Peer Progressives: Is open collaboration the solution to our problems?


Today I thought I’d write about something that isn’t directly related to my work, but something I’ve recently read about which really intrigued me and made me feel very optimistic for the future.  Peer networks and Peer Progressives.

Let’s start with peer networks. They aren’t new.  Think academic research. Leading edge thinkers present their work to peers for review and for the opportunity to analyze and possibly improve on the work.  That’s a peer network in action.

The internet is making peer networks larger and much more efficient.  Think Wikipedia. Think Kickstarter. Never heard of Kickstarter?  It’s a website for artists, entrepreneurs or anyone with a creative idea to make a pitch for funding to anyone, anywhere in the world.  They give a target amount of money to raise and do a video pitch to ask people to donate.  If they get enough pledges to meet the amount they targeted, they get the money.  So we’re clear, these are donations, not investments.  Think it’ll never work? Last year Kickstarter distributed more money to creative projects in the US than the National Endowment for the Arts.

Peer networks and the idea that they can be used to improve the world are the topic of author Steven Johnson‘s book, Future Perfect.  It’s a fascinating read on peer networks in the past and the ways the internet could allow them to change the world in the future.  One of his main points is that diversity in thinking is more powerful at problem solving than pure ability.  That normally intelligent groups with completely different backgrounds come up with better solutions to complex problems than groups of extremely intelligent people who come from the same background. The internet is an incredibly efficient way to leverage this diversity to solve our problems.

Johnson provides several examples of how politics, government, and education could be enhanced through networked thinking.   Historically, these have all relied on top-down hierarchies that work well to distribute money and create laws based on the average for the entire population, but are very weak at meeting the differing needs at the local level.  In Johnson’s view, and he sites several real examples, peer networks could change that.

Johnson’s concept of Peer Progressives challenges the notion that the most effective form of government is to elect a group of like-minded people to govern and solve the nations problems.  Personally, I hate the way our party system pigeon-holes the electorate.  If you are a Conservative you must be a big business loving libertarian and if you are a Liberal, you must be a big government loving socialist.  There seems to be no room for a government that responds to the nuanced views of the electorate.  As Johnson explains on his website, his concept of Peer Progressives, who believe in non-market forms of open collaboration through peer networks, allows for more nuanced views.   “It’s simply a question of emphasis. Liberals can still believe in the power and utility of markets, even if they tend to emphasize big government solutions; all but the most radical libertarians think that there are some important roles for government in our lives.” Closer to home, among many possible benefits of peer networks, I can’t help but think they could lead to a game-changing improvement to how health care dollars in Canada are allocated.

How often do you think that our current form of government is broken and that there has to be a better way.  Maybe the peer network is at the core of this better way.  I encourage you to read Future Perfect and see what you think.

The following link is to a review of the book from the Scientific American blog “Cross Check” which has some interesting thoughts as well.

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Things Google Knows to be True – #3


My continuing series on Google’s “10 things we know to be true.”

“Fast is better than slow.”

“We know your time is valuable, so when you’re seeking an answer on the web you want it right away–and we aim to please. We may be the only people in the world who can say our goal is to have people leave our website as quickly as possible. By shaving excess bits and bytes from our pages and increasing the efficiency of our serving environment, we’ve broken our own speed records many times over, so that the average response time on a search result is a fraction of a second. We keep speed in mind with each new product we release, whether it’s a mobile application or Google Chrome, a browser designed to be fast enough for the modern web. And we continue to work on making it all go even faster.”

There is a definite theme to the things Google “knows to be true”.  No matter how good something is, it can be better.  They seem to rejoice in the challenge of improving whatever it is they are working on. Since fast is better than slow, no matter how fast they get, they want to keep getting faster.  They charts_jscreationzsmeasure their current performance, attempt improvements then measure again to see if things got better.  It’s a formula that works in any endeavour and it’s the foundation of the work I do with my clients.  Once they start tracking performance and see the improvement that results from a focused effort, the motivation to continue the improvement grows and grows.

Image Courtesy of Jscreationzs / freedigitalphotos.net

Most improvements we make come in small, incremental steps.  If we don’t measure and track performance, it’s very easy to miss the improvement.  If we don’t see how our efforts are benefitting us,  we miss out on the motivation that results and usually give up on the initiative entirely.  What do you want to improve, and how are you measuring your success at doing it?

About Mike Bonn:  I offer Business Coaching Services and facilitate the unique LMI process to help individuals and organizations improve performance.  If you would like to contact me to discuss any of my blogs, or to learn more about my excellent services, give me a call at 613.743.5642 or send me an email mbonn@lmicanada.ca.

Everyone Can Do Better


You can do better.  It’s not a judgement.  It’s a statement of fact.

improve renjithkrishnan

Likewise, your business or organization can do better.  It doesn’t mean your business is bad, it means the potential of your business is limited only by the efforts of every employee from top to bottom to improve.

It comes down to attitude.  If we think we’re good enough, we stop looking for ways to do things better.  If we stop finding better ways to do things, we stagnate, and since others are improving, we fall behind.
Even if you gave 100% today, if you learn more about what you do, practice it, work at it and refine it tomorrow, you will be better at it.

Next week, with the improvements you make, your 100% will amount to more than the 100% you gave today.  How can you increase your 100%?

Image courtesy Renjith Krishnan / freedigitalphotos.net

About Mike Bonn: I offer Business Coaching Services and facilitate the unique LMI process to help individuals and organizations improve performance.  If you would like to contact me to learn more about my excellent services, give me a call at 613.743.5642 or send me an email: mbonn@lmicanada.ca.

Google #2 Do 1 Thing Well


Blog # 2 in my series on Google’s Operating Philosophy – 10 Things We Know to Be True

#2

“It’s best to do one thing really, really well.”

“We do search. With one of the world’s largest research groups focused exclusively on solving search problems, we know what we do well, and how we could do it better. Through continued iteration on difficult problems, we’ve been able to solve complex issues and provide continuous improvements to a service that already makes finding information a fast and seamless experience for millions of people. Our dedication to improving search helps us apply what we’ve learned to new products, like Gmail and Google Maps. Our hope is to bring the power of search to previously unexplored areas, and to help people access and use even more of the ever-expanding information in their lives.” Number1_Chaiwat

This is interesting because you might think that Google does more than just one thing. They do Google Earth, they have Android, Glass, Gmail and may other offerings.  However, they boil it down to finding new and better ways to do search. They believe that by continuing to solve search problems and doing it better, they can apply what they learn to other products to do them better too.  Google users trust that since Google search is so simple and effective that their other products will be too.

Image Courtesy of  Chaiwat www.freedigitalphotos.net

Consider other very successful companies that seem to do more than one thing.  Apple, for example, makes computers, phones, music players, and sells music online.  Do they agree that it’s best to do one thing?  I think Apple would probably say yes.  Apple challenges the status quo in everything they do.  They look for the simplest solution to every problem, which they will tell you, is usually the hardest one to find.  By doing this, they make digital technology accessible for the end user (remember her from Item 1 of Google’s philosophy).  Whether they buy phones, computers, mp3 players or online music, Apple customers trust that their products will be simple to use and elegant.

Another example I can think of is Honda.  Again, they seem to do many different things.  They make cars, motorcycles, generators, outboard motors and have even built a humanoid robot called Asimo. So what is Honda’s one thing.  A quick look at Honda’s website will tell you that Honda is built on Dreams. Well that is nice, but what does it mean?  Why are their customers so loyal to their products?  Further reading explains that Honda dreams about better ways to improve human mobility.  Asimo was a direct result of Honda research directed at learning how to help people with limited mobility.  In my opinion, this desire to improve human mobility has led Honda to design their products in a way that allows for a robust and repeatable manufacturing process better than anyone. As a result, their products perform better and longer than those of their competition.  Their customers are so loyal because they trust that their Honda product will, quite simply, work properly every time they go to use it.

What is the one thing you are really good at, and are you focused on improving it?

About Mike Bonn: I offer Business Coaching Services and facilitate the unique LMI process to help individuals and organizations improve performance.  If you would like to contact me to discuss any of my blogs, or to learn more about my excellent services, give me a call at 613.743.5642 or send me an email mbonn@lmicanada.ca.

Google’s Operating Philosophy


Google is an amazing company.  If you “google” (you know you’re doing well when people use your brand as a verb) their operating philosophy, you will find a list of “Ten Things We Know to Be True”. The list succinctly states what Google’s all about.  I love it.

I like it so much I am going to do a series of Blogs discussing each of the “Ten Things”.  I’ll discuss what I like about each and hopefully get you to consider what is important to you and to your business.

Item #1

“Focus on the user and all else will follow.”

“Since the beginning, we’ve focused on providing the best user experience possible. Whether we’re designing a new Internet browser or a new tweak to the look of the homepage, we take great care to ensure that they will ultimately serve you, rather than our own internal goal or bottom line. Our homepage interface is clear and simple, and pages load instantly. Placement in search results is never sold to anyone, and advertising is not only clearly marked as such, it offers relevant content and is not distracting. And when we build new tools and applications, we believe they should work so well you don’t have to consider how they might have been designed differently.”

What is the message here?

You, the end user are important.  Google will work really hard to make  their products work so well that you won’t be thinking about how to make them better.  Giving you a great experience is more important than Google making more money.

That is really powerful stuff.  As the designer or provider of a product or service it is sometimes very difficult to see things from the point of view of the user.  We work very hard to put our product or service out there for our customers, how dare they complain or ask for us to do it better!  The thing is, the customer doesn’t care about how hard you work, nor should she.  The customer wants a great experience and they are giving you their money to get it.  No matter what, if a problem occurs, it’s not them, it’s you.  The more you can anticipate what will give them a great experience, and then deliver, the more money they’ll happily give you.

n.b. Google’s situation is unique in that their end-users don’t actually pay them directly.  Advertisers pay Google for ads based on the fact that so many users like and use their products.  Despite the fact that they don’t get paid by them, Google was smart enough to realize that the millions who use Google search for free are their real customers.  No users, no ads.

Next Post: It’s Best to Do One Thing Really, Really Well

About Mike Bonn: I offer Business Coaching Services and facilitate the unique LMI process to help individuals and organizations improve performance.  If you would like to contact me to discuss any of my blogs, or to learn more about my excellent services, give me a call at 613.743.5642 or send me an email mbonn@lmicanada.ca.

Communication – So Rarely Done Well


Communication. It’s quite possibly the single most important factor in our success.  What’s the most common area for improvement identified by my clients? You guessed it…communication.

commun_Renjith Krishnan

Despite widely varying communication styles and methods, there doesn’t seem to be many businesses that have communication identified as one of their strengths.  Why? I have a theory.  Since we are pretty much always communicating in one way or another, we don’t put much thought into what,
when, why or how we do it.  It’s like driving a car.  We hop in, turn the key and drive.  However, what if we hopped in with a purpose other than just getting from A to B.  Say the purpose was to use the absolute minimum gas in getting from A to B.  Now, how would things change? We would be mindful of how we accelerate and brake, we would watch our speed and consider the shortest possible route, or the one with the most downhills.  It’s the same with our communication.  We communicate so much that it’s easy to do without really considering what our purpose is.  If we don’t consider what result we want,  we won’t be effective at communicating in a way that gets that result.

Here are some things to consider:

1. Why – know why you’re communicating – what response or action you want to occur.

2. How – what is the best medium to convey the message to elicit the desired response and how do you use that medium for maximum effect?

3. When – given the action you want to take place, when is the best time to convey the information and does it need to be communicated on a regular basis?  If so, at what frequency?

4. Who – different people respond differently to varying styles. Know who you’ll be communicating with and do it in a style that will prompt that person to act.

5. Plan – if at all possible take time to prepare for situations when you will be communicating so you are clear in your own mind what your priorities are and what actions you want.

One last thing… accept that you aren’t a perfect communicator (no, really, you aren’t) and make notes on what works and what doesn’t so you can continue to improve.

Image Courtesy of  Renjith Krishnan / freedigitalphotos.net

Want Productive Employees? Treat Them Like Adults – Tony Schwartz – Harvard Business Review


Will be making my own post tomorrow, so in the meantime, this is a well written post on the need for trust to have and keep well motivated employees.  Enjoy!

HBRWant Productive Employees? Treat Them Like Adults – Tony Schwartz – Harvard Business Review.