The New Visionaries: Interview with Scott Hebner

I was more than happy to be able to get Scott Hebner of IBM to dedicate a slice of his time to chat with me about his — and IBM’s — thinking about social business.

Proving the world is a small place, once again, I was having a conversation with Kat Mandelstein of PWC the other day regarding Chautauqua, the open community exploring the future of work and advocating new ways to work together, and I learned that she had worked for Scott some years ago, when she was with IBM.

Scott Hubner

Scott Hubner

About Scott

Scott has has over two decades in enterprise software market development, product management, and marketing, across a broad range of technology segments. Since July 2013 he has been  the VP of Social Business Solutions at IBM, and earlier has had lead roles for IBM’s Tivoli, Rational, Websphere, and related solutions.

The Interview

Stowe Boyd: In a recent report (you cited in a Forbes post) 62% of businesses are expanding their investments in social business, and you correlated that with their technology investment, which is now understood to to be the single most important factor in company success. But the investments in social business are not solely technology, right?

Scott Hebner: That’s absolutely right. Social business is not just about the technology and tools, but the intangibles, culture, psychology, sociology, behavior. If you think about it, all businesses are becoming social business whether they realize it or not, as a by product of people using social technologies in and out of work. The enterprise is becoming transparent like never before as organizational siloes break down and everyone now on the front lines with customers. Thus, when an organizations commits to harnessing the power of social business, its invests in its people, how they share knowledge, how they build differentiated expertise, how they best harness relationships. Organizations are are now prioritizing mutual trust, empowerment, responsiveness and authenticity as key attributes of a modern enterprise. In fact, 65% are now updating their organizational designs, policies, operating principles and business processes to best empower their people while protecting the enterprise.

• We’re witnessing a significant evolutionary stage in social business. Social started as tools that would help to increase collaboration internally, across an organization. Marketers immediately recognized the benefits of using social to reach new customers and markets. But now, we’re seeing social unlock new engines of innovation across an enterprise, every business process and department. Social has become the new intelligence for driving business outcomes. – Scott Hebner •

We’re finding that by investing in social business, companies are evolving their organizational design to embody a new style of leadership that facilitates a more collaborative, responsive, transparent and authentic way to work and engage with customers. They’re creating cultures of mutual trust which empowers people to engage and act, guided by social governance policies that employees understand, comply with and respect. Social is so much more than tools and technology, it’s people.

SB: How does this new culture of trust manifest itself? Some companies have decided to let employees decide on their own where and at what hours to work, for example, or how much vacation time to take. Is that the sort of result you’d expect from increased trust?

SH: We, here at IBM, have been focused on becoming a social business ourself and learned a lot about this area. Interesting enough, the first question we are often asked is about our policy and governance approach as people realize this is a fundamentally new way to work. In this new world, organizations are becoming more transparent for sure. With transparency come the need to trust your employees and build a highly authentic culture. In this new culture, however, trust certainly isn’t a free-for-all. There needs to be clearly defined policies and governance models to ensure that people are empowered while concurrently protecting the enterprise. A great example of this is IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines. Almost a decade ago, IBMers used a wiki to create a set of guidelines for all IBMers who wanted to blog. These guidelines aimed to provide helpful, practical advice to protect both IBM bloggers and IBM.

The guidelines have been reexamined over the years in light of ever-evolving technologies and online social tools to ensure they remain current to the needs of employees and the company. These efforts have broadened the scope of the existing guidelines to include all forms of social computing.

Each year IBMers are required to review and agree to this set of guidelines, providing a regular reminder of IBM’s encouragement and IBMers’ responsible involvement today in this rapidly growing environment of relationship, learning and collaboration.

SB: How would you characterize the state of practice today for social business? Are most companies still in the initial stages of becoming social? Do you have an easy-to-understand model of social business maturity?

SH:We’re witnessing a significant evolutionary stage in social business. Social started as tools that would help to increase collaboration internally, across an organization. Marketers immediately recognized the benefits of using social to reach new customers and markets. But now, we’re seeing social unlock new engines of innovation across an enterprise, every business process and department. Social has become the new intelligence for driving business outcomes. For example, human resource professionals are using social combined with analytics to optimize workforce talent. Social business is really becoming business as usual. The use of social has now evolved from a medium of personal interaction to an indispensable tool of business and commercial engagement. With 66% participating in professional communities, 81 percent engaging in a brand conversations and 61 percent evaluating what others think and do, people are improving how they work and make decisions.

In terms of maturity, we’re still seeing a pretty significant discrepancy between leading social businesses and those organizations are just dipping their toes in. That being said, social is the future of how the modern enterprise will work. We live in a social world. With two billion social connections and over three billion expressions per day, social is fueling the emergence of a knowledge economy. Social business maturity is never fully realized but there is a distinct path and it centers around your people. Empowering your people by activating a digital ecosystem for both customers and employees. Understanding your people by applying analytics and acting upon this new social data. And lastly, trusting your people, pervasively harnessing a transparent and authentic way of working. By mastering these areas organizations will thrive as holistic social businesses.

SB: Ginni Rometty, the CEO of IBM, said ‘Understand the social network not as your new water cooler, but as your new production line.’ That’s the sort of insight that we should expect from the CEOs of companies further along the adoption path, right?

SH: We certainly think so. Social is truly the new production line for the knowledge age. It may have started as a way to increase collaboration, but today social is so much more. Think about it, knowledge is being created and shared at unprecedented rates. Its a gold mine just waiting to be tapped by leaders. It’s enabling employees to learn rapidly, build distinctive expertise and then share that expertise within specialized communities to help solve business challenges. It’s fueling client-centric innovation by crowdsourcing ideas and resources. It’s expanding customer sales, loyalty and advocacy through exceptional digital experiences, providing access to expertise, collective knowledge and personalized value.

• Understand the social network not as your new water cooler, but as your new production line. – Ginni Rometty, IBM CEO •

Our CxO survey of 4000+ across the globe was titled “The Customer Activated Enterprise” because the c-suite, including CEOs, are recognizing the shift toward more open, social and collaborative models of business operation that bring employees and customers together in entirely new ways. It is people, after all, that are the engines of innovation.

SB: The network effects of communications technologies are well known. An office worker get immediate benefits from a stapler even if others in the office don’t have them. But to get value from a fax machine, a cell phone, or an enterprise social network solution you need others to get on board the innovation for it to have any value, and as more do so, the value of the communication network goes up exponentially. And at some critical asymptote in the adoption curve, something profound happens, and the world changes. We’ve seen that with email, cell phones, and today with smart devices. Do you think we will see that turning point in the world of business? Will social revolutionize the way we work, and if so, when?

SH: The revolution is underway. With the open nature of today’s business environment, where 70 percent of employees are engaged in social activities both internally and externally, organizations are working differently. Importantly, the use of social has now evolved to an indispensable tool of business and commercial engagement. With 66 percent participating in professional communities, 81 percent engaging in a brand conversations and 61 percent evaluating what others think and do, people are improving how they work and make decisions. In the end, social technologies are changing the nature of the business processes that both consumers and employees rely on. It’s humanizing them, it’s feeding them with behavioral and sentimental data, and its simplifying them.

By 2020, because of the pervasive adoption of social technologies, new systems of people-centric engagement will be mainstream; successful enterprises are now able to tap into shared insight, collective knowledge and expertise at the individual level to empower more meaningful engagement with both employees and customers.

SB: I agree that it is a revolution, which also means that it’s being pursued by a movement. And I necessarily think that also means a break with at least some parts of 20th century notions of business. As I recently wrote, a lot of what goes on today in business is not only broken, but dangerous.

SH: Certainly, just as the internet changed the economics of information and business models, social business is making a significant mark on the way business operates and consumers buy. It’s truly reengineering the way work gets done, but in an incremental manner.

It’s amazing when you think that just a few years ago social was pretty much exclusively viewed as a tool for students and teens to connect with one another. But today, some 65+ percent of workers are engaged in professional communities and commercial activities. With the explosion of mobile devices, the power of analytics and new cloud delivery models, what we have is a perfect storm of industry trends that make this the time for social to really impact the business world. And the role that social plays is the amplification of human capability. People. The sociology and psychology of people is changing. And people make up workforces and marketplace.

Enterprises now participate in digital ecosystems which are fusing marketplaces and workforces in entirely new ways. It’s natural, therefore, for enterprises to have to evolve their operating designs.

SB: Thanks for your insights, Scott.

SH: Thanks for having me, Stowe.

The New Visionaries: Anatole Varin

I first chatted with Anatole through a very sensible backdoor the company left in Qortex, the work management tool, that allows users to give feedback and ask questions of Qortex’s staff. After a few messages back and forth we arranged a demo, and I was impressed with the tool and the solid thinking and smart design that was behind it. I recently reviewed some of Qortex’s features (see Work management vendors adding more structure and speed to their tools).

anatole

Anatole Varin

About Anatole Varin

Anatole is the founder and director of the Plant, the Tokyo-based company behind Qortex. Anatole has lived in Japan for the past 15 years. Prior to starting the Plant, he was a university professor, co-founded GaijinPot and GPlusMedia and was a one-man development team for their first 5 years.

The Interview

Stowe Boyd: What’s the story behind Qortex?

Anatole Varin: Both our teams as well as our clients are spread out internationally and we often struggled with communications and project management in this environment. First we tried so-called “best in class” web applications such as wiki platforms, chat clients, cloud storage, and corporate social networks. However, we were not satisfied with the options and decided we would try to crack the social collaboration and project management problem in our own way.

SB: You are following some good examples, like 37signals who built Basecamp for the same reasons. Were you aware of that?

With most social network platforms sharing and talking is most of what happens, it’s like water down a river. It flows past you and for a second you notice it, then it’s out of sight and out of mind. There’s no next step.AV: Yes, I’m a fan of 37signals, their products, and philosophies. I would say that we share a somewhat “old fashioned” business approach in the sense that we think that making a product that solves a real nagging problem delivering real productivity is a viable business model.

SB: Aren’t there enough work management tools in the world already?

AV: In some sense, there are too many, but many of them specialize in a small section of things people might want to do on such a platform. Due to this we first ended up having to use several platforms to even cover the basics we needed for efficient online collaboration and then we ran into these problems: All the data was scattered over many platforms, so we didn’t know where to find information or where to share it. Different types of communication like chat, posts, wiki happened in separate silos, and it wasn’t easy to move information from one to the other.

With most social network platforms sharing and talking is most of what happens, it’s like water down a river. It flows past you and for a second you notice it, then it’s out of sight and out of mind. There’s no next step. On these platforms sharing is treated as an end in itself, but in real business sharing is a means to an end. And that end can be many things, like discussion in your team, working together on a document — like a blog entry, a press release or an estimate for a new big project, or documentation of processes — or asking people to do something, then following up on the execution and reviewing the work.

SB: By saying ‘There’s no next step’ you are making the case that there needs to be more than just status updates in a work management tool. There have to be objects that represent tasks, decisions, and actions to be taken, right? This is the notion of purposeful work that Jive has been advancing.

AV: Yes, exactly. I’d add to this that eliminating or reducing the thresholds for taking the next action is an essential point to consider. Any friction here will result in fewer people asking the right people the right questions or taking the next actions. This leads to more misunderstandings, wasted time, money lost, frustrations, and inferior results.

SB: I’d say the Qortex is a work management tool with a strong orientation toward what I call co-curation: the sort of use that others might call knowledge management or social intranet. Is that a fair characterization?

AV: Yes I would say so, but with the General Availability release we extend the functionality to cover other areas that were highly requested by our beta users, such as, project management, including estimates and time tracking, and strong multilingual features to facilitate easy and quick translation of content into other languages. We’re starting with machine translation and will support human translation and related workflows, soon.

Every post can be treated as a presentation. Just check that option and Qortex will create a new slide after every headline, for each section in the text. This is a quick and easy way to prepare a deck of slides for internal purposes without having to export anything or learn more complex presentation software.SB: When we first spoke, I think it was me that said your product has some subtle design features that really make using the product easier. Could you give some examples?

AV: That starts with things as simple — and seemingly obvious — as giving every entry a title, so that later when you want to scan through a list of entries, you won’t have to read the whole text to find the right one quickly.

Qortex only shows you what you haven’t seen/read yet. That means, if there are two new, unread comments, and 13 older comments to an entry, you will only see the content for the two new comments by default, while the older comments and the entry body text are collapsed. This way there’s less “noise” and you know what you see is what you are supposed to look at.

Qortex only sends you email updates when you are not logged in on the browser, and any entries you read in mail will be marked read on the browser, too. So you always know where to take up reading from. That’s our “Read Once” Tracker.

Every post can be treated as a presentation. Just check that option and Qortex will create a new slide after every headline, for each section in the text. This is a quick and easy way to prepare a deck of slides for internal purposes without having to export anything or learn more complex presentation software.

On Qortex you can chat via the browser or your chat client (as long as it supports the open XMPP standard) and Qortex will save all your chats. You can directly share those chats with your colleagues, have them edit their content, comment on them, or turn them into Knowledge Base entries, slide presentations or To-Do’s. It’s an entirely “barrier-free” process and there are no artificial hurdles for turning one type of entry into another. Actually, you don’t even have to convert anything it’s like in natural evolution, entries pass over from one type into another naturally.

With To-Dos, we realized that a task has a life cycle and the information that is reasonable to ask is dependent on the stage in its life cycle. With this in mind we were able to dramatically simplify interfaces to ask the right people for the right information at the right time.

These as well as all other features are based on a few guiding principles that we follow [see here].

SB: I love the presentation notion, and the idea of changing the use of a chat entry into a task is exactly the sort of fluidity that most work management tools lack.

AV: Yes, this is one of my favorite parts of Qortex as well: that ideas can evolve fluidly and be used for different purposes: as the starting point for discussion, the basis for actions, a presentation, or a knowledge asset.

SB: In our first talk, you explained how you slowly settled on a single type of post on which all other metadata — like dates and assignment — led to the determination of whether it was a note or a task or some other sort of thing. Is that going to be intuitive for others?

AV: Actually it will make life much easier, because we completely remove a difficult decision process, that the user doesn’t have to worry about anymore.

We found that most of the time those entry “types” are entirely a matter of arbitrary definition and all they do is create artificial categories, where the borders are actually quite fluid in reality. This forces the user to make decisions that have an impact on the downstream lifecycle of the written content.

On other platforms before even writing the first word you’ll have to ask yourself questions like ‘Am I going to write something that will later become a wiki entry? Or is better to put that in a presentation? Or should it be a To-Do because there is an implied commitment to do something? Or should I discuss this issue with John in a chat, or as a question with a comment thread?’

If you want to write something on Qortex you just do and you know you can do whatever you want with your entry later, if necessary turn it into a To-Do or a knowledge base entry, or even both.

SB: One of the biggest headaches in typed information systems is when you need to change the type of an object. For example, in Tumblr there are various sorts of posts — video, audio, quotes, text, links — but once you have picked one Tumblr won’t let you change, although there is really no reason why they aren’t just variations on a basic post type, with different metadata attached. For example, Tumblr could determine the type of object being connected by an attachment — a YouTube video is different from an .mp3 or an image. But they don’t.

AV: Yes, where the important part here is the idea and the development of the idea. I completely agree that this shouldn’t be hindered by the system putting it in one bucket or another.

SB: Thanks for your time, Anatole.

AV: Thank you as well, Stowe. It was a pleasure to speak with you.

The New Visionaries: Matt ‘Finn’ Finnernan

I got a demo of the newest version of Sparkcentral, the social customer support solution, the other day. I rapidly realized that I wanted to pull Finn (as I was introduced to him) into this series, even though I had only met him once. In particular, his role in business development has brought him into close contact with companies that are at the forefront of social customer support, which is the vanguard of the social business movement these days.

About Matt ‘Finn’ Finneran

Matt Finneran

As his company bio says,

Matthew “Finn” Finneran first cut his teeth as a business major (with a focus on entrepreneurship) at the University of North Carolina, but wanted one last adventure before entering the fast-paced fray of the start-up world.

After a stint as Richard Branson’s second mate, scuba diving instructor and submarine pilot on the Necker Belle, Finn returned to N.C to pursue his business career at Argyle Social, where he served as a top sales executive and honed his skills in social media.

Wanting more from work (and life) than selling marketing software, Finn moved nearly 3,000 miles across the country to revolutionize how businesses approach customer service alongside CEO Davy Kestens at Sparkcentral as his co-founder and Head of Business Development.

The Interview

Stowe Boyd:  Social media is rapidly becoming the preferred means of customer support, at east from the view of the customer. Why do you think that is? Is it tied to the sense that complaints (or praise) in public carries more weight with the brand?

Matt Finneran: I think it’s due to a few factors. The first being that it’s the most mobile friendly option. It’s easy for consumers to take out their phone and reach anyone they know with a few touches. Additionally the consumer is becoming more and more phone-phobic. They almost don’t enjoy calling their friends anymore so they definitely don’t want to call a brand. Social Media continues to be the medium they communicate with their peers with and so it makes the most sense that they’d intuitively go there to find brands as well.

SB: It’s interesting that the device that makes them more likely to connect socially with a brand is a ‘phone’, but people don’t want a ‘telephone support experience’. I bet the customer support folks don’t want to talk on the phone anymore, either, right?

MF: (Laughs).  I’d imagine if I had to talk on the phone all day I wouldn’t want to talk either! It’s definitely a trend to move away from talk minutes. You’re seeing the decline of minutes used on mobile phones and the increasing use of data and texting so it’s something the consumer is finding it’s a better experience with less friction.

SB: How big of an impact with social customer support have on the business? How will marketing and customer support share the medium to make it all work?

MF: Millions of dollars a year are spent on marketing and it only takes one social media crisis to tarnish all effects of that good money. Social customer service and engagement is both a way to protect your brand and the marketing dollars you’re already investing as well as a way to differentiate yourself from your competitor. Can you answer your customers in the same amount of time it takes one of their own friends to answer them? Can you remember their birthday or if they’re going to run a marathon in a few months? If so then you start to become a friend, not a brand.

SB: I guess that getting up to social speed is critical, which poses a scaling issue for the company. When companies move in this direction do they need more or less support people?

MF:  It really depends. Typically, they’ll need to devote some resources to at least one or two more individuals that can help implement the processes, but we’ve found that many of our clients have promoted their “best of the best” customer service reps out of the contact center and into the social customer service teams. So there are certainly synergies with current resources but, of course, it’s not entirely capable of being implemented without devoting specific resources towards it. And don’t forget about software to handle these kinds of issues to help make your employees the most efficient they can be (wink). It’s amazing how many companies are willing to throw more bodies at a problem when actually taking away some people and adding a bit of software makes everything much better for much less.

SB: What is different in the social customer support center compared to the old, telephone-dominated world? It’s more than just dropping the annoying phone menu trees and long wait times, right?

MF: There are many differences between social and traditional customer support channels, but one of the most unique things I like to think about is that social isn’t scripted. You simply can’t play a standard greeting or say a standard scripted apology… it doesn’t work. Brands that try and make Twitter the same as their call center ultimately end up looking like dinosaurs. The consumer is now wanting to interact with brands as if they were a real person, not as if they were some mega-conglomerate that doesn’t care. It’s amazing to see what some brands have done in this regard to being personal and I think that will continue to show big gains for them as a company in the future.

SB: Do you see the traditional call center closing down, then?

MF: No way. At least not in the next 10-15 years. There are so many channels outside of social, and phones are still the preferred method for lots of customers. Ultimately it’s a mistake for the company to try and make the consumer do what is best for the company rather than doing what is best for the customer. If the customer wants to call, then let them. But it’s also worth noting that calls are the biggest cost for companies from a customer service perspective, so putting other channels in place that allow at least a portion of their customers to not HAVE to call can result in significant value. Combine that with the rising opinion of customers that they’d rather NOT call, and you can really have a win-win situation.

SB: What’s Sparkcentral’s special sauce? How are you different from other competitors out there?

MF: We’re faster. No one can beat our speed. Our customers’ customers demand speed and so it’s on us to give the same expectation to our customers. That speed carries over into many areas as well. Our software is the fastest and allows for real-time customer engagement, but we like to think we’re pretty fast too. If you need help from us you can Tweet us or you can contact your account manager and you’ll get an incredibly fast and friendly response. I think a lot of software companies can’t eat their own dog food and that’s a shame.

SB: There is no substitute for fast. Also there is no substitute for scaling during a crisis, where a company might be inundated with customer support requests. How do you architect for that?

MF: One of the most obvious factors is that we’re in the cloud, which makes scaling from an architectural standpoint much easier. No longer do airlines and cable companies also have to be software and hardware companies by keeping and maintaining servers… they can leave that up to the software companies. On top of that, our development team is one of the best. They’re constantly learning the latest technologies that make things quicker while using less memory. We’ve designed our platform to withstand nearly anything you can throw at it. To sum up, we’ve planned for social meltdowns.

SB: Planning for the inevitable. I wish New York City had been using Sparkcentral before Hurricane Sandy, Finn. Thanks for your time.

MF: Thanks for asking me.

The New Visionaries: Avinoam Nowogrodski

I read a press release — yes, I occasionally do read them — and something caught my eye: that companies could learn from how the Millennials deal with the changing nature of work. So, I emailed the man behind the ideas, Avinoam Nowogrodski and we had a conversation via email, as the kick off to an interview series entitled The New Visionaries.

About Avinoam

Avinoam

Avinoam has worked in the realm of project management for over 20 years, now as the CEO of work management company Clarizen, and prior to that as co-founder and CEO of SmarTeam Corporation, which was acquired by Dassault Systemes. Avinoam holds a B.S. degree in electrical engineering from Tel Aviv University, Israel.

The Interview

Stowe Boyd: In an earlier exchange, you suggested that the other generations in the workforce could do well to learn from Millennials in the changing world of work. What are those characteristics we should be learning from?

Avinoam Nowogrodski: According to a recent Forbes article, by 2025 more than 80 million Millennials are projected to be in the workplace. On the one hand, some feel this brings a wave of ambitious individuals with high expectations. On the other hand, I believe Millennials, more than any other generation, stand to democratize collaboration, which in turn can empower individual workers of all ages.

Because Millennial workers were raised in the digital age of transparency, they are accustomed to posting their activities online and having their progress followed. For them, success at work is about proving their worth to the team and the project. They must have an online voice and be constantly augmenting that voice and adding clarity to the team. Millennials thrive on transparency and a sense of team cohesion, which is something that social media provides. Because they are used to interacting online regardless of their physical locations and the time of day, they will provide the impetus companies need to embrace workforce mobility.

SB: Presumably you are arguing that organizational culture is being changed by — and for — Millennials as they become more of a majority in the workplace. There are tensions between Millennials and Traditionalists, because the older cadres want to work hard and go home and disconnect, while Millennials and Gen Y are more liable to remain connected and lifeslice (and workslice) all the time. How to resolve those tensions about the form factor of work?

AN: It’s a bit of myth that Traditionalists unplug completely. The rise of the smartphone has touched all demographic groups. To your question, though, the point isn’t about making people work at times when they don’t want to. It’s about providing a collaborative environment that allows people to engage at the right time for them – that new type of collaboration that is not exclusively instant, or exclusively phased, but a combination of both, and rich in context. The benefit of this goes beyond generations and impacts geographically diverse workforces as well.

SB: What is the likelihood of Traditionalists and Boomers adopting those traits?

AN: It’s a myth that only millennials are social-savvy. People of all ages have been swept up by the social phenomenon. In fact, a study from the 2012 PEW Internet & Life Project study found that more than half of American adults over the age of 65 are online and almost two thirds of those same people use social networking websites.

For earlier generations, social technologies bring attention and respect to their experience and expertise. Think of it like the prom queen in pre-internet days. Everybody knew who her friends were, what she was doing, what she had to say. Social media makes us all the queen – or king – of the prom. It gives everyone a voice.

However, earlier generations have a well-developed sense of skepticism and privacy protection that needs to be respected. We prefer to think of the generations holistically as “Generation Collaboration” and stress the importance of developing processes and structures that meet all workers where they are. The trick is to deploy technologies and business processes that highlight the benefits of collaboration and transparency, while minimizing risks, both for individuals and for the company as a whole.

SB: The Millennial style of living a curated worklife — a stream of updates, conversational work patterns, and techniques like hashtags to annotate and organize unstructured information — requires technologies to support it. Perhaps that is a major distinction with Boomers and Traditionalists, for whom the foundation of work activities is not social tools. They grew up in a world before email. So this is the first generation for which social communication is foundational. What is the good and the bad of that?

AN: The shift to social communication didn’t just shuffle in an era of information; it created an era of democratization that is quickly infiltrating the business world. The good in this includes the increased celebration of employee participation, alignment and visibility, which gives people an understanding that their work matters. For Boomers and Traditionalists, it brings a lot of good. It’s extraordinarily gratifying to have a medium for expressing their unique expertise in a meaningful way. It brings their knowledge into the light. Also, adopting new technologies brings a sense of satisfaction and modernity – of keeping up with the pace of change.

It’s no longer about establishing rigid rules to blindly follow, but real-time transparency that encourages employee contribution. In fact, this new work culture will transform the quality of the work experience – and, ultimately, the work output. The net result? Democratized collaboration, empowered individuals and operational excellence.

Although democratized collaboration can improve the corporate bottom line, it does also present a challenge. Management needs to understand that a more democratized workplace isn’t a threat, but truly an opportunity for innovation and success. This is an occasion for breaking free from a productivity and innovation prevention that is inherent in hierarchical working environments. And at its foundation is the technology that will allow employees to move as far down the continuum that is comfortable for them.

SB: What do you envision as the counter to the innovation and productivity blocking style of traditional business? For example, when you are talking about democratized innovation, how does that jibe with the desire of most management to develop a corporate strategy and to communicate that to people across the company. How far does democratization go?

AN: This is a really great question. The most important thing for management to do is to share the corporate strategy and help employees realize that they have a part to play in reaching those goals. This is broader than corporate strategy – it’s time for a new type of leadership, giving up on “command and control” and learning to lead by asking the right questions and giving people a voice. While this requires more transparency than some traditional companies are used to, it’s empowering for everyone on the team. Everyone – regardless of generation – wants to feel like their work is worthwhile. What’s more worthwhile than being a part of the top initiatives of your company?

SB: Yes, as I often say, the new job of leadership is creating a context for others to find their way. A great conversation, Avinoam. Thanks for your time.

AN: Thank you! It was a pleasure.