  • Crossed (friendly) swords with Kate Hughes  – a thought leader in Communications and Marketing – who had done a neat dissection of one of my posts on her blog (read it here)

The interesting thing is this:

I’ve never met any of them.

That’s understandable with Tim – as he’s based in Texas. But Shirley and Kate both live in the UK. In fact, Kate and I have worked in offices that are barely 4 miles apart for the past 2 years. But our paths have never crossed.

Online and social technology means they can influence me and shape what I do – without having to meet in real life. I’m sure we will meet , and I believe online relationships can be enhanced by physical connections.

But we need to lose the snobbishness that suggests online is less “real”.  That looking into someones eyes over Skype is less authentic than looking into someone eyes over a PowerPoint presentation.

Next week you will be invited to a lot of meetings and will probably accept them without thinking – it’s our habit.

Or we can stop. Read those rules. Try a Google+ hangout. Or try any of the online collaborative tools that are available.

And do something more interesting with the time we saved.

Do You Love Your Customers Enough To Follow Them Back?

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“We are a live, work, play company. When we first started using Twitter, it was a way we could stay connected while also helping our customers if they needed it.”

This quote comes in an article I shared about Zappos , the online shoe and clothing store. It says a lot to me about customer engagement. Here is an organisation recognising that social media presents an opportunity to stay connected. To engage with others. And to help customers.

This contrasts sharply with many companies who see the opportunity of the social stream to promote themselves, sell product or broadcast.

I’m sure no-one would admit that, but the behaviour often indicates otherwise.

Unlike Zappos, who don’t just talk it – they walk it.

A couple of hours after I shared the article – the following happened.

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Zappos favourited my tweet.

I was engaged and appreciated.

And finally I was followed.

Zappos don’t ship internationally. They have nothing to gain from me. But Zappos isn’t present just to sell. They are there to engage. In fact they have over 1,200 conversations each month with their customers. And they love them enough to follow them back.

Now, I don’t for one minute think that your follower/ following ratio is a complete measure of how engaged you are. For our personal Twitter accounts we all have our own “follow back” rules , and many people don’t like to follow lots of people. I get that.

But there is a difference between not following a complete stranger and choosing not to follow a customer. Or a potential customer. If you really wanted to engage, you’d surely want to hear what they had to say?

Zappos following a customer back says a lot about their culture. And a lot about how they achieved such rapid commercial growth.

They’re making an overt statement to customers – “we are no more important than you are”

I was discussing this issue with Shirley Ayres (a fount of knowledge on digital engagement).  We talked about whether an organisation could be considered truly engaged if it didn’t follow back. Shirley highlighted an organisation that followed back just 1% of its followers. (I’m not naming them here as this blog is not written with the intention to judge anyone.)

But it’s a great question.

What does your online behaviour say about your customer engagement?

A check on the twitter account of @monmouthshirecc (possibly the Council with the most “truly social” attitude) reveals they follow even more people than they have as followers. And they have a LOT of followers.

Zappos follows back over 90% of their audience and engages them in conversation about pretty much anything.

So , imagine you are a customer of a company or local authority and you follow them and they DON’T follow you back. They never acknowledge you.

Now , imagine you are a customer of Zappos or Monmouthshire.

Who do you think would feel the most engaged?

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