Innovation


Man! It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. A lot has happened in the last 2 months. First, we bought a little company called Iconixx, and added them to the BSG Alliance platform. Second, I became an aunt again. Third, we launched an internal communications vehicle (known as The Buzz), which is published Monday/Wednesday/Friday. Fourth, I got elected to the Board of Directors of my homeowner’s association. I also continue to manage the four kids and cute husband. So, without coming right out and using those as excuses… Aw, heck. I’m using them as excuses.

Onward and upward, then!

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article in The Buzz based upon an email sent by one of my colleagues. He was explaining that a potential customer used Google to research him before a meeting, and how what the customer found provided instant credibility.

I followed up to his comments with this:

In today’s connected world, people use Google. When there are candidates to interview – we Google them. When there are prospects to approach – we Google them. When there are potential business partners to meet – we Google them. And the results of those searches often help us develop initial impressions about the people with whom we’ll be interacting. Good or bad, those impressions are lasting.

Smart companies – NGE companies – encourage their team members to build on-line identities. On-line identities are helpful for team members in a personal sense, since they can increase visibility in the ever-tightening labor market, and make someone more desirable to potential employers. They’re also helpful to companies, though. The more “Buzz” a company can build through the on-line identities of their team members, the stronger the company brand. On-line identities are a 1-2 punch – the personal credibility of the team member is coupled with the brand credibility of the company, thereby making the customer experience that much better.

At BSG Alliance, we encourage our team members to build on-line identities. Collaboration, especially on-line collaboration, is absolutely essential to our NGEness. In fact, in our Policies and Procedures document, we’ve dedicated a whole section to our external electronic communication. Here’s a key point:

We expect BSG Alliance employees to be active, vigorous and opinionated in their engagement with the public. This may mean asserting and defending strong points of view, taking provocative positions that are not the norm, and overall participating in the challenge we have of educating the industry about the changes to business that we are leading.

If you’re interested in how you can build your on-line identity and help build the BSG Alliance brand, start by determining where you’re starting. Career Distinction has a tool for determining your Google Quotient (GQ), which is a great place to start. If you’re curious, my GQ is 6.5 out of 10. I have some identity building to do…

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One of the worst parts of being a virtual employee is that I rarely get the opportunity to physically interact with my coworkers. I sit in my office at home, and use the phone, Skype, Twitter, and Instant Messenger to communicate with the other BSG Alliance folks. So, when I have the opportunity to fly to Texas and have some face time, I always jump at the chance.

This week, my chance was the People Team meeting in Austin, TX. We’re sitting around, drinking copious amounts of diet Coke and discussing plans for making sure that we can effectively innovate solutions for our human resource challenges.

As part of the meeting, we had a working lunch from Jason’s Deli. They brought in a big platter of sandwiches, cookies, brownies, and a big old bag of ruffly potato chips. As we were eating, my boss held up a chip and said:

Wow! This looks like Texas!

Our Texas-marked chip

And it did. So Katie “Rockstar” Meenan, our new recruiter for the New York office, decided that it might be fun to put the potato chip up on eBay. As she was adding the eBay entry, our brainstorming took hold, and we had her add a link to the BSG Alliance careers site. After all, BSG Alliance paid for the potato chip, so we should get some benefit from Katie’s eBay sale!

Katie started the bidding at 50 cents. Within minutes, the bidding was up to $2.00. This morning, it’s at $3.25. Bidding ends next Monday. I fully expect that Katie’s winning bid will be well over $5. And I hope that the word-of-mouth we generate helps establish BSG Alliance as the kind of fun, innovative company that people really want to join.

UPDATE – 1/29/08 – 2:02 PM CST

Katie is donating the proceeds to the Austin Parks Foundation. Get those bids up there!

The bids are up to $74.  Let’s get this puppy above $100 and show Austin Parks Foundation that people really DO care!

I am trying to find ways to be more creative. I like having ideas. I like having creative ideas even more. In my quest to become more creative, I find myself constantly hunting for tools to help me achieve “creativity nirvana.” One tool I’ve uncovered is a funky web site called GetFreshMinds.com. You know it must be cool since the author’s name is Katie, and, as we all know, Katie is the greatest name in the world. But, once again, I digress.

When I was reading one of Katie’s recent posts about innovation lessons she learned in 2007 I was led to IdeaList, a site where anyone can post an idea and get feedback from the community at large. There are a lot of really interesting ideas on IdeaList (not, however, this one), but one caught my eye because it is very much in line with what BSG Alliance calls Agile Talent.

The “idea” is actually a design contest sponsored by Samsonite. Samsonite wants to bring a new product to market, and they are looking outside their own design team for the right idea. They’re going worldwide, seeking a solution in the global marketplace, on-demand. The top prize is 5,000 Euros, and the total of all the prize money is 11,500 Euros (I had to look up the conversion on Google – it’s just under $17,000). $17,000 is a paltry sum for a company whose quarterly revenue is almost $300MM. I don’t have access to their budgets, but I think it’s safe to say that Samsonite’s product development group has a yearly budget well in excess of $17,000. For a fraction of what they could spend on a handful of internal ideas, Samsonite is getting potentially hundreds of ideas from an external talent pool – all for a total of $17,000 in prize money (and, yes, the overhead of coming up with the contest, marketing it, yaddayaddayadda).

By looking outside its walls for creative ideas, Samsonite is implementing Agile Talent. They are coming up with innovative ways to engage new thought leaders, without the burden of bringing them on as employees. They are getting the very best ideas that people have to offer, and they are not required to invest any capital up front. It’s like getting an employee to work for you for months, and only paying her if she actually produces something you like and can sell. It’s a very effective way to remain flexible, efficient, and profitable in the 21st Century.

In their book Wikinomics, Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams discussed another company that uses this type of Agile Talent to decrease time-to-market and increase innovation – Procter & Gamble. From the Wikinomics web page, they have this to say:

Smart, multibillion dollar companies like Procter & Gamble that cultivate nimble, trust-based relationships with external collaborators to form vibrant business ecosystems that create value more effectively than hierarchically organized businesses.

Through this design competition, Samsonite is exploring a new landscape in human resources. They are building a community of “workers” to provide talent in an on-demand capacity – when Samsonite needs new ideas, they can call upon the community (the network, if you will), and can expect to get the right answers, right away. This is Agile Talent.

Agile Talent is a key factor in successful Next Generation Enterprises. Once you combine an innovative resource pool with a distinctive customer experience, agile & collaborative technologies, education, and research, you have the makings of an organization that will thrive in today’s hypercompetitive global marketplace.

First, I ran across a cool twitter tool that would be very helpful to people in recruiting or sales (not that recruiting ISN’T sales, mind you – it is).  It’s called tweetscan, and it allows you to search twitter’s public timeline for tweets that match your search string.  It doesn’t support Boolean searches (David Sterry, are you listening? – that would be a really, really useful feature!), but it does allow automatic search agents, which is wicked cool.  You can also add it as a search bar on your favorite (decent) web browser.  I’ve got it set to do daily searches for RoR, Java, and Recruiter.  I’m excited to see what tweetscan can do for me.

Second, my good recruiting buddy Paul DeBettignies wrote a post today about me!  All about ME!  To quote Sally Field: “You like me!  You really LIKE me!”   Okay – I know that’s a bit much, but Tom Steinthal mentioned me, too, so my head is bigger than a freaking watermelon!

Have a very happy New Year.  Stay safe!

I’ve been using twitter for many months now. Not only has it been a great tool to help me keep track of my co-workers, but it’s also been an interesting and useful tool in my recruiting activities. I can track certain keywords (“recruiter,” “.NET,” “Java,” etc.), and follow up on people who I think might make interesting candidates. I can also keep up-to-date on breaking news and fun facts by following people like Guy Kawasaki (twitter id: guykawasaki, if you’re interested). Today, I spent several minutes venting my frustrations about Webkinz on twitter. Next up: Whirlpool Appliances (they won’t be happy!). If you’re interested in what I have to say on twitter, feel free to follow me – my id (of course!) is txaggie94. (Gig ’em Aggies! Beat the Hell Outta Penn State! WHOOP!)

I’ve gone completely off-topic again. Sheesh. Back to the point…

Today, I ran across a post by Michael Specht, an Aussie blogger with a really cool graph (that he snagged from cogdogblog.com) that I can use to explain twitdiction:

The “????” is what I call twitdiction.

Twitdiction occurs when someone completely gives control of their lives to twitter. They send a tweet when they leave in the morning. They send a tweet when they sit in traffic. They send a tweet from the train. They send a tweet from every meeting. They send a tweet when they go to lunch. They send a tweet when they head home. They send tweets about their kids, pets, and better halves. They send angry tweets when the grocery store is out of Vegemite. In short, twitter has taken hold of their lives (and their mobile devices), and refuses to give it back.

But twitdiction isn’t all bad. Look at me, for example. I am constantly checking my twitter updates page to see if there are any fresh candidates out there for me to contact. While I have yet to hire anyone via twitter, I have developed relationships with folks that I would consider hiring if they lived in NYC. So, I am building up my weak ties network, with the full expectation that it will serve me well in the future. Twitter is helping me to be more effective (in the long run) at my job.

So, I like that people are taking notice of twitter. Twitter is an interesting tool, and, like Michael points out, it is utterly and completely useless if you don’t have friends on twitter. But, if you do have friends, and if you know how to track items of interest, twitter can be twitdictive.  And TWIT-TASTIC!  😉

The other day, I was commenting on the innovative nature of BSG Alliance. The way we deliver value to our customers is by guiding their transformation into Next Generation Enterprises. We accomplish this through an on-demand platform of services and software. Delivering a value proposition this innovative makes BSG Alliance very, very unique, and piques the interest of some very important, influential leaders. One of those leaders is Dr. Jim Cash.

Today, we announced that Dr. Cash has been appointed to the BSG Alliance Board of Directors. If Dr. Cash’s name sounds familiar to you, it might be because he is also a member of the boards of several other (not-so-small) companies, including Microsoft (MSFT), General Electric (GE), WalMart (WMT) and Chubb (CB). Further, he is a retired professor and Senior Associate Dean of the Harvard Business School. He is an exceptionally talented, highly visionary leader, and he sees the potential in BSG Alliance.

I’ve said it before (heck, even in this post), and I will continue to reiterate it… BSG Alliance is innovative. We’re focused on bringing benefits to our customers that other companies can’t. At the end of the day, our customers are more flexible than their competitors, and better able to meet the demands of a hypercompetitive global marketplace.