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The Equally Yoked Enterprise: Gaming the Plow

by Bryan Menell 31 Mar 2010 Blog Post

Have you ever gone out of your way to eat at a restaurant just so you could regain your mayorship on Foursquare? A little bit of friendly competition can be a powerful way to change behavior. There is a corollary in the enterprise, and it goes far beyond location. Making the transformation to a social business is going to require new technology, and changes in process and culture. Recently I met with the leadership team from a Houston-based company named ChaiOne who is tackling this opportunity.


While Foursquare is an individual competition, Tribes puts people into teams to accomplish quests and earn rewards for business outcomes like completing an e-learning course, or submitting your time report. You and your tribe grow experience points by doing things like sharing knowledge. Each Tribe has a leader, and members can even switch tribes if they have the permission of both Tribe leaders. If you are into such topics as game theory, social psychology, and game mechanics you will understand how this goes far beyond the simple mayorship or a completion badge.

When there’s an impetus and/or incentives that make people want to contribute, participate, and collaborate in achieving goals, your organizational culture fundamentally changes.

Behavior Modification

The recurring theme heard in every organization’s journey into becoming more social, is how to change the company culture to lose its command and control attitude, organize itself more like a network, be more collaborative, and to stop hoarding and start sharing information.

What better way to change behavior than to introduce elements of gaming and competitiveness? Think of the Foursquare leaderboard. Everybody wants to see their name in the Top 10. What if your Tribe is depending upon you to complete a task for success? Peer pressure is also a powerful motivator. You might just find that people are turning in their expense reports on time for a change, completing that online e-learning program that they’ve been neglecting, or finishing quarterly reviews of their staff.


In Kate Niederhoffer’s talk at the Social Business Summit in Austin, she referred to a study in social psychology by Elliot Aronson in 1992 that showed that you could change someone’s behavior if they were made aware of an issue, and made a commitment to change their behavior. Not changing creates a hypocrisy condition that introduces an uncomfortable level of cognitive dissonance. One way to make people mindful of a desired behavior is to make a commitment to the rest of their Tribe, and to be on a continual quest to earn badges and points for desired business outcomes.

An example of this might be an employee who you would like to attain a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification status. Rather than just another task, this could become a quest in which the employee is made aware of the benefits of the PMP course knowledge, and makes a commitment to their Tribe to complete the quest. Having the quest badge uncompleted on their intranet page for all their Tribemates to see creates constant mindfulness of the task. Someone in a mentor role could also assign points or other benefits for using PMP principals on-the-job.

The Push/Pull of Your Team

Applications like Foursquare and Gowalla are in their infancy, but it is this type of technology, attention to culture and behavior change, combined with support for processes that will help organizations become more socially calibrated.

The way that we work, interact, and reward people in the enterprise of tomorrow will be very different. How likely is your organization to adopt similar concepts?

We Work In Public

by Jeff Dachis 19 Oct 2009 Blog Post

The Dachis Group Collaboratory launched two weeks ago and we have been actively sharing our thoughts on social business design, while allowing the world to view a window on our work. Recently, the documentary “We Live In Public” has been in screenings around the U.S., chronicling the activities of Josh Harris a decade ago and foreshadowing many characteristics of today’s “social” mania.  We have only partially opened the window on our work world, but the view it provides has caused us to reflect on what we do.  As all of us are participating in the live, unedited feed, some of our worldwide team have some distinct thoughts to share and I hope to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Jeffrey Dachis.  Open for Business. I believe that open companies will achieve exponentially greater success than closed ones. Open = Success, Closed = Failure. To be clear and right off the bat, I am not in favor of 100% transparency as what defines an open company… or 100% of people seeing 100% of a companies information 100% of the time. That is a bad idea. Anyone advocating for that type of transparency is simply not working in reality. However, providing the right people with the right information at the right time in the most transparent way is the only way successful businesses will win in the information economy marketplace.   Unfortunately most large global businesses are not good at getting information and communication to the right people at the right time.  Although paradoxical, businesses aren’t as efficient being free markets for the information currency and value they transact. This makes for missed opportunities, slowed growth prospects, higher cost structures and inefficiencies.  Its for this reason that engaging and exposing more people, more often, to more filtered information about what is actually going on in a business opens up exponentially greater opportunities to everyone participating.  We are open for business.

David Armano. The Latest New Technology? Humans. We wonder what’s so special about this bright and shiny object we call a number of things. “Social Media, Web 2.0, etc. etc.”. It’s people. The latest iteration of the Web is connecting people directly to each other, giving us the tools to collaborate remotely and even access people in companies and brands that we never had access to before. It’s less about transparency, or technology for that matter and more about humanity. Customers, consumers, employees are craving more direct human contact, because they’ve gotten a taste for it whether it be direct engagement with a real live human being on Twitter or comments from your teammates with their avatar sitting right next to it. At the individual level, anyone can experience their 15 megabytes of fame. At a business level, this can present new challenges. What happens when someone wants to share a picture from the office with their external ecosystem? We’re moving toward a real-time Web where signals transmit dynamically—but it’s important to remember that it’s a Web woven of human beings. Connecting at a human level can make a business more personal, and enticing to customers. It also needs to be managed as humans from time to time have been known to make mistakes.

Bryan Menell. The voice inside your head. At first glance, when you see our homepage and how it’s a window on our working lives you revel in the coolness of the transparency. But then you think about the domain names of all the emails that you’ve sent, and the tweets transmitted. Moving forward, there’s a voice inside your head every time you tweet that says, “Remember, this is going on the home page!” But my tweets are already public, so what’s the real difference? There isn’t, yet my perception is that there is. When my iPhone is acting up, and I vent my frustration in Twitter accentuated by a #FAIL tag, the voice asks “Are they a client?” Even if they are, does it matter? While we don’t have all the answers to these questions, it’s great to see the “lab” part of Collaboratory come alive.

Ellen Reynolds.  What am I really doing? At first, it was tempting to send a lot of email or update our internal knowledge-sharing sites so that I could watch my name appear in our live feed. To be honest, it also made me feel kind of productive. But now, when I don’t see my name show up, I realize that I also consciously want my coworkers to know that I’m actually working. I find myself wondering…do I look like a slacker when my name doesn’t appear in our live feed more than once a day? Am I a slacker? Am I not documenting what I’m doing enough? For someone to know THAT you’re working, do they need to know WHAT you’re working on? The fact is, I’m usually doing a lot of offline work and/or work that doesn’t require frequent communication with everyone here. Maybe I should be making a bigger effort to communicate, or maybe I need special feeds that show when I’m working in QuickBooks, researching on the internet or updating a Word doc. Will feeds like ours push employees to over-communicate or just to be more conscious of how they spend their time?

Jevon Macdonald. How far can we go? At first glance, displaying indicators of our email, yammer and other conversations was daunting, but the moment we went public with it I felt an instant comfort. I would never have guessed that I would learn to “ignore” it so quickly. It makes me wonder just how far revealing information and metrics about internal communications could go, and what that could mean in the marketplace. Could a publicly displayed Dynamic Signal become an established element of an organization’s website? Could it become an expected form of communications between a company and their customers? Will organizations compete to demonstrate the strength of their Dynamic Signal and the Hivemindedness of the organization.

Kate Niederhoffer. The black hole of transparency. Once you get into the swing of having all your communication acts published, a confusion sets in wherein you forget how much is public- exactly what is the boundary between public and private? I find myself questioning the difference between data and metadata. If I’m showing others which behaviors I’ve enacted, shouldn’t I show them more– the content, my style, purpose… I imagine it’s like being a performance artist where you challenge others to test boundaries by audaciously testing them yourself, in the moment, as if you’ve done it before, but really are scared shitless. The key is to lose your self consciousness and get in the flow of organically communicating in order to get work done. People seem to have grown increasingly comfortable with this in a personal setting (e.g. Facebook, online banking), but in business, we still have somewhat Victorian standards that could be locking up valuable information.

Peter Kim. How open are you? The Collaboratory made me rethink my perspective on authenticity in social media. For the most part, people live by the old T.S. Eliot quote, “prepare a face to meet the faces you meet.” That is, despite claims of openness, most social media presences are carefully crafted, user-controlled portraits of what they want the world to see. As a company that advises clients on social spaces, it’s paramount that we push on boundaries ourselves. I’ll admit, I was uncomfortable when we turned the feed public – but the more I thought about what was being shared, the more I realized how often legacy thinking can roadblock new ideas…and how much work we have ahead of us before people truly understand the fundamentals behind social business design.

These are some of our reflections on the Dachis Group Collaboratory’s window of work so far…how about you?  What thoughts, issues, ideas, or concerns does this raise in the context of your business?  How do you think about these ideas as they relate to transparency in your life or work environment?  Please don’t hesitate read our thinking on Social Business Design, stay connected and subscribe to our RSS feed, contact us about working together, and engage with us in the comments below share your experience.