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

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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.

Work together to win!

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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!

 

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.

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!

Toward an initial framework for developing best practices for the use of online social networks in organizations

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As part of my doctoral research, I conducted qualitative research with people who had experience with using online social networks (OSNs) in their workplaces. The aim of the research was to develop a starting point for a framework for developing best practices for the use of OSNs in organizations.

The results of the qualitative inquiry identified a number of suggested best practices for organizations considering the use of OSNs. The elements presented below are intended to help serve as a starting point for organizations.

The elements have been grouped under the categories of strategy, listening, communication, guidelines, training, diffusion and measurement. As the usage of OSNs becomes more prevalent, and more history with OSNs is examined in future research, this set of suggested best practices can be extended and clarified over time. Below is an initial framework for consideration.

Strategy
Planning for OSN implementation should tie back to the organization’s strategy, goals and objectives. To this end, it is helpful to align the level and type of OSN planning to the planning culture of the organization overall.

“Align the strategy with the culture – if the culture is open to it, trial and error may be fine; otherwise it can be a disaster.”

Organizations that are more structured and methodical in their planning will likely benefit from a more structured approach to developing and rolling out an OSN plan. For this type of organization it will make sense to develop a concrete plan with reasons for using OSNs, and expected results. For organizations that favour a more iterative or adaptive approach to planning, starting with a tentative OSN strategy that can be adapted as needed may be the best approach, making adjustments as learning takes place.

“Don’t try to over-plan an approach to using OSNs. The most important thing is to start using the technologies, play with them, and figure out how to use them as you go along. Otherwise you can end up paralyzed by over-planning and losing valuable time relative to the competition.”

As noted above, the key is make sure there is an alignment between the planning style and activities that the organization uses overall, and to fit the OSN planning efforts into that style.

Listening
It is important to scan the environment and observe what is being done currently with regard to OSNs. This scan should include looking at what the competition is doing, as well as what is being done in other types of organizations and industries. It is equally important to understand what the behaviour and needs of the organization’s customers and stakeholders are. This will be helpful both in terms of not re-inventing the wheel, but also in terms of fitting an appropriate OSN approach to the needs of key stakeholders. It is important to research where the intended audience currently spends time, so that the organization ends up adopting the appropriate tools and platforms to reach that audience most effectively.

“Listening is a key activity that should be a goal of an OSN strategy. It is critical to be listening to what is being communicated by customers, and by competitors.”

Another role for listening is being aware of the fact that OSNs are not merely broadcast media, but are also an important means by which customers and other stakeholders can communicate with an organization. Missed messages represent missed opportunities. One suggestion is to have a “designated listener” on staff, someone whose job it is to monitor developments in the social networking arena, as well as monitoring actual communications from customers, stakeholders, collaborators and competitors.

Communication
A communications strategy for OSNs should be part of an overall coordinated communications strategy for the organization. As OSNs represent a unique medium, they require a unique approach to communications. In particular it is essential to be regular in communicating and to have engaging, relevant and value-rich content that meets the needs and interests of the audience. It is suggested that a professional communicator be used to design the communications strategy.

“Focus on quality not quantity. Focus on the experience you are creating for the customer. Focus on being a real person and being available to help… Ensure that what you promote is what you are.”

The importance of being authentic in OSN communication has also been emphasized in the qualitative interviews. The OSN representation of the organization should be in alignment with the brick and mortar organization.

Guidelines
It is important to develop guidelines that govern the appropriate use of OSNs, confidentiality and disclosure of information. These guidelines should be supplemented by training of all staff. As one respondent noted, it is useful to keep in mind that there is nothing fundamentally new about OSNs; they are just an enabling technology the same way a telephone and a fax machine were. It can be helpful to look at how the organization has dealt with other new technologies in the past, since there may not be a need for entirely new strategies, policies or guidelines. Though policies and guidelines can help mitigate negative consequences of using OSNs it is still necessary to have a plan for handling negative results, accidents or missteps.

“Need pre-planned answers and rules for interactions before negative comments and situations are encountered. Have a policy for negative situations and make sure everybody understands it. Hope for the best and plan for the worst. Be clear that social media leaves you open to detractors, so have a strategy in place for handling this.”

Establishing written corporate policies and procedures from both an employee and departmental perspective is recommended. A good starting point for this effort is to look at the existing policy frameworks the organization already has for items such as security, access, usage, confidentiality and see if these can be adapted for OSN usage, rather than coming up with a whole new set of guidelines.

Training
In order to effectively use OSNs, organizations need training on best practices for OSN usage, both for new hires and for existing employees. For example, it can’t be assumed that all employees know how to use OSNs or how to use them effectively and in agreement with company policies. It may be worthwhile to create a controlled task force for the first several months to convey valuable information to employees on how to use OSN tools and what employees need to know about representing the company on OSNs. Employees need to know they are representing the company at all times on OSNs and they same rules apply online as offline. OSNs are a tool to help empower employees as advocates of a brand or an organization, but those employees need to be trained to know what the appropriate behaviours are.

Diffusion
Earlier in this study, the role of early adopters in the diffusion of new technologies was discussed. The role of champions and influencers in a roll-out of OSN usage is very important. It is critical to identify these people within the organization – as well as in other stakeholders such as customers or collaborators – and to encourage these key people to assist in rolling out the usage of OSNs. Tying performance measurement and reward systems to the successful championing of OSNs in the organization would be a good way to attract and motivate the appropriate champions inside the organization.

Measurement
Management should set expectations and measurable goals for OSN usage. For example, what percentage of the time will the employee need to utilize social media to meet sales and referrals, against the total actual sales and referrals generated in a specific time period. Consider having audit and compliance measures implemented via neutral third-party vendors who can monitor, evaluate and measure productivity and feedback from a client perspective. Most OSN activities should have some sort of customer conversion as their ultimate goal. Conversion does not have to mean a sale, but some sort of action that is desired on the part of the audience. It could be clicking though to a website, signing up for a newsletter, or simply asking for more information. With the desired conversion in mind, a better social networking strategy can be developed. All marketing campaigns that make use of OSNs should be able to be tracked and measured for success. Not all metrics surrounding the use of OSNs need to be hard and analytical though – a blend of hard and soft metrics, such as anecdotes and success stories, can be very valuable.

“Focus on basic success metrics. These need not be too analytical. If you are putting out good content, and it is reaching the right people, that can be sufficient. Anecdotal results and good stories are just as important as hard metrics.”

Are we in the middle of a visibility mania?

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Too obsessed with being seen?

Too obsessed with being seen?


The other day, I was parsing through my usual daily inflow of free webinar offers, machine-gun Tweets and other digital bombardments, and I found myself wondering whether we have drifted too far away from a fundamental focus on providing something of value to a customer, one customer at a time? Are we in fact in a visibility mania?

The dominant discussions out there seem to be about being located, ranking high in searches, and using social media for outbound ‘reach and flood’ marketing. But where do you take people once they have found you; what is the unique value you provide that makes them want to go for their wallets? There seems to be very little chatter out there about getting better at what we do, providing more service, having a true dialogue with customers, and learning from them how to provide more value.

Here are a few ideas on how we can return the focus to the customer:

  • Have a ‘Designated Listener’ on your team. The DL is there to pick up on what customers are saying, thinking and needing. This doesn’t have to be only using social media. Get out there, listen in person, use MeetUp to schedule a fun gathering for some dialogue, invest some time in a solid back-and-forth with a single customer on Facebook or in person.
  • Take your marketing local and in-person. Have some events where people can actually meet you and other customers live. I am picking up on some real fatigue out there with purely electronic relationships and social media. Let’s not forget the power of a handshake and a face-to-face chat. Bring in a speaker to stimulate some dialogue and let the discussion take off.
  • Make use of surveys and focus groups. Yeah, I know, major yawn. But these old standbys are still great ways to find out what is on customers’ minds, what is bugging them, how they like to be marketed to, and how they would in fact go about searching online for a business like yours. What keywords would they use – why guess?
  • Feature customer blogs on your site, both the complimentary ones and the grumpy ones. Invite a customer to be a guest blogger, or to be part of the design and customer service team by creating an online community that they can join. Hire a team of customers to meet with the company for a week, and tap into their insights and suggestions.
  • Competitive Intelligence by Rob Duncan

    None of these ideas are new and revolutionary, and many were in my second book, “Competitive Intelligence: Fast, Cheap & Ethical,” but they are still valid, and could help us return to doing more listening and less talking.

    I am interested in your thoughts! Please feel free to weigh in here, or by email. To explore having me meet with and speak to your team, please feel free to be in touch anytime via the contact tab on my website.

    Can we have a single, unified, authentic online persona?

    Book Review, Doctoral research, Ideas you can use, Speaking 5 Comments »
    One Person/Multiple Careers by Marci Alboher

    One Person/Multiple Careers by Marci Alboher

    In her inspiring book, One Person/Multiple Careers, Marci Alboher (a lawyer-turned-journalist/speaker/writing coach) argues that we should be unleashing, rather than hiding, the multiple career identities that many of us have. Marci’s book was the first place I heard the term “slash careers” as a description of the multiple career trajectories and multiple income streams that so many of us have. Almost everyone I know is a something/something else.

    So okay, I’m going to finally do it. I am a Speaker/actor/writer/trainer/manager/consultant/sailor. How hard was that? In the world of online social networking, it seems to be exceedingly difficult. Most people I have talked to are very ardent about keeping their various “sub-personas” very compartmentalized. Facebook is for friends/family/partying (ie. never friend the boss…), LinkedIn is for corporate life, Twitter is for… hmmm – don’t have an answer for that one yet.

    A friend/colleague and I kicked off this year by agreeing that this should be a year of authenticity – that we were going to move our various sub-personas into greater alignment, and care less about what our various “markets” think.

    This got me thinking about social networking, and how I have most of my actor/writer/sailor connections on Facebook, whereas most of my consultant/manager/trainer connections are all on LinkedIn. My speaker/author friends are one of the few crossover communities that are on both. Could I bring all of these communities together?

    Pink shirt guy

    Pink shirt guy

    As a first step, I unified all my profile images into one of my acting/speaking headshots – pink shirt guy. Before that, I was the Mr. scruffy actor/sailor on Facebook, buttoned-down Mr. Corporate on LinkedIn and pink shirt guy on Twitter. Though not all-encompassing, pink shirt guy probably does the best job of capturing the kinds of enthusiasm I feel for speaking to groups, acting on stage, a great day managing a team, teaching a course I am passionate about etc.

    I used to also have separate Web pages (Speaker, Actor, Sailor, blah blah blah). This was beyond tedious, both to maintain, and to be forever thinking about the “message” that was appropriate to go out to separate communities/markets. So I scrubbed all that and am unifying everything here under one umbrella. It’s a work in process, but a step in the right direction – toward an authentic, 360 degree view of a whole person.

    How about you? Do you have multiple personalities online, or have you been able to unify things? Are you still cautious about the self/selves you reveal to the various communities/markets you operate in, or have you decided to chuck it and present one face to the world?

    I would really be interested in your thoughts, so please weigh in here with a comment or contact me directly.

    To explore having me speak to your group or team about authenticity, social media, or other topics please contact Rob Duncan at greatcapes@gmail.com or via the Contact tab on this page.

    A mid-career doctorate… defense completed, it’s safari time!

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    Earlier this month, I went into the final of 3 defenses of my doctoral research on the role of online social networks in interfirm collaborative innovation. After 3 years of hard work, it all finally came down to one presentation…

    Into the pressure cooker…

    After 3 years of toil, it all came down to 90 minutes. I was given 60 minutes to present a summary of my thesis paper, focussing on results, conclusions and recommendations. This presentation was to the entire faculty of the business school, as well as some other doctoral students who were due to present during this round also. The final 30 minutes was a chance for the audience to ask questions and challenge me to defend various aspects of my research and the choices I had made in terms of methodology and so forth.

    Getting closer...

    Bloodied but unbowed…

    One of my mentors who has been through the process explained to me that the defense reviewers have to try to poke holes in your work – that’s their role. With that knowledge in mind, I went into the encounter ready for some heavy sport. I felt reasonably confident, but also nervous enough to be on my toes. After presenting for an hour, then fielding their questions for 30 minutes, all the students including me were asked to leave the room. As I gorged on cakes outside, I was sweating bullets while trying to make casual conversation. After an eternity (really about 20 minutes) we were invited back in for the verdict – I had passed, but had several suggested changes to make to my thesis before submitting it for external review.

    Treehouse in Kruger Park

    Still a few hurdles, but getting closer…

    I will continue working on the thesis while I travel around South Africa. This is probably the most significant milestone to have passed on the way to the doctorate, and for right now, it’s Safari Time!!

    A mid-career doctorate… into the defense!

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    One of my favourite lines from a movie is from “The Pursuit of Happyness” when the Will Smith character asks the guy with the fancy sports car two questions:

    “What do you do, and how do you do it?”

    "What do you do, and how do you do it?"

    "What do you do, and how do you do it?"

    It’s something I say to myself all the time when I see someone who has a life I kind of envy. Interestingly, its also the most common question I get asked about my mid-career doctorate. Now that the insanity argument has worn thin, and people have seen me chug through the past 3 years, to the point where my dissertation has been drafted and I am heading into my thesis defense this month, the questions now are more along the lines of “How did you do that?” Well, wait – I’m not done yet! There will still be a lot to complete, but I am hopefully getting closer.

    I encourage anyone who wants to dust their brains off and have a good cerebral workout to consider tackling a doctorate in an area they are passionate about. The later in life the better, because the more life you bring to the table, the easier and more fun it will be. Here are a few tips that can make the journey easier:

    • Support of family and friends. You will be stealing attention and vacations from these folks for several years – try to make it as painless as possible, be in the moment when you can, and make it up to them when you are able! 
    • A supportive employer. Doing your doctorate in an area that can benefit your own development, as well as that of your organization, is huge. Combining these elements with an employer that supports people development gives you a terrific advantage. 
    • A topic you are really passionate about. Trust me on this – you will be bored silly by your topic area after you have lived with it for 3+ years. If you start out being half-hearted about your topic, you probably won’t make it. Don’t adapt your interests to a mythical job market – if you are passionate about pirate ship culture and adaptability to change – then that’s what you need to research!
    • Great thesis supervisors. I have been incredibly fortunate to have very helpful, extremely responsive supervisors. You can enhance your chances of getting good supervisors by researching previous theses they have supervised, and finding supervisors with a genuine interest in in your research area.
    • A university that is built for mid-career studies. My university, the University of South Africa has been doing distance-based education since 1946, making it a real pioneer. Nelson Mandela is among its many famous graduates. The School of Business Leadership is consistently ranked among the top 3 business schools in the country, and was the first school in the world to offer the Doctor of Business Leadership degree. This kind of experience means they have learned the hard way, so you don’t have to!

    Well, that’s all for now – please wish me luck on the defense!

    A mid-career doctorate… data in hand!

    Doctoral research, Ideas you can use 2 Comments »

    Getting closer...

    I recently wrote here about why I chose to start a mid-career doctorate on collaborative innovation through online social networks. Some of my motivations included: doing original research on a practical topic I was passionate about; gaining a true leading edge on some of the subject matter I work with, speak and write about; and giving my brain a great workout.

    I have recently reached the stage where I have gathered all of my primary research data, and I can now report that this is definitely one of the most satisfying stages of the effort! I have now successfully done a survey with over 450 LinkedIn users, in-depth interviews with a dozen senior executives, and received qualitative input from many other online social network users.

    Time to crunch some data

    Though much analysis remains to be done, it is incredible to reach the stage that I call “data freedom.” With a long, multi-year project like a doctorate, the entire effort comes down to whether or not you will be able to gather the primary data you need in order to test your hypotheses and contribute new knowledge to the field. What this typically means is you invest 2 or more years of slogging through exhaustive background research, problem definition and methodology design, all the while keeping your fingers crossed that your primary data gathering approach will work.

    LinkedIn, my major data source

    With a fast-moving research area like online social networks, the risks increase over time. Using LinkedIn as my major data-gathering platform has always been my plan, yet I had to wonder what would happen if LI got bought out, shut down, or otherwise changed so much that it wouldn’t be a viable source for my data.

    Hence the major sigh of relief! I now have all I need to finish my dissertation. I could head off to a cabin in the woods or a garret in the city (and perhaps will…) and bang out the last 2 chapters of my thesis without needing to rely on anyone or anything else externally (except for the advice from my great supervisors.) To be blunt, LinkedIn could vaporize tomorrow, and I could still finish my work (though I sure hope that doesn’t happen to my favorite site!!).

    Seclusion to write...

    Another exciting part of this phase is getting to see the data itself. I can already see lots of rich information and findings in what I have gathered, and this spurs me on to finish up and start getting the knowledge out there where it can help others!

    As always, I am interested in your thoughts! Please feel free to weigh in here with a comment about your own journey through mid-career education, or other ideas. I can also be reached at rob@robduncan.com or via the Contact tab on this page.

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