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by Anthony J. Bradley and Mark P. McDonald | 7:00 AM July 20, 2012

In just a few years, social media has come to dominate many of our personal communications. We collaborate daily, sometimes productively, sometimes not. Most organizations, however, still view social media as a threat to productivity, intellectual capital, security, privacy, management authority, or regulatory compliance. In fact, this is the most common attitude among the more than 250 organizations that have taken our Social Readiness Assessment.

We’re not surprised. When we first wrote about The Six Attitudes Leaders Take Towards Social Media, our analysis showed that most organizations had yet to embrace a positive attitude towards using social media for true business value. Results of the Social Readiness Assessment reflect this continued struggle. But they also show progress. Overall, respondents were split 50/50 between a positive and challenged attitude towards social media with many indicating that they recognize the potential for social media to address strategic needs and generate durable change.

The figure below shows the distribution of the six social media attitudes we identified.

bradley 1.png

Fearful, folly and flippant attitudes keep organizations from realizing the benefits of mass collaboration. Simple social media solutions that generate ‘likes’ may be easier to embrace but they offer little in the way of meaningful change.

The trouble with a fearful attitude is that an organization often doesn’t take a specific stance: it discourages and even prohibits the use of social media. While this approach reduces the potential for undesirable behavior — that’s the reason for restriction — it also stifles any business value that might be derived from grassroots use of social media.

In companies with a formulating attitude, organizational leadership recognizes both the value of community collaboration and the need to be more organized and strategic in its use. They actively plan how to use it with well-defined purposes. They are no longer fearful of its misuse nor flippant about its potential to drive results back into the organization.

bradley 2.png

Progression Path to Becoming a Social Organization
Source: The Social Organization

Moving Beyond Fear
Social media sponsors who want to move beyond the three negative attitudes tend to build their social media capability in one of two ways: They either use it to demonstrate executive support and build confidence throughout the organization, or they start small with a narrow and specific purpose. Note that this is different than starting with a pilot. Social media pilots don’t work because they might limit the initial audience, which needs to grow organically and aggressively for success; or they tend to launch with a half-baked scope or technology that doesn’t inspire the community to participate.

The large grocery retailer SUPERVALU provides a good example of how to overcome fear in an organization by demonstrating executive support. CEO and President Craig Herkert saw social media as a way to respond faster to market needs, create a flatter organization, and share ideas and innovations, according to Wayne Shurts, the company’s CIO. To this end, Herkert uses social media both to communicate with the company and also to respond to questions and comments directly and quickly. He encourages his executive team to participate and even assigns comments and action items to them via social media where everyone can see. This creates a cultural intimacy in a company with multiple brands and acquired chains.

SUPERVALU’s executive team’s use of social media has encouraged the formation of collaborative communities across the stores and departments. Whereas ideas and experiences were previously kept within local store brands, now collaborative communities have formed based on commonalities that exist across the store brands. For example, a grass roots “Shores Stores Group” formed among the more than 100 store managers with stores located in vacation communities. These stores face unique challenges from staffing during the busy season to handling peak demand during the summer months. The tools, techniques, and approaches to handling these issues are unique to this type of store and social media provides a platform for sharing ideas.

The second option to overcome fear entails defining a purpose that engages people without threatening the organization. For example, instead of deploying a social network for all its employees to collaborate more effectively (but only starting with a pilot for the “western region”), a company can build a social media solution for sales people to network specifically on how to successfully identify and overcome the top three sales objections.

In other words, consider a starter set of social media purposes that are highly magnetic to individuals to attract them into collaborative communities. Purposes related to employee health and safety, customer support, or even organizing the company picnic have all been used to move beyond fear and into action and experience.

Any organization can get lucky and have a single successful implementation of social media. Social leaders, on the other hand, build collaborative capability through a learning process that starts with understanding their current attitude and taking the steps required to building confidence and trust. This turns a single social media success into a sustained source of competitive advantage.

20 June 2012 Last updated at 17:42 GMT


Anant Agarwal from MIT and Stanford’s Andrew Ng are designing an online future

This autumn more than a million students are going to take part in an experiment that could re-invent the landscape of higher education.

Some of the biggest powerhouses in US higher education are offering online courses – testing how their expertise and scholarship can be brought to a global audience.

Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have formed a $60m (£38m) alliance to launch edX, a platform to deliver courses online – with the modest ambition of “revolutionising education around the world”.

Sounding like a piece of secret military hardware, edX will provide online interactive courses which can be studied by anyone, anywhere, with no admission requirements and, at least at present, without charge.

With roots in Silicon Valley, Stanford academics have set up another online platform, Coursera, which will provide courses from Stanford and Princeton and other leading US institutions.

The first president of edX is Anant Agarwal, director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and one of the pioneers of the MITx online prototype.

He puts forward a statistic that encapsulates the game-changing potential.

The first online course from MITx earlier this year had more students than the entire number of living students who have graduated from the university.

In fact, it isn’t far from the total of all the students who have ever been there since the 19th Century.

‘Tipping point’The internet provides an unparalleled capacity to expand the reach – but it also raises far-reaching and thorny questions for the traditional model of a university.

Harvard Harvard, birthplace of Facebook, has joined a project to put courses as well as social lives online

“We’ve crossed the tipping point,” says Professor Agarwal. The courses being launched in the autumn, he anticipates, will have at least 500,000 students – and probably many more.

As an example of how courses might be delivered, the MITx prototype taught an electronics course using an interactive virtual laboratory, e-textbooks, online discussions and video lectures.

Assessment of the course, which took 10 hours per week, was entirely automated.

“This could be the end of the two-hour lecture,” says Professor Agarwal. “You can’t hit the pause button on a lecturer, you can’t fast forward.”

Recorded lectures – available at the push of an iPad – could be more like text books, with universities using the best available.

Assessing large numbers of online learners raises a big practical challenge – and edX is a laboratory to see how this can be developed.

Michael Smith, dean of Harvard’s faculty of arts and sciences, describes the “incredibly important research opportunity” provided by edX.

“We will collect enormous amounts of data from the edX platform about how students are interacting with the courses and online tools and assessments.”

Degrees of degreeProfessor Agarwal wants to include social sciences and humanities subjects, which would require free-text answers – and he raises ideas such as peer marking among students as one approach.

Coursera video lecture
Video lecture from the Coursera online project, with content from Stanford

This might seem difficult now – but Professor Smith says online practices are constantly advancing.

“People interact with and receive information in new ways today, compared with even a few years ago. Universities like Harvard need to be in that space.”

Accrediting such courses is another tricky area.

The online courses are promised to be as rigorous as anything else from MIT or Harvard – but successful students will get a “certificate of mastery” and not a degree or any formal university credit. It’s being set at arm’s length from what’s on offer for the paying customers.

If students on campus are paying $50,000 (£32,000) per year, it’s going to be difficult to give away qualifications to online learners without charge.

High feesThe edX project has the good fortune to have two wealthy parent institutions – and getting a financial return won’t be a pressing necessity.

But Daphne Koller, co-founder of Coursera, says the expansion of online courses will raise difficult questions about what mainstream universities offer for such high fees.

Lecture hall
Would lectures be better as online recordings that could be stopped and started?

Because if the content of university courses becomes freely available, what is it that students are paying for?

Is it the interactions with staff? Or is it the time with other students? Is it something to put on a CV?

“This is causing universities to rethink their value to students,” says Professor Koller, who is from Stanford University’s computer science department.

The most prestigious universities are always going to have enough demand for places – but the emergence of high-quality online courses could be tougher for middle-ranking institutions.

Why would you pay high fees to sit through a mediocre lecture, when you could go online and watch world experts at another university, even if it’s in another country?

“The universities in the middle will really have to think about their proposition,” she says.

Google economicsProfessor Koller says Coursera will keep its content free by following the Silicon Valley approach of companies such as Google.

With large numbers of motivated, employable students – so far about 600,000 and rising – there are going to be plenty of opportunities and partnerships for revenue streams.

The online projects are also aimed at meeting the huge international demand for higher education.

In its initial stages, Coursera has acquired students in 190 countries. Outside the US, the biggest numbers are in the UK, Brazil, Russia and India.

“This is a real democratising influence, making a profound change. It will tap into unused talent,” says Professor Koller.

“Technology has got to the point where it’s feasible. We shouldn’t stratify society by who can afford access to education.”

Earlier this week, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced that it was giving $1m to MIT to use edX courses in partnership with colleges serving low-income students – which raises an intriguing possibility of bringing high-quality resources where they are most needed.

Of course there have already been online degrees and courses. The UK’s Open University has been a trailblazing pioneer of such distance learning. Stanford has also been experimenting.

In the US, large numbers of students have taken for-profit online degrees aimed at those unable to access campus-based courses.

But so far online projects have been in counterpoint to the mainstream.

Into the mainstreamThe entry of such giants such as Harvard, Stanford and MIT means that it is coming into the centreground.

Student protest, Montreal, June 2012
Student protest in Montreal: The rising cost of university is an international issue

It is also a development that coincides with the growing accessibility of high-quality online video and devices such as iPads and smartphones.

There are already rich seams of free educational material online – such as on iTunes U – and this is increasingly being structured into something more formal.

But there are also warnings against under-estimating the challenges.

William Dutton, professor of internet studies at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, says universities have been experimenting with teaching online for a decade, but “it’s not there yet”.

“It’s much harder than teaching a class face-to-face,” he says.

It’s good that institutions such as MIT and Harvard are putting their shoulder to the wheel, he says, but so far no one has really worked out how to harness the internet for a university degree course.

Moral purposeProfessor Dutton also warns that the funding model of edX – subsidised by two very wealthy institutions – is not going to be affordable by many other universities.

But the idea of open learning has its own “moral purpose”, says Anka Mulder, head of Delft University in the Netherlands.

Dr Mulder is president of the OpenCourseWare group which advocates free online course materials.

The demand for higher education is growing, both in the developed and developing countries and Dr Mulder says it “can’t be achieved by building universities”.

She also argues that scepticism about whether courses can be delivered online – and worries about a lack of interaction – is being overtaken by changing social habits.

Talking and sharing online is no longer such a leap of the imagination.

“For the younger generation, the gap between online and real life is blurred,” she says.

Dr Mulder says that in five years most universities will be incorporating online learning in some form.

“Open learning is a movement that isn’t going to go away,” she says.



by Lucy Kippist

06 Jun 01:00pm


I fondly refer to them as “fan mail”. They’re the emails sent from concerned readers pointing out typos in articles and I love them for it.

Spot the typo

Typos are evil. They make a person look silly, slapdash and unprofessional and have a nasty little habit of appearing in any article that you write disclosing the evils of poor spelling and grammar. So watch this space.

Typos also appear in the comments section. Just yesterday banter broke out between Emma and Susan on my piece about texting. Emma pointed out a typo, Susan reprimanded Emma’s typo in her comment about my typo and so it continued.

Typos are part of life. Ever since some nameless ancient Egyptian put two little birdies instead of one above the spooky eye thing, we’ve been making them.

In the modern day there are certain arenas where it is acceptable to make typos. No one expects your passionate Facebook update or witty Tweet or text to be typo-free. We’re communicating fast, not flawlessly.

The obvious exception to the new regime is if you are Tweeting or Facebooking in an official capacity. People expect official tweets from companies or politicians to be spelt right.

I’m not sure I see it that way. If it’s okay for me to say, “hey check this cak I just baked” then I say it’s okay for everybody.

Take Mitt Romney who was just outed for three typos in three weeks. His social media campaign has been taken to task by a Tweeter who goes by the name of @typohunter,  AKA San Diego developer and proof reader Kari Embree.

On three separate Facebook updates, America was spelled “Amercia”, sneak peek “sneak peak” and official, “offcial”.

Not a great look for a social media site for the presumptive nominee of the presidential race. But does Romney deserve to be hung, drawn and quartered for THIS?

I say no – they’re hardly the worst typos in the world. It’s not like those words are hard to spell, they’re more casualties of a fast typer who is neglectful in checking over their work.

Except for “sneak peak”, that’s harder to explain. Strange really, given that I have been known to send a certain editor several emails with that exact typo in the header. I think it’s because it just looks better than the correct spelling, the “eak” is so satisfying the first time you type it, your brain just wants to do it again.

Romney’s typos also appeared on his Facebook page and frankly, typos are slightly more forgivable on Facebook because you can fix them so quickly. Just login, delete or make a quick change and the humiliation is all over in a matter of minutes.

Unlike mugs. Especially commemorative mugs, like the whole series designed for Barack Obama’s recent trip to Australia that were destroyed when someone realised the big, fat typo on the man’s name – a double “r” in Barack.

Department of Parliamentary Services staff were said to be so horrified by the realisation that they crushed the whole lot

By Tim Mullaney, USA TODAY

Updated 3d 1h ago


When Red Robin Gourmet Burgers introduced its new Tavern Double burger line last month, the company had to get everything right. So it turned to social media.

  • Taaron Nichols delivers a Tavern Double Burger at s Red Robin in Valencia, Calif.By Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY

Taaron Nichols delivers a Tavern Double Burger at s Red Robin in Valencia, Calif.

The 460-restaurant chain used an internal social network that resembles Facebook to teach its managers everything from the recipes to the best, fastest way to make them. Instead of mailing out spiral-bound books, getting feedback during executives’ sporadic store visits and taking six months to act on advice from the trenches, the network’s freewheeling discussion and video produced results in days. Red Robin is already kitchen-testing recipe tweaks based on customer feedback — and the four new sandwiches just hit the table April 30.

Facebook’s initial public offering Friday — the largest by a technology company — is a watershed moment for the consumer side of the Web, but social networking’s real economic impact might be ahead as companies learn how to harness “social business” tools.

Beyond advertising on Facebook or Twitter, companies are using social networks to build teams that solve problems faster, share information better among their employees and partners, bring customer ideas for new product designs to market earlier, and redesign all kinds of corporate software in Facebook’s easy-to-learn style.

“At a very basic level, Facebook is the most popular application ever, with a billion people who know how to use it,” said Marc Benioff, chief executive of, whose Chatter social-networking tools are used by 150,000 companies. “The ability to access information is much better because it’s easier to get to it.”

After a slow start, Big Business is embracing social media in a big way. Forrester Research says the sales of software to run corporate social networks will grow 61% a year and be a $6.4 billion business by 2016.

Two-thirds of big companies surveyed now use Web 2.0 tools such as social networks or blogs, with use of internal social networks up 50% since 2008, according to a survey by McKinsey & Co. Nearly 90% said they have reaped at least one measurable business benefit, though most say the improvements have been modest.

Heavy use of social tools has a statistically significant correlation to profitability, said Michael Chui, senior fellow at the McKinsey Global Institute. But it’s early: Only about 3% of respondents used social business tools for all three major uses — reaching customers, connecting employees and coordinating with suppliers, McKinsey said.

The Social Web seems to be doing a different job in Corporate America than the first-generation Web. In the late 1990s, companies such as Wal-Mart used the Internet to streamline supply chains and better manage inventories to hold down prices. Banks used the new technology to cut the cost of processing mortgages by as much as two-thirds, by eliminating clerical workers and substituting e-mail for expensive overnight deliveries. If Web 1.0 automated routine processes and warehouses, Web 2.0 is about organizing design work and creativity, said Andrew McAfee, professor of technology and operations management at Harvard Business School.

“We asked ourselves where would social networking go once everyone had a Facebook account?” said David Sacks, president of San Francisco-based Yammer, whose software runs Red Robin’s internal social network. “Big ideas always move from the consumer market into the enterprise market.”

“Innovation is a two-way street,” said Chris Laping, Red Robin’s senior vice president for business transformation. “When people see things, they feel things. And when they feel things, they change.”

Making connections

Using social networks to foster connections lets companies match the skills of people working all over the world who wouldn’t easily find each other, said Eric Lesser, a research director at IBM’s Institute for Business Value. It’s especially valuable for companies built by acquisition, whose managers in different divisions often don’t know each other, he said.

Take SuperValu, a collection of supermarket chains ranging from Shaw’s in Boston to Albertsons in California. SuperValu last year used Yammer to build a network to connect 11,000 executives and store managers, chief information officer Wayne Shurts said. They’ve organized themselves into more than 1,000 groups to talk about specific challenges.

For example, 182 managers from different chains joined a group to mull common problems of running markets in college towns. Another 153 banded together to talk about running stores in beach communities, where business is seasonal. Those didn’t replace any other process, because there was no way to do it before: The managers couldn’t all be pulled from their stores for retreats or meetings, and the cost of getting them together would have been prohibitive, Shurts said.

One result: A promotion at college-oriented stores that sold 8,000 $99 mini-refrigerators last fall, each stuffed with $99 worth of coupons to bring the customers back for food. Another discussion led to college-town “beer pong” displays packaging ping-pong balls, red Solo cups and brewskis to fill them up. Both ideas were floated last spring and ready by August, he said.

“You’ve got to let the conversations happen, even if you might not like all of that conversation,” Shurts said. “It’s going to happen around the water cooler anyway.”

Listening to customers

Companies can also use blogs and social sites to bring customers into their product-design process, said Barton George, director of the Dell computer division that sells to Internet-based companies. Through its IdeaStorm site, Dell has taken in more than 17,000 ideas for new or improved products, and has adopted nearly 500, including backlit keyboards that are better for working on airplanes.

Other times, Dell puts its own ideas on IdeaStorm, in what it calls a Storm Session, to get feedback before going ahead. On May 6, Dell posted a plan on IdeaStorm describing a proposed specialty laptop, upgrading an existing machine to target people who write wireless apps and other Web-based software using a variation of the Linux operating system called Ubuntu, George said.

By Monday, customers had posted 83 ideas for refinements to the machine on IdeaStorm, covering specific software bugs to broader issues such as whether the screen should be shiny or not. In addition, 35,000 people visited George’s Web posting about the new laptop — 10 times more than any other posting he’s ever made, he said. The laptop is due on the market by year’s end. Dell says the process produces more detailed feedback than traditional focus groups, and builds links to an important group of customers.

So far, the social Web hasn’t boosted U.S. productivity growth the way the first-generation Internet did in the late 1990s. But economists such as MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson say it takes about five years for a new technology to show its full impact on companies that deploy it. Social networking is about two or three years in at most companies, McAfee said.

Companies are tinkering with the technology and their own business processes, trying to find ways to match them up to get the most impact and learn how to interpret all the unorganized data users disclose about themselves on the sites, Lesser said.

In the meantime, the trend has already generated one IPO for a smaller company, Jive Software, that sells social-networking tools to companies. Jive went public at $12 a share in December and now trades around $19.50, achieving a $1.2 billion market value, though it’s not yet profitable.

Facebook hasn’t actively pursued the social business market. It let companies such as Yammer and Jive mimic its look and feel, because making Facebook-like features an industry standard helped cement Facebook’s leadership in consumer social networks, Yammer’s Sacks said.

Social media has the potential to be as important to the broader economy as more obviously business-related information technologies such as mobile phones and cloud computing, said Stacey Bishop, a venture capitalist at Scale Venture Partners, in Foster City, Calif.

“I’d put the cloud first, but they’re all important and they’re all related,” Bishop said. “Mobile is an extension of the cloud, because it lets you get your data wherever you are. And social is the layer on top of that, making it easier to cross-communicate.”