Number One Thing to Know about Social Prestige

ID-10084546What’s the first thing people do when they sit down in a meeting? Especially a meeting with people they don’t know — they size up the room. They look for clues as to who is the alpha male or alpha female.  We all intuitively try to figure out “Who’s in charge?” and “What is the pecking order?” This behavior is so ingrained in our DNA that we often don’t even realize we are judging social standing and prestige.

Merriam-Webster defines prestige as  the standing or estimation in the eyes of people : weight or credit in general opinion.  Sociologists provide further expand this definition to four dimensions. Social prestige is the sum total of  the respect, honor, recognition or courtesy that an individual receives from other members of society or the group to which they belong. For example dons, Mafia bosses are well respected within the Mafia but overall society considers them criminals, not worthy of social prestige.

So if you want prestige, understand the group and company in which you find yourself, and work to be at its center;  progress will be recognized through the respect, honor, recognition and the courtesy you receive.


Image courtesy of Mr. Lightman /

Most Important Thing About Social Networking

17003_wpm_lowresLinkedIn, Facebook, Ning, Pinterist, MySpace, Google+, Meetup are just some of the most popular social networking sites. But, What is the most important thing to remember about Social Networking? Don’t over think the answer. Humans are social! To be social means we are connected. We cooperate to survive.  Even a baby enters this world as part of a family network – some large families others just a mother.

Social networking sites are just simply an extension of our humanity and ability to connect with others. We use them to connect; to communicate; to belong; to interact. The better our ability to connect, either in real life or the virtual social network the greater our social prestige. More on this in my next post.



Inescapable network of mutuality

MartinLutherKing_NPSGOVSocial networks inescapably impact our lives. Even those Luddites yet to sign in to Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, are impacted. With events from the Arab Spring still unfolding, the global “we” are realizing what great leaders have always known.

[blockquote cite=”Martin Luther King ” citeLink=””]We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds. Martin Luther King 1963[/blockquote]

As we enter the Connected Age, of people connected to machines connected to people, or – just simply – people connected to people, Dr. Kings words in a simple letter remain strong and profound. The global “we” are truly [highlight3]caught in an inescapable network. [/highlight3]  Next time you write a simple email, blog, or post a comment or  Youtube video – remember you have the power to affect your fellow man for good.


9341_wpm_lowresInnovation is elusive. We see only what we can see. The adage “I’ll believe it when I see it” illuminates our deep skepticism for the unknown and unseen. But as Marcel Proust wrote:

[blockquote align=”left” cite=”MARCEL PROUST, “The Captive,” Remembrance of Things Past”]The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. Marcel Proust 1923[/blockquote]

Truly innovation is “in having new eyes.”  But have you ever shared a new concept or idea with your boss (or perhaps you’ve been the boss) where all the boss does is find something wrong. You can hear it now. “This won’t work… Why do you think that will work? Good effort. Now give me something that looks like what…” we did last time.

With eagle eyes they spot every flaw and mistake. They shoot down the idea before it even begins. They forget its a new idea; it’s not perfected. In those situations remind the boss to squint (or if you are the boss, just  squint – trust me it looks better)  –squinting makes things blurry, hazy and indistinct . You can kinda make it out.  But if you squint well, you can see the promise.You can see the important features. You can see the big picture.

Exercise your innovative muscle! Squint when you look. You might be seeing the next Facebook, and you missed it because you didn’t squint.

Creative design with vuja de

stockvault-leaves109588 copyAt Tom Kelley’s  recent talk, he gave us a preview of his upcoming book “Creative Design” – which should be done this fall. But as Tom said with tongue-in-cheek “Amazon promised it this fall, so I need to hurry up and finish.”  He went on to say, “With my last book I’ve learned that giving people 10 things about innovation is too many for people to remember.  So with the 700 pages in the new book I boiled it down to three:”

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  • Start with Empathy
    • Visit people, don’t just look at forms and reports.
    • Walk in their shoes.
  • Nurture a culture of experimentation
    • Executives must learn the art of squinting – look at new ideas ask if you were squinting – it isn’t perfect but if you squint it looks perfectly promising
    • Avoid deja vu (feeling like you heard or saw it before) but instead flip it around, and embrace  vuja de (a feeling you never heard or saw before) 
  • Build a learning organization
    • Find cross polinators
    • Seek young ideas and find a “reverse mentor”
    • Consider open innovation[/fancy_list]

Other Posts inspired by Tom Kelley’s talk at the Segerstrom Center:

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Double delivery

Processed by: Helicon Filter;When IDEO co-founder Tom Kelley answered audience questions at his recent talk, several audience members asked “How do you get the boss, and corporate types, to listen to your innovative idea?” Tom, essentially said “I often field this question. It’s of great interest to younger people early in their career. Bosses want results.”


He suggested:

[blockquote]Double Deliver – Deliver the way the boss wants and also your way. After two or three deliveries with equal (or better results) the boss will likely say, “lets just try it your way next time.”[/blockquote]

I was disappointed to hear there Tom has no magic bullets. Group think and resistance to change is as strong as ever; and hence why companies need to learn to innovate and listen or risk losing the younger generations to more innovative companies.

Other Posts inspired by Tom Kelley
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Must innovation be socially acceptable?

[blockquote cite=”—Tim Brown, president and CEO ” citeLink=””]Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” [/blockquote]

IDEO co-founder Tom Kelley recently (see prior post – Creativity drives economic growth) elaborated on this concept. Sharing decades worth innovation research.


Design thinking covers three overlapping concepts: inspirationideation, and implementation. But more importantly for innovation to happen three things [highlight3]must[/highlight3] exist:

[fancy_list style=”bullet_list”]

  • People must find the innovation desirable
  • The innovation must be technically feasible
  • Finally, there must be a viable business model[/fancy_list]

With IDEO focused on new product innovation, these make complete sense.

But innovations are not limited to just commercial products and services for sale. Innovation is not just products but also ideas. Ideas do not need to be commercially viable. They just need to be socially viable. Meaning an idea has to be acceptable to a group of people – an online group, a department, a club etc…

For example, Galileo, asserted  that the sun was the center and not the earth. The Catholic church took nearly 400 years to accept the idea.

Consider today’s Green and Organic movements, both are commercially viable only because they are now socially viable.






Invention or Innovation?

ice-cap-267x268If you sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo is that innovation?    Webster defines innvoation as —  1: the introduction of something new or 2: a new idea, method, or device . So you might think selling a refrigerator to an eskimo is novel, but hardly something new; after all nearly everyone has a refrigerator.  Similarly document management isn’t new or innovative. As CNN reported, (Veterans Affairs boss: ‘No veteran should have to wait for claims’) the VA is finally installing a document management system to handle their benefit claims backlog; again electronic documents are hardly new.

However, after decades of running on paper, I find it remarkable that the VA is finally adding document management.  For a stodgy bureaucratic agency, that’s an earth shattering innovative breakthrough. So how can something really old like document management be a breakthrough?

My innovation definition:  innovation is “the introduction of a new idea, method or device into a group of people”  No matter the group size, when the old standard way of doing things changes then that’s innovation. When group think changes and a new idea is adopted, that’s innovation. The group size doesn’t matter, it can be a company, a government agency, a state, or even a country. The key point is, the group adopted something new.


Comedic Computer Scientists?

walrusPerhaps its an oxymoron, to think a computer scientist can be funny. Well it seems, in the database world they do have a sense of humor. Let me explain.

Since its beginnings in the  70s, structured query language (SQL – pronounce Sequel) has become the predominant way to access information stored in corporate databases. No matter the system, Peoplesoft, Oracle, SAP, or even this blog and thousands of other software systems; they all use SQL. There are a lot of reasons why SQL became so dominant.  But mostly it is easier to do business; It creates a standard way that just about any report writer (or program) can access data.

While SQL was becoming dominant, there were still lots of other database technologies. Those technologies were often relegated to universities and niche markets.

Well the tables have turned. Those once niche database technologies are important  because they work better with big data  (see Harpooning for Big Data) than traditional SQL databases.  These new databases with fanciful names (Hadoop, Neo4j, Mongo, Cassandra and more) are collective called Not Only SQL – meaning they work without SQL. So with a tongue in cheek fashion,  if you want answers from your big data remember [highlight3]don’t use SQL; use No SQL![/highlight3]

Harpooning Big Data

Slaying the white whale on a stormy sea of big data, for most companies is like the fictional story of Captain Ahab’s Moby Dick. The term Big Data has suddenly become en vogue. And like its sister term “The Cloud” – these all encompasing terms are a mystery and elusive to everyone. For businessman and executives, its the holy grail. For the technical experts and data scientists its the next big project with hyped expectations. So what is big data? If you want wikipedia’s answer – click here.  But here’s my simple explanation.

The old ways of dealing with data do not work.  Exponential growth of applications, smart devices and just about anything with a sensor or computer chip creates “Data” — a whole ocean’s worth! While the ocean of data is getting bigger, Moby Dick by comparison is getting smaller. And that’s the real problem;  a real “Big” problem.   You don’t need to be a whaler to understand that means we need to get better at spotting whale sign. We need better sonar and radar (pattern recognition systems) and we need faster boats to cover more ocean (and process more data).

In a very real sense, Big Data is anything that is trying to harpoon Moby Dick.