On acting local – the Morocco case

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Image courtesy: wilbertbaan


Working on the right thing is probably more important than working hard. 

Caterina Fake, co-founder, flickr



The world has become a small village. Any product or service you’d like to launch will be subject to the competition, maybe coming from a small village in China! If you’re working on a research, there is at least another team out there working on relatively the same subject. Everything you do has become measured against a far too large scale called “the Globe”.


Why am I bringing this up? I’ve been thinking a lot lately about finally concretizing some ideas of mine. The first issue was obviously answering the question: What makes my ideas better than what is out there? 


I think it comes down to this:

– Your idea is innovative enough to race against the world. This would normally necessitate resources, continuous innovation and full-time attention.

Or

– Your idea takes into account your particular context. This makes your idea unique enough to have a chance to succeed locally, and it can be more than enough at times.


So you have a choice, come out with an amazingly innovative idea and go Global Or focus on your particular context and go Local. 


Due to the limited resources, most of the aspiring serial-entrepreneurs like myself would go for the second option. So I started decorticating my context considering the techy aspect of these ideas. If you're also thinking about launching a small (IT, ecommerce, web…) project in the Moroccan context, you might want to consider these points as well.


– Morocco is a widely Arab speaking country. But Arab content on the net is still scarce relatively to the number of Internet users and compared to other languages. One can see this as an opportunity rather than a hindrance. 


– The main use of Internet is in French or English. A multi-language service/product would be a good idea.


– The main users of Internet are under 30. Facebook is their platform of choice. Maybe you'd want to start there?


– There is also a huge lack of user-friendly contextualized websites that could help students and young workers leverage their knowledge and share their experiences…


– Which brings me to communities of practice. r-a-r-e!


– The average user would more consume than produce a content of quality. It would enable adoption if the product or service demands less from the user than it offers. 


– Many new technologies haven’t gone mainstream here yet. Lots of virgin fields are just waiting for qualified resources to jump in.


– Mobile apps’ use is still embryonic.  Apps such as foursquare haven’t reached the adoption threshold. And there is a huge need for apps that can meet everyday needs of Moroccan citizens.


– Personalization is trendy. More and more people think their belongings should reflect their personalities. I know a lot who would pay more to get unique pieces or to be offered personalized services. Maybe the product you're trying to e-sell should consider this as well…


– There are few product/services that reflect the true Moroccan identity. A niche to jump on?


These are mainly the aspects I could come out with. Can you think of anything that would make the Moroccan entrepreneurial context unique? I'm all ears.



To be continued…

Lamia Ben

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Sunday fun: Playing for a better world!

You know that guilty feeling you sometimes have after spending hours playing video games? Guess what? It can become history. Because, time spent gaming can become a well spent time if we could design better games. We can use game dynamics for Good, we can create world-changing Games. It's all about the design!

If you don't believe what I'm talking about, or you are curious to know how it can be achieved, feast your eyes and minds with these two TED talks, they truly are worth the watch.

And Let the world changing games begin :). Happy Sunday!

Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world

Seth Priebatsch: Building the game layer on top of the world

Lamia Ben

On applying Dynamic Network Analysis (DNA)

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Image courtesy: morguefile 

Once you begin to study networks it is difficult not to see them everywhere.” ~ Sanjeev Goyal
As I was going through some papers for my PHD, I stumbled upon this interesting representation of organizations called : Meta-Matrix

The meta-Matrix has been introduced by Kathleen M. Carley from the Carnegie Mellon University to represent the entities within an organization and the relationships between them. The meta-matrix is a multi-color, multiplex representation that focuses on people, knowledge/resources and events/tasks.

Meta

What is interesting about this representation is that it sees an organization as a set of dynamic networks and I couldn’t agree more. Changes in one network cascade into changes in the others; relationships in one network imply relationships in another. 

While classical SNA (Social Network Analysis) concepts applied to organizations focus on only a cell or two of the table above, the meta-matrix representation takes into account the different interactions between the components of every organization and considers the overlapping between the networks. This helps create a number of metrics that do a better job in explaining the evolution, performance, and adaptability of the network’s dynamics. 

How can such representation be used?

In her book, Complexity leadership – Volume 1, Mary Uhl-Bien presents interesting applications of Dynamic Network Analysis along with the meta-matrix representation. She states that collecting and analyzing data from the social, knowledge and task networks can help measure the communication density within an enterprise; which is “a measure of how many communication relations exist as compared to the total that could exist. This can provide feedback on the relational coupling and social capital structure of the organization”.

The model can also be used to forecast knowledge diffusion. Collecting data from the knowledge network defines who knows what, the social network would define who is talking to whom and the task network could be used to weight the extent to which each agent talks to each other. Analyzing such data can help when implementing a KM solution fro example…

Although one cannot deny the complexity of such approach (most DNA applications are purely hypothetical), seeing the organizations as a set of dynamic networks is probably the most accurate and near-real representation that has been introduced so far.

So DNA offers huge potential but it is still far from going mainstream. We need effective tools that make the whole theoretical process transparent to the knowledge workers. And most of all, we need to raise the awareness that such models can definitely help organizations better structure themselves and face the rising complexity of their environment.

Lamia Ben

Visualization : It’s ART

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Image courtesy: prologue.com

There is a landscape, only blocks away from your house, you pass it by everyday to go to work and yet, it takes a painting you've seen in the flee market to realize: What a beautiful place to be…

Everyday we juggle with hundreds if not thousands of data. We deal with more noise than signals. We get so emerged in the details that we forget the big picture. And then comes a Visual, and like with that painting, it's an aha-moment. We get to see the information with new eyes, we appreciate the data for what it represents, we finally Get it!

Information is beautiful, if only we can visualize it right!

So what makes a visual a work of art? 

"For a visual to qualify as beautiful, it must be aesthetically pleasing, yes, but it must also be novel, informative, and efficient." 

Julie Steele and Noah Lliinsky – Beautiful visualization 

For a visual to be a work of art, it must go beyond being artsy into being efficient, with a clear message and just the right amount information : No noise, no sacrifice. It must make us TICK.

How can we use this art behind the firewall?

I loved an experiment by Twitter engineer Ben Sandofsky where he represents the interactions between developers within twitter's projects. What Ben Fry calls: Organic Information visualization.

And it got me thinking: wouldn't it be great if every knowledge worker can, instead of running some dull reports, visualize the enterprise activity in 3D? Watching an animation of what products are getting bought, exploring customers' patterns, mining employees satisfaction based on their internal blogs… All seem to be great applications of the new Art of visualization.

Platforms such as Processing offer a great opportunity for developers to create innovative visualization and yet Business Intelligence tools don't seem to follow up. Did I miss the note that said everything at work needs to be flat or what?

And as I'm writing these lines, I see this:

Can you see all the possibilities?

Lamia Ben

Sunday Fun: How to start a movement

Whenever I feel like giving up, I re-watch this video. It has been dedicated to me by a friend. And it made me realize that I've been blessed with so many people who transformed this lone nut (that sometimes is me) into what I'm today (a leader? probably too much, just an aspiring one). So I dedicate it back to you, thank you all for being there for me 🙂

Transcripts of the video <a href=" http://sivers.org/ff“>here

Have a great weekend!

Lamia Ben

Intrapreneurs and Enterprise 2.0 adoption

 

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Photo courtesy: noulakaz.net

While reading Guy Kawasaki’s compelling book: Art of the Start, I can’t help but think that adoption of any new paradigm (Enterprise 2.0 for instance) would be far less problematic if piloted by intrapreneurs.

 

What’s an intrapreneur?

“Intrapreneurship is the act of behaving like an entrepreneur, except within a larger organization.

Intrapreneurship refers to employee initiatives in organizations to undertake something new, without being asked to do so”

– Wikipedia

 

Intrapreneurship for better enterprise 2.0 adoption?

Gawasaki made a list of recommendations for employees to become internal entrepreneurs, here are the ones I found most relevant to Enterprise 2.0 adoption:

Put the company first: every enterprise 2.0 evangelist knows that getting a large number of employees support depends on his motives. “They will support you if you’re doing it for the company, but not if it’s for your personal gain”.  Enterprise 2.0 adoption lies basically on a bottom up approach, so such support is essential.

Stay under the radar: mainly off top management’s radar, at least at the very beginning.  “You want to be left alone until either your project is too far along to ignore or the rest of the company realizes that it’s needed”. So you can mainly decrease the resistance to change, especially from people with the power to block your project.

Find a Godfather: godfathers are figures that “are relatively untouchable, and usually have the attention and respect of top management”. Getting the support of a Godfather can ensure you advice, insight and sometimes protection.

Give hope to the hopeful: launching an enterprise 2.0 project is about getting beyond deployment into adoption and participation. It’s about changing the culture. And that would only get much easier if you reach out to the “idealist” within every employee. “Your goal is to advance these people from wanting to see innovation happen to helping you make it happen”.

Build on what exists: You may be surprised to find how many teams are already using Enterprise 2.0 tools; maybe they just don’t know it yet. Building on existent infrastructures (human or technical) will “not only garner resources, but also make friends as other employees begin to feel as if they’re part of your team”.

Let the vice presidents come to you: Staying under the radar will have to ensue into an intentional yet, accidental discovery of your project by a vice president (or anyone in Top management with enough power to back- up the initiative). You need to ensure he “makes the discovery when the time is right, but this is not the same as seeking permission to get started”

Reboot your brain: E20 practionners can’t say this enough: It’s not about technology. It’s about culture. So in order to be an intrapreneur and launch an Enterprise 2.0 initiative you need to begin by rebooting your brain. “The reality is that starting something within an existing company requires adopting new patterns of behavior”. Try finding a niche and dominate it rather than positioning as “All things to all people”.  Instead of recruiting the big shots in the company, you need to suck in the people who “get it”. Think just like a start-up but never forget the context of your organization.

 

Although Enterprise 2.0 is considered to be “the next big thing”, it is still in its early days. Don’t be surprised, as you’re working on your initiative, to realize that it’s too soon, or that it would rather necessitates a top-down approach to reach adoption. It’s okay to give up than pursue a doomed venture. At least you know that a more pressing initiative needs to be undertaken: “readying the mindsets”.

Lamia Ben

Enterprise 2.0 reads – June/July 2010

    Due to some extreme reasons, I had to combine one post for both June and July. Here are the articles I've read and found to be really interesting, arranged by their common subjects. Enjoy!

Enterprise 2.0 adoption:

My Enterprise 2.0 Rollout: 4 Keys to Success
Early this year, executives at Philips,…initiated talks on selecting and deploying an enterprise 2.0 suite for its 100,000 employees worldwide….De Vries attributes Philips' success to four guiding factors, which he recommends to others considering a deployment of an enterprise 2.0 suite.

1. Begin with a clear strategy.
2. Partner with the business. "You have to realize that these are not IT initiatives, these are IT and business initiatives,"
3. Lead by example and learn from others "When you see active involvement in the leadership, we saw it take off virally"
4. Loosen the reins

Enterprise 2.0 adoption : it’s about comfort
The challenge is both simple and complex at the same time. It’s about bringing new ways to collaborate in the workplace, positionning and articulating them with what’s existing, while taking the software side into consideration.
We often think in terms of know-how, want-to-do, being able to do…and work hard on these levers. But we often forget the invisible relationship that links these levers together : comfort… it’s about how people feel when they face a given situation. If they are in their “comfort zone”, where they feel well, they don’t fear anything, don’t fear doing a mistake, understand how things work and interact. They know what to do, when to do it, how to do it and can anticipate the effects of their actions, of the others’ actions. In this context everything is fine.

Enterprise 2.0 Conference (the official website)

Reflections on the Enterprise 2.0 Conference Boston 2010
Here were some of the largest take-aways for me and what I saw at the event:
– Designing Enterprises for Loss of Control: While we’re still learning exactly what it means to design for loss of control, particularly in the enterprise, it’s readily in the spirit of social software with its general lack of barriers to participation or preconceptions about how people should come together and build value on the network.

Enterprises Are Going Social: While most organizations worldwide now have social software in some form, at least departmentally, the deeper and wider use of Enterprise 2.0 strategically, across all stakeholders (customers, partners, and workers) is still emerging in most organizations.

What I learned this week at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston
I wanted to share the biggest thing I learned at this conference: No matter what anyone tells you, no one really has a clue how to “do” social in the enterprise.
Here’s why I say that:
– There is way too much posturing and selling from vendors
– No one is talking about practical ways to architect social solutions
What I’d like to see…
I’d like to see a Web 2.0 conference for practioners. I want to get down in the weeds about psychology, ethonography, sociology, APIs, build vs buy, customize vs wait for a platform change, etc. I want these technical details to be able to make more informed decisions.
I’m hoping part of this open movement is having vendors be open about their roadmaps and inter-operability with other business applications.

Enterprise 2.0 and processes

Enterprise 2.0: Why process matters
Many Enterprise 2.0 vendors and practitioners focus on improved collaboration, rather than business value, as an end goal. These folks forget that vague promises of performance improvement are not a substitute for concrete, definable business results.
Enterprise 2.0 and Social CRM will eventually merge as highly complementary components of a broader change in how organizations handle cross-boundary work relationships. Collaboration is a support for better business processes, but it is not an end in itself. ~Mike Fauscette

Enterprise 2.0 and processes : what are we talking about ? (and why…)
If we defined processes are a sequence of tasks with variable flexibility depending on their object aiming at turning raw material (even intangible) into a product or service, maybe the concept would become more reputable….enterprise 2.0 may help with ERPs –The Easily Repeatable Process- (at least in an ongoing improvement process) and is the best way to run BRPs –The Barely Repeatable Process-, which will become more and more essential in the workplace.
In one sentence and to be done with this misunderstanding, when we talk about processes and enterprise 2.0, it’s not necesarily about processes as they are but as they should be.

Enterprise 2.0 is much more than process enrichment as well as it’s much more than random community dynamics driven by a kind of invisible hand,…it’s logical that businesses start to work on the lower ‘in the flow” layer to create synergies between both and help enterprise 2.0 to deliver its full potential…and not only through “process socialization”.

And I'll conclude with a delicious treat 🙂 Elsua's : Forget Social Strategy, Think Social Philosophy: Hippie 2.0

We need to stop thinking about social strategy and push more along the lines of social philosophy.
Because, after all, who wants to live in a world like today’s…? Would you like your children to inherit such unsustainable world? I am not sure about you, but I wouldn’t…And, for sure, I would want to see a better picture than what we have today! … Now, can social computing help achieve that?
What if through the usage and adoption of social software we would have an unprecedented opportunity to change the world we live in? Wouldn’t we want to seize that opportunity and make it happen?

Are you ready? Will you join the Hippie 2.0 movement?

Lamia Ben