On creative project ideas and bedtime stories – Nurturing creativity and cultivating it

nurturing creative project ideas at an young age

It was a busy day. As I drove down the road during one of those errand trips, I heard the local radio channel go boom with this question, ‘Did Stephen King narrate bedtime horror stories to his children?’ The radio jockey further asks the reasons for our ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I sat bewildered. Stephen King is a very popular and celebrated author who is known for his work on horror stories, fantasy, and science fiction. I did not know the answer nor  I could  say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question.

I thought about it the next day. It hit me as a father. I had narrated hundreds and hundreds of bedtime stories to my kid daughter. My daughter is quite demanding at that.

Many times, I had run out of stories. Sometimes I concoct and make it up and sometimes my kid daughter insists that I retell the stories. I later found out that each time you repeat the story, kids start seeing it in a new angle. They reinterpret the stories and the characters.

Each time they hear, they see a new meaning in it and their imagination has no bounds. It lays the seed of creativity in them. What happens without saying is that you are effectively collaborating with your kids for their development and it is fulfilling for you as well.

I later researched and found out that, two of Stephen King’s children have become authors.

Creativity is something that we need to nourish it from a very young age.

You can read more on generating creative project ideas from out blog post, 24 simple approaches for generating new ideas in the workplace

The below presentation slides summarize it.

Even within an organization, nourishing creativity and cultivating it is a skill. We are all waiting for the next big idea and a potential break through. We cannot afford to look at it as counterproductive to productivity and control.

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Smart But Reluctant: How To Encourage Your Employees To Share Their Knowledge

Encourage employees to share knowledge

It’s not easy to create an office environment where knowledge sharing is a common practice.

One of the most common barriers to sharing knowledge is fear of rejection. If employees think that their ideas will be rejected, they are far less likely to share them. Another problem that inhibits knowledge sharing at the workplace is the hierarchical structure prevalent in many office environments.

Now that you know what the two biggest obstacles to knowledge sharing are, here are 7 tips to help you encourage employees to share their knowledge with others and build an open environment for knowledge exchange that will drive innovation.

1. Learn what’s their passion

It is common for employees to have their most and least favorite parts of a job. There may be areas about which they feel especially passionate and excited. Identify these areas and find a way for employees to spend more of their energy there. You will be rewarded with a higher quality of work and potential pathways for knowledge sharing. For example, a successful social media manager may be able to share their methodology that will benefit other areas of your marketing department.

2. Provide knowledge sharing tools

Knowledge sharing is about creating a specific culture that encourages open communication, and you’ll need specific tools to support that.

For example, you can use a social intranet such as Igloo or Honey that will serve as a platform where employees communicate and exchange information. Slack is an interesting option as well. Even though it doesn’t describe its services as intranet, it contains communication and file-sharing features that are similar to good intranet products.

You can also use a Kanban tool to help employees share knowledge about their workflow process. Kanban is a type of a workflow system that helps to organize tasks into buckets that represent different stages of a process (or example “prototype”, “in development”, or “completed”). Kanbanize and Atlassian offer Kanban tools that were created with organizational needs in mind. Helping employees see what their colleagues are working on will increase transparency in your team but also give your employees greater knowledge about the project’s progress and needs.

Consider tools that will help your team create a knowledge base that can be shared with everyone at the company. A note-taking tool like Evernote is a good investment – when inspiration strikes your employees on the go, they can simply jot down a note in their Evernote app and share it with their coworkers instantly.

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6 best books on social collaboration – A recommended reading list

books on social collaboration

The moment we hear the term ‘social collaboration’ what comes to our mind is people interacting and sharing to achieve common goals. That is correct.  But little do we understand that this simple behavior has deep roots in the very survival and evolution of the human species.

Not withstanding, the Twitter wars of  our world leaders.

Social collaboration is multi disciplinary in nature and involves in good measure, disciplines as diverse as Sociology, Cognitive Psychology, Computers, Mathematics and Ethnography to name a few.

In most of the cases it is viewed from an enterprise perspective, but we should not forget that our immediate surroundings, the environment where we live and work and our upbringing have a huge impact in the way we interact and share with others. There is diversity.

Needless to say that it is the social behavior that we exhibit in our personal lives is what we bring it to our professional lives as well. How much of this diversity is respected and accepted as part of an inclusive development within an organization and the society at large remains to be seen.

I have always emphasized that social collaboration is art as well as science. The following books give us a good starting point to understand as well as a first hand account of the experiences of thought leaders and examples from industry practitioners.  Just like in other fields, to excel in it we need to practice it.

Please excuse me. I have not provided direct links to the book author’s site nor to any online store. Lets do our bit on the online search.

Book 1: Social collaboration for Dummies

This book cannot be understated. Dummies as a book brand with its various titles and subject topics provides for simple reading with friendly instructions. The book series serves as a great reference book for starters and learners. It has around 2500 titles under its kitty.

‘Social collaboration for dummies’ written by David Carr details how social collaboration and social networking can be applied and put in place within an organization context for achieving organizational goals. Specifically, it looks at

1. How to introduce social collaboration practices in workplaces.
2. How to transform an organization into a social business.
3. The book also presents case studies and best practice examples of adopting social collaboration and creating a learning environment.

This is a good book for anyone looking to understand how social collaboration can be used to enhance productivity, innovation and creativity within the workplace.

Book 2: The social life of information

The book is written by John Seely and Paul Duguid. John Seely was the former chief scientist at Xerox corporation and Paul Duguid is the professor at UC Berkerly school of information.

The book argues that increased digitization cannot necessarily give us a better future. Organizations need to rethink the how information is shared within organizations and not follow the tunnel vision methodologies of the technology enthusiasts.

This book gives us a solid grounding as to how information needs to be managed, shared and the business practices that need to be followed in a business context. Though it is written in the year 2000, the principles stand relevant even today.

Harvard University reprinted it in 2002. Undoubtedly one of the best books for social collaboration.

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Scientific collaboration wins the 2017 Nobel peace prize for Physics

integration-scientific collaboration

The 2017 Nobel peace prize for Physics was awarded to 3 scientists in the United states.  Rainer Weiss from MIT and Kip Thorne and Barry Barish both from Caltech won the prize for their scientific discovery of ripples in space-time known as gravitational waves.

This discovery validated Einstein’s theory of relativity ( E=MC2     expresses that mass and energy are the same physical entity and can be interchanged).

The theory of relativity suggested that matter and energy would warp the very structure of space-time. The warp would happen in the same way an ‘air pillow’ sags when an infant rests its head on it while asleep.  Interesting.

Black hole - ripples of waves
Black hole – ripples of waves

This phenomenon would stretch space-time, expand and collapse it forming black holes making it so dense that even light cannot escape it. The motion of these black holes as the universe expands in space-time would send ripples of gravitational waves into space.

What was more interesting for me was the question in Newyork times “Why did they win?”  Well the question “How did they win?”  Would be much more interesting sans the ‘Astrophysics’ part.

Well the scientists were the ‘brain child’ behind the organization called LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational –wave Observatory).  In fact, LIGO was also the scientific instrument for the detection gravitational waves.

LIGO was a scientific collaborative organization comprising of a thousand researchers from around the globe who analyzed data, designed materials, and co-authored hundreds of scientific papers on the research area.

IndiGO is the consortium of Indian gravitational physicists. IndiGO is the Indian partner to the LIGO laboratory in USA for planning and setting up the LIGO-India project.

The LIGO laboratory has scientific collaboration with its other advanced LIGO partners in UK, Germany and Australia and also with the US National science foundation.  Together they provide hardware and designs for setting up the Indian operations of LIGO.

Current trends in scientific collaboration

Most of us have a scientific temper.  We are so curious at times that we keep watching television channels for interesting science stories and snippets.   It is not for the reason that they would affect our immediate lives but somehow we are glued.

You will surprised to know according to a research report from Physics org. the number of multiple author science papers have been doubled internationally from 1990 to 2015.  It has grown from 10 % to 25%. Moreover, 58 more countries have participated in scientific research contribution since then.

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Poking fun and a collective sense of identity is important for social networks in workplaces

Social networks in workplaces

Converting tacit to explicit knowledge and providing context to information are two important areas, which are often overlooked when using social networks in workplaces.

The use of social media and social networking has become part of our daily lives as consumers. We use social media in myriad different ways from daily interactions, conversations to sharing pictures and videos.

From a personal point of view, social media keeps us entertained as consumers. But when it comes to a professional setting, the question that comes to our mind is that, is social media viewed in the same way from an organizational context as well?

We use the word ‘Social networks’ and ‘Social media’ interchangeably in this article. A detailed explanation on the difference between the two is found on this resource page.

Benefits of  social platform in workplaces

There are inherent benefits of using social networks in workplaces.

There are various sources and the Internet is replete with the of-repeated benefits of community building and collaboration. Often, the nitty-gritty’s of what actually works and makes the usage of social media worthwhile isn’t discussed often from an employee perspective.

Employees have a different perspective from the management of the company on the usage of social media. Employees love the spirit of community.

Active usage of social media within the work environment nurtures a sharing community. It is through this community that employees like to discuss their problems and issues and seek solutions. Social capital is built through such interactions. Social capital is needed for a strong bond among colleagues and employees within a team to get the work done.

A good article from our blog discusses the important benefits of social networks in workplaces. The article is all about viewing social media from an employee perspective.

In a study conducted by a firm called Dynamic markets, 74% of employees said that the two biggest benefits of social networks in workplaces is

1. Gaining knowledge to solve problems at work.

2. having a collaborative team spirit among employees.

Social media has always been about building a community.

But in the workplaces, the management would be more happy to see it as a form of collaboration among employees. The word ‘collaboration’ rings bells as it brings results and profits.  And this is the very reason why the social media software in big corporates are called ‘social collaboration’.

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The computer says ‘yes’, but can AI really drive happy accidents and social collaboration?

AI

David Byrne is a musician and a writer and lives in New York City. An extract from one of his articles appeared on the MIT Technology Review.  The article talks about the ubiquitous presence of Artificial Intelligence embedded in the  social interaction software and networks that we meddle with, day in and day out relentlessly.  We take it so granted, that I was compelled to write about his unique perspective on the effects of AI (Artificial intelligence) on our social life. You can find the article here.

Here, in the following paragraphs, you will find my perspectives (my 5 cents to it) on ‘Can AI really drive happy accidents leading to social interaction’ riding on David Byrne’s arguments.

We are swayed by the AI networks for social interaction

We as humans are so preset with the current way of life using all kinds’ of smart devices for communication and interaction that we have often forgotten to realize what it means to have a real human-to-human interaction.  In fact, would like to appreciate MIT Technology Review for giving such a clever title as “Eliminating the Human” in the article.

David argues that we are swayed by the artificial cues and matches thrown by AI (Artificial intelligence) that we have failed to recognize our natural instincts as social animals to trust our own intuition for social interaction and collaboration that consumes us.

There is a generalization, and the pattern is obvious.  We are entering into a world, which increasingly does not favor human interaction.  For example, if we go to the ever popular Amazon.com, the site acts and behaves like a machine and gives us recommendations on what to buy based on our past interests and even the review conversations are machine like.

Social networks are engineered predominantly by male software engineers

So are the other modern outlets like music stores, driver-less cars, online ordering and home delivery, speech recognition and personal assistants, big data and even popular social networks.  Though social networks have the social interaction part, they are less real.  They are the simulated version of our interactions.  The entire interaction happens from a software engineer’s point of view.  Partly because, the software engineering crowd is predominantly male and they do seem to share the feeling that human interaction is all noise and has less simplicity and efficiency.

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The social network of the gods – The primordial soup of carbon atoms and water

carbon element in the primordial soup

Creating a dense social network by having the capacity to form connections is one thing and having a sustaining environment for those connections is quite another. The primordial soup (a mixture of carbon atoms, water, and other small elements) has both in equal measure.

According to many management thinkers and scientists, for social networks to be innovative and dense they need to lie at the edge of chaos between too much order and no order at all.

For collaborations and/or innovations to occur in social networks, we need two things. The first one is the capacity to make new connections and the second one is the randomizing environment, which encourages the collisions or the connections to happen.

Fortunately, for the primordial innovation engine (Our mother earth) has both the capacity and the randomizing environment to sustain stable connections over a long period.  The abundant existence of the uniquely talented carbon atoms, the so-called ‘great connector’ and water, the so-called “high-density network liquid” both need to act together for the connections to happen and sustain. This has made life and evolution possible on earth.

We have much to learn about social networks from mother earth and the very origins of life in this Universe. I drew inspiration from Steven Johnson’s book, “Where good ideas come from” to write about the connection between the primordial soup and social networks. You can find the book here.

Life would not have existed if there were no carbon atoms. Even if we had to search for life on distant galaxies, they too would be carbon based.

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Yochai Benkler – How the Internet’s social ties bonds us together

Yochai Benkler : Internet bonds us together

In the next few paragraphs I attempt to write about a chapter taken from the book “The wealth of Networks – How social production transforms markets and Freedom” written by Yochai Benkler.

Yochai Benkler is the professor of Entrepreneurial legal studies and Co-Director of the Berkman centre for Internet and Society at Harvard University. The book was first published in 2006. Yochai Benkler wrote about the future of the internet and how the internet is changing the society. The book is widely considered as an authority in the realm of our socially and digital networked world. The book with about 515 odd pages talks about the information economy and how we are all influenced by it and its contents stands true even after ten years since its publication.

What I attempt to do in the next few paragraphs is my own interpretation and understanding of one of the chapters in the book titled ”Social ties: Networking together’.

Yochai Benkler: The Internet’s influence on social relations is too soon to predict

Here, Yochai Benkler talks about two diagrammatically opposite views about how the Internet will affect the society and the community. The first one, which he elaborates as part of freedom and justice discourse  is that individuals will start living somewhat disconnected and arid lives.  This arid life will free us of the many worldly attachments like television and telephone and sometimes even our social relationships and make us grounded. Possible ! this effect was projected in the 1990’s. The other one was the ‘virtual communities’ where people interact, share and build a shared human communal existence.

New empirical evidence (Evidence which is hard, visible and experimented) shows that neither views will prevail. In fact it will be a mixture of the two. It is too soon to predict which way the direction of the Internet on social relations will take. It is obviously complex. Though Internet has clear effects on the human society, it will neither transcend or breakdown any particular aspect of it.

Thickening and loosening of relationships

Yochai Benkler elaborates further about the two types of effects that the Internet has on the human society. The first one is the thickening of relationships among previously not so tight relationships among friends, relatives and parents. The Internet has brought them together. Children who have moved away from their parents are now finding the Internet  a boon. They do not have to coordinate a time to talk to them or pay for long distance communication. The days of the email have changed all of that. The same is the case with long parted friends.

But this thickening of social relationships has also led to loose hierarchical relationships among their family members and friends. As individuals start connecting together again, they have weaved a their own peer relations and support networks. This will dismantle the hierarchal relationships which might have been stifling to some on their freedom to express their views and opinion.

The second one is the loosening of ties and relationships. They are the ‘loose relationships’. Many virtual communities may or may not fit into this aspect but that is the fact. This new aspect of ‘loose relationships’ might displace many of the age old, one to many communication models which exists now in the Television and Radio mass media. This old model will be replaced by a newer many to many model which encourages interactive participation and sharing of information.

The effect of Internet on everybody will not be same but the magnitude will vary among social relations and networks. Yochai Benkler agrees that the usage of the Internet and rise in the individual capabilities will not aid in social fragmentation and alienation. There stills exists the fear of disintegration.

To dissuade this fear of disintegration Howard Rheingold put it quite subtly in his now classic book of 1993  – “Virtual community“. Human beings inevitably will form a community and colonies. We have a hunger for colonies just like bacteria do. A portion of the text from the book ‘Virtual community’ is below.

‘My direct observations of online behavior around the world over the past ten years have led me to conclude that whenever CMC [computer mediated communications] technology becomes available to people anywhere, they inevitably build virtual communities with it, just as microorganisms inevitably create colonies. I suspect that one of the explanations for this phenomenon is the hunger for community that grows in the breasts of people around the world as more and more informal public spaces disappear from our real lives. I also suspect that these new media attract colonies of enthusiasts because CMC enables people to do things with each other in new ways, and to do altogether new kinds of things—just as telegraphs, telephones, and televisions did.’

Yochai Benkler goes on to say that online relationships not only restrict themselves with just being on the Internet but also forge their way to a healthy offline face to face relationships as well. Such face to face relationships are alive and kicking and exist along with the online Internet relationships.

Cheers.

 

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Garbage in garbage out, can social media in the workplace change that?

garbage in garbage out; social media in the workplace

Garbage in garbage out (GIGO) is a popular computing jargon used in enterprise computing and IT applications in large corporations across the world. Social media in the workplace has the influence to change all that with the introduction of Web 3.0.

Computer applications are designed by logical processes for transaction entry. If there is a poor data entry and the data is nonsensical, the output would also be poor and non-sensical.  Such poor and flawed data have huge implications. People believe what they see on the computers and they rely on the data for decision making.

Owing to the speed, urgency and not much care taken during the data entry in large organizations, such garbage in, garbage out is a common phenomenon. Well, social media in the workplace is set to change all of that. A more recent statement ‘Garbage in, gospel out’ might be a reality in the future.

The introduction of Web 3.0

Web 2.0 enabled us to make connections, create content and share it with our friends. It allowed us to interact with each other through multiple devices. Now with Web 3.0, the internet has become much smarter. We now call it the intelligent internet. It allows us to not just publish content on the internet in a democratized way but also mine data to suit the user’s requirements. Social media in the workplace with Web 3.0 might know the user’s preferences, analyze the meaning, and serve only pages and data which is highly relevant to the users.

You can also read out blog post article on “The global brain and graph theory”.

This affects the way, employees will create and use knowledge. Knowledge and data become more precious and they will be mined democratically where needed and when needed. Social media in the workplace will be more context dependent and context based. There will be smart interconnections among colleagues. People will start realizing the benefits and make an effort to enter the right and relevant information for future use.

Even in the consumer space, there are a number of social media tools in use. We see vandalized information all the time on some social media sites. Even the most popular ones are not left out.

Keeping this mind, the future models of social media sites with Web 3.0 would bring in more contextual information in the likes of ‘Siri’ and ‘Google’ says Cormac Reynolds from the Online marketer, a London-based digital marketing firm. You can find his website here.

‘Siri’ is a computer program for the IOS, macOS and tvOS operating systems from Apple Inc.  What appears to be the future, ‘Siri’  works as a digital personal assistant and makes recommendations and requests to other web services. Interesting !

Within large organizations, the introduction of Web 3.0 will change the ‘garbage in garbage out’ phenomenon. Knowledge generation and usage will be more dynamic, relevant and competitive within the organization. The organization becomes a ‘truly learning organization’. Learners will accelerate.

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