The Smartest People Will Never Work For You

Joy’s law is the principle that “no matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else”.

Bill Joy, the computer engineer to whom it’s attributed argued that if you rely solely on your own employees, you’ll never solve all your customers’ needs.

It’s a quote that’s never been more true.

Joy was not talking about the hackneyed “war for talent” trope. Even if you somehow manage to get the best and the brightest to work for you, there will always be an infinite number of other, smarter people employed by others.

Even if it was possible – these days we don’t need to employ those people. We live in a networked age – and having people who can master ‘distributed problem solving’ and collaborate at scale – will be a differentiator for organisations.

This week I was in Wales speaking at an event organised by the Good Practice Exchange – all about effective collaboration using technology.

Harnessing the power of collective thinking is one of the most effective ways to maximise innovation output. The more minds, brain power and insight you can gather, the better.

It’s recognised that CEOs with connections to diverse social environments built of people from a variety of backgrounds can create more value for the organisations they lead.  In today’s digital economy this knowledge exchange is open to any of us – IF we stay clear of echo chambers and embrace genuine diversity. (That means, not blocking people who disagree with you.)

Social media gives you access to people who behave and think differently.  Used wisely it can encourage people to break out of your own sector.  By actively following people you don’t agree with your people will become less prone to groupthink.

If you’re only surrounding your people with those who think like them – you are limiting your companies capacity and capability for innovation.

Groupthink – “a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing and moral judgment that results from in-group pressures” – historically only happened to small groups.

Hashtags have changed all that.

In a society in which social networks consume so much of our time we have evolved into a mass version of groupthink. A herd mentality of a scale we’ve never previously encountered.

It’s time for us all to really consider the role of diversity in our social media content. The algorithm is deliberately feeding you more of what you want to hear.

This diversity can be advantageous: research suggests that employees with a diverse Twitter network—one that exposes them to people and ideas they don’t already know—tend to generate better ideas.

Screenshot 2019-10-18 at 06.39.28

 

This research differentiated between idea scouts and connectors.

An idea scout is someone who looks outside the organisation to bring in new ideas, using Twitter as a gateway to solution options.

An idea connector, meanwhile, is someone who can assimilate the external ideas and find opportunities within the organisation to implement these new concepts.

In the research,  Twitter users who performed the two roles at the same time were the most innovative.

That’s easier said than done, we often find that people who are great at making connections and opportunities aren’t the best ones at matching them to strategy and implementing.

A good innovation team plays this role – acting as a pressure chamber where external influences can enter the organisation, in a controlled and measured way.

Social media will help your people crowdsource opinion from others. I often find myself thinking out loud-  this blog is essentially a brain diary to see if what I’m thinking connects with others. Learning out loud in our networks helps to seek new opinions and share our own with a wider group. It allows us to take half-baked ideas and test them out in public, with low risk.

Just soaking up other people’s opinions doesn’t lead to innovation though. Rather – it’s the ability of employees to identify, assimilate and exploit new ideas to create new value.  This is where our organisations need to put more effort and support in for people – it’s hardly ever talked about, much less taught.

The smartest people will never work for you. We need to create a network of as many great contributors as we can–and transform it into a community.

So many of us , right around the world , are working on solving exactly the same problems. To address these complex problems our organisations must be reshaped for a community where ideas and information flow openly and transparently.

The real opportunities lie right at the heart of it.

How Technology Is Changing Our Conversation

In 2013 a Communications Director named Justine Sacco landed in Cape Town after a flight from New York.

As she switched her phone back on she was met with two messages.

The first was from someone she hadn’t spoken to for years:

“I’m so sorry to see what’s happening.”

The second was from her best friend:

“You need to call me immediately. You’re the No. 1 worldwide trend on Twitter right now.”

Then her notifications went haywire – and her whole life blew up.

Hours earlier, during a stopover in London,  she’d sent a tweet to her 120 followers that had gone viral whilst she was in the air.

It read:

“Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”

Many of us on Twitter at the time remember the incident as we participated in it. We were rapt with excitement at we followed the hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet – with tens of thousands of us waiting for the real time sacking of a villainous racist.

Except, as Jon Ronson revealed in So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed , Justine wasn’t a villain, and she wasn’t a racist. She’d made a really badly worded joke intending to make fun of her own privilege. It had backfired in the most horrible way possible. She rarely left her house for a year.

I tried to change my social media behaviour the day I finished that book. I tried to resist joining in. Social media shamings are now a daily occurrence, as if we are becoming addicted to the experience of bringing others down.

Last week Sky News presenter Jayne Secker was the subject of her own tweetstorm. During an interview about the housing crisis she made comments about the competence of young tenants and whether they knew how to change a lightbulb.

“Do you think you’ve found amongst your friends, perhaps, that you’re aren’t equipped with the necessary skills to rent?” she asked.

The interview was certainly bizarre and her comments completely irrelevant to the subject at hand – but was the response entirely proportionate?

Haven’t many landlords , social as well as private, asked themselves exactly the same question?

Twitter was unforgiving and brutal, even in the face of an apology.

“I am sure many of us will have made a mistake at work – unfortunate for me mine is a lot more public than most” she tweeted.

In the responses below I saw two tweets from people who follow me. People who I’ve had many positive interactions with.

One of them used the hashtag “#scumbag”. The other just said “sack this c**t”.

We are now truly down the rabbit hole, with shamings leading to sackings leading to shaming and more blaming. It’s as if we can’t adapt to the new power of instantaneous communication, compelled to comment in ways we’d never do in a real life situation.

In her excellent TED talk Carole Cadwalladr rightly calls out the ‘gods of Silicon Valley’ for their failure to control the awesome tools they have given us, but arguably the responsibility is shared with us too. We have to re-calibrate our online behaviour based on values of free speech, but also have empathy and consideration for others.

I’ve just finished listening to The Last Days of August in which Jon Ronson returns to the subject of shaming.

It details the story of August Ames, a porn star, who came under heavy criticism for saying she didn’t want to work with men who have also appeared in gay pornography.

Finding herself engulfed amid accusations of homophobia she posted her last ever tweet the next day – which simply read “f*** y’all.”

A few hours later she was found hanged. She was 23.

In the podcast, and its excellent companion piece, The Butterfly Effect , Ronson charts the effect technological disruption is having on us. Much of it is funny and wonderful, and some of it is sad and deeply troubling.

The most worrying aspect is the effect on our public discourse. 

Conversation is all we have. It’s only through talking with those who disagree with us that we can hope to achieve any form of progress.

However we must also recognise we will make mistakes in our online behaviours. I’m not intelligent all of the time and I doubt you are too. We all have a lot of stupid in us.

We have to be able to criticise bad ideas. But we don’t want to close down those ideas as without the conversation we become more and more entrenched in our views, and that is good for no-one.

Last week I had a bit of a Twitter spat when someone misinterpreted a tweet I sent. I was having a bad day and sent a bit of a snarky response. In real life I’d have probably offered to buy them a pint and talk it out down the pub. However the lack of eyeball contact on social media is where so much can go wrong. We haven’t yet developed a complete set of cues that guide conversation.

This is the first time in human history that we’ve had a space in which we can collaborate with total strangers.

We desperately need to protect that space and that conversation.

That means we need to be lot more tolerant.

We need to try to get our facts straight before commenting.

We need to resist the temptation to join in with public shamings.

Most of all we just need to breathe a little more and be a whole lot nicer to one another.

The Number 1 Priority For Your CEO: Building Trust

Silence is now deeply dangerous—a tax on truth – Richard Edelman

Trust is the most valuable commodity in your organisation – although it’s probably not something you talk about often, much less attempt to measure.

For the past 16 years, Edelman has attempted to track the progress, or decline, of trust across 28 countries.

The latest results of their Trust Barometer shows we live in an era of misinformation – which has profound implications for our organisations and communities.

Globally, nearly seven in 10 respondents among the general population worry about fake news or false information, 59% say that it is getting harder to tell if a piece of news comes from a credible source.

Tellingly only 24% of the UK trust Twitter, Facebook and Instagram when looking for news and information.

The credibility of  “a person like yourself” is at an all-time low. The great hope we had for social media as a democratising force for good – unleashing waves of citizen journalists – appears to be over.

This all sounds bleak, but actually, there’s a new hope. 

In an era of trust stagnation, there’s a new opportunity for leaders emerging. People have a renewed faith in credible voices of authority.

A few years ago there was a big drive to get CEOs on social media. With hindsight that was naive – we bear witness every single day to the disastrous consequences of leaders and politicians equipped with Twitter accounts.

The real drive should be to ensure our CEOs and leaders emerge as trusted credible sources of information.

7 in 10 respondents say that building trust is the No. 1 priority for CEOs, ahead of high-quality products and services.

Nearly two-thirds of people say they want CEOs to take the lead on policy change instead of waiting for government, which now ranks significantly below business in trust in most markets.

Building trust as a priority over delivering services? That’s a sit up and take notice moment.

Making this shift means a radical overhaul of how we currently view communication. Most organisations are still deluding themselves into thinking that if they can just get their marketing and PR right they can control the brand message.

Tell a good story. Issue flattering reports and PR pieces. Show you are nice people. Only engage with those who are positive about your organisation.

Demonstrably, this isn’t working. We are haemorrhaging trust.

Over the past week, I’ve been involved in a quite a few debates with leaders and the people we serve. Some of the conversations – and the disconnections they highlight – demonstrate exactly the themes that Edelman are tracking on a global scale.

Feelings of powerlessness, of not being listened to, of organisations that were designed to improve social outcomes becoming distant and ever more corporate.

I’ve certainly reflected on my own communications and why people sometimes don’t trust my organisation. Why they sometimes don’t trust me.

  • Distrust will only be combatted through leaders being open and accountable and having public discourse with one another and with the people they collectively serve.
  • Concern about disinformation will only be combatted by providing real evidence of the kind of outcomes we are achieving. It’s time to kill it with the awards for ourselves.

The digital age has disrupted the accepted rules of trust. No longer is a relationship solely between citizen and institution. What was once a binary one to one relationship behind closed doors is now conducted in public in a much broader social context.

Silence is dangerous.

Social media hasn’t shifted the balance of power — but it’s certainly shining a light on where power is held and how it behaves.

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! 

Throwback: Our Social Journey (So Far….)

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Your life story is being told by the digital content you produce 

One of the downsides of our digital lifestyle is that we simply can’t retain the information that passes through it.

I couldn’t tell you what I tweeted last week, much less a year ago.

Digital storage is changing our memories. We don’t need to remember specifics anymore – we know they are in the cloud somewhere. Searchable if we want retrieval.

This has risks, as we forget the experiences and learning that shaped where we are today.

Last week I was reminded by Timehop that I’d missed the 3rd anniversary of Bromford on Twitter.

Timehop – in case you don’t know –  is an app that sends users a daily reminder of moments from their social media past. A digital flashback.

It isn’t a new app but popularity has been boosted by trends like  Throwback Thursday (or #TBT) in which people share memories from across the social web.

It’s quite a novelty for people like me. I get reminders of photos I don’t remember taking, never mind posting.

But 3 years of Bromford as a social business? Is that all? It feels like a lifetime..

I’ve met more new and fascinating people in the past three years that I did in the previous 10 – and that’s purely down to professional (and unprofessional) use of social networking.

We should never forget our journey and the people who helped us on our way.

So this post is my personal digital throwback. A timehop through the past three years that brings together some  significant posts and slide decks.

Christmas 2011 – Our first baby steps

This post in which I picked my Bromford highlights of the year sees the emergence of key themes I still bang on about today. Losing the fear factor. Digital leadership. CEO visibility. I’d say transformation is nigh on impossible without those three things.

Spring 2012 – A Social Future

This was a key date – for me personally and for UK Housing. The Northern Housing Consortium hosted what would be a pivotal Social Media conference. It was chaired by Nick Atkin – who I didn’t really know at that point. It’s very easy to criticise digital evangelists like Nick and others but I think people should remember what the sector was like before.
Siloed. Lethargic. Bureaucratic.
The sector really only cared about the big associations – some of whom are now almost invisible in the post-digital world. Nick and the guys at Halton Housing have been genuine disruptors in that sense.
 The conference was also the first to open its doors to (shock, horror) non-housing people like Helen Reynolds.

Summer 2012 – Our first social media birthday

“12 months ago – nobody had access to social media at Bromford. Today everybody does. Unrestricted.

My hybrid work/personal twitter account @paulbromford was created exactly 1 year ago. Our Facebook pages opened 1 year ago. Our 1st blog appeared 1 year ago.

We still have no policy as such. There is no big list of rules. It’s a system run on trust and common sense rather than rules and procedure”

Think that says it all. But you can find more in this post capturing the six lessons we learnt in our first 12 months.

Christmas 2012 –  Myths from the year Housing went social

This attempted to sum up learning – and bust some myths. Here’s my favourite:

“Myth: Our Customers Are Not Online

I knew this to be false when a Customer Board Member emailed me to say they didn’t have internet access. People are online,  but they often choose not to tell their landlord. And sometimes they don’t even realise they are online. A customer recently told me they didn’t need broadband as they only ever used Facebook. Although I don’t deny that exclusion exists – the emerging issue is digital literacy and confidence rather than lack of access.”

Spring 2013 – 20 Things They Never Told Us About Going Social

Originally presented at Housing Goes Digital – this slide deck represents my greatest learning: Keep it simple. Keep it short. Make it fun.

With nearly 90,000 views it’s also my most successful post about social media – by far.

Summer 2013 – Five Unexpected Benefits Of Being A Social Organisation

This post , for Comms2Point0 , gives an overview of the cultural change that has happened at Bromford.

Here’s a quote:

“You Start Talking Like Normal People

Social transforms the organisation’s tone of voice.

Our workplace language has been developed through years of formality – the daily grind of reports and emails. And without us knowing it we passed our jargon on to our customers.

But if you start talking like that in the social space – you look a bit odd. Real people don’t talk about Stakeholders and Efficiencies.

So you start talking you do in real life. Because social is real life. And your customers will love you for it.”

Winter 2013 – How social helps us cross organisational borders

This post – on the rise of super-connectors – points to a future of new possibilities. A time where we have moved beyond talking about social media and concentrate more on social business. This is what I find most exciting about the new world – where our organisations are a lot less important than the networks they inhabit.

Summer 2014 – How to be a social media superhero

This brings us up to date with lessons from #powerplayers14 and a fun analysis of social media behaviours.

That’s my personal Timehop.

Here’s to the next three years!

Five Things We Learned From Doing A Twitter Only Recruitment

About five or six years ago I applied for another job. It would have been a significant promotion – nearly doubling what I earned at the time.

I went through the usual shenanigans that come with this type of recruitment. The huge application form. The CV. The covering letter. The telephone interview. The online assessment. The endless psychometric tests.

I don’t think I got to speak to a human employed by the actual company until I was at the final stage interviews.

What I remember about the culture was in the five hours I was there no-one offered me a cup of tea. And no-one in the offices laughed.

I never got the job in the end (I had a message left on my voicemail telling me so) so I’ll never know whether I’d have sacrificed my principles for a payslip.

But I know that someone wasted an awful lot of money on recruitment when we could have just started with a social conversation.

Twitter

Two weeks ago we started a new experiment to mark the launch of our Innovation Lab. What if we literally crowdsourced the people we would work with?

What if we only recruited via Twitter?

This is still a work in progress – we are still having conversations. But in the spirit of capturing learning as you go – here’s my top five:

Your networks network for you

The buzz that has been created has been tremendous. Each of the role profiles on Slideshare has been viewed over 2000 times – with combined views of nearly 9000. That’s way above the normal hits we’d get on a conventional recruitment.

But –note to excited recruiters reading this – don’t think that just by tweeting your job openings you’ll get the same results. That interest has been generated by getting the support from people like Dominic Campbell, Immy Kaur, Mervyn Dinnen and Helen Reynolds. And the other 200 people who have tweeted about it. Build up an engaged social support network. You get interaction through building relationships – not broadcasting or posting flashy slide decks.

You can react in real time

Recruiting via social gives you constant feedback. The first stage took place over 10 days meaning we could adapt to feedback and amend the process as we went along. So , for example, I picked up very early on that the inclusion of Klout as an indicator of social influence was putting people off. I was able to remove this from the application criteria and feedback publicly. This helped boost interest as well as build rapport.

Similarly – a conversation about the “geekiness” of the slides led to comments about the lack of interest from women. We were able to amend this and call specifically for more female interest highlighting the flexibility.

It reduces waste

A couple of people have already dropped out of the process. They’ve been googling me. I’ve been googling them. We’ve had a couple of conversations about the way the Lab will work and we’ve agreed we’ve got different ideas but can perhaps collaborate in another way. Ever been in the first 5 minutes of an 45 minute interview knowing this is wrong for both parties? Yep – a huge waste of everyones time.

A couple of people from HR and legal backgrounds have suggested that we are potentially breaking employment law here as we could discriminate against applicants based upon what we find on Google.

Come on.

We are just trying something different. If you think you’ve got sexist,homophobic,racist,ageist managers I’d suggest you’ve got bigger things to worry about than Twitter. Thanks Jacqui Mortimer for supporting me here – every HR team needs someone like you!

People are shaping our thinking

Already the nature of the conversations , and the wonderful diversity of interest , has led us to start making amends to the way the Lab will work. It’s become less about how people fit into our boxes and more about tearing those boxes apart and building around people. It’s more organic and is evolving day by day.

Who knows. Your next restructure might well be crowdsourced.

It’s 24/7 and global

Imagine the talent you might miss out on because people are on holiday or travelling. That doesn’t happen on social media. Word gets around. I’ve had interest from Europe , the USA and South America. Right now whilst writing this post I’m messaging someone in South East Asia.

I haven’t had a lot of naysayers but probably the biggest misconception is that this approach would only work for these type of roles.

I don’t get that. It’s 2014 and perfectly conceivable that a Housing Association could employ someone based in Indonesia. Geography is less important than broadband speed.

Maybe we need to stop thinking about what our organisations are today and start imagining what they could be.

Hope you find this interesting – I’ll update you soon.  Thanks for the support from everyone – I can’t name check you all!

Be great to hear your views.

 

 

Why the Bromford Innovation Lab is only recruiting via Twitter

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Imagine a future where you don’t have a CV or resume. A future where your talent and achievements are broken down into tweetable chunks. Your professional life , and a good bit of your personal too, is available online for all to see. You are scored according to your worth and the value of your followers. Your score can determine whether you get that job interview – Me , March 2013 – How Social Media Could Get You Your Next Job 

The first and only time I start a post quoting myself. Honest.

Next week marks the launch of the Bromford Innovation Lab – a new venture that we are very excited about.

What makes it different is the way it will work.

It consists of Lab sessions each lasting 12 weeks and run four times a year. During those 12 weeks we’ll be hosting a number of problems and designing multiple solutions to help solve them. And if we can’t design a solution in 12 weeks – it gets shelved. We won’t fear failure – we expect up to 75% of concepts won’t proceed at first attempt.

It’s rapid innovation for a connected age where none of our organisations can keep up with the pace of change.

The Lab is less of a new team and more of a social network formed around problem solving through creativity.

And working differently means attracting people who will thrive in that environment.

The Lab is open to anyone who wants to collaborate with us. We’ll be launching a new website and social networking links over the next few weeks.

But we also have a number of paid opportunities for people who want to work with us more closely.

So today starts a very different way of attracting that talent.

I’ve posted before on the rise of the Social CV and the ground breaking work done by the likes of Vala Afshar in attracting talent.

Social media has made the CV redundant. We are all searchable – and increasing amounts of us are sharing our knowledge online to build our networks and collaborate.

New and powerful connections are being born and the Lab aims to help us maximise the power of these relationships. We want to cast the net far and wide with the Innovation Lab – as well as giving opportunities to colleagues at Bromford.

Welcome to our first Twitter only recruitment.  

Here’s a brief guide to the Lab:

We feel we need three Lab Leads – Digital , Design and Data. These will help us grow our networks in those disciplines and work with us modelling and testing concepts in the Lab. The people profiles are published at the bottom of the post.

We are not publishing salaries for a very specific reason. People might already have another job or business that they wish to retain and just give us a couple of days a week. Or we might consider a match funding arrangement. Or you might want to work full time (the maximum we can offer right now is 12 month fixed term). We are really trying to break the mold in the diversity of talent that the Lab works with.

Obviously we have a fixed budget for these roles but we want to be flexible to what people can offer us.

So firstly we want to begin a conversation with people about whether this is something they are interested in. They might have loads of experience or are at the very early stages of their career.

  • We are not accepting CVs or application forms and will select people to talk to exclusively via Twitter. People have to provide online evidence of skills that are in the public realm.
  • Registering an interest will begin on 9th May and end on 18th May.
  • Three specifications will be posted via Twitter at the beginning of the selection period from the account of @paulbromford. These are also posted below.
  • All interested people should apply via Twitter using the account @paulbromford. Interest doesn’t have to be registered publicly and can be sent by direct message (DM). If you want to apply publicly then please use hashtag #bromfordlab
  • Direct messages should point us to sites and useful links that demonstrate your social CV
  • Experience must be demonstrated via web content – i.e. blogs, community involvement, endorsements, news articles and other searchable publications. It is acceptable to group these links together into one site as long as it is public.
  • We will use Google and/or other search engines for publicly available data.
  • We would expect interested parties to be able to demonstrate social influence within their relevant communities. Evidence of being an influencer in the digital , design,  data or social innovation communities is welcomed.
  • During the selection period, we will select people for chats via Google Hangout. In the event of high demand we will use a shortlist criteria based on the fit with the person profile as demonstrated via Social CV.
  • All people will be advised about their progress. All expressions of interest will be logged to ensure we get back to people.
  • Your expression of interest will not be shared publicly unless you make it public.
  • People who want to proceed after the Google Hangout will be given details of a second stage.
  • Although our physical Lab space is based in the Midlands we are open to discussions of remote working.

Here are the profiles:

Digital Lead Profile:

 

Data Lead Profile:

 

Design Lead Profile:

Will identifying talent in this way work? Who knows? Like everything else the Lab does it’s an experiment.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the approach

3 Things We Should Learn From Benefits Street

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Apart from the unfortunate title, Benefits Street is pretty good.

Having seen the first two episodes I genuinely can’t understand what the fuss is about.

It’s a great piece of commercial television (think – My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding) that’s designed to shock.

And , boy , have we fallen for it.

Primetime TV + Benefits  =  Bang: The Twitter Liberal Left erupt in a perfectly predictable frenzy.

But by dismissing the show out of hand  (I reckon less than 10% of people tweeting about it have actually watched it) we miss vital opportunities.

  • We don’t learn from people who are superb storytellers and know how to construct a genuinely populist narrative. (Something the social housing sector has failed to do time after time)
  • We don’t learn lessons about the way our organisations have failed to connect with some communities, and have contributed to their social exclusion.
  • We get distracted and start indulging in petty campaigns (petitions to get it taken off air – for heaven’s sake!) rather than thinking big and innovating.

If we did more listening and a little less talking we would pick up three important lessons:

1 – You change hearts and minds with stories not statistics

The past couple of weeks have seen a number of infographics and articles that aim to challenge the actual size of the welfare problem or show that tax avoiders are the bigger issue.

All of which are very interesting and probably correct but serve no purpose whatsoever in moving the debate forward.

Does anybody think that someone with an entrenched belief that welfare is a lifestyle choice gets one of these things in their inbox and says  “Oh. I see. I was wrong all along. Apologies”.

Of course not. The producers of Benefits Street know that storytelling trumps statistics every time. As Thom Bartley points out in his latest post:

“The public doesn’t respond to blah blah million lost off a balance sheet, they respond to the story about a mother losing benefit because her disabled kid uses an extra room”

2 – Real people tell a better story than professionals

This is the master stroke of Benefits Street. They’ve allowed people to speak for themselves. The professionals who help and , sometimes,  hinder their lives are mercifully absent.

Here’s how we are referred to:

Letter from Work Programme provider: “What f*****g work programme? I’ve never worked in my life”

DWP changing payments: “There’s going to be riots soon unless people start getting paid”

Housing:  “These landlords think they are clever (chasing rent). They’ll have to pay to go court and it’ll take you about a year and a half”

So – not a great level of advocacy for the agencies who are paid millions to support them.

The residents come across as likeable , aware of their own shortcomings and display a deep sense of community.

It’s refreshing to hear the impact of reforms – positive and negative-  untainted by professional bias. We need more of this.

3 – The best ideas come from communities

The greatest thing about the programme are the many innovations that residents employ to get through their day to day lives.

These are not people without talent.

They are people who have existed in a system that has concentrated on what they can’t do rather than what they can.

I see more innovation on display on James Turner Street than I see across many organisations. Some examples:

  • Neighbourhood mouthpiece “White Dee” using a community favours scheme to get a guy to save money for clothes and not blow it on drink and drugs.
  • The “50p Man” who sells household essentials like washing powder in smaller affordable portions. He came up with the idea in prison and dreams of turning it into a national franchise.
  • The Romanians turning trash into cash – literally going through bins.

One of the problems across the social sector is there’s too much top down innovation and an over reliance on tech based solutions.

We need to listen to communities , seed fund some grass roots projects and get out of the way. 

The only real problem with Benefits Street , as Charlie Brooker has pointed out , is that title.

It’s designed to get your back up.

So let’s stop falling for it.

Now is the time for big transformational innovation.

Now is the time for our very best social innovators to work with the residents of James Turner Street and others like them.

  • We could fund the likes of White Dee to become a Community Connector.
  • We could try a localised approach to job creation and a resident led Work Programme.
  • We could create a new deal for tenants rather than just moving them in and leaving them to it.
  • We could have a social accelerator programme to scale up business ideas – like the 50p man.
  • We could attempt to pilot a whole new system of benefits and help the Government out rather than sitting around willing Universal Credit to fail (Matt Leach outlines just such an approach in his excellent post here)

Or we could just get angry on Twitter, do battle with Daily Mail readers and become ever more polarised in our views.

I know how I want to spend my time.

How about you?

The Unexpected Benefits Of Becoming A Social Organisation

It’s little over two years since Bromford lifted any restrictions on social media and offered complete freedom to every single colleague. Our world didn’t end. In fact it got better.

It’s almost impossible to remember what life was like before the wall came down.

Hundreds of Bromford people have online profiles and blogs. Virtually all are members of our internal Yammer.

Truth be told we didn’t really know what we were unleashing. We didn’t know how it would change us or the organisation.

Perhaps that’s how it should be.

The social web is organic, messy and uncontrollable. And that’s why it’s so much fun – it’s relentlessly unpredictable.

One of the problems of making a business case about use of social media is that you genuinely can’t anticipate what the results will be.

Things get democratised , decisions get made in public , people form their own communication channels and networks.

Scary. Exciting. And Unexpected.

Here’s my pick – 5 things we could never have predicted:

Your Brand Can Go Global

If you let your people run loose on social media , guess what happens? They become brand ambassadors. It’s natural – most people are proud of what they do for a living and they like to talk about it.

On the social web this has a unique power as you move beyond broadcasting the latest company press release. Your community is now engaging with you through the emotional bond they have with your people.

And your brand moves way beyond its usual stomping ground. I’ve seen Bromford content posted on sites in South Africa, Indonesia and Mexico.  All the way from Wolverhampton.

Second Screening Becomes The New Water Cooler

When you bring the social walls down – you obliterate the way company news is distributed. It no longer exists within 9-5 boundaries and doesn’t face the geographic limitations of an office.

A great deal of our daily communications are done in the evening, or at weekends , as colleagues chat with each other from tablets or mobiles whilst watching TV. The second screen provides a link to each other in ways the physical workplace cannot. This is incredibly inclusive – particularly for colleagues who spend a good deal of their day out and about talking to customers.

Recently I found out about a colleague getting a promotion from one of my Twitter followers who has nothing to do with Bromford. The division between internal and external communications is blurring. How weird and wonderful is that?

Social is the New Internal Interview

In the social workplace you find out peoples passions and skills outside of formal settings.  What music they like , what films they love. Their ambitions for the future. Leaders have the opportunity to get to know people like never before.

And it’s a way of spotting talent.

I’ve currently got a colleague working on a project for me. I didn’t need to interview them. I knew from reading their blog they were the right person.

Work Has No Boring Bits

In the social organisation if a meeting is boring you can just go online.

OK, I exaggerate for effect. But the digital leader knows they must be engaging to an increasingly distracted audience. Death by PowerPoint just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Meetings have morphed into far more interactive, co-owned forums that make use of presentation styles like PechaKucha , Haiku Deck and Prezi to engage and collaborate with colleagues.

People share what’s happening in their meetings in real time on Yammer.

The agenda just got crowdsourced.

You Start Talking Like Normal People

Social transforms the organisational tone of voice.

Our workplace language has been developed through years of formality – the daily grind of reports and emails. And without us knowing it we passed our jargon on to our customers.

But if you start talking like that in the social space – you look a bit odd. Real people don’t talk about Stakeholders and Efficiencies.

So you start talking just like you do in real life. Because social is real life. And your customers will love you for it.

These are my unexpected benefits – I’m sure there are loads more and I’d love to hear other people’s experience.

[This post originally appeared on the excellent Comms2Point0 site. Make you visit it or follow them here]

5 (More) Social Media Mistakes To Avoid

Mistakes

Earlier this week I shared the post ‘Five Social Media Mistakes To Avoid’ by Heather-Anne Maclean. The following mistakes were chosen as her Top 5:

1.  Failing to use a photo or avatar for your profile

2.  Not completing your bio

3.  Having too many networks

4.  Not writing professionally

5.  Failing to be human.

I pretty much agree with all of them – especially 1,2 and 5.  Immediately after I shared it Heather-Anne thanked me and asked what I would add to her list. I liked that –  it showed great social media manners –  a willingness to reach out and engage further with your audience. We don’t always have time to leave a comment on a blog so it’s good to prompt people into thinking further about your post.

So here I am adding to her list. Here are my 5 (More) Social Media Mistakes To Avoid:

1: True Twit and Protected Tweets

As annoying as spam is , it’s nowhere near as annoying as TrueTwit and private accounts.  In case you don’t know, this is where you are asked to go through an account verification before you are allowed to follow someone. I just don’t get it. If you don’t want to be followed why are you using Twitter?

2: Passing off others content as your own

Have your ever posted an update and then seen THE EXACT SAME post from one of your followers or friends? And it’s not just coincidental. It’s your words, your links – minus your name. It’s really bad practice. Please try and credit your source with a HT  or a Via. It’s just the decent thing to do. You will be appreciated for it.

3: Trying to sell to me by Twitter DM.

Here is a tip. If I want to like your Facebook page or subscribe to your blog I will do it in my own time. Get to know me before you try to sell to me. Private messaging is a great way to ask for help , suggest a phone call or meet-up – NOT to sell people stuff. Especially when you haven’t even tried to engage with me. New Rule: Anyone who sends me an auto DM with sell stuff gets unfollowed. If we all do that – they will stop.

4: Broadcasting not engaging.

Regular blog readers will know how much I love broadcasters. Those accounts who only ever talk about themselves or their products and services. They rarely acknowledge others and never highlight the great things that others are sharing. They are the social media version of the person at the party who tells you about their great car, wonderful house, exotic holidays and high achieving kids. Avoid.

Try to share more of other peoples work than you do of your own. It’s nice. People will like you.

5: Being present without having presence.

We’ve all seen the corporate account with 3 posts per week. And the account that was last posted from 163 days ago. They are accounts where someone has clearly being told that they need to be using social media. You don’t. Being present without showing you love being there is actually worse than not being there at all. If you have dormant or under fed accounts – do the humane thing – put them out of their misery.

These are my 5 additions. Do you agree or disagree? And I’d love to hear if anyone has any more….

The Rules of Attraction

I was asked a question the other day:

“No-one is engaging with our Facebook discussion. Will you have a look at it and tell us what you think?” I turned the question back on them. “If it was you. And you were the customer. Would you have joined in?”

After a few seconds deliberation – the response. “Err , no – I wouldn’t.”

“Well”, I said. “There is your answer.”

I’m no expert in Social Media. But I’ve worked in customer engagement for over 10 years, and there’s one thing I absolutely know to be true. If you wouldn’t find it interesting yourself – why on earth would your customers?

Social Media is a relatively new tool. But just because it’s easy and cheap does not mean customers are more likely to engage with us.

There are three rules I was introduced to in my early (offline) days of working in customer engagement. They apply just as much today, in the online world.

1 – What’s in it for your audience? Why is engaging with you a good use of their time?

2 – Be entertaining. And if you can’t be entertaining – be extremely interesting.

3 – Go where the customer is. Don’t expect them to come to you.

A lot of customer engagement via Social Media fails to follow these basic rules. Organisations too often talk about themselves and what’s important to them rather than remain focused on the customer.

Here are a couple of examples of what I mean:

What’s in it for the customer? – @monmouthshirecc is a superb corporate Twitter feed that isn’t corporate. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it promote anything about the actual organisation. And that’s probably why it has over 4,500 followers. Would you honestly follow your companies own Twitter feed if you didn’t work for them? If your answer is no – It will be no for your customers too.

Be Entertaining – Organisations are not interesting by default. The best corporate engagement is all about personality. For the Social Housing sector we have to accept we are not Lady Gaga or Kim Kardashian. We are more Ed Miliband. So we need to have ultra interesting content. Or just be amusing. This video by @optimacommunity is a great example. It’s short , simple and funny. And it has a very deliberate call to action. It made me want to find out more.

Go where the customer is – There are thousands of local information websites across the UK. And there are countless local Facebook pages formed around communities of interest. Why not go to them and tap into existing networks rather than trying to create a new one? It’s harder work than lazily posting to your own page for sure , but it’s far more effective.

So the next time you wonder why no-one is engaging – ask yourself a simple question.

Would you?

Social Media: A Trust Thing

I’m lucky. I’m part of an organisation where everyone has access to social media.

Anyone can set up a Facebook or Twitter account. Anyone can blog. Without restriction.

No Policy.

One Rule – “If you wouldn’t say it out loud in the cafe area – don’t put it on social media.”

So it’s shocking to read that 50% of the IT Directors in Europe think banning the use of Social Media in the workplace is a good idea.  At least according to this survey.

And , according to another survey , by 2015 , 60% of companies will be attempting to monitor employees use of Social Media.

What are we to make of this? And what does it say about the modern employer?

Let’s face it – Social Media can no longer be regarded as something new and dangerous. Pretty much every news bulletin will refer to a comment on Twitter.

So why do some employers still , in 2012 , think it’s something to be frightened of. Let’s ask the audience:

Ignorance, Short-Sightedness. Social Media as a benchmark of a companies transparency.

This actually isn’t about Social Media. It’s not about IT.

It’s about Leadership and Culture.  

And it’s about Trust and Empowerment.

  • Why would an employer think that the people they employ would prefer to sit all day on Facebook rather than do their jobs? Unless of course the jobs are so rubbish , and the leadership so poor , that this is the preferable option
  • Why would an employer think people would use 140 characters to destroy the reputation of their organisation? And if you have people like that – you could , rather than banning things , choose to do something about them
  • Why would an employer think anyone , anywhere , would want someone to monitor what they are saying?  Like a suspicious spouse checking through your text messages

If you are working to introduce more social media openness in your business – good for you.

But if you are in a relationship where either party does not trust the other – you would surely reconsider your position?

60% of employers will monitor social media usage.  50% will ban it altogether.

Want to have a relationship based on trust?

Leave them.

Find someone else.

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