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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.

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

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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!

Our new book – Improv to Improve your Business: Using the principles of improvisation to foster communication, creativity & innovation

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Now available on AMAZON!

I was thrilled to be involved in this collaborative writing project, in which co-authors Brent Brooks, Rick Crain, Leah Henderson, Jim Hogan, Vanessa Lowry, Deborah Thomas, Scott Williford, Mark Wyssbrod and I all contributed chapters. Working from the “ten commandments of improv,” each of us wove a chapter story about how the techniques of improvisation have helped each of us in our business careers, and how they can help you. The ten commandments of improv that are woven throughout the book are:

Book: Improv to Improve your Business

Book: Improv to Improve your Business

Trust.

Agree on stage.

Listen.

Don’t be funny.

Avoid questions.

Be average.

Stay in the moment.

Mistakes are good.

Make others look good.

Have fun!

It was terrific to work with such funny and talented co-authors, and I know that you will find this book as much fun to read as it was to write! Watch for Improv to Improve your Business: Using the principles of improvisation to foster communication, creativity & innovation on Amazon early in 2011. Advance media enquiries and booking speaking events on this topic can be arranged by emailing me at greatcapes@gmail.com, or following the contact tab on this page.

Why good leaders have to leave the teams they build

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Leaders come in two broad flavors: 1) self confident ones, and 2) insecure ones. The self confident ones build teams, empower those teams, develop leadership within the team and then move on to their next challenge. The insecure ones micro-manage, insert themselves needlessly into processes, and cling to their authority role under the guise of being ‘indispensable.’

The best leaders have one overarching goal: to make themselves dispensable. They achieve this through a number of tactics:

  • Hire good people – better, smarter, faster than themselves wherever possible.
  • Performance manage the weaker performers, while putting the bulk of their energies into the higher achievers.
  • Create a culture of experimentation and innovation, where trial and error are celebrated.
  • Promote the achievements of everybody on the team, while taking minimal credit for themselves.
  • Support the team from the background, letting others take center stage.
  • Consciously develop team leadership by pushing responsibility downward, and developing everyone’s leadership ability, not just that of their clones.

It may seem counter-intuitive to try to make yourself dispensable, but that is exactly what the best leaders and team builders do. In my first book, Haul Away! Teambuilding Lessons from a Voyage around Cape Horn, I interviewed the captain of the Europa, a 400 ton tall ship, who had started his career in a one-person rowboat, and who explained his philosophy of becoming a leader:

Captain and crew of the tall ship Europa

Captain and crew of the tall ship Europa

I personally never ‘sought command.’ I started my career in a small boat, where you are the skipper by default. Over time, the boats got bigger, I got older, and my experience grew.

The lesson here is that leaders need to build and empower teams, and then move onto that ‘bigger boat,’ so they can do it all over again. The smart organizations are the ones who recognize the need for good team builders to keep moving and growing, leaving a legacy of successful teams and newly-developed leaders in their wake.

Haul Away! Teambuilding Lessons from a Voyage around Cape Horn

Haul Away! Teambuilding Lessons from a Voyage around Cape Horn

To learn more, or to explore having me speak to your group or team about leadership, please contact Rob Duncan at greatcapes@gmail.com or via the Contact tab on this page.

The core business of a good manager

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Rob Duncan in South Africa
10,000 miles away, my team is doing a great job!

The other day, someone asked me what the core business of a good manager should be. It was an excellent question, and one that I feel a great amount of passion for. I took a few moments and tried to distill my thoughts into a brief set of principles. So here goes – my list of the things a good manager must do well:

1. Work with the senior executive and the team to set the team objectives.

2. Organize the right people to tackle those objectives.

3. Listen, teach and coach. Don’t micro-manage.

4. Remove barriers to success for the team wherever possible.

5. Absorb a lot of the noise and stress from above and outside so the team is freed up to achieve its goals.

6. Report on successes and challenges, objectives and outcomes.

I am interested in your lists and thoughts as well. Please get in touch and let me know what you think. Feel free to comment here or be in touch with me privately via the Contact tab on this page. I am also available to speak to your teams and groups on this topic – one that I am very passionate about!

A mid-career doctorate… data in hand!

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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.

The “do-not-do” list for good leaders

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I had a very enjoyable breakfast chat this morning with my good friend Alejandro, and the subject of a “do-not-do” list came up. Unlike a to-do list, the do-not-do list is a reminder to ourselves of the things that we either don’t want to be doing or shouldn’t be doing.

Do-not-do list

Do-not-do list

This got me thinking about leaders, and the many things they should not be doing. I wonder if all leaders shouldn’t keep their do-not-do lists handy at all times. What would be on such a list? Here are a few ideas, and I hope you will weigh in with your own comments and additions:

A do-not-do list for good leaders

  • Do not do anything that one of your staff could do. Hoarding the work and failing to effectively delegate is a critical flaw, especially for new managers. It may be true that you can do the best job on several tasks, but that isn’t why they pay you the big bucks. Your job as a leader is to apportion the work fairly among your staff, to develop and stretch the talents of your team, to have your eye on the big picture, and to lobby for your team’s success. The first question to cross your mind when a new task comes in should be “Who else could do this?” If you have more than 3 items on your personal to-do list, you probably aren’t delegating enough – time to reassess and reassign.
  • Do not be a perfectionist. Delegation is one of the scariest things a manager does, as it often flies in the face of what got the leader promoted in the first place. Leaders often progress upwards because they are very hard on themselves, and are sticklers for producing good work. It can be gut-wrenching at times for perfectionists to release a task to someone else, knowing what they will get back is only 80-90% of the quality they could do themselves. Get over it! It is much easier to help refine the work of a dozen team members who have made a good effort at a dozen tasks than it is to hoard the work and add it to your growing to-do list.
  • Do not micro-manage. Nobody likes being micro-managed. Leadership is about engendering and modelling trust and accountability. Be clear on what the task being assigned is, how it fits into a bigger context (why it is important), what resources are available to help get it done, and when it is required. Then GO AWAY! You can check in if you sense that something is going off the rails, but otherwise, just back off. We hire highly-qualified and motivated people who are good at what they do – let them do it, without interfering or being overly controlling. When you micro-manage someone, you are telegraphing the message that you don’t trust them to get things done, which is very unmotivating, and is also a poor use of your time.
Rob Duncan at the Helm

You can't steer the boat and micro-manage it too

What do you think? Feel free to comment on this post and share your own “do-not-do” items.

To learn more, or to explore having me speak to your group or team about leadership and related topics, please contact Rob Duncan at greatcapes@gmail.com or via the Contact tab on this page.

Leadership lessons from the 2010 Olympics, part 2

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Rob Duncan in front of the Olympic rings in Coal Harbour

Rob Duncan in front of the Olympic rings in Coal Harbour

As the games unfold, I can already see a few things that were obviously done right, and could be emulated by other leaders. Here are a few ideas:

Early warning: Vancouverites were warned early and often that nothing would be as normal during the run-up to the games and while the games were on. This extended to closing traffic lanes, which was done on a seemingly random basis in the weeks before the games started. The message was clear – get out of your cars, take transit or stay home! Leaders who anticipate disruption can smooth the way by feeding the warnings out there early, and by lowering positive expectations, as was done in the case of traffic control.

Creative catastrophising: By putting every negative outcome out there as a possibility, in the bleakest possible terms, from traffic gridlock to cost overruns, the real events can only pale by comparison. In my west end neighbourhood, we were expecting to be invaded by a quarter million people swarming our streets and taking over our cafes and restaurants. Buck up, get out of town or huddle at home was the message. In the end, there have only been a few more people here than usual, traffic is lighter if anything, and I have had no trouble getting a coffee from my favourite haunts. By allowing maximum catastrophic thinking to take root, people end up pricing-in the worst outcomes, and can only be pleasantly surprised by reality.

Appealing to collective pride: I haven’t met a Vancouverite yet, who hasn’t responded to the call to showcase the best aspects of our city and country. In my famously antisocial neighbourhood, people are actually smiling at one another, and having the small, pleasant, inconsequential snatches of conversation at streetcorners that I associate more with New York than here. In the last few days, I have seen people stooping to pick up bits of trash off other people’s lawns, and a sense of civic pride that I haven’t seen for a long time. I suspect all leaders can gain by making major challenges into a point of collective pride!

Please feel free to weigh in with your opinions and ideas. Or to explore having me speak to your group or team about leadership, please contact Rob Duncan at greatcapes@gmail.com or via the Contact tab on this page.

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