Screen at Satellite Applications Catapult

Building a NanoSat

Satellite Applications Catapult organised a weekend to build a nano-satellite using Arduino and friends, equipped with radio transmitter, camera and sensors, and launched on a weather balloon… Read More

Ovum event: The Future of Work

Flickr image - Google Glass

Ovum analysts recently held a Future of Work conference with presentations from various vendors including Google and Microsoft and systems integrators such as Computacenter and Wipro, along with some great industry case studies. Here is a short summary of some of the conversations that took place. Read More

How to pilot social media tools

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To navigate social media, you need a champion within HR for internal adoption, recognise the constraints your industry operates within, and actively engage with influencers on external channels.

I recently presented at the J.Boye Conference in Aarhus and had the chance to sit in on some other sessions including three great examples of how to pilot, introduce and adopt social tools for business. Two were focused internally, improving employee engagement. One was external, focused on customer engagement. All had great lessons to share. Here are a few soundbites.

IBM BlueIQ

Luis Suarez presented lessons learned by IBM since introducing BlueIQ ten years ago to increase knowledge sharing and collaboration internally. It followed the old adage – happy employees lead to happy customers. Ignore that correlation at your peril in this new connected world we live in. The early adopters of BlueIQ were often the black sheep in their groups, the disrupters upsetting the status quo. BlueIQ gave them a community (and an authentic voice). The initiative has since grown to over 50,000 active participants globally.

There was lots of great advice, but these two quotes particularly stood out:

“You can be appointed a manager but you have to demonstrate leadership, every day.”

When asked if there is anything that could or should have been done differently earlier in the project, Luis gave a great tip:

“To drive adoption of social tools internally, you really need to find a champion in HR. Because they have the power to do anything regarding employees.”

Wise words.

UBS Global

Peter Barnes is the global head of web communication and collaboration IT for UBS. It was great to hear his story as a number of my own clients are challenged with embracing online, mobile and social technologies within the constraints of tightly regulated industries.

UBS deployed Jive three years ago with a specific intent – improve customer service. Working within the confines of the banking sector meant that it is very difficult to be as transparent with information as many people would like. For starters, the solution had to be on-premise. Cloud-based alternatives were not an option. And a vetting process was needed to ensure no client-identifiable information was shared. UBS had 6 developers working on their deployment to tweak Jive to meet their needs.

To give an idea of the challenges, here’s my most re-tweeted soundbite from the conference, posted during the session:

“The four horse riders of the apocalypse just referenced by UBS at JBoye13 – head of legal, head of compliance, head of risk and head of HR”

Sometimes, ‘just do it’ is simply not possible. It’s easy to bash roles such as legal and compliance but it is their livelihoods on the line if something goes wrong and they are accused of being negligent in their duties.

A great tip shared was the introduction of a ‘whistle blower’ account that anyone could contact if they spotted content being shared that they were concerned about.

BNP Paribas Fortis

Benoit Minvielle is head of e-Communication, Social Media and Innovation at BNP Paribas Fortis (BNPPFF). He presented a case study that walked through one of the best run pilots in social media tools I’ve seen. They launched 2 years ago with a very small deployment, initially in Belgium.

The first step taken was to monitor and listen to what customers were saying, and where. They found that most questions were being posted on Facebook. They also analysed the overall market and found that 4 million customers in BNPPFF were logging in twice a day on social networks.

The decision to move from 1-way to 2-way communications was not taken lightly. They recognised that it would require very different business practices. Crisis management is one of the most visibly affected processes – most will now be heard about first on social media channels. Real-time monitoring was implemented and paired with a ’24 x 7′ alerting system to also be able to respond in real-time. Backed up with the more traditional reporting and analytics to study trends on a regular basis and send outputs to appropriate departments.

BNP Paribas Fortis

(Click to view larger image)

BNPPFF implemented a ‘Social Media Command Centre’ integrating with the different business areas. Some required the real-time statistics, others needed structured reports for more organised reactions. The image above shows some of the different departments involved.

To learn from the pilot, they did monitor stats on the sites, such as likes. But were much more interested in quality than quantity. BNPPFF identified influencers and targeted them to become actively involved in the channels. They were considered key to the positive outcomes achieved. But for two-way conversations to work, you have to be good at listening and expect the conversation to not always be about you:

“Be authentic, listen and engage. Don’t control”

When asked what impact engaging on social media channels had had on sales, Benoit responded that this is not yet a Point of Sale. BNPPFF are net attempting to sell any products through social media channels. That may happen later, but for now it is about added value through better customer engagement.

Three great case studies and presenters. Thanks so much to Luis, Peter and Benoit for sharing and to Janus and the team for organising a great conference. If you’re interested in attending a future one, they are currently held annually in Philadelphi, US and Aarhus, Denmark. Visit the J.Boye web site for details.

Flickr image ‘Map reading‘ kindly shared by Zoetnet

Dell B2B Social Media Huddle

On 25th May 2010, Microsoft hosted Dell’s second B2B Social Media Huddle in London.

This blog post will look at what has changed since the previous event held last December, and will be a shorter post than the original series. Some content was repeated or similar and reading the first series would be a good place to start, beginning with Dell B2B Social Media Huddle – Part 1 (December 2009).

Overall, the tone was more muted this time and focused on the reality of social media, mixing lessons learned in how to benefit from social media with examples that question its value in a business-to-business (B2B) context. I suspect that’s because business-to-business examples are far more likely to be found under the umbrella of Enterprise 2.0 than Social Media. At this event, there was a lot more emphasis on social media for advertising and marketing.

Does Social Media Matter?

12 months ago, the first time Domino’s Pizza management heard about what their employees had been up to on YouTube was when they were tipped off by a blogger. The incident was considered a case study in why businesses should be more actively monitoring and participating in social media. But Domino’s did react quickly once notifed and, 12 months later, has any damage been done to the brand? The evidence suggests you can fail miserably (initially) at social media, the judgement comes more from your reaction and how you get out of a bad situation rather than how you got into it…

During one of the unconference sessions, the presenter Ciaran Norris played a video of IKEA leveraging Facebook for social media marketing. IKEA created a profile, uploaded photos and whoever was first to tag an item in the photo won the item. Held up as a great example of how to engage your audience, what’s the benefit? Outside those who received free goods, does it change anyone else’s opinion? Decide for yourself:

Whilst I’m unconvinced about how much value was generated from this one-time limited lucky dip, for sure some value was created. And that’s perhaps the point we have reached with social media…

What’s the Return on Inaction?

With businesses struggling to put a value on social media efforts, making any potential return on investment hard to predict, an alternative approach was offered – evaluating the return on inaction. (You could equally use ‘Risk on Inaction’.) What happens if you do nothing? In the era of telephones, if your customers all had telephones would you choose not to have one? What’s the value of that telephone? How about the value of having an email address? Or web site?…

Whilst I’m getting more than a little tired of videos displaying trends to a thumping tune designed to have everyone reacting in amazement, the numbers do illustrate just how far we have travelled down the rabbit hole in to Internet wonderland.

Target who you interact with…

It was interesting to observe at the event how Dell and Cisco continue to expand their social media efforts to reach a larger audience. Both have multiple accounts on Twitter and fan pages/groups on Facebook. For brands, it seems the more successful use of Social Media come from specalisation, connecting with multiple but very specific audiences rather than the generic TV method of targeting everyone/stereotypes. It would be prohibitively expensive to create specialist adverts for print and TV media, but not so with social networks.

…and let your targets find you

I’ve tweeted my frustration at seeing Nokia target my Facebook profile with pink versions of their outdated phones, when the only data they have to go on is that my profile gender is female. That is no different to a stereotyped TV advert. The successful uses of online sites like Facebook and Twitter involve creating channels that people want to join. We ignore banners splattered around the site then go visit the fan page of a brand. They are both advertising mechanisms. Facebook’s challenge is that it is currently trying to monetise using the old fashioned format rather than the new. Just as the advertising industry never thought online text ads would work when Google first introduced them to finance a search engine, the same disruptive thinking is needed if advertising is to also finance a social network.

“Be careful what you wish for…”

It’s that age old quote and one to consider by all businesses tentatively engaging in social media to promote sales. Back to the IKEA example. Technically, they broke Facebook’s terms of service (ToS) by creating a profile to advertise their products. And the idea has recently spawned fake imitations with fans being duped into handing over  personal details to con artists – see IKEA Imposter attracts thousands of Facebook fans per hour. Unlikely to cause long-term damage to IKEA but time and resources are now required to monitor and manage the social media channels they have chosen to participate in.

To wrap-up, the repeating message throughout the event was that social media will take time and resources, and you will fail at some point. The medium is too unpredictable to not fail, as IKEA is now learning. It’s how you respond and adjust that will make all the difference. With all the pitfalls, it may feel tempting to try and ignore social media. But the simple fact is, you can’t. It’s like the telephone, email and web sites. In their early days, they were a luxury. But once they became established, to not participate is to not be in business. Once you overcome the realisation that avoiding social media is pointless, you can start to focus on the unique benefits it can offer that justify managing those inevitable pitfalls.

Twitter has brought down barriers to communicate with people you would previously have struggled to connect with

Mel Carson talked through lessons learned by Microsoft Advertising as they began to engage in social media. This quote was the highlight and is applicable to everyone. For Mel, it resulted in getting Stephen Fry to attend a meeting. Whilst you might not secure a visit from Mr Fry to your birthday party, there is nothing stopping you from contacting him, direct, through Twitter. It is becoming common for TV shows to include a Twitter hashtags. Two examples from the BBC – The Virtual Revolution and Wonders of the Solar System. In both cases, the presenters continue to be active on Twitter and will happily argue discuss their point with you. At this event, it was interesting to note that all but two presenters in the brochure had included their Twitter IDs.

This post has summarised some of the content from the excellent Dell B2B Social Media Huddle. A follow up post will look specifically at B2B and B2E (internal) uses of social media. Thanks again to Kerry Bridges and Neville Hobson for organising, and Mel Carson from Microsoft for hosting.

Presentations from the event:
References:

Related blog posts: Social Media tag

9 Brains Rules for Education

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Talk by Marja Brandon at Microsoft, December 2004

An amazing talk by an amazing woman.  If only more schools could/would adopt these methods for teaching. This talk was originally posted direct to the library and has been moved to the blog. The following are notes taken from her talk given at Microsoft in December 2004.

Marja founded a school in Seattle – Seattle Girls School – because she decided the school system was failing girls and making it difficult for them to graduate in science and maths subjects.  Too many distractions led to missing crucial phases of learning – mid School years (5th – 8th grade, equivalent to junior/primary school in the UK).  By the time many get to college, their maths simply isn’t strong enough to do science.

Designed a completely original curriculum – no text books!  Based around teaching 4 core skills:

  • Critical and creative thinking
  • Problem posing and solving
  • Bold thinking – don’t think outside the box, live outside the box
  • Community connectedness – connect everything they do to the real world

Step 1: Potential

Right from the start, the girls are told that the school’s mission is to build the next generation of world leaders.  The kids sit up straight – you light up their ambition and instantly they can start to vision it.  Everyone’s scores go through the roof compared to their ‘expected’ start points.  They don’t just sit back and wait for education to flow over their heads, they participate.  They start to hold each other to that potential.  (Not talking about ‘gifted’ kids, this applies to all <– for related note, see ‘Art of Possibilities‘ where Benjamin Zander starts the by giving his students an ‘A’ grade and the year is up to them to decide how they deserve it.)

Step 2: Anti-bias mission

The school encourages as much diversity as possible (race, religion, family unit structure, abilities etc.) – when you get different kids bumping into each other, each one of those bumps is a learning opportunity.

Step 3: Apply what we now know about the brain

We have learnt more about neuro-science in the last 10 years than in the rest of our history.  There is now a giant gap between neuro-science and education.  What are we waiting for?  Traditional class day ends at 3pm – it was designed for the agriculture calendar: run home and do the chores.  Methods were based on schools for boys – right back to the Greek system when it was 4 boys to 1 teacher.  Class sizes are 30 and growing, and they’re not just boys any more.

Marja included a big disclaimer at this point: No empirical back up to support what was about to be said.  Don’t have lots of lovely research to be shown.  Seen the evidence in play – wanted to try it, apply it and see if it works… and it does!  Marja desperately wants to take this model and apply it at a public school.

The 9 Brain Rules

Marja took 9 brain rules from what we’ve learnt in neuro-science, and built the curriculum using them.  These rules are based on studies from evolutionary biology – if you don’t believe in evolution (i.e. you’re an intelligent design purist), you won’t believe this stuff…

Rule #1: Meaning before detail

If you are on the plains of the Serengeti and a giant lion is hurtling towards you, you don’t stop and count the teeth.  You think it’s going to eat you, you run first!  Lesson: figure out the bigger meaning before the detail.  This is applied to each year:

5th grade – ‘all creatures great and small’ – study what is life. Includes biodiversity, animals, organisms (hint: 5th graders + animals = good thing!)  They have chickens at the school – project ‘Chicks in the hood’.

6th grade – ‘incredible machine’ – study the individual.  They look at themselves, start looking at simple things, tools, machines, how they work… they do the body, then they do the machine, then they do the intersection between machine and body, study biotechnology, nanotechnology, robotics, ethics…

7th grade – ‘Seattle from the ground up’ – study the community.  Examine the whole area that is Seattle, cover geography, geology, tectonics (Seattle is in earthquake territory), forces that shape the earth, forces that shape the community.  They study governance law, constitutional law.  One of their projects is to do a mock trial at the court house down town.  Finally, they look into the future.  Their final year assignment is ‘One month to change the world’ and what they propose has to last beyond the assignment.

8th grade – ‘The world and beyond’ – the sub-theme is to prepare them for graduation to high school.  They start with an aviation theme.  Applying ‘meaning before detail’ means they start with ground school, weather school and flight school.  Every 8th grader does 2 flights in a 4-seater plane – one as co-pilot (get to do take-off, missed approach, and landing), and one as a cartographer in preparation for their mapping project.  When they get back to school, one of the labs has been built as a hangar and they build a full size kit plane (the kit was donated).  They do everything – the flight systems, physics, all the algebra that’s required for avionics, and they end up with a full size plane hanging out in the 8th grade lab.  Amazing!

Back to meaning before detail – they flew first and then they came back into the lab to study, and it all made sense.  What they were studying connected to what they were doing because they had experienced what it means to fly.  Now that’s real-world application of what you’ve learnt.

Rule #2: Every brain is different

There are lots of kids who are told they are ‘learning-disabled’.  Marja challenges that diagnosis.  Every brain is different.  Sure there are some ‘syndromes’ that can be identified, but a dyslexic child gets told they are different to ‘everyone else’ – these kids get the impression that their brain is broken.  It affects their perception about what they can achieve.

Think of the brain as like a roadmap – we all have the same high ways and major junctions, but those little side roads, they are all different… All the stuff about learning styles – kinaesthetic, visual, linear-sequential etc. – it’s not about style, it’s simply how your brain routes information, what works for you.

When you have 30 children in a classroom, you have 30 different brains with 30 different routing preferences, and then there’s the teacher’s brain as well.  As the teacher, you have to be working on a lot of different levels, and teaching in a lot of different modalities to engage all of those brains, and every one of those brains has something to offer.

Classic example:  A girl comes home from maths class and she is really frustrated ‘I just don’t get it, forget it, I hate it, I’m so dumb, I’m never doing maths again’… and they become a humanities person.  Girls have a habit of eradicating an entire subject based on one bad experience in the class room.  Boy comes home from maths class ‘Aargh! I’m so frustrated, I hate this subject’.  Now, interestingly, they don’t eliminate the subject from their curriculum, what do they do? ‘That teacher is so dumb he can’t teach his way out of a paper bag…’  It’s not as extreme as the girl’s reaction, but neither responses are healthy.

What causes these clashes?  Usually the teacher is using a modality that doesn’t work for these children.  A teacher who teaches by writing notes on the board – ‘you write this too, and then I’ll test you on what we wrote’ – won’t help someone who’s kinaesthetic (easy to spot – will fidget a lot, take things to pieces and put them back together to understand them).

One of the meta-goals for the school is teaching children to identify how they learn, what works for them and what doesn’t, and how to speak up when the method the teacher uses doesn’t work for them.

Rule #3: People are natural explorers

We did not develop, evolutionary, to sit back and be lectured at.  Back on that Serengeti plain, you explored, tested, tasted, watched, observed.  Seeing a snake with black/yellow stripes bite someone, and watching that person die, causes a mental note – avoid snakes with black/yellow stripes.  You didn’t read the book on snakes, you explored, learned and acted.

So, we didn’t develop to sit and listen all day, yet that is exactly what we expect children to do today.  And their attention span just can’t do it.  We know from brain chemistry that your brain is more alert if you are moving – just getting up and stretching will create a more focused attention state.  Research suggests we need to get the blood going every 9 minutes.  When we sit down, our body assumes sleep cycle ‘OK, rest time…’  (note: traditional school uniform in the UK is not conducive to motion or getting dirty).  This school is a project-oriented school.  Children are in groups of 9, 12, 18.  Teachers teach in grade-level teams – sometimes 1 teacher, 2 teachers… the children are constantly in motion, no lecture format (hence no text books).

Children don’t want to be told, they want to do, they want to learn for themselves.  Compare the difference: ‘I’m going to tell you how things get blown up’ versus ‘I’m going to show you how things get blown up, and then you’re going blow some things up to’.  Compare ‘We’re going to learn about planes’ versus ‘We’re going to build a plane’.

Rule #4: Sleep is important to the learning process

When you suffer from lack of sleep, it literally slows down your processing time, your attention to detail, and your recall.  This is as true for children as it is for adults.  From biology, what we now know is that children in adolescence (9th through 12th grade) go through a phase when their sleep cycle goes upside down.  They are wide-awake at 10 at night.  They can’t help it.  Telling them to just go to bed won’t make any difference.  As a result, their sleep cycle hits somewhere between 7 and 9 in the morning… the point when they are supposed to be off to school for the day…  In addition, the mid-point between sleep cycles is the worst time of day.  12 hours from the mid-point of your last sleep phase you will hit a sleep cycle again – and that usually occurs around 2pm in the afternoon.  This is the time to get up, take a walk, rest – it’s dead time for you.
Children have the exact same thing.  But we aren’t letting them rest.  They do school, they do after-school activities, they do homework, they go to bed, they get up and it starts all over.  We aren’t letting them get enough sleep.

Rule #5: Repetition is critical for memory

You need to hear it again and again and again, but within distinct cycles – just repeating something over and over again is not meaningful repetition, it has to be in critical cycles. The school’s curriculum is completely integrated.  You can’t build an

airplane without the physics and maths required.  Once they’ve built the plane, they then get to build to full-size shuttle simulators.  Their culminating event involves groups being locked in a simulator from 4pm until midnight.  Their project has been to design a complete mission to mars, and they then carry out the mission in the simulator. They’ve got it all figured out, all the tools they need, they know what’s going to happen, they’ve studied everything (clue: that requires the same maths and physics as building the airplane.)  But the teachers than throw in some problems, they’ve got a ‘red-alert’ button that can be activated, Star Trek style.  The children have one line to mission control, and when things go wrong they can’t leave. They’ve got to figure out what to do, and still complete their mission to Mars. They’ve got to apply everything they’ve learned… oh, and quadratic equations are perfect for aviation.    There comes the same maths again… that’s the kind of repetition that works.

Rule #6: We are visual learners

No matter what anyone says, 90% of the information we get is visual. Teachers have to incorporate this.  Standing and lecturing doesn’t work, you’ve got to capture the children.  When you say take out a book and open it, actually pick up the book and open it to demonstrate.  Connect with those routing modalities.

Rule #7: Focused attention states facilitate learning

You cannot maintain the same level of focus for 40 minutes.  Studies suggest that your brain can focus for 7 to 8 minutes on something, but then you need to do something different – get up and do an activity.  It’s basic brain stuff.

Rule #8: Exercise aids learning

Already been demonstrated – if you’ve been reading this for a few minutes, get up and wave your arms about.  Sit down, and you will find it easier to focus on the text…

Rule #9: Stressed brains don’t learn well

When your stress level is high, your processing and problem-solving abilities slow down, as does your memory. If you are suffering from chronic stress – serious illness, divorce etc. – those effects will debilitate your immune system.  You’ll get sick more often, your sleep cycles will be affected.  This stuff is true for children as well.   Some children are coming from places where they don’t know if they will get any sleep, food, dad just lost his job, parents divorcing, whatever… these are chronic stress events for kids.

Quote “There’s a million miles from a kid’s neuron to the blackboard’.  Children are bringing all that stuff to school and you are telling them to pay attention.  It’s a pretty loaded statement – they can’t just leave all that stuff at the door.

The 10th Brain Rule: Anti-bias

So they are the 9 brain rules.  There are also differences for boys and girls.  Different areas of the brain develop in different sequences, which is why a lot of times you’ll hear that girls are better at language development and boys are better at structure and physical stuff. What typically happens?  Each gender is encouraged to do what they are good at.  What should happen?  Don’t just play to those early strengths – give boys more opportunity to work on language and writing, give girls more opportunity to play with structure.

Sociologically we tend to follow what the brain does first and not try to influence it to develop more.  Kids get put into the boxes – girls, go sit at the art table, boys go to the building blocks area.  From a very early age, girls will be complimented for how they look, boys will be complimented for what they do.  This stuff gets fixed very early in life and introduces bias that will continue straight through school, college, work and life.  People don’t realise how embedded it is. (Side note: go watch your favourite TV show, watch the adverts – notice the gender stereotypes they are creating, targeting, confirming…)

Marja’s 10th brain rule: you have to learn anti-bias work at a very young age.  By high-school, you can still influence some but most are already set.  Middle-school is the most flexible age.  If you can build up self-esteem at that age and give children the words and confidence to not be stereo-typed, it will save them when they get to high school.  And this is just as important for boys as girls – boys who don’t fit their traditional stereotype face just the same challenges – they’ll get eaten up in the playground and risk never achieving their true individual potential.  This applies to ALL biases <– related note: try Somebodies and Nobodies by Robert W. Fuller

Internships

Every Wednesday afternoon is dedicated to the internship programme.  Internships are run as 6 week programmes – some taught on campus, off campus in the summer.  The aim is to broaden the girls’ horizons. They get to participate in craft skills, mock trials, HTML programming, code breaking, any subject where a successful person or business will participate and show the girls what it’s like to pursue a passion and succeed.  An advertising company participated and shut down their office on Wednesdays for 6 weeks – taught the children about the world of advertising, and gave them an account to work on for the project.  They had to do a storyboard and come up with a pitch in 6 weeks.  These are not mini-courses, they are intensive sessions and they breakdown those biased perceptions about what children ‘should’ do when
they grow up based on their initial ‘standing’ in life…

The Keys to better education

#1: It’s got to be connected learning.  In a typical school if, in September, you ask the 6 year olds what they are learning in Sociology, they will answer ‘we’re studying the Mayans’.  When you ask why?  ‘Because it’s chapter 1 in the book’  That’s why you hear that children lose 80% of what they learn over the Summer.  There is no connection between learning and life.  They are just studying to pass tests but they don’t know why they are studying ‘this stuff’.

#2: Applied learning:  Learning by doing.  If you watch a video showing you how to change a tyre on the car, will you really know how to do it when the time comes, 5 years later, parked up on a busy road with a flat tyre?

Everything at this school is about connected and applied learning.  The children still have to take written tests, but they also have to do the practical to.  For example, in 6th grade, the children have to answer questions on maths ratios.  Then they have to go into the lab and build a 5:1 wheel ratio.

The national anthem for middle school ‘when are we ever going to use this stuff’ never happens at this school.  They know when they are going to use what they’ve learnt – tomorrow, in the lab, building something practical from the real world…  (Marja is currently looking for someone to donate a helicopter…)

…this system has yet to be tested in state education.  Only the independent schools are allowed to do it because they can deviate from what the government dictates should be on the national curriculum (side note: the UK suffers this too).  What does that mean?  The usual trap of ‘the rich get richer…’ because many of the top independent schools provide this richer learning environment.  Marja founded this school purely through donations.  But we need to see this type of learning on a (inter)national scale, available to everyone.

If I lived in Seattle and had a daughter, I know which school I’d be fighting to get her into.

References:

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