The Hub, bikeshedding and why people elect idiots

Here in the UK we’re in full election mania with the deciding vote now just a month away. On the way into the office this morning I read a fascinating article about democracy vs. psychology which looked at why people keep electing idiots.

There were a few parts that really made me smile, (confident people are more convincing and stupid people are more confident because they don’t know their stupid, being a particular favourite), but what really stood out was the thinking around Parkinson’s law of triviality.

Parkinson’s law of triviality is the idea that people will spend far more time and effort focussing on something trivial that they do understand than something complicated that they don’t.

Cyril Northcote Parkinson, a British naval historian, observed and illustrated that a nuclear power plant planning committee spent the majority of its time with pointless discussions on relatively trivial and unimportant but easy-to-grasp issues, such as what materials to use for the staff bike-shed, while neglecting the less-trivial proposed design of the nuclear power plant itself; a far more important but also far more difficult and complex task to criticize constructively (as a result, the law is also known as bikeshedding, bike-shed effect, or the bicycle-shed example – which I always I assumed was something only teenagers got up to).

To avoid bikeshedding here at UBM, many of our project teams regaularly work out loud on the Hub to share their objectives far and wide across the business; helping them to gain different perspectives and ideas, and learn from the knowledge of others.

  • Working out loud often has the intended and very desired effect of attracting new people to the project including who have offer up their skills and expertise.
  • Colleagues can also help you to avoid the bike-shed trap by challenging you to push outside of your current thinking and offer up different perspectives to the areas you’re working on.

Everything our teams learn from outside of their project groups is then fed back in to make it better, stronger and more applicable and relevant to our customers and markets.

Happy Easter everyone – and keep out of the shed!

Social media and the HR function: The IBM perspective

Last week I was able to join an event run by the Human Resources Director Network about social media and the HR function.

Meeting synopsis –

Social media has had a profound effect on how we work and collaborate in our personal lives. More and more, organisations are looking to take these ways of working and bring them into the enterprise to empower their employees to be more productive. This creates challenges and opportunities for HR. What happens to your culture when you empower individuals to collaborate across silos at will? What is the impact on performance management? How do leaders communicate and interact with front-line staff in an engaging and authentic way?

Hosted by Jon Mell, Social Business Leader, IBM, he offered his perspectives on social business and specifically how this way of working empowers HR.

Social business:

  1. The ability for an organisation to use its communities to improve its performance
  2. Using technology to reduce the distance between people and the knowledge/information/skills they need to be more effective/efficient/innovative

IBM believes that social must be embedded into core business processes. They also strongly support external employee social advocacy because it drives business results:


IBM employee engagement.png

IBM is also predicting that employee reward and recognition is moving from being valued for what you know to being valued for what you share, and that this underpins the ethos of social business (and the company culture at IBM).

The HR function is using their internal social platform Connections for:

Increasing visibility for corporate and strategic comms

The CEO posts a quarterly video blog to communicate strategy, vision, and developments with the global IBM community. This top level support for the platform means that other senior leaders within the business also regularly use the platform for communication in order to cascade information throughout the business to ensure all IBMers are kept up-to-date with business direction and what this means for them in their day-to-day roles.

Talent spotting – great for succession planning

HR have been able to fill gaps or identify people for secondments/new projects by using Connections to identify experts across the globe. They may be individuals who are currently working in a completely different role, in a totally different part of the business, who may not have been considered through traditional methods. By being able to track talent via their Connections contributions, IBM is able to more easily identify strong internal candidates.

Nipping rumours in the bud before they comes facts

HR have been able to spot issues they thought they’d solved by monitoring comments under leadership blogs and corporate comms. HR are actively using Connections as a diagnostic to temperature check the organisation. It’s very important for IBM to be able to monitor employee sentiment through Connections as they map their employee engagement score to their earnings per share target.

Pre-hire engagement and recruitment

The company has special part of Connections dedicated to pre-hire engagement. Once a candidate has been accepted for a position, they’re invited to join a separate area of Connections to meet their manager and team members in a virtual setting. They’re also able to access lots of information about what it’s going to be like when they start their new role – from what happens on Day 1 through to where’s good to go for lunch.  As well as kicking off the onboading process, this is also an invaluable ‘test’ for IBM as it lets them (and the candidate) find out in advance if someone’s not the right fit for the business before they officially start.

They use their recruitment site to attract talent. The website highlights IBM’s values and practices – the purpose is to get the potential candidate asking ‘do IBM’s values match my beliefs?’.

Other areas of note from the meeting:

There were a few other areas of conversation worth noting too:

Recommended by a couple of the HR Directors there was this company which offers social recruitment training:

Thought Glassdoor was bad? You’ve seen nothing yet…


Memo App Lets Workers Vent Anonymously – WSJ

In this book Vineet Nayar – HCLT’s celebrated CEO – recounts how he defied the conventional wisdom that companies must put customers first, then turned the hierarchical pyramid upside down by making management accountable to the employees, and not the other way around. (see picture above about employee engagement driving client experience driving business results)

Employees First, Customers Second: Turning Conventional Management Upside Down: Vineet Nayar: 978142213906…

Understanding the Hub: The Little Web of Text

Here at UBM we use Jive as the platform for our enterprise social network: The Hub.

The Hub is sometimes a bit of a misunderstood creature at UBM, so in this post I boil it down to its bare bones and show you what lies underneath…

The Hub is communication through text boxes.

That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. The power of the Hub is in its simplicity: the simplicity of easily sharing information across teams or geographies, the simplicity of being able to ask questions or brainstorm, the simplicity of sourcing feedback on your idea, the simplicity of finding the person with the specific skills, experience or expertise that your project needs.

Simplicity, above the technical complexity which may lie underneath, breeds innovation.

As a collective, our employees are what powers UBM, and they are what powers the Hub. It’s by sharing our collective intelligence that we add value. It’s by updating our profiles with skills and expertise that we help our colleagues find us. It’s by asking the right questions that we uncover new ways of doing things. It’s by working out loud that we don’t let opportunities slip through our grasp.

There’s a lot of value in those little text boxes. Don’t underestimate the power at your fingertips.

A picture is worth a thousand words – what’s the value of your profile?

I originally wrote this blog for our enterprise social network, the Hub, hosted on Jive. However many of the suggestions also apply to external social media platforms you may be using, LinkedIn for example.


It’s a simple concept: A picture can tell a story just as well as a large amount of descriptive text. And on your Hub profile, the inclusion of your photo – and an avatar – says a lot about you. Simply put, it says that you’re interested and engaged in the global community here at UBM.

Combined with the addition of a profile photo, having a complete profile – including a detailed biography, skills and expertise – helps raise your profile within the business by making you visible and discoverable to your colleagues.

If you’re keen to climb the career ladder and are aiming for promotion, then your Hub profile is a very valuable commodity as it’s the basis of your personal brand within UBM. It’s where hiring managers can go to find out more about you and your interests, and easily access the content you’ve created and the projects you’ve worked on.

Whenever I’ve been hiring for a position within UBM and have internal applicants, I always go and check out their Hub profile because what’s on there – and what’s not –  tells me a huge amount about an individual. A complete profile indicates to me that:

  • You’re interested and engaged in the global community at UBM
  • You enjoy being part of a team and actively seek out collaboration opportunities with colleagues
  • You buy into UBM’s culture and the importance of the Commitments
  • You understand the importance of community to UBM
  • You’re aware of the central role that digital networking plays in today’s working environment
  • You have taken responsibility for owning your personal brand and are proactively managing your internal career opportunities
  • And, if you’re applying for a job on the Hub team, you use it on a regular basis

Your Hub profile is a valuable indication of who you are and how you feel to be a UBMer. So what’s your profile worth?

Take action now, dedicate just a few minutes now checking your profile and ask yourself some key questions:

  1. Does your profile have a picture of your face on it?
  2. Have you included an avatar?
  3. Do you have a detailed biography?
  4. Have you included your skills and expertise?
  5. Are your contact details up-to-date?
  6. Is your org chart up-to-date?

Go on, make it as valuable as you can.


True Collaboration is Scary


Collaboration is a strategic imperative for UBM – you can’t have a high performing culture or a high performing business without it.

But knowing collaboration is important and doing it are two different things; after all, collaboration is hard and collaboration is scary.

Working out loud is a key behaviour of social collaboration, but it takes courage. Collaboration happens in the open, and it takes guts to share what you’re working before you’ve finished; it means working through your mistakes openly, sticking your head above the parapet, and sometimes it can feel like bearing your soul in pursuit of an idea.

So while we’ve already taken the step towards making collaboration easier with the Hub – the tool which enables us to share, discover and debate our thoughts, ideas, templates, knowledge, strategies and processes with our global colleagues – it doesn’t make it less scary.

But bravery does pay off. By getting other people’s eyes – and more importantly their brains – on your work it helps you get things done and makes the outcome of your project/campaign/pitch/strategy much better than if you’d developed it in isolation or the perceived safety of your silo.

Your colleagues want you to do well and, more importantly, they want to help you get there. Collaboration doesn’t have to be scary.

Photo credit: ‘ColLABoration’ by edlabdesigner is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Is LinkedIn about to kill Groups?

I’ve been seeing speculation for a while about whether or not LinkedIn are poised to kill off the Group functionality:

Are Groups Next on LinkedIn’s Chopping Block?

4 Reasons Why LinkedIn Groups Is Giving Online Communities a Bad Name

LinkedIn to Change Engagement in Groups?

Is This the Beginning of the End for LinkedIn Groups?

While nothing has been confirmed by LinkedIn, features previously supported in Groups – such as polls – have started to disappear, and the platform is also coming under pressure thanks to its content moderation strategy SWAM.

If your brand has a LinkedIn group, my current recommendation is to also set-up a Company Page and start migrating your community across from being group members to company page followers.

Personally, I much prefer Company Pages to Groups. They’re easier to manage and maintain, it’s not as easy for people to spam (helping you enhance your brand experience), and you can schedule updates through HootSuite.

LinkedIn recommends: “Posting daily company updates is the most effective way to start a conversation, drive word of mouth, and directly engage with your target audience. Share company news, industry articles, thought leadership pieces, or ask followers to weigh in on hot topics. Posts will appear on your Company Page and in the news feed on the homepage of each of your followers across all devices and platforms. Include rich content such as images, infographics, videos, and SlideShare presentations to keep things fresh and exciting for your community.” – the bold segment is important as this isn’t true of all groups, so the reach of your content is improved.

LinkedIn have also just announced Showcase Pages which act more like a microsite and give us better branding/sales opportunities within the platform.

Remember that the focus of your community engagement strategy should always be about how you’re driving customers back to your own site and capturing their data. While LinkedIn may or may not remove the group functionality, we must always be vigilant about how we protect the relationships and communities we’ve built up on external platforms in order to secure our data for the future.

Is your brand living up to expectation?

Thanks to the openness of social platforms, the old freedoms which enabled some brands to hide a different internal reality to their projected public persona have been stripped away; leaving some businesses uncomfortably exposed and marketing left to pick up the pieces.

“As consumers we now get a much truer picture about what a brand is really like”, says Brook Calverley, Managing Partner at People Made, “Transparency means that what’s happening behind the wall is just as important as what’s happening in front of the wall.”

Social media platforms allow the world to look inside

Social media platforms are now enabling consumers to look inside brands, giving them access to the inner workings of a company’s culture, as well as a broader view of how the business is performing in the eyes of their peers.

This shift means that a brand is no longer just about the product, but also about the wider business’ internal cultures and process, all of which are affecting customer perception.

No longer the crafter and controller of brand

If the marketers, the traditional guardians of the brand, are to retain influence over the customer they have to shape what the brand does not just what it says. “The role is shifting from a controller and crafter of a brand to an influencer”, says Calverley, “Where they can influence most is those people who shape and create the brand from the inside. Brand experiences are made by many.”

And this may mean forcing fundamental change within your business, but if your brand’s persona isn’t a true reflection of what’s happening under its skin, customers are now in a position to call you on it. It’s time to get your house in order because in today’s social and transparent world the word of marketing is no longer enough.