The value of your network—how well you use it for others—#BIF9

Social Network AnalysisAs the CEO of Livestrong, potentially one of the most embattled health-related non-profit organizations in recent years after its founder and namesake became embroiled in a road cycling doping controversy, Doug Ullman had the unenviable task of restoring the mission of the organization to the heart of its message to world.

Ullman found that, instead of focusing on the network of people working on living with, supporting those living with, or finding a cure for cancer, he was up against faceless critics intent on “bastardardizing the [Livestrong] brand and the community because of their hatred for one individual.” He began the process of renewal by speaking to the heart of community that continues to be built and developed around the concept of survivorship.

Community creates shared value. Value from shared solution finding and problem-solving. It is different from a crowd. In a crowd people push and shove and elbow and they try to get ahead of the person next to them. In a community, none of us moves forward unless we all move forward together.

In his work, Ullman saw the value of a network of people with a shared experience willing to change the way the world viewed cancer.

This was a point that was raised again in the story shared by Howard Linzon. He is the CEO and Co-founder of StockTwits and Social Leverage. He shared the value of the network in how we create and derive value. His lessons included that we, “live in an era of social leverage,” and, “success is about connecting the dots.”

Teach the world how to take the dots in their head and transform them into better and wiser actions.

For Linzon, social media is a tool. It’s another weapon in your arsenal. That is all. Some are great at it. Some suck at it. But we should all surround ourselves with someone who knows social or develop that understanding and skill themselves.

It is in those connections between each other that the power of the network is unleashed. Grant Garrison, the CEO of Good Corps., shared that juxtaposing good versus evil is not the true way of the world. It is too extreme. The coping mechanism is to remain positive in the face of constant shifting inputs and circumstances.

As Garrison said,“We’re never hired by the CEO”. Good is most often hired by lower-level people in the enterprise and as a result they need to rapidly identify opportunities for addressing the self-interest of the business. This demands that, not only do they need to network, they had best do it quickly and effectively or they won’t have an opportunity to do the work on the scale they need to.

Perhaps the strongest and most personal appeal for the value of the network came from my friend, Deb Mills-Scofield. Deb shared her perspective that it is a diversity of thought that best leads to integrating new things and experiences – leading to a well-rounded person. She recognized this in her youth visiting museums with her family, but also learned this by the kinds of organizations she joined. For example, by working for Bell Labs she found she could have lunch with Nobel laureates and the creators of security for UNIX. It was only later, when she reflected on the value of networks in her life, that she realized that she had gone to work for a networking company.

As a demonstration of the power of networking in her life, Deb showed us her Twitter network pre- and post-BIF-6. The breadth and depth of her network increased remarkably.

The network is not about me, is not about you. It is to be shared for the other.

Deb also shared how she derived value from her networks for others. Like Saul Kaplan, she extolled the virtue of creating opportunities for Random Collisions of Unusual Suspects. In these moments she could find ways to share her expertise with an ever-increasing network of people, creating value with far-reaching consequences. Deb’s journey through the power of networks from her own perspective illustrated the impact of the people she touched and how sharing truly makes a network count.

For more on this topic listen to my post session interview with Deb.

Primed-in-5-logoPrimed in 5 with Deb Mills-Scofield

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Business Innovation Factory 9 — #BIF9 – The Gift of Stories

Business Innovation Factory

Business Innovation Factory

Lessons in Innovation (and Life) from BIF-9

On September 18 and 19 I had the great good fortune to be in the room for the Business Innovation Factory’s annual symposium/happening/gabfest/love-in, BIF-9. What transpired over two days was a phenomenally inspiring exploration of the ways we can engage ourselves and others in the creation of breakthroughs to make our world a better place. Yes, I know this sounds hyperbolic. The simple fact is that this event was a shock to the system in unanticipated and exciting ways.


Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.  – Hannah Arendt

As the founder of BIF and the host for BIF-9, Saul Kaplan framed the experience at the outset citing the need for catalysts and recognizing the need to include youth in the co-design of solutions, “they will, after all, be the ones to inherit this world after we depart.” BIF-9 continued to drive home the expectation that this was an occasion for “random collisions of unusual suspects” in service of new and better ways to address the most pressing social, economic and business issues of the day. It did not disappoint.

Over the course of two days there were over sixteen vignettes during which individuals and small groups shared their personal stories, presented their work, held conversations. The storytellers ranged from Easton LaChapelle a prosthetic roboticist and student who is seeking to revolutionize the way in which prosthetics are developed, to Rabbi Irwin Kula who exhorted the audience to seek new ways to engage with the practice of faith and spirituality in that they are being rapidly disintermediated. We also managed to pull off a live Innochat, streamed via Ustream and moderated by Renee Hopkins.

Rather than providing a blow-by-blow account of the presenters (a not-so-subtle incentive for you to sign up for BIF10) here are five of the broad lessons I took away from this experience:

  1. The value of your network is how well you use it for others
  2. Everything is an opportunity to experiment, learn and grow
  3. Problem-finding is more powerful than solution-creating
  4. Risk is critical for change but the spectrum of acceptable risk is personal
  5. Create the world you want to live in

Each of the lessons is explored in a separate post (one a day the week following BIF-9). Take a look at some of the surprises shared by the great storytellers and ask yourself, “What story could I share that might inspire another?” We all have a story (or more to share). What’s yours?

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Hooray for Failure – Episode 3 – Wanda Hopkins McClure, discovery, a little Oracle of Omaha

HFF_EpisodeIn this episode we begin to explore the implications for reframing failure in education. Our conversation with Wanda Hopkins McClure explores the need to value the opportunity to fail and her work with Expeditionary Learning. Wanda is a veteran educator who is deeply passionate about leadership and education and she is a leader in the Atlanta education arena, especially leading EdCampAtlanta. To round out the episode we highlight a moment with the Oracle from Omaha and his fondness for failure.

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BlogTalkRadio (with The Health Maven)


Using real-world examples from SlideShare users, the authors of Present Yourself (Kit Seeborg and Andrea Meyer), put marketing principles and business trends in context to help you understand how online presentations can boost your business. The Health Maven, Lea Carey, asked me to co-host this great BlogTalk Radio show with these authors and we talked about the shifts in visual communication and how presentations are being used in new and diverse ways.

Come and explore the benefits of SlideShare with us.


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Hooray for Failure – Episode 2 – Andrew Webster, moxie, of Iron Rings

HFF_EpisodeIn this second episode of Hooray for Failure! podcast we explore failure with the ever-charming Andrew Webster, Director of Change and Innovation at ExperiencePoint during which we talk about the challenge of working in an organization in which failure is accepted and expected. We discuss the value of moxie, too! And I share a tale of how the a physical remembrance of failure can resonate through the ages.

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Hooray for Failure – Episode 1 – NASA vs Mars, Chris Brogan, sharing an OFPGTS

HFF_EpisodeStarting at the Beginning, NASA freaks out the Martians. We chat with Chris Brogan, CEO and President of Human Business Works, and one of the  nicest people you will ever meet, he laughs in the face of failure. I share an Opportunity For Personal Growth That Sucked.

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New at WaPo: How To Breed Big Innovation Inside A Small Business

WaPo-MediumAn endless list of priorities often relegates “innovation” to the list of buzzwords small business owners read about but can never tackle – something for the well-funded R&D labs at big corporations, not for the entrepreneurs on Main Street.

But innovation is about being competitive and inventive in your approach — and small firms already have everything they need to be a big player in the innovation game.

Read more: 

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New at BI: There’s a Critical Difference Between Creativity and Innovation

BusInsider-MediumThere’s a lot of confusion surrounding creativity and innovation. “Creative types,” in particular, claim that creativity and innovation can’t be measured. Performance, however, demands measurement so you can identify what success looks like. In a world that changes every two seconds, it’s imperative that companies figure out the difference between creativity and innovation.

You better believe they’re different.

Read more:

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5 Keys to Unlocking Middle-Market Innovation at Middle Market Executive

MMExec-MediumRecently Primed Associates was featured over at Middle Market Executive. Here’s what we had to say about opportunities for innovation in this space:

When it seems that everyone is talking about innovation these days, you would think most firms are already riding the wave. However, most organizations have only begun to dip their toes into the water and are missing a full understanding of the broad range of ways in which they might innovate their enterprise. For most middle-market companies and even large enterprise firms, innovation is too often viewed only as a particular product suite, and that makes sense — when you consider the term “innovation” is closely tied to invention. Innovation has now come to be understood as offering so much more.

 Today, companies must break out of a product-only innovation mind-set. Furthermore, the focus for innovation need not be only physical. In fact, there are five key areas ripe for innovation in most organizations today.

For the full article go here.


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Excessive Innovation – Making Choices About The Value We Create

ShoppingCarts_ThumbnailNothing says “success” like wretched excess, or so it would seem. A challenge of innovation today is the overwhelming perception of its strong bias for fostering rampant consumption. The drive to acquire the new and improved has overwhelmed a mid-20th century view of making do an repairing things to extend their useful life. Now new products and services are created and go in search of markets and customers placing burdens on resources, ecosystems, and personal economies. The necessary is trumped by the pretty. The essential is supplanted novel. The vital and nourishing is squeezed out by the unimportant and artificial. To what end?

To convert the business man into the profiteer is to strike a blow at capitalism, because it destroys the psychological equilibrium which permits the perpetuance of unequal rewards. The businessman is only tolerable so long as his gains can be held to bear some relation to what, roughly and in some sense, his activities have contributed to society.

– John Maynard Keynes

(Quoted in Keynes and Capitalism, Roger E. Backhouse and Bradley W. Bateman, History of Political Economy, 2009)

Innovation should be about creating value; not only the short-term value of satisfying basic needs, but addressing long-term complex challenges that require sustained attention and focus. Much of the innovation we acknowledge is focused on a customer, their experience, and the momentary satisfiers at play. Innovation is being wed to the bright and shiny in a shotgun marriage of inconvenience. We need more and should expect more from innovation than something new to buy.

I create nothing. I own.

– Michael Douglas as Gordon Gecko in Wall Street

As a short-term game innovation without an eye to longevity yields hit and miss return. When it works it might be a tremendous success (think fads, like Crocs – the ugliest shoes on the planet) but often market-focused innovation responds to a surface need and does not address the deep and abiding need present in a customer’s circumstances. Perhaps we need to consider innovation in deeper and more abiding terms and ask ourselves:

  • How might we truly seek to create value?
  • How might we create in a ways that are both additive and generative?
  • How might we practice and foster stewardship in lieu of ownership?

Something tells me that there has to be an innovation-based answer to the issue of rampant and unflagging consumerism. What do you think?

After posting this a link came our way from an interview between Joel Makower, Group Chairman of GreenBiz Group, and Yves Chouinard, the Founder and CEO of Patagonia that is very relevant. The full post is here.

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