Speaking Engagements

I’ll be out on the road quite a bit in the next month, spreading the word about social media tools and their application in health care, and sharing our Mayo Clinic experience and perspective. If you’d like to participate in any of these conferences, I’m sure the organizers can get you details on how to join.

I look forward to getting to meet a lot of folks in real life after only having interacted via Twitter.  If I’m going to be in your area, I hope we can Tweetup!

Chancellor Commendation

I took a half day of vacation yesterday to do a presentation on use of social media tools in election administration for a conference sponsored by the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute. Given my early career background in politics and government, it was a fun opportunity to stretch my basic presentation a bit beyond health care and general social media training.

I was really pleased with the response, and the Q&A period was great. I was introduced to one barrier to social media use that was new to me, though, in that some of the city and county officials present are concerned that using Facebook or YouTube in an official capacity will put them in violation of data practices regulations. State laws require government bodies to archive data for potential legal discovery, for example, and the concern is that a local jurisdiction can’t compel Facebook to maintain data practices in keeping with state law. I plan to devote a full post to this later.

But first, I wanted to share a testimonial from Pat, one of the conference participants. She came up to me after the presentation and was particularly enthusiastic about what she had learned. Kind of made me blush. But since I had my Flip along (as Karl Malden used to say about American Express: “Don’t leave home without it”), I asked if she would be willing to share her reactions on video.

I’m experimenting with the Flip HD camera (instead of standard definition) and how to best encode video to display on various platforms, so I’m going to upload this to the SMUG group in Facebook, too. If any other SMUGgles would want to upload a video to that group, or leave a comment here or on the SMUG wall, about your experiences in social media or your reactions to what you’ve learned through our University, it would be mose welcome.

My grandma would have called this fishing for compliments. Andy Sernovitz would call it word-of-mouth marketing.

Community 2.0: Energizing Word of Mouth through Social Media

This afternoon I’m presenting at the Community 2.0 conference in San Francisco. I’ve embedded the slides below.


View more presentations from Lee Aase.

Here are a few of the links to posts mentioned:

The Mayo Clinic Music Fun post on Sharing Mayo Clinic.

The story of Sharon Turner and her daughter, Jodi Hume, who shot that video.

The story of Anne de Bari and her husband Tony.

Finding Profit through Lean

A couple of weeks ago I took several members of my work team to a seminar, which was sponsored by Minnesota Technology, called Finding Profit through Lean Enterprise. Social Media University, Global students may not find this post intuitively relevant, but Lean is about rethinking processes to provide great value to customers at the lowest cost. And social media may be among the tools that can help make that happen.

So please bear with me. I may have another couple of Lean posts, but we’ll be back into the regular SMUG curriculum soon.

Here are the five essential principles of Lean (you’ll also find this history helpful):

  1. Specify the value desired by the customer
  2. Identify the value stream for each product providing that value and challenge all of the wasted steps (generally nine out of ten) currently necessary to provide it
  3. Make the product flow continuously through the remaining, value-added steps
  4. Introduce pull between all steps where continuous flow is possible
  5. Manage toward perfection so that the number of steps and the amount of time and information needed to serve the customer continually falls

One of the interesting commonalities among the three presenters we heard at the seminar was that they all had gone into Lean with serious doubts about whether it could really apply to their business. Likewise, those of us working in communications or public affairs may wonder whether Lean, which is normally considered a manufacturing concept, is applicable for services like PR or corporate communications.

But even though we’re not cranking out widgets, I firmly believe Lean can help us identify steps in our processes that don’t add value for our customers (however we define them), and that by finding new methods and tools (some of which may involve harnessing social media) we can create new value streams.

The morning’s first presentation was from Denny Dotson, President of Dotson Iron Castings, a foundry in Mankato, Minn. Among the lessons his company learned in its Lean journey:

  1. Culture change is everything – you need to become comfortable with being uncomfortable in an uncomfortable environment.
  2. Getting buy-in from the whole team has made the decisions take longer, but the implementation moves much faster.
  3. Give users the tools. For example, they gave shop floor people Photoshop and ability to create their own parts catalogue/user manual. They had it completed within days, and in a way that was most useful to them. Think how much easier it would have been if they had been given a really great tool like an internal blog?
  4. Dotson uses touch-screen kiosks on the shop floor for communicating with employees, and one of the interesting elements is an opportunity for employees to upload personal and family pictures. This is sort of like Facebook without a computer, and it shows the value of enabling employees to get to know each other as whole people instead of just as what they do.
  5. More than half of their shop-floor employees went to visit customers in the last year, so they could see first-hand what the customer needs are. Interestingly, the biggest concerns about this originally came from sales staff, who didn’t want others “interfering” in their client relationships. But the customers loved it.
  6. Continual education is crucial. Dotson will pay half of any continuing education for its employees, up to $1,500 per year. (And if they enroll in SMUG, Dotson can pay 100 percent of the costs!)
  7. When you’re forming a project team to consider Lean improvement projects, don’t staff the team with cost accountants, and ignore the “tool conversion” costs for new technology. (Again, a non-manufacturing business actually has an advantage in making a Lean transition if it can use social media tools, because the costs for those tools often approximate zero.)

Mr. Dotson recommended a book by Dean Spitzer called Transforming Performance Measurement. I recommend another book, The Toyota Way, which was what got me interested in having my work team attend this seminar in the first place. Meanwhile, if you want to read further about Lean but don’t want to wait to get the book, you can start with the Wikipedia article.

I see Lean as a way to free up capacity that is being wasted by inefficiently providing current products and services, so that energy can be released to explore creation of new offerings. And if social media tools can be used creatively to meet business needs, which is one of the major premises behind SMUG, using those tools in conjunction with Lean thinking can be even more powerful.

In my next post (or two) I will share some additional highlights from that Lean seminar. I hope it will help you think creatively about applying lessons from the manufacturing world (and the company that is on the verge of becoming the top automaker in the world, in terms of sales) to improve the way you and your company work.

13 Take-Aways from the ALI Internal Social Media Conference


Your SMUG Chancellor had a great couple of days attending the Advanced Learning Institute’s conference on Social Media for Internal Communications in San Francisco. With a colleague from work I presented on Mayo Clinic’s early experience with social media, and we heard lots of great case studies that will definitely find their way into the curriculum for Social Media University, Global.

Here’s a recap as I digest the presentations and try to synthesize a bit. The links below will open in new windows, so you won’t need to keep hitting the “back” button.

  1. Conference Chairperson Michael Rudnick kicked it off on Tuesday. Biggest Takeaway: By the end of 2008, at least 70 percent of companies without official support for blogs and wikis will have multiple unofficial deployments.  To alter the formulation from Kevin Costner’s last good movie, “If you don’t build it, they (your employees) will go.” They’ll go to Google Groups, or Facebook, or a free blog from WordPress to enable themselves to work smarter. And they’ll think you’re clueless.
  2. The presentation from Sun Microsystems showed what you can do when you have buy-in from the highest levels of corporate leadership. But even with that executive leadership, they recommended starting small with social media and getting some quick wins.
  3. Kay from the CDC gave a good case study from government. Because of trust issues, they allow anonymous comments to really encourage open sharing. That seemed to be a major difference from most internal programs. They use WordPress open-source software for their blog.
  4. Then Linda Donlin and I presented on Mayo Clinic’s experience. I didn’t blog about that. I was otherwise occupied. I did recommend, however, that everyone should enroll in Social Media University, Global and begin getting hands-on experience with social media. So if you attended the conference, and if as part of your SMUG enrollment you start your own blog, your first post could be about our presentation, and you could link to this post. I’d really like to hear what parts of the presentation you found most interesting or helpful, what could be improved, and any questions you have that we didn’t get to address. Or if you’re not ready to take the plunge yet with your own blog, please just leave comments below.
  5. Dan Miller shared his poignant case study of how Toyota’s internal blog ran upon the rocks of a sexual harassment lawsuit after a year of relatively clear sailing. “Sound Off” is in dry dock right now, but Dan is building support for another voyage.
  6. J.C. Bouvier and Kevin Reid shared the story of social media and the IFAW’s Stop the Seal Hunt campaign. IFAW has been characterized as “the pragmatic PETA,” and this campaign lived up to that billing, as J.C. and Kevin showed practical applications of social media to accomplish results.
  7. Maureen Kasper’s presentation on Cisco, like the Sun example, showed a technology company with a widely dispersed workforce using Web 2.0 tools to collaborate in a way that would be physically impossible. Check out the video from YouTube about Cisco’s Telepresence program. I think I’ll skip past Second Life and go straight to Telepresence. And Maureen’s point about needing to take away some of the old communications crutches in order to drive adoption of social media tools is something to consider. Nobody is going to take away e-mail, but if leadership pledges to communicate via blog instead of sending company-wide e-mails, and if important information is put on the blog, people will be more likely to go there.
  8. Chuck Gose’s presentation was about social media for people who don’t have consistent access to computers, using digital signage. He had several good ideas, and one of the things I thought was most interesting was pulling RSS news feeds in to provide the ticker that runs on the bottom of the digital signs. It’s a great way to keep the content fresh. Digital signage is a great way to distribute messages to be passed along through off-line word-of-mouth on the shop floor.
  9. Best Buy’s Blue Shirt Nation rocks! It’s a great example of what you can do with open source software, and a project that probably wouldn’t have worked if it had been done in a top-down, buttoned-down corporate blah-blah-blah manner. After they had some success, they got more resources. And they accomplished one really big corporate goal through the 401(k) video contest.
  10. Chris Heuer’s Tagging Workshop was a good illustration. He didn’t have enough time to do much more than just introduce us to the topic, but I think he created an appetite to know more about tagging. And his really great point is that people use tagging to make their lives easier, so they can find what they’re looking for. It’s not primarily altruistic. The benefit to others is a side effect that increases the power, but if you’re depending on people to change behaviors because it will make life easier for others, you’ve got an almost impossible sales job. Make the new tools the easiest way for individuals to work, and they’ll be used. Then the benefit to the team will create further momentum. Here’s an example of tagging within WordPress that relates to the ALI conference. If anyone else uses “ALI conference” as a tag on your WordPress blog, we all would be able to see everything that was written about the conference. Maybe Chris can answer a question for us: Do WordPress.com tags get fed up to Technorati, too? In other words, if I use the WordPress tags, do I need to use Technorati tags, too…or would that be redundant?
  11. Kevin Winterfield’s presentation on IBM’s experience, covered here and here, gave a vision of what may be paradise someday for large organizations. As a tech company filled with early adopters who have been playing with these tools for a long time — and one that makes its money by developing hardware, software and networking solutions — IBM shows the power of maximum integration of social media tools. That obviously has a significant price tag as other companies buy what IBM has produced for itself. Depending on an organization’s readiness and culture, a vendor-provided all-in-one system like this may make sense. I think, and Kevin indicated in the comments that he agrees, most companies need to at least get some quick wins with low-cost tools before they will see the value of a major expenditure for a social media platform. One way to make it work, though, is to tag onto an IT-driven initiative. If IT is implementing a system like Sharepoint or Lotus Notes 8, blogs and wikis may be an extra benefit.
  12. American Express and AAA illustrated a couple of those quick-win approaches. They got practical results while spending practically nothing.
  13. The first post-conference workshop (covered here, here and here) gave a great model for communication planning that enables communicators to respond thoughtfully and strategically when the boss says, “Get me a blog!” or “We need a newsletter!” Out of that discussion we also decided as a group to create the mother-of-all communications tactics lists. Not because there aren’t some lists like this out there somewhere, but because it gives us a chance to try a wiki as a collaboration tool. So even though we’ll be dispersing across the globe (or at least the half that’s dark right now) from California to the Pepperidge Farms HQ and from Canada to Stockholm, Sweden, we can continue to work together.

I enjoyed getting to meet so many of you during this conference, and I hope the stories you heard will inspire you to get some hands on experience with social media. If you’re looking for continued step-by-step guidance, visit the Admissions Office for Social Media University, Global (SMUG). Then you’ll be able to hang out in the Student Union. You can share your key take-aways from the conference in the discussion board there, or in the comments below. And you can see photos from the conference and a video parable there, too.

Now I just need to figure out where these great examples fit into the SMUG curriculum….