Sunday, 28 December 2014

12 popular articles on digital innovation from 2014

I have had a look back over Marginalia on Engagement to bring you some of the most popular articles from 2014.

Big data and digital transformation

Many businesses today find themselves overwhelmed by internal data, paralysed by internal silos, and undecided on how to make decisions to grow and differentiate. In Big Data Marketing, Lisa Arthur suggests a strategic road map for executives who want to clear the chaos and start driving competitive advantage. Read more

A Cambrian moment: review

'A Cambrian moment', is the special report by The Economist that describes the entrepreneurial explosion happening virtually worldwide. "Digital start-ups are bubbling up in an astonishing variety of services and products, penetrating every nook and cranny of the economy. They are reshaping entire industries and even changing the very notion of the firm." Read more

Building a social organisation

How do organisations create a more collaborative culture? Angela Ashenden, has been putting large businesses under the social microscope. She is the Principal Analyst Collaboration at MWD Advisors. I met her at the Connected Business Expo 2014 where she delivered a talk on building a collaborative culture. Read more 

Luis Suarez, agent of change

Luis Suarez was Social Business Evangelist at IBM until a couple of months ago, helping 400,000 employees embracing the new way of working socially. He is a dedicated member of Change Agents Worldwide with the vision of helping to shape the future of work, one human at a time. In this exclusive interview, he shares important moments in his career, why social business has to become an imperative, and what he believes the future of work is going to be. Read more

Truzign blends external with internal knowledge

For a leading company in technology solutions and enterprise applications, Cognizant's Truzign is open to adopting new apps that promise to improve internal collaboration and facilitate work. One of these is Teamgum, an app launched this year for teams to discover and share any articles available on the Internet without leaving their internal platform. Read more

A Social Recovery in Financial Services

How are the latest digital tools reviving the financial sector? While social media creates challenges for heavily regulated environments such as the financial sector, it also represents a window of opportunity to become more likeable, accessible and personable with both external and internally stakeholders. Read more

British Gas breaks down silos with Yammer

British Gas, the largest UK energy and home services company, started to pilot their Yammer-based employee social network (ESN) in October 2013. "Initially, we trialled Yammer with a small group of 500 staff. We wanted to see if it was worth investing in the BG Network for the longer term. Eventually it was!" says Liam Kilminster, Social Media and Collaboration Manager. Read more

"The Digital Workplace in the Connected Organization"

The 8th annual study by Researcher Jane McConnell, seeks to understand how an organisation, its people and tools are shaping new ways of working. In her 182-page report, she examines how the digital workplace impacts and is impacted by processes, structures, leadership, culture and mindset. “The digital workplace is much more than technology. It is a blend of capabilities, enablers and above all, mindset.” Read more

Stowe Boyd predicts big changes in the enterprise

Back in 2007, he coined the terms #hashtag – yes, the popular icon that we all use in our social interactions today, as well as social tools. He is Lead Analyst at Gigaom Research, exploring “the future of work and the tectonic forces pushing business, media, and society into an unclear and accelerating post normal era.” In this exclusive interview, Stowe Boyd shares his view on the state of enterprise social, plus, what he believes the future of leadership is going to be. Read more

Aaron Levie brings collaboration to the next level

The 'Lead Magician' (and CEO) of enterprise platform Box, Aaron Levie, discussed the future of work at Business Without Boundaries in London. The event hosted in London by the cloud content management and collaboration platform Box, was an opportunity to understand how different organisations are evolving and innovating through the use of this modern application, recognized as a leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Enterprise File Synchronization and Sharing. Read more

Brian Solis on Digital Transformation

He is an award-winning author, prominent blogger, and keynote speaker on digital transformation. He defines himself as “a digital analyst, anthropologist, and futurist” who studies the effects of emerging technology on business and culture. I caught up with Principal Analyst at Altimeter Group Brian Solis, to learn what organisations are doing to adapt to the 21st Century. In this exclusive interview we also discuss about their recently announced partnership with Capgemini Consulting. Read more

Le Web - exploring the future of innovation

Passion and commitment to explore innovative solutions that solve problems and change lives for the better; this is the sense you get when you go to Le Web. The established tech conference in Paris this month was an inspiring investigation of the future of digital innovation. Read more

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Innovation at Novozymes – when crowdsourcing meets design thinking

Using crowdsourcing for running scientific innovation projects is something Novozymes has been doing for years on their internal social network COLIN. But, is it possible to combine this cross-over process with design thinking?

An opportunity to answer this question arose when Alain Benchimol at Stavnsholtskolen, a local primary school, contacted Frank Hatzack Head of Innovation Development at Novozymes with the desire to run a joint project on innovation.

The Danish leader in industrial enzymes and microbes took the opportunity and opened up its social idea platform. The experiment involved 60 school children aged between 14 and 16 in a two-week campaign called ‘The Future of Laundry’ focused on innovating consumer laundry solutions.

The educational purpose 

“The school purpose was to bring in “real life” and educate the children in how companies work with innovation. This knowledge, especially the innovative process, was after words used in an exam related project with almost professional accuracy”, says Alain Benchimol, teacher at Stavnsholtskolen.

The business purpose

Novozymes’ business purpose to be involved in this campaign was to see whether or not this method was effective to find out consumers’ needs and explore innovation opportunities. “With a traditional consumer survey one could have thousands of people answering many questions. Here we said: ‘Let’s try something different. Let’s bring a smaller group inside our platform, letting them describe their experiences in their own words. And, let’s look at their stories to see if we can infer some major trends and headlines,” says Frank Hatzack.

The business outcome was surprising and encouraging. “Not only did it lead to innovative concepts but working with such a young crowd was a very uplifting experience: they bristled with motivation, creative energy and fantastically naïve curiosity.”

Emotional perceptions

To start with, students were asked to interview their parents and older siblings of their family on how they did the laundry. This involved describing the procedure as well as the emotional perception of the task. “We asked them to gather information not only on the step by step process, but also the experience. Is it positive? Is it negative? Is it neutral? Is the washing machine easy to use?”
Children had also asked their family members to imagine how doing the laundry should be in the future.

Once all the stories were collected, students were invited to post them on COLIN. They added pictures, drawings, commented on each other representations and endorsed them through a system of ‘likes’.

Please go ahead

Bringing this young group into the corporate virtual platform was surprisingly easy. “The adoption of the tool was very fast. We created a space only for them and showed them how to use the tool. They were keen and learned very quickly. After all they communicate through social media all the time!”

Of the 60 students involved in the project, 30 were actively engaged by sharing their stories and giving others their feedback. 

Hatzack also noticed a difference between female and male pupils. “Girls tended to post richer and more detailed stories.” They not only described how their family were doing the task but also the social dimension involved with it. “They described how they were splitting the chores among family members telling a story of how they were relating to each other.”

From a technical viewpoint, Hatzack collected children’s email addresses to give them access to COLIN with a proper user account. This was done after the consent of their parents and school.
How about security concerns on the side of the company? “None. Before embarking on this project I asked the permission to the leadership team. ‘Please go ahead and see what you can learned’ was the answer.”

Collect and sort

After a period of two weeks, the children had recorded around 30 stories. You wouldn’t normally expect that describing an ordinary task like doing the laundry can bring much detail. Instead, “we were amazed to learn how different these stories were. We received a wide variety of inputs on how families went about washing different textiles accurately, or how often they did it and how they felt about it.”

Despite this diversity there was also a high degree of consistency around the basic steps of laundry: collect and sort, add detergent, choose the program, wash, dry and collect and sort. The same applied to the key elements that most families cared about: “people cared mostly about saving time, high convenience, low costs and environmental impact.”

The overall emotional perception of doing laundry was neutral to negative. “It turned out that the task was complex. To most families, doing it was a necessary plight. They felt they were spending too much time.”

Most interestingly, the digital exercise revealed three innovation themes: ‘Robotic wash’, ‘Magic detergent’ and ‘Smart laundry service.’

“People would like to have more intelligent machines that could make the task easier. For example, there were suggestions about having clothes with multiple labels and chips able to communicate the type of colour and garment directly to the washing machine and other connected devices.”


With these results emerging from the platform, Hatzack decided to carry out a face-to-face brainstorming session with the children. “We used poster-size templates for each step in the laundry process. We split up the group of 60 students into three subgroups. Each subgroup had to capture both their positive and negative comments around each step as well as give their ideas on how to improve it.”

This led to frenetic posting, resulting in over 180 inputs within just half an hour.

The same exercise was conducted for the three innovation themes that surfaced during the online phase. Hatzack asked the students to develop these concepts by giving them a catchy name, stating the key functionalities and benefits, sketching a drawing with key features and doing a web search on already existing solutions or otherwise enabling technologies.

The future of laundry

The final stage of the campaign saw students pitching their concepts. “The most popular ones were crowd-selected by dot-voting.”

Winning ideas were about robotic laundry technology. But, other concepts were captivating too. “Many of the envisioned innovative features seemed realizable and have the potential to improve key aspects of current technology.”

Opening up to innovate 

Hatzack is now thinking about applying the same method for future crowdsourcing and design thinking projects.

“This campaign showed us that by opening up our social network to the external community we can better understand consumer’s needs and explore with them innovation opportunities in an unprecedented way.”

This article originally appeared on simply-communicate 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Le Web - exploring the future of innovation

Passion and commitment to explore innovative solutions that solve problems and change lives for the better; this is the sense you get when you go to Le Web.

The established tech conference in Paris this week was an inspiring investigation of the future of digital innovation.

It is broadly accepted that companies need to adapt fast to remain competitive in the digital age. To be ahead of the game they have to re-imagine themselves as agile organisations. This can be rather difficult for corporations unable to switch off from rigid legacy rules, hierarchy and compliance. The critical challenge is developing effective approaches while considering a multitude of societal, economic and technological forces.

With many prominent speakers, visionaries and experts in the field, Le Web gave full credit to the many who are leading one of the most exciting periods in our history.

Here are a few personal take-aways from the first two days of the event.

The social impact of the Web

“It is incredibly rare to be able to meet and listen to an individual who has changed the way that billions of people live and communicate.”

Co-founder of Le Web Loic Le Meur introduced the man who invented the Web.

As we are at the 25th anniversary of the web, it was exciting to listen to Tim Berners-Lee talking about the future of what he created.

He touched upon areas such as his support for Net neutrality, “Net neutrality is critical” and the need to encourage more women to code, “women are great coders.” He had something to say about the right to be forgotten, “at the moment, it seems to be dangerous. The right to access history is important."

He was open with his concerns about silos of data and interactions. He shared his view that “native apps are boring.” Not surprisingly, he suggested developing web apps to allow social conversations to flourish.

"If you just take your magazine and put it in an app, it is boring. It is not part of the discussion. I cannot tweet about it. You lose my enthusiasm. Everybody loses if it is not on the Web. If you build it as a web app, every place in it has a URL. People can link to it. People can tweet about it. It can be part of the discourse."

Berners Lee is a man with a mission, and sent the audience a touching message.

“Fight to keep the web open. Think about the societal implications of what we you build [on the web]. Think about all the social networking sites where you are sharing… promoting culture. Think at making it better by breaking down barriers.”


"Mobile is exploding. Sensors are entering our body."

James McQuivey, Vice President & Principal Analyst at Forrester Research and author of the book Digital Disruption led the session on wearables.

While in the early days devices like fitness trackers or Google Glass were rather functional and experimental, coming into 2015 they are poised to become popular. Today, much of our attention goes to the Apple Watch, but it is really the entire category that has found legitimisation.

Forrester’s J.P. Gownder showed that the door is now open; dozens more devices are coming out to fill the growing desire for wearable tech. “While those devices have indeed suffered from a hype bubble, demand for them is real.”

He revealed the results from Forrester’s new survey showing an unexpected demand from consumers as well as businesses. “45% of US and 32% of European online adults say they are “intrigued” by the prospect of getting a wearable device.”

Within the enterprise, he mentioned companies like Thiess turning to wearable technology to take care of their workers by tracking their activity level, heart rate, blood oxygenation, and temperature.

“If people want them, then businesses want them even more – and they’ll equip workers, then create new business services and models based on wearables.”

2015, the year of the crowd

Founder of Crowd Companies Jeremiah Owyang, researches how large companies embrace the collaborative economy. At Le web he released his latest version of the Collaborative Economy Honeycomb, a graphic that showed the rise of crowd-based business models impacting almost every industry.

Owyang published the first version of his graphic in May, defining ‘honeycombs’ as “resilient structures that enable people to access, share and grow resources among a common group.” At that time it contained six sectors being impacted by the peer-to-peer economy (P2P): goods, food, services, transportation, space, and money. However, as the phenomenon quickly expanded into many other industries, Owyang updated the Collaborative Economy Honeycomb.

In fact, the illustration that we saw at Le Web contained a wider expansion into new areas, from health and wellness, to logistics, corporate, utilities, municipal and learning. “This is a sign that 2015 is the year of the crowd,” he said, making a few predictions for next year:

“Startup will emerge and overcrowd each hex in the honeycomb. Yet, funding and execution will dictate winners.

“Mature platforms will launch APIs – beyond Uber – resulting in a flurry of growth, analytics, and Collaborative Economy software suites.

“A global debate about user safety, only privacy and sharing of data will wage.

“As the crowd demands startups to share value with people, new ‘open source’ software and coops will emerge to offer a solution.

“Disrupted governments and large corporations realise that they must adopt - mainstreaming the movement.”

The invasion of European startups

It was interesting to hear that a number of promising European startups are growing and flourishing. Often born from small technical teams, this new generation of tech starts are having a global reach, high growth, profitability, and limited VC funding.

One of those is BlaBlaCar, recently named a World Economic Forum tech pioneer. This Paris-based inter-city ride-sharing service is expanding internationally. Today they transport over two million people every month. The transport network that they have created competes with trains, buses and airlines. Co-founder & COO Nicolas Brusson said that they had to move fast to dominate the European market because, a similar ride-sharing service based in Germany, already existed.

So far 10 million members in 10 European countries as well as Russia, Ukraine and Turkey have joined BlaBlaCar.

In August the company raised $100 million from Index Ventures, Accel Partners, ISAI and Lead Edge Capital. They now intend to use that capital to expand to India and Latin America.

Core to their successful operating model is a deep understanding of the local markets. Brusson said that they have created an environment where entrepreneurs have plenty of autonomy and can run their own business within BlaBlaCar.

The company is hiring in all of its offices around the world. To other startups with the same big ambitions to expand internationally, Brusson suggested making sure their service is multilingual from the start. “Hire people with different language skills from day one and have people working in three, four or five locations early on.”

Making people smarter in their work lives

"PowerPoint is a lot of what is wrong with the world today. There is a much more elegant way to work."

Phil Libin gave a passionate talk about Evernote’s vision of making people smarter in their entire workday. “Work should be improved by the tools workers use to do it.”

However, it is not just about the work, it is also the achievement of results with teammates. “The connections between working and communicating are loose. A workspace tool should foster collaboration.”

That is why they recently launched Work Chat, adding a social component to the app. “Why should you stop writing or doing whatever you are doing on Evernote to go to another app to communicate with colleagues? It doesn’t need to be this way.”

The new feature lets colleagues discuss their work right in Evernote, share notes and notebooks, exchange ideas and receive feedback from as many or as few people as they like.

They are also placing great attention on design and augmented intelligence “to make people feel that they are working in the now.

“The best decisions come from a combination of communication and awareness—an ambient knowledge of what your team is working on.”

The application brings additional contextual information as people work. For example, it alerts users when a colleague is working on something even if they are not looking at it. That way they can decide to start a conversation or review their co-worker’s addition.

“This is a new step in Evernote’s development. This workspace is about building conversations. We’ve spent years building a great product that will improve the quality of work.”

Drones and 3D

Iconem is a young an innovative company founded in Paris by architect Yves Ubelmann and a helicopter pilot Philippe Barthelemy. They use drones for creating large-scale 3D digitalisation of archeological sites.

Iconem partners with research centers like INRIA (national institute for computing science), ENS (Ecole Normale Supérieure) and Microsoft, developing innovative tools for interpreting and reconstructing sites through photogrammetry. In the domain of cultural heritage, they work with organisations like UNESCO or World Bank.

I met Ubelmann at their exhibition stage. “We want to digitally save the memory of a country where its heritage is disappearing.”

The makers’ ecosystem

This year for the first time LeWeb hosted a Pop-Up Lab letting the audience experience the DIY culture. They could learn more about how the makers’ ecosystem is experimenting with design creating innovative solutions impacting traditional business. For example, the ‘Water Light Graffitti. When Water becomes Light’ produced by Art2m, a start-up that specialises in digital art and design.

Water Light Graffitti is a surface made of thousands of LEDS that illuminate when they come in contact with water. It allows people to create graffiti with a water pistol, a point brush, a water brush, a water spray, fingers or anything damp. Its aim is to propose a new smart material to draw or write ephemeral light messages. It represents a novel form of interaction with architecture in the 21st century.


Le Web was a source of inspiration. The future of digital innovation looks bright: there are plenty of opportunities for those who make a conscious use of new technology.

With all its challenges and unanswered questions, this movement is led by the desire, optimism and resilience to change the world for the better, seeding new ideas, and shape new business propositions that solve problems and have a positive impact on society, people and relationships.

That’s great news for internal communicators and employee engagement specialists. This is the time to bring, involve and empower our people to make real things happen and achieve concrete results.

As Global Director of Social Media and Search at LEGO Lars Silberbauer’s put it, "you need to get out in the ocean and ensure to have a talented team to run the boat."

Photos courtesy of Le Web Flickr gallery

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Profusion moves to the 4th Office

Profusion, the London-based data science consultancy company, uses the 4th Office to collaborate internally. CEO Mike Weston is among the most enthusiastic users of this virtual workspace.

“We started to use the 4th Office two years ago. We wanted to be much more collaborative in the way we work."

Mike Weston is the CEO of Profusion, a London-based data science consultancy company specialising in the interactions between organisations and people. The services they offer to clients require them to collaborate internally on an enormous amount of sensitive material. Being able to do that securely, easily and at any time was among the key reasons they decided to move to the 4th Office in 2012.

This agile workspace in the cloud integrates tools like emails, newsfeeds and third-party enterprise apps. It also combines project management, document and file sharing.

With them, Profusion seems to have found the balance between flexibility and structure. So much so that the tool "has become the centrepiece of our digital workplace. We don't use the intranet any more."

Where are our documents? 

Probably the best way to explain why they started using the platform is demonstrated by Weston's personal experience with searching documents. "In the past it was almost impossible to figure out where my presentations were placed among thousands of folders. I was struggling when looking for confidential business contracts and other information of similar nature. Being able to control our document management system was a major need and a big step toward working better."

Since adopting the 4th Office they have switched from a complex tree document structure to a more dynamic one, integrating it with applications such as Dropbox and Pipedrive for content management system.

Another issue that was particularly relevant to Weston was the ability to work collaboratively on shared documents. "The truth is that the system is not perfect, but the live editing of material works very well. That has been another big plus for us."

The solution is also mobile-friendly; "it works very well on tablets, enabling remote employees to collaborate from anywhere."

A useful communications tool

Eventually the 4th Office grew to encompass Profusion's enterprise social network (ESN), which they have called the BCS.

"As well as the document management system the tool give us all the benefits of sharing, commenting and discussing. We use that capability to fuel our social conversations and internal campaigns. It has become a useful employee communication tool."

The BCS is largely used for blogging. "We made the point that blogging at least once a week is important for the business. Why do we do that? Because it allows us to share what we think as an organisation. It is a way of giving anyone a voice and personality."

Blogging as part of the business

The toughest challenge corporate communicators face is explaining to their CEO the benefits of using social media inside the enterprise. That is not the case at Profusion; Weston thinks that it is both a necessity and responsibility of everyone in the company "to put their thoughts on what is out there, even - and perhaps most importantly - when they do not necessarily agree with each other." That is why he also believes that blogging should not be performed purely by the marketing team.

To give an example, he talks about a blog post that one of their consultants wrote a few weeks ago. It was about the tension between banks having access to data on what their customers are doing (e.g. booking an holiday) and how they should act based on that information (e.g. blocking their credit cards once abroad). This can have huge implications (e.g. creating frustration to customers in a foreign country).

That blog post opened up a meaningful discussion around finding the right balance between the sensible uses of data and having secure processes into place. "We asked ourselves, 'How can we, as data scientists, support banks in understanding the context in which these types of situations emerge?'. Those conversations helped us think things through."

Talking points

While the BCS is mainly used for core business activities and has groups set up mostly around projects, employees also use it to discuss their passions. This helps to familiarise reluctant users with the tool. "For example, we run a photography competition when we launched the BCS. We invited staff to upload their pictures and describe them through presentations. We saw a huge amount of images and interactions coming out of that, which was important to drive the network."

Another popular non-work related group is Talking Points. Employees use it to share and discuss any type of external content - from news about what is happening in the world to cartoons and movies.

"It is the place where the social capabilities of the platform are really standing out - information just flows freely!"

Those leadership meetings

The BCS is also enabling leaders to have better meetings. Every Monday they gather together to discuss how they are doing as a business.

"In the past we used to spend two to three hours only to give each other updates on the previous week. Today instead, we post our briefs on Friday so that colleagues can read them and be ready ahead of the meeting."

This saves time and allows them to have much more focused discussions when they meet. "We just talk about the things that really matter. Ultimately, it leads to better decision-making."

A self-perpetuating habit

The early and late majority have now adopted the 4th Office inside Profusion. "It has become the fabric of the way we work." With a new office to open in Dubai soon, "being able to interact across countries through the platform will be even more key."

Weston thinks that the use of the tool has little to do with job titles or functions but rather with how people think about collaboration.

For the early adopters he suggests not forcing people. "Do not dictate, or they will find a way around to resist the change.

"It is better to give them the time to experiment. Ultimately, you will find that it becomes a self-perpetuating habit."

This article originally appeared on simply-communicate