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Why I’m Participating in Movember and Need Your Help

ImageSome people have asked why I’m growing a mustache and raising money to support awareness and improvement of men’s health this year. After all, Movember has taken place annually for ten years now, but I’ve never participated. What motivated me to jump in now?

In July 2012, my stepfather, Fritz Triebold, was diagnosed with bladder cancer. He subsequently received a series of six injections of Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine to kill the cancerous areas on the wall of his bladder. BCG treatment is a form of immunotherapy that involves flooding the bladder with live tuberculosis bacteria, which have been found to kill cancer cells in the bladder in 67% of all cases. Immediately following each of the treatments, he would come home and sleep for a few hours, then endure several days of pain related to the insertion and eventual removal of the catheter he was required to use. Not much fun.

My dad was retested for active cancer earlier this year. Unfortunately, the first series of treatments did not fully eradicate the disease, so he underwent another course of six treatments. While the experience wasn’t easier the second time, Dad was both more tolerant of the pain and more positive in his outlook. Hopes were high that he would be cancer-free when he was retested at the end of the second intervention.

And he was.

Dad’s bladder has been clear of cancer since last month. However, his doctors want him to undergo three more BCG treatments, just to be sure. This is standard procedure, but it means that there will be more pain and queasiness for my Dad to deal with, probably early next year.

This ordeal will always be remembered by our family. One way for me to do so is by participating in Movember, which aims to raise awareness of, and funds to combat, mens’ health issues. Bladder cancer may seem like an egalitarian disease, but statistics show that men are three times more likely to develop it than women. Approximately 23,000 American men will contract bladder cancer in a given year and about 5,000 of them will die as a result.

I hope you will join me by making a generous donation to Movember. Your gift will help our family celebrate Dad’s victory over bladder cancer and fund related awareness and treatment efforts for others. Please make a donation, in whatever amount you can afford, on my Movember page today. Thanks!

It’s Movember

Happy Movember!Happy Movember! No, that’s not a typo. We are in the month of Movember.

Ten years ago, the Movember movement was begun to raise awareness of mens’ health issues. Thirty men in Melbourne, Australia shaved on November 1, 2003 and let only their mustaches grow for the rest of the month. The attention generated by the appearance of a new patch of hair under their noses gave these men (Mo Bros in Movember vernacular) an opportunity to start conversations about mens’ health concerns and to raise money to help address them.

This ritual has since spread across the globe and grown to include women (Mo Sistas) who officially register for Movember, support men in their lives who are participating and actively fundraise for the cause. Initially, the Movember movement focused on diseases that are unique to men, such as prostate and testicular cancer. Over the years, the scope has broadened to cover any physical or mental illness that may afflict a man. You can learn more about Movember by checking out the movement’s website.

I have decided to join the Movember movement this year and have a six-day old mustache as proof. I’ll detail the reasons why in forthcoming posts. For now, let it suffice to say that 2013 has seen some bouts with poor health suffered by both me and a family member. If you’d like to follow my adventure, hit my Movember webpage once a week for updates.

I’m asking you, and anyone else who would like to help men improve their health, to make a donation today to the Movember movement. I’ve primed the pump by giving $500. Should you wish to join me, you may make a donation here  It doesn’t need to be large; even $10 or $20 gift helps by showing that you care about the health of one or more of the men in your life. Of course, your donation will be tax deductible, and the Movember movement will send you a receipt for use with your 2013 income tax filing.

Please join me in elevating the conversation about mens’ health and giving money to combat physical and mental diseases that degrade the quality of mens’ lives. I hope you will be as generous as you can. Thank you!

In Memorium Carl Frappaolo

Carl_FrappaoloLThe Information and Knowledge Management worlds suffered a devastating loss this week. Carl Frappaolo died on Sunday, March 17th after suffering a series of strokes over the previous days. Carl’s untimely passing (he was 59) has left me stunned and in pain, but also deeply appreciative and grateful for having had the chance to work and enjoy life with him.

I first met Carl in 1999, when I interviewed for a job at the Delphi Group, which he had co-founded a few years earlier. Our initial meeting, which was scheduled for an hour, expanded into a conversation that lasted well over five and a half hours. When I left his office that day, I had no doubt that I very much wanted to work for and with Carl. Such was the immediate and overwhelmingly positive effect of his large personality.

I reported directly to Carl during just my first two years at Delphi, but he mentored me throughout my employment there and beyond. In fact, on separate occasions within the last month, I sought out Carl’s guidance on a professional matter, and he presented me with a potential business opportunity. I knew I could always turn to him for not only advice, but also for active assistance.

To say that Carl was a mentor is actually an understatement, because he treated me almost as if I were his son. I was always overjoyed by the pride he displayed when I performed well. On one occasion, I failed a potential client (and Carl, by extension), leading to Carl being so intensely disappointed in me that neither he nor I ever forgot the incident.

After hours, Carl was a delight to be with. I have many fond memories of eating, drinking and laughing with him , mostly while we were on the road serving a client or working a Delphi event. Carl nearly always had a joke or an entertaining story to tell. I will forever remember the two exhausting, exhilerating weeks we spent together in Western Europe, where we worked very long days on behalf of our client, but found time to have fun later in the evening or on a rare day off. Perhaps the best stretch of that trip took place in Milan. Carl always openly and enthusiastically celebrated his Italian heritage, and he was literally in his element while we were in Italy.

Carl was a remarkable man, in the truest sense of the word. The purpose, commitment and tenacity he exhibited in his professional life were exceptional, as were his compassion, caring and desire to help. While the intensity with which he thought, spoke and gestured could be almost frightening at times, few doubted his good intentions. Those who had the privilege of knowing Carl well also saw the other end of his emotional spectrum. Although he was usually boisterous, he could also be very calm, quiet and contemplative.

In fact, Carl was a bundle of contradictions. High strung and easy going. Profound and vulgar. Deeply serious and (more frequently) smiling and laughing. A very active and competent speaker, but also one of the best listeners I have ever encountered. Someone with many insightful answers, but also an unparalleled ability to ask the right questions.

I have learned so much from Carl over the last decade plus. Anyone who is at all concerned with Information or Knowledge Management has. His too-soon passing leaves an enormous hole in those fields and an even bigger void my life. Goodbye, Carl, and thank you for the genuine concern and compassion you displayed to me and everyone you encountered. Thank you for teaching me so much about consulting, business and being a good person. Rest in peace.

If you knew, met or were otherwise impacted by Carl, please consider remembering him by making a donation in his name to the Italian Home for Children, located in Boston.

Marissa Mayer’s Yahoo! Mistake (It’s Not What You Think)

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Yammer Bangs On oneDrum

This entry was cross-posted from Meanders: The Dow Brook Blog.

Yammer logoYammer announced on Wednesday that it has acquired oneDrum, a UK-based provider of file sharing and collaborative editing tools for Microsoft Office users. Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed. oneDrum’s technology and people will be integrated into Yammer.

In a briefing on the acquisition, Yammer CTO and Co-Founder, Adam Pisoni, stated that the deal was done to quickly accelerate movement toward Yammer’s primary strategic objective – to be the social layer, spanning key enterprise applications, in which its customers (and their extended business networks) get work done.

Yammer’s action is consistent with its strategy to release usable, but not ideal, functionality and then improve upon it as quickly as possible. Yammer introduced the homegrown Files component into its suite late last year. With oneDrum’s technology, Yammer will be able to improve its Files component by enabling syncing of files to desktop folders and mobile devices, as well as automatic sharing of new and updated files with other members of Yammer groups. As usual, Yammer seeks to occupy the middle ground, offering file sharing functionality that has some of the necessary enterprise-grade security and manageability that consumer Web services lack, while retaining as much ease-of-use as possible. Yammer’s ability to balance complexity and usability is what differentiates it from the majority of the other enterprise social software offerings in the market.

The current file creation and editing capabilities available in the Pages component of Yammer will be nicely complemented by the introduction of oneDrum’s ability to co-create and co-edit Office files (Excel and PowerPoint now, Word in development) with others. Many may interpret the addition of this capability, together with the added file sync and sharing functionality, as an indirect attack on Microsoft SharePoint by Yammer. Pisoni clearly stated that Yammer will continue to offer customers integrations with SharePoint, as well as with Box, Dropbox and other content repositories. He did, however, acknowledge that while Yammer is not intentionally targeting SharePoint, many of its customers see their Yammer networks negating existing SharePoint use cases.

Yammer’s real target appears to be email, which offers a single place where people may communicate, share content and get work done. Pisoni spoke about the symbiotic relationship between content and conversation in social networks, as well as the blurring line between content and communication. The former is clearly demonstrated by the frequency in which enterprise (and consumer) social interactions are anchored around a specific piece of content, whether that be a traditional document, blog post, wiki entry, status update, audio snippet, photo or video. The latter is evidenced by the growing enterprise use of blog posts, wiki entries and, especially, status updates to share content (and explicit knowledge) in small chunks, rather than waiting to gather it in a document that is distributed by email.

Pisoni’s assertion that the distinction between content and communication is blurring is interesting, but less persuasive. Much of the asynchronous communication within organizations is still only secondary to the content that is contained in attached (or linked) files. Corporate email use as a transmission mechanism for documents is a clear, common example. Yammer’s vision for decreasing email volume appears to involve using oneDrum’s support for real-time chat between individuals working together in an Office document (Excel and PowerPoint only at present) as a means to blend content and communication to help people get work done faster. It will be interesting to see if Yammer network members adopt this envisioned way of working as an alternative to entrenched communication and content sharing norms.

oneDrum was not well known in the U.S., as it was a very small vendor with a beta status offering. However, it appears that Yammer has made a good acquisition that will help the company, and its customers, address the changing nature of business organizations and work. The devil, of course, is in the details, so we will have to watch and see how well Yammer assimilates its first acquired company.

How and Why Gamification Must be Effective in the Enterprise

I am not a gamification expert. In fact, until today, I was skeptical of the potential effectiveness of the gamification of work in changing employee behavior and performance. I have consistently advised my software vendor clients that gamification is a wild card, because the value of gamifying enterprise software has not been demonstrated beyond question.

My outlook on gamification changed instantly today, while reading a New York Times Magazine article written by Charles Duhigg and shared on Twitter by Sameer Patel, whose value judgements and recommendations I very much trust. The article, which is actually an extended book excerpt, is not about gamification. Rather, it is about the application of analytics and behavioral science to large retailers’ marketing efforts. However, what I learned reading the article changed my perspective on the gamification of work by revealing a scientific basis for why it must succeed, if properly applied.

Duhigg tells the story of Target’s efforts to use customer purchase and demographic data to identify which of its female customers were in the second trimester of a pregnancy, so the retailer could shift those customers’ in-store and online buying habits. While that story is fascinating in itself, Duhigg’s explanation of the behavioral science on which retailers build their marketing strategies is what made me rethink my position on the gamification of work.

Behavioral scientists have shown that habits – routines that we largely perform subconsciously – are developed responses to a consistent, reoccurring stimulus. We repeat the action (habit) every time our brain is cued by the stimulus because doing so produces a mental, emotional, or physical reward. The more we repeat this cue-routine-reward loop, the further ingrained the habit becomes.

As Duhigg explains with an extended anecdote about Proctor & Gamble’s marketing efforts around its Febreze product, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to create a new habit in a vacuum. The only way to effectively change a habit is to embed it in an established cue-routine-reward loop, replacing the old routine with a new one. This is the scientific key to why the gamification of work is not just bogus theory.

For gamification to be effective, new behavioral routines must be applied when triggered by a specific work stimulus and yield already desired rewards. If we understand the cues that trigger unproductive habits for workers, as well as the rewards they derive from applying those routines, we can replace those unproductive actions with more productive ones.

Most examples of work gamification that I have seen ignore the existence of cues completely. Gamification elements are constantly present, rather than appearing only under specific conditions. Embed it and they will play.

Furthermore, gamification has too often been explained in terms of changing the rewards when, in fact, it is about changing the behaviors themselves. Behavioral science has demonstrated that changing the reward does not change the behavior. Rather, the routine must change, and the new, desired behavior must be linked to an existing, desired reward that motivates an employee.

Other Thoughts Related to This Behavioral Science

The behavioral science behind Target’s and P&G’s efforts to alter customer’s buying habits can be applied to any other situation in which change is desired to affect positive performance outcomes. Unproductive work habits is one area, as discussed above. Another is the adoption of new enterprise software.

If organizations tied usage of new software to the specific cues and rewards associated with existing work tasks and habits, adoption would rocket up the desired hockey-stick curve. Both the use cases and the benefits would be crystal clear to employees, eliminating two of the most significant barriers to the mainstream adoption of new software. The “what’s in it for me” would be immediately obvious to the workers to whom the new software has been launched. Change communication (and application training) would still be critical, but the creating the associated messages would be greatly simplified, as they are already known.

As demonstrated in Duhigg’s article, behavioral scientists (and retailers) also understand that there are a few specific, life-altering events that provide the perfect window in which influencers can change an individual’s seemingly intractable habits. Events such as graduating from college, changing employment, getting married, buying a house, and yes, having a baby, disrupt peoples’ ingrained habits, or at least cause them to question their routines. As such, major life events offer influencers a very valuable opportunity to seed new habits that will then remain in place and unquestioned until the next big life event occurs.

Why is that important? Think about who in the enterprise is currently responsible for being aware of impending or recent employee major life changes, and helping employees minimize the effects that those changes may have on their work performance. Human Resources. Yes, HR is the corporate custodian of changes associated with employee life-events. As such, they are well-positioned to identify the optimal opportunities for changing an individual employee’s work habits in ways that will lead to improved performance. Managers directly supervising one or more employees are even better positioned to identify those performance change opportunities, as they often become aware of actual or planned employee life changes before HR knows about them.

Charles Duhigg’s book excerpt provided me with an ah-ha moment regarding the gamification of work. It also underscored how important the understanding of behavioral science is to affecting positive workplace transformation. Many of us focused on the intersection of business and technology too often are unaware of, or under-value, the contributions that social science has made to the understanding of organizational behavior. Thank you Mr. Duhigg (and Mr. Patel) for leading me to these insights today.

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Announcing A New Blogging Relationship with Forbes

A few weeks ago, I posted an update on my blogging activities that explained why I was blogging less here. That post also promised some additional news in the near future about a new blogging relationship.

I am happy to announce that I am now a Contributing Writer to Forbes. I will be starting a new blog there next week, called Networked Business.

Neither the term ‘networked business’, nor the concepts behind it are new. However, much of the previous work on the topic has been done in academic circles. My new blog will attempt to free the subject from the ivory towers in which it has been imprisoned, so more people will be familiar with, and have active discussions about, networked business.

I will post a link to the new blog here when I have finished configuring the site and published the first post. I will also link to the next few posts as they are published. Unfortunately, my legal agreement with Forbes prohibits cross-posting of content for several days, so I will not be replicating my complete Networked Business posts here. I hope you will choose to subscribe to that blog after you’ve read a post or two.

This blog was my first, and I started it as much (perhaps more) for me than for you, its readers. It has been a good place for me to express thoughts on collaboration and content sharing, but never achieved the readership that I had hoped for to create either the volume or diversity of feedback desired on those ideas. I expect that the Forbes brand will help solve that issue by drawing a significantly higher volume of traffic to my new blog there.

I do intend to continue blogging here, but only sporadically. I will, of course, promote those posts via social media, so you can become aware of them as they are published. However, most of my blogging activity will be on the Forbes site and on the Dow Brook Advisory Services blog, so please be sure to subscribe to those.

Let me close by saying ‘Thank You’ to everyone that has ever read a post on this blog and by giving an especially heart-felt thanks to anyone who has commented on a post here. I hope you will come back when there is fresh content.