Saturday, July 31, 2010

Conversations with Nate Riggs - a disruptor and social media content engineer -- Part II

As a “social media content engineer” and business communications strategist, Nate Riggs of Social Business Strategies helps businesses determine their branding and marketing strategy using social media. In 2009, Nate was named a mentor in Len Kendal’s “Constructive Grumpiness” blog Top 30 under 30 Tweeters. Interview with Nate is the second in our series about learning, games, social media, crowd-sourcing and work performance.

Part II

RD> So far, we discussed social media in the context of marketing. What does Sales 2.0 mean to you?
NR> To me, Sales 2.0 is how-to use new tools and technology innovations to do something in a more predicted way. A sales professional who uses and leverages new technology such as social media can do their Sales 1.0 style consultative selling better. I might be wrong but the process of sales is still 75% what happens face-to-face and the ability to read non-verbals. That will not change. However, with Skype and new phones that do video, at the end of the day, we can do it without field sales. Also in Sales 2.0, a salesperson by using social media can get and leverage information about the prospect that these face-to-face virtual interaction better and more timely.

When you first go into an organization, how do you evaluate the resistance you will see in user adoption of social media in day-to-day work?
NR> Everybody wants to do everything and the kitchen sink. My suggestion is always focus and do something well – that works in social media strategy too. Having said that, you have to also evaluate upfront if the company has to change the paradigm and how to encourage the culture adoption. My most successful company is the contact center in Canton, OH. They first answered the question: what the image of their employees will be to the world, then they went about creating the brand using social media. Typically, I first meet with the leadership and determine what they are about. Michael Hyatt is a perfect example. His company Thomas Nelson Publishers is a culture of innovation, but it began with Michael setting that direction.

As a consultant, I also look for silos and power struggles. 9 times out of 10, I find that there is power struggle between the old and new school.
I am not making a path-breaking observation here and such struggles existed since beginning of humankind. However, the interesting part that I find is who makes the old school folks: they are folks who from mid 1980s to end of 1990s innovated and successfully embraced technology. Now, they hold the key accounts, money and the tenure. Yet they forgot that power of experimentation, they once indulged in. The new school folks are those who got to work in 2000 to now. They want to experiment and do the new innovative stuff. The conflict starts when the old school promotes agendas with things that they are more comfortable with. Meanwhile, the business leader gets caught in the middle and playing both sides. I am learning to manage and influence both these groups of stakeholders.

RD> Do you see the opportunity of games as a solution to manage the resistance and increase user adoption?
NR> I see enormous opportunity. But I also think that you might encounter the chicken and egg problem. Game is very powerful in increasing adoption. If the business is a culture of early adopters, then they will naturally embrace the games and we will never find out if games were the deciding factor to impact user adoption. If the culture is not a culture of early adopters, the games will just work to move them towards the faster adoptions side on the curve of adoption. Dennis Crowley and folks at foursquare nailed it. The idea of badge and point system got people hooked. Four times a week I check my points and compete one week a month crazily and I will beat someone in Columbus called Ben H. one of these days. I must say, I do it because of the points. To me the badge does not do much. The badges are only visual indicators of the human behavior. Gowalla has great badges and some say better user interfaces. But in my opinion, user interface alone cannot create dependency. The game mechanics of points does it for foursquare. Games are motivators. When companies are ready to implement social media and do social selling – games that teach them how and games that help adopt and embrace it – will be an awesome fit.

Having said that, one has to figure out how to address the two issues that will surface with a game: (a) someone will figure out how to cheat and (b) if monetary awards are provided to winners then there is a likelihood of decreasing returns on the intended value. If the game addresses these in the design, then I think there is awesome opportunity to increase adoption for any new change – be it in new technology, new initiative or new leadership.

RD> Thanks Nate. It has been really interesting chatting with you. Good luck beating Ben H.
NR> Let us continue to pick the appropriate strategies.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Here is Alvin Toffler on Education -- Retweet of post from Sir Ken Robinson

Alvin Toffler -- I read Future Shock -- Oh! Gosh! 25 years ago. I found the book immensely path-breaking but I did not like the neo-cons embracing his forecasts in the 1990s. Having said that, I like his idea about teaching kids "critical-thinking skills" as he says in this video with his wife in 2008 talking about the future of education: Alvin Toffler on Education

It is definitely worth watching. This is a Retweet from Sir Ken Robinson.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Conversations with Nate Riggs - a disruptor and social media content engineer -- Part I

As a “social media content engineer” and business communications strategist, Nate Riggs of Social Business Strategies helps businesses determine their branding and marketing strategy using social media. In 2009, Nate was named a mentor in Len Kendal’s “Constructive Grumpiness” blog Top 30 under 30 Tweeters. Interview with Nate is the second in our series about learning, games, social media, crowd-sourcing and work performance.

Part I

RD> The first question for you is, are you a gamer?
NR> I used to be a major gamer. Not any more—I do not have a game system at home any more. As my kids get to that age, I am sure I will get back to it.

RD> When you played video games, what were your favorites?
NR> I loved Wolfenstein games. I really liked the old games with DOS prompts. In high school I stayed up until 3 or 4 in the morning playing Doom. I was a big Mario Cart gamer in college. I liked the war-type games.

RD> How do you learn?
NR> I learn the best “audibly.” For instance I can read a book, but if I listen to it, I can remember down to the quotes. Also, when I do it and figure it out myself—that’s when I learn. I need a bouncing board, and when I hear myself saying it—it becomes very clear. I carry a sketch pad without lines; the stuff begins to make sense. Then when I communicate or teach, the learning becomes permanent.

RD> I completely relate to what you just said. At age 15, I got my first paid job, which was to tutor a kid who was 14 years old. During that experience, I learned that teaching made the concept more clear to me. I had a big private tutoring practice from that age until I came to the U.S. for graduate school. The reason I have been in the learning business now for 30 years is because at that early age I saw its value. Also, I worked in healthcare where one of the most important learning practices is “see one, do one, teach one.” It seems yours is more like “hear one, do one, teach one.”
NR> Yes. Absolutely.

RD> How did you get into social media and B2B marketing?
NR> I got into social media because of going into game chat rooms. Then my introduction to traditional B2B marketing was through the marketing agency I joined after graduating from college. Where I saw the opportunity is that in B2B, it is still an interaction between one person in a company and one person in another company trying to make something work. (Social media) became the tool to address that interaction. In fact, among all tools in B2B marketing, social media is more powerful because it surrounds the loop of a customer as in B2C2B.

RD> When you look at social media, do you also include the online communities?
NR> Yes! I do. It is the new telephone. Most get confused between viral marketing and social media marketing. There is a sharp contrast between viral marketing and social media. Viral marketing is about ideas that spread and you are leveraging the context. Social media is any technology that allows human communication and allows viral marketing to be successful.

RD> As you work with your clients, are you seeing many businesses asking not only to implement a social media strategy and technology, but also asking how to manage the social media?
NR> Yes and no. Many businesses want to do social media but then mistakenly lump this tool into getting automated multiple directory listings, or paper advertising. This is a tool and you need humans to do it. It is sometimes very hard for companies to understand that. Some get it sooner and some don’t. It is all about the leadership—especially the CEO—understanding how to use the tool; it is not meant to displace an employee. When I see companies not getting that message, I clearly tell them they are not ready to do social media.

RD> You are absolutely right: there is a huge difference between automating a process versus using the technology. For example, while vacationing in Greece I did not keep up with my tweets, and I lost 40 followers.
NR> It is exactly what you said. In the 1990s, I think technology like ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems was about automating manual work processes, somewhat displacing the human and now the technology is about having the humans use it.

RD> Many of these are hard to keep up with in this “short attention span” generation. How do you address that?
NR> From a B2B standpoint, make it a team sport. In Hubspot they are using 50+ bloggers and then with those frequencies they get traction in getting the response. You have to figure out a source for this. Is this going to be insourced or outsourced? I tell a company if they do not want to engage with the right amount of resources, they should consider other channels such as search engine optimization etc. When a company is ready to invest the effort then the benefits are exponential for the company

RD> We decided at PAKRA, after much experimentation, that social media is where we want to place the bulk of our effort for qualified lead generation. The problem I then faced was that despite showing certain employees why they should engage in social media and maintain the effort behind it, we struggled to make them do it. First, I thought it may be age-dependent, but it had nothing to do with age.
NR> I am first-generation Millennial and I am fully immersed in this, but imagine my surprise when I was presenting once to high school kids. They were very skeptical. You could almost hear the voices of their parents stating the dangers of digital presence: of pedophiles, cyberstalkers, etc. I think the way to communicate to those who do not want to embrace this in a business where their leadership is involved and give them guidelines. For example, be professional, don’t post your cell number and address everywhere. The problem is everyone thinks they have to put everything on the web, emote about everything. People tell me that “you put everything on the web, we know about everything you do.” The answer is “no you don’t. I have a complete self outside the websphere. You don’t know what I don’t put.”
Always be yourself online, but leave out the parts of your life that have no fit or relevance to the digital self.

RD> You don’t see age as an issue?
NR> Age barriers have gone. I remember the first day Google came out: a white screen. That point was pivotal. Libraries became irrelevant and we have access to anything we want. If I need five Swahili words I can get on my mobile phone.

RD> Do you think that the Web democratized the learning process?
NR> Yes! You don’t have to be privileged and have to go to expensive schools to learn. You don’t have to get hardware to get the information. Web has enabled us to get information faster and then if you are willing to learn, it has tools and technologies that help you learn better and faster. I remember in Grade 1, I had to learn how to use Dewey decimal system to find something, now I can find something quickly with the words I know.

... Continued in Part II

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Conversation with Mrs G. -- Arlene Gregory: an educator and motivator

A 72-year-old educator and grandmother of six, Arlene Gregory (known as Mrs. G to all who have learned from her), is the subject of our first conversation in a series about learning, games, social media, crowd-sourcing, user-adoption and work performance.

Arlene worked in the Delaware City School System of Delaware, OH. After retirement in 1995, she continued to teach communications and English classes at Columbus State Community College and Marion Technical College, as well as educational psychology at Ohio Dominican University. She has 1034 friends on Facebook; she is a Mafia Wars queen; she has played more Mind Jolt Games than anyone I know.

RD> Arlene - When did you start teaching?
Mrs. G.> January 1960. I have taught literature, writing, communication, business communication, and education psychology. Over the years, the age of the students varied with the youngest at 8 years old and others ranging to past 55 year olds who returned to college.

RD> Why did you become an educator and remain an educator for these many years?
Mrs. G.> My own teachers and my mother pretty much directed me to a career in education; in many ways, I lived my mother’s career dream. Fortunately, her dream was also mine. For me, one important value of education to students is creating a set of choices and opportunities. Obviously one value to a teacher is successfully motivating a person to continue to increase choices and the span of opportunities. I love doing the motivation part; I love watching students capture ideas and concepts that lead them to further inquiry. What other job can give that?

RD> These days, there is a lot of discussion in the web-sphere and media, about how people get information and how they learn has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. Over the years, what have you seen that has remained the same in how people learn?
Mrs. G.> I think how people learn has fundamentally remained the same. There are those that are the top-performers and then there are those that I call Middlers. There is always a curve. What I think has changed in my fifty years of motivating is how educators have embraced how they motivate.

The top-performing students who received opportunities to be creative and taste success using their learning at an early and formative age, learn and explore in inventive ways --- they did it before and they do it now. The educators who have been successful have figured out how to keep them motivated in this technology age. I have found that the best way to do that is engage them to reach their peers. One adaption that occurred is using technology to communicate but inherent interaction between educators and students in this group has not changed all that much.

The underserved group of adults is what I call were “Middlers” in middle and high school. Their performance was average or below average in middle and high school. These Middlers typically will not go to college at 18 years of age. I found that these Middlers need nurturing and not more of boring repetitive learning activities. For example, when I was teaching grammar in middle school, we were instructed to teach the same modules taught to a 3rd grader, 4th grader and 5th grader. Guess what! These students did not care the second time it was presented to them and it certainly was not interesting to them in 4th grade. So! They tune out and the time they could have used for learning is wasted.

People of all ages, learn very quickly how to be lazy in their learning when they know they will have repetitive lesson plans. The same group as adults often do not want to go back to school because they expect the same boring repetitive learning activities. In the last few years, I find that this group is getting better opportunities to come back and acquire skills and knowledge and expand their horizon. Columbus State Community College and Marion Technical College – here in central Ohio have devised curriculum that helps them acquire meaningful learning. If you, as an educator provide the challenge to the students where they figure it out, and they taste the success in figuring it out, then they go to the next stage of wanting to learn more, thus expanding their set of opportunities. Their learning desires have not changed but they are learning faster and more with the new technology such as Google, Wiki and a curriculum that keeps them engaged. I find that Games and such technology have changed the Middler’s desire to learn.

RD> Given that you are such an active gamer, how did and do you use games in your teaching?
Mrs. G.> I always used activities like have butcher paper and crayons and other games in my classroom. This was for students of all ages and from all diverse backgrounds. Games actually provided that challenge and motivation.
My entre into video games came with my grandkids. We created a playroom in our house where we outfitted the room with Playstation and a large number of games. Many of the video games follow patterns and motifs common in mythology and folklore; my grandson Zach was very engaged in playing. At that time I was teaching a classroom course about the narrative of folklore and myths and I found Zach learning how to manage the archetypes of mythology – the heroes and villains. Watching that made me realize that video-games have a great upside to faster learning. Playing the games with the grandkids provided not only opportunities to spend time with the kids, but also a new level of interaction that included several learning opportunities.

Another example was with my youngest grandson. We were playing one of the NCAA games and had to do is pick uniforms etc. for the avatars. I am not good at replaying sports events, and did not want to play. But then my grandson figured out a way to motivate me; he called me on the phone and told me that I assign all the players to have Brutus the Buckeye uniforms. Being the Buckeye that I am, I got hooked. All these kids, when I got stuck or did not feel challenged, were amazing and they would say, “Grannie, try this.”They figured it out and motivated me to keep my interest. Because they enjoy playing with others, they want others to play too and not walk away bored. Games allow people not only to learn by figuring out, but also teaches them how to motivate others to learn and play with them in their peer group. As you know peer-learning takes the pressure off from the educators to constantly battle with how to motivate next. Of course, I am proud to be in the peer group of my grandkids.

RD> What do you see as the downside of so many technology distractions in front of under-40 crowd?
Mrs. G.> I am not good at using mobile phones has they have horrible interface for texting. But that’s not the reason I have issues with the texting phenomenon. I do worry about texting and communication. Over generation, writing had fairly strict style guides and norms. But there are no style guides in Twitter and with texting. It is evolving, but the chance of miscommunication is very high; learning to communicate with clarity is not emphasized. Just because you have to write in 100+ characters and your thumbs are good to handle such a keyboard does not mean one knows how to communicate. There are no style guides or standards on how to abbreviate. The other thing that worries me with new technology like texting is that it has made communication become a reaction and not a dialogue. Lack of focused communication is creating a generation that may not experience sufficient knowledge gain… Information gains sure, but not knowledge gain.

RD> Aside from classrooms, where do you see video-games happening?
Mrs. G.> I am at that age where I interact with many elderly folks at a regular basis. My 94-year old mother-in-law for example. I see a tremendous advantage of introducing computer and interactive games with the nursing home community. Older people – those who are very alert always played games, but they played it as recreation. Nursing homes can make video and online games a daily exercise like mandatory walks for physical exercise. It will help deter lack of alertness and maintain high levels of cognition. In my opinion this is a big opportunity for the video and online gaming industry to explore.

RD> Thank you Mrs. G. It was wonderful chatting with you.
Mrs. G> Let us keep them motivated and engaged and communicate better.