Latest USC Annenburg Study Shows Dramatic Growth in Online Community Participation by Americans

20 12 2008

This year’s report from the Center for the Digital Future at the USC Annenberg School for Communication shows that online communities are becoming very important to Americans.  Here are some excerpts of the soon to be released study.

Membership in online communities has more than doubled in only three years. More than half of online community members (54 percent) log into their community at least once a day, and 71 percent of members said their community is very important or extremely important to them. Fifty- six percent of members reported meeting their online counterparts in person.

The study found that participation in online community membership has particularly dramatic effects on participation in social causes. Three-quarters of online community members said they use the Internet to participate in communities related to social causes, with 40 percent saying that they use the Internet at least monthly to participate in such communities. Eighty-seven percent of online community members are participating in social causes that are new to them since their involvement in online communities began.

And, a large and growing percentage of members — now 55 percent — say they feel as strongly about their online communities as they do about their real-world communities.

Clearly, the growth of online communities is opening a range of opportunities for social connection, involvement and communication that could not have been anticipated even five years ago.


Seek to Grow Your Business Globally?

5 03 2008

Like many association executives…

You see evidence of a growing presence of non-US customer product consumption, attendance at your meetings, or authors of content that you have come to rely upon to supply the IP for new products and services.

Your members, customers, partners and leadership from different regions say your association must be more “present and engaged here” if you want to be more successful.

Meanwhile, your environmental scanning indicates that demographics and business trends show:

  • A dramatic shift (see graph and video below) in the movement of non-USA young professionals who no longer come to the USA to study or find employment and now choose to become part of the amazing changes underway in their own countries like – China, Turkey, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Algeria, Russia, India and South Africa.
  • Post 9/11 US immigration policy continues to limit the rest of the world’s best and brightest from coming the the USA.
  • To succeed in globalization one must build business relationships in these regions to demonstrate local presence and a willingness to contribute “locally” rather than simply selling what you have from thousands of miles away (See the “The Second World Empires & Influence in the New Global Order” a new book by Parag Khanna).
  • Global outsourcing continues to spread to white collar professionals from call centers to the more professional positions like engineering thanks to Business Process Outsourcing strategies.
  • 24/7 project management requires inter operable standards & practices from body of knowledge to practices so “one work” is done no matter where or by whom.
  • An Asian skills “gap” in the ability to apply knowledge in the business world despite coming from the best schools forces millions who graduate into intensive 14 week corporate training programs costing businesses millions with a high wash out rate.
  • Customer service expectation now has “gone global” as global consumers expect the same quality experience whether in New York, London, Dubai, Mumbai or Singapore.
  • The Bottom billion (the world’s poor) are now being targeted with innovative business, product design, pricing, and distribution models to turn them into viable paying consumers ….just not at the prices the rest of us pay.

The question is how do you go about building a sustainable business?

What would it look like?

How do we get our Board to support it?

So I am starting a new blog called Grow to help answer these questions.

After 16 years of success with US associations, I have learned that building and sustaining growth in today’s international markets requires a global strategy with regional planning and a local infrastructure for execution.

For some it might be leading with products and services while for others it’s all about membership. But regardless of your approach, if you can’t build community you won’t succeed in attracting and sustaining interest among customers, members, partners, funders, or endorsers in any market.

MCI covers 23 cities and 14 countries with a team of 600+ people who traverse a product practice in international association management, PCO, meetings, and Ovation DMC across Europe to Arabia to Asia and Latin America. We’ll share what we have learned and encourage you to contribute your own thoughts and ideas as we explore the world of international association management with you.

The agenda covers what MCI considers to be the core drivers of establishing and sustaining a global business and are featured in “sections” on the horizontal navigation above that are visible on any area of this site.

In the coming months you can look forward to reading actual, practical approaches and solutions to real world challenges that you can use to plan your own projects. Here are some examples:

  • Market & Business Plan – sound market analysis with a business plan should become the foundation for a global growth strategy
  • Product Management – sell them what they want not what you have… by adapting product to local need
  • Membership – community is cultivated by enfranchising local/regional members to help build member value that is meaningful to those in the region
  • Member Services – regional and local infrastructure is critical to provide the right competencies and local thinking to execute repeatedly while mitigating risk
  • Advocacy – whether it’s regulatory issues, philanthropic outreach, or social responsibility see how others are promoting issues and building support
  • Channels – part of your sustainable business model must include Partners, Sponsors, Funders, and Sales Feeders
  • MarCom – it isn’t just translating your material but knowing that to communicate and position yourself to maximize opportunities you need to adapt yourself to local markets
  • Meetings – from large Congresses to small meeting… find out how to develop strategy, promotion campaigns, and secure the destination resources you need to provide quality meeting experiences anywhere

You will also find third party research and links to other web resources to help you build better international products and services.

I look forward to exchanging views and sharing research, experience and expertise for this exciting new frontier of global opportunity.

Institutional Investors Make “Sustainable Business” An Investment Priority

12 02 2008

This one is for anyone attending the upcoming ASAE and the Center Social Responsibility Summit.

The 2008 Investor Summit on Climate Risk will bring together more than 400 institutional investors, Wall Street leaders and CEOs from around the world to consider the scale and urgency of climate change risks, as well as the economic opportunities of a global transition to a clean energy future.

According to the Wall Street Journal,”Investors are increasingly trying to come to grips with the uncertainty about how the U.S. government will address the issue of global warming, and what effects that will have on businesses from power companies to insurers…

But just like the “tipping points” that many scientists point to in the Earth’s changing climate, investor interest in how to play global warming seems to be gathering steam. Investors are taking a more proactive role. Last week, three big banks said they’ll toughen financing standards for coal-fired power plants that could come under fire from new environmental regulations.Increasingly, the accent is on business opportunities presented by the world’s efforts to rein in global warming. Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG have set out to identify which companies help the world adapt to changing climate, such as water-treatment companies, as well as businesses that can help mitigate further climate change, like clean-energy firms.”

Why should I care? Follow the money.

Investors are finding that the future of business (and future investment) will be in companies and industries who are innovating business models, product or service designs or delivery systems to be more sustainable economically, environmentally and socially.

It isnt simply about recycling or making modifications to systems proving they cant fundamentally change.

Social responsibility is passe.

Sustainable business models and product/service designs are what investors see as the future.

It is about innovation.

Business got us into this. Business will get us out.

Follow the money.

Grow…Live…Make A Difference

24 10 2007

It’s All about Growth

Growth is perhaps the most critical measure to determine one’s impact in the world.

  • Natural systems from plants to animals need to grow to survive and thrive
  • Organizations need to grow to demonstrate relevance among its constituents, stakeholders, and society
  • Professions and industries need to grow in order to create economic, societal or environmental value defined by those they serve
  • People need to grow as a means of reaching their potential for creating wealth in as well-rounded a way as we can (financially, intellectually, emotionally) to impact not only ourselves but also others positively

Absent of growth, we atrophy. We fall into practices that deliver less value to ourselves and those around us. And ultimately, we draw more and more life sustaining resources away from what matters to prop up what doesn’t.

Expanding Perspective & Market Opportunity

The true purpose of this blog has always been about seeing things differently and then seizing the opportunity you find.

My sabbatical draws to an end of this month, a nine month period of self-reflection, passionate study from a different perspective, conversation and debate with peers, and future planning. What I learned and experienced I shared in os.a in part to capture my discoveries but also to share them as a way to inspire others in their own journey of discovery in open innovation.

I continue on my own path with the exciting news that I shall be working to assist US-based associations develop global growth strategies and the means to execute them. In my role as Director of Business Development US Institutional Market for the MCI Group, an international association management consultancy and service center located in 20 cities and 13 countries around the world.

Having developed global growth strategy for two international associations, I am eager to collaborate with MCI Group to help other associations develop new opportunities for growth by developing country-specific entry strategies and offering local management services in Europe and Asia from marketing, business development, training, meetings, membership development to publishing.

I hired MCI years ago to re-open a European presence which led to strong membership and product growth, I look forward to sharing their capabilities and track record of experience with my colleagues in association management.

After all, it is all about growth.

os.a… Continues!

My passion for open innovation has not ended. In fact, I hope to spread its potential. So this blog will continue by covering a wide variety of practices, new studies, and views on how we can apply open innovation.

In the coming weeks look for more stories on value networks and some really useful tools like value creation analysis, impact and exchange analysis.

See you then.


Inbox Disease – Productivity Lives Beyond Email

25 09 2007

Yet another thread on a Management Listserv discussing what collaborative tool options should be considered for folks still living in a listserv world. Sadly, the feedback continues to devolve into upgrading listserv software or standalone discussion boards.

Collaboration Requires A Proper Infrastructure

Is anyone looking for proof that life exists outside your member’s email inbox?

In an era where increased productivity and team collaboration is key across business units, special interest groups and often global in nature, we don’t examine the empirical data that clearly demonstrates that Web 2.0 tools are critical to faster, better and more cost effective product and service design and delivery or to build a body of knowledge. Look for the McKinsey study posted earlier on adoption of Web 2.0 tools.

Roles and Process Delivers Results
If you hold a meeting you would never forget an agenda, a review of outcomes since the last meeting, and an assignment of tasks as a result of the meeting. You would also require people to physically attend meetings whether face-to-face or via teleconference.

And yet, we consider it perfectly ok to let members and staff stay inside their inboxes during the most crucial time of collaboration…the time between meetings when the rubber meets the road. They lean back from their email inbox.

We don’t require them to attend to their assigned tasks in an electronic medium that requires them to engage in an environment where you can use the power of the web through databases and Web 2.0 technology to improve productivity and reduce email overload.

IBM’s Use of Wiki’s

In the WSJ (9/17/2007 on B4), we find the following excerpts:

IBM: “Programmers keep tabs on what is going on through the wikis, to which they post progress reports and comments. They get automatic alerts when important pieces of their project change. And they keep in touch with faraway colleagues through instant-messaging and phone software, which display photos and personal details of co-workers.

PT: Notice the importance of creating project spaces to ensure proper context of information resources. Can you imagine them doing this with listservs or simple discussion boards? IBM offers the following advice for collaboration via wikis. Note it is all about creating systems and processes that are separate from technology which makes the technology work.

  • Have a common understanding of the task.
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities.
  • Set firm ground rules.
  • Get to know other team members.
  • Communicate often.

IBM: “One key to smooth teamwork is dividing projects into small pieces. Mr. Nicholson says the team of 50, charged with making IBM’s WebSphere software work with code written in other programming languages, breaks projects into two-week chunks. Each chunk is further split into tasks designed to take one programmer a day or two to complete. That means mistakes or miscommunications are caught quickly, and there is little waiting for others to finish work.”

Programmers keep their task list on a wiki that can be seen and edited by everyone on the team, which includes about 20 people in Hursley, 20 in Bangalore, India, and 10 in Ottawa. Each morning, Mr. Nicholson typically takes an unassigned task from the top of the list and puts his name on it. When he is done — generally by the end of the day — he notes on the wiki that he has completed the task and puts additional documentation in a shared database. “With this method, you’re always progressing — checking your sanity constantly,” Mr. Nicholson says.

When the software fails a test, which could stall work around the globe, all stop what they are doing to diagnose the problem, says Noel O’Dowd, the Hursley-based leader of the 50-person group that Mr. Nicholson is in. At the Hursley office, team members rigged to the testing machine a light that turns red when there is a serious problem. Other teams are thinking of following suit.”

PT: Imagine the amount of emails this would have taken and the added time spent locating past discussions in older emails versus the beauty of the system IBM put in place.

So in an era when organizations are seeking ways to enhance collaboration and performance, why are we still living in our inboxes? It’s time to take a look at tools and systems that can break the email bottle-neck that is strangling productivity.

Your Future Is in the Hands of Others

19 09 2007

It’s The Network, It’s Your Infrastructure

An interesting discussion is taking place on the ASAE and Center Executive Management listserv about the wisdom of for-profit versus non-profit business models. Good discussion focusing on how to design and deliver what your stakeholders need faster, better and more cost effectively.

But a critical component is missing from the discussion.

Will a change in business model by itself deliver the desired faster, better, cheaper results? If the expectation is to become more streamline and aligned to design and deliver what your members need then it sounds more like an infrastructure or execution problem.

So what if you had a non-profit with a new infrastructure designed to leverage “networks” of people and knowledge in your market that made you more nimble, more accurate at designing product and service that met customer requirements, and delivered them as customers desired?

If you had such an association would it matter what business model you chose?

Wealth Creation Driven from Networks of Open Participation

Readers of os.a know this blog urges associations to consider open innovation , customer experience management, and customer intimacy to re-energize existing practices. Competencies like new product development, customer experience mapping, intangible asset management, and social network analysis will be tools needed in the coming years and adapted to the association world.

A leading thinker in the power and wealth of networks is Yochai Benkler who is perhaps the father of “networked information resource” thinking. Benkler is Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies, Harvard Law School and faculty co-director, Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

The future is all about how to create open models and practices for creating product and services. Companies like Nike, Gannett, BBC and others featured in previous posts get the importance of this and have created “real-time” customer communities around their products and services. NikePlus is but one example. Gannett another.

If you desire to be able to design and deliver faster, better and more effective product and service experiences, then understanding open innovation and the role of networks in them is super critical.

Listen to Professor Benkler in a 2005 presentation he gave at PopTech and appreciate the importance of the power of networks. Click on the image above to list to the podcast.

Don’t let your competitors create better, faster of more compelling products for your audience by letting them create better customer communities than you.

Remember, it’s all about the network. Your network.

A Wealth of Networks – Value Creation for the 21st Century

11 09 2007

Given all the hype lately about Facebook, MySpace and the lot, it’s a good thing to expand on networks…beyond “social networks” and get into networks that can really deliver the intended outcomes your stakeholders want.

So let’s start with a quote from someone who wrote the book on “The Wealth of Networks.” 

Information, knowledge, and culture are central to human freedom and human development. How they are produced and exchanged in our society critically affects the way we see the state of the world as it is and might be; who decides these questions; and how we, as societies and polities,come to understand what can and ought to be done.

For more than 150 years, modern complex democracies have depended in large measure on an industrial information economy for these basic functions. In the past decade and a half, we have begun to see a radical change in the organization of information production. Enabled by technological change, we are beginning to see a series of economic, social, and cultural adaptations that make possible a radical transformation of how we make the information environment we occupy as autonomous individuals, citizens, and members of cultural and social groups.

It seems passé today to speak of “the Internet revolution.” In some academic circles, it is positively naive. But it should not be. The change brought about by the networked information environment is deep. It is structural. It goes to the very foundations of how liberal markets and liberal democracies have co evolved for almost two centuries.”

From Yochai Benkler’s “The Wealth of Networks”

Back in 2005, while serving with an international computing society we completed a business plan for our digital library that would guide us in its continued transformation as a vital product for our stakeholders. One of the chief outcomes from that effort was the recognition of what the next evolution of this library ought to be – a networked information resource.

This library was a jewel in the crown. Becoming one of the first digital libraries that generated revenue from its archived publishing operations, the library went through a number of innovations in its history from paper to digital via CD-ROM and then again from static digital storage to a dynamic online digital experience.

But we saw the need to innovate again only this time we felt that the digital library experience was going to fundamentally change. Instead of “search and find” we felt a digital library was going to “put people in touch with knowledge and how to apply it.” That “solutions-oriented” experience was likely to combine a static archive of digital peer-review content with the rich contextual value of real people with real experience and expertise. If we could combine the two, it would add dramatic product differentiation by turning a traditional library experience on its head. The value our library would ultimately serve would be helping people “find and apply” solutions to their personal needs and possibly create an experience even Google might have trouble replicating through the leverage of our members’ technical expertise and passion.

Visionaries like Yochai Benkler, Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard, and faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society and author of “The Wealth of Networks,” was a revelation to me during this time. His notion of “peer production” as a new means of content production (be it a product or service) was straight out of the successes of the open source software movement as my early posts this past Spring outline.

A good example of a networked information resource we studied is a digital library hybrid called Merlot that combines a digital library of peer-reviewed content with online community features that provides a superior contextual experience that changes every time you visit. Merlot exists to improve the effectiveness of teaching and learning by increasing the quantity and quality of peer reviewed online learning materials that can be easily incorporated into faculty designed courses.

Why Networks Are Important and What Makes Them Different?

In the next series of posts we shall explore “the wealth of networks” but not from Benkler’s book (but please read it here). Instead we shall focus on the importance of “networks” as a strategic value creator. Combine that with the examples of “open business models” and “content co-creation” practices outlined in earlier posts and you will begin to grasp the tremendous potential of open innovation.