The Last Course – Dessert

The Internet has changed the way we think, discover, and engage with others. The changes have had enormous impact on our ability to connect with people around the world. Friedman’s flat world concept highlights the power of technology as a mechanism for equality and commerce, yet in contrast Florida’s (2005) explanation of a spiky world highlights the disparities that exist because of technology. As leaders we must adapt to the changing technology, filter the large amounts of information, and develop others to succeed in this ever-changing environment.

Internet offers a variety of web-based tools that can help organize, filter, and priorities the massive amounts of information and connections that we work with daily. Tools such as Yammer, Facebook, and Twitter can help create community that fosters greater connections and communication. A professor at Baylor University found that students that joined a class Facebook page had a more positive experience and greater academic success than the students who did not participate in the social media group. This example highlights the advantages of connecting people through web-based tools.

This course has highlighted the many tools and systems available through technology to foster internal and external communications. These forms of communication come with risks that need managed. Leaders need to consider ethical issues such as copyright, cyber bullying, and cheating. Leaders need to work with followers in a team environment to set policies that maximize the benefits of technology and limit the abuse of technology while focusing on the mission of the organization and the greater good.

As leaders we must also be mindful of the disparities that exist regarding technology. The lack of access and skills can inhibit someone’s ability to prosper and succeed. This means providing access to the Internet for those that do not have access and providing training and professional develop to build technology skills and capacity for future success. Schwartz explains the importance of access and participation in the education system. Leaders have a role to play in advocating for equality when it comes to technology.

Moving forward I plan to use social media connections, blogs, professional organizations, and a team approach to keep up on the changing world of technology and the effects of those changes on my organization and the greater society. This course will help me ask better questions, adapt to change, develop others, and foster open communication in a digital world. I look forward to the next “bite” in digital dining! I hope you enjoyed the “food”.

Reference:

Florida, R. (2005). The world is spiky. Globalization has changed the economic playing field, but hasn’t leveled it 2005: 48-51. The Atlantic Monthly.

Bring Everyone to the Table

Technology is changing faster than anyone can keep up with it. Changing technology affects people, families, organizations, and communities.

As a registered dietitian, it was interesting to note that very few of the emerging technologies listed on the Wikipedia site address the topic of health and wellness. I was also struck at how the video about A Day with Google Glasses and the Corning’s A Day Made of Glass video both involved eating (fixing breakfast and going to a coffee shop) yet the emerging technologies had no relationship to the eating behaviors. Are their technologies that can help improve our diet quality?

A team of researches at the university that I work for is working on a technology that would allow people to take a picture of their food with their phone camera and then get information on total calories and nutrients in the food. This technology would measure volume of food and type of food and then search and extensive database of foods to calculate actual calories and nutrients. When eating is complete, they could take a picture of any remaining food on the plate and the technology would subtract the calories and nutrients from the uneaten portion to come up with a precise calculation of energy intake. Is it likely that this emerging technology will improve the diet quality of individuals and improve overall health? My guess is no – but it could help people manage chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer.  

Managing and leading in times of change requires adaptive leadership. According to Burke (2011), leadership matters in organizational change. Thus, leaders must plan and anticipate changing technology. Flexible and adaptable are key to success, because regardless of how much planning occurs, rarely does anything turn out as planned (Burke, 2011). What is important is keeping focused on the mission.

Using a team approach is my method for keeping up with technology and focus on the mission. The first step in this approach is to develop and build a uniquely diverse team and to build trust within that team. Each member of my team has unique talents and skills that contribute to our success. In regards to technology, members contribute in various ways including: being a first adaptor whom always has the newest digital device, being a communicator whom talks with others about how and why they use new tools, being an analyzer whom researches new technologies, and being a late adopter whom questions the use of any new technology. The diverse team members bring unique perspectives and knowledge to our ongoing conversation about how we embrace change, technology, innovation and collaboration while maintaining focus on our mission.

I plan to bring everyone to the table to consider how we stay current and adapt to technology changes. Please join me for dinner!

Reference:

Burke, W. (2011). Organization change theory and practice (3rd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Digital Media and Copyright like a good diet – it is all about the Balance!

One key to a healthy diet is balance. It is important to balance dietary intake to maximize health. The same is true of copyright and intellectual property laws as it relates to digital media – balance is the key!

Digital media and the Internet have created a faster more convenient way for others to quickly copy or distribute another person’s work. Copyright and intellectual property have always been issues. The Internet provides a platform that makes unauthorized use of materials and ownership of materials very complicated.

Copyright is a federal law that gives authors of any tangible medium the exclusive rights to publish, copy, and distribute their creations for a limited time. Intellectual property is any product of human intellect that is protected by law from being used by others without permission.

As leaders it is important to understand the basics of the copyright and intellectual property laws. It is important to understand how to use someone else’s creation and how to protect our own materials so others do not take unfair advantage of the material or profit from our work. As an employee of a public institution of higher education, copyright and intellectual property policies are in place.

My role at the university is to help community-based educators extend the knowledge and resources of Purdue University to the residents of Indiana. We expect our community-based educators to respect others intellectual property. Before they use any educational materials they must seek the proper permissions from the author/owners and emphasize copyright on the educational materials we create. We work hard to disseminate the knowledge of the university so we often give permission or licensing to use the educational materials we create.

The challenge with copyright and intellectual property laws is that they have not caught up with digital technologies. Copyright and intellectual property laws can be barriers in getting valuable information and educational resources to communities. According to McGeveran and Fisher (2006), digital technology provides exciting opportunities for educational purposes but significant obstacles confront the educational content available through these technologies.

The McGeveran and Fisher (2006) white paper highlights the following copyright-related obstacles to educational uses of content:

  • Unclear or inadequate copyright law relating to crucial provisions such as fair use and educational use;
  • Extensive adoption of digital rights management technology to lock up content;
  • Practical difficulties obtaining rights to use content when licenses are necessary;
  • Undue caution by gatekeepers such as publishers or educational administrators.

So as leaders we must help find a balance between protecting intellectual property and disseminating valuable information that can and will improve the quality of life in a community.

One tool that seems to help with the balance between protecting intellectual property in the digital world and yet providing a platform for sharing your work with others for the greater good is Creative Commons. Creative Commons lets the author manage their copyright terms. Those copyright terms are then shared on websites for other users to see and act on.

Digital media is an opportunity that should support intellectual property of authors with the copyright access to encourage others to use and enjoy the media developed.

Reference:

McGeveran, W., & Fisher, W. W. (2006). The digital learning challenge: obstacles to educational uses of copyrighted material in the digital age. Berkman Center Research Publication, (2006-09).

The luncheon meeting is planned – see you there!

Networked workers bring many assets to organizations including communication, collaboration, and productivity. For example, a networked worker with a smartphone can plan a business luncheon without ever leaving home. The worker can communicate with potential luncheon participants via e-mail, instant message, text, and social media to gage interest, select a location, set a time, and plan the agenda. The networked worker can reserve a meeting room in a restaurant, send calendar requests with a link to Google maps for the location, send a link to the on-line menu for participants to pre-select their meal and drink that will be ready when they arrive. The development of the meeting agenda by those attending can be done using a shared workspace such as Google docs and Dropbox. This example is possible because networked workers can use new technologies to quickly communicate, to effectively collaborate, and to be more productive.

The ability to communicate faster with multiple people at the same time increases productivity and provides a consistent message. According to McKinsey Global Institute the increase in productivity of networked workers could be as great as 20 to 25 percent by using social technologies. Collaborations are smoother because everyone is involved in the conversation and has an opportunity to provide input.

The networked worker can use these new technologies and tools to balance work and home (and school) responsibilities. For me the opportunity to pursue my doctorate degree would not be possible without these new technologies. I am writing this blog while on vacation with my family. Technology offers me the opportunity to meet the demands of work, school, and family. If I had a job that required me to be at the office for certain hours everyday of the week, and a doctoral program that required me to be in class at a certain time on certain days of the week, and busy kids to run around to various activities, I would not be able to balance the demand of all three.

The opportunities that networked workers bring to organizations also some come with a “side” of challenges. Two challenges of the networked worker for an organization are decrease in personal face-to-face interactions and the increase in the amount of information to interpret and manage. Many of the modern forms of communication such as email, social media, and text messages replace the need for face-to-face interaction. There are many times during the week when I get e-mails, text messages, and instant messages that could have been avoided by simply picking up the phone (or walking down the hall) and talking with me face-to-face for a couple of minutes. Face-to-face interactions are also important in building strong relationships and dealing with conflict. Social media is an easy format to voice concerns and type words that you would not say to someone face-to-face. Thus, leaders need to prevent and manage issues like harassment and bullying through social technologies with policies and consequences for those that use these new technologies in inappropriate ways.

The other challenge is the amount of information to be managed. The increase in communication and collaboration equates to greater amounts of information such as emails, social media sites, blogs, and intranets to read, process, and respond. Network workers have a hard time keeping up with all of the information and collaborations. As the Top 10 Online Colleges explains, networked workers need the ability to filter information for importance because if they don’t they might miss the next business luncheon!  

The Menu has Changed but the Food Remains the Same

Have you ever visited your favorite restaurant and noticed that the menu was new – but when the food came to the table – it was the same food that was offered on the old menu? This is the way I feel about how the web has changed my workplace. I work in an organization that is 100 years old. We deliver research-based information to communities to improve quality of life. Our mission remains the same but the tools that we use to research, develop, and deliver education programs in communities have significantly changed over the last 100 years.

The most significant impact in my workplace is the way we communicate. The web provides the platform for email, webinars, chat rooms, surveys, and social media just to name a few. These platforms are used for various forms of communication including one-on-one communication, one-to-many, and many-to-many (Shirky, 2008). Interactions with stakeholders, employees, and other professionals using the web increase the opportunities for collaboration and decrease former barriers including the financial costs associated with travel, phone calls, and postage. As a leader, this shift in communication requires a shift in the skills of employees. Organizations now need communication specialist and information technology specialist to develop, train, manage, and evaluate communication strategies to meet the needs of internal and external stakeholders. The constant change of the technology requires a flexible workforce that can quickly adapt to the changing environment.

The new tools are often criticized as barriers to getting the job done but I would disagree. They are just new and different distractions. Jason Fried has a great TED Talk about how we all waste time in the office regardless of the influence of the web and makes the point that these various tools on the web are no greater distraction than many of the distractions we had prior to the web. If you manage people and go to lots of meetings, I highly recommend watching his video for some interesting tips about being more productive.

The benefit of increase collaboration through the web leads to higher quality educational products using less staff resources and a greater turnaround time from bench science to the community. The collaborative environment provides an opportunity for learning, sharing and vetting of ideas for research and programs in communities regardless of geographic location and socioeconomic status. In an educational setting this environment can be very productive but it does come with barriers. If my organization collaborates with 50 other professionals from around the world to develop a new educational product and then we turn around and sell the product in our on-line educational store, whom should profit from the product? Shriky (2008) explains that financial context is one barrier to successful collaborations.

Shriky’s TED talk highlights the lack of control that organizations and leaders have to shape the story and messaging of an organization. He also explains that openness is just a new form of debate. As leaders we have a responsibility to use the openness and collaborative nature of the web to move society toward the greater good. “Open” is the new reality. The challenge for leaders is channeling the noise on the web toward positive societal impact.

We have a lot on our plates – enjoy!

Reference:

Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organizations. Penguin.

I often have lunch with a “pile of pebbles”!

Leaders are in the business of knowledge management and the use of digital media helps and hinders that management process. The observation about the use of email to manage knowledge made by a software usability expert, Merlin Mann, resonated with me in this weeks reading.

“Email is such a funny thing. People hand you these single little messages that are no heavier than a river pebble. But it doesn’t take long until you have acquired a pile of pebbles that’s taller than you and heavier than you could ever hope to move, even if you wanted to do it over a few dozen trips. But for the person who took the time to hand you their pebble, it seems outrageous that you can’t handle that one tiny thing. “What pile? It’s just a pebble!” (as cited in Shirky, 2008, p.94-95)

I often find myself having lunch with a pile of pebbles because the volume of email that I get as an administrator everyday. On the positive side, I get to read volumes of content and then filter the specific information that meets my needs. On the negative side, much of the content is not of high quality because the senders know that I can quickly and easily ask for additional information or delete the information. As a leader who wants to connect with colleagues, I am unable to respond in a timely and effective manner to all email and this causes me great frustration. Email fits the concept described by Shirky (2008) as publish, and then filter. In this case my co-workers publish and I filter.

As a former media dietitian, it has been fascinating to watch information flow move from broadcast media to social media. In 1997, I started doing “media tours” with all of the major media markets in Indiana. The objective of the media tour was to broadcast five to seven key nutrition messages through radio, television, and newspapers. These messages were pitched to the media as timely and unique stories that would have broad audience appeal. My goal was to deliver those five to seven messages into every media outlet within a one week time period. The idea here is if people hear the messages multiple times through multiple channels (television, radio, and print) they would begin to remember the message. This form of communication was one way and I got credit for the number of times I got the message delivered. In this model of delivering nutrition messages we chose very specific messages that had been through rigorous message testing to ensure that people understood the message we wanted them to hear.

I am no longer a media dietitian, but I still manage nutrition information (knowledge) just in different ways. My role now is to facilitate groupthink the way Dixon explains inclusion of cognitively diverse perspectives. I bring researchers, educators, practitioners, and clients together around community health needs using various tools including webinars, social media, email, and face-to-face meetings to consider nutrition and health issues and strategies for improvement. This flow of information does not test messages and push them to an audience; instead this method brings various expertise and experience together and builds knowledge based on various perspectives and inputs. The web-based tools make it possible for various stakeholders to form together regardless of location or expertise.

The web has created an opportunity to publish than filter through social media and other web-based tools. It seems that knowledge management should take advantage of this opportunity to bring diverse groups together around specific issues to have unfiltered conversations in an effort to better understand each other and the issues. As a leader in a large organization with various geographic locations, the use of web-based tools can facilitate these important conversations. The use of Yammer (the tool I researched last week) seems a perfect fit to facilitate the collective knowledge in my organization. If we moved to Yammer, perhaps I could join the conversation at lunch instead of having lunch with a pile of pebbles!

Reference:

Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organizations. Penguin.

Private Dining? Yammer is on the menu.

Yammer is a private social network that is owned by Microsoft. The tool is designed to encourage communication and sharing within an organization or business using a similar format as Facebook. Users sign-up using their company assigned e-mail address. The e-mail is tied to a common domain that verifies access into the network and connects all users from the same organizations. The network does not allow others into the network or access to the network unless they are given special permission by the organization. It could be considered a private Facebook for inside organizations.

The interface operates much like Facebook. Users can “like”, “reply”, and “share” comments and have private chats with others in the network through an instant message feature. Users can choose to make a comment to the whole organization, or use the tool to form work groups and communicate just to a specific group or sub-section of the organization. The service can be accessed from a desktop or mobile devices through downloadable apps.

Yammer allows the use of hashtags that can be used to quickly find information about common topics and has an easy to use searchable database of all user within an organization. The system allows users to list skills that can be searched. Much like e-mail and other social networking sites, Yammer uses a timeline approach, so the most recent and pertinent information is at the top of the news feed. Yammer is free for basic services, but for upgrades in services and support businesses pay a fee per user per month charge ranging from $8 per user per month to upwards of $20 per user per month.

Purdue Extension is looking at various ways to improve internal communications and increase productivity among employees that work in all levels of the organization. Yammer could provide a platform to encourage internal communication and collaboration and reduce the amount of time spent on e-mail. As a leader, Yammer could provide an opportunity to hear from all levels of the organization. As topics or question arise, the Yammer platform could provide an avenue for co-workers to chime in with answers, suggestions, or more questions and leaders an opportunity to make changes to training, programs, or policies based on feedback and conversations. For Purdue Extension the skills feature of Yammer could be very helpful in answering stakeholder questions. For example, if a county-based Extension Educator received a question from a local stakeholder about food safety, the county-based Extension Educator could search for people with the skill of food safety and quickly connect with the experts in food safety to answer the stakeholder’s question.

The use of hashtags would help avoid duplications and save time if the Extension professional used the hashtags to categorize information. For example, if the agriculture educators were seeing an insect on the corn crop in southern Indiana, they could post pictures of the insect and have specialist from the Purdue campus identify the insect. As other Extension professionals in other counties noticed the insect or had stakeholders asking questions about insects on the corn crop than they would be ready to answer questions and suggestion interventions to reduce crop damage.

Because extension professionals are spread across the state of Indiana in various locations, Yammer could help build social capital within the organization. Employees could connect on common issues, successes, and challenges. Yet, I wonder if everyone in the organization would embrace the tool. Would the tool just be used by those already connected through other social media tools or would the tool encourage greater collaboration and dialogue?

The tool may not be the best place to collaborate on documents, it seems it is best for conversations. As a leader I worry about how many employees will actually use the platform. Will the tool become viral and everyone will want to participate or will employees see it as another system they have to check daily? How would we minimize gossip and focus on business conversations? Would the tool bring people together who are first adapters of technology and further separate those that prefer traditional communication?

Despite my questions and the potential downsides of Yammer, I think Yammer is worth considering for internal communications. I would be interested to know if you are currently using Yammer in your workplace and the pros and cons you have experienced.

In addition to Yammer, I am very interested in learning more about Poll Everywhere and WebEx. Poll Everywhere seems a good fit for Purdue Extension because we work with adult learners and are always looking for interactive ways to engage with audiences and learn from their experiences. Purdue is currently considering a contract with WebEx for webinar and video conferencing services. We have been using Adobe Connect and Lync for webinars and video conferencing and have had mixed results depending on the number of participants and the amount of interaction among the participants. Webinars and video conferencing is used daily in Extension work, thus the need for high quality, reliable, and user friendly tools to meet and engage with co-workers and stakeholders daily is essential to our work.