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Need to build and motivate great teams? Book Robert David Duncan for keynotes, seminars, coaching and training

Doctoral research, Ideas you can use, Speaking Comments Off

Do you want better performing teams?  Do you want to perform better? Contact Robert David (Rob) Duncan, who can help you and your teams be more effective – in terms of cohesion, collaboration, competitiveness and social skills. Rob is also a Certified Management Consultant who can roll up his sleeves and get actively involved in improving your organization’s performance. A longtime college educator, Rob can work with your organization and continue to add value long after the keynote address.

Featured talks and seminars: 1. Team Intelligence; 2. Competitive Intelligence; 3. Collaborative Intelligence; 4. Social Intelligence.

1. Team Intelligence: Lessons from a Voyage around Cape Horn

South of Cape Horn

South of Cape Horn – a foreboding calm…

What were the secrets to building a great team on a gruelling 3-month sailing voyage around the dreaded Cape Horn? Join Rob for a first-hand account of a life-changing tall ship voyage through stormy seas and interpersonal strains that ultimately led to a rounding of the “Sailor’s Mount Everest.” Told through stories and pictures, with the keen insights of a skilled management consultant, Lessons from a Voyage around Cape Horn will leave your team inspired, engaged, and ready for their next challenge!

2. Competitive Intelligence: Fast, Cheap & Ethical Techniques to get the Edge

What can you do in the next 15 minutes to give your firm an unbeatable lead over the competition? Join competitive intelligence expert Rob Duncan for an entertaining, fast-paced and informative look at a war chest of tools that can be employed cheaply, quickly and ethically to gain a sustainable edge. Drawing on his book “Competitive Intelligence: Fast, Cheap & Ethical”, selected as a Best Business Book of 2008, Rob will leave your group raring to go on these simple and effective tactics.

Rob Duncan is building intelligent teams

3. Collaborative Intelligence: Enhancing Innovation through Social Media

What do you do when your customer is suddenly the head of your design team? “Harness it to your advantage,” says social networking expert Rob Duncan. Rob’s recent doctoral research confirmed that online social networking is breaking down traditional boundaries between companies, competitors and customers. Intelligent collaboration is the way of the future, and Rob Duncan can explain in straightforward terms why LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook and other collaborative technologies are going to drive business in the future, and why you need to be there.

4. Social Intelligence: Building Socially Smart Teams for Winning Performances

What do improvisation, active listening, the reading of micro-expressions, networking and acting technique have in common? They all relate to the growing field of social intelligence. Defined as ‘a person’s competence to comprehend his or her environment optimally and react appropriately for socially successful conduct,’ social intelligence is needed more than ever in business. Join Rob Duncan, New York trained actor and co-author of the book “Improv to Improve Your Business: Using the principles of improvisation to foster communication, creativity & innovation” on an engaging journey through some simple, easy to use and powerful techniques to build social intelligence in your teams.

Contact us for more information at greatcapes@gmail.com or via the Contact tab on this page.

Simple steps to become a successful film-maker for less than $500

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Simple steps to become a successful film-maker for less than $500

This year has been a great adventure for me in that I have directed several short films that are receiving recognition in the form of official festival selections and an award nomination. I have never been to film school, and each of these films was shot and completed on a budget of around $500 or less, including festival submission fees.

Official Selection for A Special Kind of Love

If you have a desire to make a film, I very much encourage you to do so because it has never been easier.  Also, by doing one simple film you will gain exposure to the entire process from beginning to end. There are so many cool short film festivals out there today – some free to enter – that there has never been a more fun time to have a small inventory of shorts in your repertoire to play with. But let’s start with that crucial first film.

Pick a simple story that matters to you. Use the “rule of 1 or 2″ – think in terms of 1 or 2 characters, 1 or 2 locations, 1 or 2 situations and a simple story arc that can be shared visually in 1 or 2 minutes. Maybe 1 person wonders how it all went wrong, or 2 people meet and something hilarious happens. Maybe you decide to frame a story around that anthill you’ve been observing in the park. Keep it very simple for now  – you have many years to put together your epic feature film!

Write down a simple narrative script. Don’t sweat proper screenplay structure unless you really want to – there is time to learn that later. Focus instead on what the characters will say and do in your story. Think in terms of 1 or 2 pages (there’s that rule again). Craft your story until you can start to see it happening in a 1 to 2 minute film. Building in story elements that are easy to film (daytime, natural lighting, available locations, absence of explosions or car chases) makes your job a lot easier.

Take time to visualize. This is the best lesson your director self will ever get. Take the time to picture your film happening as you sit in the audience watching it, each second from beginning to end. I find the moments before falling asleep to be a great time to do this. Go from the opening credits through to the end. Keep refining this vision to include what the camera sees, what angles the viewer sees and other details. Don’t get hung up on this step though – nothing will happen exactly as you predict, and the result will be magical anyway.

Use your smartphone. Sure, you may want to use a more elaborate camera, but try to avoid the temptation for your first film. The more you are shooting and grabbing quick footage without over-thinking, the easier your life will be. Do the minimum. Remember, all films can be re-shot later if they are that important to humanity – the key here is to learn lots, get to your mistakes quickly, finish something and get it out there.  There are lots of great films being made with smartphones now. Just be sure to hold the camera horizontally if that’s what gives the best video quality – ask an experienced friend if you aren’t sure.

Rehearsal with actors Andrew Hill and Lauren Donnelly

Rehearse with your actors if you can.  Do most of your directing in the rehearsal. If you can’t get actors, don’t let that hold you back – do a simpler story with a voice-over narrative for your first effort. Act in it yourself and use a tripod. The main thing is to get something done, finished and out there. I’ve seen great performances with little or no rehearsal, and I’ve seen extensively-rehearsed efforts come out flat, so don’t let lack of rehearsal time stop you.

Plan and execute the shoot. Divide your script and your vision for your film into filmable chunks, fire up your camera and then go for it. If you can get what you need in one single run from beginning to end, then do it and start editing! Go back and grab close-ups if you need them, but remember this is a first film, not your magnum opus. Every additional shot should be justified by really needing it in your final vision. If you don’t need that complex shot to tell the story, save it for a later film. Don’t over-shoot, and don’t go beyond 3 takes unless there is a compelling reason. There is no “safety” in getting more and more takes, and it just ends up causing agony when you are trying to choose between takes during the edit.

Organize your footage.  Upload your video clips to Youtube from your phone and give each video segment a meaningful name so you know what is what when it comes to editing. Download the footage from Youtube onto your working computer when you get home.

Edit your film. Grab a free trial download of an editor like PowerDirector and just wade in and learn to use it by doing. Buy the software once you find one you like. There are tons of video clips on Youtube that will show you the basics of editing. Grab one of your pieces of footage, drag it into the editor, add beginning titles and ending credits, and hit save. Congratulations, you are now an editor. Now you are ready to pull in more pieces of footage, cut away unnecessary bits and do transitions from clip to clip. When you have a simple, complete cut of your film, save it in a usable format like MP4 or mov. Congrats, you are a film-maker! Now the rest of the job starts.

Submit your film to festivals. Target appropriately. Your first 1 minute film may not be right for Sundance, but it might find a welcome acceptance in a festival geared toward micro short films shot with smartphones. Signing up with FilmFreeway or similar websites like Withoutabox can be a great way to find festivals that will be right for your film. Getting your first official selection or acceptance into a festival is a major confidence builder and you will be starting to build a track record of accomplishment in film. Later on, you can explore how to sell your film or distribute your film for money online, but more likely you will treat your early work as just that – early work – and move on to learn more by doing more films. Congratulations on getting this far!

Nominated for Best Drama Micro Short

Congratulations, now go do it again!

Remember, most people who dream of making a film will not even start. Of those who start, few will finish. Of those who finish, few will get as far as submitting to a festival. If you are able to start and finish a short film, however simple, and get it into a festival, you will be on your way! If these steps I’ve outlined help by encouraging you and cutting through some of the mystery, then I am happy. I encourage you to return the favor by helping someone else in the future.

You will find that the film-making community is a very friendly, collaborative and helpful one.  Most people are more than willing to help out a newcomer and will share their hard-earned knowledge with you. The most important lesson though, is that the film that gets finished and out there is the one that matters. Do your first film fast, by yourself if needed, but get it done. Don’t self-censor your work – get it out there and submit it to festivals, you will be pleased with the results. Best of luck to you!

 

 

Live to your own script! Book preview from The Adventure of an Ingenious Life

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Book Preview: The Adventure of an Ingenious Life – Follow your creativity through doors of opportunity

I was very pleased to be asked to contribute my thoughts and ideas to this new book. I have worked on collaborative books before, and really enjoy the process of sharing creative approaches with others. This book in particular appealed to me because I see myself at a crossroads between the business thinking and writing I have done before, and the creative and artistic life that is my main focus currently and into the future.

When I co-authored Improv to Improve your Business, I was beginning to meld the worlds of business and the worlds of art together. This new book furthers this process. When I began writing my contribution, I asked myself what I would say to a group of people about what I’ve learned in life so far. Here are some ideas.

Live to your own script!

People tell me that I have had an interesting life. On the one hand it is a genuine compliment, but on the other hand, there is a subtext of “Well, good for you, you are (insert choice of: weird/creative/brave/free/unfettered etc.), but it wouldn’t work for me.” I disagree. Anyone can fulfill their own calling to be who they were meant to be, and it doesn’t require radical or risky behaviours, just a commitment to certain principles, values and habits that I truly believe in.

As I write this, I am an actor, filmmaker, public speaker, writer, coach and trainer. If I am fortunate enough to re-read this in 10 years, I am confident I will describe myself quite differently. My past has included studying art, writing fiction, sailing across oceans, doing an MBA, a disastrous stint as a banker and many other things. Here are my tips for living a creative life of your own ingenious design.

Honor the child in you

Who were you when you were young? You are still that person on many levels. That child is who you are meant to become in life. Think back to when you little and free to dream and play. What things did you like to do? What were your fantasies about life? What games did you like to play? Were you a social person or did you like to wander off by yourself and observe birds and insects? Did you run, jump or climb trees. Did you like reading? Did you like to organize the gang and go on adventures?

Who were you as a child?

Take some time, close your eyes and think about yourself when you were small. Picture that little person looking back at you in a mirror. Work at picturing all the details of small you. What are you wearing? Are you happy or sad? Fearful or bold? Playful? Shy? Think about a perfect day you could have. Map out an entire perfect day for your young self. Picture yourself living that perfect day in a much rich detail as you can. When you are done, write down the most important messages you have taken away from the exercise. Who were you?

For most of us, life began the get in the way somewhere between our young selves and our current selves. As a boy, I loved animals, nature, roaming around, getting dirty and adventures. Later, I was obsessed with photography. Despite that I lived most of my young adulthood doing things that I thought would look good on a resume, rather than the things that fuelled my passions. I would start a program in arts, but decide that economics would look better on a resume. I could have tried my hand at drama and acting, but got an MBA instead. These are all little betrayals, and they add up over time.

How have you betrayed your young self? Make a note of some of the things you wish you could be doing. You owe yourself the chance to fulfill some of the destiny that was in store for you when you were a child. In fact, that destiny will come calling for you in midlife, whether you are ready or not. It’s better to be in control of becoming the person you were meant to become than it is to have the sadness of not doing so express itself in illness, depression or damaged relationships.

Dream big, start small

Look at the list of things that inspired you as a child. Pick one thing that you wish you could have pursued. Let’s make it happen on some level! One of the things I believe causes fear in people when they contemplate their hidden dreams is that they think doing so makes their already-lived life a lie. It’s not true, because we made the best decisions in life we could at the time, with the information and self-awareness we had at the time. We don’t have to throw out all that we have lived to pursue some far-off dream. Pursuing our childhood dreams on some level, though, is far healthier than drowning ourselves in “busy-ness” to avoid thinking about them. This doesn’t have to be a sad story!

One of the things I loved reading about when I was a child were great adventures like kids sailing around the world on little boats. As I started to hit midlife, I realized that those dreams were still nagging at me. I had been channelling this need into following round-the-world solo sailing races on the web and reading book after book about sailing around the dreaded Cape Horn, the most dangerous place on earth to be sailing. People who knew me well could see the gears turning in my head, and they started to worry. I fuelled those fears by starting to talk about needing to “sail around the Horn.”

Fulfilling a childhood dream

The end result of putting it out there to myself and others was that I was in fact able to fulfill my dream of sailing around Cape Horn, as described in my first book “Haul Away!” The way it happened was that I joined a tall sailing ship that was going to attempt a 3-month voyage to round the Horn in the traditional way, and they wanted deckhand trainees to sail with them. Although it was a dangerous voyage (some 10,000 people have drowned trying round Cape Horn, called the Mount Everest of sailing) it was far less dangerous than trying to sail around on my own, or suffering with an unfulfilled dream.

By sailing around Cape Horn, I lost 3 months of income, but I spawned several new avenues for myself. I wrote my first published book, and was delighted to find that audiences really enjoyed hearing about the voyage, which made me take my speaking hobby seriously and start to make money from it. Beyond all that, I had grown tremendously as a person, made lots of new friends, and was ready for more adventures. The lesson I took way from this was that a person can’t achieve a dream if they can’t acknowledge it to themselves and to others. So take one of those childhood dreams from your list, and say it out loud to yourself. Then tell someone about it.

Go brandless!

Through the process of giving up on our childhood selves and dreams, we end up hiding more of ourselves than we should. If we become an accountant, we internalize the idea that we should “act” like an accountant. Just like any “actor,” this implies a costume, a set of behaviours and a script. The more we act out the script we have been handed, the further many of us get from our true selves, the person we were meant to be. The result is a disappointed soul and a half-hearted life.

It’s much better and healthier to be the accountant who is also an actor or the actor who pays the bills by being an accountant than it is to shoehorn yourself into a narrow, rigid life-script. This flies in the face of contemporary wisdom about careers. We always hear that we should have a “personal brand,” that we should specialize, that we must serve a specific “niche.” This is why many people find doing a resume so difficult and depressing. We are trying to take all the complexity of our interesting lives and corral it into someone else’s definition of desirability.

Later in life, I decided to honour my dream of my early 20s to study acting. I took a leave from my senior management job and went to a good acting school. I never went back to my old job! Common sense would dictate that I should have returned to my old job, perhaps apologized for my brief burst of eccentricity, and got on with living a normal, less creative life. Instead, I realized how much I enjoyed acting, and how exciting it could be to keep learning and developing that craft. I became an actor in real life, not just in fantasy life.

Going brandless means ignoring people and advice that tries to make you narrow, specialized and too focused on one thing. It may be fine if that is your natural inclination, but many creative people really struggle to compartmentalize themselves into a small well-defined box. So don’t do it! It’s your script to write and your script to follow. At the end of your life, you may ask yourself if you lived true to your values, and only you can write the script that allows you to answer “yes” to that question. So get writing!

A three- braided approach to your script

People look at my varied background and ask how I got from one role to another. They are surprised to learn that I never took a blind leap from one thing to another, and that I never turned my back on any of my previous education, training or skills. Everything was built on the foundation of what came before. I use what I call a three-braided approach to writing my own life script. Like a strong piece of rope, a life fashioned out of three interwoven strands is strong and resilient. Here’s how it works: the three strands are what you like doing, what you hate doing and where you can grow.

When you look at what you are currently doing in life or in your career, think about the aspects you really enjoy and are good at. These things form one of the strands of your three-braided script. If you really enjoy doing presentations and helping people, but the rest of your job leaves you cold, then flag presenting and helping people as things you want to bring forward with you into your next role.

Next, look at the things you really don’t like about your current role. It could be office politics, detail work, deadlines or anything else you don’t enjoy. This is not the time to pull punches or second guess yourself. If you hate something, acknowledge it. Don’t beat up on yourself or try to rationalize it away by thinking that everyone has aspects they don’t like about what they do. Just isolate the things you don’t like and flag those as things you would like to lose heading into your next role.

Finally, look at the areas where you need to grow. These could be skills and abilities you wish you had, or personal qualities you would like to develop. Unlearning a particular habit or fear, developing a specific skill, or working in challenging new areas might be examples. You now have the third strand of your three-braided script. You know what you like doing, what you don’t like doing and where you would like to grow. Now, take these three strands, put them together and twist! In twisting these three strands together, you will see how to get from where you are to your next role.

Find the right co-stars for your script

We receive a lot of negative messages in life, often from the ones who love us the most. Creativity and ingenuity are sometimes poorly understood by people, and as result, feared by them. Sometimes, those who care about us fear that we are taking needless risks with our lives, ones that will leave us unhappy in the end. Unfortunately, their desire to help often ends up at odds with our creativity. We need to protect our own creativity even if it means curtailing our exposure to certain people.

Surrounding ourselves with the right people is critical to our success at having a creative and ingenious life. Fortunately, the Internet makes it much easier to create a circle of like-minded friends around the world. There are many groups and meeting spots online, so that we don’t have to be the only oddball around anymore! It is also important for us to be able to have other creative people that we can trust with our ideas. Creative ideas are often very fragile by nature, and they can often be stopped with a poorly thought-out remark from someone who doesn’t understand our creative side.

Loving what we do

I have been lucky in recent years to have surrounded myself with people who are interested in film and acting. Though I am still friends with people from my previous business-oriented job, the people I need around me right now are those who understand what it is to bring an idea for a film through the script-writing stage and beyond into casting, production and beyond. What is really interesting to me though, is how much of my past lives and careers are blending into my current life, using the three-braided way of thinking.

As an example, the same skills I used to help build and run an innovation centre for entrepreneurs are the same skills I use now in putting together a film project: visioning, teambuilding, motivation, funding, communication, marketing and so forth. At no point in my many careers have I ever had to say “I am no longer that guy” because everything I have ever done comes in handy in some way. As a film director, I can draw on all my acting experience to work with actors. I can draw on my business experience in my newer role as a film producer. My experiences acting, directing and producing all help me write more effectively for the screen. All of my life experiences come in handy, and they will continue to do so in my future roles.

It’s your script, so write it and live it!

We waste a lot of time seeking permission and external approval for our choices in life. It is truly wasted time, because some of the most common regrets at the end of our lives are that we didn’t live in tune with our own values, didn’t take chances and didn’t believe in ourselves enough to follow our dreams. So stop doing that! Take chances and believe in yourself. Use the three-braided approach to writing your own script and keep moving in directions that maximize the things you enjoy, minimize the things you don’t enjoy and keep you growing in directions that stretch and inspire you.

I didn’t start out understanding how I moved from fun role to fun role. I was part-way through my journey when one of my college students asked me how I had known to make all the right moves to get where I was at that point. I was honest and said I didn’t have a clue, but that I always tried to do things that were fun, and when two choices presented themselves, I chose the more exotic one. This ended up being a running conversation, and I continued to think about career and life planning, and how it isn’t as logical as it sometimes looks in the rear view mirror.

By focusing on principles that will keep you happy rather than specific targets, logical moves or measurable goals, I really believe you can craft a more exciting, fun and ingenious life. In the end you answer to nobody but yourself, and with this truth comes the responsibility to keep yourself happy. So write your own script and start living it! Inspire others by sharing your adventures and your ingenious life. Above all, be yourself, be happy and don’t wait for permission. Write your script, your way and enjoy it!

Work together to win!

Doctoral research, Ideas you can use, Speaking Comments Off

How social networking is moving us from competition to collaboration

My new e-book, “Collaborative Intelligence” is now available for download through Scribd at this address: http://bit.ly/XbhV6y

Collaborative Intelligence

I wrote the book as a companion piece to my recent doctoral thesis on collaborative innovation through online social networks. The book presents a set of interviews that share the findings of my research in easy-to-digest, bite sized pieces.  In short, people are using online social networks in very interesting and collaborative ways, and smart organizations and their leaders are learning how to harness this power.

My doctoral research among 500+ LinkedIn users and a dozen CEO-level executives yielded some very interesting findings. Over six in ten users said they use LinkedIn to exchange ideas and expertise, which confirms that LinkedIn is far more than just a prospecting tool or online contact manager. Most users indicated that they had more connections with people in other organizations than before they started using LinkedIn and that they are now much more connected to both customers and competitors. Six in ten users rely on their LinkedIn network to help them answer questions and solve problems, and say that their network has allowed them to be more innovative in their work.

Through my research, I learned several lessons that I think are very useful to people in all kinds of organizations, for-profit and non-profit alike. Here are some of those lessons:

Keep the secret sauce, but share the rest

We have grown used to operating environments where it is extremely important to guard competitive advantages by keeping secrets. The widespread adoption of social media means that there are fewer and fewer secrets. My research has shown that the vast majority of LinkedIn users I surveyed are connected to people in other organizations, and they rely on these inter-firm networks to share information, come up with new ideas and jointly solve problems. Lines have been blurred between competitors, and between customers and the organizations they buy from. Smart organizations understand this, and are attempting to harness this increased interconnectedness, rather than trying to restrict it. Imagine a world without secrets. It is coming rapidly due to social media. Organizations can focus on protection, and fighting infringement in every jurisdiction around the world, or they can prepare for a post-secrets landscape, and find better and more innovative ways to keep customers.

The more minds on the problem, the better

Teamwork and social networks are nothing new. Guilds, for example, have existed since pre-industrial times. More recently we have seen communities of practice and knowledge management as attempts to gather and share expertise. Guilds have been described as groups that are drawn together through similar interests and shared passion for a topic. Sounds like a LinkedIn Group, doesn’t it? Similarly, there is nothing new about social networks, as they have always existed. You only have to watch the HBO series “Rome” to see the power of alliances and connectedness in a historical sense. In recent decades, research on social networking has pointed out the importance of weak ties; that someone who is weakly connected to you may actually be more helpful to you than someone who is strongly connected to you. How perfect is that for social media, where we may never have met someone we are connected to?

Online social networks: way more of a good thing

So the key with online social networking is not that it is a new concept, but that the technology is now freely available to build networks on a massive scale with minimal effort. Unlike communities of practice that tended to focus around a specialized job area, and attracted people of a similar profile, today’s social networks can contain vastly different individuals, from CEOs to artists, allowing a radically greater knowledge base and sources of new ideas and innovation. How do you consciously make use of this pool of talent though?

How to be a collaborative player

We all win when we share our knowledge and expertise with others. Being a good collaborative player online often involves a shift of mindset from “What can I get?” to “What can I give?” By freely sharing our accumulated wisdom and knowledge through various online groups, blogs and social networks we all gain by learning more about how we look at problems and solutions. Ultimately, the more we share, the more we become innovative, elevate our professions, and most importantly, improve the service we provide to our clients, customers and each other!

 

Collaborative Intelligence: Conversations with Dr. Rob Duncan on tapping into the power of online social networks

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My new book, Collaborative Intelligence

My new book is now available for reading and downloading from Scribd (see below). I hope that you enjoy it and find some useful and thought-provoking ideas in the material. I encourage you to share the material with anyone who might be interested. The book is drawn directly from many hours of interviews done with me upon the completion of my doctoral research into the use of LinkedIn and other online social networks in inter-firm collaborative innovation.The book is simple and straightforward by design, and is intended to be used either a a stand-alone quick read, or as a companion piece to my full doctoral thesis, which is more data-rich and also available below.

Making a difference

The decision to make this material available at minimal or no cost was an easy one to make in light of the book’s messages of sharing and open collaboration. If you feel that you received value from this material beyond what you paid, I would encourage you to please make a donation to a charity, agency or directly to a cause that supports the education empowerment and well-being of women and girls in the world. Thank you for considering doing that. Some possibilities (in no order of preference) include:

 

Collaborative Intelligence – Dr. Rob Duncan – 2013 – ISBN 978-0-9918198-0-5 (PDF Version)

Rob Duncan Doctoral Thesis 2012 – The Role of Online Social Networks in Inter-firm Collaborative Innovation…

Continuing the conversation

The topics in this book are a genuine passion for me, and I enjoy discussing them with others. Please feel free to be in touch with me though my website, www.robduncan.com, or though the various online social networks I hope we connect up on. I am also happy to speak with you and your team about these ideas, and to work with organizations who want to develop training or presentations on these and other ideas related to organizational goals and change.

I hope that you will also share and discuss these ideas with others. Collaboration and innovation are dependent on discussion and the sharing of ideas. The greater the variety of minds that are brought to the discussion, the greater and more remarkable the results will be.

Thank you for reading this book and the accompanying doctoral thesis (if you read that also). I hope you have found the information useful to you and your organization. I personally always feel that if I have extracted at least one useful or thought-provoking idea from something I have read, then I am ahead of the game. Hopefully that is the case for you!

The role of online social networks in inter-firm collaborative innovation and problem solving – doctoral thesis (2012)

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My mid-career doctorate: can it really be finished?

For those of you who have been kindly following my progress toward my doctorate – ups, downs, triumphs and challenges – here is the latest news.

Finally!

It is done!!!

Words that every grad student dreams of saying someday. Earlier this year, my thesis (below) went to external reviews, final edits and approval by the university. I was officially awarded the degree of Doctor of Business Leadership on October 1st. Once again I have to thank all of the hundreds of people who helped me along this journey.

Sharing the results

The best way I can think of to thank everybody who helped me along the way is to share the thesis and the results below. The study involved a comprehensive literature review, a quantitative survey of over 500 LinkedIn users as well as a dozen qualitative in-depth interviews with senior-level executives. In addition to the findings and analysis, contained in the thesis, there is also a starting framework toward a set of best practices for organizations wishing to harness the power of online social networks while mitigating some of the potential risks. So, here it is!

 

The role of online social networks in inter-firm collaborative innovation and problem solving

 

I am available for interviews, speaking and training on this topic…

Please feel free to get in touch with me to learn more about my research, findings and thoughts on this topic. I am pleased to see that the thesis and its findings are already getting some attention worldwide, and I am more than happy to be interviewed on the topic or to work with groups and organizations to develop keynote addresses, seminars and training related to this area.

Click here to visit the university library site that has the thesis abstract, other information and a link to view or download the actual thesis document. I hope you find the information useful!

Celebration time!

 

Suggested citation formats from Google Scholar

MLA:
Duncan, Robert David. The role of online social networks in inter-firm collaborative innovation and problem solving. Diss. 2012.

APA:
Duncan, R. D. (2012). The role of online social networks in inter-firm collaborative innovation and problem solving (Doctoral dissertation).

Chicago:
Duncan, Robert David. “The role of online social networks in inter-firm collaborative innovation and problem solving.” PhD diss., 2012.

Collaborative Intelligence by Rob Duncan: book preview

Doctoral research, Ideas you can use, Speaking 1 Comment »

Collaborative Intelligence: How to liberate minds and transform enterprises through social networks

After doing all the research for my doctorate and writing my thesis (“The role of online social networks in inter-firm collaborative innovation and problem solving”), I swore I would never do anything requiring that kind of effort ever again! So here I am, a few months later, hard at work on a new book that captures my key findings and presents practical ideas on building collaboration through social media in a format that is brief, readable and useful for people at all levels, in all kinds of organizations. Clearly I am incorrigible…

The book, “Collaborative Intelligence” is due to be published in late 2012. As a teaser, I am putting a brief summary of a few of the book’s ideas below, so readers can get an initial sense of the contents.

Intelligence matters!

Collaborative intelligence: the more sensors, the more signals you pick up

Collaborative intelligence: the more sensors, the more signals you pick up

There are many forms of intelligence that relate to business and organizational life. Teambuilding intelligence, competitive intelligence and social intelligence are just a few. One of the most important, yet least understood, is social intelligence. Loosely defined as the ability to correctly assess your surroundings and act appropriately, social intelligence involves sensing what is going on around your enterprise, both inside and out, making the correct inferences about the signals being received, and then responding in a way that leaves your organization better off. The increased pace of change, thirst for innovation and the democratization of knowledge have resulted in an environment where understanding the environment and reacting to it effectively and quickly are critical. Looked at as a whole, we can think of these organizational intelligences – teambuilding, competitive and social – as collaborative intelligence. Your use of social networks can either enhance or diminish your collaborative intelligence.

A challenge: Grab a piece of paper and quickly map out all of the signals that your organization receives from its environment, both external and internal. Don’t overthink it – just scrawl away. Can you see any signals that aren’t being received that would be useful? Are there any existing signals that you could be capturing and organizing more effectively? Is everybody in the organization equally able to pick up on useful information and signals, or is this function quite centralized?

Keep what you need, and share the rest

We have grown used to operating environments where it is extremely important to guard competitive advantages by keeping secrets. The widespread adoption of social media means that there are fewer and fewer secrets. My research has shown that the vast majority of LinkedIn users I surveyed are connected to people in other organizations, and they rely on these inter-firm networks to share information, come up with new ideas and jointly solve problems. Lines have been blurred between competitors, and between customers and the organizations they buy from. Smart organizations understand this, and are attempting to harness this increased interconnectedness, rather than trying to restrict it. Imagine a world without secrets. It is coming rapidly due to social media. Organizations can focus on protection, and fighting infringement in every jurisdiction around the world, or they can prepare for a post-secrets landscape, and find better ways to keep customers.

A challenge: What is your organization’s “secret sauce,” the one thing that would drive you out of business if it were known to the competition? What percentage of all your organization’s knowledge does that secret sauce represent? One percent? Ten percent? Of the remaining knowledge, what aspects could you trade with other organizations for your mutual gain?

The power of many individuals

Collaborative intelligence penguins

Collaborative intelligence: the more minds on the problem, the better

Teamwork and social networks are nothing new. Guilds, for example, have existed since pre-industrial times. More recently we have seen communities of practice and knowledge management as attempts to gather and share expertise. Guilds have been described as groups that are drawn together through similar interests and shared passion for a topic. Sounds like a LinkedIn Group, doesn’t it? Similarly, there is nothing new about social networks, as they have always existed. You only have to watch the HBO series “Rome” to see the power of alliances and connectedness in a historical sense. In recent decades, study on social networking has pointed out the importance of weak ties; that someone who is weakly connected to you may actually be more helpful to you than someone who is strongly connected to you. How perfect is that for social media, where we may never have met someone we are connected to?

Online social networks: way more of a good thing

So the key with online social networking is not that it is a new concept, but that the technology is now freely available to build networks on a massive scale with minimal effort. Unlike communities of practice that tended to focus around a specialized job area, and attracted people of a similar profile, today’s social networks can contain vastly different individuals, from CEOs to artists, allowing a radically greater knowledge base and sources of new ideas and innovation. How do you consciously make use of this pool of talent though?

A challenge: Jot down the names of people in your organization who are super-connectors. It shouldn’t be too hard: If you needed someone to brief the team on Twitter, who would you tap? What about LinkedIn or Facebook? Do these people know each other? These individuals need to be aware of each other so they can work together to help the organization harness the power of “edge connections,” those networks that employees are tapped into in their own social lives. Support them with time to work together to identify other people who are highly connected and let this group develop a connectedness approach for the organization.

Implementing a collaborative intelligence strategy: liberating the individual

One of the worst things most organizations can do is to prohibit the use of social media in the workplace. Doing so telegraphs several very unfortunate messages to employees:

  • that you will steal time from your employer given the opportunity
  • that you are distractible by nature and will fool around rather than work
  • that the people you know are of no value to our organization as customers, potential employees, sales facilitators, goodwill ambassadors or idea generators

Smart organizations understand the power of their employees’ own networks, and that these edge connections can be extremely helpful to the organization provided the right structures and guidelines exist. Check out my post here for a suggested framework of best practices around the conscious use of online social networks in organizations.

Encouraging collaborative behaviors: leadership begins at the bottom

Rob Duncan is building intelligent teams

Rob Duncan is building intelligent teams

Your staff at all levels should all feel empowered to serve as what I call Collaborative Engagement Officers or CEOs. My research has shown that the vast majority of LinkedIn users are connected to counterparts in other organizations, including both customers and competitors, and that they make use of these connections to help solve problems and generate new ideas. Add to this the fact that the most connected person in your organization may be the newest hire or somebody who isn’t even known well by the top leadership, and you have the ingredients for a shift away from top-down style management. The true locus of power has shifted from the top of organizations to being more diffused among highly-connected staff at all levels. So where does that leave senior management? Smart organizations will create cultures where engaging with networks is a part of the daily routine, and will scope out expectations of social network usage clearly in order to minimize risks of communications mistakes and manage the amount of time spent on social networks as opposed to other duties.

Transforming the enterprise: goodbye to hierarchies and silos

So what are the benefits of embracing a networked staff and promoting the development of relationships beyond the walls of your organization? Here are a few:

  • improved customer service and customer input
  • greater access to innovation collaborators
  • reductions of the inefficiencies caused by silos
  • better staff engagement with the organization’s mission, at all levels
  • enhanced serendipity through a more varied mix of minds and approaches
  • speedier and more nimble competitive responses due to improved signal sensing

So these are a few of the ideas that will be explored in Collaborative Intelligence. I hope you will read and enjoy the book when it comes out!

LinkedIn inter-firm relationships: collaborative asset or competitive risk?

Doctoral research, Ideas you can use, Speaking Comments Off

Social media is… so NOT social!

Doctoral research, Ideas you can use, Speaking 1 Comment »

Doing real things with real people is more fun!

My Klout score has stopped rising lately, and has begun a mild correction downward. And yet I’m having more fun, doing more things with real people and accomplishing way more. I am immersing myself in scene study work with some great acting partners, and enjoying speaking to groups of real-live people. I wrote a feature length movie screenplay in 2 weeks.

So what’s up?

Well, I’d never describe myself as any kind of canary in a coal mine, but the inescapable fact is that I am bored with social media. The less time I spend engaged in social media of any kind, the happier I am. Taking a complete pass on Pinterest for example, was a sign of good health to me.

Stella Adler Studio Summer Conservatory

Rob Duncan is doing real things with real people


This isn’t the first time I have noticed this. I wrote about it here some time ago when I had returned to theater training in New York. Mind you, it’s not unusual that I would be an early exit candidate, since I was both an earlier adopter and did a doctorate on the topic of social media (the latter a guaranteed recipe to kill an interest in anything…).

So am I part of an early wave that is starting to walk away for good? Or am I taking a well-earned vacation? Time will tell. Just the same, I won’t be lining up to buy any social media stocks for the long term.

Here are a few things to consider doing as the weather improves, kind of a spring cleaning for the brain:

1. Have a cleansing social media fast. Stay off social media for a week or more at a time. Yes, it’s scary. Start with 2 hours and work up to whole days gradually, so you don’t go into sudden withdrawal.

2. Spend a week unsubscribing from updates, feeds and emails that no longer interest you. It’s amazing how many of these things still stream in, yet we don’t think to hit the instant unsubscribe button.

3. Be social, don’t just “do” social. Join genuine, real-world social events. Take a class, put on a play, join a team, see friends. If you’re really Jonesing for online connections, use things like Meetup to line up real face-to-face events.

4. Honor your solitude. Take some time to reflect. Cultivate a sense of enlightened exclusivity. Be less available.

5. Take yourself private. Stop over-sharing every little thing. If it’s a marketing tactic, trust me, it’s not working (you heard it here).

6. Keep social media as a treat – like ice cream. The odd time I pass through Facebook and LinkedIn (okay, Facebook) these days, It’s actually fun to see what people are up to.

So my challenge to us all is: step away from the screen, put the gadgets down, and go out and play. With real people!

Where is the intersection between theater and the workplace?

Ideas you can use, Speaking Comments Off
Workplace drama

Workplace drama

It’s funny, there is always a lot of crossover imagery between the stage and the workplace. Objectives, heroes, drama kings and queens, getting the right people to play different roles, tragic leadership flaws, double-crosses and so forth. Now that I am taking a step away from the office environment for a bit and rekindling my acting training, I am fascinated by the parallel lessons that can be drawn between the two worlds. A few months ago, I wrote here about the useful skills that people can gain from acting training – things like hitting your marks, learning how to improvise (always say yes), and using your full body as an instrument of communication.

The insights I have been gaining over the last couple of weeks can add to and enhance these earlier lessons. Here are a few ideas that may help you bring more “drama” to your workplace:

  • The art of analysing the script: The playright provides a framework of words, characters and given circumstances. The challenge is to figure out what isn’t there – it is the job of the actors to fill in the missing pieces with meaning. Otherwise we’d just get up there and read, and the crowds would stay away! As leaders in organizations, we should also be looking at the scripts we have been handed, and really take the time to analyse them. Who wrote this script? Are there other versions or other scripts I am not seeing? What is missing from the story on the page? What do I and my team need to add in order to flesh out the full story and make it truly inspiring?
  • The art of soft focus: We are trained in movement class to start to use our peripheral vision to see who else is in the room, and to avoid banging into them. Even when the director tells us to go crazy and flail around to all four corners of the room, we remain aware of each other. So it should be with the competing interests in an organization. We should be creating cultures where the differences are expressed, respected and where soft focus is encouraged to avoid bruising.
  • The art of understanding a character’s objectives: At the most basic level, characters act out of need. The job of the actor is to consider what it is their character needs, what is in the way, and what they are going to do about it. This last piece is where the actor’s choices make the difference between a truly memorable performance and a more ordinary one. For example, your character may need more than anything to gain the love of another character, but there are lots of ways to get there (intimidation, charm, kindness, trickery, deception, collusion etc. etc.). In the workplace, look around at the characters in your midst. What is their overarching need? Are they getting it met? Are you helping or hindering? Why? The more you can understand the other actors in your midst, the better you can manage around their actions.
  • The art of going larger: The training at the Stella Adler Studio is always exhorting us to be LARGER! What this means is that instead of making acting choices that are safe and tame, make larger, more dramatic and more passionate choices. Is your character trying to “tell” (yawn…) somebody something? Or are they trying to “convince” (better…) somebody of something? Or are they trying to “scare the sh*t” (now we’re getting somewhere…) out of somebody? Similarly in organizational life, making larger choices makes for a more interesting performance!

 

When in doubt, go large

I want to hear what you think! Please feel free to weigh in here with your comments. To explore having me speak to your team or group on drama in the workplace and other related themes, please get in touch with me at rob@robduncan.com or via the contact tab on this page.

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